Ruth M DeFoster


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Personal profile

Research interests

My research program is characterized by work that is critical, historical, interdisciplinary and rigorous. Using both qualitative and quantitative methods, I focus on parsing the ways in which media representation frames public narratives and public policy around societal problems such as violence, terror, illicit drug use and public health crises.

I recently published my first book, which built upon previous research on media representation of American mass shootings to consider the broad role that media representation plays in defining the contentious and slippery term “terrorism” for American audiences in the 21st century.

Since completing this project, my interest in the relationship between media representation and prevailing societal beliefs about public crises has broadened to encompass audiences’ perceptions of other newsworthy crises. Partnering with a colleague whose field of expertise is neuroscience and psychology, I built upon my previous work examining media representation of violence to answer research questions about the role of illicit drug trends, drug research, public policy and public opinion on media representation of violence and public health. Our findings, which have been published in Health Communication, Research Methods Cases and Contemporary Drug Problems, have uncovered surprising trends in the construction of media-fueled drug “crises,” the influence of public health scholarship on debates over gun legislation, and a powerful agenda-setting function in the way television news media drive public opinion about crime and violence.


Education/Academic qualification

PhD, University of Minnesota

Award Date: Jun 30 2015

Research interests

  • terrorism
  • mass shootings
  • crime
  • mass media
  • race and religion

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