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Media framing biases and political power: Explaining slant in news of Campaign 2008

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Media framing biases and political power: Explaining slant in news of Campaign 2008

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Although many scholars dismiss allegations of bias in the mainstream US media, careful research on bias can illuminate media effects on political power and public policy. This article refines framing theory to provide a theoretical foundation for systematic studies of bias. It suggests that scholars distinguish framing from other communication by its diachronic nature and its cultural resonance. Despite journalists’ best efforts, framing often favors one side over another in political disputes. Slanted framing results from the interaction of real world developments, cultural norms, and journalistic decision rules with the sometimes proficient and other times maladroit efforts of competing elites to manage the news. A case study of 2008 presidential campaign coverage focusing on Republican Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin illustrates how slanted framing can shift over time with changes in these interactions. The findings imply that, contrary to many critics’ contentions, unbalanced news does not arise from the presumably stable personal ideologies of journalists.
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DOI: 10.1177/1464884910367587
2010 11: 389Journalism
Robert M. Entman
Campaign 2008
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Corresponding author:
Robert M. Entman, School of Media and Public Affairs, 805 21st Street NW, Suite 400, Washington, DC
20052, USA
Email: entman@gwu.edu
Media framing biases
and political power:
Explaining slant in news
of Campaign 2008
Robert M. Entman
George Washington University, USA
Abstract
Although many scholars dismiss allegations of bias in the mainstream US media, careful
research on bias can illuminate media effects on political power and public policy. This
article refines framing theory to provide a theoretical foundation for systematic studies
of bias. It suggests that scholars distinguish framing from other communication by its
diachronic nature and its cultural resonance. Despite journalists’ best efforts, framing
often favors one side over another in political disputes. Slanted framing results from the
interaction of real world developments, cultural norms, and journalistic decision rules
with the sometimes proficient and other times maladroit efforts of competing elites
to manage the news. A case study of 2008 presidential campaign coverage focusing on
Republican Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin illustrates how slanted framing can
shift over time with changes in these interactions. The findings imply that, contrary to
many critics’ contentions, unbalanced news does not arise from the presumably stable
personal ideologies of journalists.
Keywords
campaign news, framing, media bias, news slant, Sarah Palin
Among the verities of US political life is the widespread belief that the mainstream
national media promote left-of-center public policies and politicians. Early in the 2008
presidential campaign, for instance, 50 percent in a national poll said the media were help-
ing Democrat Barack Obama, and 11 percent helping Republican John McCain; just 26
percent accepted the news organizations’ own claim of neutrality and answered ‘neither’.
Ironically, this Rasmussen Poll
1
was taken right after a period during which media cover-
age of the Republican McCain–Palin ticket was far more positive than of the Democrats’
Obama–Biden, as discussed below. The perception that ‘liberal bias dominates the most
Journalism
11(4) 389–408
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390 Journalism 11(4)
influential American media
2
has consequences for the real distribution of power, yet
scholars have devoted surprisingly little systematic attention to bias (exceptions include
Covert and Washburn, 2008; Druckman and Parkin, 2005; Kahn and Kenney, 2002;
Kuklinski and Sigelman, 1992; Kuypers, 2002; Niven, 2002; influential older studies are
Hofstetter, 1976; Robinson and Sheehan, 1983). By refining a conceptualization of bias
and empirically analyzing evidence on slanted news, this article attempts to begin filling
the void. Among the questions explored are how often is the news actually slanted, what
explains any slant, does it add up to consistent ideological bias, and how do slant or bias
help to distribute political power?
To be sure, the major US media are more ideologically homogeneous than that of many
other western countries (see Hallin and Mancini, 2004; Sheafer and Wolfsfeld, 2009), so
the present analysis applies most directly to America, but I believe a careful dissection of
bias serves more generally to illuminate the media’s political influence. A refinement of
the widely employed concept of framing provides a theoretical foundation for studies
of bias. This project can build new insight into how media affect the distribution and
operations of political power and thus ultimately public policy choices and outcomes.
Liberal bias?
To illustrate the dominance in American politics of the assumption that the country’s
news media favor the left, consider this: entering the phrase ‘liberal media’ into the US
Newspaper and Wire Service database of Lexis-Nexis Academic returns 2825 items over
the three years from 1 January 2006 to 31 December 2008. Most of the items invoke the
term as a synonym for ‘the major national news media’.
3
These media, the most influen-
tial in national politics, include the New York Times, Washington Post, Time, Newsweek,
the AP and UPI wire services, National Public Radio, ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS and CNN.
The term ‘liberal media’ tends to be used interchangeably with the term ‘mainstream
media’. The nomenclature indicates how thoroughly the perception has penetrated US
political culture that the most important journalists and news organizations, while disin-
genuously (or naively) professing neutrality, produce news that consistently promotes
the left. On the other hand, a search of the same Nexis library for ‘conservative media’
yields 755 mentions, about a quarter as many as for ‘liberal media’. Beyond the disparate
totals, the adjective ‘conservative’ is usually applied to media organizations that proudly
identify themselves as right-wing beacons rather than – like the New York Times,
Washington Post and the rest – proclaiming adherence to objectivity norms.
Searching directly for liberal or conservative ‘bias’ yields an even greater chasm, with
almost eight claims of left-leaning bias for every one of rightward bias (1362:175). And
most of the items alluding to conservative bias do so in the course of denying any such
thing, whereas most invoking liberal bias fail to challenge its validity.
When it comes to the contentious political issue of media bias itself, then, in a large
sample of American newspapers and wire reports, the slant favors conservatives’ pre-
ferred framing. A typical example comes from ‘Remedying the Bias Perception’, in
which the Washington Posts ombudsman reports that hundreds canceled Post subscrip-
tions after assailing its purportedly biased coverage of the 2008 election campaign.
Deborah Howell approvingly quotes a source to the effect that there are way too many
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Entman 391
liberals on major media staffs, and that it would be ‘inconceivable’ if this doesn’t lend a
frequent liberal tinge to news decisions.
4
So we seem faced with a paradox: the major
national media undermine their own legitimacy as reliably neutral arbiters, by over-
whelmingly supporting the conventional wisdom that they covertly promote liberal posi-
tions and politicians – and in that very act seem to exhibit a pro-conservative bias. This
article attempts to provide a theory-driven basis for clarifying such confusions over bias.
Conceptualizing connections
Some clearing of the conceptual underbrush connects framing to news slant and bias and
ultimately to political power. Framing is an omnipresent process in politics and policy
analysis. It involves selecting a few aspects of a perceived reality and connecting them
together in a narrative that promotes a particular interpretation. Frames can perform up
to four functions: define problems, specify causes, convey moral assessments, and
endorse remedies (Entman, 1993, 2004). Framing works to shape and alter audience
members’ interpretations and preferences through priming (see McCombs and Ghanem,
2001; Scheufele, 2000). That is, frames introduce or enhance the availability and appar-
ent importance of certain ideas for evaluating a political object.
We can distinguish framing from other communication by its diachronic nature and its
cultural resonance. To gain current success, frames must call to mind congruent elements
of schemas that were stored in the past. Fiske and Taylor (1991: 131) define schemas as
‘cognitive structures that represent knowledge about a concept or type of stimulus,
including its attributes and the relations among attributes’. Schemas fit new perceptions
to an existing organization of knowledge. People’s prior knowledge, stored as schemas,
allows them to make sense of new information by deciding (consciously or not) how the
new material fits into their understandings and feelings about the world. On this basis
they form an interpretation and attitude regarding that new information (see Castells,
2009, chap. 3 for a summary; cf. Lakoff, 2008; Westen, 2007).
