23 SES 02 B, Teachers and Teaching
This works follows the turbulent years of educational reform in Israel’s K-12 education system (2007-2011) during which negotiations between Israel’s two teacher unions and the two Ministries (Education and Finance) finally delivered two largely similar agreements for elementary and high school teachers. The dispute with the high school teachers and following agreement were partially fuelled by a big wave of social unrest in Israel and the world, which at its peak sent out 400,000 protesters to the streets of Tel-Aviv demanding to lower the cost of living in Israel. Teachers who participated in the demonstrations demanded salary increases, as well as larger investments in educational infrastructure (e.g., reducing class size).
These years are fertile ground and offer an important vantage point to describe and assess how teachers and the teaching profession are framed by the mass media and what could be the implications of such framing of teachers on the public’s understanding, perception and involvement in education policy debates. We examine how two major daily newspapers, “Haaretz” (left leaning and elitist) and “Yediot Aharonot” (center right and popular) covered news related to teachers. We ask the following research questions: How does the nature of educational news framing in both newspapers contributes to the public perception of the teaching profession? And How different or simmilar is the nature of educational coverage in both newspapers?
We combine both CDA and framing analysis to examine how the two newspapers covered issues concerning teachers with a focus on two illuminating case studies; a case displaying the “teacher of the year” contest as discussed in “Yedioth Aharonoth” and the case of the big teachers’ strike of 2007 as discussed in both “Yedioth Aharonoth” and “Haaretz.”
The fundamental assumption underlying our research is that framing of news entails and shapes meaning. Cognitive theories of media influence—foremost among them agenda setting (McCombs & Shaw, 1972), priming (e.g., Valentino, 2002), and framing (e.g., Scheufele, 1999)—investigate the media’s capacity to shape people’s perceptions of the environment they live in through the provision of “information, agendas, and ‘public space’” (to borrow Katz’s phrase from [1987, 528]). Framing theory argues that influence flows from a powerful media allied with other powerful institutions to a less powerful audience. Therefore we are interested in how a news item is structured, the details deducted or included, the tone, the editorial decision to emphasize or de-emphasize certain issues, the type and tone of the title. These affect the way readers understand the news and the messages carried in them.
Iyngar (2005) expanded this notion arguing that framing is largely thematic or episodic. News items with thematic framing cover subjects and problems using multiple angles/perspectives, offering comparisons and providing general background and context so that readers become well informed and able to form their opinions on the subject. Thematically framed news items offer readers the opportunity to gain knowledge not only about the superficial questions of “who,” “what,” “when” and “where,” but also about the deeper questions pertaining to the “why” and the “how” (Carey, 1997). Episodic framing of news tends to take a specific and narrow angle of an issue instead of describing the general problem. Such coverage often focuses on a particular individual or a specific case study with a tendency to emphasize the emotions and drama related to the story. While thematic framing facilitates democratic participation and political involvement of citizens trying to shape society, episodic framing narrows readers’ perspective and understanding and as result they tend to attribute social ills to specific individuals. Thus such coverage discourages political involvement and civil participation and activism (Iyengar, 2005; Author and colleagues, 2011).
