Vol.09 No.13(2018), Article ID:89002,13 pages

News Consumption and Identity: The Case of Adolescent Girls Belonging to a Minority Group

Michal Alon-Tirosh, Dorit Hadar-Shoval*, Narmine Marshi-Sakran

The Max Stern Yezreel Valley College, Israel

Copyright © 2018 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution International License (CC BY 4.0).

Received: September 22, 2018; Accepted: December 3, 2018; Published: December 6, 2018


The news is usually generated by members of the majority group and reflects this group’s central narrative. Minority group representation in the news is typically negative and stereotypical, raising questions regarding the news consumption patterns of minority groups. This study investigates this topic by examining news consumption patterns among adolescent girls belonging to the Arab minority in Israel and reveals an inner conflict between components of these girls’ identity. These findings may be used by decision-makers in choosing how to relate to and represent minority groups out of an understanding that they are part of the news consumers.


News Consumption, Identity, Minority Group, Adolescent Girls

1. Introduction

The news plays a major role in democratic regimes as one of the major sources of citizens’ political, defense, economic and social information (Austin, 2013) . Information on these topics is important for producing informed and involved citizens, as shown by studies indicating the importance of the news for immigrants interested in integrating into their new country (Alencar & Deuze, 2017) . Beyond its importance as a source of information, the news also influences the attitudes, perceptions, feelings and sometimes even the behaviors of its consumers. Certainly, the news has this type of influence in the context of issues related to political, defense and economic to pics as well as in the context of social issues and the treatment of various social groups. The frequency and manner of different social groups’ representation on the news furnish news’ consumers with social narratives regarding these groups and the relations between them (Meeusen & Jacobs, 2017) . Research on this topic has found that the news exerts an influence on such social issues as prejudices, perceptions of social relations and sense of belonging to social groups (e.g., Gattino & Tartaglia, 2015; Shaver, Sibley, Osborne, & Bulbulia, 2017 ).

Considering the relevance of the news at both the public and the individual levels, research on news consumption is important. In addition to the importance of examining how the news represents different groups and analyzes the content of this genre, it is also important to investigate the news’ audience by considering issues such as news’ consumption patterns among various population groups, the ways in which the news is perceived by the consuming public and the feelings aroused by the news among this public (McQuail, 1997) .

2. News and Minority Groups

Members of minority groups constitute one group of interest when examining news consumers. Minority groups are a unique focus of research due to the nature of their coverage in the news media. The media representation of minority groups is determined by people who do not belong to these groups because the newsmakers who decide how newsworthy topics will be covered and different groups will be represented usually belong to the majority population group. Thus, even when minority groups are covered in the news, this coverage does not necessarily match their own self-definition, perceptions and goals, and they are unable to influence their own representation (Gross, 1998) . A prime example of this issue can be seen in the broad coverage given to migrant groups in Europe. This coverage often shows the migrants in a negative light and has been found to influence attitudes such as prejudices toward these groups (Shaver et al., 2017) .

The situation in which the members of minority groups apparently consume news reports about themselves without a way to influence their representation raises questions regarding their perceptions of the news. Do minority groups consume the news produced by the majority group? What are the patterns of news consumption among minority group members? What are the perceptions and feelings of minority individuals regarding these news representations? These questions and others like them have received little research consideration.

Most studies that have examined news consumption among minority groups have focused on immigrants. These studies usually attempted to understand whether immigrants prefer to consume news from their homeland, from their host country, or from both sources. These studies examined when and for what purpose the immigrants consumed each type of news source and how the news influenced their integration into the host society (e.g., Alencar & Deuze, 2017 ).

Immigrants constitute a particular type of minority group that differs from other minority groups, such as those whose country of origin is a country in which they are a minority and whose minority status is not a matter of choice. Thus, research on immigrants cannot be generalized to population groups such as African Americans or Native Americans in the United States, Muslims born in Europe and Arabs living in Israel. The media representations of such minority groups are often stereotypical and generate negative perceptions, an issue that has often been discussed in research studies focusing on the influence of the news on majority perceptions (e.g., Gattino & Tartaglia, 2015 ). Nevertheless, few studies have examined how minority groups of this type perceive the news they consume.

The current study focuses on this specific issue. It considers news consumption patterns among the Arab minority in Israel by focusing on adolescent Arab girls.

