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  1. 1. The First Amendment as a Frame: A Content Analysis of Top Blogs Nikhil Moro Kennesaw State University
  2. 2. Blogs use frames • Blogs have blurred the lines between producers of news and its consumers (Gillmor, “We the Media,” 2004) • Conceived in this manner, blogs may be expected to use several tools, such as framing, that the mass media have traditionally used to influence their consumers' understanding of issues.
  3. 3. Are blogs news producers? • News producers transform discrete bits of news information into powerful, socially meaningful narratives that contribute to the social construction of reality and identity. (Tuchman, Making News, 1978)
  4. 4. Media use frames • Media coverage usually does not objectively reflect the world, because the media use frames to provide their consumers with themes that organize information and provide a context for understanding its meaning. (McQuail, Sociology of Mass Communications, 1972)
  5. 5. What are frames? • Media frames are ‘‘organizing principles that are socially shared and persistent over time, that work symbolically to meaningfully structure the social world.’’ They act as a tool to shape and manipulate information and influence how people understand issues and perceive themselves. (Reese, Framing Public Life, 2001)
  6. 6. The community state • If in 1966 McLuhan suggested that the printing press was responsible for the rise of the nation state, forty years later, it may be argued that Weblogs, or simply blogs, are responsible for the rise of the “community state.” • By 2005, over ten million blogs will have been created, which would dramatically impact ways in which information is exchanged in a variety of fields. (Henning, The Blogging Iceberg, 2002).
  7. 7. Top ten blogs • The ten most popular blogs read by media elites in 2004 were: – the Daily Dish by Andew Sullivan, – Instapundit by Glenn Reynolds, – Kausfiles by Mickey Kaus, – the Corner by National Review Online, – Talking Points Memo by Josh Marshall, – Media News by James Romenesko, – Eschaton by Atrios, – Daniel Drezner’s blog, – the Volokh Conspiracy by Eugene Volokh et al., – Boing Boing by Cory Doctorow and – the Bleat by James Lileks. (Daniel Drezner and Henry Farrell, The Power and Politics of Blogs, 2004).
  8. 8. Hypothesis H1: The First Amendment is a predominant frame in the presentation of news and commentary by the top political blogs. -- Study found clear evidence to support hypothesis.
  9. 9. Method • Content analysis (Babbie, 2000) • This study is a close textual reading of the ten most popular blogs, over a period of five weeks starting January 1, 2005, to identify the frequency of occurrence of a First Amendment frame. • Specifically, the study analyzed how often bloggers use values such as "freedom of speech," "freedom of expression" or other democratic liberties, as talking points in their commentaries or presentations of events.
  10. 10. Results • 1. First Amendment, or its five constituent freedoms (of speech, of the press, of religion, of assembly, and of petition against grievances), were a dominant theme in bloggers’ postings. • 2. More than a third of blog posts use First Amendment frames – In all, 284 posts from the top ten blogs were coded in this study – spanning five weeks in starting January 1, 2005. Of them, 102 posts, or 36 per cent, cited the First Amendment or one of its component freedoms to support an argument or to make a point.
  11. 11. • 3. Freedom of speech and freedom of religion were the two top First Amendment frames. The frequencies: – Freedom of speech or “free speech” – 21 – Freedom of the press – 11 – Freedom of religion – 18 – Freedom of assembly or association – 10 – Freedom to redress grievances – 4 – “First Amendment” – 38
  12. 12. • 4. Across the board, the top blogs displayed relatively vigorous argument. – To quote Derrida (trans., 1996), “We can no more imagine effective speech without there being self- representation than we can imagine a representation of speech without there being effective speech.” – Or as Fish (1994) explains, free speech “is just the name we give to verbal behavior that serves the substantive agendas we wish to advance.”
  13. 13. Discussion • Freedom of expression and democracy • Paradigmatic approach to freedom of expression: – Liberal/libertarian – Conservative/utilitarian – Critical-cultural – Postmodernist