Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Manship School of Mass Communication

Document Type



This dissertation examined how the news media covered the Opioid Crisis of the 21st century compared to how the news media covered the Heroin Epidemic of the 1970s. A content analysis of six U.S. newspapers – the New York Times, the Washington Post, The Columbus Dispatch, The Detroit Free Press, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and the New Orleans Times-Picayune indicated that the print news media covered the Heroin Epidemic and the Opioid Crisis drastically different. The news media framed the Opioid Crisis as a public health issue, focusing coverage on rogue doctors and health professionals, and how unethical pharmaceutical companies took advantage of people seeking to ease pain by using opioids. The news media framed the Heroin Epidemic as a criminal issue, and heroin users and heroin dealers as wholly responsible for society's ills in the 1970s. Additionally, those involved in using or selling heroin were irredeemable members of the community who needed to be removed. A discourse analysis of the newspapers from different regions of the country revealed how an emphasis on race was prevalent, with news media sources criminalizing the predominantly Black and brown people involved in the Heroin Epidemic while later humanizing the primarily White people of the Opioid Crisis.



Committee Chair

Grimm, Joshua



Available for download on Friday, May 23, 2025