3. Social Context: Adolescent Arab Girls in Israel

This study focuses on patterns of news consumption among adolescent Arab girls in Israel. These girls are citizens of the State of Israel and are part of the Arab minority that constitutes 20% of the country’s population. Research conducted in recent years among the Jewish majority and the Arab minority in Israel point to a growing separation between these groups, increasing expressions of hostility, a lack of trust, alienation, mutual rejection and the delegitimization of one group toward the other (Bar-Tal, 2007; Bar-Tal & Teichman, 2005; Kupermintz, Salomon, & Hussisi, 2007) . Studies of immigrant groups in Western countries have found similar attitudes (Erisen & Kentmen-Cin, 2016) .

In Israel, these two groups do not agree on fundamental topics related to the nature and identity of the state. The Jewish majority group supports Israel as a Jewish-Zionist state in which a Jewish majority is maintained. By contrast, the Arab minority group views Israel as the shared homeland of two peoples, seeks to be recognized as the Palestinian national minority and considers Arabic to be equal in importance to Hebrew. The majority of the Arab population has accepted the existence of Israel as an independent nation but rejects it as a Jewish Zionist state (Bar-Tal & Teichman, 2005; Ben Meir & Shaked, 2007; Kupermintz et al., 2007; Rouhana, 2004) .

This situation has generated different realities for these two groups. Most of the Jewish population identifies with the State of Israel and its attributes, believes that the state represents and reflects them and accepts the state’s institutions and their obligations as citizens, such as voting in elections, serving in the army and the like. By contrast, the different components of identity among the Arab citizens of Israel gives rise to inner conflicts. The civic component stems from their status as citizens of the state, while the national component is derived from their national allegiance to the Arab world and the Palestinian people (Al-Haj, 1993) . At the civic level, the Arab minority in Israel seeks to become more modernized and to obtain opportunities equal to those available to the Jewish population. At the national level, the Arab minority supports the fulfillment of the national aspirations of their people for independence and a separate state. Achieving a balance between national and civic components is complicated, as those components involve an ongoing conflict in which the Arab population is rejected by both sides. Al-Haj (1993) described their status as a “double periphery”, as they are situated at the margins of Israeli society and at the margins of Palestinian society.

This study seeks to examine news consumption among the Arab minority in Israel by focusing on adolescent Arab girls. The decision to investigate adolescent Arab girls is based on two prominent advantages found when studying politically sensitive topics in this population group. The first advantage is that due to their young age and their proximity to childhood; most of these adolescents are naïve, and their emotions are less defined than those of adults. Thus, these girls are largely more open and frank about their thoughts and viewpoints and are less worried about issues of social gratification and political correctness. The second advantage refers to these girls’ stage of development, which is marked by a search for identity (Erikson, 1994) . Adolescent girls are primarily concerned with questions of their personal and social identity and are therefore aware of the social issues and social nuances likely to help them formulate this identity. As part of this awareness, these girls presumably attribute importance to news consumption. That is, it is reasonable to assume that Arab girls have some degree of political understanding of the relations between their group and the majority. Thus, it is much more likely that the members of this group will express less socially acceptable viewpoints in individual interviews than adults whose identity is clearly formulated.

4. Method

4.1. Participants

Ten adolescent Arab Israeli girls ranging in age from 15 to 18 participated in the study. All the participants live in Nazareth, an entirely Arab city situated in northern Israel. The girls were recruited for the study using the snowball method in which interviewees recruit other interviewees from among their acquaintances.

4.2. Tools

The research is based on structured interviews with the adolescent girls who were asked about two topics: their news consumption habits and their perceptions regarding the news genre in general.

1) News consumption habits: The adolescent girls were asked questions such as the following: Do you consume news? What news do you consume? Do you consume news in Hebrew or in Arabic and why? Do you find the news interesting? Are you interested in events in Israel?

2) Perceptions regarding the news genre: What do you feel when you consume the news? Do you feel that the news is addressing you? Do you feel that the news helps you understand what is happening around you?

4.3. Procedure

After the adolescent girls agreed to be interviewed and their parents gave written consent, each of the girls was interviewed individually. The interviews, which occurred in the girls’ homes, were conducted in Arabic. The interviews were recorded and transcribed for the purpose of content analysis.

4.4. Data Analysis

The interviews underwent thematic analysis in accordance with the principles of grounded theory (GT) (Lindlof & Taylor, 2002) . In the first stage of the analysis, the interviewees’ answers were coded based on the terms used. Similar terms were then collected into categories. For example, statements such as, “I am not Israeli; I just live in Israel” and “I am not Israeli; I am part of the ‘48 Arabs” were classified together in a category entitled “national affinity.” The different categories underwent repeated analyses in order to compare those categories and the terms and to examine the relations among them until the final themes were formulated, which were then presented as the findings. For example, the “national affinity” category was included as part of a general theme that addresses belonging. Representative samples were then chosen to demonstrate each of the themes.

