Author

Brian Lepine

Date of Award

12-2010

Level of Access

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Communication

Advisor

Nathan Stormer

Second Committee Member

Michael Socolow

Third Committee Member

Jeffrey St. John

Abstract

In October, 1989, Charles Stuart murdered his wife in inner-city Boston by staging a robbery-homicide, which he would blame on a nondescript black man. News of the suburban white couple's alleged attack sent shock waves throughout Boston and made national headlines, resulting in an outpouring of sympathy for the Stuarts and condemnation for the alleged attacker. Accepting Stuart's claim at face value, the Boston media would devote over two months of coverage to the alleged incident, before the hoax was revealed. This research carries out a framing analysis of news coverage during the hoax period, as reported in The Boston Globe and Boston Herald, and demonstrates that such reportage should not be surprising, as it is based on prevailing crime discourse that is the product of expectations and stereotypes of race, class, violent crime, and notions of who ought to be protected from such crime. Prior to the framing analysis, I will provide some background on shifting white racial perceptions and how a prevailing violent crime news narrative has developed and become accepted by the mainstream media, the political class, and the public. After the framing analysis, I will examine the discourse of Boston's African American newspaper, The Bay State Banner, during the hoax period of the Stuart case, in an effort to have a sense of its alternative framing and what implications this alternative framing might have for the broader public sphere. I will conclude this thesis with some thoughts on what the 21-year-old murder case might reveal about our current media and political landscape.

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