Sampling Method and Unit of Analysis
A content analysis was conducted of four national newspapers during the
first three weeks of the invasion phase of the war in Iraq and three weeks
during what has turned into an occupation phase of the war. The analysis
focused on a sample of 452 articles provided by the Los Angeles Times,
Chicago Tribune, Washington Post, and New York Times about military operations.
The Los Angeles Times was selected because it is a prominent West Coast
newspaper, the Washington Post was selected because it is a prominent
East Coast paper, The Chicago Tribune because of it influence in the Midwest,
and New York Times because of its national influence.
The articles were chosen using the terms “war in Iraq” as
search terms in the lead paragraph or headline. Full text articles were
retrieved from Lexus Nexus or Newsbank Full Text Newspapers. The dates
chosen for the invasion phase were March 20 to April 9, 2003, and November
1 to 21, 2004, for the occupation phase. The 2003 dates selected marked
the beginning of the invasion into Iraq concluding with April 9, when
journalists coined “The Fall of Baghdad,” which was symbolized
by the fall of the statue of Saddam Hussein and considered as the end
of the invasion phase of the war. Since the invasion phase ran the course
of 21 days, the same number of days was selected for the analysis of the
occupation phase to provide an equivalent comparison between the invasion
and occupation phases. The dates of the occupation phase were chosen based
upon embedded numbers attained from the Department of Defense (DoD). The
numbers had increased to 96, which was the highest number of embeds since
the invasion. After performing a preliminary search, it was decided to
stratify the sample over the days. The sample was taken by selecting every
third day from the time frame. This provided a total of six days with
a sample size of more than 450.
The unit of analysis was each single news story about a person, unit,
or event with a clear beginning, middle, and end, excluding about 100
editorials, opinion pages, or commentaries as well as non-newsworthy items.
Six Department of Defense public affairs personnel, who were all enrolled
in the Joint Communication Course at the University of Oklahoma, conducted
the content analysis. A written coding instrument was developed to code
the sample. Coding norms were established during a supervised six-hour
training session. The effective intercoder reliability ratings (Rosenthal,
1984, 1987) are reported. Six DoD students coded 8% of the sample and
established a high degree of standardization to the coding process resulting
in effective intercoder reliability of .93 for the invasion phase. Effective
intercoder reliability for the three coders for the occupation phase ranged
from. 87 to .91. Following the training sessions, coders, who are veteran
media analysts working in the public relations and broadcast media field,
The independent variable featured in the investigation was news correspondent
status, which was operationalized based on information provided about
units as embedded, non-embedded, or unknown. An embedded reporter was
defined in the literature as a media representative remaining with a unit
on an extended basis (SECDEF, 2003). Coders distinguished between embedded
and non-embedded correspondents based on dateline information that was
provided in the newspaper articles. In some instances, it was unclear
whether the correspondent was embedded or non-embedded, in which case
they were coded as unknown.
The investigation featured nine dependent variables. Overall tone of coverage
toward the military was assessed with a global attitude measure adapted
from Burgoon, Cohen, Miller, and Montgomery (1978). It consisted of six
7-interval scales, including: good/bad, positive/negative, wise/foolish,
valuable/worthless, favorable/unfavorable, and acceptable/unacceptable.
The alpha reliability rating of this measure was a=.98. Depiction of the
trustworthiness of the military personnel covered in news reports was
assessed using the Individualized Trust Scale (ITS), developed by Van
Lear and Trujillo (1986) based on four, 7-interval items including trusting/untrusting,
candid/deceptive, and sincere/insincere, and honest/dishonest. The reliability
rating of the trustworthiness scale was a=.99.
The extent to which each unit employed framing was measured with a single
7-interval scale: episodic/thematic. The scale was used previously by
Affect conveyed in each story unit was measured using eight 6-items interval
scale by Dillard, Plotnick, Godbold, Freimuth, and Edgaret (1996). The
0-6-interval scales measured five emotions with multiple item indicators.
The emotion scale was based on the previous work of Dillard and colleagues
(Dillard, et. al., 1996). Emotions featured included: anger (angry, irritated,
and annoyed), a=.94; surprise (surprise, astonished, and amazed), a=.89;
puzzled (puzzled, bewildered, and confused), a=.58; sad (sad, dreary,
and dismal), a=.70; and fear (fearful, afraid, and scared), a=.98.
Authoritativeness is the “extent to which the article was perceived
as possessing expertise relevant to the communication topic and can be
trusted to give an objective opinion on the subject” (Goldsmith,
Lafferty & Newell, 2000, p. 43). Authoritativeness of the story was
measured using the authoritativeness dimension of the Source Credibility
Scale (SCS) introduced by McCroskey in 1966, and examined by McCroskey
et al., (1974). This scale was adapted to media as opposed to source.
The reliability was a=.98. The 1-7 interval scales adjective pairings
for the authoritativeness dimension included unreliable/reliable, uninformed/informed,
unqualified/qualified, unintelligent/intelligent, worthless/valuable,
inexpert/expert, dishonest/honest, unfriendly/friendly, unpleasant/pleasant,
awful/nice, sinful/virtuous, and selfish/unselfish.