5. Findings

This study comprised interviews of adolescent Arab girls in Israel and ostensibly focused only on the news. Nevertheless, the analysis of the adolescents’ answers revealed that their news consumption patterns and their attitudes toward the news can be understood through their inner discourse regarding their own identity. Their responses during the interviews indicate that they are engaged in a dynamic inner discourse regarding their collective identity and their attempt to determine to which groups they belong and to which they do not belong. Hence, the news genre constituted a fertile field that produced questions regarding the identity of these adolescent girls. Their candid discussions of questions such as those regarding whether they consumed news in Hebrew or in Arabic or received it from Israel or from outside Israel shed light on latent content that was not explicitly or intentionally raised but that was related to questions of identity.

Two main types of themes emerged from the analysis of the interviews: those related to belonging and those related to discourse regarding the Other (The themes are summarized in Appendix 1). Each of these themes is discussed separately.

5.1. Theme of Belonging

The theme of belonging refers to the adolescents’ consideration of questions regarding their affinity groups. This theme includes questions such as the following: To what group do I belong? To what group do I want to belong? Am I accepted by the groups in which I feel I belong or by those who I want to join? Responses in which the interviewees referred to their affinity for any type of collective whatsoever were classified in this theme. The responses included in this theme can be divided into two types of belonging: national and civic.

5.2. National Belonging

Refers to responses in which the interviewees expressed belonging to a particular national group. The great majority of the interviewees claimed not to define themselves as belonging to the Israeli collective. That is, they did not align themselves with the nationality identified with the majority group. Many adolescents even went out of their way to stress this point: “It is important for me to stress that I am not Israeli” (16 years old); “I live in Israel, but I am not Israeli” (16 years old).

Beyond their clear statements that they do not feel a sense of belonging to the Israeli collective, the girls’ lack of belonging also finds expression in their attitude toward Hebrew, the broadcast language for Israeli news: “That is not my language, and there are many words whose meaning I have difficulty understanding; I don’t always feel like asking my family what is being said, so I keep watching without understanding” (18 years old). “I have trouble with the Hebrew. I can’t understand everything. If, for example, they would use more simple language, perhaps I would be able to understand, but they speak at a very high level, and it’s not my language. For the most part, I don’t understand and I ask a lot of questions so I can understand” (16 years old). “I don’t understand the news. My father has trouble explaining it to me all the time, so I start to try to understand it on my own. It bothers me when no one explains the news to me because I want to understand what’s going on. I feel stupid when I don’t understand anything, and I want to understand. If the topic is really interesting to me, I explore the internet afterwards to find the story on sites in my language” (16 years old).

The statements above indicate that the adolescent girls feel they are not sufficiently proficient in Hebrew and therefore do not understand the news; they also feel that news reports do not target them. Because language is a central component of nationality that supports assimilation processes and generates differentiation, feelings of dissociation from Hebrew reflect the girls’ difficulty in feeling a part of the collective targeted by the news.

In addition to not feeling a sense of belonging to the Israeli collective, the girls also express a sense of belonging to another collective―the ‘48 Arabs―as exemplified in the following statements: “I live in Israel, but I define myself as belonging to the ‘48 Arabs” (16 years old); “I am an Arab living in the State of Israel, not an Israeli; I see myself as one of the ‘48 Arabs” (16 years old). These statements indicate that the girls emphasize their identity as ‘48 Arabs and their belonging to the Arab collective, which they consider to be different from the Israeli collective.

The interviewees’ attitude toward Arabic is another example of them feeling that they are part of the Arab collective. Just as they had difficulty with Hebrew and expressed their dissociation from that language, they felt comfortable with Arabic and felt an affinity toward news broadcast in Arabic. “Of course I would prefer to consume news in Arabic because I would understand everything and it would be easier to know what is going on around me and why, and I could also express a valid opinion on a topic. It wouldn’t be that half the words are difficult and I have to ask in order to understand; sometimes, I don’t understand clearly, and then Dad explains it to me. In Arabic, it’s easier and better, and it’s in my language” (16 years old).

