Date of Award

May 2013

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Media Studies

First Advisor

David S. Allen

Committee Members

Elana Levine, Richard Popp


Animal Cruelty, Athletes, Dog Fighting, Race, Rape, Sports


The present study researched the positive, negative, thematic and episodic framing contained in local newspaper coverage of two criminal investigations of National Football League quarterbacks: the Ben Roethlisberger rape case and the Michael Vick dog-fighting case. A qualitative analysis revealed stories about Roethlisberger were more likely to feature positive framing supporting the message that Roethlisberger was a good person who was innocent of criminal activity. By contrast, Vick articles were more likely to feature negative framing supporting the message that Vick was a criminal. In addition, articles on Roethlisberger were more likely to use thematic frames as a way to move blame away from Roethlisberger, while articles on Vick were more likely to feature episodic framing as a way to focus blame on Vick. In articles on Vick that featured thematic framing, the framing often served to reinforce the seriousness of Vick's alleged crime while thematic frames in articles on Roethlisberger trivialized his alleged crime. Adding to this trivialization of Roethlisberger's alleged crime was the frequent portrayal of the NFL, Pittsburgh Steelers, fans and Roethlisberger as the victim. The alleged victim in the Roethlisberger case was also much more likely to be framed negatively than the alleged victims in the Vick case.