#DressCodePM & Re-Framing The Niqab: News Sources, Hashtag Activism, and Media Representation
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This thesis originates from my interest in exploring how minorities are using social media to talk back to mainstream media. This study examines whether hashtags that trend on Twitter may impact how news stories related to minorities are covered in Canadian media. The Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper stated the niqab was “rooted in a culture that is anti-women” on 10 March 2015. The next day #DressCodePM trended in response to the PM’s niqab remarks. Using network gatekeeping theory, this study examines the types of sources quoted in the media stories published on 10 and 11 March 2015. The study’s goal is to explore whether using tweet quotes leads to the representation of a more diverse range of news sources. The study compares the types of sources quoted in stories that covered Harper’s comments without mentioning #DressCodePM versus stories that mention #DressCodePM. This study also uses Tuen A. van Dijk’s methodology of asking “who is speaking, how often and how prominently?” in order to examine whose voices have been privileged and whose voices have been marginalized in covering the niqab in Canadian media from the 1970s and until the days following the PM’s remarks. Network gatekeeping theory is applied in this study to assess whether the gated gained more power after #DressCodePM trended. The case study’s findings indicates that Caucasian male politicians were predominantly used as news sources in covering stories related to the niqab for the past 38 years in the Globe and Mail. The sourcing pattern of favouring politicians continued in Canadian print and online media on 10 March 2015 following Harper’s niqab comments. However, ordinary Canadian women, including Muslim women, were used more often than politicians as news sources in the stories about #DressCodePM that were published on 11 March 2015. The gated media users were able to gain power and attract Canadian Media’s attention by widely spreading #DressCodePM. This study draws attention to the lack of diversity of sources used in Canadian political news stories, yet this study also shows it is possible for the gated media users to amplify their voices through hashtag activism.