Horrendus, but must be read:
A vindication for the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS), and particularly the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) as the Press Ombudsman rules that a hatchet job piece by the Irish Independent‘s Ian O’Doherty was “factually inaccurate” in relation to two slurs on the movement.
The complaint was made to the Ombudsman’s office by journalism lecturer Harry Browne, who is also a founder member of Academics for Palestine, a group of scholars that advocates an academic boycott of Israeli institutions.
In a column on 24th June, Mr. O’Doherty described the BDS movement as being “loud and shrill in their calls for a complete boycott of individual Israelis, regardless of their own political affiliation” and advocating “blanket boycotts of anything involving Jews.” There were falsehoods, and the Ombudsman stated that “the article was factually inaccurate in relation to the two statements”.
In fact, as the Press Ombudsman correctly points out in his ruling:
BDS campaigns for a widespread boycott of Israeli institutions and organisations. It does not campaign for a boycott of all Israeli citizens. Neither does BDS campaign for a boycott of “anything involving Jews”. Its campaign, though widespread in its targets, is limited to a boycott of Israeli State institutions as well as economic, cultural, sporting and academic organisations. It does not extend, as the author claimed, to “anything involving Jews”.
These were not the only inaccuracies, half-truths and outright falsehoods in the piece by Mr. O’Doherty – which you can subject yourself to here should you have a masochistic streak. For the full context to article, please also read these two pieces:
Nor is this the only time this particular pundit has used his position of privilege in a national newspaper to undermine the struggle for Palestinian rights and freedoms, and applaud the actions of apartheid Israel.
In previous articles, Mr. O’Doherty has referred to the nine participants on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla killed by Israeli commandos as being “murderous fanatics,” and has incorrectly claimed that “hatred that characterises every single aspect of Palestinian life, from school books to television shows, which glory in the murder of Jews.”
He has also denied that collective punishment – which of course is illegal under international law – is Israeli policy when it comes to Palestinians, especially those in Gaza, gone so far as to praise Israel for “acting with a ridiculous degree of restraint” during Operation Cast Lead. During this assault on Gaza, Israeli occupation forces killed over 1,400 Palestinians, around 900 of them civilians including over 300 children in 23 days, and left vast carnage – including the destruction of over 4,000 homes, civilian infrastructure and other damage, in total amounting to around $2 billion’s worth of damage – behind them.
This article was originally posted by the Irish Palestinian Solidarity Campaign
Media framing can simply be described as the angle or perspective from which a news story is told. While news is often thought to be objective and value free this is rarely if ever the case. In fact most news stories are value laden in both their production and content. News is not an exact representation of reality but rather a reconstruction from various angles of a small section of reality. This is not to say journalists necessarily lie or consciously distort the truth, but that journalists by covering particular stories, using particular sources from a particular news angle are constructing reality through a selective process. Moreover they are constrained both by the work practices, constraints of resources and their relationship to shareholders and/or managers.
While agenda setting or gatekeeping decides what a newspaper or broadcaster covers or does not cover, the frame is the overarching angle of how the various stories are treated once they are covered. Framing, like agenda setting, is an inherently ideological act (whether consciously or not). The frame of a story (or group of stories) will have influence on how that story is investigated and reported, who the journalist chooses to speak to, what questions he or she asks and how information is interpreted and reported.
Various issues can influence how frames are created; not least overarching ideologies in societies or what is often considered ‘common sense’. Likewise issues such as the race, class and gender of journalists, editors, owners and audiences can influence framing. Finally the production of news or how news is constructed is of importance. News makers often depend on institutional sources such as police, courts and politicians to supply stories which can both influence agenda and how a story is defined.
One example of Framing is the drugs issue; there are numerous ways this issue can be framed.
1: The law and order frame – here the key issue is that drug addicts or junkies are criminals putting our communities and children at risk. Drug pushers must be stopped and petty crime or even crime waves are caused by junkies feeding their habit. Moreover addicts shooting up on streets is unsightly, immoral and bad for tourism. Local Politicians or the Minister of Justice may be questioned on why something isn’t done; victims of crime may be interviewed or businesses who are in areas frequented by addicts. Likewise police may be questioned on what they are doing to curb the criminal activities.
