Content analysis essay
The twenty first century has come surprisingly a long way when it comes to advances in technology. For Anna Stoehr, a Minnesota resident who recently celebrated her 114th birthday, things like social media networks, smartphones, and tablets are things she could only dream about when she was a teenager. When attempting to join Facebook, a well-known social media network, Anna ran into a problem, her birthday was invalidated by Facebook’s age restrictions. As anyone could imagine, that issue lead to debate about the morals of Facebook from newscasters and chatroom commentators alike. The issue was immediately blown up by news media outlets on TV and online, using Anna’s longevity as a draw to address their real agenda. With that said, how does the framing of the actual issue (Anna Stoehr not being able to join Facebook) in the online articles of news media relate to the agenda of the news outlet and what are the motives of the outlets? An analysis of known political views of the news outlets themselves as well as specifics from each article about Anna Stoehr could reveal the truth about the outlets.
Everyone has their own view on any given topic so it’s no surprise that news outlets also have their own views. It’s important to understand that some outlets may be a little more politically biased than others in order to understand the agenda of a news outlet. Since the issue being framed is that of the struggles of a centenarian the nature of the issue itself is inherently conservative. A conservative viewpoint would show approval for the issue in favor of Anna by victimizing her and making Facebook seem like an entity that attempts to keep opinions from older generations out of earshot. Inversely, a liberal viewpoint would show a little more apathy towards the “issue” itself and focus more on Anna’s birthday. For instance, Quinn’s (2014) comment “… a woman in Minnesota had to lie about her age on Facebook, because the site said she was too old, ”sounds pretty conservative compared to Domanico’s (2014) comment “but more importantly, happy 114th (or 100th) birthday, Ms. Stoehr. You’ll soon be Facebooking, FaceTiming and Googling with the best of us.” It all comes down to the politics of the outlets themselves. Engel (2014) makes a clear analysis of some of the outlets used in this study on a liberal/ conservative chart and defines Huffington Post, NPR, and the Guardian as all being liberal whereas Fox news is on the conservative side. In order to reveal the political views of the other articles, examination of the viewpoints of each outlet whose political view is known should be compared to the viewpoints of the outlets whose viewpoints are not known to have the tendencies compared.
Researching anything nowadays is as easy as pulling out your phone and typing in a question. To begin my research, I addressed a simple question, how is Anna Stoehr represented on the news media outlets online? I shortened my search by typing in “Anna Stoehr 114th birthday” in the Google search bar and clicked on the news tab to see what that would result in. From the page that came up I decided to choose every other news outlet that was listed on the page while excluding any repeats to make the sample of articles random. From those articles I chose every other paragraph in the article to make the texts that the research would be based off of as random as possible too. The point of the randomization is to increase variability. To answer the initial question I developed a code that first quantized the presence of names of people involved in the story and names of social media websites to create valid statistics that I could use to see if the articles really do push their own agenda using Anna as a draw. Then I related the statistics to the presence of Anna’s name in the title of the article to see if the article’s focus matched up with the title of the article. In the cases where my statistics showed a counter argument to proven facts (eg. my numbers showed that fox was a more liberal outlet) I used a comparison of the title of the article to the known agenda to see if they matched up. If it did then the blame is on the conservative nature of the article. If not then the article is an exception to the political tendency of the outlet. For example, coding for Huffington Post reveals that there are 4 references to Anna (4 more times than everyone else), 0 references to her birthday, and 2 attacks on Facebook in the article which means the article is conservatively natured so I incorporated the title analysis and that also revealed a conservatively natured article. As explained, this is due to the conservative nature of the issue.
Overall, the outlets either appear to be conservative or politically centered. The issue is blown up in the article (more in some cases than others) and Anna Stoehr’s birthday is used as a draw to push the political agenda of the news outlets. In Huffington post, the Guardian, and NPR the articles are a little more politically centered since those outlets tend to be liberal most of the time, in the framework of this issue, they are forced to show conservatism so they appear centered. All of the rest of the articles show more conservative views with a common theme in the articles: ageism.
Since Facebook tends to cater to the demands of the younger generation they ignore the needs of the older generation (especially the centenarians) so the conservatives get the upper hand in this issue since a centenarian is being left out of a network which makes the network seem like a liberal supporter. However, the argument for that is somewhat invalidated since Facebook does reach back pretty far in order to allow as many people to join the network as possible (1905). No one would really expect anyone to be able to live for longer than 100 years, although there are some exceptions (after all, that’s why this particular research exists). But why would Facebook be antagonized when it brought this news to the attention of the general public? It’s could be for support of other networks or maybe to expose all the social media networks for being “ageist.” It really depends on the agenda of the outlet. What does this reveal about the outlets themselves? Besides agenda, it reveals their desperation to draw attention to themselves while at the same time putting down social media networks. The graph below represents the number of attacks on social media networks (orange) to the number of references to Anna’s birthday (blue).
The motivation for that would be because with all of the advances in technology that cater to people who are busy all the time (people that are always on the go, i.e. younger people) social media networks seem to be replacing news media networks. People would rather check the weather from a side tab while logging onto Facebook or any other social media site since it’s more convenient than going to a news station’s website and checking the weather there. People would also rather get their news from a side tab that may come from the search engine that gets the information from a news outlet, rather than logging directly onto a news outlet’s website to get the news since it’s more convenient. Also people would be even less interested in that news since it’s is usually a day or two old, and rather get the latest updates from some social media website that has local, national, and even global updates posted constantly. As a matter of fact, the News outlet from which I got the news about Anna Stoehr got that news form a Twitter feed.
The outlets went crazy victimizing Anna Stoehr even though she doesn’t consider herself a victim. They outlets are framing the story to their liking to set a trap for people who don’t know better to have their beliefs swayed. They want Facebook to get as much disapproval as possible so they can have valid evidence to promote the use of their own websites which have no age limits and present all kinds of news.
The controversy raised by Anna Stoehr through the news media outlets reveals the true intention of news media. Given that there isn’t a lot of research done on all of the outlets I used in the analysis there isn’t a lot of credibility in it. However the analysis does prove the ageism trend. Why would the outlets go out of their way to make Facebook sound like an antagonist in the story? Analyses of the issues brought to the attention of the general public versus how the outlets frame the actual “issue” reveals the bias of news media. If a news outlet attacks Facebook in a story where Facebook allows the “victim” to use the network at the end of the story then isn’t there room to say that the outlet is showing bias? Perhaps, but in this case a conservative topic is employed to attack a seemingly liberal social network. News outlets that have been proven to be conservative had the advantage in this particular research because of the nature of the issue whereas liberal news outlets ended up either appearing politically centered or slightly conservative so maybe it’s more about the agenda of the outlets as a whole than their individual agendas. They may all be against Facebook using Anna’s story as bait to draw attention to themselves. This shows an inherently conservative trend in all of news media when it comes to Facebook since Facebook seems to draw more attention than the news outlets; however it does not prove that claim. Further research could be done on the views of news media outlets when it comes to Facebook or any social media network to validate that point, but until then it remains a mystery.
Shah, Y. (2014, October 13). “114-Year-Old Woman Has To Lie About Age To Join Facebook” Huffington Post.com. Retrieved November 6, 2014.
Engel, P. (2014, October 21). “Here’s How Liberal Or Conservative Major News Sources Really Are” businessinsider.com. Retrieved November 6, 2014.
Domanico, A. (2014, October 13) “114-year-old woman had to lie to join Facebook” CNET.com. Retrieved November 6, 2014.
Quinn, C. (2014, October 13). “114-year-old woman lies about her age on Facebook” KGW.com. Retrieved November 6, 2014.