Communicating Terror: Selecting, Reinforcing and Matching Frames in Connection to the Attacks in Norway on July 22, 2011

Eva-Karin Olsson, Malin Söderlund, Jesper Falkheimer


In essence, terror attacks are communicative events. From the perspective of political leaders, the challenge is to make sense of the event by explaining what has happened, who is behind the attack, what is the most appropriate response, and how to move forward. Adding to the difficulties is the fact that leaders have to communicate in a highly mediated environment. In this article, we explore the Norwegian government’s crisis communication in the terrorist attacks in Oslo and on the island of Utöya on July 22, 2011. We do so by applying a model of crisis framing. According to the model, political leaders have to be able to select appropriate frames that reinforce each other and match the media coverage. The study proved managerial, responsibility and cultural congruence frames to be central. Moreover, the study demonstrated how the crisis produced a certain type of news coverage characterized by high levels of descriptive journalism, which, in combination with issue and episodic framing, supported the government’s communication strategy.

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Scandinavian Journal of Public Administration

School of Public Administration, Box 712 - SE-405 30 Göteborg

ISSN: 2001-7405, E-ISSN: 2001-7413