Media Framing: how to notice and handle it correctly?
The part the media have in our lives is not something to undermine. Each and every one of us relies on one of the various media forms to receive information on recent events. In the last couple of decades, the news sources we rely on get more and more varied. From the choice between a sole news channel on television and a daily paper, we can now choose between a variety of websites, channels and papers. The many choices help us to be able to read the custom content we are interested in. This customiza
tion can make people from two far ends of the world come together, but on the other hand, it can enlarge the differences between different communities.
For all of us, our favorite news channel/paper/website provides us plain information about recent news from our close community, our country and the even the rest of the world, but there are two other parts the media take in our lives, which we tend to overlook: agenda setting and framing. You see, the media also tell us what to talk about, and what to think. By picking certain stories and themes, the media sets the burning issues we find important and that we often discuss with our peers. Researchers have shown that the more headlines a certain topic receives via media, the more the people find it important. Stories which appear on the left side of the paper will subconsciously be perceived to be more important than the ones on the right side. A story which will still be dealt with by the media the next day will also be the story we will keep talking about.
The papers not only decide for us what we will talk about, but also what to think of the matter. This is called Media Framing. The exact same story will mostly be presented in different ways on different news media. While appearing completely objective and neutral, the articles read or viewed always have an opinion hidden behind them. Even if it is not explicit or intentional, it can be quite noticeable, if we only ask ourselves several questions before reading: who is being presented? Which side is being presented first? Which last? What words does the editor use in the headline (“pro-Palestinians” and “human rights activists” are descriptions used in papers for the same group of people). Which delegate presents each side (Prime minister/ a citizen)? What words are being used in relation to the different quotes (“claims”/”says”)? On what aspects of the story does the news source focus? What does NOT appear?
Even since becoming aware of the matter during one of my classes, I began reading articles from different resources, in order to get a better picture as to what has really happened. I compare stories between different papers and websites in Israel, and also compare the Israeli reports to reports from abroad. I must admit I never thought the difference would be so distinct. By reading the same story in two different Israeli papers, I received the same information, but got two different impressions regarding the issue. Not to mention the grand, almost impossible difference between a report in an Israeli paper and the Al-Jazeera website.
For example, here are two news reports, one from Al-Jazeera and another from CNN, on the exact same matter. Notice the choice of words:
On April 15th a group of Pro-Palestinians/Human rights activists planned to land in Israel and volunteer in Palestinian territories. The Israeli government decided to use its right to choose who can and cannot enter its gates, and prevented their entrance. The Israeli news was all over it. Some Israeli papers clearly didn’t support the way Israel prevented those people their access to Israel, others stood behind the decision, complementing our leaders for the calm, peaceful way of handling the situation. The one thing almost all Israelis had in common was what they thought the world thinks of the whole story. Opinion columns everywhere referred to the denial of their entrance as an event that will make us look bad on international television. Media experts talked about the bad name we have abroad, and how this whole story will make things worse. The story appeared in the headlines here for several days, but when I browsed the web for the international websites, I found almost nothing. Most websites abroad briefly published the story, focusing merely on the commander who hit an activist, in a short, almost unnoticeable article. Even abroad I found various versions to the exact same story.
Instead of trying to explain the differences unsuccessfully, here are the links to official news reports for you to get your own impression. After asking myself the questions listed above, the differences suddenly became very clear to me.
Al- Jazeera (notice who represents the Israeli side? At the beginning, how long does it take to mention the footage was not taken in Israel?)
CNN (notice the channel the video was taken from, and the caption inside)
Le Monde (France):
It is obviously impossible to read five different papers every day (unless you are a Communication or Media major in university), but the most important thing is to always be aware that what you read reflects not only the facts, but the people who give you those facts.
This article was originally published on Israelife blog at www.jewishjournal.com/israelife