Journalism as Rhetoric: Reading Beyond the Myth of Objectivity

Jacqueline V. Scott, Spring 2021

Director: Jennifer Maher
Committee Members: Lucille McCarthy, Lindsay DiCuirci

Distrust in journalism coupled with the recent explosion of social media sites significantly contributes to the proliferation of disinformation on the Internet. As a result, many readers can not differentiate between reliable and unreliable sources. Using the work of Margaret Kantz, who maintains that both facts and opinions must be understood as claims, I argue that “rhetorical reading” promotes a critical news literacy. More specifically, my thesis focuses on the work of the Black Press to illustrate how enthymemes, which historically have informed the way mainstream news outlets covered racial issues, were challenged by African American reporters and editors. Through a close comparison of local news coverage of the Baltimore riots of 1968 and the Baltimore Uprising of 2015, I maintain that the notion of journalistic objectivity is false. Ultimately, I argue that by understanding enthymemes in news delivery, readers can better understand how to evaluate sources for reliability. Furthermore, teaching rhetorical reading fosters a critical literacy that is necessary in a healthy, functioning democracy.