Semester of Graduation

Spring 2023


Master of Mass Communication (MMC)


Manship School of Mass Communication

Document Type



Stigma toward drug addicts and alcoholics can act as a barrier to treatment and, ultimately, result in more lives lost. Over previous decades, journalists have largely framed addicts as problematic to society which contributes to public stigma. Prior research in social medicine has found that non-news portrayals of treated addicts can improve public attitudes. Similarly, studies in mass communication have found that different ways of framing news stories can elicit different attitudes from news consumers. The purpose of this study is to test the effects of thematic framing, episodic framing, problem framing, and solution framing on readers’ attitudes when journalists apply those frames to news stories about addicts and addiction. A survey-embedded experiment was conducted in which participants read one of four framing treatments and answered questions regarding their attitude toward addicts and addiction. Respondents that read a story using a solution frame reported significantly more positive attitudes than respondents that read a story using a problem frame, and respondents who read a thematically framed story generally reported more positive attitudes than those who read an episodically framed story. There was no significant interaction between thematic / episodic frames and solution / problem frames; however, the combination of thematic and solution frames generally resulted in more positive attitudes. Findings suggest that journalists who wish to reduce stigma surrounding addicts and addiction should use solution and thematic frames when reporting on stories involving addicts.



Committee Chair

Pingree, Raymond



Available for download on Sunday, March 29, 2026