Portraying China: a six-year content analysis of American elite news media coverage (1990-1995)
[July 15-19, 2002]
Wang, Chun-Lei~Rota, Josep
Copyright (c) 2002
Abstract: This paper presents the results of a content analysis of news stories relating to China reported by six American elite news media, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, ABC, CBS, and NBC. The media content on China over a six-year period (1990-1995) was systematically examined through quantitative content analysis. Data collection was based on story keywords as compiled by Newspaper Abstracts and Evening News Abstracts. A total of 4,496 news stories on China were reviewed yielding a total of 2,742 keywords. Only those keywords that had a frequency higher than seven or those that had an independent meaning were coded as variables. This approach resulted in 607 variables being included in the study.This study also introduces the use of Perl for extracting keywords and executing the coding process in content analysis. Perl stands for Practical Extraction and Reporting Language. It was originally designed to extract information from text files and reports and has become one of the most popular languages for implementing Internet and Web-based research applications. Coding of each story adopted the form of a binary or dichotomous system. The study factor-analyzed the most frequently reported variables and grouped them into 20 major themes: (1) eleven themes for the three newspapers and (2) nine for the three broadcast networks. The themes found in the newspapers included U.S.-China Relations, Human Rights, Trade, Foreign Policy, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Chinese Economy, Chinese Military, Chinese Government and Politics, Chinese Social Life and Society, and China and Its Neighbor Countries. The general topic themes found in the networks were U.S.-China Relations, Human Rights, Trade, Chinese Economy, Nuclear Technology, Chinese Military, Disasters, Chinese Government and Politics, and one event topic, Harry Wu and the Women’s Conference. The study analyzes those themes, derives a subset of “grand themes,” compares coverage among newspapers and broadcast news services and between the two sets of media, and describes the way American elite news media portrayed China during a critical period of recent history.
From the Focus of Study section: As stated, the media selected for this study are: The New York Times; The Washington Post; The Los Angeles Times; ABC; CBS; and NBC. Newspaper Abstracts (University Microfilm Inc, CD-ROM version) and Evening News Abstracts (The Vanderbilt Television News Archive) online are used for the study. Newspaper Abstracts provides publishing information from 26 major newspapers, including the three newspapers studied, along with keywords and an abstract of each story (Newspaper Abstract [CD-ROM], 1996). Evening News Abstracts provides air date information, keywords, and abstracts (Evening News Abstracts [Online], 1999). Both abstracts were acknowledged to provide electronic data bases that accurately describe international affairs coverage. These six sources transmitted a total of 4,496 news stories published by the newspapers and 753 by the broadcast networks’ evening news during six years (1990-1995). The two sets of abstracts contain 5,249 news stories (4,496 from the newspapers, 753 from the networks) and the number of variables (keywords) is 1,018 (774 from the newspaper, 244 from the networks).
Development Communication Division of the International Communication Association at the 52nd Annual Conference