On September 11, The twin towers were attacked. The New York Times began its story with: The New York Times: September 12, 2001 ‘U.S. Attacked: Hijacked Jets Destroy Twin Towers and Hit Pentagon in Day of Terror” Orlando Sentinel: September 12, 2001 wrote, ‘’Today, our nation saw evil’: Bush: Worst-ever attack on U.S. will not break nation’s resolve” Detroit Free Press: September 12, 2001 ‘America’s Darkest Day: Terrorists will be hunted down, Bush tells the nation”
The Dallas Morning News: September 12, 2001 ‘War at home: Shaken nation awaits tally from Pentagon, Trade Center attacks; Bush vows to track down terrorists and ‘bring them to justice’’
All of the headlines stated above are based on the same set of facts that took place but they convey a radically different impression of what actually happened.
Scholars from different disciplines of social sciences, including political science, communications, psychology, linguistics, sociology and linguistics have been researching about and been interested in the concept of framing in the media. Framing helps us understand mass communication and offers an alternative to the old “objectivity and bias” paradigm. (Reese, Stephen. Gandy, Oscar. and Grant, August). Studying media framing is of importance since it can have both subtle and drastic effects on the audience, even overthrow a President. There have been surveys conducted to examine how media framed the news using persuasive messages and to scrutinize the weight of the arguments the media presented about politics.
Before addressing framing, it is important to know where most Americans generally get their news form, the very source where the framing starts. According to a recent survey by American Trends Panel, when it comes to where younger Americans get news about politics and government, social media look to be the local TV of the Millennial generation. About six-in-ten online Millennials (61%) report getting political news on Facebook in a given week, a much larger percentage than turn to any other news source. This stands in stark contrast to internet-using Baby Boomers, for whom local TV tops the list of sources for political news at nearly the same reach (60%). At the same time, Millennials’ relatively low reliance on local TV for political news (37% see news there in a given week) almost mirrors Baby Boomers’ comparatively low reliance on Facebook (39%). Gen Xers, who bridge the age gap between Millennials (ages 18-33 at the time of the 2014 survey) and Baby Boomers (ages 50-68), also bridge the gap between these news sources. Roughly half (51%) of online Gen Xers get political and government news on Facebook in a given week and about half (46%) do so on local TV. (Millennials)
These sources of media ‘frame’ each issue differently and influence the audience in more than one way. First of, they decide which issues to cover which basically influences the importance the audience the attributes to the issues that were reported and secondly, influences the way the audience thinks about the issue. ‘Framing’ has been widely talked about for a long time now by researchers and many definitions have been proposed.
Entman (1993) has defined it as:
To frame is to select some aspects of a perceived reality and make them more salient in a communicating text, in such a way as to promote a particular definition, casual interpretation, moral evaluation and/or treatment recommendation for the item described. (p. 52)
To paraphrase Entman, frames are held in people’s minds, informing our interpretations of the world with or without our consciousness. They exist prior to our processing of information, assisting in our interpretation of the complex world, but can lead us to misunderstandings. Cognitive scientists assert that human beings perceive things with frames and the ways they are framed rather than directly search for the facts.
If the patterns of framing persist across time, message dimensions, and media outlets, it means that the media may be systematically assisting certain entities to induce their preferred behavior in others. That is to say, the media may be helping to distribute political power to particular groups, causes, or individuals. This brings us to the proposed definition of media bias: consistent patterns in the framing of mediated communication by the media that promote the influence of one side in conflicts over the use of government power (Margaret) .By this definition, to reveal framing and media bias, we must show patterns of slant that regularly prime audiences, consciously or unconsciously, to support the interests of particular holders or seekers of political power (Entman).
As seen in the United States, media bias is evident on more than one occasion. Such bias has been widely documented, both internationally and within the United States. Liberal bias, conservative bias, mainstream bias, and corporate bias are all forms of media bias in the United States. They have had serious consequences in the past. Former Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean has referred to Fox News as a ‘right-wing propaganda machine and called it completely “fact free”. The news channel MSNBC, it has been claimed is for the left wing/center corporatist democrats and CNN for people with“liberal ideals”(Miller). These networks have an average audience of between 64 to 68 years old and influence the older population as compared to the younger people who are more concerned about the truth and the effect politics will have on their future, tend to watch online news networks, and ones that are more fact based, independent media organizations. The mainstream media would prefer that people never discover the established independent news organizations which report the reality instead of crafting one of their choosing as done by Brian Williams of Fox News fame. (Nelson)
Through content analysis and research, it can be seen that there is an obvious difference between the way the mainstream corporate media and alternative media sources like independent organizations present new information about politics. Why does the corporate media frame political happenings? It is due to the financial backing behind different media sources and the motives that drive them unlike Independent media which isn’t pressured by big businesses and can freely practice transparency and expose the reality. The barrage of impugnment against the news media’s political reporting has increased the mass public’s cynicism regarding journalistic objectivity (Crawford, 2005). It is crucial that further research be done to determine the strength of the relationship between media framing and its effects in politics.
- Entman, R. (1993). Framing: Toward clarification of a fractured paradigm. Journal of Communication, 43(3), 51-58
- ‘Millennials and Political News.’ Pew Research Centers Journalism Project RSS. 2015. Web. 01 Apr. 2016.
- Reese, Stephen. Gandy, Oscar. and Grant, August. Framing Public Life: Perspectives on Media and Our Understanding of the Social World Routledge Communication Series. Routledge, 2001. Print.
- Cissel, Margaret. ‘Media Framing: a comparative content analysis on mainstream and alternative news coverage of Occupy Wall Street.’ The Elon Journal of Undergraduate Research in Communications 3.1 (2012): 67-77.
- Miller, Matt. ‘Is It True That Fox News Has a Conservative Bias and CNN Has a Liberal Bias?’ – Quora. Web. 08 Apr. 2016.
- Gentzkow, Matthew and Jesse M. Shapiro. ‘Media Bias And Reputation,’ Journal of Political Economy, 2006, v114(2,Apr), 280-316
- Nelson, Aaron. ’10 News Outlets Corporate Media Doesn’t Want You to Follow.’ Web. 08 Apr. 2016.
- The Big Picture RT. “The Media’s ‘Wave of Silence” on Sen. Bernie Sanders & Why.” Online video clip. YouTube. Youtube, 1 June 2015. Web. 8 April, 2016.
- The Big Picture RT. “Big Media Has Been Waiting For Trump Since 1987.” Online video clip. YouTube. Youtube, 30 March 2016. Web. 8 April, 2016.
- Ron Paul 2012. “John Stewart on media bias and neglect over presidential candidate Ron Paul.” Online video clip. YouTube. Youtube, 20 August 2011. Web. 8 April, 2016.
- Crawford, Craig. 2005. Attack the Messenger: How Politicians Turn You Against the Media. New York: Rowman & Littlefield.