This study uses individual media dependency (IMD) to examine student dependency on the media before and during the attacks of September 11. A content analysis of media journals kept by a group of university students during the week of September 11 confirmed the existence of the IMD relationship, a finding that adds to the methodological breadth of IMD research. Goal scope, which is composed of the understanding, orientation, and play goals narrowed to the goal of social understanding on September 11 only to expand outwards to pre-September 11 levels by the end of that week. The theory postulates goal scope to be comprehensive, but student-identified reasons for seeking out the media during the week of September 11 were not fully explained by goal scope. Dependence on news mediated sources followed the pattern of goal scope with students articulating a tremendous dependence during the attacks, only to be followed with a sharp decline in time spent with news media by the end of the week.

Contrary to hypothesis 4, referent scope did not narrow at all during that week. However, the media diaries revealed television was the referent of choice among students for information about the attacks. Time spent with television followed the patterns of goal scope and dependence on news mediated sources—a sharp increase in time spent with television was followed by a comparable decline in time spent.

Student reflection papers were analyzed to understand why students returned so quickly to former media consumption patterns. Weariness with the reports and images surrounding the attacks, disappointment with the lack of new information, and the obligations of being a student were among the reasons given in the reflection papers. Despite the quick return to pre-attack levels of media consumption, students wrote that the media presentations of the attacks had broad cognitive, affective, and behavioral effects.



College and Department

Fine Arts and Communications; Communications



Date Submitted


Document Type





September 11 2001, Media System Dependency, Individual Media Dependency



Included in

Communication Commons