Author of Sociology: The Core describes the role of the media in politics as an “agenda setter” (Hughes, 2011), meaning that the media has the power to shape what we think is important and what are the most pressing political issues of our time. For example, though there was no evidence that Obama was not a U.S. citizen, when news outlets published stories citing questions about his citizenship, it became a public phenomenon. Not only can the news shape what we talk about, it can also shape what we think about social and political issues. The goal of this assignment is to apply your sociological imagination to the political discourse in America through identifying the ways that news stories are “framed” to influence our perspectives.
The first step of this assignment is to select two articles from national news sources which cover the same current political news story. The articles should have been published within the last two weeks. The articles should be feature stories that are at least 2 pages in length each. An opinion or editorial piece would not meet the requirements of this assignment.
Carefully analyze each article to see how they compare in their presentation of information and facts about the current political event. Some things that you may want to look for in the articles that may indicate some bias include:
The headline used to sell the story
The types of sources that they cite in the article (i.e. only quoting sources from one political party)
Presenting a one-sided discussion of topic without giving an alternate perspective
Use of stereotypes (consider the terminology used to refer to individuals and groups which may confirm stereotypes)
Making assumptions that are not backed by facts
Emphasizing certain aspects of the story while de-emphasizing others
Not placing the topic in context
Use of “loaded language” (shapes the way a reader interprets the information through the terminology that is used to refer to an event, individual or perspective)
In a 2-3 pages response, discuss the following:
Introduction. Introduce the two articles you analyzed and the publications that they were drawn from. Explain the news story reported through the articles.
Analysis. Compare and contrast how the articles framed the same news story. What was similar about their reports? What was different? What strategies or langauge was used by the articles to convey specific perspectives on the topic? How may this reporting impact the way readers would view this news event?
Reflection. Discuss how the way that news stories are represented in the media shapes the current political discourse and political participation in the U.S. Reflect on how you consume the media and the steps you do (or will) take to seek out balanced political information.
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