Newspaper treatment of people with disabilities: The changing use of preferred and non-preferred terms in the New York Times and Omaha World-Herald.
Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Dr. Warren Francke
The purpose of this study was to examine whether the print media use preferred terminology when portraying people with disabilities. This was performed through an examination of content from the 1909, 1939, 1969 and 1999 New York Times and 1969 and 1999 Omaha World Herald articles. A sample of twenty news stories about people with disabilities was chosen from the 1909 and 1939 New York Times and from the 1969 New York Times and Omaha World-Herald. Forty articles were chosen from the 1999 New York Times and Omaha World-Herald. A content analysis was conducted to determine if disability-related news stories include more non-preferred than preferred terminology and if more recent disability related news stories include more preferred terminology than earlier news stories. The articles were coded for: 1) the disability covered, 2) the focus given the disability, 3) type of article (i.e., news, feature and other), 4) topic of article (i.e., budget/expenditure, government policy, normalization/ integration, integration in schools, housing/ accommodation) and 5) non-preferred and preferred terminology used in the article. An article was examined for the presence of preferred and non-preferred terms taken from two sets of guidelines from the National Easter Seals Society and Illinois Department of Rehabilitation Services. Overall, the 1909 and 1939 New York Times articles showed that more non preferred terminology was used, but in the 1969 and 1999 New York Times and Omaha World-Herald articles more preferred terminology was used. Of the 160 articles coded, 53% included preferred terminology. In analyzing the 1969 and 1999 New York Times and Omaha World-Herald articles, 76% included preferred terminology. The overall findings disagree with previous research that indicates the print media use non-preferred terminology when portraying people with disabilities, but the prediction that more recent disability-related news stories include more preferred terminology was supported. The study also shows that what is called non-preferred terminology by the National Easter Seals Society and Illinois Department of Rehabilitation Services Guidelines is not always considered non-preferred by the newspaper stylebooks and that journalists are not adhering to all of the newspaper guidelines.. The author calls for journalists to be more sensitive to these guidelines when portraying people with disabilities and also for communication between human service organizations and newspapers to form a consistency between guidelines.
Bottoms, Lenal M., "Newspaper treatment of people with disabilities: The changing use of preferred and non-preferred terms in the New York Times and Omaha World-Herald." (2000). Student Work. 2995.
A Thesis Presented to the Department of Communication and the Faculty of the Graduate College University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Master of Arts University of Nebraska at Omaha. Copyright 2000 Lenal M. Bottoms.