Framing Human Trafficking: A Content Analysis of Recent U.S. Newspaper Articles

Rachealle Sanford, Daniel E. Martínez, Ronald Weitzer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


The news media can play a significant role in shaping public perceptions of social problems. One of these, human trafficking, has attracted increasing media attention since the early 2000s. This article builds on earlier work with a content analysis of articles on human trafficking published in the New York Times and the Washington Post during 2012–2013. In order to identify both continuities and changes in reporting over time, we replicate and expand on a study of the 1980–2006 time period, in addition to analyzing additional factors not examined in the previous study. In addition to documenting a sharply increasing amount of coverage compared to earlier years, we examine the ways in which trafficking is defined and framed, the types of sources relied on in the articles, the types of victims that received the most attention, and other important features. We document key similarities and differences over time in reporting on human trafficking.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)139-155
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Human Trafficking
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Human trafficking
  • law enforcement
  • mass media
  • policy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography
  • Anthropology
  • Transportation
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law


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