Frame and Blame: An Analysis of How National and Local Newspapers Framed the Jena Six Controversy

By Holt, Lanier Frush; Major, Lesa Hatley | Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, Autumn 2010 | Go to article overview

Frame and Blame: An Analysis of How National and Local Newspapers Framed the Jena Six Controversy


Holt, Lanier Frush, Major, Lesa Hatley, Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly


This study analyzed local and national newspapers to determine how each framed the Jena Six controversy and to determine if either broke from traditional episodic coverage in framing crime and African Americans. Local papers more frequently put a human face on the issue, while national papers more frequently framed it as a moral wrong. However, unlike previous studies, this analysis found that both local and national papers used more thematic than episodic coverage, suggesting that sometimes the circumstances surrounding a crime can be so egregious that societal factors must be included in coverage.

The events surrounding the Jena Six controversy started in Jena, Louisiana, in August 2006 when a black student asked at a high school assembly if he could sit under the "white tree," so dubbed because it had heretofore been perceived largely as the domain of white students. The principal said the student could sit anywhere he would like. Shortly thereafter, nooses were hung from the branches of the tree. The three white teens who hung the nooses were suspended from school after the school board as administrators believed the students' claim that the incident was a prank inspired by a scene in the television mini-series, "Lonesome Dove."

The decision sparked a series of conflicts between blacks and whites during the year that followed, with the most severe punishments being given to African Americans. Most notably, several white teens struck a black student with bottles at a park, but only one was charged, with simple battery. The next day, a white man brandished a shotgun at a group of black teens who wrestled the gun away from him. The gunman was not charged, but the boys were charged with theft for taking his gun.2 On December 4, six black students attacked white student Justin Barker, kicking him in the head as he lay unconscious. Though Barker was well enough to attend a school ring ceremony later that evening, the black students - the "Jena Six" - were charged with attempted murder.3 In September 2007, more than 20,000 people swarmed the small Louisiana town to protest a double standard they say harkened back to the worst days of the Jim Crow and Civil Rights eras.4

Several studies have found that the media frame African Americans negatively, often casting them as guilty in cases involving violent crime.5 These negative portrayals have real-world consequences. The black criminal stereotype is a pervasive view born from marrying traditional media frames of black criminal pathology with schémas that build on existing white fears and biases against African Americans.6 Those harboring this largely media-created belief are more likely to espouse suffer sentences, including the death penalty, for black defendants.7 Research, however, has rarely addressed the role media can play in ameliorating stereotypes, especially when journalists break from traditional racial frames. People would say that an independent press does not have a responsibility to do this, but the media frame issues whether they mean to or not. This research examines newspaper coverage of the Jena Six, beginning from a theoretical perspective that the news media can be an agent of social responsibility. This view holds that, operating from a privileged position in a democracy, the media are tasked with being the voice of reason, providing clarity and explanation beyond the reasoning of an average citizen.8 More important, as the lens through which an increasing percentage of Americans see and understand issues of race,9 the media must provide a complete view of incidents like the Jena Six in order to understand the media's role in influencing the public's perceived link between race and crime.

Theoretical Contribution to Framing Analysis. Entman defined framing as the media's way of taking some perceived reality and highlighting some aspect, "in such a way as to promote a particular problem definition, causal interpretation, moral evaluation, and /or treatment recommendation. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Frame and Blame: An Analysis of How National and Local Newspapers Framed the Jena Six Controversy
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.