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In December 1985 the Canadian press reported the death by suicide of hundreds of field mice in the Middle East In an apparently instinctive reaction to a problemof over-population the mice wilfully plunged to their doom off the cliffs of the Golan Heights This bizarre story was the subject not only of straight news coverage inthe Canadian press but also of an editorial in the Globe and Mail on December 20 On November 1 1985 the Globe and Mail also ran a photograph of a visitingRoman Catholic priest from Brazil saying prayers on the banks of the Jordan River at the site where Christ is said to have been baptized Standing alertly near thepriest was an Israeli soldier with a rifle slung over his shoulder his eyes carefully scanning Jordanian territory across the river For the analyst of the media and media image-making these rather unusual press items raise an interesting question about news selection and presentation by theeditorial departments of the daily press Had the mice toppled off Mount Kilimanjaro would this essentially scientific story about animal behaviour have found its wayso prominently into the Canadian press Had the priest been peacefully saying mass on the Mattawa would this religious item have been deemed worthy ofcoverage Or was it the newspapers sense of the irony of these events of their news value as symbols depicting the pervasive conflict and violence we have cometo associate with the Middle East that led to their selection for publication from the reams of teletype endlessly flowing into the editorial departments of the Canadianpress It would seem that even when the subject matter is scientific or religious--about mice or monsignors--the press is inclined to remind its readers of theinherently violent nature of the Middle East and a fundamentally negative image is developed or reinforced It is Canadians are told in effect a region so bleak andhopeless that even its despairing mice are driven to take their lives The purpose
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