Award Date

May 2017

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Committee Member

Tara M. Emmers-Sommer

Second Committee Member

Tara McManus

Third Committee Member

Jennifer Guthrie

Fourth Committee Member

David Dickens

Number of Pages



Media scandal has been a contributing factor to the American culture for centuries. However, ambiguity and pre-conceived notions arise when the media scandal is framed differently by various mediated outlets. This study investigates media scandal by examining the Bill Cosby sexual assault allegations and how the scandal is framed by the media. This study utilized agenda setting theory to explore the argument that the public will think of the Cosby scandal as highly important due to frequent exposure and how the media presents and frames the stories on this subject could ultimately impact public opinion on issues such as power, race and sexual assault. The purpose of this investigation is threefold: First, this study examines agenda setting theory and how it has been utilized as a framing tool; second, this investigation examines different types of scandals; and, third, this study focuses on the Cosby case as a celebrity scandal involving allegations of sexual assault. In order to examine if and how varied networks reported differently on the Cosby scandal, sixty articles from three, distinct networks (CNN, FOX News, E!) were analyzed and coded under seven different categories. Results demonstrate that a significant difference exists among the analyzed networks and media frame scandal coding foci most reported in the sample for this study. Although all networks address Cosby’s Rise and fall of an American hero, the distributions of observed media frames/coded categories are significantly different than what is theoretically expected. Specifically, CNN highlighted victims’/survivors’ powerful voice whereas E! and FOX News highlighted Cosby’s support from the black community, celebrities and co-stars. Additional results, discussion and future directions follow.

Keywords: agenda setting theory, media, Bill Cosby, sexual assault


Agenda Setting Theory; Bill Cosby; Celebrity; Media; Scandal; Sexual Assault


Broadcast and Video Studies | Communication | Journalism Studies | Mass Communication

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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