As described by Chong and Druckman (2007), framing’s influence over these senti-
ments can be characterized more precisely by employing the following formula:
Attitude = ∑v
i
w
i
, where
v
i
is the evaluation of the object on attribute i
and w
i
is the salience weight (∑w
i
= 1) associated with that attribute
An attitude summarizes the product of evaluations of the attitude object on each attri-
bute associated with it, multiplied by the weight given each attribute, with the total
weight of 1 (or 100%). At the extreme an attitude might be determined by a single attri-
bute that provides 100 percent of the considerations weighed, as for example in conflicts
where the only thing that counts is an enemy’s ethnic identity. Normally, though, for
attitude objects such as political actors, events or issues, people store and apply multiple
potential attributes.
For instance, concerning a politician, these might include moral character, experi-
ence, competence, and policy views. Framing shapes v
i
and w
i
as well as their interac-
tions, yielding more or less positive or negative sentiments toward the politician.
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392 Journalism 11(4)
Alteration of evaluations can arise from increasing the weight (w
i
) of particular attributes
and from providing new information that causes people to adjust their perceptions of
which attributes apply to the politician and to what degree. Responses to framing mes-
sages vary widely among different audience members, but this truism may have less
political relevance than often claimed, as discussed shortly.
The framing and priming literatures suggest that all external influence over ‘what
people think’ derives from telling them ‘what to think about’.
5
When the media shape
what people think about, they must logically influence what people think i.e. their
attitudes as just defined. Elites monitor public attitudes because they want people to
behave in ways that favor or passively acquiesce in elite choices. Inducing people to
think (and behave) as desired requires elites to select some things to tell them about and
others not to tell them, and embedding cues on how this little narrative coheres with their
prior attitudes and values. Since power is the ability to get others to act as one wants
(Nagel, 1975) and assuming coercion isn’t an option, exerting power to affect behavior
in a democracy requires framing – ‘telling people what to think about’in order to influ-
ence the attitudes that shape their behavior.
Before connecting framing to bias, we should distinguish the latter from slant. Much
of the critics’ invective targets what they label as bias but more appropriately might be
considered slant. Slant occurs when a news report emphasizes one side’s preferred frame
in a political conflict while ignoring or derogating another side’s. One-sided framing
emphasizes some elements and suppresses others in ways that encourage recipients to
give attention and weight to the evaluative attributes (v
i
and w
i
) that privilege the favored
side’s interpretation. This is the essence of slanted news. Indeed, slanted framing is also
the primary mechanism through which interpersonal communication leverages political
power, in conversations, speeches, and negotiations, as Riker suggests with his concept
of heresthetics (1986). Skilled politicians and other actors frame communications to
highlight and weave together those dimensions of a situation most likely to sway poten-
tial allies to become actual supporters.
Mainstream news organizations contend that by hewing to objectivity norms (see e.g.
Bennett, 2009) they ensure equivalent treatment to competing frames and prevent their
reports from slanting. However, contrary to journalists’ self-perceptions, slanted framing
is common. As suggested by the model explained here, we shouldn’t expect otherwise.
Journalistic production processes cannot guarantee continuously equal treatment of com-
peting frames when competitors’ skill differs and relevant facts change frequently.
This of course does not mean that the actor who dominates the media frame is assured
of success in controlling public opinion. Experiments and surveys measuring framing
effects (see summaries by Chong and Druckman, 2007; Entman et al., 2009) confirm that
many if not most individuals resist communications incongruent with their prior think-
ing.
6
Contrary to some scholarly interpretations, that doesn’t render framing a minor
feature of politics and policymaking. Framing effects on a small minority of citizens at
the mass or elite level could have critical implications for political power. What matters
to successful exertion of political power is whether a frame has a decisive impact on two
key audiences, not people in general: first, citizens lacking strong ideological or partisan
predispositions – in elections the swing or undecided voters whose attitudes are most
malleable; and second, political elites themselves.
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Entman 393
With respect to the mass public, a framing effect on two or three percent of the audi-
ence – one that might not reach statistical significance even in a reliable and externally
valid experiment – can decide a close election. For instance, in 2008 not widely con-
sidered a tight race Barack Obama received 52.9 percent of the vote compared with
John McCain’s 45.7 percent (minor candidates garnered the rest). Subtract a mere 3.6
points from Obama and add them to McCain and we have a tie. Such a small effect can
also determine which policy option or incumbent politician attains the key political
resource of majority approval in a survey. And framing can significantly affect elites
perceptions of current public opinion and anticipations of future public sentiment. Effects
on those who actually make policy decisions might well be more important than those on
public opinion itself. Indeed, with polls often yielding ambiguous or conflicting results,
public opinion remains highly contested and mysterious. Meanwhile, even the one indu-
bitable indicator of majority (or plurality) opinion, an election, conveys limited informa-
tion. Elections do reveal the distribution of the voting public’s preferences between the
competing candidates, and to some (unclear) degree between the parties, but inferring
any electoral mandate the public’s priorities respecting the specific policy tradeoffs
that governing elites must actually make – remains notoriously problematic (Dahl,
1990).
7
No wonder the status of public opinion on so many public policies remains sub-
ject to contention and strategic framing.
Framing biases
This brings us finally to our clarification of media bias. The two most pertinent but often-
conflated senses of the term are content bias and decision-making bias. Content bias
refers to consistently slanted framing of mediated communication that promotes the suc-
cess of a specific interest, party or ideology in competitions to control government power
(see Entman, 2007). To establish the existence of content biases, we would have to dem-
onstrate patterns of slant that regularly (and perhaps without an audience’s conscious
awareness)
8
promote support for some interests or actors who seek power and disap-
proval of their opponents. To accord with conventional (if under-theorized) usage of the
term, scholars should employ the term media bias only when research demonstrates that
slant holds over time, and pervades the most influential media outlets. Under this defini-
tion, biased content assists such entities as political parties or interest groups in consis-
tently persuading people to accept interpretations helpful to the favored actor for some
significant period. In the USA it might make sense to consider eight years, the maximum
time a president can serve, as a good benchmark for assessing whether a consistent slant
qualifies as bias. When slant does persist in this way, that biased content helps beneficia-
ries obtain what they want from government. In this sense, media bias can help distribute
political power.
The second common use of the term bias concerns decision-making: the influence of
journalists’ belief systems on the texts they produce. Critics suggest that reporters and
editors at the major media allow their personal ideologies to guide their news decisions.
Journalists themselves tend to deny such bias (unconvincingly, as revealed by polls cited
earlier). Yet every individual who thinks, every organization that processes information,
must employ short-cut decision rules. Call them heuristics rather than biases, but in any
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394 Journalism 11(4)
case they help to ‘tame the information tide’ (Graber, 1994, 2001). The media’s decision-
making biases guide information processing by individual journalists and, manifested as
tacit norms and routines, by news organizations.
The real issue is the degree to which individual ideology dominates other heuristics.
Many observers assume that individual journalists’ ideologies explain most instances of
slanted framing. And because liberalism allegedly pervades the American journalistic
elite, it follows that slant will persist across issues, politicians, and time, yielding left-
leaning bias in news. Yet this overlooks the role of external forces, especially events and
conditions in the real world and pressures from spin managers and consumers, and
neglects internal influences on journalistic choice that arise from those individual and
organizational information-processing heuristics.
