The content analysis was designed to assess the tone, tenor, and valence of coverage of Operation Iraqi Freedom, associated diplomatic activity, and related activities undertaken by citizens around the world.
The researchers used two independent variables. Region of publication served as one independent variable. Coalition based publications served as one while non-coalition based publications served as the others. Media coverage within the respective regions was predictably different and measurable hence their selection. The other independent variable was time. The three periods of observation allowed the research team to measure and track tone and tenor of media coverage as it changed over time. This enabled the researchers to validate stated hypotheses and answer research questions.
Tone, tenor, and valence were assessed as one dependent variable. To measure variations of the dependent variable, the researchers incorporated 18 measures into the code sheet. These 18 measures enabled statistical variances to emerge and thus validating proposed hypotheses and answering research questions. Coders assess the 18 measures by textual references within the article or by inference. The 18 measures and their descriptions are listed below.
Continued United Nations inspections for WMD.
This measure assesses the articleís valence with regard to advocacy of continued inspections for weapons of mass destruction as espoused by non-coalition nations, anti-war protestors, and Saddam Husseinís regime. Conversely, this measure assesses the level of approval for military action by coalition forces to disarm Saddam Husseinís regime thereby enforcing the requirements of United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1441. This measure also factors into the emerging spiral of silence as military operations commence and negative aspects of Saddam Husseinís regime are revealed. (Code sheet question 3. Code=inspect)
Position of peace activists.
This measure assesses the degree to which the article presents peace activistsí messages that military action is uncalled for, unjustified, a vendetta, a quest for oil, a killing of innocents, etc. Conversely, this measure tracks the diminishing attention the media gives the peace activist position as the media boards the pro-war, pro-military bandwagon. This is one of the measures used to determine the spiral of silence effect. (Code sheet question 4. Code=peace)
Anti-war or anti-U.S. protests.
This measure assesses the valence of the article as viewed from anti-war or non-coalition nationsí perspectives where the tone presented denotes detrimental aspects of military action and negative portrayal of coalition forces and their leaders. Conversely, this measure reveals a spiraling consensus supporting military action as right. This is one of the measures used to determine the spiral of silence. (Code sheet question 5. Code=protests)
Protestorsí support of military forces.
This measure assesses the degree to which those who are opposed to war speak favorably of the coalitionís men and women of the armed forces. Conversely, this measure reveals the degree to which protestors present coalition forces as warmongers and killers of innocents. This is the primary measure of determining spiral of silence. (Code sheet question 6. Code=pro usa)
Military action as right.
This measure assesses the degree to which the article conveys coalition leadersí messages that Saddam Husseinís failed to adhere to UNSCR 1441, harbors terrorists, and neglected humanitarian needs of his people. On the opposing end it measures how the article conveys protestorí and non-coalition leadersí positions that the war is a vendetta on President Bushís part, a quest for oil, or harmful to the Iraqi citizens. (Code sheet question 7. Code=right)
Support for Saddam Husseinís regime.
This measure assesses the degree to which non-coalition nation and anti-war demonstratorsí arguments that Saddam Hussein has done nothing against the United States and that Iraq is not a justified target in the War on Terrorism. Comparatively, it measures the coalitionís stance that Saddam Husseinís regime is oppressive and conducts crimes against humanity. This measure is also used to detect the spiral of silence. (Code sheet question 8. Code=saddam)
Presence of WMD.
This measure assesses the degree to which the presence of weapons of mass destruction or ability to create WMD in Iraq exists as presented by coalition leadersí. Conversely, this measure presents stance of anti-war protestors, non-coalition nations, and Saddam Husseinís regime that all WMD and associated materials were destroyed in accordance with UNSCR 1441. (Code sheet question 9. Code=WMD)
Saddam Hussein as a threat to the United States.
This measure assesses the degree to which the article presents aspects of the coalition leaderís arguments that Saddam Hussein is producing WMD and that he supplies, funds, and harbors terrorist activities. Conversely, non-coalition nations and anti-war protestors argue that Iraq, as represented by Saddam Hussein, pose no viable threat to the United States and further question the coalitionís motives as dubious. (Code sheet question 10. Code=threat)
Saddam Hussein as an oppressive dictator.
