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Framing News on Foreign Countries: Media Interests and Motivations

Info: 5226 words (21 pages) Dissertation
Published: 25th Jan 2022

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Tagged: JournalismMedia


Media organizations are essential in international affairs in terms of their important role in providing information to the public.[3] The question has often been whether the Media frames news in the context of the national interest of the host country, for example. Whether they reflect official position without challenging them or rather influence national interest objectives by putting pressure on politicians. The Media's interest and other motivating factors are essential for understanding how editorials for instance are framed. Lacking in the study of Media framing is the application to bilateral relations. This study would attempt to add that dimension to the numerous researches on the Media in international affairs. It would analyze editorials by four prominent newspapers in the United States and the United Kingdom on issues concerning Venezuela. The aim is to find the likely motivating factors when it comes to framing news on foreign countries.

For many countries the media represents an important window to the international world. Patched knowledge on foreign issues would be close to a reality without a source of information about what happens elsewhere in the world, made available by the media. In democratic countries in particular, the reliance on the media for foreign news might be as important as the quest for local news. Images of foreign countries, issues and happenings in a particular country abroad are likely to be influenced by the media to a much larger scale when impressions are created of a healthy or strained bi-lateral relations, for instance. Due to factors such as 'cultural assumptions' and 'political beliefs', it is believed that news carves out images and impressions of the world some of which are preferred over other images.[4]

The media, both electronic and print are a major component of the democratic processes in several countries. The media has often been referred to, in many countries, as an important branch of the government with roles from functioning as 'the main political informant'[7]

There has been several publications on issues of Media and Government relations by several authors. For instance, in the scope of international relations and communications, there have been books published on the issue of how the media works in or out of line with foreign policy or the national interest. The debate has been whether or not the media is likely to support the national interest of the country in which it operates in relation to other countries(as the theory of Manufacturing Consent depicts)[9]. Either option makes foreign events relevant to the media.

On the whole the media is believed to 'reflect social consensus'.[15]

There may be variations in the nature of the Media depending on the region or country of operation. A media in a democratic country may be freer than those in a non-democratic country so news coverage, media culture and ethics could vary. In this study, a section of the Media in two democratic countries would be analyzed in terms of their positions on issues in a third country(Venezuela). What would be of interest to this study, as mention earlier, would be the factors that would be most highlighted in the accounts of these editorials. It may bring about issues of objectivity and latent Media interests or the interests of the consumers of the news content. In the US for example, the Media is often said to 'domesticate foreign news'. The themes represented in news in the US are those which often have some relevance to American interests.[17] Thus, how the media frames news is largely important for understanding the positions they yield to and their response to certain foreign events. In issues of national interest and in relation to bilateral relations, it would be important to know how the media in different countries frame news on events in countries abroad.



Entman, (1993) suggests that the concept of framing could be studied as a feature of a political discourse or as an instrument applied by the Media in making news.[19] And by extension, Media analysis or news analysis would deserve a look at the concept of news framing.

Framing is, 'the process by which a communication source constructs and defines a social or political issue for its audience�.[23]

Framing theory is also applicable to Media analysis. Media frames as explained by Entman (1991: 7), are 'attributes of news itself'.[24]

In a broad sense, frames are regarded as 'persistent patterns of cognition, interpretation, and presentation, and as selection, emphasis, and exclusion, by which symbol handlers routinely organize discourse, whether verbal or visual.�.[27]

Tuchman showed how framing as a 'process theory' works. And that the 'routine procedures' used by newsmakers, direct news frames in a particular way. She argues that these procedures 'continually help showcase certain places and ideas, while consistently closing off and blocking inquiry into others'.[29]

Entman (1993: 52) helped refine the scope of the definition given to news framing. He established that by the definition of "news frame", frames could be seen as a process that 'defines problems – determine what a causal agent is doing with what costs and benefits, usually measured in terms of common cultural values; diagnose causes – identify the forces creating the problem; make moral judgments – evaluate causal agents and their effects; and suggest remedies – offer and justify treatments for the problems and predict their likely effects'.[30]

Entman, (1991:7) also showed that frames used by the media are often captured 'in the keywords, metaphors, concepts, symbols and visual images in news narratives'. He stresses the point that one way is which news framing works is through repetition which is important for Media news framing because 'news narratives', usually dependent on frames, are meant to 'direct attention to certain ideas, while excluding certain other ideas'.[33]

It has also been established that Framing 'involves processes of inclusion and exclusion as well as emphasis.'[38]

Framing also has the ability to make consumers of news accept and 'adopt some symbolic themes and values'.[39] While the process of selectively and emphasis is carried out by the newsmakers, those for whom a particular news is meant, are also likely to be 'predisposed to understanding and interpreting information in a selective way.'

