Media Rhetoric of Law and Order: How abc Framed the Mumia Abu-Jamal Story

Author: Gardner, Thomas, N.
Year:2010
Pages:484
ISBN:0-7734-4683-4
978-0-7734-4683-0
Price:279.95
This work presents a case study of journalism as persuasion through a triangulated examination of ABC 20/20’s story “Hollywood’s Unlikely Hero” (December 1998), which reports on the death penalty case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. The methodology includes rhetorical analysis, experimental design, and focus group audience research. It also examines the impact of a media literacy intervention on news reception by showing the video “Framing an Execution: the Media and Mumia Abu-Jamal” and measuring its effects on audience perceptions of the 20/20 story.

Each book includes a DVD copy of the “Framing an Execution: the Media and Mumia Abu-Jamal”.

Reviews

“Thomas Gardner’s account of the media coverage of the Mumia Abu-Jamal case is a welcome addition to our scholarship. It points to several vexing problems with our news media and in American society.

The single most important point, buttressed powerfully by Gardner’s critique, is the marginalization of dissent in mainstream media. How ironic is it that a press system, born in a revolution against tyranny, that rhetorically embraces its independence from the state and its willingness to be tough-minded toward those in power, restricts its “toughness,” for the most part,” to ignoring, ridiculing, distorting or trivializing dissident political opinion. It has turned the old aphorism of comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable on its head.

Gardner very wisely understands the political implications of his research, as he points to the need for structural change. The starting point is what he calls media literacy, teaching students to understand how media work, and how they affect us. There is little doubt that media literacy is a cornerstone of the media reform agenda. This study makes a valuable contribution to media literacy literature.” – Prof. Robert W. McChesney University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

“. . . provides very useful data on the role and potential of media literacy (and, in particular, of using video to deconstruct mainstream media). The idea of looking at the impact of a ‘problematic’ media text and a critique of that text — separately and combined — is both interesting and fruitful.” – Prof. Justin Lewis, Cardiff University

“Gardner’s synthesis of perspectives drawn from Cultural Studies, Rhetoric, and the ‘propaganda model’ of news media, and his efforts to channel these insights into a object-lesson for Media Education purposes are thorough and effective. The book is also very engagingly written, carrying the reader through the details and sequences of events with great clarity, and never making the conceptual discussions turgid. Gardner’s years as a college instructor and his prior experience as a working journalist are put to very good use.” – Prof. John Downing, Southern Illinois University

“What is perhaps most impressive about this piece is its skillful blending of the theoretical frameworks of rhetorical analysis, cultural studies, cultivation, and media framing. This study is not entirely any of these but is simultaneously informed by all of these. Gardner thus shows how a truly multitheoretical approach to media culture is the most effective strategy for critical analysis of the complexities inherent in our media saturated environments. True to the open spirit of the original cultural studies approach while challenging rigid models of qualitative versus quantitative research, this is truly an innovative and challenging work that should be read by all who are concerned about the abuse of corporate and state power and the dark side of modern day capitalist democracies.” – Prof. Bill Yousman, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Table of Contents

List of Tables
Foreword by Robert W. McChesney, Ph.D.
Acknowledgments
INTRODUCTION
1. THE CASE OF MUMIA ABU-JAMAL
The story of Mumia Abu-Jamal
The case
Sources
The trial
The prosecution witnesses
Defense witnesses
Closing arguments
Legal issues on appeal
2. THE TV NEWS MAGAZINE GENRE IN THE CORPORATE MEDIA WORLD
Market-driven content
A propaganda model of news
3. EXAMINING TELEVISION AT THE JUNCTURE OF RHETORIC AND CULTURAL STUDIES
Rhetoric and Cultural Studies in dialogue
Rhetoric
Burke’s Dramatist Pentad
Integrating rhetorical critique in cultural context
4. CULTIVATION ANALYSIS AND THE SHAPING OF THE FRAME
5. MEDIA LITERACY AS CULTURAL INTERVENTION
What is media literacy
Communication scholarship and media literacy effects
6. METHODOLOGY
The research questions
Rhetorical/Discursive analysis
Experimental design
Hypotheses for experimental design and focus groups
Focus groups
Cultivation analysis
Ancillary research
Conception and production of “Framing an Execution”
The web woven
7. RHETORICAL ANALYSIS OF “HOLLYWOOD’S UNLIKELY HERO” AND “FRAMING AN EXECUTION”
The 20/20 story “Hollywood’s Unlikely Hero” — a summary
Dissecting the story
Framing the story
Casting
Sam Donaldson
Maureen Faulkner
Joseph McGill
The defense cast
Mumia Abu-Jamal
Leonard Weinglass
Ed Asner, Mike Farrell, and the “Celebrity Left”
Mumia’s supporters
Missing supporters on both sides
Evidence, proofs, and arguments
Ballistics
The confession
Eyewitnesses
Applying the pentad
“Framing an Execution”
“Framing” through the pentad
Structure and content of “Framing an Execution”
Focusing the pentad
A view through Aristotle’s triad
Conclusion
8. FINDINGS FROM EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN
Shorthand glossary
Selection of the sample and research procedure
Procedure
Demographics of sample using pretest forms (n=334)
Gender
The findings
Media use
Other findings reflecting attitudinal perspectives
Views of law enforcement
Elements in the story
Attitudes toward news magazines and Sam Donaldson
Discussion of hypotheses
Gender differences
Bias in the programs
Perception of racial unfairness in legal system Limitations
9. FINDINGS FROM FOCUS GROUPS
Procedure and content
The research questions
Post “Hollywood” findings
Post “Framing” findings
Observations, limitations, and implications
10. CONCLUSIONS
Implications for media literacy education
Implications for journalism
Implications for further research
Final words
APPENDICES
A. SOCIETY OF PROFESSIONAL JOURNALISTS CODE OF ETHICS
B. LETTER FROM ABC NEWS 20/20 TO PENNSYLVANIA PRISON OFFICIALS
C. TRANSCRIPT OF “HOLLYWOOD’S UNLIKELY HERO”
D. TRANSCRIPT OF “FRAMING AN EXECUTION”

E. FORMS FOR AUDIENCE RESEARCH COMPONENT
BIBLIOGRAPHY
INDEX