This measure assesses arguments presented by coalition leadersí of inhumane activities on the part of Saddam Husseinís regime. It also measures the imposed silence of Iraqi citizens under Saddam Husseinís regime. Comparatively, it measures support for Saddam Husseinís regime within the Arab nations and by other non-coalition nations. This measure also assesses the reversal of the spiral of silence as Iraqi citizens begin to speak out against Saddam Husseinís regime and for coalition forces. (Code sheet question 11. Code=dictator)
United States as a liberator.
This measure assesses the degree to which coalition leadersí arguments that military action is necessary to oust Saddam Hussein thereby removing the civil rights and humanitarian restrictions enforced by his regime. Non-coalition nations and anti-war protestors argue the war is a quest for oil on the coalitionís part and that extended diplomatic efforts would have achieved the goal of disarming Iraq by peaceful means. This measure also factors into assessing the reversal of the spiral of silence as Iraqi citizens welcome coalition forces into Baghdad. (Code sheet question 12. Code=liberate)
Operation Iraqi Freedom as beneficial to Iraqi citizens.
This measure assesses the degree to which coalition arguments that Iraqi citizensí living conditions will improve when Saddam Husseinís regime is ousted. Conversely, non-coalition nations and anti-war protestors argue that innocent lives are lost during war and that diplomatic measures would adequately address concerns for Iraqi citizensí needs. This measure also factors into assessing the spiral of silence as anti-war and non-coalition nations shift their focus from the anticipated atrocities of war to one of rebuilding Iraq. (Code sheet question 13. Code=good)
Quest to control Iraqi oil.
This measure assesses the degree to which non-coalition nations and anti-war protestors belief that the war was a colonial conquest for oil and the United States invaded Iraq with selfish motives. Conversely, this measure validates coalition military actions as benevolent with regard to Iraqi resources. (Code sheet question 14. Code=oil)
This measure assesses the degree to which the media presents illegal activities on the part of Iraqi citizens (such as looting) and non-coalition nations (such as France providing intelligence data to Saddam Husseinís regime). Conversely, this measure infers that media, as gatekeepers of information, tend to focus on other aspects of the war that fit their agenda. (Code sheet question 15. Code=illegal)
Non-coalition citizen support for coalition.
This measure assesses public support for coalition activities during the war in Iraq. Conversely, this measure assesses the non-coalition stance that coalition activities are wrong and unjustified. This measure is also used to detect the reversal of the spiral of silence effect among non-coalition nation citizens including Iraqi citizens. (Code sheet question 16. Code=support)
Wounded Iraqi civilians.
This measure assesses the degree to which the article presents the wounding and killing of Iraqi civilians, one of the anti-war protestorsí and non-coalition nationsí arguments against the war. Conversely, this measure infers that media, as gatekeepers of information, are focused on other aspects of the war that fit their agenda. (Code sheet question 17. Code=civilian)
Illegal use of hospitals, mosques, schools, etc.
This measure assesses the degree to which the article presents Saddam Husseinís illegal use of civilian facilities for military purposes. This position is repeatedly aired by coalition nation leaders. Conversely, this measure infers that media, as gatekeepers of information, are focused on other aspects of the war that fit their agenda. (Code sheet question 18. Code=hide )
Coalition forces portrayed as heroes
This measure assesses the degree to which the article presents coalition forces as heroic liberators of the Iraqi people from Saddam Husseinís decades of oppression and restriction. Conversely, it measures the non-coalition nationsí and anti-war protestorsí stance that the war was an invasion, a quest for oil, or a killing of innocents. (Code sheet question 19. Code=heroes)
Support for military action
This measure assesses the overall support for coalition military action to disarm Iraq. Conversely, it measures non-coalition nationsí and anti-war protestorsí counter-argument that continued United Nations weapons inspections would have achieved the goal of disarmament without unnecessary loss of civilian or military lives. (Code sheet question 20. Code=proact)
Given the limited amount of time and resources the researchers had to conduct the analysis, the universe of media coverage Ė television, radio, print, and on-line Ė was narrowed down to on-line news sources. Only articles available at no cost to the research team were selected for coding. The period of coverage leading up to and during this conflict begins in August 2002 and continues through this paperís publication. During this period, hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of articles have been written on topics surrounding this war (defining the exact number would take more time than this research group has available). This, in effect, offered a degree of randomization to the content analysis process.
