In the CJC: Labour, poverty, immigrants and election bias in news media

Selected articles from the most recent issue of the Canadian Journal of Communication of interest to the journalism community:

Listening to Labour: Mainstream Media, Talk Radio, and the 2005 B.C. Teachers Strike, by Shane Gunster, Simon Fraser University (Article available to non-subscribers)

(Abstract) In October 2005, B.C. public school teachers conducted a two-and-a- half-week illegal strike that attracted widespread support from the public. This article conducts a comparative content and discourse analysis of the news coverage provided by the leading provincial outlets in three media types: The Vancouver Sun (newspaper), the News Hour on Global (television), and The Bill Good Show (political talk radio). The Bill Good Show’s open-ended, participatory format, coupled with the host’s commitment to journalistic norms of objectivity and diversity, allowed teachers to play an active and significant role in shaping discussion and debate about the strike. Conversely, coverage by The Vancouver Sun and the News Hour, both owned by CanWest Global, largely failed to reflect public opinion and instead reproduced the ideological bias of conventional strike scripts.

Conditional Hospitality: Framing Dialogue on Poverty in Montréal Newspapers, by Greg M. Nielsen, Concordia University

(Abstract) A paradox of the mainstream press is that while the poor are represented regularly in supportive but conditional tones of hospitality in newspaper reports, journalists rarely address the poor as their imagined or implied audience. Not engaging the poor as an audience in a civic dialogue means that our understanding of poverty is diminished and remains conditional even when the press pleads for greater hospitality or refuge. Following Jacques Derrida, Mikhail Bakhtin and Robert Entman, I develop a dialogic framing analysis of the relations between journalists, their implied audiences, and the poor as subjects of the reports. Analysis of three online mainstream newspapers in Montréal illustrates how the conditional discourse of hospitality is established through particular forms of address.

Getting the Picture: Airtime and Lineup Bias on Canadian Networks during the 2006 Federal Election, by Marsha Barber, Ryerson University

(Abstract) This research article addresses the issue of media bias as it played out on Canada’s three major television networks during coverage of the 2006 federal election. The data suggest that in spite of critics’ concerns that networks exhibit political bias, this was not evident. However, a more subtle and systemic bias was apparent. Front-runners (i.e., parties that polls indicated would do well) received substantially more coverage than other parties. Conversely, parties that were perceived as being less successful received less coverage than political front-runners. In addition, reports about front-runners were placed higher in the lineup. These empirical findings should be of interest to critics on both the right and left of the political spectrum who are concerned about the gatekeeping and agenda-setting functions of the media.

Racializing the Audience: Immigrant Perceptions of Mainstream Canadian English Language TV News, by Minelle Mahtani, University of Toronto

(Abstract) This paper offers an analysis of a pilot project that examines the perceptions of English-language TV news among two racialized groups: self-identified Iranian-Canadians and Chinese-Canadians. This research indicates that, according to participants, mainstream Canadian English-language TV news does not necessarily offer racialized immigrant audiences a space through which to see themselves reflected accurately as part of Canada’s rich social life beyond the celebration of ethnic events and festivals. Participants explained that they appreciated Canadian English-language television news, with important caveats. They would like to see the Canadian English-language television news media create spaces in which they could see their own ethnic, racial, cultural, and immigrant identities reflected within the backdrop of the Canadian multicultural state.