Frames are indispensable tools for journalists to make sense of unfolding events, but they also constrain their perspective to most readily see what they expect to see. In this study, we examine how pre-established news frames continue to inform journalists’ framing practices despite the ongoing arrival of novel, often contravening information. Specifically, we argue that dominant frames rooted in pre-existing cultural perceptions and strategic elite frame building have the capacity to overpower an open-minded appraisal of available information. In a qualitative, diachronic analysis of US, British and Russian news coverage of the 2013 Syrian Chemical Weapons crisis, we analyze journalists’ strategies for negotiating between pre-established news frames and novel, discrepant claims and observations. We find that most claims that directly contravened existing frames were either ignored or discounted by questioning the credibility of sources. By contrast, unforeseen events effectively challenged the predictive validity of dominant frames, necessitating adaptations with often far-reaching consequences for the frame. Observed patterns were consistent across outlets, despite the different journalistic cultures and embedding media systems and political settings. Our findings illuminate the important role of journalists’ pre-established ideas, which shape their news selection and framing practices, contributing to the maintenance of existing news narratives.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported by FP7 Socio-Economic Sciences and Humanities [INFOCORE, grant number 613308].
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- News framing
- diachronic analysis
- dominant frames
- negotiation of frames
- news events
- qualitative analysis