Asia Pacific Media Educator


Walters, Ian (1998)
Dasher Wheatly and Australia in Vietnam,
Northern Territory University Press, Darwin. ISBN 1876248106

Review Essay by Peter McGregor

Ian Walters, an anthropologist, presents an analysis of the significance of the death of an Australian soldier during the American War in Viet Nam. In order to interpret Dasher (Kevin) Wheatley's death, Walters provides two dimensions of context: (a) a concise, accurate and astute analysis of the political history of the war, and of the USA and Australian interventions; and (b) the theoretical tools he uses - namely cultural studies, deriving, Walters claims, from an anthropological understanding of culture, and specifically the techniques of semiotic and content analysis of pertinent newspaper coverage. The strength of his book is the rigorous empirical measurement of the levels and nature of news coverage. However, Walters' general assumption that news reports can be taken as the measure of significance, as the key index for the public reception of particular happenings, is questionable.