Adding Insult to Injury: Broadcast Media Coverage of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes

Shea Smock, Jennifer M Proffitt


In 2000, Betty Dukes of California filed a sex discrimination case that would later become the largest class action suit in US history.  Rather than denying systemic sex discrimination, Wal-Mart successfully argued that the class action suit was too broad.  The U.S. District Court in California and the Court of Appeals sided with the women, but the Supreme Court did not. Our analysis focuses on how the US broadcast news media covered the cases. Using a political–economic interpretive lens, we analyze ABC, CBS, NBC, and PBS news transcripts and find that the coverage and context differed greatly depending on the gender of the reporter and sources.  Mainstream media stories tended to focus on the emotionalism of the plaintiffs, the amount of money at stake, the effects on business and consumers, and the plaintiffs who continued to work for Wal-Mart after experiencing discrimination. PBS coverage was sparse, but what was presented was more in-depth and provided the context that the commercial media ignored.

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