2: Drug misuse as a health issue: Here the key framing is the health of the drug user and issues of health in wider society. Here a Health Minister might be interviewed to discuss funding for treatment centres, various health professionals or experts may be interviewed on issues such as treatment or controversies about types of treatment.
3: Drug misuse as a social problem: Here drug misuse may be framed as a social issue connected with class, race and dysfunctional society. Here the question of which areas are worst affected by drug use and associated crimes might be discussed alongside issues such as unemployment and social deprivation.
4: Recreational Drugs should be legal: In this less common frame recreational drugs are seen as a normal part of society and issues such as addiction and social problems are downplayed or compared with already legal drugs such as alcohol or cigarettes. The cost of ‘the war and drugs’ and the issue of the criminalisation of dealers are often an issue here and policies of ‘harm reduction’ may be emphasised.
How do you deconstruct frames?
Deconstructing frames is important as it can help to challenge ideological and power structures in society. Deconstructing Frames is an inherently qualitative process that can be difficult to perform, but with structure and with other elements such as sourcing and content analysis it can be done in a systematic and useful fashion. Some questions to consider are:
- What assumptions are in the articles? Frames often have an overarching assumption or assumptions: For example in the current economic crisis there is often an overarching assumption of what is termed ‘Neo Liberal Economics’ one aspect of this frame assumes cuts are necessary in times of recession. This is at odds with other economic theories such as Keynesianism which favour counter cyclical government intervention. In the neo liberal frame the issue is not whether or not there should be cuts (that there should be cuts is a given), but rather where will the cuts fall, what is ‘fair’ etc. Organisations such as trade unions can often get caught up in the ‘fairness’ of cuts frame while missing the wider picture.
- Who are the sources? Who are the main source or ‘primary definers’ that sets the tone and agenda of the report? For example in most cases of violence in protest marches or political actions the police act as primary definer and it is assumed they were attacked even when this was clearly not the case. In most coverage of the housing crisis the sources have been heavily biased towards the property industry (see below for sourcing analysis on the 2008 Irish Bank Guarantee).
- What kind of language is used, adjectives such as ‘left’ or ‘hard left’ being used to describe Jeremy Cobryn is a good example. Likewise nouns such as ‘terrorist’ to describe one side of an armed conflict. For example in a recent RTE report on Israel/Palestine it was stated that Israelis were ‘brutally murdered’ while Palestinians were ‘killed’. Likewise Palestinian attacks on military targets are usually termed ‘terrorist attacks’ while Israeli attacks on civilian targets are not.
- Can any patterns or themes be found, for example in the coverage of Israel/Palestine? There is a pattern of language used to describe the sides.
- Is there a narrative that is being followed: For example in the case of Irish Water once Minister Leo Varadkar introduced the term ‘sinister fringe’ to describe elements of the movement the narrative was taken on by much of the press to describe what has arguably been one of the most peaceful movements in Irish political history. Metaphors can often be used in narratives.
- How are people or groups represented. A common device is the ‘othering’ of social groups, often minorities such as travellers, other ethnic minorities, refugees or migrants.Or even national or religious groups. The othering of such social groups can often be expressed as a problem, ie the ‘traveller problem’. Any social group can be scapegoated to suit a political situation such as single mothers in the nineties or public sector workers at the beginning of the economic crisis.
- Gender representation is important, for example the clothing of female politicians is more likely to be commented on in reports as compared to male.
- Class representation is also key here, for example in the current advertisement for EBS the working class are represented as both lazy and stupid while the middle class housewife is portrayed as put upon by ‘the help’. Working class people are often portrayed as both criminal and stupid in Irish advertising, probably reflecting the middle class nature of the profession.
- Frames can also be semiotic in nature that is based upon symbols in words or pictures.