5.3. Civic Belonging

Referring to the adolescents’ responses that express their sense of civic affinity, unlike national belonging, these feelings of belonging were not expressed through explicit statements but can instead be inferred from the adolescents’ statements on other topics. For example, the interviewees largely responded to questions regarding their degree of interest in the news by declaring that while they are not interested in the State of Israel because they do not consider themselves part of the Israeli collective, they are interested in what occurs in Israel, as these matters can affect them because they live in Israel. “This interests me because I live here. When something happens to Israel, I am part of it, so I need to know, but I want to stress that I am not Israeli” (16 years old). “I am not interested in what goes on, but if something affects me and my family, I am interested, but anything else, because the state does not represent me, why should it interest me?” (18 years old). “I am not interested in what goes on in the State of Israel. I do not feel it is my country or that I am a part of it. Only when something happens in Nazareth am I interested in knowing about it, but Israel doesn’t interest me at all … I’m only interested in news close to where I live”(17 years old).

The above statements indicate that despite the interviewees’ declarations that they do not belong to the Israeli collective, in regard to civic belonging, their responses show that they feel that they are a part of the Israeli collective because they live in Israel and are affected by what occurs in the country.

This reasoning is also reflected in the adolescents’ attitudes toward Hebrew, as seen in the following statements: “The language [of Hebrew-language news] is very sophisticated, difficult to understand, and I’m not that proficient in the language. I also don’t like Hebrew, but I have to know it and understand it because I live in a country where Hebrew is spoken” (16 years old). “My mother says: ‘Watch the news, that will help you understand Hebrew better and become more proficient in it because the country where we live speaks only that language and you can’t go on without having a command of Hebrew’” (16 years old). These statements demonstrate that in addition to feeling distanced from Hebrew and feeling it is not their language, the adolescents are also frustrated that they do not have a sufficient command of Hebrew. Clearly, the adolescents feel they need to be proficient in Hebrew in order to integrate. This need underscores the complex nature of the adolescents’ feelings. Although they feel and declare that they are not part of the Israeli collective, in practice, they act to assimilate into that collective. This concept is clearly illustrated by the following statement: “What goes on in Israel does interest me because it is the place where I live. I am not Israeli. I live in the State of Israel, and there’s a difference. I need to integrate into the society and to remain in this country. Therefore, I must know what is going on and keep up to date” (15 years old).

The fact that the adolescents may feel a sense of belonging to the Israeli collective on the civic level gains additional reinforcement from their attitude toward the consumption of news in Arabic that does not come from Israeli sources (Al Jazeera, for example). “Sometimes, I watch news in Arabic from Lebanon or from Egypt, and I more easily understand what is being said and what exactly happened. But of course, they don’t mention Israel. Therefore, I need to know Hebrew well in order to understand the news in our country” (18 years old). “I feel there are things we need to know. Therefore, I always try to understand. For example, I can watch the news on Al Jazeera, but they don’t talk about things related to the country in which I live” (16 years old). As these statements demonstrate, the adolescents feel that news reports from sources outside Israel may offer them more in regard to the language but fail to meet their genuine and essential need to understand what is occurring in the country in which they live. Indeed, the country in which they feel they belong from the civic perspective is Israel.

5.4. Theme of Discourse with Respect to the other

This theme refers to how the adolescents view those different from themselves. That is, how they relate to groups to which they do not belong and in contrast to which they enhance and sharpen their own identity. During the interviews, the adolescents engaged in discourse with those different from themselves, referred to these Others, argued with them, and criticized them. The Other was present in all the interviews and was an important part of the interviewees’ inner discourse. The Other is anyone they are not. The Other is not simply different from them but rather significantly different from them. The Other is the one that serves as a meaningful alternative to them, to their perceptions of reality, and to their consciousness. For these adolescents, the very existence of the Other, which represents a meaningful and consolidated existence that totally differs from theirs, helps them more clearly understand who they are and where they belong.

In the adolescents’ responses in the interviews, the identity of the Other is clear. The Other is the Israelis, the Jews, those who produce the news in Israel and who are perceived as racists and anti-Arabs. “Racism, no references to Arabs whatsoever, they only talk about the Jews as if we aren’t here! Because most of the news is about the Jews as if there were no Arabs in the country. And most of the achievements on the news are only Jews. Aren’t there any Arabs in this country who accomplished anything? Of course there are. So why don’t they talk about them? Because they are racists” (17 years old).

In all the interviews, the Other is portrayed negatively as someone who acts against their ingroup and therefore against the interviewee; the Other is viewed as Arab-hating racists who will do anything to show the adolescents’ group in a negative light. This is the adolescents’ explanation for why Arabs in the news are portrayed negatively. “For the most part, they don’t talk about Arabs in a good way. Either they are criminals or they are racists. They don’t say that the Arab is good and won some award or is an important doctor but rather that he’s a criminal and a terrorist” (17 years old). “I feel they are addressing the Zionists in Israel. I feel they are against Arabs because when they talk about Arabs on the news, it’s usually about murderers, criminals, terrorist attacks. They don’t talk about us in a nice or good way. We are seen as criminals on the news” (17 years old).