9
In the USA at least, framing is nor-
mally subject to competition between the two major political parties, and it is this com-
petitive struggle to dominate media framing that provides the context for most political
discourse (see e.g. Bennett, 1990; Entman, 2004; Groeling, forthcoming 2010). Frame
contests typically match up the party that controls the White House against the opposi-
tion party, and slanted news comes into being because one of the two parties more skill-
fully exploits the media’s decision heuristics, as both confront the partially uncontrollable
developments out in the real world. That is, the degree to which a single news item favors
one side over another reflects the perceived facts for the real world does make some
difference to, without determining, constructions of reality
10
– as they interact with each
side’s skill at frame promotion and suppression given the journalistic production heuris-
tics. Skillful framing entails directing journalists’ perceptions and thus their construc-
tions of those perceived real-world facts, which are usually subject to multiple
interpretations.
The standard journalistic heuristics applied by American newsworkers help to explain
why slanted news arises so often in mainstream outlets dedicated to neutral, fair, bal-
anced or objective coverage. Two primary sets of decision-making biases, neither con-
nected to ideology, shape journalists’ responses to elites’ guidance.
11
The first arises from
the media’s catering to audiences as consumers in the marketplace. Economic competi-
tion institutionalizes certain norms and preferences in mainstream journalism’s process-
ing of news (cf. Bennett, 2009; Hamilton, 2004). The need to attract and maintain mass
audiences drives television especially but print as well to simplified and dramatized
expositions of many events, and encourages reporters and editors to play up stories that
offer stereotyped novelty – new instances of culturally resonant symbols. These proper-
ties afford audiences the pleasures of recognition and sense of understanding. They help
to keep audiences coming back for more, or at least so journalists seem to believe.
The second major category consists of heuristics rooted in attempts to serve audiences
as citizens: watchdog biases. These tacitly guide journalists toward favoring politicians
and candidates (and groups or policy proposals) that they perceive as popular and power-
ful (see Entman, 1989). Although objectivity canons inhibit journalists from injecting
their policy preferences into political news, reporters and editors do evaluate power-
holders for popularity and effectiveness in wielding power. Permission to use non-parti-
san and non-ideological evaluation criteria arises from normative self-images and
socialization in the profession. Just about everyone agrees it is better for democracy if a
public official is popular rather than reviled, and capable rather than incompetent. When
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Entman 395
the impression spreads among Washington insiders, including journalists, that a presi-
dent or candidate is popular with the public or is gaining momentum, they are less
inclined to look for or emphasize negative news. When journalists perceive that the
power-holder is unpopular or slipping, they are more inclined to accentuate the negative.
The parallel points hold for discernment of leaders’ effectiveness in using power.
Compounding the effect of these decision-making heuristics is American journalists’
practice of relying on competing elite sources. When competitive elites outside and espe-
cially inside an actor’s party
12
sense weakness, it emboldens them to attack the enfeebled
actor. This alters the distribution of opinion readily available on the reporter’s network of
sources and potentially sets off a downward spiral whereby negative slant feeds percep-
tions of weakness and unpopularity, fomenting further assaults from elites.
Reflecting the elite discourse in this way enables journalists to feel they are fulfilling
their watchdog roles while maintaining ideological and partisan neutrality. Ironically
though, these heuristics, intended to preserve objectivity, introduce a skew in reporting
at the mainstream outlets: the tendency to treat political process critically but policy
substance passively. That is, reporters pass critical judgment on politicians for failings in
playing the political game
13
shortcomings indicated for instance by criticisms from
other powerful players – but actively assist those who appear to play the game well. But
regardless of their subjects’ political proficiency, journalists tend to steer away from
policy substance. That means they don’t place a high priority on confirming the truth of
claims that define substantive policy problems and promote remedies. This is not to say
substantive truth is ignored, but that it tends to be examined in page 4 news analyses or
op-ed columns rather than the most prominent reports. A logical hypothesis flowing from
this relative disinclination to dissect policy-related assertions would be a structural mobi-
lization of bias favoring the side offering the simplest, most symbolically resonant prob-
lem diagnosis and remedy. Under varying circumstances that side might be the liberal or
the conservative.
14
Although perceptions of the real world aren’t infinitely malleable, in most cases
where the parties disagree, news slant will not simply reflect consensual facts. And where
the parties do agree, or for strategic reasons one remains silent, the news is even more
likely to slant in favor of a single interpretation of any facts – the apparent elite consen-
sus just as suggested by Bennett’s indexing model with respect to foreign news (Bennett
et al., 2007; cf. Hallin, 1986, on the difference between the sphere of consensus and
sphere of legitimate controversy). This is not necessarily a bad thing. Journalists’ skit-
tishness about admitting slant notwithstanding, in some cases society might benefit from
news say on climate change that solidly endorses one interpretation rather than
bestowing equal treatment on a competitor rooted in asserted facts that hardly any knowl-
edgeable source accepts (cf. Boykoff, 2008).
15
When neither party is pushing a policy proposal, a framing vacuum ensues, and jour-
nalists’ personal views may take on more importance. For instance, neither US party’s
leaders actively seek federal laws to ban abortion or to outlaw homosexual behavior. In
these cases the pro-choice and pro-gay rights sentiments of socially liberal US journalists
might influence their coverage of events or groups that raise the issues. On the other
hand, research finds news often slants in directions presumably inimical to liberal-leaning
journalists. Examples include coverage of scandals (Entman, forthcoming), military
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396 Journalism 11(4)
interventions (Bennett et al., 2007; Entman, 2004), and race (Kang, 2005). Research on
presidential elections, however, tends to find partisan balance in the national media
(D’Alessio and Allan, 2000), and that brings us to the case at hand.
Contrary to this accepted finding that slanted framing is rare when it comes to presi-
dential campaigns, the perspective here suggests that episodes of slanted campaign news
are common over the short term. Communication skill, perceived facts, and decision-
making biases are more likely to interact to promote one side’s frame than they are to
yield symmetrical framing (cf. Kuklinski and Sigelman, 1992).
16
Candidate evaluations in Campaign 2008: slant, skill and
decision biases
Presidential elections offer a useful testing ground for the development of insights into
framing, bias, and media power. The exploratory case study presented here covers news
of the 2008 Democratic and Republican conventions and their immediate aftermath, on
ABC World News and NBC Nightly News, along with the remainder of the presidential
campaign until Election Day for ABC. These two networks regular 22-minute evening
newscasts (30-minute including commercials) were chosen randomly from ABC, CBS
and NBC, the three broadcast outlets that still garner the largest news audiences in the
United States, despite the substantial decline in their reach.
17
In addition, given the
public’s limited interest in politics (Graber, 2001), it seems reasonable to treat evening
news transcripts as a kind of simplified digest of those news frames most likely to pen-
etrate the awareness of ordinary citizens. Still, the limited data used here can only offer
a suggestive illustration of the way slant may arise and help to distribute power.
Although in retrospect Obamas victory might seem inevitable, it is well to remember
that going into September, polls showed either ticket could have won the election, each
exchanging the lead position repeatedly while hovering near the margin of error for
much of the summer. News at the start of the fall campaign seems to have influenced
swing voters to move toward the GOP,
18
although later slant likely pulled many back to
the Democrats.
The analysis coded evaluative assertions about individual nominees or the party ticket
on three dimensions: character and qualifications; campaign skill and political standing;
and policy views.
19
These dimensions account for almost all evaluative assertions,
20
and
they constitute critical information for independent and swing voters, those most suscep-
tible to the influence of slanted framing because their choices are not entirely controlled
by intense partisan attachments (on persuadable voters see Hillygus and Shields, 2009).
