Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Content-crazy Wednesday

Content analysis is sort of like going "hmm" about content, only sys- tematic- ally, so let's go "hmm" about Fox News a little and see what happens. Let's try to generate some guidelines about what the No. 2 story at right might represent and why those results might be interesting or amusing. This is play-along-at-home, so comments are encouraged.
Clicking on the hed, you get:Joy Behar: No More Saints Due to Modern Medicine
FOX News
Saints were psychotic and advances in modern medicine have essentially wiped them off the planet. That's "the view" of comedian Joy Behar, as expressed on national television Wednesday.

Whether or not Behar was joking, "The View" co-host's remarks sparked a loud debate on and off the program.
Hmm. Pretty substantial play for a story whose significance ranges between none and the square root of none. What's it doing there? Is Fox just inordinately sensitive to stories in which Hollywood Liberals Make Fun Of All We Hold Dear And Threaten Our Way Of Life? If we're going to test that proposition, we have to have a category for it -- let's call it Threats To Our Way Of Life, for short -- and some rules for coding it. Leading to some questions:
  • What does Fox conceive of as a Threat To Our Way Of Life?
  • What are some characteristics of a TOWOL that would place a story in that category and rule other stories out? (Are stories about lingerie-clad mayors posing on fire engines a TOWOL, or do we need a new category for the mayoral lingerie threat?)
  • Can you write the TOWOL rules on a piece of paper, leave the paper on the kitchen table and expect the first person who picks up the paper to put Fox stories into the right category nine out of ten times?
Then we can start posing some propositions:
  • Fox gives more prominence to TOWOL stories than other networks. (Hmm. Need a rule for measuring "prominence," and which "other networks" are we going to study?)
  • TOWOL stories stay on the Fox front page longer than other stories do. (Why is "length of time a story stays on the front page" a big deal?)
  • Fox is more likely to devote staff resources to TOWOL stories than to non-TOWOL stories. (Is "presence of a Fox byline" alone going to be sufficient to measure this?)
  • How does Fox support the assertions made in TOWOL stories? Is it different from the assertions made in other stories?
That one's going to take a little work, since we need to find an assertion that would generally be supported by evidence in conventional lede writing: "sparked a loud debate on and off the program," for example. Here's the "loud debate on the program" part: Co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck blasted Behar's theory, noting that the late Mother Teresa, who has not yet been given sainthood, is a modern example of a saint.

That's pretty straightforward. How about "loud debate off the program"?
FOX News contributor Father Jonathan Morris, when asked to comment for FOXNews.com, lambasted Behar's remarks, whether or not they were intended to be funny.

Now we're having some fun. Because if we look aback a little, we can find other cases in which a Fox controversy is supported by reference to Fox contributors -- the internationalization of GI Joe, for example:

Retired Army Col. David W. Hunt, a FOX News military and terrorism analyst, called the scheme to make a whole new Joe "a shame."
"G.I. Joe is a U.S. guy," Hunt said. "... It's kind of stupid. It's ridiculous that they're doing that."
That gives us something else to count when we're trying to draw up good categories, and it lets us predict something else about how Fox constructs Threats To Our Way Of Life. That entry on the coding sheet might look like this:
How many participants in a public debate or controversy are Fox employees or contributors?
o = none, 1 = some, 2 = all
Now we can try out a prediction like: When a story involves a Threat To Our Way Of Life, supporting evidence is significantly more likely to come from Fox associates than when it doesn't.

See why content analysis is so much fun?

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2 Comments:

Blogger The Ridger, FCD said...

Too bad they weren't that upset with the View cohost who thinks the world might be flat.

Oh, wait. She's their pet.

4:11 PM, January 10, 2008  
Blogger Fred said...

Exactly! A flat earth ain't a threat to Life As We Know It over in Fox World.

5:10 PM, January 10, 2008  

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