Steering the ship: a dramaturgical analysis of political rhetoric contained in media reports regarding the Yarmouth Ferry

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Cotterill, Jennifer
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Mount Saint Vincent University
Using the lens of Goffman’s theory of dramaturgy and its social framework as the case study lens, this paper explores reports between January 1, 2008 and December 31, 2014 in Nova Scotia’s provincial news publication, the Chronicle Herald, about the Yarmouth ferry. The ferry linking the south coast of Nova Scotia to the United States has been a part of provincial infrastructure since the 1800s. Generations of residents navigated changes in government at all levels and their corresponding focus in order to retain the link, the jobs it produced and the resulting pride it offered its community. However, none of this came without a cost to taxpayers. It is this cost that helped set-up the case for this study. In 2009 Nova Scotia’s first NDP government made a monumental decision to cancel the subsidy the province had been giving to the Yarmouth ferry service provider resulting in the cancellation of the service. This decision caused a barrage of news reports that are examined in this study using Goffman’s frames of fabrication, misframing, keying, frame disputes and frame breaks. This application of Goffman to the drama that is the Yarmouth ferry contributes to communication studies research by offering an empirical example of frame analysis. It also brings additional focus to a theorist who is underrepresented in communication-related literature despite his influence on other academics as is apparent in the literature review. Although Goffman is present in communication studies his work is more prevalent in sociological study. In addition to contributing to communication studies, the analysis of this data helps inform our understanding of political communication; in particular the rhetoric produced by politicians and reproduced by reporters.
Yarmouth ferry, dramaturgy, Nova Scotia, Government