The source for each assertion was coded as Democratic, Republican, or journalist. The
journalist code was applied when an assertion was either unattributed or else cited a
source, chosen at journalists’ discretion, unlabeled as to partisan affiliation.
21
Usually if
these assertions were not simply uttered by journalists without attribution, they came
from poll results or soundbites by ordinary citizens. Each evaluation therefore received
four codes: positive or negative, Republican or Democrat as the object of the evaluation,
Republican, Democrat, or Journalist as the source of the evaluation, and character/quali-
fications, political skill and horserace status, or policy as the evaluative dimension. In
addition, because of the extraordinary attention given the Republican Vice Presidential
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Entman 397
nominee, assertions were coded for whether they referred either to the presidential can-
didate or the party ticket as a whole, or only to the Vice Presidential nominee.
Table 1 reveals significant differences between the two networks’ treatment of
Democrats and Republicans during the three-week period that began the day before the
Democrats’ National Convention and ended the week after the Republicans’ (23 August
to 13 September). The Democrats held their convention the first week and the Republicans
the next. Totals in the fourth row reveal that, among the 90 paragraphs on ABC’s World
News containing evaluations of the Democratic slate, about three in four (76%) offered
negative assessments. For Republicans, in 144 paragraphs, three out of five evaluations
(62.5%) were positive. On ABC the GOP’s advantage in this perspective was very large.
For NBC the disparity is similar if less stark: 58 percent of evaluative assertions on
Democrats are negative, and 57 percent of those about Republicans are positive.
Neither network conveyed balanced evaluations of the party tickets. Differential party
skill offers one explanation: Republicans offered a superior communicative performance.
The skilled elite communicator constructs a story line from the thrumming, disorganized
mass of perceived facts by choosing and linking together those most compatible with
journalists’ decision heuristics and with the audience’s schemas. Such an adroit rhe-
torical set-up permits the chosen frame to spread readily from news producers to news
texts and on to audience thinking, though of course nothing guarantees total success in
dominating the coverage.
The initial media coverage of Republican Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin illus-
trates how selective emphasis on some (debatable) facts can fashion a frame compelling
enough to discourage journalists and audiences from applying potentially negative crite-
ria of evaluation to a new attitude object. Table 1 also breaks out coverage focusing only
on Palin and Democratic nominee Joseph Biden. For three weeks ABC and NBC pro-
vided highly positive coverage for the Alaska governor and barely any notice to Biden.
Table 1. Early coverage on ABC and NBC favored Republicans over Democrats
Democrats Republicans
Positive Negative Total Positive Negative Total
ABC World News
President or entire ticket 20 68 88 27 32 59
Sarah Palin 63 22 85
Joseph Biden 2 0 2
ABC Total 22
24.5%
68
75.5%
90
100%
90
62.5%
54
37.5%
144
100%
NBC Nightly News
President or entire ticket 21 31
52 16 30 46
Sarah Palin 66 32 98
Joseph Biden 2 1 3
NBC Total 23
42%
32
58%
55
100%
82
57%
62
43%
144
100%
Note: Cells contain numbers and percentages of the indicated assertions. Source: author’s content analysis
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398 Journalism 11(4)
Evocative terms supplied in concert by Republican elites, such as ‘hockey mom’, ‘hunter
and ‘maverick’ appeared again and again in ostensibly neutral news reports about Palin.
For example, 19 of the 20 television and cable news reports on the day McCain announced
his Vice Presidential selection (29 August) mentioned ‘hockey mom’.
22
Palin was the
perfect candidate to fulfill the stereotypical novelty heuristic. She hearkened to the cul-
tural archetype of the plucky, self-reliant pioneer woman who could raise a passel of kids
– and handle a rifle to protect them while her man was out on the range. Meanwhile the
Democrats neither marketed Biden with catchy slogans, nor unified around an attack line
against Palin. And as the safe, predictable and for Washington journalists all too familiar
choice, Biden offered no novelty at all.
Further working against the Democrats during this early period, their popularity was
stagnant or slipping, despite many facts that should have helped them trounce the
Republicans in 2008 (e.g. two costly wars and an economy in recession). And the Obama
campaign’s effectiveness in wielding power was belied by the open conflict during the
convention between Hillary Clinton and Obama supporters disunity that journalists seek-
ing drama pounced on, perhaps as a way of attracting audiences to a convention lacking
any real suspense. At the same time, the public discord served as an indicator of the nomi-
nees lack of power over party elites, setting the power heuristic against the Democrats.
Meanwhile, Republicans’ resolutely monolithic party line during the conventions, a
time of high media attention and public focus, intuitively or consciously exploited the
biases favoring leaders possessing apparent popularity and power. A finer-grained look
at the source of evaluations supports this point, as shown in Table 2. If we add up all the
positive evaluations of the Democratic nominees sourced to Democrats themselves and
subtract the negative ones, we obtain a net negative: −8. Doing the same for the
Republicans yields a positive net of +69. Note that actual disunity was arguably no
greater among Democrats than Republicans. Many of the core GOP activists who popu-
lated the convention had long distrusted McCain and supported him with great reluc-
tance (see e.g. Leahy and Eilperin, 2008). What mattered was less the facts of the
situation than the Democrats’ failure to render a disciplined communicative performance
compared to Republicans, along with the extraordinary and extraordinarily positive
attention granted the telegenic and suitably novel Palin. As shown in Table 1, Palin
accounted for fully 59 percent of all evaluations of the Republican ticket and 70 percent
of all positive assertions.
The data in both tables suggest the impact on journalists when a party bungles its
unity rituals during convention week. Processing information through their decision heu-
ristics, journalists apparently responded to the Democrats’ self-flagellation by conveying
either unattributed or cited to non-partisan sources many more negative judgments on
the Democrats than on the Republicans. The net scores of evaluations sourced to journal-
ists are −13 for Democrats, +39 for Republicans.
No evidence here of liberal bias. Instead the data suggest the imprint of skill interact-
ing with media heuristics, along with the pliability of events and facts on the ground, in
this case the wild-card introduction into national political life of the hitherto unknown
and surprisingly charismatic Sarah Palin. Two real world developments soon conspired
to change all that: the economic crisis, and Palin’s poor performance in nationally tele-
vised interviews, both hitting in mid-September.
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Entman 399
Table 3 displays tabulations of the content analysis for the first period on ABC and
NBC along with data limited to ABC for 14 September to 3 November 2008. The table
separates coverage focused on Sarah Palin from that concerning the Republican ticket or
McCain and shows the extraordinary degree to which she dominated the news for the
initial phase. She accounts for most of the positive slant Republicans enjoyed then. The
later period shows the sharp reversal. The Democrats enjoyed 143 positive evaluations
after 14 September, compared to 38 for the Republicans. But most of the slant is trace-
able to the horserace dimension. About two-thirds of both parties’ positive paragraphs
concerned the state of their campaigns. The difference is in absolute numbers. The
McCain camp garnered just 24 accolades on its campaign standing compared to 91 for
Obama–Biden. On the negative side of the ledger, 96 of the Republicans’ 162 disapprov-
ing paragraphs (59%) involve the horserace. Meanwhile, the Democrats attracted only
13 negative evaluations on its campaign and 82 negatives in total. Netting out the figures
we get a positive slant for the Democrats of 63.6 percent, a negative one for the
Republicans of −81 percent.
