Publication Date

Spring 2018

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Communication Studies

Advisor

Zongchao Li

Subject Areas

Mass communication

Abstract

Previous communication studies have examined media bias in the coverage of social protest movements and issues of race in sports, but until now there has not been an opportunity to combine the two topics. This study examined media bias in coverage of the San Francisco 49ers’ national anthem protests, from August 2016 to February 2018. Utilizing articles from eight different publications, four from local San Francisco Bay Area outlets, and four from nationally syndicated outlets, a content analysis was conducted to determine whether coverage of the protests exhibited bias against the players and whether local sources were more supportive of the protests than nationally sourced publications. Results indicated that while coverage of the protests did highlight their underlying messages, they were overshadowed by coverage of opposition to the protest and central figures such as Donald Trump and Colin Kaepernick. Furthermore, few differences were found in support for the protests among local and national sources. Local sources were found, however, to have offered a narrower lens through which readers could view the issues and debates surrounding the protests than national sources. These results imply that progress has been made in media coverage of these types of events, yet it can still be altered by forces that are not related to the cause of the protest. Finally, the results of this study also provide impetus for further studies on media coverage of protests on race related issues, social movements in sports, and the NFL national anthem protest movement.

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