Binary Journalism: An Investigation into Al Jazeera’s News Practices

  • Leon BarkhoEmail author
Part of the Contemporary Gulf Studies book series (CGS)


The theoretical framework of this chapter draws on some of the major lines of thought of pragmatist philosophers like Dewey, James, Pierce, Putnam and Habermas and relates them to the methods critical discourse analysts use to unravel hard news texts. The chapter also leans on Hannah Arendt and her deliberations of politics and discourse. In their critical analysis of news, critical discourse scholars see Arendt’s philosophy as a useful tool to interpret the world of news (Fairclough 1995, 2001).

The chapter starts by laying down the basic concepts of both pragmatist and discourse analysis thinkers and the methods they use to interpret institutional social reality. The chapter’s theoretical and methodological framework attempts to provide answers for why and how we employ language to explain and cover the crises facing our world. It shows that a merger of pragmatist and critical approaches is relevant and useful to unravel the mystifications surrounding the news discourse of a controversial global channel like Al Jazeera Arabic (henceforth AJA).

The data for analysis comprises a set of hard news political stories from AJA as well as interviews. The analysis of data takes place in light of criteria based on merging the theoretical and methodological underpinnings of pragmatist and critical analysis thinkers. Applying a toolkit based on some major elements of both lines of thought, the chapter shows how AJA strives to respond discursively and socially in its hard news discourse to the strategies of its financial sponsors, the Qatar royalty, in its coverage of the wars in Syria and Yemen and reporting of Saudi Arabia. As a result, its news output of both conflicts reflects an interesting discursive and social pattern mirroring the binary and opposite political leanings of those holding the strings to its purse.


Pragmatist philosophy Discourse analysis Al Jazeera Arabic Political news discourse Discursive patterns News practices 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Qatar UniversityDohaQatar

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