July 13, 1998

Framing the News

Placement

Placement

If one looks at how prominently stories were played on the front page, it tends to slightly reinforce the competitive frames of horse race, conflict, and injustice. They account for 35% of all lead stories, versus their overall representation as 31% of all stories. Conversely, the three explanatory frames (history, process and trends) are placed in the lead position only 8% of the time, even though they represent 13% of all stories. They are much more likely to appear on the lower half of the page, where they make up 17%, or nearly one in five stories.

The lower half of the page was more of a mix. The competitive frames fell to just over a quarter (27%); both policy exploration (10% vs. 9% overall) and personality profiles (9% vs. 8% overall) had the slightest increases in appearance versus their general representation.

The placement of these frames might suggest that journalists tend to view conflict, wrongdoing and the winning and losing more important or urgent and therefore more deserving of lead placement. Or it could suggest that even if journalists themselves do not think the conflict is that important, they believe that a competitively framed story is more likely to appeal to readers and therefore should be near the top of the page. Whatever the reason, stories framed around competitiveness (conflict, winning and losing and wrongdoing) are placed in such a way as to convey greater news value.