First Advisor

Peter Ehrenhaus

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Speech Communication


Speech Communication




Nelson Mandela (1918-2013), American periodicals



Physical Description

1 online resource (2, v, 191 p.)


This thesis examines the contribution made by the U.S. print media to the development of Nelson Mandela's public persona. The period studied is from 1985 to June, 1990. This thesis explores the following questions: 1) How did the public persona of Nelson Mandela evolve in the dominant U.S. print media; 2) How do these stories, in content and form, serve to establish Nelson Mandela as a public hero; 3) What cultural myths structure the news stories of Nelson Mandela that serve as the interpretative framework for public belief and action? Data for analysis were drawn from The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and The Wall Street Journal. Each newspaper has a daily circulation of over 1 million. It was found that during the period studied, the development of Mandela's public persona occurred in two distinct phases: 1985 to mid-1989 and late 1989 to June, 1990. Analysis reveals that the media relied on narrative form to create an image of Mandela which invites the reader to accept, believe in, and support Mandela and his cause. During these phases the media established Nelson Mandela as a hero and celebrity for their reader audience via a number of rhetorical practices. These include: the introduction of Mandela as a legend and hero among black South Africans; the practice of surrounding Mandela with mythical reference; establishing Mandela as an individual who subscribes to many traditional American values and; the serial reporting of pseudo-events. Implications of the study and suggestions for further research in the areas of textual analysis, policy analysis, and audience analysis are discussed.


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