Incorrigible While Incarcerated: Topic Modeling Mainstream Canadian News Depictions of Ashley Smith

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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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  • Copyright © 2013 the author(s). Theses may be used for non-commercial research, educational, or related academic purposes only. Such uses include personal study, research, scholarship, and teaching. Theses may only be shared by linking to Carleton University Institutional Repository and no part may be used without proper attribution to the author. No part may be used for commercial purposes directly or indirectly via a for-profit platform; no adaptation or derivative works are permitted without consent from the copyright owner.
Date Created
  • 2013


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