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Framing media mergers in France and the United States
Unformatted Document Text:  Framing media mergers in France and the United States 1 The existing literature on political communication in the United States delivers a harsh indictment of media institutions. The indictments come generally from two separate quarters. According to various studies, journalists frequently resort to simplistic frames and scripts that distort popular conceptions of social issues such as welfare (Gilens, 1999) and crime (Dixon and Linz, 2000), usually to the detriment of racial minorities and other groups in society. Coming from a rather different theoretical point of view, a number of critics argue that the media are a propaganda tool (Herman and Chomsky, 1988). Far from realizing the liberal ideal – speaking truth to power, promoting open and frank discussion based on facts - journalists deliver, according to these critics, biased information in the service of the ruling economic and political class 1 . In between, another body of knowledge tries to recognize that the journalistic endeavor is a complex one, that has to abide by strict structural constraints, material and temporal, as well as an environment that requires news people to routinize the abnormal (Tuchman, 1973/1997). Various approaches have been used to understand why the media does so poorly as a democratic watchdog. The following pages contain a modest attempt at tackling this problem by analyzing the way journalists cover their own industry. One could hypothesize that if media owners exploit their ownership position routinely it would be most overt in the case of media policy coverage. While the coverage of other issues such as foreign affairs demands that the analyst draw a circuitous line from interest to media 1 Benjamin Barber (2001) writes: “today as twenty-five hundred years ago, when Plato traveled to Syracuse to enlighten its struggling tyrants, only to be sorely disappointed, it remains the principal obligation of intellectuals to speak truth to power” (14). If intellectuals have strayed from this normative path, journalists have perhaps jumped off the cliff.

Authors: Davidson, Roei.
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Framing media mergers in France and the United States
1
The existing literature on political communication in the United States delivers a harsh
indictment of media institutions. The indictments come generally from two separate
quarters. According to various studies, journalists frequently resort to simplistic frames
and scripts that distort popular conceptions of social issues such as welfare (Gilens, 1999)
and crime (Dixon and Linz, 2000), usually to the detriment of racial minorities and other
groups in society.
Coming from a rather different theoretical point of view, a number of critics argue that
the media are a propaganda tool (Herman and Chomsky, 1988). Far from realizing the
liberal ideal – speaking truth to power, promoting open and frank discussion based on
facts - journalists deliver, according to these critics, biased information in the service of
the ruling economic and political class
1
.
In between, another body of knowledge tries to recognize that the journalistic endeavor is
a complex one, that has to abide by strict structural constraints, material and temporal, as
well as an environment that requires news people to routinize the abnormal (Tuchman,
1973/1997).
Various approaches have been used to understand why the media does so poorly as a
democratic watchdog. The following pages contain a modest attempt at tackling this
problem by analyzing the way journalists cover their own industry. One could
hypothesize that if media owners exploit their ownership position routinely it would be
most overt in the case of media policy coverage. While the coverage of other issues such
as foreign affairs demands that the analyst draw a circuitous line from interest to media
1
Benjamin Barber (2001) writes: “today as twenty-five hundred years ago, when Plato traveled to Syracuse
to enlighten its struggling tyrants, only to be sorely disappointed, it remains the principal obligation of
intellectuals to speak truth to power” (14). If intellectuals have strayed from this normative path, journalists
have perhaps jumped off the cliff.


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