It’s a Man’s Weed : Mainstream Online News and Visibility During America’s New Marijuana Legalization Era
Abstract: The aim of this thesis is to shed some light on the emerging mainstream news discourses connected to marijuana’s legalization in parts of the United States by asking who is most involved in these discourses, what connections involvement may have to social status and social factors, most significantly gender, as well as what a few discursive themes in marijuana-related coverage might be, and what further research could be most needed. The literature review focused on critical theory, as well as feminist journalism studies, celebrity studies, and other research connected to emerging discourses, in an effort to approach a topic with limited prior social scientific research from a social scientific viewpoint. Research was undertaken with a multi-method approach, and included a content analysis of marijuana-related news coverage from The Seattle Times during the months before and after specific marijuana legalization events took place, highlighting the gender and expert status of sources in coverage, as well as a critical discourse analysis of newsworthy personal disclosures of marijuana consumption by American presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, and also famous musician and entrepreneur Snoop. Results from the content analysis indicate that men are more likely than women to appear as sources in marijuana coverage, that men are also more likely than women to appear as sources based on their professional expertise, and that the gender imbalance in marijuana coverage is very similar to gender imbalances found in other studies of news sources. Insights from the discourse analysis suggest that attitudes about marijuana may be shifting in such a way that marijuana consumption may still be least stigmatized in the context of regrettable youth activities, but that changing laws permitting consumption only by those age 21 and over, in concert with commercialized messages in media, may have begun to lay the groundwork for de- stigmatizing adult consumption. Suggestions for further research include closer looks at the nature and impact of commercialization on marijuana-related discourses, as well as studies of the relationship(s) between gender, race, industry participation, and media coverage.
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