News Media and Victims of Human Trafficking: A Content Analysis

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Smith, Erinne Renee
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Middle Tennessee State University
Human trafficking is a pervasive crime that affects thousands, if not millions, of people worldwide. I start my thesis by reviewing sociological literature on human trafficking, as well as on framing, media, and emotions. I provide an overview on the basics of human trafficking and a discussion of current U.S. legislation. Additionally, I discuss the social construction of victims, the social consequences of being labeled a victim, why cases of human trafficking are sensationalized, the influence journalism has on society and emotion management. I then discuss the steps I took to conduct a qualitative content analysis of 94 articles from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. In my thematic discussion I argue that journalists have framed the issue of human trafficking as a modern form of slavery, a crime that disproportionately targets women for the sale of sex, prioritizes the reporting of details on traffickers over the experience of trafficked persons, and language used in the framing human trafficking. Finally, I discuss the differences and similarities between my study and the current literature as well as offer my suggestions for the future of human trafficking research.