Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Degree Granting Department

Mass Communications

Major Professor

Scott S. Liu, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Janelle Applequist, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Roxanne Watson, Ph.D.


framing theory, Crimean crisis, news sources, content analysis


This thesis examines whether there is a frame difference in online news coverage of the controversial 2014 Crimean referendum by The New York Times and the Russian newspaper, Kommersant. The research is grounded in framing theory and literature on the attribution of news sources. The study is conducted in two languages and it seeks to examine how media systems, perspectives on the issue, journalistic standards, as well as cultural backgrounds and historical ties influenced framing of the event.

Sample online articles from each newspaper were selected and a quantitative content analysis was performed in order to identify the main themes, frames and source attribution patterns in media news coverage about the referendum. The pattern to quote official sources for providing justification and legitimacy to news stories has influenced the coverage in both newspapers: both The New York Times as well as Kommersant heavily relied on their respective government officials and experts. However, The New York Times provided a greater diversity of opinions supporting the values of a libertarian media system.

Politics was the dominant theme of the referendum-related articles in both newspapers, however, Kommersant and The New York Times touched on economy and military themes with different frequencies. A comparison between themes in two periods (before and after the referendum) has not shown a meaningful difference for both newspapers.

Kommersant’s online coverage was less critical of Russian policies and frequently utilized a set of the For-referendum frames, rarely touching upon Russian military activities on the peninsula. However, the frame depicting breach of international law appeared with the same frequency as the For-referendum frames, showing that Kommersant tried to maintain independence under the Russian neo-authoritarian media system. The New York Times focused on the illegitimate character of Crimean annexation and exposed every move of Russian troops, which is in line with U.S. foreign policy aims. However, the American publications did not hide the cultural and historical ties between Crimea and Russia and frequently mentioned the illegal character pertaining to Ukrainian protests and a temporary government.