In the late 1930s, a well-known American actor and social commentator Will Rogers (n. d.) wittily stated, “All I know is just what I read in the newspapers, and that is an alibi for my ignorance.” Although being humorous to some extent, this claim is justifiably topical currently. Particularly, a vast majority of people globally still perceive the world through the prism of its representation in the media sources. The only difference is that the latter have enormously evolved and diversified. While in the ancient times the media was tractates by wise philosophers, nowadays this role is performed by convergent means of data collection. To be more precise, whereas previously people used to either read, watch or listen to about the salient daily issues, today they are able to perceive news in multiple dimensions simultaneously. Moreover, it is not only the means that have changed due to the technological advancement. The media has enormously modified from depicting the current events to influencing the common mind of masses with respect to important concerns of day-to-day life.
Therefore, this essay attempts to trace and critically evaluate how the media is able to frame the public opinion drawing upon an example of representation of the Obamacare issue in the US informational sources.
First and foremost, the media practically frames people’s lives and positions toward specified items since they have transformed news and opinions in commodities. Indeed, modern information resources not only highlight the events interesting to the public. They pick up those that are sensational, thus, the most likely to be consumed by the audience. Owing to that healthcare is a vital aspect of the life of any person, this issue will always be topical. Nonetheless, the audience would not be motivated to engage in informational exchange process by barely consuming bold facts. In other words, information has to be catching and able to attract reader’s attention to be consumed. For example, an article in The Washington Post by Kessler (2014) may be analyzed to illustrate this reasoning. Here, the headline is more than informative, asserting that Obamacare positive statistics is false. The title is supported by the claimant’s photo and a direct quotation regarding the issue described. However, the chain of components of this piece is not that simple due to the picture of the Pinocchio test that grasps attention (Kessler, 2014). In this way, the fact is intertwined with a well-known symbol – Pinocchio – whose nose increased in size each time he lied. This approach is succinct and eloquent in the same time and perfectly frames the potential readers’ perception of the event discussed. In particular, without even reading a text, the framework of the issue advocated to the audience is clear: opponents of Obama blame him for providing false data concerning his healthcare policy while their words are unfounded. In any case, the news is apt and well-framed, and as a result, it is able to foresee and influence the audience’s position to be consumed. This circumstance proves that “public as well as private reason depends on the importance of having an accurate, reliable account of events,” which the media is able to represent, as previously demonstrated (Briggs & Burke, 2009, p. 270).
More often than not, framing the opinion of the public starts with a headline. Even without reading an article, each headline itself shapes initial perception of the item to be considered. Albeit it is not always equal to thorough realization of what is argued about, as evidenced by the above example. For instance, a search results’ page in The Huffington Post related to Obamacare popularity (n. d.) can be an ample illustration of this point. A search request showed six headlines describing the subject matter within the most current timeframe of about seven months. Nevertheless, each of them has a specified message to be conveyed to the individuals, which is, in fact, framing of their opinions. Specifically, the headline “Bad News for Obamacare” shows that the item pays attention to potential (or existing) threats for the policy that prevent it from successful implementation. Hence, the primary stakeholders have to be informed. On the other hand, “Those Who Label Obamacare ‘not Liberal Enough’ Don’t Necessarily Want It to Be More Liberal” tells about political uncertainty and harsh rivalry within the field. In this regard, people may be unconsciously motivated not to believe politicians, who tell lies, but trust the media, which reveals their flaws to community. Another example of framing the readers’ attitude with respect to the problem is writing “Americans Still Don’t Understand Obamacare: Polls.” The headline communicates blur of politics’ explanations, their inability to improve people’s lives and being incapable to follow the chosen political direction properly, which relates to their incompetence. Consequently, headlines are, to some degree, clichés for shaping the public attitudes with regard to the issue.
What is more, the media frames community perspectives concerning notable aspect of life by means of setting an agenda. This term refers to a list of items to be highlighted and discussed in the article or other type of information representation. To illustrate, the work by Smialek (2014) is taken under analysis. At the initial stage of setting the media agenda, the most salient topics are chosen for consideration by journalists. Undoubtedly, healthcare policies are one of the most important concerns for the US public. Therefore, the Obamacare is a topical and acute issue in contemporary life of Americans. The next stage involves clarification of the major stakeholders that may be affected by this issue. Whereas the problem investigated is linked to the consumers’ additional expenditures, this accent is especially interesting for potential readers/ consumers. One more significant step to be undertaken is choosing the means to represent the news agenda outlined.