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Communicating Terrorism: Audience Framing of Terrorist Attacks and the Media in Great Britain, the United States and Russia Sarah Oates, U of Glasgow Andrew Paul Williams, VT Project and Acknowledgments

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Communicating Terrorism: Audience Framing of Terrorist Attacks and the Media in Great Britain, the United States and Russia

Sarah Oates, U of Glasgow

Andrew Paul Williams, VT


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Project and Acknowledgments

  • This study is part of a much larger project funded by the British Economic and Social Research Council (RES 228-25-0048 and RES 223-25-0028).

  • Lynda Lee Kaid (US and Florida project Coordinator and overall project advisor)

  • John Tedesco (DC); Mitchell McKinney (MO); and many other colleagues and research assistants in the US, UK, and Russia


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Purpose Statement

  • This study aimed to evaluate audience frames in terms of prevalence and valence in the context of global terrorism immediately following national election campaigns and to compare this cross national data.


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Framing

  • Entman: to frame is to select some aspects of a perceived reality and make them more salient

  • Tankard et al.: Frames are central organizing ideas.

  • Scheufele—Audience Frames; and Shoemaker and Reese who argue Framing isn’t just employed by journalists but also by the public

  • Semetko and Valkenburg—Generic Frames

  • DeVreese and Boomgarden—Valence


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Method

  • Qualitative evaluation of transcripts taking a deductive approach to identify, classify, and compare five generic frames.

  • Data Collection

    • US (after Bush re-election): 12 Groups—Florida, DC, and Missouri

    • UK (after Blair re-election): 17 Groups—Glasgow and London

    • Russia (after Putin re-election): 10—Moscow and Ulyanovsk


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Over all Findings Findings

  • Semetko and Valkenburg’s Generic Frames:

  • Conflict – lots

  • Human Interest - lots

  • Economic Consequences – not much

  • Morality – yes some religion and on values

  • Responsibility – many levels; “blame frame”


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Conflict Frame:mainly negative, of course

  • US—Lots of focus on the effects of political/candidate conflict (i.e., neg. ads) on citizen in vote choice and in regard to safety issues.

  • UK—Main emphasis on the Iraqi war and Blair’s support of US

  • Russia—Lots of talk of Gulf Wars and US motive of wanting OIL; Reject the idea of a “war on terror;”


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Human Interest (Individual and Collective): mixed valence

  • US—Mainly Concern for citizens afraid due to the color terror warning system; And Blame candidates for scaring the public and Bush as using this as a ploy

  • UK—Very suspicious of the media and how election coverage impacted the system; Media treat people as stupid; Concern expressed for how public suffer from not having adequate information about important issues

  • Russia—Concern about human rights abuses; Sympathy for victims of terror attacks (esp. 911)


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Economic Consequences: Mostly Negative Valence

  • US—Concern about the costs of war and homeland security and how this negatively impacts other things such as funding for education and other domestic needs

  • UK—Concern about “selling out” to support the US for economic reasons and how the US has a huge investment in their country’s economy: “This is horrible.”

  • Russia—Concern Iraqi war is about money


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Morality/Values: Mostly Negative

  • US—Focus on “American Values;” symbols of freedom; Concern about racism and what it means to be a “real American”

  • UK—Focus on lack of honesty in media and political parties manipulation of facts; Discussion of how religion is a major factor in the terror attacks and the “war on terror”

  • Russia—Concern of the value of money over people and rights; Expressed much more concerned about the issue of prejudice—yet feel free to express hatred of Chechens as a group.


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Responsibility/“Blame”:Negative in several directions

  • US—Blame shared with terrorists, politicians, and media; Very critical of mass media and effects on children and journalistic news values (what to show or not to show)

  • UK—Again blaming the media for “focusing on personalities” instead of issues or “real” information; Gov’t/Security, i.e.: “you go to court you got a metal detector. How hard would that be to fit into a tube station?”

  • Russia—Blame is focused on individual leaders such as Putin, Yeltsin, and Stalin for problems.


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Implications

  • Evidence that the audience/public do rely on pre-existing classifications of generic frames when discussing salient issues, concerns, people, and institutions

  • Frames definitely are valenced and seem to be classified by a number of situational factors

  • Audience framing norms emerged in these three different cultures


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Limitations and Future Research

  • Mainly descriptive, qualitative evaluation—seek to conduct a quantitative content analysis for more way to compare data

  • Emphasis only on generic frames—issue specific and emergent frames need to be identified and evaluated


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