In order to stratify their sample, the researchers identified three periods for investigation: coverage before actual conflict in Iraq began; coverage after war had commenced; and coverage after Baghdad had fallen to coalition forces. The researchers agreed upon and selected three periods for analysis: March 1 through 3, 2003; March 23 through 25, 2003; and April 9 through 11, 2003. These dates were selected as representative of pre-war, trans-war, and post-Saddam Hussein. This 6-week period offered the researchers an opportunity to statistically validate their hypotheses and answer research questions posed.
The research team identified prospective articles as units of analysis by using on-line search techniques. On-line sources were selected because of their ready availability. Additionally, the University of Oklahoma libraries do not offer an extensive selection of foreign newspapers. During the process, some articles were selected for coding based upon on-line keyword searches using words such as: war, Iraq, Saddam Hussein, oil, protest, weapons of mass destruction, etc. Occasionally, articles that contained some of these keywords did not meet the criteria of war coverage. In these cases, said articles were removed from the coding pool.
Content Categories and Units
Three categories were identified for the periods of analyses: coalition, non-coalition European, and non-coalition Middle Eastern. For the purposes of this research, the United States and the United Kingdom are designated as coalition countries. Non-coalition European include: Germany, France, Belgium, and Russia. While other non-coalition nations exist, these countries were most prevalent in their anti-war stance. Non-coalition Middle-Eastern include: Iraq, Syria, Iran, Egypt, and Pakistan. Like the non-coalition European category, many other countries could be categorized here, but these countries stood out as dominant.
Selected on-line articles covering various aspects of the current war in Iraq that were available at no cost to the research team served as the units of analysis. In analyzing selected articles, the researchers assessed not only what was said, but how it was said in order to determine the tone, tenor, and valence of the article.
Of the 58 articles found in two non-coalition (al Bawaba and al Ahram) Middle-East on-line publications, only 18 met the criteria for this study. Of the 104 articles found in one coalition (London) on-line publication and two non-coalition (Paris & Berlin) European on-line publications, 58 met the criteria for this study. Of the 69 articles found in two coalition on-line publications in the United States, 49 met the criteria for this study. Articles that merely mentioned the war, contained one of the key search words, or left coders unable to measure the tone and tenor were thrown out.
Code Sheet and Code Book
One researcher drafted the code sheet and code book. Each person in the research group offered their feedback to improve the tool. When group consensus was reached, the code sheet and explanatory code book (see Appendices A and B for complete proofs) were given to the Department of Defense Joint Course in Communication course administrator for review. Following review by the department chair, the code sheet and codebook were revised to incorporate a 7-point Likert scale. Code sheet questions were designed to capture positive and negative nuances in coverage, with each question having application to multiple dependent variables.
During a 1-hour session, one researcher reviewed the code sheet and code book with the three coders. The research team examined and discussed each measure and how to determine ratings. Since each coder rated separate regions of publication, inter-coder reliability was not assessed.
Resolving Differences of Opinion in Coding
After the three researchers finished coding their selected articles, the fourth person reviewed all code sheets for discrepancies and/or potential disparity. A discrepancy existed when a coder failed to code an item or marked an item more than once. A potential disparity existed when a coder rated the article from ď1Ē to ď7Ē or ďcanít measureĒ and the articleís content was contrary to the rating given based upon the reviewerís probable rating of the same article. When discrepancies or potential disparity were found, the reviewer noted them accordingly on the code sheet and referred the code sheet back to the coder for reconsideration. Coders then re-read the article, reassessed their ratings, made changes when necessary, and informed the reviewer. Each coder rated multiple articles within one category. Their ratings within their categories were consistent. Intra-categorical reliability was not determined.
The research group used available on-line polling data to assess degrees of approval and disapproval in the climate of public opinion. Polling results offer proof of the spiral of silence thereby answering the research questions posed. Public opinion polls are common in the United States and Europe. They are not used in the Middle East therefore article content which specifically illustrates Iraqi citizens cheering or praising the coalition action serves as proof of the reversal of the spiral of silence.