“The Whole World Watching”? How News Media Create the Myth of an Audience of Billions and Foster Imagined Communities

Silke Fürst


By common understanding, media events attract a “huge audience—the whole world watching” (Katz & Liebes, 2007, p. 158). Despite its conceptual importance, however, there is hardly any research on the size of global audiences. In a critical review of the state of research, this article shows that scholars studying media events obtain their information on audiences of billions primarily from media coverage. This coverage also influences the potential users of media events and stimulates imagined communities. It is therefore important to investigate how and on what basis news media report on global audiences. By means of a qualitative content analysis of the British coverage of Diana Spencer’s funeral, this study reveals that the global response is reported and defined even before a media event takes place and can thus be regarded as a myth. This leads to conceptual considerations on media events and suggestions for future studies.


media events, journalism, news coverage, audience, ratings, imagined community, history

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