Identifier

etd-07062010-144215

Degree

Master of Mass Communication (MMC)

Department

Mass Communication

Document Type

Thesis

Abstract

This study examines the newspaper coverage of Richard Jewell during the weeks after the 1996 Atlanta Olympics bombing. Jewell, a security guard working in the Olympic Park on July 27, 1996, was initially hailed as a hero due to his discovery of a bomb minutes before the explosion. After Jewell’s name was leaked to the press as an FBI person of interest in the case, many reporters began to frame Jewell in a negative light and, in some instances, even implied his guilt. Through a discourse analysis of news stories published between the date of the bombing and the date Jewell was officially removed as a suspect (three months), four distinct framing clusters are identified in this study: The Reluctant Hero, He is Guilty, United We Stand, and Media Self-Coverage. Discursive tactics used to support these themes are identified as word choice, source choice and use of unnecessary information. The roles of myths, symbols, storytelling, and society in frame-making provide the foundation for an in-depth discussion about the broader meanings and implications of the news frames found in the coverage of the bombing. This study finds that frames are prevalent in media coverage and play an essential role in society, but they are sometimes misused by the press in such a way that harms individuals. A subsequent legal discussion underscores the courts’ dogged protection of First Amendment rights in these situations and the dilemmas that develop when a private individual is ruled to be a public figure in the defamation lawsuit. An additional examination of news media ethics offers possible reasons journalists resort to the types of discursive tactics found in the Jewell coverage; specifically, this study finds explanations that pertain to the journalist, the newsroom, industry guidelines, and the collective mindset of the profession.

Date

2010

Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Freeman, Craig

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