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Archive for January, 2010

In the article entitled Framing as a Theory of Media Effects by Dietram A. Scheufele, it said that although agenda setting, priming, and framing are closely related to one another, each model is still unique in its own way. Scheufele suggests that agenda setting is the belief that the media does not tell people what to think, but rather what to think about. It is the idea that repeated news coverage of a particular issue overtime raises the importance of that issue in mind of the public. In addition, the author suggests that priming occurs when news content suggests that its audience uses certain issues to make political evaluations. Nevertheless, Scheufele believes that framing differs significantly from these two models. This is because framing is the understanding that the way media chooses to portray various events can have a heavy influence the way audiences interprets it. Framing is also based on the idea that media can actually shape people’s attitudes and beliefs.
The author states that since frames are considered schemes for both delivering and comprehending news, there are two concepts of framing: media frames and individual frames. Researchers have found that although these two media frames differ in various ways, they are closely linked to one another. In the article, the author defined media frames, “as a central organizing idea or story line that provides meaning to an unfolding strip of events.. The frame suggest what the controversy is about, the essence of the issue” (Scheufele, 106). Scheufele believes that media frames specifically help journalists to quickly select and simplify certain aspects of a particular news story. Moreover, the way that a journalist chooses to frame a particular event can heavily influence the public’s attitude. On the other hand, when defining individual frames the author said, “Individual frames are defined as mentally stored clusters of ideas that guide individuals’ processing of information” (Scheufele, 107). In addition, there are two types of reference that can be used for people to interpret and process information: global and long-term political views and short-term issue-related frames. Global and long-term political views are a result of an individual’s personal characteristics. On the other hand, short-term issue-related frames are based on the information regarding a person’s individual characteristics, but can have a significant impact on the way that person interprets information.
In 2003, various journalists examined how the framing of the Iraq War changed over time on the New York Times’ online edition. The newspaper’s home page was manually downloaded throughout the war between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. daily. There were a total of 30 different home pages that were analyzed. A few of these included: military conflict frame, human interest frame, violence of war frame, and the rebuilding of Iraq frame. The journalists found that the most common frame used at the beginning of the war was the “violence of war frame,” which focused on the destruction caused by the war. However, they found that as the war progressed the most common frame used was the “human interest frame,” which emphasized on the personal stories of the human participants in the war. In addition, it was clear that the reporting had shifted to post-war Iraq issues. Moreover, this study’s findings support a poll that was taken by CNN. CNN found that 88% of Americans were in support of the war in 2001, while only 53% of Americans are still in favor of it today. It can be assumed that since the New York Times’ online edition was no longer reporting on the destruction caused by the war, but rather only focusing on post-war Iraq issues, many Americas were no longer made aware of exactly why our country was fighting. Unfortunately, most Americans rely heavily on the news to gather their information and when the news does not report on important issues, such as the Iraq war, they are not being educated about what is happening around the world. Consequently, it is no wonder why today’s percentages of people that are in support of the war have significantly dropped since 2001.
This is just one example that shows how framing works within the media. If the media chooses to portray a certain event, such as the Iraq war, as being significant then most American’s will believe it is important. However, if the media does not report on a certain event happening around the world then many American’s will most likely never be made aware or even hear about it. Nevertheless, whether or not framing can actually shape audiences’ attitudes and beliefs is yet to be determined. As the author in this article said, “Future research should integrate previous findings into a consistent model and fill in the missing causal links to develop a complete model of framing in political communication” (Scheufele, 118).

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The reading by Scheufele, Framing as a Theory of Media Effects, is an attempt to define a model of the framing process from existing research. He creates a “Typology of Framing Research” with four dimensions. The first two dimensions are frames as dependent and independent variables. The second two are media frames and individual frames. Several definitions of media frames are offered, but most generally it can be described as the process by which journalists classify information and organize stories. According to Entman, individual frames are “mentally stored clusters of ideas that guide individuals’ processing of information,” (Scheufele 107). Scheufele goes on to use the work of other scholars to describe in detail the four sections of his typology. His conclusion is that further research needs to be conducted in order to determine the concrete definition of framing and its effect on communication.
Chapter two of A Journalist’s Guide to Public Opinion gives a brief description of the media’s changing effect on public opinion over the course of our nation’s history. It begins in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries when the media, specifically newspapers, were heavily biased based on political affiliation. In the late 1800s newspapers with political content decreased in popularity due to expansion within the printing business. During this time, wire services were developed, which helped to further eliminate strong bias and subjective reporting. Eventually, the Associated Press (AP) came along, which “created the concept of objectivity in journalism…” (Gawiser and Witt 13). Finally, the invention of radio resulted in a news medium that could reach far more people at one time. Despite governmental regulation, radio broadcasts failed to report with the same objectivity that was becoming more prevalent in American newspapers.
In chapter eighteen, Gawiser and Witt discuss a hypothetical “future,” specifically related to journalism and public opinion. Despite technological advancements and changes in information sources, the authors argue that the media will still be the primary resource for instant communication. Their prediction is that information will need to be streamlined, so that only the most relevant and important facts are brought to light. Overall, the most notable change in years to come will be in the speed at which information is made available to the public.
The reading which I could relate to most easily was the second chapter in Gawiser and Witt’s book. As I read about historical developments in the media and the transition to objective reporting, my mind immediately went to Fox News. Although this is only one channel among hundreds, it stands out as one of the most politically biased news broadcasts in existence today. The network is clearly affiliated with the Republican Party and does not hide its disapproval of actions taken by Democrats, specifically our current president. Talk shows hosted by various Republican journalists are featured in addition to periodic, hourly news reports. Despite the tag line “fair and balanced,” it is clear from watching this network that this is far from the truth. Fox News is an example of a news broadcast that has not made the same advancement in comparison to many other networks, newspapers, magazines, etc. It is clearly the exception to the change that Gawiser and Witt outline in their chapter “The Press and Public Opinion: Always Linked.”
Near the bottom of the “Politics” section of FoxNews.com, there is a poll titled “Real Clear Politics Poll,” that rates the nation’s approval of President Obama and congress in general. As previously stated, this news network is one that is particularly biased and that takes a politically conservative stance on all issues. I expected any polls on this website to reflect these views as well, because those utilizing this news source are likely to be affiliated with the Republican Party, as well. However, my assumption was only partly correct. According to FoxNews.com’s poll, 49.6% of respondents approve of the president while 44.9% disapprove. The approval rating of congress, however, is what I predicted it to be. Only 26.0% approve of the actions that congress is currently taking.
Next to this general poll about the president and congress is another that is specifically related to health care and the new bill that will reform our nation’s current practices. In order to see the results of this poll, I had to place a vote myself. The three options were: 1) Drop it, 2) Scale it back to something smaller, and 3) Ram it through. I voted with what I suspected to be the majority, and was ultimately correct. With 88% of the votes, the “drop it” option was the most popular. The “scale it back” option came in second place with 8% of votes. Finally, “ram it through” was the minority with only 3% of votes. This poll is yet another example of Fox News’ failure to report with objectivity. In general, all anchors and journalists working for the network have politically conservative opinions which are used to influence viewers. This influence is reflected, on a small scale, in the results of both polls on FoxNews.com.

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