Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

M.A. in Journalism

First Advisor

Joseph B. Atkins

Second Advisor

Alysia Steele

Third Advisor

Brad Schultz

Relational Format



July 13, 2013, I in my great-grandmother’s house with my eyes glued to CNN waiting to see George Zimmerman charged in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. After the verdict of not guilty was read, I remember tuning into social media and seeing people who looked like me tweet about how disappointed they were in the “system.” Leading up to the Zimmerman trial, I paid attention to how mainstream media intentionally tried to defame Trayvon Martin’s character. Headlines read “Trayvon Martin was a weed smoker” and “Martin was suspended from school.” Fast-forward to August 5, 2014, a teen by the name of Michael Brown was gunned down and left in the street for four and a half hours while his blood flodown the street in the blistering summer heat. Again, headlines from mainstream media outlets continued to defame Brown’s character. Michael Brown was portrayed as no “Gentle Giant” by Fox News and John Eligon of the New York Times wrote an article that portrayed Brown last weeks “Grappling with Problems and Promise.” I began to notice that mainstream media portrayed African American victims in a negative light while White Americans were not shown in the same light. James Holmes, the gunman in the 2012 movie theater shooting was portrayed by the Associated Press as a “Brilliant” science student. The narrative seems to soften when White Americans commit and I want to show people that mainstream media either intentionally or unconsciously vilifies African American victims while not holding White Americans to the same standards.


Track: Academic



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