Framing has also been explained to be 'the process of placing information into a context of preconscious symbolism'. [43]

The framing process employed by the Media is regarded as 'key to shaping both the public's and decision-makers knowledge, image and understanding of the world'.[49].

Perhaps a perfect definition of the concept of framing in relation to the print media is the fact that, a frame is 'a central organizing idea or story line that provides meaning to an unfolding strip of events, weaving a connection among them. The frame suggests what the controversy is about and the essence of the issue'[53]

One of the significant areas in relation to framing of news and Media positioning is Foreign Policy. Assessments of the response of the media to foreign issues is largely based on a critical analysis of how the media operates or how a particular section of the media churns out news or editorials, for example the position that major newspapers take on certain foreign issues. In a way how it sets the agenda for government or public reactions.

Both agenda setting and framing have been identified in news framing literature as ways in which the media can influence policy making and public opinion.[57]

There has been some convergence on how framing analysis can be carried out, according to the literature. Two approaches of framing analysis has evolved over the years. The Inductive approach and the Deductive approach. The latter has been proven more scientific than the former. The Deductive approach organizes the framing analysis based on pre-outlined broader frames.[59]

There has also been an attempt by some authors to group frames along certain distinctions. Frames could be grouped under 'issue-specific' frames which deal with particular issues in detail and 'generic frames' which cover broader themes found in different settings.[61]

One issue raised by some authors on framing is how the Media treat sources. When elite sources to news are relied on by journalists for example, they may in a way be a channel for promoting the views and opinions of the political order or the elites to the larger audience[63]

Most of the literature also agree that the location of a news story gives it much weight in terms of the perceived influence on the newspaper's readership and how important the issues are to them. It also demonstrates the importance the media attaches to that particular issue or event.[67]

In all, Media scholars have studied Framing theory as either theories of Effects and Process. By Framing as effects theory, media scholars have studied the influence that news frames have on audiences while studies on framing as a process theory have addressed 'how news content is created and modified in certain ways' considering the factors that influence the carving of news in a particular way. [68]

Although the framing of news is important to the coverage given to events and issues, there are other elements or factors that influence the framing of news in itself have to be identified.[72] This study would turn the spot light on the wide array of all the other factors that may help explain why news is framed in a particular way.

As pointed out earlier, some literature on the Media have suggested that the sources that the Media relies go an extent to make the news themselves. In other words, ' Organizations with more resources, or that have more credibility in the eyes of journalists, are more likely to become regular news sources, and thus shape which issues (agenda-setting) and which perspectives (frames) dominate the news'.[74]

Some Media scholars are of the opinion that the ideal state of Media Objectivity is far fetched. Some are of the view that 'there is no fundamentally non-ideological, apolitical, non-partisan news gathering and reporting system. Since there may be dispute over objectivity and news without bias, the concept of framing becomes important to analyzing the frames used in making news.[77]

While journalists may dispute these assertions, it is believed that 'news content is not an objective entity, independent of political, social, ideological or sociopsychological influences' than mere information.[80]

As stated before, the Media often depicts the Government's position in respect to interests and issues especially in relation to other countries. There has been the suggestion that the Media's position is based on 'national values, national interest and cultural values' of their host countries.[82]

The Media is likely to succumb to the views of governments because the latter's position on issues is seen as 'an overriding common good transcending the specific interests of parties, factions, and other entities smaller than the nation as a whole.�[84]

The problem with the concept of framing is that it 'lacks clear conceptual definitions and a comprehensive statement to guide research'.[85] Yet these challenges would make it important for more research into factors that influence news framing.

