chapter  Four
7 Pages

Framing the News

ByMaxwell McCombs, Edna Einsiedel, David Weaver

Public opinion polls offer a representative picture of a community, state, or nation. Polls achieve this picture through the random interviewing of persons throughout the population. If journalists applied this same technique to news gathering, the results would be disastrously dull. This is because the public opinion poll’s picture typically contains an extensive mixture of positive, negative and indifferent thoughts. Most news audiences are not very interested in reports about people who do not know or do not care one way or the other. They are not very interested in organizations or institutions who are not doing anything in particular—unless this in itself is evidence of serious neglect or irresponsibility. And, in fact, audiences generally are not all that interested in positive news when it consists of ordinary people and organizations engaged in their daily routine. In short, if the daily news net were cast to harvest a random sample of the day’s events and situations, most of the yield would be routine and dull. This, in turn, would be disastrous for daily newspapers and television stations, who must maintain an interested, attentive audience in order to be economically viable as advertising media.