As one of the most popular concepts in current research on journalism and mass communication, framing refers to the idea that actors like strategic communicators, journalists, but also audience members select some aspects of a particular issue and make them salient while other aspects are ignored. Frames refer to a specific presentation of issues or events and therefore construct reality in a meaningful but selective way. They do so by suggesting a problem definition, causal interpretation, treatment recommendation, and/or moral evaluation on a given issue, favoring a specific political leaning and course of action. More specifically, strategic communicators suggest frames that compete for public and media attention, and journalists adopt and alter these frames, which ultimately affects audience members’ individual level frames. Framing as a concept thus explains the power to construct and alter meaning. As a unifying concept, framing has the potential to bridge several areas of communication research and explain the competition of strategic positions on the side of communicators, journalists, and audience members. However, the concept is also plagued by conceptual and operational fuzziness, resulting in arbitrary and incompatible uses of the term. This limits the relevance of the framing concept to theory-driven journalism studies.
Christian von Sikorski and Jörg Matthes
Jesper Strömbäck and Adam Shehata
Political journalism constitutes one of the most prominent domains of journalism, and is essential for the functioning of democracy. Ideally, political journalism should function as an information provider, watchdog, and forum for political discussions, thereby helping citizens understand political matters and help prevent abuses of power. The extent to which it does is, however, debated. Apart from normative ideals, political journalism is shaped by factors at several levels of analysis, including the system level, the media organizational level, and the individual level. Not least important for political journalism is the close, interdependent, and contentious relationship with political actors, shaping both the processes and the content of political journalism. In terms of content, four key concepts in research on political journalism in Western democratic systems are the framing of politics as a strategic game, interpretive versus straight news, conflict framing and media negativity, and political or partisan bias. A review of research related to these four concepts suggests that political journalism has a strong tendency to frame politics as a strategic game rather than as issues, particularly during election campaigns; that interpretive journalism has become more common; that political journalism has a penchant for conflict framing and media negativity; and that there is only limited evidence that political journalism is influenced by political or partisan bias. Significantly more important than political or partisan bias are different structural and situational biases. In all these and other respects, there are important differences across countries and media systems, which follows from the notion that political journalism is always influenced by the media systems in which it is produced and consumed.