Framing and Class
Semiotics and race: The Children of 9/11 vs the Children of Bin Laden (source exposing the media)
Example No. 1: How Housing is Framed
In the case of the current housing crisis the overarching frame remains that property is first and foremost a commodity that can only be supplied and funded by market forces. Therefore the only way to supply housing is by clearing the way for developers by cutting down on ‘red tape’ (regulation) . Likewise private developers should be incentivised to build (by lowering taxes). Moreover only private developers can build housing and only private banks can supply mortgages
Likewise only private landlords can ‘supply’ rental housing. Landlords don’t increase the rent, the market does, and therefore landlords don’t evict people, they are unfortunately ‘priced out’ of the market. Again landlords should be incentivised via tax cuts and the loosening of regulations to give people the ‘choice’ to live in substandard accommodation. Rent control will distort the market and therefore cannot be introduced; moreover it is an attack on the rights of landlords.
The property market crashed in 2007/2008 because people wanted to have expensive houses and mortgages that they couldn’t afford, nobody forced anyone to buy a house. People partied and became uncompetitive because salaries were too high. The banks were led by bad apples and the regulator was asleep. The system is not under question, because there is only one system and there was only ever one system. The system is reality.
This entire framing is entirely biased and based upon power structures in Irish society. Property and finance sources are most likely to be quoted as they have funding to employ public relations staff or companies. The connection between newspapers and advertisers (especially with the property sections) is also important. And journalist has long standing connections with sources in industry. Moreover the entire framing fits in with current orthodox neo-liberal economic thinking which maintains only self-regulating private markets can offer sustainable solutions
Example: Sourcing Analysis on Banking Guarantee
The above is the sourcing on news stories on the bank guarantee from from the 21st of September 2008 to the 5th of October 2008 (the week leading up to and following the bank guarantee) in the Irish Times and Irish Independent. As can be seen the sourcing is heavily biased towards politics and finance (NB there are multiple sources per news story).
Moreover the party political sourcing is biased again towards government and pro-guarantee parties
Example No.2 How Privatisation is Framed
Having examined the media treatment of the Bord Gais Eireann (BGE) – Ireland’s State-owned gas provider – to UK-based Centrica Holdings, one of the key, over-arching frames was the idea that privatisation would bring benefits to customers. Many articles were based around the idea that privatisation would bring market deregulation which in turn would bring competition which would ultimately drive down the prices that consumers pay for gas. This tallied with the general frame evident in the analysis of the public characterised as consumers first and foremost- a key neo-liberal frame.
Another key frame within the media was that privatisation is a generally desirable policy. This frame holds, notwithstanding the recognition that certain aspects of its implementation were insufficient in this particular instance; specifically the poor timing of the sale and the undervaluation of some of the State’s assets. These facts did not detract from the presentation of the privatisation in the media as a progressive policy generally. This tallied with the ubiquitous anti-State frame that State involvement in economic issues is unwarranted and unhelpful – the so-called ‘dead-hand’ moniker, whose absence would make way for deregulation and competition.
An interesting frame which emerged from the analysis revealed the bias towards employees of BGE. While many had paid into an Employee Share Option Programme ESOP, and as such had built up shareholdings of their own, the coverage of this scheme in the sale, using pejorative terms like ‘trousering windfalls‘ demonstrates negative journalistic attitudes towards the ESOP as seemingly tenuous and less-deserving.
Perhaps the most striking aspect of the media coverage was in its absence. There was ‘significant silence‘ surrounding the media’s coverage of the sale to the extent that one analyst commented that most of the company’s customers would not have been aware that it had been sold as it ‘just quietly happened’; recognising the dearth of coverage of an issue that warranted genuine public interest, one that was overlooked in favour of predominantly consumer-based frames.
News Frames Blog:
Citizens Handbook on Framing:
Video: A lesson on Framing Theory
Video: Robert Entman and Framing
The Dublin InQuirer has raised some eyebrows since going live a few months ago. It has quite an interesting perspective including articles on the role of finance capital in the city and good critical coverage on the goings on in the city council. Coverage of the work of housing activists has been included and the site broke the shocking story of homeless families being forced to use the side entrance of hotels. The web based publication comes out every Wednesday and as well as the what we would expect from a local news site such a city desk, arts and cuisine articles and a what’s on section what really caught our eye is the ‘unreal estate‘ planning and property section which as the name implies has a far more critical outlook compared to the ubiquitous estate agent driven property porn found in mainstream journalism. The site also includes interesting ‘long reads’, such as one on the life and work of cat catchers in the city. Columnists include Frank McDonald previously of the Irish Times, the aforementioned Andy Story who covers economics and Roe McDermott an advice columnist. The site practices what founder Lois Kapila describes as a more traditional approach to journalism and writing compared to the PR driven churnalism that has increasingly become the norm. We sent Lois some questions to find out a little more about Dublin’s latest media product who discusses issues such as funding models, journalistic style and practice and mainstream media plagiarism.
