Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Mass Communication

Document Type



The conventional wisdom that U.S. and ethnic media have distinctive effects on ethnic populations’ assimilation into the American society inspires two closely related questions: (1) how do English- and ethnic-language media differ in news content?, and (2) to what extent is ethnic audiences’ preference for English- versus ethnic-language media systematically biased such that they seek to use media congenial to their most salient ethnic identity? The first question is expected to provide insights into what ethnic audiences learn about the U.S. and their country of origin from distinct news outlets, and to explain whether and how U.S. and ethnic media may have different influences on ethnic audiences’ attitudes toward both nations. The second question furthers our understanding of why ethnic audiences’ selective exposure is a general, cross-channel pattern with consistent ethnical or political antecedents. To examine the above questions, this project takes a multi-method approach, including one content analysis, two analyses of secondary survey data, one pilot experiment, and one Latino based experimental study. It reveals several important findings. First, the way U.S. media portray the images of the U.S. and China is not radically different from Chinese media, as both tend to cover more negative U.S. images. This indicates their different functions, with the U.S. media playing the role of watchdog and Chinese media serving as the government’s propaganda tool. Second and more importantly, this project reveals evidence that ethnic audiences prefer to use media that are congruent with their most salient cultural identity, especially when they seek for information related to politics and public affairs. This so-called “ethnic selective exposure” exists among both Latino and Asian groups, and across different media platforms.



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Committee Chair

Dunaway, Johanna