Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Mass Communications

Major Professor

Kelly P. Werder


Influence, Situational Theory of Publics


This study examined the influence of mass media on students' perceptions of terrorism by applying the situational theory of publics (Grunig & Hunt, 1984). Behavior is the consequence of perception of reality. But perception of reality is not always consistent with the reality itself. Because of the important role of the media in shaping perceptions, terrorist organizations rely on it to spread fear and advance their political goals beyond the people directly affected by their attacks. The media not only spreads the news of an attack, it contributes significantly to formulating and disseminating the message of terrorist organizations. This study explores University of South Florida (USF) students' perceptions of terrorism, and the role of mass media in shaping such perceptions. It also examines assumptions, asks pertinent questions, and seeks answers by conducting a survey of college students. The findings of this study support the basic premise of the situational theory of publics and contribute to better understanding of how media influences perceptions of terrorism. The findings of this study and future studies on the same subject might be used to better educate students, and inform communication professionals about methods to increase awareness about the U.S. position on terrorism.