Incorrigible While Incarcerated: Topic Modeling Mainstream Canadian News Depictions of Ashley SmithPublic Deposited
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Ashley Smith, who is typically presented in the media as mentally ill, was nineteen years old when she died from self-strangulation in an Ontario women’s prison on October 19th, 2007. In this thesis, I explored how Ashley Smith’s actions and death were portrayed in four mainstream Canadian newspapers (Globe and Mail, Telegraph-Journal, Toronto Star and National Post). My aim in this thesis is to critically analyze patterns of stereotypes of mental illness present in these news articles and connect these patterns to labeling theories. To accomplish this goal, I used a mixed methods approach that combined computerized topic modeling with critical reading. Topic modeling revealed three variables that affected topic weight: the timing of the news coverage, newspaper political affiliation and circulation/location. These three variables also impacted how these newspapers depicted Ashley Smith as mentally ill, through their use of generic and/or negative terminology, medicalization and vulnerability stereotypes.
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