Michelle Alfini ’16 traveled to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in March to discuss her scholarly paper highlighting the U.S. media coverage of human rights issues in Russia prior to the 2014 Sochi Games.
Elon University senior Michelle Alfini attended the 41st annual Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communications (AEJMC) Southeast Colloquium, presenting her scholarly paper on how U.S. media outlets addressed human rights in Russia in their coverage leading up to the 2014 Sochi Games. The annual conference, hosted by the Manship School of Mass Communication and Louisiana State University, was held March 3-5 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Accompanied by Associate Professor Glenn Scott, her mentor as both an Honors and Lumen Prize Scholar, Alfini presented her research at a March 3 panel session. The journalism major’s paper, titled “Friendship, Solidarity and Fair Play: Human Rights Framing in U.S. Media Coverage of the Sochi Olympic Preparations,” was then reviewed by a discussant.
“I analyzed the relationship between U.S. coverage of the Olympic preparations and human rights coverage using the Sochi Olympics as a case study,” said Afilini of her research. She continues to expand on this topic as part of her Honors thesis and Lumen scholarship project. During Winter Term she traveled to Brazil to explore the human rights situation in Rio de Janeiro as the city prepares to host the 2016 Summer Olympics. For more information on her research in Brazil, visit her website, Righting Rio.
Alfini noted that she enjoyed the opportunity to attend the colloquium and discuss her research with faculty and doctoral students from across the Southeast, as well as the chance to visit LSU and the city of Baton Rouge.
She added, “I learned that there is a strong, tight-knit research community in the field of communications that’s really focused on the messages media are sending out and the effects they may have.”
‘Friendship, Solidarity and Fair Play’ Abstract
Every two years, the global media spotlight shines on an Olympic Games and the host nation staging the worldwide event. Of special attention is that country’s record on human rights. This project examines how two U.S. newspapers and three U.S. television networks considered human rights in Russia in their coverage of the preparations for the 2014 Sochi Games. A content analysis of news stories revealed that elite newspapers covered human rights more extensively than did national evening TV news programs. Treatment of human rights issues in the two newspapers was more similar than in the three TV broadcasts. Overall, more than half of the news stories that mentioned the Olympics also referenced human rights, but not necessarily as the primary topic of the reporting. One noteworthy finding is that news stories almost never linked the topic of Olympic security with human rights. The most common aspect of human rights in Russia that U.S. journalists covered dealt with freedom of expression. The findings here resonate with several previous studies, including the work of Black & Bezanson (2004) who found that human rights violations tend to take a back seat in the United States when the public is concerned about terrorism.