Luntz conveniently pointed out how in media it is not what you say, but how you say it (Scheufele, Tewksbury, 2007:9), which sums up the role of agenda-setting, framing, objectivity or lack of it can have a bearing on how an audience will perceive an event. This essay will look at three articles from CNN, Mail & Guardian and lastly News24, that covered the incident where the South African police shot and killed several Lonmin striking mine workers on the 12th of August 2012, and analyse the story telling strategies that they have each adopted.
As a title CNN has South Africa Shocked by police shooting at mine with an image of women who are outraged, we assume by the incident reported on. At the bottom of the picture is an option to view twelve other pictures that form a picture story when viewed in sequence, with the end depicting miners lying dead on the floor. On the top left are highlights of the story and at the bottom, various videos reporting on the incident, footage of the event and the build-up of the situation leading to the shooting. The news story gives an account of the event with a follow up of the consequences and what important figures had to say about it. The article provides a variety of ways to consume the information. For those who do not have time, the highlights and captions are enough to give an understanding of the story and can be enough to entice an audience into reading the full story.
From the title, the idea of an unacceptable act by the police has been performed and should be condemned, is suggested. The caption of the women protesting enforces the outrage. The news story places police brutality as an issue without actually spelling it out. This relates to agenda-setting which refers to the way that mass media will place an emphasis on a certain issue and the importance that audiences will put on the issue (2007:11). What is pointed out is the excessive force used by the police and the shock it has caused or should cause in South African society and the world.
The images, verbal, still and the motion picture depict a violent scenario. Words such as ‘carnage’ and ‘bloodbath’, gives a very visual horrific description of the scene after the shooting took place. The story is framed so that the shooting is seen as a massacre. “Framing is based on the assumption that subtle changes in the wording of the description of a situation might affect interpretation of this situation’’ (Scheufele, 2000:309).The incident is further compared to apartheid error which the mass audience knows to have been an age of unfairness and violence. What results is the audience interpreting the incident as unjust and uncalled for.
While the angle of the story is quite clear it provides the audience with a notion of impartiality as it quotes from two opposing sources. The police are given a voice to defend their action, while the story uses quotes from other South African news reports to speak out on behalf of the miners, which balances out the news story giving the notion of objectivity. As early as from the headline we get an idea of the impact the story has had on the South African community, and consequences of the shooting incident
Mail & Guardian
The title of the story reads Police open fire on Lonmin miners: several killed and below is an image of the mine workers caring weapons and singing, with the sun setting behind them. On the left are several links to other news stories covering the incident and all are by the Mail & Gaurdian. A link to their blog where they can read more opinionated pieces regarding the story is provided. The article has not provided any video or pictures of the shoot-out, therefore, no visual violence is depicted. The fact no violence is depicted when the clash was such vicious one, deemphasises the police shooting on the mine workers.
The title of the article remains a pretty impartial component of the story with no suggestive language, but the basic facts. This gives the idea of an objective news piece to follow. No agenda setting is visible from the heading as no issue is highlighted. The sub-heading, however, is framed in a way that points out at both the police and miners as equal perpetrators of the violence as it mentions the shootout to be between the two groups. Framing has the impact of stressing out specific news values, facts and considerations, endowing greater relevance to the issue than it might appear under a different frame (Scheufele: 298). Here the police are seen as attempting to contain the situation.
The opening line reports to 18 bodies found at the scene. The reporting is ambiguous as both sides were said to have opened fire; the reader has no way of knowing whether the deaths were from the miners or police. As the story unfolds it takes the angle of the mine workers aggravating the situation into its escalation point. The miners are depicted as a crowd ready for war, which retaliate by shooting at the police for trying to contain the situation. The police are given a platform to defend themselves, while the miners are quoted as willing to die on the spot. The story tends to be bias as only the police is given a shot at explaining themselves and the miners suggested as being prepared to use any amount of force.
The headline reads Mine shoot-out death toll rises to 25, with a picture of corpses lying on the ground in front of a big military-looking police van. Below the picture is a video option of the incident, which gives a visual backup of the shoot-out that has resulted in the deaths, and then related topic links that lead to the same news reporter. Lastly, there are live twitters at the side for the reader who prefers constant live updates and an easy read. The issue of deaths is as a result of the police opening fire on the miners, therefore they are given an opportunity to oppose or give their side of the story for objectivity purposes.
There is nothing suggestive about the use of language in the title, but it sets the agenda, where the issue being looked at is the number of deaths that have resulted from the shooting. In other words the consequences of the event are introduced. The picture also re-enforces the issue as the bodies lie motionless on the floor. The video gives the consumer of the news a very graphic account of the shoot-out.
Because it is the police that are under scrutiny for fairness and balance the police commissioner is offered an opportunity to speak on their behalf. This limits biasness and promotes objectivity, which does not refer to the truthfulness of media interpretation, but merely impartiality of coverage (Jamieson, 2001:232).
Journalists all strive to tell the truth of an event, yet the way in which the facts are presented can persuade readers to see the news in a particular way (Pape & Featherstone, 2005:18). Language is powerful weapon on the unaware readers who form the mass audience, that consume news stories where the agenda has been set and the story framed in ways that lead them to interpret the issues in certain ways.
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Pape, S. Featherstone, S. 2005. Newspaper Journalism: A Practical Introduction. London: Sage. 18.
Scheufele, D.A. 2000. Agenda-Setting, Priming, Framing, Revisited Look at Cognitive Effects of Political Communication. Mass Communication Society. 9,11.
Scheufele, D.A. & Tewksbury, D. 2007. Framing agenda setting, and Priming: The evolution of Three Media Effects models. Journal of Communication. 9.