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Thesis/Dissertation Seminars

Dissertation Defense: Black, White, and Read All Over: Exploring Racial Bias in Print Media Coverage of Serial Rape Cases

HPH 406 I
March 20, 2017 @ 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM

Announcing the Final Examination of Lauren Elizabeth Wright for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Sociology

The discussion of race and crime has been a long standing research interest, with statistics consistently showing an overrepresentation of non-white offenders compared to their white counterparts – specifically in relation to violent crimes such as murder and rape. Prior research has found that about 46 percent of serial rapists are black, a fact that correlates with other sensationalized violent crimes such as mass murder and serial murder. The news media are the primary sources of this kind of information for the general public, with prior research acknowledging that the media primarily focus on discussing non-white offenders in their crime-based news stories. With the majority of Americans receiving their information about crime from the news media, it is important to increase our understanding of how their representations might influence the general public. The current study explores the print media representations of serial rapists, from 1940-2010, from five newspapers: The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, and the Chicago Tribune. A content analysis was conducted on 524 articles covering 297 serial rape offenders from the data compiled by Wright, Vander Ven, and Fesmire (2016) in which race of the offender was known. Results show that newspaper articles tend to report about fear-related topics and anxiety surrounding offenders when the offenders are non-white. Results also indicate that while newspapers dehumanize both white and non-white offenders, white offenders tend to have their behavior neutralized using techniques to garner more sympathy.

Committee in Charge: Lin Huff-Corzine (Chair), Jay Corzine, Melanie Hinojosa, Tom Vander Ven


 

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