Television & Politics - Commentary Magazine

To identify frames, the informational content of news reports is less important than the interpretive commentary that attends it. While this is true of journalism in general, it is especially evident in television news which is replete with metaphors, catchphrases, and other symbolic devices that provide a shorthand way of suggesting the underlying storyline. These devices provide the rhetorical bridge by which discrete bits of information are given a context and relationship to one another.

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The preponderance of episodic frames in television news coverage provides a distorted portrayal of "recurring issues as unrelated events," according to Iyengar. This "prevents the public from cumulating the evidence toward any logical, ultimate consequence." Moreover, the practice simplifies "complex issues to the level of anecdotal evidence" and "encourages reasoning by resemblance — people settle upon causes and treatments that 'fit' the observed problems."

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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.

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Television And Politics (1970) - CBS News

The idea of the media as agenda-setter was hardly new. In the late 1960s, Maxwell E. McCombs and Donald L. Shaw began studying the agenda-setting capacity of the news media in American presidential elections. They were especially interested in the question of information transmission — what people actually learn from news stories, rather than attitudinal changes, the subject of earlier research. Their research precipitated a stream of empirical studies that underscored the media's critical role as vehicles of political information.

Sep 26, 2015 · Is Television Ruining Our Political Discourse

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In his book ?, Shanto Iyengar evaluates the framing effects of television news on political issues. Through a series of laboratory experiments (reports of which constitute the core of the book), he finds that the framing of issues by television news shapes the way the public understands the causes of and the solutions to central political problems.

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This review essay looks at how the media — particularly television news — shapes political attitudes and behavior. It examines the difference between "episodic" and "thematic" frames, the media's role as political "agenda-setter," the question of "establishment bias," the so-called objectivity ethic, the public's waning confidence in the press, the political consequences of news, and a handful of other questions that all of us — professional journalists and news consumers alike — need to think about and come to terms with in our increasingly news-obsessed and media-saturated culture. The piece was written in January 1993.

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Shanto Iyengar looks at why we think what we do about politics in But the theories and premises of his research are derived in large part from his 1987 book (co-authored with Donald Kinder). In the book, he examines how we think about politics, suggesting that television determines what we believe to be important issues largely by paying attention to some problems and ignoring or paying minimal attention to others. "Our evidence implies an American public with a limited memory for last month's news and a recurrent vulnerability to today's," Iyengar and Kinder write. "When television news focuses on a problem, the public's priorities are altered, and altered again as television news moves on to something new."