Criminal Justice Faculty Publishes Peer-Reviewed Article
The paper “Online News Media and the Framing of the Executions under the Trump Administration” was authored by Dr. Andrew Baranauskas. It was published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Crime and Justice.
The federal government executed thirteen individuals in the last seven months of the Trump administration. While American media discourse in 2020 was focused largely on other events such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the presidential election, the news media nevertheless served as a key source of information about the executions to the American public. This study examines accounts of the executions from online news sources in order to identify the ways in which news outlets that lean to opposing ends of the political spectrum framed the executions. A thematic content analysis shows that the executions were discussed in the context of major events of the time, including the presidential election, the pandemic, and demonstrations calling for racial justice. News sources that lean to the political left tended to frame the executions as a political move by President Trump, who was backed by a conservative Supreme Court while neglecting more pressing issues like managing the pandemic. Right-leaning sources were more likely to frame the executions as overdue justice that had been unnecessarily delayed by frivolous lawsuits and baseless claims of racial injustice. Implications for public support and the future of capital punishment are discussed.