U.S. Newspaper Coverage of Human Rights in Latin America, 1975-1982: Exploring President Carter's Agenda-Building Influence

By Cassara, Catherine | Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, Autumn 1998 | Go to article overview

U.S. Newspaper Coverage of Human Rights in Latin America, 1975-1982: Exploring President Carter's Agenda-Building Influence


Cassara, Catherine, Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly


President Jimmy Carter's elevation of human rights to a major foreign policy concern had an impact on U.S. news coverage of Latin America. In the mid-1970s, U.S. coverage of Latin America was erratic at best. By the time Carter left office, the U.S. media had significantly increased both the resources and space devoted to covering the region.

In 1948, the U.S. delegation to the United Nations, headed by Eleanor Roosevelt, was instrumental in the formulation and adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. But the implementation of the Universal Declaration was frozen in its tracks by the lowering of the Iron Curtain.' During the Cold War, U.S. foreign policy was fundamentally concerned with geopolitical negotiations. Policy makers were more interested in maintaining the balance of power than in exploring the implications of the Universal Declaration. Human rights played no significant role in U.S. formulation of foreign policy until Jimmy Carter took office in 1977.2

Carter's human rights policy linked U.S. foreign aid and assistance to a nation's observance of human rights.3 During the campaign, his concern with human rights united a divided Democratic Party. His policy also resonated with the voting public and helped contribute to his electoral success.4 Since Carter placed human rights on the nation's policy agenda for the first time, an examination of press coverage of human rights during this period offers a rare opportunity to assess the influence the Carter policy had on U.S. news coverage.

This research investigates how the Carter initiative affected U.S. prestige newspaper coverage of the region most affected by the U.S. policy change - the countries of Latin America. Foreign correspondents active during the period report that the Carter policy fundamentally altered how the U.S. press covered Latin America.5 The study provides a systematic assessment of that supposition, and, in the process, explores the dynamics of how presidential foreign policy initiatives and U.S. international news coverage interact. As such, it explores the process of "agenda building," how sources influence media agenda. This is in contrast to agenda setting, which is concerned with how the media shape the issues the public thinks about.6

Carter's Policy

President Carter did not introduce the topic of human rights to Washington. Religious groups, rights activists, and liberal legislators had long been concerned about U.S. assistance to countries that violated human rights. But, before Carter, these groups' efforts had been largely ineffectual.7 The new administration brought civil rights experts into the State Department to spearhead human rights policy enforcement. It also elevated the standing of the bureau charged with monitoring human rights concerns, initiated State Department country reports on human rights, and placed human rights on the agenda of U.S. diplomats in embassies and consulates around the world.8

At first, the new human rights policy focused on relations with the Soviet Union. That focus was short-lived.9 U.S. diplomats reserved human rights concerns for dealings with countries that had fewer strategic implications for U.S. interests. There were ramifications for U.S. relations with some African and Asian countries, but the result was particularly noticeable in dealings with Latin American countries.

The Carter administration's concern about rights violations in Latin America was not the result of a sudden or recent increase in atrocities in the region. For decades U.S. diplomats had been aware of widespread human rights violations by repressive Latin American governments. Policy makers, however, had always explained the violations as an endemic part of the Latin political culture - something that might be regretted but which could not be changed.10

Shifting political conditions in the region had fostered an upswing in violations during the 1960s and early 1970s. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

U.S. Newspaper Coverage of Human Rights in Latin America, 1975-1982: Exploring President Carter's Agenda-Building Influence
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.