Document Type


Date of Degree

Summer 2014

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In


First Advisor

Andsager, Julie

First Committee Member

Durham, Meenakshi G

Second Committee Member

Eckler, Petya

Third Committee Member

Campo, Michelle

Fourth Committee Member

Peek-Asa, Corinne


Intimate partner violence (IPV) is a major social and public health issue in the United States, particularly in rural locations. However, little is known about the context in which IPV occurs in rural areas.

The goal of this dissertation was to examine the ways in which rural communities consider gender norms and the implications that might have for coverage and discussions of IPV. Since rural community newspapers have a uniquely important point of access by reporting on local news in a way that is not done by any other media source, newspaper content was analyzed. A content analysis was conducted of ten weekly, rural community newspapers in Iowa over one year, and comparisons were made with the state's largest paper, the Des Moines Register. The content analysis examined gender roles in articles, photographs and photograph captions.

Semi-structured interviews were conducted with editors of most of the same rural community newspapers. Editors were asked about their community culture, gender roles within the community, and their awareness and knowledge of IPV.

The dissertation was conducted through the framework of feminist positions on gender and violence, and also examined the nature of discussions surrounding gender roles and IPV in rural community newspapers photographs, through the concept of gender display, which considers how gender, power and subordination are reflected through mediated images. Additionally, news gatekeeping theory, which examines the way that newspapers operate within their communities and make day-to-day decisions about how to cover certain topics was used as a framework to guide the semi-structured interviews with editors.

Results of the content analysis revealed that while IPV was rarely discussed, gendered coverage reflected traditional ideals of femininity and masculinity, although not to the extent expected. The content analysis analyzed various forms of gender display in photographs of men and women in their occupations, community and social roles. Overall, rural communities experience gender disparities, but this was in subtle representations of power differences in newspaper photographs.

Results of the interviews indicated that rural community editors rarely think of gender roles within their community. When editors did talk about gender roles, the word "traditional" was frequently used, and most editors felt that men still held the majority of prominent positions within the community, while women also worked outside of the home, usually in less powerful jobs. Interviews indicated that rural community members have a very active role in the gatekeeping process.


community newspapers, gender display, gender roles, intimate partner violence, news gatekeeping, rural


x, 206 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 191-206).


Copyright 2014 Erin Kathleen O'Gara