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Master's Professional Reports Abstract



The Rhetoric of News: An Analysis of Print News Reporting on Gays and Lesbians
Norris, Deborah Lynn.
REPORT 1999 N792 Public Affairs Library

Mass media produce images and news accounts that provide the general public with much of its information on minority issues, including the interpretation and understanding of policy issues affecting gay men and lesbians. Newspapers act as one such medium, shaping and defining gay issues through the quantity and quality of gay-related reporting. The data collected in this study suggest that print media such as the New York Times and the Austin American-Statesman utilize standard journalistic practices which inherently bias reporting on gays and lesbians. Word choice, tone, and context also affect coverage in ways that highlight particular categories of information and help "paint a picture" or "tell a story" of the gay community and related policy issues. It is difficult to determine how influential this media presentation is in affecting public attitudes and political decision making, but there is no doubt that the media, through the way it presents gay-related news, offers the public a particular version of the news as "truth" about gay issues. These definitions and perceptual notions may then filter their way into the public consciousness. The purpose of this report is to examine and elucidate a version of "reality" about gay-related policy issues and the gay community as presented by a sample of the stories from two newspapers. This report provides a better understanding on the way in which the media presents gays and lesbians individuals, as in interest group, and as a political force. This knowledge will provide a better understanding of the types of information reaching the public that may affect public opinion and political action on controversial gay policy issues.