DESCRIBING THE POOR: AN EXAMINATION OF NEWS MEDIA LANGUAGE ABOUT WELFARE REFORM AND RECIPIENTS FROM 1996 TO 2016
Curran, Colleen Deborah
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This study examined the language used by four mainstream newspapers to represent welfare recipients between 1996 and 2016. Using a mixed-method analysis developed on qualitative and quantitative analysis and guided by framing and critical discourse theories, this study investigated the words used by news media writers to describe welfare recipients following welfare reform in 1996 in the United States. My findings show that within some of the news media examined, stereotypical characterizations and values associated with the poor—dependency, lack of responsibility, and self-sufficiency—were used decades after the birth of the “welfare queen” trope, that quotes from welfare recipients were underrepresented in stories, and general coverage of welfare public assistance decreased during this time period. This study builds upon research of how welfare recipients were described in news media in the twentieth century and offers important implications for how journalists cover the poor in the current era.