The extent to which consumers of news 'perceive foreign leaders' in either a positive or negative light is dependent on how framing is carried out.[86] The latter point might be important to understand how the reading-public of the four sampled newspapers are likely to perceive the leadership in Venezuela. Most of the research done on news framing have largely gone in the way of foreign policy research. A few have looked at news framing in relation to another country with a lengthy time range while Media response and framing on various issues are measured and analyzed. The study hopes to add to the already existing research on news framing in this regard.

3) Proposed Research Questions

Research Question 1 :What is the tone of coverage on Venezuela in U.S. and U.K. editorials? Do the two groups of newspapers differ in tone?

Research Question 2: Which frames dominated in the overall coverage and was there a significant difference between the two countries in terms of the frames used?

Research Question 3: Which issues dominated the overall coverage country-wise?

Research Question 3: Do positions on issues covered reflect National Interest of the two countries?

Research Question 4: Do these editorials rely on government sources in arriving at opinions and conclusions?

Research Question 5: Which issues are most prominent in all the coverage?

Research Question 6: Do the editorials lean towards a kind of political or economic ideology?


The variables for this study would be the following:

1 Independent

  • Tone of coverage and framing in UK editorials
  • Tone of coverage and framing in US editorials
  • Most highlighted issues

2 Dependent

  • The interests of the UK(economic, political, other)
  • The interests of the US (economic, political, other)
  • The ideology of the paper

5) Proposed Research Hypothesis

1 There is no difference in tone between the two groups of newspapers.

2 The level of interest given to highlighted issues between the two groups of newspapers will be the same?

3 Positioning and framing of news will depend on the interests of the host nation of the newspapers.

4 Positioning and framing of news will depend on the ideology of the host nation of the newspapers.

5 UK newspaper editorials are likely to be less critical of Venezuela because of better bi- lateral relations.

6 US newspaper editorials are likely to be more critical of Venezuela because of worse bi-lateral relations.



The study on these editorials would be carried out using quantitative content analysis to assess qualitative data published by the four newspapers. Content analysis is defined as 'a research technique that involves measuring a content( in this case, news frames) in a random sampling of some form of communication( in this case, editorials). The basic assumption implicit in content analysis is that an investigation of messages and communication will allow some insight into the people who receive these messages'[87]. However the use of content analysis in this study would be to capture the frames used in the sampled editorials and what informs interests in issues and not what the consumers of such news perceive or how they react to these messages.

One advantage of content analysis is that unlike other research methods where the researcher can easily influence the outcome of the research, it offers 'mediated communication' to be rather studied rather than the 'behavior of people' which may be difficult to analyze. Additionally it provides numbers and figures which can be quantified to secure likely viable assessments.[88]

Admittedly, the use content analysis technique also brings to the fore issues concerning the representativeness of the samples used, the adequate definition of issues, difficulties with measuring units to be analyzed and coder reliability issues.[89]

A conversion of coded values into quantitative statistical data would be made after the content analysis.


The population of this study would be all editorials on Venezuela within the ten year period by high circulating newspapers in the US and the UK. The assumption is that editorials from newspapers with a relatively high number of circulations, may have been read by a significant number of people or may have reached a wider audience or a politically responsive section of the public. The study would not be concerned with gauging public reactions but in the frames used themselves. Yet high circulation newspapers offer a good basis for selection in the sample.


The type of sampling used in selecting editorials is Criterion Sampling. Editorials which will make up the sample are those with references made to the words VENEZUELA and HUGO CHAVEZ and political and economic issues related to these terms. A retrieval of the editorials from the search engine LEXIS-NEXIS has already been carried out using the following terms: VENEZUELA, HUGO CHAVEZ and EDITORIAL for the US newspaper database. For the LEXIS NEXIS -UK database, editorials were retrieved using the search terms VENEZUELA, HUGO CHAVEZ and LEADING ARTICLE. Editorials not focusing on these issues or not focusing on issues of political relevance were dropped from the sample ,for example those focusing on say sports or those with the mere mention of these terms with no relation to relevant issues discussed.

US Newspapers

From an earlier assessment of the account of data on newspaper circulations by the Audit Bureau of Circulations in both the USA and the UK, the highest circulating newspaper over the 10 year period was USA TODAY with the most circulations for the said period. The WALL STREET JOURNAL (WSJ) came second with the most circulations over the period. The WSJ will however be discounted because of its orientation mostly to financial news and events. The research would be limited to newspapers which mostly deal with political news and also focuses on foreign political news in its' content or publications. With these criteria, the third major political newspapers which polled the third highest number of circulations over the 10 year period was the NEW YORK TIMES (NYT). Thus editorials from the USA TODAY and the NYT will be used in the content analysis.

