Human Rights Review

, Volume 12, Issue 3, pp 363–379 | Cite as

News Frames and Story Triggers in the Media’s Coverage of Human Trafficking

  • Girish J. GulatiEmail author


Since 2000, there has been a flurry of policy activity to address the problem of human trafficking. A wide consensus has formed in most of the international community on the nature of the problem. However, there is considerable disagreement among scholars and activists over definitions and how best to address the problem. A content analysis of relevant articles in The New York Times and Washington Post between 1980 and 2006 reveals that media coverage has relied mostly on official sources and is framed in a way that has mirrored the dominant view of trafficking. This has helped legitimize the consensus among policymakers while marginalizing alternative views that also might be critical of official policy. This analysis also shows that articles initiated by investigative journalists are more likely to break away from the official frame and report alternative views than articles generated from traditional news beats.


Human trafficking News media Investigative journalism Framing Public policy Human rights 



The author wishes to thank Courtney Somerville and Katelyn Hoover for their conscientious and thorough work on the content analysis; the Valente Center for Arts and Sciences at Bentley University for their research support; and Joseph Swingle, Ira Silver, Mary Marcel, and my colleagues at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government ( for their constructive feedback and moral support.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Bentley UniversityWalthamUSA

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