Wed. Jul 24th, 2024

Framing Theory

According to Erving Goffman’s frame analysis, people actively categorize, arrange, and interpret their experiences in order to create meaningful meanings. Gamson has expanded and improved upon earlier research by developing the idea of framing. In Gamson’s explanation, a frame is seen as an essential organizing concept or story that gives occurrences related to a certain topic meaning. Located at the center of a larger public discourse unit known as a “package,” this frame is accompanied by a constellation of different policy positions that can be deduced from the frame, as well as a toolkit of “symbolic devices” that are used to indicate the existence of frames and related policy positions.

The sociological literature’s constructionist approach to framing makes strong assumptions about personal cognitive processes, highlighting the directed and organized aspects of information processing and cognitive representations. These hypotheses are similar to the premises that cognitive psychologists and other researchers who use cognitively focused methodologies and similar terminology frequently examine or communicate. For example, in Minsky’s research on computerized knowledge representation, a frame is defined as a template or data structure that combines many information pieces that are observable through more concrete cognitive components. In a related line of research, framing is defined as the purposeful arrangement of data in a unique setting to direct varying percentages of a person’s mental energy toward different aspects of the problem. One important result of this process is that the elements that have been chosen are now in a position of influence, which has a significant effect on people’s judgements and processes of inference.

When we begin our discussion in this part, we will assume that every news story has a central theme that functions as the essential organizing factor. It is crucial to clarify that a theme is not the same as a topic. A theme is a succinct description of the universe of social experiences included in a story. The idea of meaning and the concept of theme are inextricably linked. Putting aside the laborious task of offering a clear definition of meaning, let us assume that there are functional relationships that can be identified between the signifying elements and the meanings that are assigned to a news story. These symbolic elements are subject to an agent’s interpretation in line with established norms or guidelines, creating interpretative experiences. These interpretative interactions may give rise to the meanings attached to the story.

Discourse Comprehension

Because discourse comprehension processes are dynamic and interactive, the intended topic and the realized theme of a tale may differ. However, the way the symbolic components are arranged creates limits similar to a mental “window” that the story is viewed through. Stated differently, an audience’s intended perception of a news story has the power to direct attention while also limiting the variety of viewpoints that are available to them. The symbolic components that make up a subject consist of lexical choices of codes that are arranged thematically and developed according to established standards and agreed criteria. These components provide a variety of purposes during the signifying process. They serve as framing devices because they are recognizable objects that may be captured, conceptualized into concrete discourse elements, altered or ordered by news content creators, and shared in the context of information dissemination. Essentially, they function as both psychological stimuli that viewers may interact with and analyze and as crucial instruments for news producers in the composition or production of news discourse.

At its most basic level, syntactical structures pertain to the enduring patterns governing the arrangement of words or phrases within sentences. Within the realm of news discourse, structures operating at this level typically offer limited information for distinguishing news as a distinct genre of composition. Here, the syntactical framework of news discourse, as characterized by van Dijk as “macro syntax,” predominantly adheres to the inverted pyramid structure and regulations regarding source attributions. The inverted pyramid structure denotes a sequential arrangement of structural components, with the signifying potency of these elements diminishing in a descending order. For instance, a headline serves as the most prominent cue, eliciting the activation of semantically associated concepts in readers’ minds, thus constituting the most influential framing device within the syntactical structure. Moreover, a number of formal norms specific to news writing, which are meant to signify impartiality or balance and so embody the operational meaning of “objectivity,” are essential elements of the syntactical framework of news as a genre of writing.

Within news discourse, the idea that news stories are narratives is a common aspect that arises from two fundamental elements. First, most news stories focus on actual events that are worthy of notice; they are basically isolated events in a continuous stream of historical events. These reports literally recount events, creating narratives through the description of developing happenings. Second, news facilitates links between viewers and a world that exists outside of their immediate sensory experiences by assisting audiences in navigating their shared surroundings. These purposes line up with the social roles that narrative plays. A script is a set and permanent order of actions and components related to an event that have been internalized as a well-ordered mental image of that event. In the language of news discourse, a news script is a distinct structure defined by rules similar to narrative grammar. A conventional version usually includes the “five Ws and one H” that are commonly used in news writing, which include questions about who, what, when, where, why, and how.

