Date of Award

Spring 5-12-2017

Degree Type

Honors Thesis

Degree Name

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Communication & Journalism

First Advisor

Leah LeFebvre


The November 13, 2015 Paris attacks serve as a recent and relevant example of the different approaches news and crisis-reporting take. Three main aspects serve as dominant features in crisis reporting: timeliness, authority, and the level of the crisis (often death toll or infrastructure damage). To measure credibility, a content analysis tracked these features within a sample of online articles published by BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation), NPR (National Public Radio), and The New York Times. A randomly selected 10% of the articles came from the ProQuest News database and NPR’s website. The code tracked presence and absence of characteristics often associated with credibility, such as language reference France and other nations, source attributions, and death toll. The results found that constructing context by referencing both France and other nations was consistent with all of the articles, which allowed the article to establish relevance and credibility for its specific audience. Articles presented four types of sources, which ranged in degree of credibility: official, NPR/ other news sources, official unnamed, and civilian. Finally, there was a surprising lack of negative language in relation to ISIS outside of quoted sources. The findings of this research suggest that credibility comes from having a clear audience, and relevant, attributed information from distinct authorities or else sources whose information has a clear purpose within the article. Consumers of crisis news should understand that reporters approach articles with context, audience, and a central topic in mind; all of which shift the perspective and intent any news article.

Analysis Main Table.xlsx (20 kB)
Complete Analysis Record