Title page for ETD etd-01232003-180107

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Ragusa, Angela Theresa
Author's Email Address aragusa@vt.edu
URN etd-01232003-180107
Title Social Change in the Media: Gay, Lesbian, Bi, Trans and Queer (GLBTQ) Representation and Visibility in The New York Times. A Critical, Qualitative Social-Historical Content Analysis of The New York Times.
Degree PhD
Department Sociology
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Bailey, Carol A. Committee Chair
Fuhrman, Ellsworth R. Committee Member
McCaughey, Martha Committee Member
Ryan, John W. Committee Member
Sewell, Edward H. Jr. Committee Member
  • Consumption
  • Transsexual
  • Gay
  • Bisexual
  • Inequality
  • Media
  • Lesbian
  • Transgender
  • Queer
  • Social Change
  • Qualitative
  • Visibility
Date of Defense 2003-01-10
Availability unrestricted
This research employs qualitative methodology to analyze social change in business news articles of The New York Times. A random sample of 127 articles published between 1970 and 2000, discussing advertising news and containing one or more of the terms “Gay”, “Lesbian”, “Bisexual”, “Transexual”, “Transgendered” and “Queer” (GLBTQ), were selected. Feminist, Marxist, Postmodern, and critical theory is used to analyze social representation, cultural norms, stereotypes and levels of visibility. The “meta-theoretical” lens applied is a gendered postmodernism grounded in stratification theory that assuages the cultural-based critique of Marxism, overcomes the essentialist limitations of radical feminism, incorporates the pluralism of socialist feminism and delimits the relativist tendencies of a purer postmodernism.

Quantitatively, gay men were found to achieve twice as much business news coverage as lesbians. Bisexuals, transsexuals, transgenders and queers were highly invisible. Overall, a change in the representation and depiction of corporate interest in gays and lesbians was manifested. This socio-historical analysis revealed a shift from deviantization and stigmatization of homosexuality to the commodification, and spectacularization of GLBTQs. GLBTQ invisibility is documented and the misconception of gay and lesbian wealth, created by market research, is addressed. Invisibility of GLBTQs is posited to be both an intentional and actively managed form of politics. Furthermore, business news reporting is argued to be less “objective” and more a political, social cultural and political activity where the media itself is a stage for the cultural contestation of social norms.

This sociologically informed reading of business news articles details numerous case-specific instances where The New York Times contributed towards the proliferation of norms, values and beliefs characterizing GLBTQs. The New York Times is argued to be a contributor towards the creation of sexuality as a cultural product. Its representations of GLBTQs are seen as one manifestation of an institutionally created understanding of the “culture of homosexuality”.

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