Date of Award

Spring 5-2017

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Mass Communication and Journalism

Committee Chair

Dr. Cheryl Jenkins

Committee Chair Department

Mass Communication and Journalism

Committee Member 2

Dr. Dave Davies

Committee Member 2 Department

Mass Communication and Journalism

Committee Member 3

Dr. Christopher Campbell

Committee Member 3 Department

Mass Communication and Journalism

Committee Member 4

Dr. Loren Coleman

Committee Member 4 Department

Mass Communication and Journalism

Committee Member 5

Dr. Fei Xue

Committee Member 5 Department

Mass Communication and Journalism

Abstract

This study explored Barack Obama’s rhetorical message for racial reconciliation and the framing of that message by the American mainstream news media. The study investigated Obama’s messages in texts and sound-bites of the news media—The Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, the New York Times, Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC. The research included Obama’s speeches on three major occasions from 2008 to 2014—(1) “a more perfect union” speech on March 18, 2008, in Philadelphia; (2) Washington speech on August 28, 2013, on the 50th anniversary of MLK’s “I have a dream” speech; and (3) LBJ Library speech on April 10, 2014, on the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The main goal of this research was to uncover the frames and tones of the news media that might reflect change or no-change in critical race relations and socio-economic conditions of African-Americans in the “Age of Obama,” viewed as a post-racial era by the legacy media. The study used Critical Race Theory to analyze the idealistic and realistic issues of race relations. The media frames included three themes—(i) Obama’s relation with his pastor and friend Jeremiah Wright, (ii) the political tone, and (iii) the perception of civic and economic programs of Obama toward African-Americans.

All six media outlets framed Obama as being at fault for his relationship with Wright. In the tone frame, the conservative media outlets judged Obama as a “bargainer,” and as “scandalous.” The liberal outlets looked at Obama somewhat as a conciliator. For civic and economic improvements for African Americans, the conservative outlets put emphasis on cohesive conditions of partnership by Obama. Fox News asked African-Americans to gain “plentiful” skills to get jobs. The media reinforced the myth of the dawn of a ”post-racial” era, a hypothetical period in which discrimination did not exist. The ”Age of Obama” became the sign of ”racial reconciliation.”

The study helps expand a national dialogue between the public and the media about race. The researcher proposed a theoretical framework—Critical Race and Class Theory (CR&CT) in order to explain phenomena.

Available for download on Sunday, May 12, 2019

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