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Dissertation Abstract

The Influence of the Enron Scandal on Media Portrayals of Leadership

Arthur F. Fuller III
April 2007

The differences in how the national print media portrayed leadership before and after the Enron scandal in 2001 were investigated. A content analysis conducted by two coders reviewed 1,083 articles from 5 national daily newspapers and 2 national weekly business magazines. The results of the longitudinal study indicated that the media published more articles and altered its coverage about leadership after Enron’s bankruptcy announcement on December 2, 2001 than prior to that date. Additionally, national print media tended to portray leadership in a more negative light and emphasized the conflict and responsibility news frames to depict and describe the subject after Enron’s announcement. These conclusions would support the findings of earlier researchers that the media does attempt to control and promote various ideas and public debate by “telling its readers what to think about” via increased coverage and attention to a particular story. While much of content analysis literature focuses on manifest content, “elements that are physically present and countable” (Gray & Densten, 1998, p. 420) such as the quantity of coverage, this research incorporated these elements but also considered latent content, concepts that “cannot be measured directly but can be represented or measured by one or more . . . indicators” (Hair, Anderson, Tatham, & Black, 1998, p. 581). This study advances the use and acceptance of content analysis by incorporating both manifest and latent content in the research.