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What Are the Frame Strategies New Media Use? A Comparative Study of Chinese and European Media



Balbi G.



Literature Review:

Current literature suggests that media discourse and frames could influence how the public perceives the importance of an issue. Ryan (1911) said that “repetitive coverage of an issue by the media indicates to the public that an issue is significant and thus worthy of their attention”. According to Neuman et al.(1992), frames are conceptual tools which media and individuals rely on to convey, interpret, and evaluate information. Todd Gitlin (1980) summarized elements of the frame concept as: “Frames are principles of selection, emphasis and presentation composed of little tacit theories about what exists, what happens, and what matters.”

Frames analysis as method was first proposed by Erving Goffman in 1974. To analyze media discourse and public opinion, Gamson(1992) suggested that media discourse can be conceived of as a set of interpretive packages that give meaning to an issue. At its core is a central organization idea, or frame. So he raised the concept of “media packages.” Based on the media discourse of nuclear power from 1945 to 1989, he labeled seven types of media packages: the process package, the energy independence package, the devil’s bargain package, the runaway package, the public accountability package, the not cost effective package and the soft paths package. Unlike Gamson’s inductive approach, Semetko and Valkenburg (2000) used a deductive approach that involved predefining certain frames as content analytic variables to verify the extent to which these frames occur in news.

They labeled five “generic frames”: conflict frame, economic consequences frame, human-interest frame, morality frame and responsibility frame. To measure the five new frames, they developed a series of 20 questions. These were questions such as “Does the article reflect disagreement between parties/individuals/groups?” (conflict), “Does the story emphasize how individuals and groups are affected by the issue/problem?” (human interest), and “Does the story suggest that some level of the government is responsible for the issue/problem?” (attribution of responsibility). Several studies have emphasized the role of frames in the coverage of issues and raised different types of media frame (i.e. Lyengar 1991, Patterson, 1993).

Research Method and Design:

I will use frame analysis as the main research method plus content analysis and interview. But I cannot compare any methods until I have pre-classified data. As Semetko and Valkenburg(2000) elaborated, the inductive approach can detect the many possible ways in which an issue can be framed, but this method is labor intensive, often based on small samples, and can be difficult to replicate. The deductive approach makes it necessary to have a clear idea of the kinds of frames likely to be in the news. I will examine a sizable data set and analyze it in order to have known data that I can use to evaluate my research on.

I will define new media in my research context in the first place. In this research new media refers to the online accounts of media organizations. Self-media and other media accounts that operated by independent indivisuals who are not belong to any media organizations are not included in this research. There are two dimensions of this research on the whole. One is horizontal comparison between Chinese and European new media frame strategies, and the other is vertical comparison between traditional and media frame strategies.

In the practice I will pick up two new media accounts on the Facebook or Twitter as well as Sina Weibo from Europe and China, respectively, as analysis objects. Then I will classify contents they posted on a certain issue within a deadline by using the 20 questions that Semetko and Valkenburg proposed to examine whether these contents belong to those five frames or not. I will interview the director of the media account who is in charge of posting news on the Internet platform about what the process of posting a piece of news is, how he/she organizes the structures, sentences and words of a piece of news, whether there are different expressing models of various kinds of news and so on. Moreover, I will do the same work with the traditional editions and organizations of the sample media above on the same issue to compare that what the differences are between new and old media. At the same time I will research on the effects that those frames have on users by calculating the amount of likes, reposts and comments to find out which kind of frame strategy is more effective for new media.

The Goals of the Research:

The research aims at answering the following questions: How do Chinese and European media on the internet platforms post on certain issues, such as environmental issues, refugees problems and globalization issues? Do they have certain report frames? If so, what are the frame strategies? Same as traditional media do or have developed a set of new ones? What is the difference between Chinese and European new media frames and how can they learn from each other?

The Current Research Condition:

I have been reading books about frame theory, media discourse, and discourse analysis. I accessed the news items of environmental issues in the database. Now in China I am working on collecting reportings from some famous Chinese media accounts on Sina Weibo, such as People's Daily and the Beijing News. In the future the famous foreign mainstream media accounts on Twitter or Facebook, such as BBC and so forth, are what I am interested mostly in. Meanwhile, I take the newspapers and websites as major subjects as well.

Additional information

Start date
End date
12 Months
Funding sources
Swiss Confederation
Swiss National Science Foundation / Bilateral programmes / Sino-Swiss Science and Technology Cooperation