Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Mass Communications

First Advisor

Ted J. Smith III


Nearly four hours of CBS Evening News summit reports, loaned by the Vanderbilt Television News Archive, were coded to construct a descriptive analysis and comparison of the coverage of the 1979 and 1985 summit meetings. Variables coded include speaker, language, origin of video and audio content, topic and quoted sources. Soviet speakers and topics were given proportionately more air time in 1985 than in 1979. But despite large differences in several important areas such as Soviet willingness to communicate via television, different leaders and their images, geopolitical factors, and improved video technology, many patterns of coverage showed similarities from 1979 to 1985. Nuclear weapons and disarmament talks garnered one-third of all summit-related story time, with U.S.-U.S.S.R. relations and the summits themselves being covered almost as much as nuclear issues. Coverage time spent on the leaders themselves remained stable. Overall, coverage of the 1985 summit was two-and-a-half times as extensive as 1979 coverage (perhaps because of attention paid in 1979 to a then-impending gasoline shortage), and 1985 coverage seemed to include more attempts to present "background information." A portion of the expanded 1985 coverage did not appear to be well balanced, but CBS coverage overall did not seem politically biased. The literature indicates that the study abstracted here may be the first analysis of video content pertaining to summit meetings. The literature also indicates that the perceptions and goals of summitry have changed since World War ll, that the process is now seen by many as increasingly bureaucratized and ritualistic. Printed media coverage which was reviewed contained references to this trend, but also to the possibility for individual leaders to achieve diplomatic breakthroughs on the basis of charisma or personal initiative. While no specific hypothesizing was done in these areas, the results of this analysis suggest that, from 1979 to 1985, either CBS coverage of summits, or the summits themselves, or both, were ritualistic and stable, and thus produced similar patterns of summit coverage across years during which large changes in other areas occurred.


Scanned, with permission from the author, from the original print version, which resides in University Archives.


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Date of Submission