Who Gets to be a Hero? The Construction of Heroism in the U.S. News Media

Project #: 79
Name: Ron Bishop (; 302-239-6367)
Department: Communication
Academic Area: Communication

Title: Who Gets to be a Hero? The Construction of Heroism in the U.S. News Media

Our connection to our heroes goes beyond simple admiration. By following their actions, we learn about ourselves, our wants and desires, and our core values. We use heroes as models for our behavior. Journalists exercise the cultural authority to select and highlight heroism. The journalist's appetite for stories of heroism, combined with the public's love of celebrities, has led some to argue that we now haphazardly throw around the word hero, applying it to actions that are not impressive. While heroes are perhaps becoming less memorable, journalists continue to base stories about them on an entrenched mythic structure. It is important to examine the fascination that stories of heroism still hold for us. Exploring changes in the conditions for entry into the mediated world of heroism provides a compelling opportunity to learn more about the qualities we now value. Thus, the selection and anointment of heroes by the nation's journalists and best known bloggers are the focus of this research.

Associated Independent Study:
A variety of readings on heroism, from Carlyle to Fishwick to Boorstin, will be assembled. The student would be asked to submit weekly (and ongoing) reactions and analyses of the readings, in the leadup to a final paper in which he or she textual analyzes the news media coverage of one hero in particular. IS could also include developing and conducting interviews with local journalists who have written about heroes.

Gained Experience:
Developing competency in news media analysis; familiarity with literature; student would be absolutely welcome to continue research on the topic, or perhaps develop a learning tool that could introduce the ideas in the project into the schools.

A publishable academic journal article; project could also form basis for center of research on the topic.

Gathering and carefully analyzing news media coverage of heroism; participating in development of coding sheet for that evaluation; participating in the analysis.

Research could be conducted independently; my office (Building 47, Room 107) will also be made available.

Once a week on Tuesday mornings.

Interview Availability:
April 28, 2015