Commercial Television News, Crisis, and Collective Memory

Michele Rosenthal

in The Oxford Handbook of Religion and the American News Media

Published in print August 2012 | ISBN: 9780195395068
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Commercial Television News, Crisis, and Collective Memory


As a primary source for collective memory, television news not only provides images and narratives that shape American perspectives on religion and culture at the moment when an event occurs but also defines critical moments, like 9/11, for generations to come. While television network news may not provide substantive critical accounts of religion as it is practiced and understood by many Americans in everyday life, it nonetheless functions as an important source for understanding the world beyond the screen. No longer an ephemeral text by definition, television news can be recycled and replayed on YouTube and throughout the blogosphere. Despite these technological and sociological changes, there are still moments when live television news has an important cultural and ritual function. This article examines three moments when television news broadcasts operated in such a fashion, with particular emphasis upon the religious dimension: the Waco siege in February–March 1993; Pope John Paul II's funeral on April 8, 2005; and the Fort Hood shooting on November 5, 2009.

Keywords: television news; collective memory; religion; Waco siege; Pope John Paul II; Fort Hood shooting

Article.  7323 words. 

Subjects: Religion ; Religious Studies

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