One of the founding tenets of journalism is objectivity, but the fact remains that due to personal beliefs and experiences, journalists use frames to make sure readers see or hear certain things and not others (Kent & Davis, 2006). Framing is a way of giving some interpretation to isolated items of fact, often placed in a frame of reference familiar to the audience (McQuail, 2000).
Entman (1993) defined framing as selecting “some aspects of a perceived reality and making them more salient in a communicating text, in such a way as to promote a particular problem definition, causal interpretation, moral evaluation, and/or treatment recommendation” (p. 52). As a macroconstruct, the term “framing” refers to modes of presentation that journalists and other communicators use to present information in a way that resonates with existing underlying schemas among their audience (Shoemaker & Reese, 1996).
Framing occurs when reporters have the option to present an issue using a variety of packages or thematic slants. Since most public policy issues are multidimensional, the potential for framing is usually present. For example, a pro-life rally march can be presented as a disruption of political order or as an exercise in free speech.
Similarly, Reese (1997) posits that frames influence the symbolic representation of a topic, including language use, sentence structure, and code words. For example, a pro-life frame will use terms such as baby, abortionist, unborn, and murder, whereas the pro-choice frame might use fetus, doctor, woman, and freedom to describe the same situation (Hertog & McLeod, 2001).
The basis of framing theory presumes the prevalent media will focus attention on newsworthy events and place them within a sphere of meaning, and that media professionals create frames in the context of complex organizations. Frames become an issue during the reporting process as journalists reproduce culturally embedded views of the world (Foucault, 1980) and use cultural codes to distinguish what is significant or valid and who has the standing to say what is true (Dickerson, 2003).
Framing is of interest in race and gender studies because the differences in people’s culture, race, religion, class, and gender influence how they write stories, as well as how they perceive media coverage of various issues. This is significant, according to Gans (1979), because the majority of journalists come from an upper-middle- to upper-class background, which he asserts is a distinctly white male perspective.
Media frames play a vital role in helping citizens shape their attitudes and perceptions of race, class, culture, and gender relations in America.
Therefore, frame analyses traditionally consider producers of news inserted into the issue attention cycle and how problem selection, emphasis, and definition facilitates what becomes most recognizable about the phenomena receiving media attention (Watkins, 2001).