Title

Overcoming traditional boundaries: The role of political activity in media coverage of First Ladies

Publication Date

2000

Journal or Book Title

Women & Politics

Abstract

The role of the First Lady has changed significantly over the last century. While the traditional role has been that of escort or host, a few First Ladies have taken on new activities involving leadership and decision making. At the same time, media coverage of the First Lady has changed. We present two studies examining media coverage of three First Ladies-Nancy Reagan, Barbara Bush, and Hillary Clinton. Study 1 is a content analysis examining stories in the New York Times and Washington Post, and Study 2 is a content analysis examining photographs in Timemagazine. The hypotheses predict that the way a First Lady is framed as being politically active or non-politically active will play a role in other aspects of media coverage such as valence of stories and degree of stereotyping in images. The results indicate that the more politically active the First Lady, the more negative the textual coverage; whereas, the more politically active the First Lady, the less stereotypical the photographic coverage. The frames used to cover First Ladies have changed in both media outlets and may depend not only upon political activity but also upon the medium in which the news appears.

DOI

https://doi.org/10.1300/J014v21n01_03

Volume

21

Pages

55-83

Issue

1

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