Master of Mass Communication (MMC)


Mass Communication

Document Type



This study examines press independence from the government in the 2009 national health care debate. Through a content analysis examining source expressions, or the words journalists attribute to various people in the news, the study captures the essence of the discourse represented in the news about the debate. This paper also outlines a distinction between various types of autonomy, and offers a new conceptualization of independence. Procedural autonomy, which is autonomy in journalistic norms and routines, does not necessarily result in content autonomy, which is autonomy of viewpoints expressed in the news. In other words, if non-governmental sources say substantially similar things to governmental sources, then the news content is not independent from government influence. This study determines, therefore, whether there is a substantial difference among the various viewpoints expressed by different types of news sources. Using as its framework the indexing theory, which posits that journalists will tie the range of news discourse the governmental elite opinion, this study determines whether some discourse falls outside the range of elite opinion. The results indicate that while the press did heavily focus on governmental elite debate in the health care debate, they made a moderate effort to bring in non-governmental voices and views. Despite this, however, those voices did not represent substantially different views. The exceptions to this rule were experts and, at least in the contentious months of late summer, popular voices.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Lawrence, Regina