Academic journal article Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media

Homogenous Agendas, Disparate Frames: CNN and CNN International Coverage Online

Academic journal article Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media

Homogenous Agendas, Disparate Frames: CNN and CNN International Coverage Online

Article excerpt

"International agenda-setting remains one of the least studied and least understood processes of international politics" (Livingston, 1992, p. 313). Certainly, this is partly a function of the difficulty in ascertaining the international media agenda given the large number of countries, interests, and media outlets represented. Nonetheless, major media organizations broadcast and publish specialized international editions for audiences abroad. Examples include the BBC, CNN, Time, and Newsweek, among many others. Some news organizations break down their editions on the basis of global regions, such as Europe and Asia. Likewise, many news agencies, including Al-Jazeera, produce local language editions and Web sites specifically for foreign consumption.

There clearly are a host of reasons for specializing content in order to best appeal to foreign news audiences. The notion of targeting specific regional audiences to sell copy has long been practiced by news organizations (Shoemaker & Reese, 1991). Therefore, there is nothing new in recognizing that the news intended for an American or an international audience varies. However, systematically studying the differences between the American and international media agendas is largely deficient in current research, even though this is clearly an important undertaking, specifically because American policies and actions continue to have a marked global impact. In the current geopolitical climate, "Understanding the nature of international news coverage by the news media is of great importance when considering its potential implications" (Wanta, Golan, & Lee, 2004, p. 366).

The rationale for separating American news coverage from international coverage in this study is driven by the fact that several major news organizations divide their editions on these terms. Moreover, this is an inquiry initiated to either verify or falsify claims that American-based media organizations provide less graphic, violent coverage for domestic than international consumption (Flint, Goldsmith, & Kahn, 2003). Critics have charged that in doing so, American media organizations with multinational audiences, specifically CNN, are actively and intentionally attempting to stifle dissent and debate in America (Goodman, 2003). Along these lines, recent research has found that American media are uncritical of American government policies, especially when compared with their European and Asian counterparts (Media Tenor, 2003a, 2003b, 2004; Rendall & Broughel, 2003).

Unlike previous research on international agenda setting (Livingston, 1992), the study conducted here was less concerned with how the agenda is set by whom, but more concerned with how the news agenda differs for American and international consumers. This inquiry also differed from previous research regarding the framing of international news events (Entman, 1991 ; Entman & Page, 1994; Lee & Craig, 1992; Wanta & Hu, 1993) and built upon other cross-national agenda-setting investigations (Allen & Izcaray, 1988; Malinkina & McLeod, 2000; Peter & de Vreese, 2003; Wanta, King, & McCombs, 1995) to examine a pressing question: How is news intended for America different from the news intended for the rest of the world?

Measuring the American and International Media Agendas

The vastness of the American and international media agendas renders adequate and perfectly generalizable samples improbable and beyond the scope of this particular exploratory study. For these purposes, coverage on the home pages of CNN and CNN International acted as proxies for their American and international media agendas, respectively. As an interview with a former writer and producer with several years' experience at CNN and CNNI revealed, Web content on CNN networks might not be entirely reflective of what is broadcast, but editors do try to repurpose their television content to the Web as much as possible (Grieves, K. …

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