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Access Type

WSU Access

Date of Award

January 2016

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

M.A.

Department

Sociology

First Advisor

Janet l. hankin

Abstract

Scholars suggest understanding media theory and media sociology are instrumental when discussing the question of media power. Most of the empirical work done in this area has centered on the “objective-functionalist paradigm” (McQuail, 1985). The purpose of this study is to explore how two urban local print media outlets framed a group of stakeholders, the pensioners, and the broken promise of the pension and healthcare benefits, during Detroit’s municipal bankruptcy. I conducted a content analysis of Detroit News and Detroit Free Press news articles for the period from August 2013 to July 2014, focusing primarily on thirty (30) key dates during this one-year cycle. This paper contributes to the literature by utilizing the content analysis research strategy, identifying the words and/or phrases used to explain how print media constructs the space between people (the pensioners) and structure (the pension payments, healthcare benefits and municipal bankruptcy). The people of the City of Detroit was able to construct their views about the structure of the municipal bankruptcy based on the published articles by the two local media outlets The objective of my research was to examine the Detroit News and Detroit Free Press to understand if they supported the objective-functionalist paradigm or the subjective-functionalist paradigm. I collected 569 articles from the Detroit News and 833 from the Detroit Free Press. Of the two outlets, the Detroit Free Press produced a slightly higher percentage of articles, 12.2% (n=102), that focused specifically on the pensioners’ situation, compared to the Detroit News at 11.2% (n=64). I would speculate that this slight difference in percentage was attributed to the Detroit Free Press providing a broader coverage of the bankruptcy itself, and not just the pensioners (retirees) situation. The articles from my analysis suggested the Detroit Free Press followed an objective (content) functionalist paradigm and the Detroit News followed the subjective (content) functionalist paradigm. Although both media outlets remained close in their respective structures of reporting, it was clear that print media does follow a structure of media power as suggested by Entman (1993:52) and uses this power “to select some aspects of a perceived reality and make them more salient in communicating text, in such a way as to promote a particular problem definition, causal interpretation, moral evaluation, and/or treatment recommendation.” In other words, frames are used to focus attention on certain pieces of information about a particular item of interest and highlighting its significance, in essence, making it more meaningful to its audiences.

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