A white supremacist attacked and killed nine parishioners at a Bible study meeting in Charleston South Carolina on June 17, 2015. Later, he also posed with a Confederate flag in his social media posts. That incident created a debate, and within a month a new law ordered the removal of the flag from the statehouse.
A recent study shows that the coverage of these events was favorable toward the removal of the flag.
The study was conducted by Christopher Frear, a Ph.D. student at University of South Carolina; Sei-Hill Kim, an associate director for graduate studies and research at the School of Journalism and Mass Communications at University of South Carolina; and Jane O’Boyle, an assistant professor at School of Communications at Elon University.
The researchers analyzed 417 articles from three major South Carolina newspapers: The Charleston Post and Courier, The (Columbia) State, and The Greenville News. The articles were published in the first 25 days after the Charleston massacre.
About two-thirds of stories in The Charleston Post and Courier and The State supported the flag removal. The Greenville News coverage was largely neutral.
“The researchers found that more than nine in 10 articles were either neutral or favorable toward flag removal,” the study stated. “The Greenville News had a lower proportion of articles with a favorable tone.”
Nearly two-thirds of the news carried by The Greenville News was unfavorable to the issue, and the newspaper used a frame “an issue of legitimate controversy” to describe the topic more than the other newspapers.
The legislators from Greenville showed greater resistance to the flag removal than those from Columbia and Charleston. “Sixty percent of House members and 100 percent of the state senators voting against removal are from the region,” the study stated.
Two representatives from the Columbia or central region and no representatives from Charleston voted against the removal.
Frear, C., O’Boyle, J., & Kim, S.-H. (2019). Regional media framing of the Confederate flag debate in South Carolina. Newspaper Research Journal, 40(1), 83–105. https://doi.org/10.1177/0739532918814464