Framing of the 2008 presidential election in print news

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2009-01-01
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O'gara, Erin
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Daniela V. Dimitrova
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Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication
The Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication offers two majors: Advertising (instructing students in applied communication for work in business or industry), and Journalism and Mass Communication (instructing students in various aspects of news and information organizing, writing, editing, and presentation on various topics and in various platforms). The Department of Agricultural Journalism was formed in 1905 in the Division of Agriculture. In 1925 its name was changed to the Department of Technical Journalism. In 1969 its name changed to the Department of Journalism and Mass Communications; from 1969 to 1989 the department was directed by all four colleges, and in 1989 was placed under the direction of the College of Sciences and Humanities (later College of Liberal Arts and Sciences). In 1998 its name was changed to the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication.
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This study examines newspaper coverage of the Democratic and Republican presidential and vice presidential candidates in the 2008 U.S. election. Since the composition of candidates involved in this election is so unprecedented, this study seeks to uncover the ways in which they are portrayed through the lens of framing theory. The study focused on three major frames: experience, race and viability. A total of 225 newspaper articles randomly collected from The New York Times, the Chicago Tribune and USA Today were content analyzed. The following questions were asked: What is the most dominant frame used in the coverage of the 2008 election? Is there a relationship between the dominant frame used and candidate focus? Is there a difference in the way news articles and non-news articles (feature stories, editorial/op ed.) frame candidates? Which received the greater amount of media attention in the 2008 election, image or issue-focused stories? What aspects of image are most frequently used in describing the candidates? How frequently is age used to describe the candidates in the 2008 election? How frequently is gender mentioned to describe the candidates?

The results show that consistent with previous research, the media continue to place a greater importance on candidate image and viability than on policy issues. The media paid little attention to the subject of age, but discussed race, gender and experience more thoroughly. The discussion of gender and the one female candidate was stereotypical and used harsher and more negative language than that used for the male candidates, especially when found in editorial/op ed. articles. This suggests that contrary to what many believe were improving conditions for female political candidates, the media still put a much greater emphasis on their gender than for their male counterparts.

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Thu Jan 01 00:00:00 UTC 2009