Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Media, Art, and Text

First Advisor

Marcus Messner


Research has revealed that more Americans than ever are turning to the World Wide Web as their primary source for news and information instead of legacy media outlets such as printed newspapers and magazines and broadcast news. As more and more people rely on the Internet as a primary source for news, it is important to analyze the characteristics and content of online news to expose and correct problems associated with the practices that inform its production and presentation. There are several longstanding practices in the American journalistic tradition that have been adapted to the online news environment. The practices of market segmentation and gatekeeping are two such practices. To date, few studies have explored how internet news coverage differs when the same story is altered to address the perceived interests of specific target audiences. This goal of this study was to collect and examine the characteristics of news stories presented on the homepages of three news websites—the Huffington Post, Huffington Post Black Voices and News One—to arrive at conclusions about the similarities and differences in how news content is reported to a general audience and to an African-American audience. This exploratory study used both Web sphere analysis and qualitative analysis to examine the collected homepage news stories. It used the results of the analyses to explore the possible effects continued market segmentation and selective exposure online could have on discourse in the public sphere. The study found that the legacy media practice of market segmentation was evident when online news reporting on targeted and untargeted news website homepages was compared. The study also revealed that the traditional role of the Black Press in legacy media has been resurrected in new media and is evident on news websites produced by African-Americans, for an African-American audience. Additionally, a qualitative examination of online news coverage of President Barack Obama’s 2012 State of the Union address and the death of Trayvon Martin revealed that the targeted audience influences the editorial slant through which news websites report stories.


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Date of Submission

December 2013