Politics and the Presentation of Terrorism in the News Media

Steven Chermak, Indiana University
Jeff Gruenewald, Indiana University

In this study, we examine the news media's role in federal criminal justice policy-making. We are interested in two issues. First, we are interested in the presentation of terrorism in the news media over time. Specifically, we examine how news coverage of celebrated terrorism events affected the terrorism policy agenda over a thirty-year period. We will link these changes to the number of congressional hearings and legislative initiatives passed and consider at least two case studies to more clearly identify the role of the media in federal criminal justice policy-making. Second, our interest in linking variations in political agendas and ideology to changes in media coverage of terrorism from the Lyndon Johnson administration to the present. The examination of the intensity of terrorism coverage is based on sources of archival data including the New York Times Annual Index, Vanderbilt Television News Abstracts and The Congressional Masterfile. We expect to find that politicians and other social-control institutions consistently attempt to further their political agendas by linking policy initiatives to the celebrated terrorist acts. We also believe that some frames used to discuss terrorist acts will remain constant, while other frames will change over time with the varying political agendas and definitions of terrorism.

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Updated 05/20/2006