Does the media send mixed messages?: a case for competitive framing

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Based upon the work of John Zaller, the way people receive information can at least temporarily affect their opinions. Considering that most people get at least some of their information from broadcast/print news outlets, the way in which those organizations present, or frame, the information is incredibly important. The news media can activate predispositions by how they provide and/or do not provide information. This in turn can affect how the public feels about a news topic. This dissertation builds upon the work of Zaller, Druckman, Kahn and Kenney, and other leading researchers to show that different media sources use different framing techniques in their coverage of news events. Whereas previous studies into competitive framing have concentrated primarily upon political campaigns, this dissertation analyzes how the media uses various framing techniques in covering an issue. The analysis concentrates on the broadcast/print news media coverage of President Bush's "60 Stops in 60 Days" tour to promote his Social Security initiative during the spring of 2005. The analysis of competitive framing within the "Length", "Placement", "Frame Strength", and "Tone" variables is included. In a more traditional study, Length and Placement might be thought of as "agenda setting" rather than as framing variables; however, the fact that this study is on a major Presidential initiative means that the news media is expected to cover the issue. How much they cover it and where they place the coverage is a result of their own gate-keepers' perceptions of the importance level, or weight, relative to other stories. The interest here is with the actual content of media coverage. Specifically, this study examines whether or not there is variation in the way a political topic is framed within various news outlets. That is, in framing political issues, do various news outlets engage in "competitive framing."

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Political science, American studies