A content analysis of news coverage in five newspapers of the WTO demonstrations in Seattle 1999

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Bowman, Noelle M.
Popovich, Mark N.
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Thesis (M.A.)
Department of Journalism
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Media critics and scholars have questioned and tried to define the role newspapers play in society for many years. Answers range from impartial observer to watchdog to social advocate. To understand how newspapers' roles are defined, this study looked at agenda-setting research, social responsibility theory, and conflict-reporting research. This study focused on coverage of a protest that turned violent. The objective was to evaluate newspaper content and identify paragraphs of coverage as issue-centered, event-centered, or neutral.Two coders evaluated 5,383 paragraphs of coverage in 300 articles that appeared in five newspapers between Nov. 29, 1999, and Dec. 5, 1999. The articles covered the World Trade Organization ministerial meeting that took place during that time in Seattle, Washington. Thousands of demonstrators went to Seattle to protest a variety of issues, including globalization, child labor, free-trade barriers, and pollution.Two local newspapers and three national newspapers were analyzed. Local newspapers were found to favor event coverage over issue coverage. National newspapers were found to favor issue coverage over event coverage.Chi-square analysis confirmed significant difference between issue and event coverage at each newspaper. Further analysis revealed an even greater difference between page-one stories' issues and events at the local newspapers. National newspapers showed balanced coverage in their page-one paragraphs.