Unless one assumes the media restrained or forgot their liberal bias for the initial
campaign phase then suddenly rediscovered it, the explanation for the radical shift in
slant must lie in the interactions of the other decision biases with skill and real-world
events. It does not seem much of a stretch to identify the onset on 15 September of the
gravest financial crisis to hit the USA since the Great Depression as a key event. This
unhappy coincidence for McCain understandably dominated the news. Add to this the
evaluation and power biases, interacting with a marked divergence in the candidates’
media skill, and the immense reversal in slant makes sense.
Some might argue that the bad economic news, combined with Sarah Palin’s gaffes,
gave journalists license to unleash their liberal proclivities to boost Obama and pound
McCain, but evidence from earlier in the campaign doesn’t provide much support.
Table 2. Democrats and Republicans slanted news for or against themselves
Positive Negative Total Net
Democratic source on Democrats
26
42%
36
58%
62
100%
−10
−16%
Democratic source on Biden 2
100%
0
0%
2
100%
+2
100%
Democratic total
28
44%
36
56%
64
100%
−8
−12%
Republican source on Republicans
18
90%
2
10%
20
100%
+16
+80%
Republican source on Palin 57
93%
4
7%
61
100%
+53
+86%
Republican total
75
93%
6
7%
81
100%
+69
+86%
Note: Cells contain numbers and percentages of the indicated assertions.
Source: author’s content analysis
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400 Journalism 11(4)
Although a study by the Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism
23
found what it con-
sidered a negative tilt in McCain’s ‘character coverage during 1 January to 9 March
2008, almost all of this was traceable to media discussions of charges that he wasn’t a
true conservative. This coverage might have harmed his standing in the Republican pri-
mary electorate but for the larger public, it was not necessarily negative. McCain’s rela-
tive moderation and willingness to work across party lines was key to his appeal (Pew
found praise for that trait accounted for 14% of all character assertions). Positive charac-
ter assertions on other dimensions totaled 30 percent. In fact, according to Pew polls, as
of April, McCain’s character was assessed more favorably than Obama’s or Hillary
Clinton’s. Fully 65 percent rated McCain as honest and only 26 percent as phony (com-
pared with 61% and 42% rating Obama and Clinton honest and 32% and 50% as phony).
24
And as noted earlier, McCain ran even with or ahead of Obama in trial heat matchups for
much of the year until mid-September, data that further belie the notion of liberal bias
producing an effective slant against McCain.
25
Although the content data presented here are quite limited, we do have other findings
with which to compare them. The Pew (2008) report on campaign news tone covers the
week of 8 September the third week of the present study through to 16 October. Pew’s
data are based on a broad cross-section of some 48 US media outlets, print and elec-
tronic. They rely on a summary measure of tone rather than the more precise and multi-
dimensional measures employed here. And they miss the crucial period of the conventions
when Palin stole the show. Still, the parallels are worth noting and for these purposes the
Pew study’s ‘tone’ will be equated with ‘slant’.
During the first week of its study, Pew found a favorable slant on Palin, replicating the
findings from the third week of the present study. That advantage then changed and
Table 3. Content analysis shows sharp reversal in slant on ABC and NBC
Time period and
outlet
Positive
char/qual
Positive
horserace
Positive
policy
Negative
char/qual
Negative
horserace
Negative
policy
Democrats
Weeks 1–3 ABC
6 10 4 26 37 5
Weeks 1–3 NBC 4 11 6 5 21 5
Weeks 4–end ABC 18 91 34 47 13 32
Republicans including Palin
Weeks 1–3 ABC 38 35 17 19 22 20
Weeks 1–3 NBC 11 34 20 19
8 23
Weeks 4–end ABC 12 24
2 29 96 37
Republicans without Palin
Weeks 1–3 ABC 8 13 6 7 10 15
Weeks 1–3 NBC
2 0 8 5 0 15
Weeks 4–end ABC
9 15 0 20 83 37
Only Palin
Weeks 1–3 ABC 30 22 11 12 12 5
Weeks 1–3 NBC 9 34 12 14 8 8
Weeks 4–end ABC 3 9 2 9 13 0
Note: Cells contain numbers of the indicated assertions
Source: content analysis by the author
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Entman 401
Palin’s fortunes fluctuated week to week. In mid-September, McCain blundered in react-
ing to the bad economic news, generating criticism by both parties. Unfortunately for
him, around the same time, Palin began appearing in long TV interviews that highlighted
her limitations. The Republican campaign never recovered as its ticket fell behind in the
polls, and Pew’s tone measures on McCain turned consistently negative, just as did the
slant data in Table 3.
Framing in politics as a diachronic process
Framing research suffers from its tendency to ignore the variable of time (Entman et al.,
2009). As already suggested, one manifestation of the problem is that researchers tend to
summarize content rather than gauging shifts and variations in framing over time that
might be politically decisive. Disaggregating the 2008 campaign data over time reveals
highly slanted news, though no consistent partisan bias. A second common flaw in
research is neglect of the diverse levels and pathways on which framing operates. Most
studies focus only on the connection between media texts and individuals. This emphasis
misses the complex, multiple layers of real political communication and power. Figure 1
uses the Palin example to tentatively illustrate a multidimensional conceptualization of
framing as a tool for exercising power in politics.
Hierarchical Cascading Network Activation: First Stage
Time 0: Palin in obscurity
Frames
Frames
Frames
Level 1:
Culture
Level 2 & 3:
Elites and Media
Level 4: Communications
Level 5: Public Opinion
Time 1: Palin nominated & GOP
skillfully frames
Time 2: Opposition faming
absent, slant positive
Time 3: GOP feedback initially positive, reflected
in positive polls, crowds, blogs
Culture
Schemas in minds of
elites and publics
Frames in literature,
film, news, education
Communicator Networks
Elites’ strategic frames
Media’s non-strategic frames
Public Opinion Indicators
Non-strategic communication
Polls, votes
Strategic framing
Social movements, blogs
Communication Texts
News
Infotainment
Blogs/Websites
F2F communication
Figure 1. Cascading network activation and uncontested framing in the positive slant on Palin
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402 Journalism 11(4)
The figure illustrates an application of the cascading network activation model
(Entman, 2004) to the framing of the early fall campaign. It shows the time dimension
and specifies the five levels at which frames develop and spread, all of them necessary to
a more fully specified model of framing, slant, bias and power in political communica-
tion. The ‘Culture’ box at Level 1, Time 0, denotes the dominant set of schemas in the
political culture. These constrain the cognitions and emotions of most members of a
society and present a menu of framing options and cautions to political actors seeking
power. Then at Time 1, an event happens here, a previously obscure governor is named
to the Republican ticket and at Time 2, on Level 2, strategic communication ensues.
Attempting to frame Palin in ways that promote their power,
26
Republicans select fram-
ing words and images from the (Time 0) stock of culturally resonant symbols. They
brand Palin as a maverick hockey mom, associating her with myths of the tough but still-
feminine frontierswoman, a familiar archetype from many movie westerns. The por-
trayal resonates with journalists who appear to assume (quite reasonably) it will play
favorably with target audiences, particularly undecided women voters.
Meanwhile the Democrats, seemingly flummoxed by the surprise choice of Palin and
fearful that attacking her would alienate those unsure women (as well as wavering
Clinton supporters), hold their fire. During the week following her selection, ABC World
News quotes only two Democratic criticisms of Palin, for instance. This is why the
Communicator box is marked as occupying both Level 2 (strategic framing by elites) and
3 (non-strategic framing by journalists presumably not seeking to sway the election):
partisan inputs entering the national media’s processing and framing of information are
relatively homogeneous. That makes for slanted news at Level 4, the networks of words
and images occupying media texts. By Time 3, feedback emerges from the public (Level
5), filtering up the hierarchy, in the form of favorable polls (themselves a frame, not a
mirror, of public opinion), blog comments, and other indicators responding to the largely
positive frames suffusing early news texts. For instance, trial heat polls show McCain
moving ahead of Obama around 7 September, after trailing him since 28 August.
