Literature Review


As stated previously, this study seeks to build on previous research into the impact of media embedding on news coverage of U.S. military operations. Living, eating, sleeping, and traveling with a unit leads to the development of interpersonal relationships, so the literature review includes a discussion of social penetration theory to examine how those relationships develop. Interpersonal relationships are expected to impact the tone and framing techniques used in news stories, so a review of research regarding framing and emotion is included. Finally, the literature review discusses findings related to source credibility, since it is possible that newspaper readers would view the credibility of embedded reporters differently from that of non-embedded reporters.
Social Penetration
Social penetration refers “to the range of interpersonal behaviors that occur in growing interpersonal relationships. These behaviors can be quantified in terms of amount of information exchange (breadth), intimacy level of information exchange (depth), and amount of time spent talking” (Taylor & Altman, 1975, p. 18). The theory has often been analogized to peeling back the layers of an onion to expose more intimate layers of a subject.
Taylor and Altman (1987) identified four stages of relationships; the first is orientation, which occurs at the beginning of relationships when people are first getting to know each other. “During these initial encounters, individuals make only a small part of themselves accessible to others” (Taylor & Altman, 1987, p. 259). The second stage is exploratory affective exchange, where relationship partners reveal more details about aspects of their personalities that they guarded at the earlier orientation stage (Taylor & Altman, 1987). Third is the affective exchange. “Interaction at outer layers of personality is open, and there is heightened activity at intermediate layers of personality…generally there is little resistance to open explorations if intimacy” (Taylor & Altman, 1987, p. 259). The fourth stage of relationship development is stable exchange, in which “…is characterized by continuous openness, as well as richness across all layers of personality” (Taylor & Altman, 1987, p. 259).
Researchers have applied social penetration theory to a variety of situations: same-sex friendships (VanLear, 1987, 1991); intercultural and cross-cultural relationships (Gudykunst & Nishida, 1983; Nicotera, 1993; Won-Doornink, 1985); marital relationships (Honeycutt, 1986; Honeycutt, Wilson, & Parker, 1982); ethical decision making (Baack, Fogliasso, & Harris, 2000); and computer-mediated interaction (Walther & Burgoon, 1992).
More recently, the theory of social penetration has been used in studies examining the U.S. military’s unprecedented use of embedded journalists in Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) (Pfau et. al, 2004; Pfau et. al, in press). Pfau et. al (in press) examined how tone of media coverage varied between journalists who were embedded with military units during different phases of OIF. They speculated that the social penetration process would be accelerated for the journalists and members of the military units due to the strenuous combat situation in which the units operated (Pfau et. al, in press). This accelerated relationship development was presumed to lead the reporters to produce news coverage that was more favorable toward the military than coverage produced by non-embedded journalists (Pfau et. al, 2004). As embedded reporter John Henden stated in an interview, “When you are living in tents with these guys and eating what they eat and cleaning the dirt off glasses, it’s a whole different experience. You definitely have a concern about knowing people so well you sympathize with them (Kurtz, 2003).
The current study seeks to replicate the study of embedded television news reports, but in the context of newspaper reports. Based on previous findings, it is expected that embedded newspaper reporters produced coverage that has a more positive tone toward the U.S. military than non-embedded newspaper reporters.
H1: Compared to non-embedded (unilateral) coverage, embedded newspaper reports of combat operations: a) are more positive about the military as a whole, and b) convey greater trust toward military personnel.


Framing
According to Iyengar (1991), the concept of framing refers to the subtle differences in the way a topic is presented, and the term “framing effects” refers to differences in the ways consumers interpret the topic based on how it was framed. Iyengar (1991) goes on to explain that there are two types of framing – episodic and thematic. In television, Iyengar (1991) states that the episodic news frame takes the form of a case study or event-oriented report and depicts public issues in terms of concrete instances. He adds that episodic reports present on-the-scene coverage of hard news and are often visually compelling. Because most television news is framed in an episodic way, Iyengar (1991) states that people attribute the responsibility to individuals instead of to society.
The thematic frame is different in that it places public issues in some more general or abstract context and the form of a “takeout,” or “backgrounder,” report directed at general outcomes or conditions (Iyengar, 1991). Where as episodic framing would not present as much coverage of background material, thematic would. Iyengar added that thematic would require, in-depth, interpretive analysis, which would take longer to prepare and would be more susceptible to charges of journalistic bias.
Iyengar (1991) explains that episodic framing tended to cause people to place blame on individuals as the cause of problems and give responsibility to harsher punishments for treatment, while thematic framing tended to elicit societal responsibility as both the cause and treatment of issues.
In a recent study on the effects of embedding journalists in military units, Pfau et. al (2004) found that the embedding process resulted in episodic framing of news stories for both television and print. Pfau (et. al) added that embedding inherently produces episodic news reporting—it is incapable of more.
H2: Embedded reporters will use more episodic framing of their news stories than non-embedded reporters.
Emotion
The study of emotion consists of three related constructs – affect, emotion, and mood – which are sometimes used as interchangeable terms by researchers. The general consensus for defining these three constructs is: “affect refers to the general valence of an emotional state; emotion refers to specific types or clusters of feelings that occur in response to particular events; and moods refer to relatively enduring and global states of pleasant or unpleasant feelings” (Guerrero, Andersen, & Trost, 1998).
The way journalists frame their stories could impact the emotions elicited in news consumers. Entman (1993) says frames, “call attention to some aspects of reality while obscuring other elements, which might lead audiences to have different reactions” (p.55). Entman (1991) further says that the frames lie within the structure of the news report. “Frames reside in the specific properties of the news narrative that encourage those perceiving and thinking about event to develop particular understandings of them. News frames are constructed from and embodied in the key words, metaphors, concepts, symbols, and visual images emphasized in a news narrative” (Entman, 1991, p. 7).
In his discussion of the use of framing in television, Iyengar (1987) states that television’s greater use of episodic framing tends to elicit more emotion from viewers because of its use of visual elements to illustrate the report. As Iyengar (1987) states, “Visually, episodic reports make ‘good pictures’…” (p. 14). This episodic framing could be expected to elicit emotion from news consumers regardless of the medium—that is, embedded reporters who use more episodic framing would achieve the same emotional effect.
H3: Newspaper stories by embedded reporters contain more emotion than stories by non-embedded reporters.
News Authoritativeness
Most studies incorporating authoritativeness or credibility focus on the source as a person: a celebrity endorsing a product or a speaker, writer or television personality attempting to persuade an audience. One key aspect of source credibility is the authoritativeness (or expertise) of the source of the persuasive message (Carlson, 1995; Goldsmith, Lafferty, & Newell, 2000). As Goldsmith et. al (2000) state, “In this context, credibility refers to the extent to which the source is perceived as possessing expertise relevant to the communication topic…” p. 43). Regarding news reports, Armstrong and Nelson (2003) state that the expertise or authoritativeness of the source of a report can be translated into the expertise (and credibility) of the news report. “In these cases, individuals use source as a heuristic cue, transferring the credibility of the source onto the information as a whole” (Armstrong & Nelston, 2003, p. 9).
Since embedded reporters are traveling with military units and experiencing events as they happen, they will be perceived as having a high degree of knowledge and expertise about military operations. This will enhance the authoritativeness of their news reports.
H4: Stories written by embedded reporters will exhibit more authoritativeness than stories written by non-embedded reporters.