Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science



Major Professor

Mark Littmann

Committee Members

Bonnie Riechert, John Haas


In recent years, culture has become a major topic within organizational studies. The culture of an organization affects how individuals in the organization interact, what is valued in the organization, and what goals the organization strives to achieve.

However, the view of culture that outsiders hold of an organization also has significance for the organization. Mostly, the mass media influence the outsider's view of an organization's culture. Yet, organizational cultural studies have failed to look at the external perception of an organization and how the external viewpoint is affected by major actions by or events in the organization. This study attempts to expand approaches to the study of organizational culture by evaluating the print media portrayal of NASA's overall culture from the perspective of an outsider to the culture.

A content analysis of articles from four large-circulation and geographically dispersed newspapers was conducted using sampling dates from the year before and the year after the explosion of NASA's Space Shuttle Challenger. The articles were analyzed for evidence of established indicators of organizational culture and any positive, negative or neutral reference associated with the indicator.

The results show that the print media not only conveyed to the public indicators of NASA's organizational culture, but that the print media also influence the public's positive or negative perception of the culture. The print media's interpretation of NASA' s culture shifts- within the short period of a year- from sympathy before the explosion to blame for the first months after the Challenger crash and then to acknowledgement of NASA's ability to move ahead with space exploration.

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