Tilted mirrors: media alignment with political and social change : a community structure approach
"Instead of examining the impact of media on society, Tilted Mirrors explores the impact of society on media. How do communities affect the way media build different issue perspectives or frames? Introducing an unusual composite "Media Vector" score, the book adopts an innovative "community structure" approach, using modern national databases to link selected city characteristics and nationwide newspaper reporting on critical issues. Several media frame-building patterns emerge. The "Buffer Hypothesis" connects larger proportions of privileged groups "buffered" from economic uncertainty in cities to more favorable reporting on human rights claims or scientific advances (e.g., Anita Hill, physician-assisted suicide and embryonic stem cell research). Other frame-building patterns - Violated Buffer, Vulnerability, Protection and Stakeholder - also illuminate critical issues (e.g., banning smoking advertising to children, the Supreme Court stopping presidential vote counting in 2000, capital punishment, Patient's Bill of Rights, gun control, Arctic oil drilling, trying juveniles as adults, gays in the Boy Scouts, and those with HIV/AIDS). Positioned at the crossroads of communication/journalism, political science and sociology disciplines, Tilted Mirrors is a supplemental text for courses in mass media, media effects, communication or journalism research methods, political communication or sociology of communication."--BOOK JACKET.
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Tilted Mirrors: Media Alignment with Political and Social Change—A Community Structure Approach, by John Pollock. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press, 2007. 360 pp. $85 hard cover; $32.50 paperback. Reviewed by DAVID DEMERS David Demers is Associate Professor of Communication at Washington State University. Address correspondence to David Demers, 3107 E. 62nd Ave., Spokane, WA 99223. E-mail: email@example.com Book Review “How do journalists make decisions when reporting on critical political and social events?” John Pollock’s Tilted Mirrors begins by observing that much social science research has sought to find the answer to this question in “established professional conventions and norms” that journalists employ. Many explanations also rely upon news-gathering routines, newsroom social validation, media markets, or “imagined communities or real or potential sources.” But, he adds, “often overlooked are the social and political contexts of particular communities. . . . It is my conviction that ‘community structure’—demographics, city characteristics—surrounding journalist decision making has a great deal to do with reporting on social and political change.” Pollock is not the first scholar to examine the impact of community structure on the news product. One of the first major studies was sociologist Robert Park’s The ImmigrantPress and Its Control, a 1922 classic that concluded that foreign-language newspapers helped assimilate immigrants into American life. The contemporary recognized leaders in the field of community structure and the press are Phillip J. Tichenor, George A. Donohue, and Clarice N. Olien, who, from the 1960s to the 1990s, conducted numerous studies that examined the social control function of newspapers in communities. But Pollock’s book makes a unique and worthy contribution to the literature on media processes because it is one of the few empirical studies to employ a national cross-section sample of newspapers and contains a set of propositions that go beyond much of the contemporary research. Specifically, Pollock introduces five major hypotheses that link media content to community structure: 1. the Buffer Hypothesis, which proposes that the greater the proportion of a city’s population that is privileged or “buffered” from financial and occupational uncertainty, the more receptive or “accommodating” a city’s major paper is to claims for moral attention by those who are less privileged; 2. the Violated Buffer Hypothesis, which contends that the greater the proportion of city residents who are privileged, the less favorable newspaper reporting will be on issues framed as hazardous to physical safety; 3. the Vulnerability Hypothesis, which argues that the higher the poverty levels in a city, the more unfavorable the coverage of capital punishment and the more favorable the coverage of patients’ health rights; 4. the Protection Hypothesis, which holds that the higher the proportion of city residents who are privileged, the more favorable a newspaper’s reporting is likely to be toward economic developments that buttress privileged interests; and 5. the Stakeholder Hypothesis, which posits that the larger a group’s presence or influence in a city, the more likely local media are to treat it and its concerns with dignity and respect. Section II of Pollock’s 360-page book is devoted to the presentation of data that test each of these propositions and additional hypotheses. Pollock examines coverage of a number of issues, including the Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas hearings, physician-assisted suicide, embryonic stem cell research, the tobacco settlement, the 2000 Bush versus Gore election, capital punishment, the patients’ bill of rights, the transfer of Hong Kong to China, the North American Free Trade Agreement, gun control, oil drilling in the Arctic, and more. Pollock creates what he calls a “media vector” variable for measuring a newspaper’s coverage of an issue. This variable measures the “combined impact of the strength or prominence of...
The Community Structure Approach and Newspaper
The Challenge of Nationwide
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