Title

INFORMATION SUBSIDIES AND MEDIA PORTRAYALS: AN EXPLORATORY STUDY OF PUBLIC RELATIONS’ CONTRIBUTION TO THE DISPARAGING IMAGES OF MUSLIMS IN DOMESTIC NEWS MEDIA

Date of Award

December 2018

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Public Relations

Advisor(s)

Christal Johnson

Keywords

Framing Theory, Information Subsidies, Islamaphobia, Muslims, Press Agentry, Terrorism

Subject Categories

Social and Behavioral Sciences

Abstract

In 2018 the United States has arguably become the divided states with segments of the population, particularly domestic Muslims and their international counterparts being holistically branded as war-ridden radicalized extremists. From 9/11 to 2018, Islam and some of its believers have been inextricably linked to terror, violence, war, and oppression. As expressed in previous pertinent scholarly works, if one Muslim commits an act of terror, he somehow represents the entire religion. Other scholars and bestselling authors have validated such discussions positing that the media has the power through its agenda to set public agenda by convincing viewers that an entire generation and population of people are the enemies and not to be trusted. This exploratory study provides primary research through a content analysis by investigating not the ‘what,’ but the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of the consistent unfavorable depictions of Muslims in domestic media. This research delves more in-depth than the cliché of blaming the news, by posing the question: are public relations (PR) practitioners feeding the media propaganda information subsidies that directly frames the story based on U.S. Ideologies, policies, and unconscious confirmation biases toward Muslims? To satisfy this query, the author linked information subsidies to the press agentry/publicity communications model and investigated how both coupled with framing theory may have contributed to the consistent debasing narratives on Muslims. Over the course of two weeks, three coders (including the author) with backgrounds in public communications content analyzed 115 print stories from The Washington Post, from September 2001 to September 2018, for quantitative and qualitative analysis of the text. Final results indicated that of 115 print stories, 48 carried a negative salience toward Muslims with 21 of the 48 connecting followers of Islam directly to terrorism or being depicted as the anathema of European states and some East Asian nations due to xenophobia and Islamophobia.

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