Publication Date



Open access

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Communication Studies (Communication)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Don W. Stacks

Second Committee Member

Paul D. Driscoll

Third Committee Member

Sam Terilli


Due to rising unemployment levels, researchers have begun to investigate how corporations handle layoffs and how they could manage them better in the future. Public relations practitioners can use this type of research to help organizations learn how to best maintain their images, reputations and productivity amid mass layoffs. When an organization conducts mass layoffs, its actions become both a current event and a public issue that is frequently discussed in newspaper articles. In order for downsizing organizations to be aware of the public's perceptions of their layoff procedures, they should be aware of how the news media represents them. This study used a content analysis of different newspaper articles to determine how three downsizing organizations (General Motors, Caterpillar, and Boeing) were portrayed in the midst of mass layoffs. This study examined a sample of newspaper articles from two nationally-distributed daily newspapers (The New York Times and The Washington Post). It also included articles from daily newspaper that were located in the cities where the layoffs took place (The Detroit News, The Chicago Tribune, and The Seattle Times). The findings did not show that the newspapers' articles about the layoffs tended to be more prominent in the regional publications than in the national publications. While the articles were often prominently placed in the newspapers, the layoffs were not typically the primary focus of the articles. The reporters frequently included details of the layoffs, such as the number of layoff victims, in their articles. They also frequently included attributions of blame for the layoff decisions. The articles, however, rarely discussed socially responsible actions made on behalf of the downsizing companies.


Layoffs; Newspapers; Image Management; Reputation Management; Communication; Public Relations