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CNN's framing of September 11: Suggesting an appropriate response to terrorism
Unformatted Document Text:  4 framed the events of September 11 both verbally and visually. This paper will qualitatively deconstruct and analyze CNN’s verbal and visual “breaking news” coverage and suggest that CNN created a powerful visual and verbal frame with its coverage that argued to viewers that the events of September 11 comprised an act of war so horrific that immediate military retaliation was not only justified but necessary. CNN was selected for this analysis because viewers consistently considered it their primary news outlet. Surveys by the Pew Research Center report that 90% of Americans received news about the September 11 terrorism attacks from television; of those, 53% turned to cable, led notably by CNN. 2 Further, a previous analysis of September 11 breaking news coverage on ABC, CBS, NBC and CNN showed strong similarities in coverage among the four media outlets. 3 Framing Defined For this study, we conducted a verbal (audio) and visual framing analysis of the first 12 hours of “breaking” live news broadcast by CNN. Noted sociologist William Gamson has suggested that a complete frame analysis has three components: an examination of the production process that “alerts us to issues of power and resources” 4 ; an examinations of texts, which can occur on different levels of analysis; and, an attempt to address the “complex interaction of texts with an audience engaged in negotiating the meaning.” 5 According to Entman, “to frame is to select some aspects of a perceived reality and make them more salient in a communicating text, in such a way as to promote a particular problem, definition, causal interpretation, moral evaluation, and/or treatment recommendation for the item described.” 6 Entman argued that the social power of journalism is reflected in the ways that journalists designate what is most salient through,

Authors: Reynolds, Amy. and Barnett, Brooke.
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4
framed the events of September 11 both verbally and visually. This paper will
qualitatively deconstruct and analyze CNN’s verbal and visual “breaking news” coverage
and suggest that CNN created a powerful visual and verbal frame with its coverage that
argued to viewers that the events of September 11 comprised an act of war so horrific that
immediate military retaliation was not only justified but necessary.
CNN was selected for this analysis because viewers consistently considered it
their primary news outlet. Surveys by the Pew Research Center report that 90% of
Americans received news about the September 11 terrorism attacks from television; of
those, 53% turned to cable, led notably by CNN.
2
Further, a previous analysis of
September 11 breaking news coverage on ABC, CBS, NBC and CNN showed strong
similarities in coverage among the four media outlets.
3
Framing Defined
For this study, we conducted a verbal (audio) and visual framing analysis of the
first 12 hours of “breaking” live news broadcast by CNN. Noted sociologist William
Gamson has suggested that a complete frame analysis has three components: an
examination of the production process that “alerts us to issues of power and resources”
4
;
an examinations of texts, which can occur on different levels of analysis; and, an attempt
to address the “complex interaction of texts with an audience engaged in negotiating the
meaning.”
5
According to Entman, “to frame is to select some aspects of a perceived
reality and make them more salient in a communicating text, in such a way as to promote
a particular problem, definition, causal interpretation, moral evaluation, and/or treatment
recommendation for the item described.”
6
Entman argued that the social power of
journalism is reflected in the ways that journalists designate what is most salient through,


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