Congratulations on the new news site, the first question is why did you decide to set about establishing it?
Thanks! I set it up because I thought there was a gap in the market for in-depth city coverage, and that there were many stories that weren’t being told. Also, I was working as a struggling freelance journalist in Dublin before this, and I couldn’t find many places that would run the kind of stories that I wanted to write – in-depth local journalism.
I grew up in the UK and there, at least, local journalism seems to be looked upon as second-class journalism. It isn’t really respected as much as the nationals. In 2009, I interned really briefly over a summer for an alt weekly publication in the US called Washington City Paper, and what they were doing there really blew me away. That changed my idea of what local journalism could be.
As well as all that, I wanted to create opportunities for young reporters to go out and about and do what some might consider more old-fashioned shoe-leather reporting, rather than maybe rewriting press releases or sitting at their desks reporting on tweets. I hope that we’re going to be a good training ground for journalists who can then go on to grander places that can pay them more.
How long have you been up and running? Are you finding your feet?
We’ve been up and running since June this year and I think we are finding our feet. It’s taking us a bit of time to get to know our beats, and to become known on them — simple things such as being recognised as press at city council meetings.
The mindset that a reporter needs for a weekly publication, rather than a daily, or hourly, is different. You need to think a bit more about where the debate is headed, find stories that aren’t going to have been published elsewhere by the time you go to press, and justify having that bit more time to report. So that’s a learning curve too.
I feel like we’ve got the basics in place now, and there are different longer-term projects that we need to start working on, particularly using data, to make the most of being an online publication. We’re not exactly where we want to be yet, but I think we’ll get there.
Question three is of particular interest to media activists is how did you go about establishing it? And as much as you feel comfortable telling us do you have a particular funding model? We notice for example you offer editorial services and a shop, is this intention to leave you a little less dependent on advertising?
At the moment, it’s funded with some start-up funding that I have been extremely privileged – and am slightly nervous – to have got from family. I did apply for, and continue to apply for, different grants but haven’t managed to bag one yet.
I obviously did a lot of talking to people and reading about different models for local media before we got set up, and I thought that we would find it really tough to survive if we were completely dependent on advertising. So we are trying to work on numerous revenue streams in addition to advertising, as you noticed: editorial services, an online shop, our membership scheme.
As a local publication, focused on the kind of journalism that we are, we’re never going to get as much traffic as a national with rolling breaking news and celebrity tidbits might. Perhaps I’m wrong, but I think it’s safe to work on that assumption.
So we’re working to build up a smaller core of loyal readers who spend more time on the website, and like what we do, and give what they can when they can. It’s healthy to have that focus on readers, I think, and in the future, I want to build up our membership scheme, so that those who donate to us do get more than a tote bag; I’d love to be able to give them discounts at different places in the city, and to run more events for them.
The danger of having all these streams, of course, is spreading ourselves too thin. We are a small team and so finding time to manage them all, and keep them moving, is tricky.
In the future, I’d love Dublin Inquirer to become a newspaper part-owned by its readers. I envisage some kind of equity crowd-funding model, where in exchange for a contribution, the readers become part-owners.
The site seems to have a particular interest in planning and housing, and it has to be said has a far more critical attitude towards it compared to what we are accustomed to, for example your ‘unreal estate’ section, is this area of particular interest to you, and why?
I think it’s of interest to us, because it’s something that our readers want to know about and we all struggle with issues like rising rents and substandard accommodation. If you live in the city, you can’t help but take an interest in the built environment.
As for taking a more critical attitude, to me that just seems the default approach that we should have to it. It’s also more interesting, I think, than property porn.
I genuinely don’t understand how you can have such blatant property porn, thinly disguised adverts, on the front page of the Irish Times website, for example. Sometimes, right up there at the top of the page. How can a national newspaper of record think that the potential sale of one multi-million-euro home somewhere in the country is deserving of that kind of exposure?
