Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Forrest A. Deseran


This is a study of the stories told about distribution of resources and structural constraints which operate within newspaper arenas that were experienced by reporters and sources involved in coverage of food irradiation between 1987 and 1996 at two regional newspapers (Louisiana and Florida). Using an unstructured interview instrument, I conducted interviews with 40 sources and 12 newspaper reporters, which I used to construct a framework in which to show how cultural, economic and social capital are used for getting and blocking action in the newspaper arenas. These interviews show that while cultural capital was the most prominent type of capital used by reporters and sources, the reliance on this type of capital gives reporters a position of power within the relationship, as they are in position not only to decide which issues will become newsworthy, but how that capital will be framed within the newspaper report. When ties between reporters and sources are embedded in economic or social capital, then sources can gain some power over the interaction, though the value given to the topic in the newspaper still rests heavily with the reporter and/or the news organization. In addition, stories of structural components of these arenas--audiences, boundaries between audience members and arena participants, and prior knowledge between arena participants--are used to highlight the fact that newspapers are not entirely public arenas, but are characterized by private components. Finally, I apply an arena approach to other areas of sociological interest, such as food policy and the sociology of knowledge.