Mediated intergroup conflict: The discursive construction of "illegal immigrants" in a regional u.s. newspaper


Using an intergroup communication framework, this article examines how a newspaper in southeastern Virginia discursively constructs the "illegal immigrant" as a metonym for Latino immigrants. This mixed methods study traces the development of this newspaper discourse about illegal immigrants from1994 to 2006 using quantitative lexical analysis. It then shows how two local news events further instantiate an illegal immigrant metonymy influencing perceptions of Latinos, subsequent media discourse about immigration, and local immigration policies using critical discourse analysis. The quantitative findings suggest that news discourse focusing on (illegal) immigration tended to use lexical items low in optimism and commonality, consistent with out-group negativity. The qualitative findings show how two incidents involving "illegal immigrants" attached negative stereotypes to this category, which then potentially influenced perceptions of Latinos more broadly. This analysis shows some of the ways that media discourse influences perceived intergroup threats at the local and national levels. © 2011 SAGE Publications.

Publication Title

Journal of Language and Social Psychology