UK Newspapers

The selection criteria for the two highest Circulating newspapers in the UK however differ slightly from the basis on which the newspapers from the US were selected. THE DAILY TELEGRAPH and THE TIMES newspapers would be used in this study. The two newspapers averagely rank 4th and 7th in terms of circulation data according to the Audit Bureau from January 2000 to 2009. The two newspapers which ranked as the two highest-circulating newspapers for the 10 year period in the UK were THE SUN and DAILY MAIL. The two come under the category of Tabloid Newspapers and are not considered serious political newspapers. The two will not be the focus of this study. The DAILY MIRROR, DAILY STAR, and the DAILY EXPRESS ranked 3rd, 5th and 6th respectively. This study will focus on those newspapers which come under those usually termed newspapers-of- record or those which practice 'serious' journalism. Of the newspapers under this category,THE GUARDIAN and THE TIMES had averagely, the highest number of circulations during the 10 year period discounting those newspapers which fall under the tabloid category.

A percentage breakdown of the editorials from each newspaper is found below. The four newspapers had on average a significant circulation tally during the specified period namely from (January) 2000 to (December) 2009.


























141 =

100% (USA=69.7%)


Why Venezuela?

Venezuela offers a good to chance to study the politics behind the news. Various perceived interests are involved in relation to the US, UK and Venezuela. The controversies have been over the stifling of democracy and civil rights, the abuse of power by President Chavez, issues over the supply of oil and what it means for the two western countries to have the economy of Venezuela in a bad shape. These factors make Venezuela a good choice and would it possible to analyze Media positioning on these issues in response to a relevant third country while factoring in bi-lateral relations.

Time Period

The choice of long time duration will allow for significant content analysis to be done on the editorials. Since this research would also assess government statements and positions on the issues arising from Venezuela, the time period which saw the BUSH and BLAIR administration for most of the period would offer an opportunity to compare the US and UK government responses and attitudes towards Venezuelan issues with hopefully little variation in policy change. The reasoning is that an unchanged administration or party in power is likely to have the same attitudes or reactions to foreign issues from a particular country than when the administration changes over a period of time, barring any major shift in interests and policy towards Venezuela by either country during the time period. The study will take all these changes into account in the final analysis, including the editorial responses and positioning on these issues.

Coding Units

Editorials will be the focal point for the coding procedures. Editorials are a good basis for this study because they often represent the view or position of the newspaper. Op-Eds and editorials with Bylines (those written by individuals and credited with names) have been excluded from the sample. The focus was to look out for editorials which have been written by the editorial board of the various newspapers and would represent a justifiable opinion or position of the newspaper itself rather than the views of individual writers.

Coding Procedure

The source for the editorials is the academic search engine; LEXIS-NEXIS (which stores electronic copies of newspaper articles and editorials including those that this study would be focused on).


4 independent coders would be used to code each editorial article according to frames created from a Pre-test which has already been carried out on two other newspapers. A pretest on The Washington Post and The Guardian newspapers has been carried out to source for appropriate categories of frames to be used in the final coding of the 141 editorials. In addition, coders could add extra categories of frames to the basic list during coding to update the original codebook. 24 editorials from the Washington Post and 54 editorials from The Guardian newspapers were retrieved with the same search words as the main sample. They all fit the same criteria. 25% of each newspaper's editorial would be used in the Pre-test. The selection was done randomly. In all 19 editorials would be used for the Pre-test.

Framing Variables

Frames (meant for pre-test and to be modified).

The problem frames,

1 - the diagnostic frames( these coverage would identify a problem and assign a responsibility to someone or some other reason)

2 - the prognostic frames.( here the study seeks to find an editorial's solution to particular problems)

The presentation frames,

1 - the issue frame ( coverage on issues such as economy, oil etc)

3 - the image frame.( portraying leadership, attitudes, affiliation of subjects)

General tone (is the editorial positive (supportive) or negative (condemnatory))?

