This study is a content analysis of political materials; more specifically, it is a symbol analysis of newspaper editorials designed to discover "trends in newspaper attitudes" over half a century. Perhaps the first function of an introduction to such a study is to locate it within the general field of content analysis. Historians and political scientists will locate it within their own fields.
In a sense, content analysis occurs whenever someone summarizes and/or interprets what he reads or hears. By this meaning, of course, content analysis has a history as old as intellectual activity itself. But in the more limited sense in which it is used here, content analysis denotes an objective, systematic, and quantitative method for the analysis of communication content, intended to provide precise and concise descriptions of what the communication says, in terms appropriate to the purpose or problem at hand. In this sense, content analysis has a relatively recent history, though an active one.
Although a good many studies using content-analysis procedures have dealt with political topics and have employed political categories--largely due to the influence of Harold D. Lasswell over the past twenty years-- it is worth noting that the method is by no means limited to political applications. Several other disciplines have applied it to their own distinctive problems, with varying success. Educators have used content analysis to determine the readability of written materials for persons of different levels of education. Students of literature have applied it to problems of chronology and disputed authorship, and even to questions of stylistic analysis. Journalists have used it not simply to note what newspapers contain, over a period of time, but also to evaluate their performance against specified standards. Psychologists have attempted to infer the psychological states of persons and groups on the basis of communications produced by or for them. Sociologists have applied content analysis to a variety of problems, from the determination of class status and cultural patterns to the discovery of the particular interaction processes that characterize groups of different kinds. Librarians have used it to describe trends in book production and patterns of development within specific subject fields. Government officials of varying backgrounds have used content analysis to detect the presence of propaganda in allegedly subversive publications and to provide intelligence on enemy activities from study of their propaganda output. The review cited above identified no fewer than seventeen distinctive applications of content analysis in these and other fields.
This study is primarily a symbol analysis--i, e., its basic data are the . . .