Communication Studies, Department of


Date of this Version



The Communication Review 12:2 (2009), pp. 107–131.

doi: 10.1080/10714420902921101


Copyright © 2009 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC. Used by permission.


On May 4, 1970, the Ohio National Guard fired into a crowd at Kent State University and killed four students. This essay critically interprets mainstream television journalism that commemorated the shootings in the past 18 years. Throughout this coverage, predominant framing devices depoliticized the Kent State tragedy by characterizing both former students and guard members as trauma victims. The emphasis on eyewitnesses as victims provided the basis for a therapeutic frame that promoted reconciliation rather than political redress as a rationale for commemorating the shootings. This dominant news frame tacitly advanced a model of commemorative journalism that promoted reconciliation at the expense of articulating political critique, thus deflecting attention from public controversy over how citizens should respond to tragedies that occur when state agencies repress contentious dissent.