The Media Rhetoric of Law and Order: How ABC Framed the Mumia Abu-Jamal Story
by Thomas N. Gardner
This work presents a case study of journalism as persuasion through a triangulated examination of ABC 20/20's story "Hollywood's Unlikely Hero" (December 1998), which reports on the death penalty case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. The methodology includes rhetorical analysis, experimental design, and focus group audience research. It also examines the impact of a media literacy intervention on news reception by showing the video "Framing an Execution: the Media and Mumia Abu-Jamal" and measuring its effects on audience perceptions of the 20/20 story.
Each book includes a DVD copy of the Framing an Execution: the Media and Mumia Abu-Jamal.
"Thomas Gardner's account of the media coverage of the Mumia Abu-Jamal case is a welcome addition to our scholarship. It points to several vexing problems with our news media and in American society. The single most important point, buttressed powerfully by Gardner's critique, is the marginalization of dissent in mainstream media. How ironic is it that a press system, born in a revolution against tyranny, that rhetorically embraces its independence from the state and its willingness to be tough-minded toward those in power, restricts its "toughness," for the most part," to ignoring, ridiculing, distorting or trivializing dissident political opinion. It has turned the old aphorism of comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable on its head.
Gardner very wisely understands the political implications of his research, as he points to the need for structural change. The starting point is what he calls media literacy, teaching students to understand how media work, and how they affect us. There is little doubt that media literacy is a cornerstone of the media reform agenda. This study makes a valuable contribution to media literacy literature."
– Prof. Robert W. McChesney, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
". . . provides very useful data on the role and potential of media literacy (and, in particular, of using video to deconstruct mainstream media). The idea of looking at the impact of a `problematic' media text and a critique of that text — separately and combined — is both interesting and fruitful."
– Prof. Justin Lewis, Cardiff University
"Gardner's synthesis of perspectives drawn from Cultural Studies, Rhetoric, and the `propaganda model' of news media, and his efforts to channel these insights into a object-lesson for Media Education purposes are thorough and effective. The book is also very engagingly written, carrying the reader through the details and sequences of events with great clarity, and never making the conceptual discussions turgid. Gardner's years as a college instructor and his prior experience as a working journalist are put to very good use."
– Prof. John Downing, Southern Illinois University
"What is perhaps most impressive about this piece is its skillful blending of the theoretical frameworks of rhetorical analysis, cultural studies, cultivation, and media framing. This study is not entirely any of these but is simultaneously informed by all of these. Gardner thus shows how a truly multitheoretical approach to media culture is the most effective strategy for critical analysis of the complexities inherent in our media saturated environments. True to the open spirit of the original cultural studies approach while challenging rigid models of qualitative versus quantitative research, this is truly an innovative and challenging work that should be read by all who are concerned about the abuse of corporate and state power and the dark side of modern day capitalist democracies."
– Prof. Bill Yousman, University of Massachusetts, Amherst