The News Script Structure

The news script’s presence conveys the idea that a news story is a relatively self-contained unit since it appears to include all of the information about an event, including a clear beginning, a turning point, and a conclusion. In addition, it naturally includes components meant to grab our interest, such as action scenes, dramatic scenes, well-defined characters, and poignant human emotions. In this sense, a reporter’s method of writing a news article is quite similar to that of a storyteller or writer creating a work of fiction. Interestingly, not every news story follows an exacting action- or event-driven formula. Instead, a portion of news articles are classified as issue-oriented narratives, which focus on a single problem or topic and include a number of relevant events, actions, or words. These tales demonstrate certain features that are indicative of hypothesis testing: they include the articulation of concepts, the citation of occurrences, and quotes from sources, all of which provide logical support for the main hypothesis.

Because news is by its very nature a medium for disseminating knowledge and journalism is a field dedicated to knowledge acquisition via the application of logical empirical principles upheld by the social sciences, it naturally contains elements for testing hypotheses. As such, a news story may be understood as a set of claims that form a causal or logical-empirical connection structure. When causal claims are made in a news story, they usually appear explicitly and are expressed using words like “because,” “since,” or “for.” But sometimes, implicit causation is implied by contingent links between a set of propositions, indicated by expressions like “if… then…” and “not… unless.”

A feature inherent to the conceptual definition of news itself, news discourse embodies an empirical essence. The dominant empiricism in news reporting is seen in the frequent use of descriptive language, which makes it easier to offer firsthand observations or direct quotes from sources. Concurrently, news discourse includes clues revealing the deductive or inductive reasoning utilized by its creators. For example, the cover story of a certain 1991 issue of Newsweek read, The No Bull Campaign, which successfully put out a theory regarding voter attitude in the 1990s and how it related to campaign tactics in the 1992 presidential race. A news story’s hypothesis does not always have to be the headline or lead phrase. Journalists sometimes choose to open a narrative with an evocative picture or a concrete example in order to pique readers’ curiosity and create a feeling of emotional connection.

Deciphering Theme Structure

It is difficult to determine which basic elements make up a theme framework. Nonetheless, analyzing the macro syntax included in news tales may provide some empirical support for deciphering theme structure. From a conceptual standpoint, a thematic structure consists of a major body portion and a summary part. The summary is usually contained in the headline, lead, or conclusion, whereas the main body is where the supporting evidence for a theory is kept and includes quotes, background, and events. Similarly, by including quotes, context, and episodes, one might identify subthemes and the empirical evidence supporting them inside a complicated news piece. The rhetorical devices that are clearly discernible in news discourse outline the stylistic inclinations that journalists have chosen in relation to the intended effects. This broad category includes Gamson’s five framing device classifications: metaphors, exemplars, catchphrases, portrayals, and visual images. Important rhetorical features of a news story are often shaped by the proactive actions of sources that are producing news. On the other hand, journalists also use rhetorical methods to arouse vivid images, highlight a certain point, and make a story seem more alive.

The rhetorical devices that permeate news discourse also manifest in the news media’s propensity to insist on its veracity. One important indicator of a skilled journalist is how well they employ various tactics to support the accuracy of their observations and analysis or improve the efficiency of news distribution. In pursuing this goal, journalists successfully recognize the idea that factual and persuasive arguments sometimes straddle the same line. The claim made in language that news is objective and factual supports the news’s epistemic status as a trustworthy source of factual information and strengthens the media’s legitimacy as an accurate portrayal of reality. Journalists frequently use this rhetorical approach when crafting news narratives. Framing analysis, then, places the study of news texts in the context of a theoretical framework that emerges from the fusion of sociological and cognitive definitions of the frame idea. It avoids some of the irrational presumptions included in the conventional content analysis methodology by doing this.

The primary focus of framing analysis as a method for examining news discourse is on how public discourse is constructed and negotiated about public policy problems. It is based on the recognition that actors in the American political arena are under growing pressure to utilize symbolic tools to establish political credibility, form political coalitions, seek agreement, and manage group or policy initiatives. Simultaneously, it is similar to agenda-setting research in that it highlights public policy problems that are widely discussed in the media and voters’ minds. Still, it goes beyond a simple analysis of the subjects debated or thought about, exploring the cognitive mechanisms behind discourse construction and expression. Framing analysis pays close attention to the methodical investigation of political language, which functions as the main communication channel in political discourse but is frequently disregarded or only discussed in very abstract terms. This method suggests that researchers should be trained to examine political language at different points in the political communication process, including remarks made by decision-makers, media coverage, public perceptions, and the operation of the political system as a whole.


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