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

Craig O. Stewart, Margaret J. Pitts, Helena Osborne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8-27
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Language and Social Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2011


  • illegal immigration
  • intergroup communication
  • news discourse
  • social cognition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Education
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Linguistics and Language


Dive into the research topics of 'Mediated intergroup conflict: The discursive construction of "illegal immigrants" in a regional u.s. newspaper'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this