Date of Submission

Spring 2016

Academic Programs and Concentrations


Project Advisor 1

Allison McKim

Abstract/Artist's Statement

This study uses content analysis methods to examine the TV news coverage of two landmark cases of police brutality in 2015—Sandra Bland and Freddie Gray. It draws on theories of the sociology of knowledge, social problems, and Black feminist thought in its examination of the way these forces shape framings of police violence in the news. At a moment when masses are contesting the practices of police institutions and the criminal justice system, TV news becomes an important arena in which groups struggle to define and make claims about the problem of police brutality in the United States. This study finds that reports utilized frameworks that (1) relied on legal expert knowledge, (2) individualized the problem and called for solutions that drew on the legacy of the punitive turn, and (3) maintained specifically gendered portrayals of victimhood that distanced Sandra Bland’s case from the political sphere, while putting Freddie Gray’s at the center. From these findings, this paper argues that these frameworks were imbued with particular ideologies that ultimately reproduce the power of the state in the “everyday” news broadcast, and sees this as a process that is not blind to gender.

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