Date of Award

2018

Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Department

School of Journalism and Mass Communications

Sub-Department

College of Information and Communications

First Advisor

Kevin Hull

Abstract

After the emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement following the deaths of unarmed Black teens Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, news about police shootings catapulted into the local and national spotlight through videos and messages on social media. Information about police shootings is usually reported to the public through media sources such as television, online/digital news, and social media. This study examines how television news journalists cover the issue of police shootings in the United States. Through 10 in-depth interviews with television journalists who covered highly-publicized police shootings, the author analyzes how race, journalistic norms, technology, and citizen journalists effect the way this issue is framed in the media. The author found that journalists believed they shape the storyline of police shootings through their usage of words, visuals, dependence on official sources, and even the omission of details. However, journalists argued that they tell the story objectively by being fair and telling both sides of the story. The study also finds the television journalists believe race is a factor in the prominence of a story about police shootings and that Black males are more likely to capture national headlines due to the presence of “Black Lives Matter” in the coverage. The usage of technology is also discussed as a positive influence for journalists to break out of traditional norms and connect with their viewers. The author found that there are mixed emotions amongst the journalists when it comes to citizen journalists who capture the stories, write about them, and challenge the work of traditional journalists. The findings show police shootings and the ongoing protests have changed the way journalists work and how newsrooms cover this topic. The author suggests that journalists, law enforcement, and the public must continue to work together to better understand how this topic should be covered.

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