Journalism and Mass Communications, College of


Date of this Version


Document Type



Tough Talk, Tear Gas, Tragedy: The Fight to Frame One Day's Events in Ecuador


A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Arts, Major: Journalism and Mass Communications, Under the supervision of Professor John Bender. Lincoln, Nebraska: August, 2014

Copyright (c) 2014 Ralph Kurtenbach


Tho term “30-S” (30 September) has become somewhat of a shorthand symbol or Twitter hash tag that abbreviates a momentous day in Ecuador’s history. Unrest broke out on that day, leaving several people dead. Such difficulties are not new to the South American country, but aspects of 30-S made it different. For one thing, the day began with members of the National Police refusing to go on patrol. Instead they staged protests against a new law adjusting their pay schedules. The law was an unpopular step in a series of changes brought about as President Rafael Correa has sought to mobilize what he has termed a Citizen’s Revolution in Ecuador.

Correa began as president in 2007 and his administration has seen more stability than the country has seen in two decades. Shortly after taking office he established public media, which played a role in distributing his messages during the 30-S crisis.

An event of magnitude in Ecuador, 30-S seemed a simple term, but behind it lay questions still being asked. Was democracy rescued from a coup attempt? Others ask, “What coup?”

Media framing of 30-S is the subject of this thesis. Several days of content from two Ecuadorian dailies, El Comercio (commercial) and El Telégrafo (public) were compared. Opinion columns and news stories made up the data, with determinations later on how they fit into the frames. The frames were specific to 30-S. in a content comparison that used quantitative analysis.

The analysis indicated two distinct story lines, with commercial and public media accounts diverging on key story elements. The contested story elements included assertions by public media about a coup attempt, Correa as a hostage of insubordinate police, and finally, that of an assassination plot against the president. The commercial media rebutted these, proposing instead that what began with police insubordination was exacerbated by the involvement of elected and appointed officials.

Adviser: John Bender