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A Pro-life Perspective Diane Dew's Essays on Life Issues

In an insightful piece in the May/June 1991 issue of the Columbia Journalism Review, James Boylan reflects on "voter alienation and the challenge it poses to the press." He writes that "information, the raw material of news, usually turns out to be the peculiar property of those in power and their attendant experts and publicists." The conclusion he draws from this is that "political reporting, like other reporting, is defined largely by its sources."

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The Political Life is no Life at All - Meanjin

Shanto Iyengar, professor of political science and communication studies at UCLA, has pioneered the research in the framing effects of news coverage on public opinion and political choice. He explains that viewers are "sensitive to contextual cues when they reason about national affairs. Their explanations of issues like terrorism or poverty are critically dependent upon the particular reference points furnished in media presentations."

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Television news is routinely reported in the form of specific events or particular cases — Iyengar calls this "episodic" news framing — as distinct from "thematic" coverage which places political issues and events in some general context. "Episodic framing," he says, "depicts concrete events that illustrate issues, while thematic framing presents collective or general evidence." Iyengar found that subjects shown episodic reports were less likely to consider society responsible for the event, and subjects shown thematic reports were less likely to consider individuals responsible. In one of the clearest demonstrations of this phenomenon, subjects who viewed stories about poverty that featured homeless or unemployed people (episodic framing) were much more likely to blame poverty on individual failings, such as laziness or low education, than were those who instead watched stories about high national rates of unemployment or poverty (thematic framing). Viewers of the thematic frames were more likely to attribute the causes and solutions to governmental policies and other factors beyond the victim's control.

Social & Political Issues in America: Resources in the Media Resources Center, UC Berkeley