Author

James Devitt

Date of Award

2001

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Communication

First Advisor

Kathleen Hall Jamieson

Abstract

This study analyzes the relationship between strategy frames and reported verbal and visual discourse in news content. It explored this dynamic by examining the verbal aspects of television broadcast news coverage of presidential campaigns and visuals in television broadcast news coverage of crime. Interviews with journalists were conducted in order to explain the findings. The visual analysis found that after the Willie Horton case became prominent, network news altered visual depictions of black and white criminals. Black criminals increasingly appeared in visuals similar to those that depicted Horton while white criminals were shown in different ways. This altered the visual representations of what constituted black and white criminals. These findings are evidence of visual framing, which occurs when subjects are shown in dissimilar ways to offer distinct depictions of the same entity. As an explanation for visual framing, the author offers the concept of visual priming, a process by which the news media alter the visual portrayal of issues or phenomena to reflect a salient incident. The study of presidential campaign coverage found that candidate messages in issue stories were more likely to be advocacy and supported by evidence; by contrast, messages in strategy stories were more likely to be attack and not supported by evidence. Interviews with journalists v Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission. indicate that they select portions of candidates' and public officials’ speech based on a pre-established news frame rather than choose frames after considering political discourse. Piecing together research on news frames and the reporting of verbal and visual discourse, I offer the following explanation for press performance: strategy coverage, the result of real-world cues, drives the selection of unrepresentative verbal and visual discourse in television news about politics. By contrast, the absence of strategy framing produces reported discourse that is more consistent with political speech. The results demonstrate that strategy coverage goes beyond journalistic interpretations and affects how sources are quoted and how social phenomena are depicted visually.

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