To summarize, the interviews pointed to a dynamic inner discourse regarding the adolescences collective identity and their attempts to define the groups to which they belong and those to which they do not belong. The findings point to an identity with conflicting components: national versus civic, Arabic versus Hebrew, and the girls’ sense of belonging to the Israeli collective versus their rejection of that collective.

6. Discussion

This study has sought to identify patterns of news consumption among the Arab minority in Israel by focusing on adolescent Arab girls. The interviews with these adolescents ostensibly dealt with news consumption. However, an analysis of the responses revealed that the basis for understanding news consumption patterns is the interviewees’ inner discourse about their identity. Their responses during the interviews pointed to a dynamic inner discourse regarding their collective identity and their attempts to define the groups to which they belong and those to which they do not belong. Thus, the news genre serves as a fertile field in which questions of identity emerged.

Analysis of the interviews yielded two main themes: the theme of belonging and the theme of discourse regarding the Other. While describing their patterns of news consumption, the adolescent girls essentially considered questions concerning their identity: Who am I? Who are they? The division into “us” and “them” in the discourse of identity is part of the process of shaping and formulating one’s self-definition and creating one’s individual identity, as Tajfel and Turner (1986) contend in their social identity theory. According to this theory, the process of categorizing the social world into “us” and “them” forms the basis for the individual’s self-identity. The individual is motivated by the desire to obtain and preserve a positive identity. The individual’s self-esteem is related to the group’s self-esteem, leading to the individual’s tendency to perceive his group as differentiated from and superior to other groups. Thus, the individual devotes a great deal of effort to defining and empowering the ingroup (“us”), both by emphasizing its positive attributes and by denigrating the value of other groups (“them”).

The identity of the adolescent Arab girls emerged from the themes of belonging and of discourse with the Other as an identity with conflicting components: national versus civic, Arabic versus Hebrew, and the girls’ sense of belonging to the Israeli collective versus their rejection of that collective. This emerging picture of their identity is in line with the findings of other studies conducted in Israel (e.g., Smooha (2016) ). According to these studies, the identity of the Arab minority living in Israel is characterized by constant tension between its various components. Thus, the members of this group do not feel that they are a part of the Israeli collective as it defines itself (through symbols, language, myths and accepted narratives); however, they act within this collective; they fulfill themselves and advance in their present and in their future expectations. Another tension can be seen in their sense of belonging to the Arab collective in general and to the Palestinian collective in particular, as they identify linguistically and culturally with those collectives but do not feel a sense of civic belonging.

An identity marked by conflict between its components, as reflected in the current study, is characteristic of numerous and varied minority groups (Hutnik, 1991) . The conflict between identity components tends to intensify as the conflict in the social reality in which the individual lives becomes harsher. In societies in which this social conflict is central and prominent to the extent that it receives widespread media coverage, the inner conflict is liable to increase as well. In such societies, the media portrayal of a minority group whose relations with the majority are tense will likely be more stereotyped and negative because it is the majority that dictates the public agenda and the way the news is covered (Meeusen & Jacobs, 2017) . Members of the majority group are the producers of the news, and news representations reflect their worldview. This reflection also assumes that the news focuses on the members of the majority group.

By contrast, the current study indicates that it is not only the majority group that consumes the news but also the minority group as well. The members of the minority group are exposed to stereotypical and negative representations of themselves in the news and thus experience the conflict between the different components of their identity even more forcefully.

7. Conclusion

These findings underline the importance of examining diverse groups of news’ consumers. This research has provided a picture of the subjective experience of adolescent Arab girls in Israel with respect to the news genre. The picture emerged from in-depth interviews in which these adolescents expressed their authentic experiences in their own words and from their own subjective perspective. These findings may be used by decision-makers and those in the news industry in choosing how to relate to minority groups, how to portray these groups on the news and what content to choose regarding minority group members out of an understanding that they are part of the audience of news’ consumers.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare that there are no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.

Cite this paper

Alon-Tirosh, M., Hadar-Shoval, D., & Marshi-Sakran, N. (2018). News Consumption and Identity: The Case of Adolescent Girls Belonging to a Minority Group. Psychology, 9, 2718-2730.


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Appendix 1: The Main Themes