Date of Award
Master of Arts
Mass Communication and Media Arts
AN ABSTRACT OF THE THESIS OF Greta K. Weiderman, for the Master of Arts degree in Mass Communication and Media Arts, presented on Aug. 21, 2009, at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. TITLE: THE WATCHDOG ROLE OF NEWSPAPERS: NEWSPAPER COVERAGE OF SINCLAIR BROADCASTING'S ANNOUNCEMENT TO AIR A ONE-SIDED DOCUMENTARY RIGHT BEFORE THE 2004 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION MAJOR PROFESSOR: Dr. William Babcock This thesis is a content analysis examining newspaper coverage of Sinclair Broadcasting's announcement that it planned to air a program titled "Stolen Honor: Wounds that Never Heal" 13 days before the November 2004 presidential election. Sinclair Broadcast Group ordered its 61 stations to preempt regular programming and run the show, which attacked then presidential candidate John Kerry's activism against the Vietnam War (Jensen, 2004). The film was to be presented as news programming. This study examines how 41 newspapers in cities with Sinclair television stations covered the announcement to run the "Stolen Honor" documentary and the situation following it in news stories, editorials and columns. It also examines if the ownership or circulation of the newspapers was related to the way they covered the controversy and whether these newspapers served their watchdog functions. The results indicated that there was no relationship between a newspaper's performance of the watchdog role, as measured by the watchdog index, and its circulation or ownership. But the study did find, however, that as a whole, the newspapers performed their watchdog role.
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