Note that in separating out these time segments, the model does not presume a strict
linear march from one to the next; the periods overlap, merging into each other, and some
things happen nearly simultaneously. For analytical purposes, however, making these
distinctions clarifies the framing process. As Figure 2 shows, at Time 4, about four weeks
into the campaign, new events occur: McCain flubs the economic meltdown opportunity,
Palin commits multiple gaffes on national television, and a few media organizations inde-
pendently unearth new information about her record in Alaska that disrupts the previously
smooth-flowing stream of favorable publicity. Around Time 4, then, Democrats finally
feel safer to begin attacking Palin, supporting a counter-frame that focuses on her less
appealing traits. Rather than serving as virtual conduits for the Palin packaged by the
Republicans, the media now have competing sources of framing material. This differenti-
ates Levels 2 and 3 and, pretty soon, what had earlier been a virtuous circle of positive
feedback bolstering support for Palin becomes a vicious circle. The polls begin showing
Obama back in the lead around 23 September. Blog postings and other data on public
reaction (Level 5) mingle with journalists’ inside-the-beltway networks of colleagues and
political actors (including some Republicans in unguarded moments) who increasingly
declare the Alaska governor a liability for the ticket. Fed by the medias popularity and
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Entman 403
power biases, slant on Palin shifts toward the negative (see bottom section of Table 3).
Meanwhile, McCain’s shaky performance after suspending his campaign so he could lead
government efforts to save the economy kindles journalistic doubts about his adroitness
at wielding power; all of this contributes to more negative framing of McCain himself.
This rough outline of the process shows how framed communications, some chosen
strategically by partisan elites, others formed in accordance with unmindful decision
rules (by most citizens and national journalists), stretch over time and operate at multiple
levels. To take one corollary, scholarly focus on the impact of framing at Level 4 (the
media text) on individual audience members’ responses (Level 5) neglects the impor-
tance of the feedback loop that communicates the selectively framed, aggregated impres-
sions of public opinion to which politicians and journalists actually respond. Since elites’
interpretations of public opinion bear little necessary relationship to the sum total of
individuals’ actual attitudes, research on framing effects should extend to the ways elites
and media shape and respond to framing of public opinion. Over time, elites’ strategi-
cally framed, competitive responses to perceived and anticipated public opinion can, in
concert with enterprising journalism, the media’s decision biases, and uncontrolled,
unexpected perceived facts (e.g. Palin’s botching of TV interviews after her early star-
dom on the more controlled convention stage) transform the frames reaching the public.
This sets off further alterations in public opinion, both apparent and real.
Hierarchical Cascading Network Activation after
4 Weeks
Strategic Communicators
Elite Team A (GOP)
Strategic Communicators
Elite Team B (DEMS)
Media Networks
NYT, WP, ABC, Time
McClatchy, LAT, Globe
Communication Texts
News
Infotainment
Blogs/Websites
F2F communication
Public opinion Indicators
Non strategic framing
Polls, votes
Strategic framing
Social movements, blogs
T4: Palin violates cultural expectations: Democrats & media contest GOP frame
T5: Feedback mixed, slant shifts
Level 2
Level 3
Level 4
Level 5
Figure 2. Framing becomes contested and slant on Palin and Republicans goes negative
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404 Journalism 11(4)
Conclusion
This model is a first step toward empirically confirmed theory. In the interest of concep-
tual refinement, it stretches the limited scope of the data displayed here (although other
studies in progress further support the model: Entman and Jones, 2009; Matthews and
Entman, 2009). At the minimum the article reveals the substantial lacunae that remain in
the study of media framing, bias, and political power. It should illuminate flaws in the
widespread conviction that the liberal bias of the mainstream American media consis-
tently bolsters the power of the left. If in 2008 the slant ultimately came to favor Obama,
this was by no means preordained, as the fall campaign’s early weeks showed. To under-
stand this and other political manifestations of framing, scholars should set about pro-
ducing more systematic conceptualizations and measurements that capture the larger
dimensions of the media’s behavior and effects on power.
Acknowledgements
An earlier version of this paper was presented at ‘Studying Reality by Analysing News: An Expert
Level Symposium’, City University of London, 31 March 2009. The author thanks Howard
Tumber, Paul Statham, James Curran and the other participants in the Symposium, as well as Clay
Steinman and Andrew Rojecki for helpful comments, and Abby Jones for research assistance.
Notes
1 Rasmussen does daily national political tracking polls in the USA. See http://www.rasmus-
senreports.com/public_content/politics/obama_administration/daily_presidential_tracking_
poll
2 Although there is no definitive roster, most observers would probably include the AP and UPI
wire services; news programs of ABC, CBS and NBC and CNN; New York Times and
Washington Post; Time and Newsweek; and PBS and National Public Radio. Some magazines,
independent websites and bloggers occasionally influence public discourse but operate under
different commercial pressures and professional norms and would not fit into this analysis
most do not aim for ‘objectivity’; in any case, I posit (Entman, forthcoming) that they enjoy
impact only when those listed above choose to publicize their reports.
3 The data include letters to the editor and editorials.
4 Deborah Howell, ‘Remedying the Bias Perception’, Washington Post, 16 November 2008,
p. B06.
5 Here I allude to Cohen’s (1963: 13) dictum that claims media exert little sway over ‘what people
think’ yet arestunningly successful’ in telling them ‘what to think about’. The claim in the text
does not assert that 100 percent of the variance in public opinion is determined by media or any
other external communication. Of course individuals vary in susceptibility to communications
and bring their own prior views and personalities to any message. The claim is merely that if
media are stunningly successful in telling people what to think about they must be influencing
their perceptions and components of attitudes including evaluative criteria and their weights.
6 Some studies, particularly those in the tradition of Kahneman and Tversky (1984), probing fram-
ing of equivalent options in different words, do reveal strikingly large effects on experimental
subjects. On the other hand, as Chong and Druckman (2007) suggest, framing in most political
situations does not closely resemble the experimental set-up.
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Entman 405
7 See Riker, 1986, for a summary of Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem, which mathematically
demonstrates the indeterminacy of public opinion in most real world conditions and for
an elegant argument that framing offers the way to assemble winning coalitions despite this
uncertainty.
8 For examples see Kang, 2005, on racial attitudes and Westen, 2007, on voting.
9 Plenty of research confirms that journalists whose work circulates nationally in the USA are,
on average, moderately liberal in orientation (e.g. Pew, 2004). But few are zealous ideologues
and even if they were, their own views would contend with other decision biases, conflicting
pressures from competing frame advocates, and real world developments and with editors
trained to weed out overt favoritism (but cf. Patterson and Donsbach, 1996).
10 This discussion assumes ‘reality’ is problematic and contested, but that certain empirical
truths are discoverable, one of them being that the mainstream national media in the USA do
not consistently favor or distribute power to the left.
11 Fico et al. 2008 subsume what I call evaluation and market biases into the concept ‘structural
biases’, which they distinguish from ‘partisan biases’. However, contrary to the evidence and
analysis here, they argue that partisan (in my terms, ideological) biases significantly influence
election coverage. The measures on which they base this conclusion differ from those employed
here, and the study does not lay out a systematic theoretical foundation for the measurements.