When I first moved to Ireland, the second apartment I lived in with my husband had mould all over and broken windows. The ceiling fell down and the landlord had complete control over the heat and left it off for the winter. And it’s really difficult to function and stay healthy when you’re living in those conditions. But if nowhere else will take you because there’s a shortage and you don’t have references and you’re broke, what are you going to do?
So, I do feel passionate about housing. Also, we are a city paper, and we aim to focus on local government. And housing and planning are some of the areas where the council does actually have influence. So that, too, means it’s a natural reporting area for us.
We have also noticed what seems to be wider range of opinion on your site compared to the mainstream, especially around property, is this a policy?
I’m glad you think that we have a wide range of opinion on the site! I guess it’s a policy to be open to submissions and have a wide range of informed voices. I don’t understand why any publication or editor would make themselves difficult to reach.
I would like us to have more diversity, though, in terms of ethnic minority contributors, for example. I think the media in Ireland does not reflect the diversity out on the streets. I know that immigration is newer here than in the UK, for example, and for some immigrants, language will be a problem, but I think we have to try harder to open up opportunities for people from new communities to get a break in journalism.
For those who worry that somebody from somewhere else can’t possibly understand what’s going on here, I would point out that our planning and transport reporter is from the US and his stories are smart and spot on.
Are you going to be engaging in investigative journalism on the site?
I would love to be able to do more investigative journalism on the site.
To me, investigative journalism is just great reporting that takes more time. At the moment, we’re a small team and so that’s a struggle. But I think we’ll get better at juggling longer projects with weekly pieces and that’s definitely something that we’ll be working on.
In any case, I think we should approach all stories with the mindset that you might associate with investigative journalism, and ask, “What do I want to know?” rather than, “What will people tell me right now?”
How would you describe yourself editorially?
I think that our mission, for want of a better word, is simple: to tell people stories that help them to understand what’s going on in the city, and present them in a way that’s enjoyable to read. And some of those will be the more medicinal, we-think-you-should-know-this stories, and some will be the softer, we-think-you’d-smile-at-this stories.
I don’t really give any thought to where we might fall in terms of “on the left” or “on the right”. To me, that’s irrelevant. We’re independent. When we’re reporting stories, our focus is simply to figure out what’s going on and tell our readers.
Our voice is more informal and, at times, some might say less measured than some publications. But I think there’s a danger with some publications that they confuse having a neutral voice with “unbiased” journalism and sometimes hide behind that style. It’s the reporting process, and being transparent about where information came from, that determines whether a piece is accurate and honest or not.
Are there any sites, papers or models from outside Ireland you admire or would like to emulate.
There are so many sites and papers that I read and admire and would love to be even a shade as good as, particularly in the US. I love the alt weeklies such as Washington City Paper with their long-form narrative style and grit. I love regional publications like This Land Press which seems to be succeeding at building a sense of community around the publication, has a quality print quarterly, and is great-looking. And I love Tampa Bay Times, where even the simplest story is done with such care, such as this one about sports fans or this one about an astronomer. I also love Texas Monthly. In India, Caravan has incredible political profiles.
Do you intend to stay Dublin focused in the future, or do you have plans to publish national focused stories?
We’re definitely staying Dublin-focused. It’s a better use of our resources to keep our coverage tight and get to know the city as well as we can, rather than spreading ourselves too thin. I think this is where the gap is too. I’m not saying that there aren’t other Dublin-focused news publications, but I don’t think any of them are doing quite what we are.
I hope that some of our stories will get picked up by nationals. Actually, a few already have, such as our story about the rules that homeless families in emergency accommodation have to abide by. RTE and The Mirror picked up on the issue, as did The Journal.
While RTE credited us, and The Mirror re-reported the story themselves, it was a bit frustrating to see The Journal pick up the story and use our reporter’s photos of the list of rules as source material and illustrations, and not give us even an “H/T”.
But it’s still great to see issues that we follow and think are important spread to a wider audience. And I think that even though we’re small, we can hopefully play a bit of a role at times in setting the agenda.