In This Article News Framing

  • Introduction
  • Core Texts
  • Journals
  • Integrative Theoretical Frameworks
  • Frame Conceptualizations
  • Other Theories
  • Study Methods

Communication News Framing
by
David Tewksbury
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 June 2015
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756841-0010

Introduction

How political issues are presented in news stories makes a difference. That rather simple statement is the core of framing research. During much of the growth in political communication research in the 1970s and 1980s, researchers focused their attention on how much coverage issues garner in the news; they less frequently studied how the issues were described. The construction of frames for issues in the news and their effects on news audiences developed as a prominent concern in communication in the 1990s. This interest continues in the early 21st century. The news framing research literature contains many definitions of a frame. At their core, most definitions state that a news frame is the verbal and visual information in an article that directly or implicitly suggests what the problem is about, how it can be addressed, and who is responsible for creating and solving it. The simplicity of the idea that news descriptions of issues matter belies the growing complexity of research in this area. Frames originate with journalists and their beliefs about what constitute news topics and political reality, with the activities of people and groups who sponsor specific interpretations of issues, and with the events and cultural contexts within which they all work. Framing research also sees substantial diversity in ways that frames are conceptualized and studied, in theoretical explanations for the effects of frames on audiences, and in potential relationships between framing and other processes. This intellectual diversity is a source of concern for some scholars but others see it as inevitable and even desirable for a research domain with so much to offer the field of communication.

Core Texts

Several books provide useful tools for the study of news framing. The earliest and least directly related of these is Edelman 1964. It lays out some basic ideas about how the practice of politics is intimately connected to the manipulation of words and symbols. The book supplies a conceptual foundation for the emphasis framing research will place on the ability of news stories to influence how audiences understand issues. The sociologically focused Gamson 1992 is one of the first texts to take a look at the production and life of frames in democratic societies. Iyengar 1991 is the most focused of the books here. It summarizes a line of research on the presence and effects of journalist frames for political issues. It is the first of the books in this area to present a psychological-level analysis of frame effects. Good summaries of extant framing research and areas for future research can be found in Johnson-Cartee 2005 and Reese, et al. 2001. The former supplies a single-author review of the framing literature, and the latter is an edited volume that gives a satisfyingly broad treatment of the subject. Adding to this foundation is D’Angelo and Kuypers 2010, an excellent collection of recent theoretical and methodological work.

  • D’Angelo, Paul, and Jim A. Kuypers, eds. 2010. Doing framing analysis: Empirical and theoretical perspectives. New York: Routledge.

    E-mail Citation »

    Assembling diverse theoretical and methodological approaches, this volume nicely reflects the maturation of news framing research. Some of the most prominent framing researchers are represented here, and their work advances the field in a number of areas. The chapters on culture and the visual in framing and the connections between research in rhetoric and framing are particularly helpful.

  • Edelman, Murray. 1964. The symbolic uses of politics. Urbana: Univ. of Illinois Press.

    E-mail Citation »

    The author presents a broad, if brief, analysis of political debate and change as conflict over symbols. Among the symbolic objects that structure debate are the words of political and civic life. Edelman argues that political language is replete with symbolic words and phrases that can limit, initiate, and steer political action.

  • Gamson, William A. 1992. Talking politics. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    E-mail Citation »

    Gamson identifies a set of collective action frames in American culture and examines how people talk about them. The primary contribution of this nuanced work is its demonstration that research can fruitfully examine the origin of frames and how people come to understand them. It is a powerful model for future research.

  • Iyengar, Shanto. 1991. Is anyone responsible? How television frames political issues. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

    DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226388533.001.0001E-mail Citation »

    This often-cited text is a summary of research on the form and effects of two basic news story types: episodic and thematic news. This distinction has been a heuristic for later research, and the book nicely combines content analyses of news texts with experiments designed to identify the effects of these news frames.

  • Johnson-Cartee, Karen S. 2005. News narratives and news framing. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.

    E-mail Citation »

    This comprehensive treatment of news construction provides a very useful integration of a number of research traditions. With a primary emphasis on the factors that affect how journalists assemble the news, it nicely foregrounds the active construction and presentation of news frames.

  • Reese, Stephen D., Oscar H. Gandy Jr., and August E. Grant, eds. 2001. Framing public life: Perspectives on media and our understanding of the social world. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

    E-mail Citation »

    Many of the primary researchers in recent work on framing are represented in this comprehensive volume. Of particular note are chapters that discuss the development of theory in framing and possible areas of overlap with other concepts.

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