Date of Award

8-2004

Level of Access

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Architecture (MArch)/Master of Urban Planning (MUP)

Department

Communication

Advisor

Shannon E. Martin

Second Committee Member

John C. Sherblom

Third Committee Member

Eric E. Peterson

Abstract

Television depictions of crime stories started dominating television news and entertainment in the 1990s and continue to do so. Following this trend of focusing on crime, producers of television newsmagazines capitalize heavily on crime stories and frequently add a flamboyant and sensational style to the final televised production. The framing of a newsmagazine story may also strategically avoid the context of the story, thus placing a spin on the narrative. The present study is an analysis for dominant themes and elements of sensationalism in one 20/20 newsmagazine piece and a survey of reactions from a sample audience. The study employs Grabe, Zhou, and Barnett's (2001) methods for explicating sensationalism and an analysis for emergent themes in the text and participants' responses. The results demonstrate forms of crass sensationalism embedded in 20/20's production and a growing cynicism in response to sensational television. Guided by audience discourse and Cultural Indicators theories, the discussion addresses the importance of critical media studies, specifically those focusing on sensationalism and infotainment.

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