Theorizing the form of media coverage over time

Elizabeth Heger Boyle, Andrea Hoeschen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Because the media plays a critical role in cross-cultural communication, bias in the portrayal of particular cultures is an important issue. In this article, we use the form of newspaper articles over time to arbitrate between two competing theories of media coverage: Is the media primarily driven by self-interest, that is, the need to sell newspapers, or is it driven primarily by the same principled ideas that fuel international activism? Analyzing international newspaper articles on female genital cutting from 1978 to 1998, we find a close correspondence to international activism. Tracing the strategies of "transnational advocacy networks," most articles are primarily devoted to leverage and accountability themes. Further, the ultimate decrease in articles on female genital cutting was not preceded by a decrease in articles designed to shock readers but rather by a peak in stories that emphasized the accountability of governments to eradicate female genital cutting. Over time, perhaps as the appropriateness of action became more taken for granted, there were fewer news stories on proposed solutions but relatively more news stories on success and implementation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)511-527
Number of pages17
JournalSociological Quarterly
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2001


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