Although scholarship on competitive framing acknowledges that framing is a dynamic process in which the early stages may matter most, very little research has focused on the dynamics of issue emergence. In this article, we draw on several literatures to develop theories for how controversy related to new issues will emerge and expand in news coverage. Through a comprehensive content analysis of 101 local newspapers across the fifty U.S. states, we explore the dynamic and evolving process wherein a new issue-the HPV vaccine-emerged into public discourse and a legislative debate over school requirements for vaccination began. We find that coverage of controversy is a function of proximity, driven primarily by events within a state, although external events also influence local coverage. We also find that the legislative discussion in the media did not necessarily start out as controversial, but as the issue evolved, we observe a large increase in the proliferation of both actors taking positions and the types of arguments made to influence debate. The findings yield important insight into issue emergence with implications for how future research might test competing frames to better understand how the presentation of controversy in the mass media affects public opinion.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We thank the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Scholars in Health Policy Research Program and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health and Society Scholars Program. The authors thank Alan Cohen, Tara Watson, Leslie Hinkson, Chris Adolph, Hans Noel, Patricia Strach and the participants of the RWJF Health Policy Aspen conference for helpful feedback. In addition, we thank Dr. Waisbord and the anonymous reviews for their suggestions.
The authors received financial support for this research from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Scholars in Health Policy Research Program.
Copyright 2012 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.
- media framing
- news production
- news reporting
- political conflict