Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2021

Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Fred Vultee


After former President Trump began calling the news media “the enemy of the American people,” many scholars and journalism practitioners worried about such anti-media’s trickle-down effect and how it would complicate work for local reporters. Given a growing need to pay attention to hostility toward journalists, this project sought to better understand the ways journalists experience the trickle-down effects of anti-media rhetoric in the form of hostile interactions with sources who vilify journalists; how women and journalists of color experience these effects to different, possibly heightened degrees; and how journalists are resilient in spite of these challenges. Drawing on 38 in-depth interviews with local journalists from across the United States, this project used the Communication Theory of Resilience (CTR) and the feminist theory of intersectionality to understand how journalists worked through hostility.

Participants described five forms of hostility from sources and discussed their strategies for mitigating hostility. This project helps identify proactive, transformative resilience processes for working through hostility, such as the creations of journalistic teaching moments when journalists are confronted with hostile sources who buy-in to anti-media rhetoric and have a fundamental misunderstanding of the news. It also helps identify problematic, adaptive processes of resilience, such as the avoidance of potentially hostile sources who would utilize anti-media rhetoric, which perpetuates bias in the news. Many resilience processes are enabled or constrained by facets of the journalists’ identity, such that gender, race and age intersect to influence both the forms of hostility experienced by journalists and the ways they are able to be resilient in response to that hostility. Implications are discussed for journalists in both reporting and editor roles, and for journalism instructors.