Placing the Public Figure in the Public Sphere: From Legal Solution to Internet Scapegoat

Master's Thesis


This study applies the field theory of Pierre Bourdieu to show how the irresolvable conflict between free speech and privacy is managed by U.S. courts, newspaper editors, and Web publishers. How do the courts and media actors justify invasive storytelling about private people who are drawn involuntarily into the news? Power relations of the state, media, and public are examined in the context of the social construction of newsworthiness. The related meanings of newsworthiness, public sphere, and public figure are traced as they are negotiated over time and across fields of power. Through analysis of the story of an involuntary public figure who accidentally influenced a baseball game, it is shown that the decline in journalism standards in the Internet era is not entirely attributable to market and technological forces. The decline is also explained by non-legal or cultural uses of the public figure doctrine in popular jurisprudence.


Attribute NameValues
  • etd-04132007-165038

Author Elizabeth E. Martinez
Advisor Eugene Halton
Contributor Eugene Halton, Committee Chair
Contributor Jackie Smith, Committee Member
Contributor Omar Lizardo, Committee Member
Contributor Daniel J. Myers, Committee Member
Degree Level Master's Thesis
Degree Discipline Sociology
Degree Name MA
Defense Date
  • 2007-03-27

Submission Date 2007-04-13
  • United States of America

  • Internet

  • field theory

  • First Amendment

  • jurisprudence

  • Bourdieu

  • newspapers

  • media ethics

  • University of Notre Dame

  • English

Record Visibility Public
Content License
  • All rights reserved

Departments and Units


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