This dissertation advances previous research on the journalistic interpretive community by placing news at the center of a community’s construction of place. By focusing on the construction of Iowa City, Iowa’s “Southeast Side” – neighborhoods home to predominantly newly arrived black residents from Chicago and other urban areas – this study identifies dominant news characterizations of the Southeast Side that mark the place as a “ghetto” or “inner city.”
Beyond providing information about community issues and social conditions from southeastern neighborhoods, the term Southeast Side performed a singular ideological purpose: to identify and maintain dominant community values throughout the rest of Iowa City. Racialized and stereotyped news narratives of urban people, places, and problems in a place called the Southeast Side created an ideological boundary between those in and outside the Southeast Side.
Such a boundary subjugated the Southeast Side’s cultural diversity and its people, presenting them as being counter to Midwestern values and a threat to notions of a safe, white and historically homogeneous community. Indeed, the creation of Southeast Side was just as much about creating an “inner city” as it was about constructing notions of Iowa City itself.
Through mental mapping, this project then compares dominant news characterizations to those made by Southeast Side residents, journalists, and public officials. In the end, this study explores cultural meanings that emerged from examining the similarities or differences between the place-making of residents, journalists, and news sources.
This study reveals place-making as a fundamental role of the journalistic community and identifies another ideological function of the press in that they assign power and meanings by describing news by where it happens. Journalists and media scholars have long talked about the press as improving community journalism to meet the notion of the public sphere. Yet, this dissertation is not another such study that only encourages journalists to alter how they report on local news and communities. Instead, this study suggests that journalists and scholars recognize the cultural power of journalistic place-making and the challenge to their authority to do so by residents from a particular place.
Robert Edward Gutsche Jr. “Mediated constructions and lived experiences of place: an analysis of news, sourcing, and mapping.” PhD (Doctor of Philosophy) thesis, University of Iowa, 2012.