12 See Entman, 1989, and Groeling, forthcoming 2010, on the special importance of own-party
criticism to media coverage of presidents.
13 Cf. Cappella and Jamieson, 1997, on the impact of the ‘game schema’ and dominance of the
‘horserace’ over substance in shaping journalists’ judgments and reporting of politicians.
14 Entman and Jones, 2009, examines how Democrats benefited from the decision biases in the
debate over George W. Bush’s Social Security reform proposal in 2005; Matthews and
Entman, 2009, shows how Republicans benefited from them in the debate over extending the
State Children’s Health Insurance Program in 2007.
15 Experts sometimes get things wrong, of course. Witness the failure of most economists to pre-
dict the severity of the economic crisis that commenced in 2008. There is no guarantee of truth
winning the day and to some extent citizens will always be vulnerable to misapprehensions no
matter how clever and careful journalists might be.
16 Policy discourse in the media reflects the relative narrowness of America’s elite political
culture (cf. Sheafer and Wolfsfeld, 2009). Among other things this means policy smacking of
socialism, radical income leveling, or isolationism rarely receives the imprimatur of support
by presidents and other leaders. As a result, some might argue, there is a media bias that fore-
shortens the left end of the ideological spectrum and places the center of American politics
well to the right of most other wealthy industrialized countries. In this sense it might be said
that media reinforce, while also reflecting, a relatively conservative US political culture.
17 According to the Newspaper Association of America, the daily average audience for all news-
paper websites was under 9 million in 2008; that same year, daily audiences for the evening
newscasts on ABC, CBS and NBC exceeded 20 million households: http://www.naa.org/press-
center/searchpressreleases/2008/newspaper-web-sites-attract-record-audiences-in-first-
quarter.aspx; http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/04/business/media/04ratings.html?_r=1&scp=
2&sq=evening%20news%20ratings&st=cse&oref=slogin. The highest circulation newspa-
pers, USA Today and the Wall Street Journal, had about 2 million readers each (http://www.
infoplease.com/ipea/A0004420.html).
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406 Journalism 11(4)
18 Republican party nickname in the USA, Grand Old Party.
19 For research on the varying impacts of perceived candidate traits and policy preferences see
Gilens et al., 2007; on the effect of perceived horserace standing on voting behavior, Irwin
and Van Holsteyn, 2008.
20 Policy assertions tended to be less explicitly evaluative. Instead, candidates themselves (or sup-
porters) were usually shown endorsing a candidate’s policy. Since statements of policy views
either explicitly convey or strongly imply praise of the candidate for having such a view, such
statements were coded as positive evaluations. Where a candidates policy position was
attacked, it was coded as a negative evaluation.
21 Network news transcripts stored in Nexis were searched for ‘Obama or Biden or McCain or
Palin’. The content analysis was carried out by the author and a research assistant, Ji-Hyuen
Kwon. Reliability in coding averaged 0.86 (Scott’s Pi) across all items. Agreement on whether
an assertion was supportive or negative reached nearly 1.00; disagreement was highest in
assessing which of the three specific dimensions of the evaluation was being invoked. Details
on the coding protocol are available from the author.
22 ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, CNN, and PBS NewsHour.
23 Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism, ‘Character and the primaries of 2008’, 29 May
2008. Note that the coding scheme in the present study would probably classify many of the
items categorized as ‘character by Pew as ‘policy’ assertions.
24 See Pew Center for People and the Press, ‘Obama’s Image Slips, His Lead Over Clinton
Disappears’, 1 May 2008.
25 See the data collected at http://www.electoral-vote.com/evp2009/Info/data.html
26 In many cases the event is unplanned and uncontrolled, and actors must react afterwards to
protect their interests by devising and promulgating their own frame for it. This is why the
model distinguishes Time 1 and Time 2. When rolling out a new candidate or policy proposal,
as in this instance, the political actor controls timing and initial framing, making T1 and T2
essentially simultaneous.
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Biographical notes
Robert M. Entman is J.B. and Maurice C. Shapiro Professor of Media and Public Affairs and Professor
of International Affairs at The George Washington University. He is author of Projections of Power:
Framing News, Public Opinion, and U.S. Foreign Policy (University of Chicago Press, 2004) and
other books.
at Boise State University on December 13, 2011jou.sagepub.comDownloaded from
... As a result, media frames are usually in favour of political elites (Carragee and Roefs, 2004and Entman, 1993. Entman (2010) suggests that elites usually control public attitudes, as they want people to favour or contest their elite choices. They usually shape and influence public behaviour through telling them 'what to think about'. ...
Thesis
This thesis explores the spatialities, multiplicities and temporalities of protest events, using the 2013 Gezi Park resistance as a case study. The protest started by rescuing a few trees from being cut down. It turned into a national uprising. The thesis sets out to understand the protests, through careful examination of the key protagonists, including the conservative Justice and Development Party (AKP) and Gezi activists, as well as the economic, cultural, sociological, and political changes that have shaped the modern secular Turkish state. Given that protests create their own spatialities, multiplicities and temporalities, Gezi protests have made contesting identities visible over the space. Interviews, participant observation and content analysis of media are used to argue that existing explanations of the Gezi protest are inadequate, because they are either mono-causal or too presentist. In this sense, as distinctive contribution to the literature, this thesis provides a holistic approach to the Gezi protests by examining the event from its own spatialities, multiplicities and temporalities. It concludes that there was not one overarching cause, but rather multiple processes including neoliberalism, secularism, postsecularism and democracy, with different histories and geographies, must be taken into account if we are to understand the Gezi resistance. Ultimately, this thesis argues that more nuanced accounts of protest politics are needed.
... The political orientation of the media influences the content selection and the type of coverage of a particular issue. Previous studies examined and explained notable differences between the conservative and liberal-leaning media in reporting numerous social issues, including climate change (Dotson et al., 2012), vaccinations (Baum, 2011), refugees (Kenix and Jarvandi, 2019), racial attitudes (Engelhardt, 2021) and political campaign (Entman, 2010). Likewise, news media with different political orientations have articulated ageism differently (Marier and Revelli, 2017). ...
Article
Full-text available
Older adults have been statistically proved to be at a higher risk of getting severely infected by the coronavirus COVID-19, evoking sweeping narratives of compassionate ageism surrounding them in different discourses. By analysing the media content, scholars from different areas have alerted us about the amplified ageism aroused by the pandemic crisis. However, we are still short of empirical evidence to learn how ageism is constructed in diverse sociocultural contexts in the wake of this global pandemic crisis. This study provides the case of Hong Kong to reflect on how ageism, as a set of social inequalities, is constructed. By examining 814 articles collected from the three most popular newspapers with different political orientations in Hong Kong, this study uses quantitative and qualitative content analysis to examine how older people have been generally represented. Then it further compares how these representations have been influenced by the media's liberal or conservative preferences. Third, it examines the relationship between the political orientation of newspapers and how different forms of ageism are constructed. The findings indicate that despite the liberal or conservative inclination of the three newspapers, they portray the older population as frail, dependent and deprived not only at the biomedical level but in all aspects of life. This study also reveals that the newspapers with a populist inclination in both camps have shown more hostile attitudes in representing compassionate ageism. In contrast, liberal and conservative-leaning media affirmed the government's dominant role in taking full responsibility for caring for the older population. The findings indicate that the polarised ageism frame cannot fully explain the underpinnings of ageism and implied policy processing in different contexts.
