Honors College

Document Type

Honors Thesis

Publication Date

Spring 2019


With no universally accepted definition of terrorism, the process by which the media labels an act as terrorism becomes inherently variable. In Western media, such variance is unilaterally skewed towards coverage of Islamic terror. This paper examined the similarities and differences in newsprint coverage of two unique terrorist attacks: The Boston Marathon bombing and the Charleston Church mass shooting. Data included 64 articles from The Wall Street Journal that were published in the seven days following each attack. Data were analyzed using grounded theory, which revealed three primary themes: construction of the attack, construction of the attacked, and construction of the attacker. Important differences within and across each theme were found in the Wall Street Journal’s coverage of each attack. This paper argues that these differences manifest, in part, due to the construction of Islamic terrorists and non-white victims as an “other” while white terrorists and white victims are constructed as “us” or more relatable and sympathetic. This paper concludes with a discussion on the power of media representations of terrorism, and the implications of policy towards such coverage.

Included in

Sociology Commons