Native son? Comparing coverage of Barack Obama's birthplace controversy in Hawaiian, Kenyan and Washington, DC, media

Document Type


Department or Administrative Unit

Political Science

Publication Date



This study utilizes a comparative, content analysis of coverage of the Obama ‘Birther’ controversy from 2008 to 2012 in newspapers from relevant geographic locales – Hawaii, Kenya and Washington, DC – in order to determine whether and how localism impacted the framing and portrayal of the dispute to different audiences, as well as to see how responsibly journalists treated this topic. There were geographic differences in the amount and nature of coverage, though all the outlets gave more space to the anti-Obama side than the President’s. In other respects, however, the Kenyan and Hawaiian papers appeared to be more factual and responsible in debunking the false claims about Obama’s birthplace, while the DC papers viewed it more as a political conflict. The article concludes that while localism can lead to more responsible journalism, the case may instead suggest that media organizations are driven by audience more than truth concerns, even in coverage of conspiracy theories.


This article was originally published in Journal of Applied Journalism & Media Studies. The full-text article from the publisher can be found here.

Due to copyright restrictions, this article is not available for free download from ScholarWorks @ CWU.


Journal of Applied Journalism & Media Studies