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Document Type

Dissertation - University Access Only

Award Date


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department / School

Rural Sociology

First Advisor

Diane Kayongo-Male


One of the key questions sociologists face is how information is produced and distributed. Knowledge production is not a value-neutral process that exists in a void; rather, it occurs within a system of material production. In modern America that system of material production is capitalism, and one of capitalism's defining features is that some sell their labor and are not paid the full value of what they produce. The surplus value is appropriate and conceptualized as "profit." One way information is distributed is through newspapers, which reach nearly 50 million Americans every day. The processes that characterize modern capitalism also have discernible impacts on the newspaper industry. Through conglomeration and chain ownership, newspapers have become increasingly tied to corporate elites. Tension may exist between these structural ties and newspapers' oft-touted role as impartial reporters of information. Coverage of labor unions, which exist to limit the amount of surplus value that elites can appropriate, is one area where such tension may occur. A sample of newspaper articles about labor unions was studied to determine if structural ties to elites are associated with how newspapers cover unions. Particularly, it was hypothesized that large, chain-owned, newspapers whose boards of directors were heavily interlocked with other major corporations would cover unions differently than smaller, independent papers. Results suggest differences in two areas of coverage. First, larger newspapers with ties to corporate elites were more likely to focus their coverage on strikes and other dramatic confrontations. Second, they were more likely to include content in their stories that could serve to de-legitimate labor in the eyes of the reader. Further analysis suggested that these relationships were associated with a major labor crisis that occurred during the sample period -- the nationwide General Motors strike of 1998. Thus, it may be that newspapers' structural ties to elites most impact how they respond to a major, high profile labor crisis.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Labor unions -- Press coverage -- United States
Labor unions and mass media -- United States




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