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The Morality of May 2, 2011: A Content Analysis of US Headlines Regarding the Death of Osama bin Laden
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The Morality of May 2, 2011: A Content Analysis of US Headlines Regarding the Death of Osama bin Laden

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  • 1. Bowman, N. D., Lewis, R., & Bryand, M. (2012, May). The morality of May 2, 2011: A content analysis of US headlines regarding the death of OsamaICA 2012 Phoenix bin Laden. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the International Communication Association, Phoenix. (about) a year ago, either ‘We Got the Bastard’ or ‘He Died’ Bowman, Bryand (WVU) Lewis (Texas)
  • 2. Overview• “Good evening. Tonight, I can report to the American people and to the world that the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al-Qaeda, and a terrorist who was responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent men, women, and children” ~Barack Obama5/23/2012 (c) ND Bowman, 2012 2
  • 3. Overview• While bin Laden’s death was pervasive in world headlines on Monday, 2 May 2011…• …cursory readings reveal anecdotal variance in the framing of the event5/23/2012 (c) ND Bowman, 2012 3
  • 4. Overview• News largely broke via social media (Parr, 2011) in advance of press conference• 95% US public approval of “military action;” support in different shapes and sizes• Newspapers were not a primary source of early information, but rather (re)affirmation after-the-fact5/23/2012 (c) ND Bowman, 2012 4
  • 5. Morality and News Framing• News is a morality play (Altheide, 1997) – Iraqi Revolution  ‘no fear’ – War on Drugs  impurity, disorder – 2012 Election  Matter of Faith5/23/2012 (c) ND Bowman, 2012 5
  • 6. Frames and Audience Reaction• Use of news frames can influence audiences responses to news and events – Weighting of justice > care (Lind, 1996) – “good” or “bad” news as a function of moral salience (Zillmann et al., 1998) – Reactions to “Hot-Button” issues a function of moral considerations of intended audiences• Producers are aware of these moral considerations, and frame content accordingly5/23/2012 (c) ND Bowman, 2012 6
  • 7. Audiences and Morality MIME (Tamborini, 2011)5/23/2012 (c) ND Bowman, 2012 7
  • 8. Current Study• Can Δ in framing of OBL coverage be explained as a function of moral subculture?• Content analysis of N = 403 US newspaper front pages from 2 May 2011 (72% AP) – Two coders analyzed: • Headlines • Subheads • Photography5/23/2012 (c) ND Bowman, 2012 8
  • 9. Current Study• Five moral foundations from MIME/MFT coded for: – Presence or absence – Adherence or violation* Foundations are: – Benign or charged* Harm/Care – Proportion of page devoted to OBL Fairness/Reciprocity Ingroup/Loyalty• Moral subculture of audience Authority/Respect Purity/Sanctity – Political ideology • 2008 election results • Adelman (2004) conservative and liberal rank survey – Dominant faith/religion (Albion College Survey) – Story source5/23/2012 (c) ND Bowman, 2012 9
  • 10. Adelman (2004) 5/23/2012 (c) ND Bowman, 2012 10
  • 11. You can’t hide
  • 12. How we killed bin Laden
  • 13. bin Laden killed by US
  • 14. Many cheer death of al-Qaidaleader nearly 10 years after 9/11
  • 15. Results• Newspapers – All 50 states represented • (n = 1 in Vermont; n = 40 in California) – n = 270 stories sources to AP – 63% (n = 253) from liberal regions – 66% (n = 262) Catholic; 29% (n = 115) Baptist – Circulation • M = 71K, Min = 4118, Max = 915K, Mode = 15000, Med = 35K5/23/2012 (c) ND Bowman, 2012 17
  • 16. Results – General PresenceTables 1 & 2. Moral foundations represented in US newspaper Pattern ofheadlines surrounding the death of Osama bin Laden. distributions for Coding Category Binomial Test (against .50 distribution) subheads isPresence of foundation Absent Present nearly-identical Harm/Care 36 365 p ~ .000 to what is Fairness/Reciprocity 371 31 p ~ .000 reported here. Ingroup/Loyalty 335 66 p ~ .000 Authority/Respect 378 24 p ~ .000 Purity/Sanctity 400 2 p ~ .000 Coding Category Chi-square Test (against .50 Proportion of distribution) front-pageFoundation Vector Charged Benign Benign Charged violation violation upholding upholding coverage devoted Harm/Care 13 352 0 0 p ~ .000 to OBL was M = Fairness/Reciprocity 0 0 23 8 p = .007 54.9% (SD = 26.9); Ingroup/Loyalty 0 0 63 3 p ~ .000 Mode = 20%, Authority/Respect 0 0 23 1 p ~ .000 Median = 57.5% Purity/Sanctity 0 1 1 0 p ~ 1.005/23/2012 (c) ND Bowman, 2012 18
  • 17. Results – Liberal vs. ConservativeHeadlines Liberal Rank Conservative Rank All AP only All AP onlyPresence of foundation (n = 141, 62)a Harm/Care -.21* -.22+ .18* .13 Fairness/Reciprocity .15+ .22+ -.13 -.13 Ingroup/Loyalty -.16+ -.10 .16+ .09 Authority/Respect .01 .04 -.01 -.06 Purity/Sanctity -.105 -.193 .106 .196Foundation vectorb Harm/Care (n = 125,57) -.07 -.16 .07 .16 Fairness/Reciprocity (n = 16,5) .56* n/a -.65* n/a Ingroup/Loyalty (n = 25,9) .07 n/a -.08 n/a Authority/Respect (n = 10,4) -.50 n/a .50 n/a Purity/Sanctity (n = 1,1) n/a n/a n/a n/aSubheadsPresence of foundation (n = 114, 62) Harm/Care .12 .13 -.12 -.11 Fairness/Reciprocity -.02 -.03 .01 .02 Ingroup/Loyalty .04 .04 -.03 -.02 Authority/Respect .07 .02 -.08 -.04 Purity/Sanctity -.10 n/a .10 n/aFoundation vectorb Harm/Care (n = 98,42) -.08 -.13 .06 .10 Fairness/Reciprocity (n = 39,16) .37** n/a -.38** n/a Ingroup/Loyalty (n = 82,39) -.07 .19 .06 -.21 Authority/Respect (n = 50,24) .28* .26 -.28* -.26 5/23/2012 (c) ND Bowman, 2012 19 Purity/Sanctity ( n = 1) n/a n/a n/a n/a
  • 18. Discussion• Δ in moral subcultures qua political ideology was associated with differential framing of a prominent news story – Conservatives focused on harm/care violations (“killing” and “slaughtering”) and ingroup/loyalty (“Americanism”) – Liberals focused on justice restoration and fairness (Obama and “Justice has been done.”)• Patterns in-line with known moral code variance between “reds” and “blues” (Graham et al., 2007)5/23/2012 (c) ND Bowman, 2012 20
  • 19. Future Research• Expand beyond print newspapers – Less institutionalization = More framing?• Expand beyond US/domestic coverage• Replications considering other events – More distal events (eg: Qadafi, Arab Spring) – Less ubiquitous events (eg: abortion, gay rights)• Closer examination of story text5/23/2012 (c) ND Bowman, 2012 21
  • 20. Thank you!• In progress research, so for information: Nicholas David Bowman, Ph.D. Nicholas.Bowman@mail.wvu.edu @bowmanspartan5/23/2012 (c) ND Bowman, 2011 22