An academic dilemma: scouring for sources

Published: 2017-07-13 13:02:21
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At the close of my first year in college, I was tasked with writing a cross-cultural comparison for a final project. With the choice of any topic that touched upon the nuances of differing cultural backgrounds, I decided to use this project to answer a question that had been smoldering at the back of my brain for months. With news of international significance swirling across our airwaves at every moment, I had begun to notice an odd discrepancy. Despite the overflow of information pounding into daily news briefings surrounding the Middle East, coverage of the current war in Yemen has been historically scant of late. And due to the United State`s definitive stake in this armed conflict, through its support of a multinational military coalition fighting in Yemen, I could not understand why.

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Over the past year, by following disparate news coverage of modern warfare in Syria and Iraq, I had begun developing a theory about interpretation. When one is seeking accuracy of information about a topic as emotionally jarring and politicized as armed conflict, it is best to scour the news coming from at least two actors that contribute to the war in different capacities. Then one must pinpoint the specific information each news outlet fails to mention when compared to the other`s presentation of the same story. When combined with an understanding of the respective actors` geopolitical and economic motivations in relation to the war, knowledge of the details each side omits will point to potentially significant actualities.

So, I decided to search for what US newspapers may be leaving out in their coverage of the Yemeni conflict, from March 2015 onward. My greatest challenge, by far, was choosing the most strategic news outlet to compare with a US source. As the multinational coalition is fighting an armed rebel group in Yemen, on behalf of the country`s ousted president al-Hadi, my first thought was to seek out a Yemeni newspaper within a rebel-held territory. This would allow me to compare US newspaper coverage with the sources produced by a directly opposing actor in the war. However, I suddenly slammed into a seemingly solid wall of doubt. As I cannot read Arabic, Yemen`s primary language, I would have to specifically seek out an English-language newspaper. Yet a source printed in English would most likely cater to a Western audience, instead of the individuals actually living inside Yemen.

About a week before the entire project was due, I still had not untangled the web of motivations, translation issues, and facets of political infighting that prevented me from settling on a comparative news source. Yet one night, after spending another day wrestling with my project`s details, I began describing my concerns to a friend originally from Dubai. He suddenly stopped me in the midst of my explanation and said, Why don`t you use a newspaper from the United Arab Emirates? I`ve lived there for most of my life, and I can assure you that English is as widespread as Arabic, if not more so. You don`t have to worry about conflicting audiences at all.

And there was my answer. I had not even considered looking at the UAE, despite its heavy involvement with the multinational coalition in Yemen. As its role, providing military as opposed to logistical support, contrasts greatly with the US`s position, I became confident that I could uncover substantive information about the war through these two sources. After days of furtive writing, I successfully completed my comparison. And though the final results were unexpected, they were also, in their own way, stunning.

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