We work with two types of language in speech and writing; the first is “denotative”, which is the dictionary definition of a term. The second is “connotative”, which is what we think of when we hear that word. For example, “cool” means the temperature dropping or that something is neat, awesome, etc. Easy memory trick: denotative = dictionary (both start with D) and connotative = cultural (both start with C)
What do the words chosen for the names of cars in the 1960s evoke? (Power, speed, strength, muscle, animalistic, etc.) This was in line with the era of the muscle car.
What do the words for the cars of the 1970s evoke? (Small, economical, slower, civic-minded, etc.) This was in line with an influx of women going into the workforce and families needing two cars; economic needs drive our purchases and we want smaller, gas-friendly cars.
Show each sentence. What does the underlined term mean? In reality, they’re synonyms, but they have different cultural associations (or “connotations”).
Reveal each phrase one at a time. Which is the positive connotation? The neutral? The negative?
For bullet six, the words are exactly the same but the definition has evolved so much over time that we do not use the words denotatively anymore (gay v. gay = happy v. homosexual; retard v. retard = slow down v. mentally challenged)
Basically, the idea that the media chooses what stories to share with us and which stories are headline stories – choices that essentially determine what’s important to us. If the media blasts us with a story that is a “big deal”, we believe it is a big deal – and vice versa.
The media gave the Iraq War a lot of attention at first, but as the war continued, it received less attention in the media – which meant it wasn’t as “important” anymore.
Going along with the mantra that “sex sells”, the media sensationalized the story of the Penn State child and sex abuse scandal. It received more attention than the Republican presidential race (which was going to potentially determine our next world leader) and we rarely heard about the Republican race. Many argue that the media generally leans liberal and provides less positive attention to Republican news than Democrats.
Miley Cyrus had a sexually charged and highly controversial performance at the MTV Video Music Awards last year. This was the same night Obama announced that chemical weapons were being used against Syria and that the U.S. may be getting involved. Miley Cyrus was mentioned on Social Media more than the issue in Syria. Why? Discuss.
Basically, the media dictates how we should measure the worth of a leader or person. For example, gay marriage is a hot button issue right now. The media overwhelmingly applauds those that support it and tears down those who don’t – even though that may not be the opinion of everyone listening to / reading that news source. This helps shape public opinion.
The media presented the decision to invade Iraq as necessary action after the 9/11 attacks; they suggested that we judge whether or not Bush served us well as a President based upon whether he chose to invade Iraq
Frames are the “lens” through which a story is portrayed in the media; the media has to choose what they can or can’t include and thus chooses the “angle” of the story
When the Trayvon Martin case became national news, these were the photographs used in the media. What do these images evoke to you? (Many will say that Trayvon looks like a young, innocent boy and Zimmerman looks mean.)
Now show them the next slide before reading off the following information: This photo of Trayvon was taken several years prior to the incident and was not a current picture. Many will identify Zimmerman’s shirt as a jumpsuit because of the orange color, which makes this look like a mugshot. However, it is a polo shirt (as you can see by the color and the white button at the top).
In these photos, we see a different side of the same two people. Trayvon looks tougher, older, bigger, and meaner. (In fact, it should be of note that this photo was the only one taken close to the time of the incident that did not have illegal substances or obscene gestures in it that was available online.) George Zimmerman looks smaller and more pleasant and professional.
What information do you know about the Trayvon Martin case? How did the media present it? (Innocent boy with Arizona iced tea and Skittles in his pocket attacked and shot for no reason v. a boy who had two of the three ingredients needed to make “lean” – a concoction used to get high – in his pockets, with a history of violent behaviors and drug abuse… how does that information change perception?) Discuss.
DENOTATION V. CONNOTATION
• DENOTATIVE LANGUAGE: explicit
definition; the meaning as listed in a
• CONNOTATIVE LANGUAGE: the
association or set of associations a word
brings to mind; the cultural definition
Cars of the 1960’s:
Thunderbird, Falcon, Charger, Comet,
Cars of the 1970’s:
Rabbit, Pinto, Colt, Civic, Starlet, Gremlin
WHY DOES WORD CHOICE MATTER?
• POSITIVE CONNOTATION: Sarah was an
enthusiastic member of her sorority.
• NEUTRAL CONNOTATION: Sarah was an active
member of her sorority.
• NEGATIVE CONNOTATION: Sarah was a
fanatical member of her sorority.
• Disabled vs. Handicapped vs. Differently-abled
• Thin vs. Slender vs. Slim
• Fat vs. Obese vs. Heavy
• Republican vs. Conservative vs. Right Wing
• Democrat vs. Liberal vs. Progressive vs. Left Wing
• Gay vs. Gay and Retard v. Retard
CX IN MEDIA LITERACY & JOURNALISM
the theory that media can exert a large
influence on audiences through the
choice of what stories to consider
newsworthy, and how much prominence
and space to give them
AGENDA SETTING (EXAMPLE #1)
The Iraq War:
• Amount of news coverage on war made
it the prominent topic for discussion in
the American political arena
• However, as war progressed, there was
less coverage about the war – making it
less important in the U.S. political
AGENDA SETTING (EXAMPLE #2)
The Penn State Child Abuse Scandal:
• In the midst of the Republican
presidential campaign, the Penn State
child abuse scandal was exposed.
• Suddenly, Republican presidential race
was secondary to the unfolding Penn
• Rep. presidential story disappeared
from news before story was finished.
AGENDA SETTING (EXAMPLE #3)
Miley Cyrus v. Syria:
• The day after the VMAs, Miley Cyrus was
mentioned on Facebook 8,454,022 times.
• Syria and Obama were mentioned only
• Was this reflective of media coverage?
Or did the media merely reflect our
culture? How can you tell the difference
CX IN MEDIA LITERACY & JOURNALISM
“Priming occurs when news content
suggests to news audiences that they
ought to use specific issues as
benchmarks for evaluating the
performance of leaders and
The Iraq War:
• Invading Iraq – direct response to 9/11.
• Most news stories treated the invasion as a
necessary response by USA to show it
won’t stand down in the face of terror.
• Media suggested we judge the
effectiveness of President Bush as a leader
based on his decisive, swift response.
CX IN MEDIA LITERACY & JOURNALISM
• Process by which an issue is portrayed in
• Media frames provide boundaries around a
news story, determines what is and is not
newsworthy or notable.
• Journalists rely on media frames to decide
what to include and what to leave out – a
process that may be conscious, instinctive,
FRAMING (EXAMPLE #1)
SCENARIO: Imagine the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) plans to hold
a rally on the grounds of the State Capitol Building.
• One broadcast does a story on the rally, suggesting the
KKK rally may attract protestors, which might result in
• A police sergeant is interviewed about how extra
security is going to be needed to prevent injuries.
• The news reporter has framed this as a public safety
FRAMING (EXAMPLE #1, CONT.)
• STORY #2:
• Another news broadcast does a story on the
rally focusing on the KKK’s right to assemble
in public and to voice their opinions.
• A university law professor is interviewed
about the KKK’s right to assemble under the
protection of the Bill of Rights.
• The story is framed as a freedom of speech
YOUR MEDIA BIAS ASSIGNMENT
This weekend, locate an example of a
biased magazine or newspaper article.
On Monday, we will annotate your article
in class, looking for specific examples of
bias in the writing of the piece.