The Media and the Kennedy Assassination: The Social Construction of Reality
The research problem was to take a major political event in American history-the John F. Kennedy assassination-explore major media coverage of the event, and then examine media construction of social issues. The assassination of President John F. Kennedy has two official versions in our nation's history. The Warren-Ford-Dulles Commission came to the conclusion that, without assistance, a man in a building shot a man in a car. In 1979, pursuant to post-Watergate cynicism in government, the House Select Committee on Assassinations concluded there was a conspiracy and a second gunman fired from a different direction. However, high school textbooks have reified only the first version of history-that of a single lone assassin. A content analysis of CBS and Time-Life coverage is made using Lasswell's methodology of surveillance, correlation, and transmission. CBS produced the most television assassination documentaries and Time-Life owned the Zapruder film which was crucial evidence. Of the four perspectives on media coverage (the Fourth Estate, Mirror Approach, Marketing, and Hegemony), only hegemony fits the consistent pattern of the media coverage. Berger and Luckman's (1967) social construction of reality involves reification, legitimization, and institutionalization. As Kuhn (1962) notes in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, normally when the number of anomalies to a theory becomes too great, we are forced to switch to another explanation.
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