Multiperspectival normative assessment: The case of mediated reactions to terrorism

Hartmut Wessler*, Scott L. Althaus, Chung Hong Chan, Marc Jungblut, Kasper Welbers, Wouter Van Atteveldt

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


This article provides a model for how communication phenomena can be normatively assessed using multiple normative perspectives simultaneously. We exemplify the procedure of multiperspectival normative assessment (MNA) using mediated reactions to terrorism as our case in point. We first identify the normative challenges related to the speed and substance of terrorism communication and the ways in which relations of solidarity are communicatively constructed in reacting to terrorism. We link these challenges to four distinct normative theories that prioritize competing values for public discourse (freedom, community values, empowerment of the marginalized or constructive debate). The resulting set of competing normative expectations, which help assess the performance of terrorism communication, are eventually translated into recommendations for professional and non-professional communicators. In conclusion, we show how MNA can help ground empirical scholarship in firmer theoretical foundations while simultaneously demonstrating the usefulness of normative theory in analyzing a wide range of issues.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)363-386
Number of pages24
JournalCommunication Theory
Issue number3
Early online date5 Aug 2021
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Author(s). Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of International Communication Association.


  • Journalism
  • Normative Assessment
  • Normative Theory
  • Public Sphere Theory
  • Social Media
  • Terrorism
  • Terrorism Communication


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