... The frame is, therefore, determined by the culture (national, organisational, professional) in which it is developed since it can be described as the construction of a narrative around an issue. In this Environmental diplomacy sense, Entman (2010) associates framing with the distribution of power, arguing that it has implications in political and democratic terms, particularly in the definition of who gets what, when and how. After all, democracy requires frames that indicate what to think and how to think to influence the attitudes and behaviours of individuals. ...
Article
Purpose The concept of environmental diplomacy appears associated with events (conventions) promoted between states and transnational organisations to discuss aspects related to regulating the use of natural resources and regulating pollution. In this study, the authors intend to highlight the contribution brought to environmental diplomacy by leading television figure David Attenborough and his focus on the destruction of biodiversity by humans (the problem). It is intended to analyse the frames of his public interventions, comparing them with the prevailing frames in the UNFCCC policies. Design/methodology/approach A predominantly inductive method of qualitative and interpretative nature is used. In epistemological terms, the framing analysis stems from a social constructivist perspective. A theoretical model for frame analysis was defined by combining the frameworks proposed by Entman (1993) and Semetko and Valkenburg (2000) and considering previous studies (Anholt, 2015; Seelig, 2019). Analysis scrutinised a two-fold corpus comprising articles regarding actions and statements by David Attenborough published in The Guardian between 2018 and 2020, and the UN's legal framework for climate change. Findings The most prominent frames regarding climate crisis in transnational policies are responsibilities. Attenborough's calls for action highlight the frames of “morality”, “responsibilities” and “problems”. However, it is necessary to make a distinction between the discourse used in transnational treaties and that by Attenborough. In the former, discourse is more technical and impersonal, presented in a structure of legal diplomas and barely accessible to the public. In contrast, Attenborough's speech is more emotional, appealing and sometimes dramatic. His message is transmitted straightforwardly to the public in a pedagogical, personal tone. Social implications The choice of high-profile personalities like David Attenborough as ambassadors has implications in the visibility of the environmental cause, and in the multiplication of initiatives that denounce environmental degradation. Originality/value This study explores and analyses the narrative construct regarding climate change as carried out by a trusted and respected media voice. The authors intend to contribute to understanding the amplification role of public figures in controversial issues and diplomatic matters. The main contribution of this study is to highlight the strategic nature of the choice of SDA by political powers to voice the drama of climate emergency.
... Similarly, presidential campaigns may be conditioned by the circumstances of the time and news frames also draw on cultural understandings that already exist in the public's mind at a particular time (Entman, 2010); that is, the media may frame different presidential candidates based on the prevailing social, political and economic condition of the country at a particular time (Hallin & Mancin, 2004, cited in Baran & Davis, 2009. With specific regards to elections, Pate (2011) argued that the news media have remained in the forefront of the struggle to promote the rights of our people through a credible election process. ...
Book
Full-text available
This book takes a look at various aspects of political communication with attention on the emerging trends in democratic practices and others hitherto, known political communication subjects. The book is made up of thirty-three chapters that interrogate various topics within the genre. As the title of the book suggests, they are scholarly thoughts on political communication aimed at exposing the reader to contemporary trends and breathing life to the agelong positions on some issues and topics in the field. Besides, some studies were done in the area with the outcome presented for the reader’s digest.
Chapter
Following high-profile mass shootings in the United States, there are policy debates about gun regulation; yet, for the most part, these stall. This chapter suggests that an alternative way to frame this issue would be through “bullet control,” centering on the ammunition used. In order to inflict the greatest degree of damage possible, mass shooters tend to carry large quantities of bullets and large-capacity magazines with them. Harm-inducing bullets, such as hollow-points which penetrate certain parts of the body, have been used in previous mass shootings. Policy proposals could center on these areas to reduce harm in a mass shooting. Another regulation could focus on mandating background checks for ammunition. Interviews were conducted with six participants with knowledge of gun policies and/or gun violence prevention advocacy. Findings from interviews indicate support for these policy proposals. Discussed are ways to increase public support for these proposals via framing strategies. Also deliberated is whether the current political climate is conducive to pass legislation.
Article
Full-text available
This study aims to understand the construction of religious moderation in in mass media from Robert M. Entman's framing perspective. The data used in this paper are from the documentation of religious moderation news in Republika Online. The study found that the construction religious moderation in the Republika Online media is in accordance with its ideological principle and practical consideration. Although the framing of religious moderation is in line with the goal of developing tolerance and building nationalism, the news has multiple interpretations dependent on ideological views of newsreader. Like the constructionist school of thought, there is no right or wrong interpretation of news texts because news texts are subjective constructions of reality. Although subjective, Republika Online tries to build news framing more on nationalism. In the construction of religious moderation, Republika Online not only defends Muslims but also tries to develop a framing that can be accepted by the wider community, both Muslims and non-Muslims.
Book
Building on a survey of media institutions in eighteen West European and North American democracies, Hallin and Mancini identify the principal dimensions of variation in media systems and the political variables which have shaped their evolution. They go on to identify three major models of media system development (the Polarized Pluralist, Democratic Corporatist and Liberal models) to explain why the media have played a different role in politics in each of these systems, and to explore the forces of change that are currently transforming them. It provides a key theoretical statement about the relation between media and political systems, a key statement about the methodology of comparative analysis in political communication and a clear overview of the variety of media institutions that have developed in the West, understood within their political and historical context.
Article
We discuss the cognitive and the psy- chophysical determinants of choice in risky and risk- less contexts. The psychophysics of value induce risk aversion in the domain of gains and risk seeking in the domain of losses. The psychophysics of chance induce overweighting of sure things and of improbable events, relative to events of moderate probability. De- cision problems can be described or framed in multiple ways that give rise to different preferences, contrary to the invariance criterion of rational choice. The pro- cess of mental accounting, in which people organize the outcomes of transactions, explains some anomalies of consumer behavior. In particular, the acceptability of an option can depend on whether a negative outcome is evaluated as a cost or as an uncompensated loss. The relation between decision values and experience values is discussed. Making decisions is like speaking prose—people do it all the time, knowingly or unknowingly. It is hardly surprising, then, that the topic of decision making is shared by many disciplines, from mathematics and statistics, through economics and political science, to sociology and psychology. The study of decisions ad- dresses both normative and descriptive questions. The normative analysis is concerned with the nature of rationality and the logic of decision making. The de- scriptive analysis, in contrast, is concerned with peo- ple's beliefs and preferences as they are, not as they should be. The tension between normative and de- scriptive considerations characterizes much of the study of judgment and choice. Analyses of decision making commonly distin- guish risky and riskless choices. The paradigmatic example of decision under risk is the acceptability of a gamble that yields monetary outcomes with specified probabilities. A typical riskless decision concerns the acceptability of a transaction in which a good or a service is exchanged for money or labor. In the first part of this article we present an analysis of the cog- nitive and psychophysical factors that determine the value of risky prospects. In the second part we extend this analysis to transactions and trades. Risky Choice Risky choices, such as whether or not to take an umbrella and whether or not to go to war, are made without advance knowledge of their consequences. Because the consequences of such actions depend on uncertain events such as the weather or the opponent's resolve, the choice of an act may be construed as the acceptance of a gamble that can yield various out- comes with different probabilities. It is therefore nat- ural that the study of decision making under risk has focused on choices between simple gambles with monetary outcomes and specified probabilities, in the hope that these simple problems will reveal basic at- titudes toward risk and value. We shall sketch an approach to risky choice that