Date Approved

7-1-2000

Embargo Period

7-14-2016

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

M.A. in Public Relations

Department

Public Relations & Advertising

College

College of Communication & Creative Arts

First Advisor

FitzGerald, Suzanne Sparks

Subject(s)

Courts--Public relations--United States

Disciplines

Public Relations and Advertising

Abstract

The federal courts are undeniably one of the most important institutions in our society, yet we know little of this nebulous entity since the federal court system does not directly communicate to the public. The judiciary relies solely on the media to disseminate court decisions and information to the public.

The purpose of this study was to underscore the need for a public affairs office in the federal court system. This researcher held that a court public affairs office would serve to educate the public about the judiciary, as well as correct media accounts of court decisions that exhibit negative bias.

To determine the extent of media reporting bias, this researcher studied press accounts of controversial court rulings that appeared in local, regional and national newspapers. Content analyses performed on these articles revealed frequent negative biases when court rulings did not concur with the opinions of the media and the public.

Through intercept surveys, this researcher found that most respondents have little knowledge of the judiciary. As a result, the public, who relies on court information from a biased media, experiences negatives perceptions of the court system.

Finally, in-depth surveys administered to federal judges revealed that most judges feel frustrated by inaccurate media reporting of court issues. The addition of a court public affairs office would correct erroneous reporting and improve public perception of the judiciary through education.

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