Questioning the President: Positioning, Stance, and Frames in the Trump Press Conferences

Date of Award

May 2020

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Communication and Rhetorical Studies


Sylvia Sierra


alignment, Donald Trump, frames, positioning, press conference, stance

Subject Categories

Social and Behavioral Sciences


This thesis takes up the press conferences of President Donald Trump as discursive spaces in which Trump and members of the White House press pool shape their relationship to one another, as well as rework the “norms” of press conference discourse. I draw data from three official Trump news conferences (occurring February 16, 2017; September 27, 2018; and November 7, 2018) to investigate the nuances of these Trump-journalist relations. Utilizing positioning theory, stance, and (dis)alignment, I study the various systems of solidarity brought about through participants’ discursive interactions, problematize the notion of an easy Trump-media oppositional binary, and question how much agency journalists truly have in establishing themselves as social actors in the conference room. I then use frame analysis to more fully study how participants understand the press conference Q-and-A as a framed activity and how they use varying definitions of that frame to (re)assert their agency in the briefing room. I also investigate how both Trump and individual reporters deploy meta-frames to make “visible” one another’s discursive practices. I conclude with considerations of how this analysis can inform future action in discursively engaging Trump and other politicians while balancing considerations of agency, advocacy, and professionalism.


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