Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts (MFA)


Journalism and Media Studies

First Committee Member

Daniel Stout

Second Committee Member

Gary Larson

Third Committee Member

Larry Mullen

Fourth Committee Member

David Dickens

Number of Pages



This paper explores whether or not Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann's theory, the spiral of silence, is an accurate theoretical lens to examine the issues of censorship and conflict in the student broadcast newsroom. Using data collected from classroom observations and student interviews, levels of involuntary and voluntary censorship and editorial control were examined to see if they played a role in classroom dynamic and editorial decisions. Each instance was looked at to see if it fit five criteria; a threat of isolation by peers or community, a fear of this threat, a willingness to speak out by the majority, a quasi-statistical sense to gauge what is majority opinion, and a pluralistic ignorance by that incorrectly labeled a certain belief as the majority opinion, all of which are described in Noelle-Neumann's original research.

The literature reviewed examines the development of the spiral of silence in the classroom, reasons for omission, avoidance strategies, the role of academic freedom, and the effects on students who are not encouraged to participate. The existing research builds off Noelle-Neumann's hypothesis that a fear of isolation from one's peers is the main motivator behind student's lack of participation in class discussion. Students fear that they will be ridiculed by their classmates for either speaking out against the teacher or the majority opinion of the class. Their perceived minority opinion makes them second-guess themselves and feel inadequate amongst their peers. This increased insecurity causes them to withdraw from the class more and more, causing a downward spiral of participation. In addition to looking at research through the five criteria of the spiral of silence, social impact theory and Normative Social Influence were also used a supplemental material.

Overall, the ethnographic research and interview responses aim to provide a preliminary base for a study looking at the spiral of silence in the newsroom, as many qualities and effects of this theory transfer from the classroom to the professional newsroom environment. This research also provides a base for future educational studies that specifically look at improving classroom communication and participation.


Agenda setting; Broadcast; Censorship; Intimidation; Normative social influence; Journalism; School; Peer pressure; Social influence; Student news


Broadcast and Video Studies | Education | Journalism Studies

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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