Public memory and political history : news media and collective memory construction after the deaths of former presidents
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In recent years, scholars have shown increasing interest in the concept of collective memory for structuring modern social understanding and political dialogue. However, surprisingly few studies have looked at the role that news media play the processes of collective political memory construction, reinterpretation, and change. This study contributes to the literature on collective memory construction, by helping clarify the means by which different news media serve as a site where collective memory is constructed, reinforced, and revised; and, 2) to identify which political actors and institutions act as sources to assert particular memory frames and what media subsidies they offer to influence the memory construction process. Specifically, the study undertook a two-stage longitudinal content analysis of news media to discern the ways former U.S. presidents (i.e., Truman, Johnson, Nixon, Reagan, and Ford) were memorialized in news media coverage at the time of their funerals, and then again in subsequent news media stories through 2012. The content analysis identified dominant news media frames and secondary attribute sub-frames as applied to former U.S. Presidents, and which news media sources and frame advocates are engaged in setting those frames. As a result, the study identified patterns of change and resilience in particular presidential memory frames as represented in news media, and found journalists—beyond other sources and frame advocates—play a significant role in both creating and revising those memories over time. A range of opportunities for further research are discussed.