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Siege Mentality: ABC, the White House and the Iran Hostage Crisis


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  • Product Description

    The Iran hostage crisis of 1979-80 drew an unprecedented amount of press coverage in the US, especially from the major networks, which devoted a third of their time to the hostage story during the first six months. Of the three networks, ABC covered it most extensively, creating an entirely new program called "The Crisis in Iran: America Held Hostage," aired nightly at 11:30. The popularity of this program led ABC to pilot the late night news program Nightline in the spring of 1980. The case tells the inside story of ABC's coverage--from the embassy seizure in November 1979 through the doomed rescue attempt the following April. It begins with a description of the news philosophy of ABC's dynamic news president, Roone Arledge, then moves through the events of the hostage crisis, interspersing ABC's story with the reactions of various observers at the time. Interviews with Carter administration press representatives Hodding Carter and Jody Powell also provide a sense of the White House's reaction to the saturation television coverage.

    Learning Objective:
    This case allows students to discuss what motivated ABC to cover the crisis as it did, what circumstances made the strategy work, and what challenges and ethical dilemmas the network faced. It will allow them to speculate about both the impact of the White House press strategy on the coverage, and the impact of the coverage on the White House's handling of the crisis.

  • Other Details

    Publication Date: January 01, 1988
    HKS Case Number: 823.0
    Case Author: Pamela Varley, Howard Husock
    Faculty Lead: Marvin Kalb
    Pages (incl. exhibits): 42
    Setting: United States, Iran
    Language: English
    _year: Older than 2000
    _pages: 25+
    _geography: US & Canada
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