The Media

Interrogative Imperative Institute

So, You Think You Are Informed!

The Dynamics of Framing

"Framing" is a process that refers to the way someone presents an issue, topic, discussion, idea, account, or story. Just as selecting the frame for a photograph or artwork can affect the way an observer perceives a photograph or painting, so too, framing a: concept, perspective, system of thinking, or set of policies also can shape and influence (both positively and negatively) the way an individual comes to understand a given concept, belief system, and so on.

When one frames a picture or photograph, one determines what will be seen or hidden. The color of the frame might bring a sense of 'classiness' or 'style' to what is being presented, or the quality of the frame can make a picture or artwork seem cheap and/or unattractive. The size of the frame can overwhelm the subject matter of a photograph and, thereby, draw attention away from what should be the focus of the picture -- namely, the picture/photograph itself. Or, one can select a frame that resonates with the subject matter being presented or which tends to conflict with that material.

All of the foregoing techniques, along with many variations on such themes, can be used in the framing of ideas, news stories, reports, analyses, events, and the like. The physical appearance of the person reporting the news is a form of framing. The reputation of the individual reporting the news is a form of framing. What is included in a news report, as well as what is left out of such reports, is a form of framing. The words and modes of expression which are selected to give expression to a given news report are forms of framing. Facial exressions and body language contribute to the way in which ideas are framed. The sort of 'expert' guests one calls upon to discuss events are forms of framing. If a given mode of media relies heavily on government or corporate handouts to weave the woof and warp of the stories which are reported, this also is a form of framing. If a reporter, or editor, or station manager is cautious about what is said, or exercises self-censorship, out of concern for what a corporate sponsor will do, this is framing in action. If news people alter the character of a story in order to be able to continue to have access people in power, this gives expression to the dynamic of framing. If one spins a story to serve one's theories rather than philosophy, politics, religion, or vested interests rather than the truth of a matter then such a process of spinning is a form of framing. if one uses the media as a means of indoctrinating, propgandizing, or spreading disinformation among people, these are all forms of framing. Embedding news reporters with military units serves as a means of framing events that is likely to favor the perspective of the military, especially when various tactics of undue influence are employed by those in control of the embedding process to push or pull reporting in one direction rather than another. Interviewing people on television but trying to make them look bad through the sort of questions that are asked (or not asked), or by: hurling condescending and disdainful epithets at them or by constantly interrupting them, or not providing the person being interviewed with a fair opportunity to respond, or subsequently editing their responses, are all forms of framing.

Framing can enhance a story, or undermine it. And while one might not be able to avoid the issue of framing altogether with respect to the presentatin of ideas and issues, nonetheless, the individual who engages the media should be cognizant that such framing dynamics always tend to be present and, then, it becomes the responsibility of the individual to analyze the dynamics of the sort of framing which is taking place in any given instance and try to dertimine if that process of framing does, or does not, help to establish a sense of accuracy and truth in relation to the issue or event being considered.

I am always intrigued by the manner in which television reportage changes in various respects as one switches, on the one hand,from: Fox, to: NBC, CNN, ABC, CBS, PBS, or Democracy Now and, on the other hand, as one moves across different regions of the world: Canada (e.g., CBC, CTV, Global), England (e.g., BBC), Russia (e.g., Russian Times -- RT), and the Middle East (e.g., al-Jazeera, Press TV)). At the very least, one comes to understand that framing plays a central role in almost all forms of media coverage -- newspapers, magazines, radio, television, and movies -- and, consequently, we all need to become more adept at being able to critically analyze the process of framing through which the media operates.




The Plan

Every two to three weeks (sometimes sooner and sometimes later), I hope to offer -- for the consideration, entertainment, and edification of visitors -- a video or commentary that, in some way, explores the issue of the media and its impact (both potential and actual) on the way people engage the world and come to understand it.




Press For Truth

The following video is from a Canadian journalist/investigator, Dan Dicks. The video is part of his promotion campaign designed to enlist the financial support of people so that he might continue to be able to do what he is doing -- namely, offer a perspective which serves as a source of information and news that constitutes an alternative to corporatized forms of reporting and coverage.

The message in the following video is, to be sure, a form of framing, but one of the themes which his mode of framing seeks to bring to the viewer's attention is the possibility that when it comes to the media, diversity of coverage might be more desirable than the canned fodder of vested interest based uniformity as far as helping to nurture our critical faculties is concerned. I don't know Dan; I have no financial arrangement with him, and I don't necessarily subscribe to everything he says or does, but I think there is a need for more 'Dans' in the world and fewer corporations with respect to the investigation and reportage of the news. If you find the following video interesting or intriguing or accurate, why not take a virtual journey to his website: PressForTruth.TV and either register as a member, or buy one of his DVD documentaries, or offer a donation? By way of full disclosure, I must admit that I lived in Canada for over 25 years (mostly in Toronto, but also in Ottawa), and when it comes to Canada I do have a soft-spot of sorts in my heart for our neighbors to the north (although technically speaking, since I reside in north-central Maine, Dan probably lives south of me).




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Noam Chomsky On Usage of Certain Words



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