Date of Graduation

5-2012

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Communication (MA)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Communication

Advisor

Stephanie Schulte

Committee Member

Thomas Rosteck

Second Committee Member

Ron Warren

Abstract

This thesis investigates United States newspaper coverage of the 2008 financial crisis, with a particular focus on the debate that took place in press coverage surrounding the proposed 700 billion dollar Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). Specifically, this study aims to understand how, when faced with a crisis that threatened hegemony, the state and economic elites, working in and through media, were able to effectively convince the subordinate classes to consent to state intervention aimed at perpetuating a financial system that has historically profited from the relative financial insecurity of the subordinate classes. In order to understand media's role in the TARP debate, this study first examines how media interpretations contribute to the construction of social reality. In particular, the study is concerned with how the press is both influenced by and also supports dominant ideology.

Through an understanding of media as an ideological state apparatus, this study argues that news frames constructed by journalists in press coverage of the 2008 financial crisis¬ worked to reinforce the status quo. This is not to insist that media reinforced dominant ideology out of inherent bias or conspiracy, but instead to suggest that due to routine journalistic norms and the fact that news operates within previously established ideological constraints, the need for government intervention in the capitalist economic system was unquestioned in newspaper accounts. Ultimately, the state and economic elites, working in and though media, incorporated populist rhetoric to establish a national consensus that something needed to be done in order to avoid a total collapse of the capitalist system and American way of life. Consequently, this thesis argues that in the fall of 2008, in response to a hegemonic crisis, capitalism was re-naturalized as a vital form of social stability and as the natural order of things, and thus hegemony was restored.