Date of Award

Summer 8-30-2010

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Holley Wilkin

Second Advisor

Cynthia Hoffner

Third Advisor

Svetlana Kulikova

Fourth Advisor

Mary Stuckey


Autism has been declared an urgent public health concern by the U.S. government and an epidemic by some advocacy groups. Determining autism’s diagnostic criteria, prevalence, and causes have been challenging. It is important to examine how the U.S. media have contributed to the public’s understanding of autism. Previous research found that British media coverage of the theory that vaccines cause autism was shown to contribute to the decline of vaccination rates in Britain (Lewis & Speers, 2003). This study examined U.S. television news media coverage using an agenda-setting theory and media framing perspective. A content analysis was conducted of national television evening news broadcasts airing on ABC, CBS, and NBC from 1994, when autism was first recognized as a spectrum disorder through April 2010, the time of this study. Specifically, this study examined the saliency of autism stories and how autism was framed in terms of prevalence and causes.


Included in

Communication Commons