Posted on behalf of John Devlin:
Framing theory is the idea of how people use expectations to make sense of everyday life situations, and how they unconsciously downshift and upshift frames using what they have learned throughout their lives. Sociologist Ervin Goffman developed this theory, and believed the power in frames was their ability to teach people. Goffman believed sometimes what is taught is bad. Goffman used the example of women presented in advertisements. They were depicted as less serious and more playful than men. This was due to many aspects in the advertisements from women’s smiles, to non-serious body positions, to wearing playful clothing, and even a willingness to take direction from men. Goffman stated this had effects on both men and women, and pointed out men learned from these advertisements in a misinterpreted way, and because of what they learned men may routinely misinterpret inadvertent actions by women. Goffman stated as a result from these advertisements, women might find it hard to maintain a serious frame for their actions. This theory shows that frames have effects on people; therefore frames must have effects on news audiences. Baron and Davis stated, “The most common finding is that exposure to news coverage results in learning that is consistent with the frames that structure the coverage.” (Baron and Davis pg. 322, Ryan, Carragee, and Meinhofer, 2001; Valkenburg and Semeko, 1999.) If the news is dominated by one source, that one source will mainly guide the audience, and the audience will learn specifically from that one frame. One specific source will create limitations for people especially when that source is negative. Continual coverage on that negative source; such as the war in Iraq, to diseases, to natural disasters, to accidents such as a passenger plane crash, will lead people to think only about these negative things and learn from them and only them, where they could be thinking and learning from more positive things. Theorists believe there are ways to overcome these limitations, and they want to advocate changes in journalism. Herbert Gans (2003) believes in a theory he calls “Participatory news”, which is news that reports on how citizens routinely engage in actions that have importance in their communities. Gans believes that this type of coverage in newspapers had basically vanished. He believes that this could be a vital part of encouraging people to become politically engaged; people could be learning positive aspects of their world and their community, instead they are learning negative aspects of the world and doing absolutely nothing about it, and these negative frames are over-powering everything people learn from the news. Do you believe framing exists in the news? Do you think the news is overrun with negative news reports that depict and teach people of a negative world? Do you think replacing continual negative news reports with positive news reports that show people making a profound and positive impact on their community will engage people in politics?