No stories without angles: Exploring the origin of cultural frames by reconstructing news stories

J.L.J. Boesman, L. d'Haenens, B. Van Gorp

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    Abstract

    his paper investigates the framing practices of Flemish newspaper journalists, focusing on the production side of framing.
    In the selection and construction of events into news stories, the use of frames is seen as an inevitable journalistic practice to translate those events to the audience. This study departs from the idea that frames are part of culture and looks for frame packages in which cultural phenomena (as narratives, archetypes, myths and values) function as a central theme (Van Gorp, 2006).
    In framing research, the question how frames arise is largely sidestepped (Borah, 2011; Matthes, 2009). Although the classic news ethnographies offer interesting insights, many of those production studies are criticized because of an outdated focus on ‘bureaucratic’ routines. While those studies leave little room for the agency of the individual journalist, our research intends to examine higher news influences with respect to the journalist as an active agent.
    Methodologically, this study combines content frame analysis with news ethnography. The goal of the content analysis was to identify episodic and thematic frames (Iyengar, 1991) as well as cultural frames (by the constructionist approach to framing of Van Gorp, 2006/10). The ethnography consisted mainly of newsroom observations and reconstruction interviews, in which the ‘biographies’ of news stories were constructed (Brüggemann, 2013; Reich, 2009).
    This study collects material from the two most widespread popular newspapers (Het Laatste Nieuws and Het Nieuwsblad) and the two most widespread quality newspapers (De Morgen and De Standaard) in Flanders. For a six-week period, the output of 20 domestic news reporters – five per newsroom – was investigated by content analysis as well as by reconstruction interviews. Additional interviews were held with copy editors, news managers and editors-in-chief. This lead to the reconstruction of 680 news stories.
    The results highlight the importance of ‘a distinctive angle’ (often used as a frame for the article). Because of the prevalence of news on the web and because of the media dependency, newspapers often select the same events as news. That does not mean they are telling the same stories. The added value of newspaper stories is seen in ‘offering a perspective’. Although newspaper reporters still consider true ‘news hunting’ as a core business, a significant amount of stories departs from ‘the search of an own angle’ for events already brought by other news media. In this search, cultural frames, moving further away from the actor frames of the initial source(s), come into action.
    Also discussed is the role of the news manager as initiator of angles. Rather than being pushed to write a story in a certain way, reporters ‘internalized’ his vision of news making. They have learnt what topics and angles get a chance to be approved.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - 2014
    EventThe Unlovable Press: Conversations with Michael Schudson - Groningen, The Netherlands
    Duration: 16 Jun 201417 Jun 2014

    Conference

    ConferenceThe Unlovable Press: Conversations with Michael Schudson
    Period16/06/1417/06/14

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    Bibliographical note

    Place of publication: Groningen, The Netherlands

    Cite this

    Boesman, J. L. J., d'Haenens, L., & Van Gorp, B. (2014). No stories without angles: Exploring the origin of cultural frames by reconstructing news stories. Abstract from The Unlovable Press: Conversations with Michael Schudson, .