Date of Award

May 2018

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Media Studies


Carol Liebler


Critical discourse analysis, Discourse, Government leaking, leaks, Political communication, Trump administration

Subject Categories

Social and Behavioral Sciences


Leaks of government information allow the news media to fulfill their traditional role of watchdog over the government and other powerful figures, yet public opinion about leaking and leakers is mixed. As anti-leak rhetoric proliferates from the President of the United States and others in government agencies, it is worth investigating the discourse employed by the media regarding government leaks and leakers. Using the Dialectical-Relational Approach to Critical Discourse Analysis, this study explored discourse about government leaking in news media during President Trump’s first year in office in order to understand how government leaking is constructed and negotiated as a concept and how it relates to established relations and practices of power in the United States. Analysis of news media coverage of leaking events found that four dominant construals were employed regarding government leaking: legal, political, ethical, and depolitical. News media relied heavily on government and other elite sources when covering leaking events, and these sources were primarily responsible for promoting the dominant construals. The findings reveal the complicated relationship between the government, the media, and leakers, wherein each receives benefits and weathers damages for fulfilling their role. Ultimately, the government and elites are able to dominate the discourse about government leaking, presenting discourse that favors their position and disfavors that of leakers.


Open Access



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