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 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,
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.