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Explaining Information Effects in Collective Preferences
Unformatted Document Text:  An illustration of such dynamics is provided by the issue of discrimination against gays in the workplace, which grew in importance as an item on the American news agenda through the mid- 1980’s and early 1990’s. Figure 1 shows the annual the number of broadcast news stories about gay rights issues appearing on ABC, CBS, and NBC nightly news broadcasts between 1980 and 1996. 25 Coverage of this topic grew slowly through the early 1980’s as the developing AIDS crisis drew attention to the issue of mandatory testing for the HIV virus. Coverage during this early period tended to focus on legal battles over anti-sodomy laws and privacy rights in the workplace, rather than employment discrimination (which would become a dominant angle in later years). For instance, only seven of 28 stories about gay rights issues aired during 1987 explicitly focused on concerns about workplace discrimination, although the subtext of many other stories dealing with privacy issues hinted that AIDS testing potentially could be used as a means of discrimination. Job discrimination did not become a primary focus of gay rights coverage until 1992, when the campaign activities of Bill Clinton and others brought this issue to the front burner of public attention. The peak level of news coverage came in 1993, a year when gays in the military became a top issue for the new Clinton administration, and when the issue of gay rights was taken up in numerous city ordinances and referenda campaigns, notably in Oregon and Colorado. Following the intense period of coverage in 1992 and 1993, levels of news attention to this issue fell back to more typical levels through 1996. INSERT FIGURE 1 ABOUT HERE 25 These data were obtained from keyword searches conducted on the Vanderbilt Television News Abstracts, which are available at tvnews.vanderbilt.edu. The search term used for this analysis was “(gay or homosexual or lesbian) and (rights or right or discrimination or discriminate or adopt or marriage or military or armed or army or navy or force).” A search of Vanderbilt holdings revealed that abstractors routinely use such terms as “homosexual rights,” “gay rights,” and “gays in the military” as headlines for abstract entries about gay rights issues. As a consequence of this choice of headline terms—which supplement the textual content of the abstracts themselves—keyword searches on these terms should accurately turn up the population of relevant stories that are primarily about these topics (Althaus, Edy, and Phalen 2002). Subsequently, search results were culled for false hits involving stories irrelevant to gay rights issues.

Authors: Althaus, Scott.
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background image
An illustration of such dynamics is provided by the issue of discrimination against gays in the
workplace, which grew in importance as an item on the American news agenda through the mid-
1980’s and early 1990’s. Figure 1 shows the annual the number of broadcast news stories about gay
rights issues appearing on ABC, CBS, and NBC nightly news broadcasts between 1980 and 1996.
25
Coverage of this topic grew slowly through the early 1980’s as the developing AIDS crisis drew
attention to the issue of mandatory testing for the HIV virus. Coverage during this early period
tended to focus on legal battles over anti-sodomy laws and privacy rights in the workplace, rather
than employment discrimination (which would become a dominant angle in later years). For
instance, only seven of 28 stories about gay rights issues aired during 1987 explicitly focused on
concerns about workplace discrimination, although the subtext of many other stories dealing with
privacy issues hinted that AIDS testing potentially could be used as a means of discrimination. Job
discrimination did not become a primary focus of gay rights coverage until 1992, when the campaign
activities of Bill Clinton and others brought this issue to the front burner of public attention. The
peak level of news coverage came in 1993, a year when gays in the military became a top issue for
the new Clinton administration, and when the issue of gay rights was taken up in numerous city
ordinances and referenda campaigns, notably in Oregon and Colorado. Following the intense period
of coverage in 1992 and 1993, levels of news attention to this issue fell back to more typical levels
through 1996.
INSERT FIGURE 1 ABOUT HERE
25 These data were obtained from keyword searches conducted on the Vanderbilt Television News Abstracts,
which are available at tvnews.vanderbilt.edu. The search term used for this analysis was “(gay or homosexual or
lesbian) and (rights or right or discrimination or discriminate or adopt or marriage or military or armed or army or
navy or force).” A search of Vanderbilt holdings revealed that abstractors routinely use such terms as “homosexual
rights,” “gay rights,” and “gays in the military” as headlines for abstract entries about gay rights issues. As a
consequence of this choice of headline terms—which supplement the textual content of the abstracts themselves—
keyword searches on these terms should accurately turn up the population of relevant stories that are primarily about
these topics (Althaus, Edy, and Phalen 2002). Subsequently, search results were culled for false hits involving stories
irrelevant to gay rights issues.


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