Different discourses, different voices: Wrongful conviction in news and internet media

Nathan Daniel Shippee, Purdue University


This project examines the social problem of wrongful conviction as it is represented online and in the news. Wrongful conviction discourse is a rhetorical arena in which activists, officials, vested interests, and social institutions interact. Data include 260 news stories about wrongful conviction, and the websites of four wrongful conviction activist groups. Chapter Three depicts the natural history of wrongful conviction in the news, noting three functions served by key news events: they ratify wrongful conviction as a legitimate problem, refocus this and other discourses, and reconcile the state with the individuals it has wrongly convicted. Chapter Four details “contextual bricolage,” the process by which wrongful conviction activists use online raw materials to surround and contextualize their website claims, thereby developing their own voice as “experts” on wrongful conviction. Chapter Five considers of the rhetoric of “junk science,” which indicates problems in the state’s use of science without attacking the legitimacy of science itself. Wrongful conviction consists of multiple, interconnected discourses, which occur in multiple media channels and give voice to various groups, who in turn utilize existing power structures to develop their own voices and call for progressive change.^




Jack W. Spencer, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Sociology, General|Mass Communications

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