News, race, and the status quo: The case of emmett louis till

Margaret Spratt, Cathy Ferrand Bullock, Gerald Baldasty, Fiona Clark, Alex Halavais, Michael McCluskey, Susan Schrenk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Using inductive and deductive framing analysis, the authors examine how 4 newspapers covered a key event sparking the civil rights movement - the 1955 murder of Emmett Till - in an effort to gauge how the press covers events that are part of larger social ferment. The Daily Sentinel-Star (Grenada, Mississippi), Greenwood Commonwealth (Mississippi), Chicago Tribune, and Chicago Defender varied in intensity of coverage, use of sources, and attention to crime news and, as a result, framed the story differently. The African American Defender defended Emmett Till's reputation, focused on larger issues of civil rights, and provided a clear argument for social reform. The 3 mainstream dailies defined the case primarily as one in which the victim invited his own death; they provided little or no support for reform. In this case, an advocate press seemed better able to give voice to those who challenged an entrenched status quo. By examining initial coverage of the Till case, we can better understand the news reporting traditions and devices that shaped (and continue to shape) narratives about the struggle for racial equality and justice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)169-192
Number of pages24
JournalHoward Journal of Communications
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Civil rights
  • Emmett Till
  • Lynching
  • Mississippi
  • News frames
  • Social reform

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Strategy and Management


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