Theses and Dissertations

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


May, David C.

Committee Member

Johnson, Kecia R.

Committee Member

Hagerman, Margaret A.

Committee Member

Barranco, Raymons E.

Date of Degree


Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access



Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


College of Arts and Sciences


Department of Sociology


In the past five years, there have been numerous newspaper reports on police-involved deaths (PID) in the U.S, many of which have involved African American males as victims (Shane, Lawson, & Swenson, 2017). Police-involved deaths (PID) is defined as a death of an individual that results from police action (i.e., by firearm, by electroshock weapon [commonly known as a Taser©], or by vehicle). Given the amount of coverage of police-involved deaths, it is important to investigate which PID victims receive the most coverage in U.S. newspapers. This study merges three databases (Fatal Encounters, the Washington Post, and the Guardian) which collect information about PID cases that occurred in the U.S. Once a list of PID victims was compiled, Nexis Uni (formerly Nexis Lexis) was used to obtain U.S. newspapers that covered PID incidents. In this study, I examine the race, age, region, and manner of death to distinguish which of these independent variables are the strongest predictors of the number of words and articles used in describing PID incidents. Using a linear regression model, the findings indicate that PID incidents involving African American males had significantly more articles and words written about them than PID incidents involving non-African American males and this effect remained after controlling for other correlates of PID incidents. Additionally, PID incidents involving firearm deaths received significantly more media attention as well. Given the amount of newspaper coverage on PID victims, the ways in which the media portray the victims in those contexts can influence the criminal process for officers involved in the killing. In addition, media portrayals of these incidents can impact policies that revamp the ways in which officers communicate with people of color, specifically African American men (i.e., cultural sensitivity training).



criminalblackman||newspapers||police brutality||race||media||social construction