Coder Reliability

An intercoder reliability would predict the amount of agreement or correspondence among the 4 coders. Intercoder Reliability is the 'extent to which the different judges tend to assign exactly the same rating to each object".[90] The Intercoder reliability would be checked for the Pre-test and the main test. The formula to be used is Holsti's (1969) formula. Coder agreement on each unit of analysis( i.e frames) would be calculated.

Preliminary Coding Sheet for Newspaper Editorial Content Analysis

Technical Data:

Editorial Number= give in full

Paper: 1= USA; 2= NY Times; 3= Daily Telegraph; 4=The Times

Date: given in full

Title of Editorial: given in full

Page: page on which the editorial is written.

Location( section of newspaper) 1= Editorials and Opinions; 2= Features; 3=Non Stated 99= other

Length of words= please indicate number

Is a source cited?: 1= Yes; 2= No; 99= other

Source cited: please indicate

Country Mentioned in affiliation to venezuela: please indicate

Country Location(continent): 1= Africa 2=Antarctia 3=Asia 4 =Australia 5= Europe 6=North America 7=South America

Issues linked to country referred to: please indicate

Themes in the News:

Theme of the editorial:

1 =Concerns over Venezuelan crises impacting the world

2 =Concerns over Venezuelan crises impacting the US

3 =Concerns of economic and political life of Venezuelans being grim

4 =Concerns over oil supply and price hikes

5 =Championing support for Chavez and policies

6 =Denouncing Chavez

7 =A critique of white house intervention in Venezuelan matters

8 =Concerns over Venezuelan influence in Latin America

9 =Need to counter Chavez influence over other states

10 =That socialist economies are often a disaster

11 =Concerns over human rights abuse

12 =Concerns over Media abuse

13 =Need to have effective policies to deal with Venezuela

14 =Supporting regime change

15 =Denouncing regime change

Secondary Themes:

1= Concerns over Venezuelan crises impacting the world

2 =Concerns over Venezuelan crises impacting the US

3 =Concerns of economic and political life of Venezuelans being grim

4 =Concerns over oil supply and price hikes

5 =Championing support for Chavez and policies

6 =Denouncing Chavez

7 =A critique of white house intervention in Venezuelan matters

8 =Concerns over Venezuelan influence in Latin America

9 =Need to counter Chavez influence over other states

10 =That socialist economies are often a disaster

11 =Concerns over human rights abuse

12 =Concerns over Media abuse

13 =Need to have effective policies to deal with Venezuela

14 =Supporting regime change

15 =Denouncing regime change

Tertiary Themes:

1 =Concerns over Venezuelan crises impacting the world

2 =Concerns over Venezuelan crises impacting the US

3 =Concerns of economic and political life of Venezuelans being grim

4 =Concerns over oil supply and price hikes

5 =Championing support for Chavez and policies

6 =Denouncing Chavez

7 =A critique of white house intervention in Venezuelan matters

8 =Concerns over Venezuelan influence in Latin America

9 =Need to counter Chavez influence over other states

10 =That socialist economies are often a disaster

11 =Concerns over human rights abuse

12 =Concerns over Media abuse

13 =Need to have effective policies to deal with Venezuela

14 =Supporting regime change

15 =Denouncing regime change

Other Themes?: Please state

Orientation of Editorial: 1= event-oriented

2= issue-oriented

Framing of the Editorial:

(A) References To Sources

Domestic Sources (in US or UK) : please indicate

International Sources (in Venezuela) : please indicate

Other Sources: please indicate

How instrumental is the source to the story: 1=very central; 2= central; 3= moderately mentioned; 4=only gets a mention

(B) Character of Commentary

Evaluation of Commentary: 1= very laudable; 2= favorable; 3= neutral; 4= critical; 5= abrasive; 99= other

Secondary Evaluation of Commentary: 1= crusading; 2= argumentative; 3= descriptive; 4= summary; 5= cynical; 6= 'humorous'; 7= 'warning'/ 'helpful'; 8= 'lyrical';

Descriptive Characterization of President Chavez in editorials:

As 1= authoritarian

2= socialist/leftist

3= populist

4= autocrat

5= strongman

6= bold

99= other ( please state)

Characterization of other persons in editorials: please mention character and indicate description

Main Discourse:

Please state any significant words used:

Location of word in editorial: 1= headline

2= main body

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