Journalism and Mass Communications, College of


Date of this Version

Winter 12-2-2010

Document Type



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: December, 2010
Copyright 2010 John D. Beecham


This content analysis studies reader comments on news articles pertaining to the issue of California’s Proposition 19—the “Tax Cannabis Initiative” to legalize marijuana. It investigates whether these reader message boards are consistent with news fragmentation theory, by examining whether the distribution of “yes” and “no” opinion on alternative media sites’ message boards is more homogenous than the distribution of opinions on mainstream news sites’ message boards. This study also uses a thematic analysis to investigate whether the mainstream media, as represented by editorial board endorsements by daily California newspapers, influences themes used by reader comments on Proposition 19. Results show that message boards on Proposition 19 are not consistent with news fragmentation theory, and that the themes used in reader comments to support an opinion on Proposition 19 do not reflect the themes used by the mainstream media to support that same opinion.