Document Type

Thesis

Degree

Master of Arts

Major

Communication

Date of Defense

4-22-2015

Graduate Advisor

Alice Hall, PhD.

Committee

Dr. Amber Reinhart

Dr. Yan Tian

Abstract

This study examines how articles covering social issues are highlighted on top online daily newspapers’ websites and how that influences the audiences’ emotionality and willingness to help the corresponding social issue as identified in the websites’ comment sections. The articles have been gathered from five of the top online daily newspaper media outlets: USA Today, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Houston Chronicle and San Francisco Chronicle. Three social issues are highlighted as key topics that are relevant to today’s American society and typically require a need for orientation: gun control, cancer and animal rights. The method for conducting this research is a quantitative content analysis of 200 online daily newspaper articles containing audience comments. This content analysis reveals that the negative emotions of anger and anxiety relate significantly to the commenters’ tendency to express an intention to act in favor of a social issue. Articles covering the issues of gun control and animal rights had more expression of the emotion of anger in the comments than articles covering cancer. However, the data revealed that no significant relationship is present between the three social issues and the number of engagement or action comments. Surprisingly, this content analysis reveals that the placement of an article on an online daily newspaper does not relate to media audiences’ level of engagement as identified by the number of audience comments.

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