One article isn’t the world; it’s just one version of it

The inspiration for the title came from the Dutch journalist Joris Luyendijk. Years ago I read his book ‘Het zijn net mensen’ (in English: ‘Hello everybody’) and always when the topics ‘agenda-setting’ and ‘news framing’ come across, I have to think about that book. Especially about one episode. He also tells about this episode in an interview about the situation in the Middle East in the Dutch television program ‘Tegenlicht’ (unfortunately only in Dutch).

In the episode he wrote about a suicide attack on a bus in West Jerusalem. All the passengers of the bus were killed. This accident fits well in the agenda-setting of president Sharon and he gave his men the order to leave the dead bodies until he was arrived. He did this with a particular reason: in this manner the news organizations could film him on the crash site. When I read this book 8 years ago, this episode really opened my eyes. For now, we will first take a look at the process of news framing and we will discuss whether use of frames is a good or bad thing.

According to Claes de Vreese, the process of framing consists of several stages: frame-building, frame-setting and individual and societal level consequences of the framing. When you look at the picture ‘An integrated process model of framing’ you can see that there are several steps in the process. First of all when journalist are making a news article, they have to think about how they want to frame the story. This doesn’t only depend on internal factors, but also on external factors like social movements. The outcomes of the first step are the frames that will be used in the news. There are many kinds of frames but in this model they only make a distinction between issue-specific frames and generic frames. Issue-specific frames refer to frames that are pertinent and only for specific topics or events. Generic frames don’t have to deal with thematic limitations and they can be identified in relation to different topics. The last step ‘frame-setting’ focuses on the interaction between media and predispositions of the individuals. The frame-setting can have an effect on individual level but also on societal level (e.g. political socialization and decision making).

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An integrated process model of framing – Claes de Vreese

When you take a closer look at the different sort of frames, Semetko and Valkenburg identified five general news frames:

  • The conflict frame describes a conflict between individuals, institutions or countries.
  • The human-interest frame presents an event or issue in such a way that either the government or an individual attribute the responsibility for the cause or solution.
  • The morality frame presents an event or issue in the context of religious tenets or moral prescriptions.
  • The economic consequence frame describes the issue in terms of the economic consequences it will have on individuals or countries.

After all these theories, the biggest question that remains about frames is still: ‘Is it good or bad to use frames?’. Personally, I think that it is impossible to write an article without any use of frames. When you write for a particularly newspaper or magazine you have to write for the audience of the paper or magazine. Consequently you write about things they like to hear. So, I think in this situation it isn’t wrong to use frames, but I think that the frames also can be used in a bad manner. One example of the conflict frame is about the news period after the crash of MH17. Especially in the first week, the allegations flew back and forth between the Ukraine, Russia and the West. All that Ukraine said was contradicted by Russia and visa versa. At the same time the people in the Russia heard other stories than the people in the West. They positioning their selves in a victim role, because they had done all what they could to ensure that the conflicting parties would negotiate with each other. Besides this, the Russian believed that especially this development was a very positive one for the United States. Only a few newspapers took a critical look at the situation and one published even an apology.

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Bron: RTL Nieuws

In this situation I think that it can be dangerous to use such frames, because the effects are on societal level. All these different frames influence the attitude and behavioural of the Russia people about the Ukraine, the US and the West. Before you know, it has stir up an entire population. Especially, in times of war or conflicts between countries it will always be difficult to know the truth. Sometimes it seems that there is not only an ‘ordinary war’, but also a media war. I think that we, in such situations, can’t do anything else than to keep critical by yourself and take the knowledge of several news organisations. Therefore, I hope that there will always be some newspapers with a critical and objective eye and that they are available for everyone. In this manner you can combine the several versions and create a more complete picture of the world.

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5 thoughts on “One article isn’t the world; it’s just one version of it

  1. I agree with you that every journalist uses a frame. I believe every article has a frame and this frame also depends on the journalist’s preferences. I also think we can not talk of good or bad frames, because what makes a good or a bad frame? Isn’t that subjective? Next to that I don’t believe objectivity depends on the frame you use. It has nothing to do with eachother I think.

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  2. A frame is part of the story, so we cannot deny it’s there. What we can do is make it a weak frame, where the information has the main role and not the frame in which it is presented. The MH17 story is a tough one, because there is some politics involved and therefore people might have highter needs than reveal the truth.

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  3. I want to take the “there is no story without a frame” discussion even a step further by saying that there is no language without a frame. Everything you say or write is made up out of words, for which you could have often chose another word. You can ask people to stop using frames, but informing someone would become impossible. Every story, every frame, shows an opinion. I don’t know whether or not I agree with the terms “bad” and “good” frames, but I certainly think that frames that show a stronger opinion are less informative than those showing weak ones.

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  4. Framing is a natural thing, I fully agree with you. You cannot deny the existence of framing in our society. Framing is a very powerfull tool. I think the distinction you make between good and bad framing is a legitimate comparison. In the case of Russia, framing can be a dangerous tool. Both parties in this discussion are not objective at all.

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  5. Nice descriptions of the frame theory! The political reasons behind the MH17 was really powerful, thus many strong frames were used and too many perspectives. In this case, when frames were used to deceive the public (eg. in Russia) they are obviously bad. I do agree with you that there are some other media outlets that provide critical stories, and there will always be. However, let’s also hope that they do try to tell a truthful story and not follow another hidden agenda.

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