The River God as a necessary horizon: myths of origin as hegemonic influences in feature news journalism
This dissertation examines the presence of America's foundational myths, especially mythicized American capitalism, as sources of base narrative structure for mainstream American news media. A reliance on these myths suggests a hegemonic role for the news media. Identifying hegemonic activity in the public rhetoric of the mainstream news media can help us understand how an institution claiming neutrality in fact specifically influences social dynamics. This dissertation employs mythic criticism, a form of rhetorical criticism, to examine leading American mainstream print news organizations' feature story coverage of immigration and immigrants, legal and illegal. The primary texts examined were news stories. These texts were stories that had won, or had been finalists for, the Pulitzer Prize for print news journalism. Stories with a similar focus, style, and structure from well-regarded print news sources were selected for examination as secondary texts. It was found that America's mainstream news media in newspaper and news magazine feature stories rely on America's foundational myths for narrative structure. Mythicized American capitalism, which misleadingly presents modern capitalism as much the same as the family- and community-based endeavor of the Puritan era, is commonly a narrative defaulted to by those media in the description of immigrants. Such a reliance on America's foundational myths narrows the range of interpretations of events available to news consumers and decreases cultural diversity by relying on an assumption of, and imposition of, a widely-held, common bond as a narrative base.