Carnegie Mellon University
mgoss_english_2020.pdf (4.34 MB)

Temporal News Frames and Judgment: The Hillary Clinton Email Scandal

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posted on 2020-10-26, 20:56 authored by Margaret GossMargaret Goss
Many scholars have studied the framing of political figures in the news with a focus on how discourse about those figures is circulated through various mediums (Miller et al 1998;
Parry-Giles 2000; Parry-Giles 2014). Building from this work my research explores moments in the ‘life’ of a single actor within a narrative unfolding over time, and the cumulative impact those moments have in shaping public impressions about that actor. Employing critical discourse methods and a granular intertextual approach on 510 news stories from the New York Times and Wall Street Journal from March 2015 to November 2016, I trace how Hillary Clinton was appraised during news coverage of her use/abuse of her private email server during her tenure as Secretary of State. To do so I rely heavily on the appraisal framework of linguists J.R. Martin and P.R. White’s (2005). My analysis identifies three critical discourse phases surrounding coverage of Clinton’s email server, with each phase defined by the revelation of new information and a spike in articles reporting on that information. The phases consist of 1) When it was first
reported that Clinton used a private email server as Secretary of State, 2) When the FBI opened their investigation into Clinton’s private email server use, and 3) When Clinton’s presidential campaign ended in November 2016. I show how the reporting in the aggregate creates a “swarm” of coverage that moves across phases from deference to implicit attacks that frame her actions in
a suspicious light. Moreover, I show how implicit attacks, left unaddressed and unrepaired in one phase, may pave the way for others to adopt more explicit negative conclusions about Clinton’s character in a subsequent phase. While this study is mainly descriptive, I conclude by considering the extent to which this phenomenon may be gendered and propose future projects to study that question more centrally.




Degree Type

  • Dissertation


  • English

Degree Name

  • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


David Kaufer

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