Data is based on a corpus of news items published in two daily newspapers in Israel; Haaretz, which caters an elite, center left audience with a relatively low circulation, and Yediot-Aharonot, which caters the mass public, occupying primarily center right political views (Bar-on & Kashti, 2003; TGI, 2015). We selected these particular newspapers for their elite or popular affiliation, national scope, broad focus, considerable volume of articles related to education, wide readership and availability in a searchable online database. We searched three archives (at Haaretz, Tel Aviv University and Hebrew University) to locate and sample the articles relevant to our research. Search was initiated with the key word “teacher” and was then narrowed to K-12 public education. From an overall 350 items that were identified, we randomly sampled 88 items for the analysis, selecting one item per month for the years 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 (n=52 items). In addition, following a spike of interest in the teachers’ strike, teachers and public schools received wide coverage during 2007, which we wanted to account for by oversampling and randomly choosing four articles per month (n=36 items). For each item we coded the name of the author, section, the main topics and the main actors that appear in the item. Following a methodological approach to framing previously used by the authors (2011), we coded the main and secondary headline, as well as each paragraph and calculated the relative weight of episodic versus thematic paragraphs in the item. Final decision regarding to the framing of an item was based on the above measures and an inter-subjective judgment (Krippendorff, 2013). The process of coding included analysis of test items to develop sufficient agreement. Next, 20 percent of the main sample was double coded to assess inter rater reliability. Analysis for the overall framing of the items based on Cohen’s Kappa (1960) was 1.00 (a rare full agreement between the authors about the type of framing that accurately describes each item). In addition the reliability of the proportion of episodic and thematic paragraphs was measured using a paired t-test indicating high compatibility between the coders (p=.870, 1.659). Finally, we chose to follow a Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) developed by Fairclough (2000) and implemented in a similar media study by Punakallio and Dervin (2015). This method fits particularly well with the analysis of media texts because it allows to examine texts as a social activity.
A review of “Yedioth Aharonoth’s” coverage of the “teacher of the year” contest reveals two important themes. On the one hand, the contest seeks to promote the public image of teachers by selecting and presenting outstanding teachers from all over the country. Inviting and providing space to the voice of exceptional talented teachers in the media is a crucial step in changing the social status and compensation of teachers. All the while, it appears that most of the articles covering the contest represent teachers from a narrow and personal angle. As such, the framing of the items is distinctly episodic and fail to show the general context and connection between teacher's professional work, educational policy and vision. In quite a stark contrast, the coverage at “Haaretz” of the big teachers’ strike (the second case study on which we focused) is substantially more thematic. Even when “Ha'aretz’s” coverage focuses on the economic details of the strike the coverage positions these details within a social and cultural contexts. Haaretz’s offering of a detailed, accurate and rich coverage that relates to important events in the policy sphere, stands in deep opposition to the thin story line of “Yedioth Ahronoth’s” coverage that disregards policy facts, data, events and relates to reality through emotions and personal stories. To conclude, employing episodic and thematic framing theory, the analysis suggests that the two newspapers frame the reality quite differently. We argue that the tendency toward episodic framing, as shown particularly in “Yedioth Ahronoth’s” coverage, contributes to the hollowing out of public discourse over educational policy and the future of the teaching profession. These findings suggest that episodic framing is a potent threat to any European democracy that holds dear the principle and necessity of having a healthy vibrant public discourse before the implementation of any educational policy.
Baron, S, Kashti, Y. (2003). Communications and policy: impact of the press on decision-making in education. Changes in Education Policy Lines in Israel in the 2000s, (Tel-aviv: Ramot), 455–484. “(In Hebrew)” Carey, J. (1997). James Carey: A critical reader. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Cohen, J. (1960). A coefficient of agreement for nominal scales.Educational and Psychological Measurement, Vol 20, 37–46. Dahan, Y. (2012). From the Campus to the Port: Coverage of Strikes and Strikers in Israeli Media. Israeli Sociology, 14(Pardes), 29–56. Entman, R. M. (1993). Framing: Toward Clarification of a Fractured Paradigm. Journal of Communication, 43(4), 51–58. http://doi.org/10.1111/j.1460-2466.1993.tb01304.x Fairclough, N. (2000). New Labour, new language?. Psychology Press. Gitlin, T. (1980). The Whole World is Watching: Mass Media in the Making & Unmaking of the New Left. California: University of California Press. Iyengar, S. (1991).Is anyone responsible?How television frames political issues. Iyengar, S. (2005). Speaking of Values: The Framing of American Politics. The Forum, 3(3).http://doi.org/10.2202/1540-8884.1093 Katz, Elihu. 1987. "Communications Research since Lazarsfeld." Public Opinion Quarterly 51, pt. 2 (suppl.): S25-S45. Krippendorff, K. (2013). Content analysis: An introduction to its methodology. Los Angeles: Sage. McGombs, Maxwell E., and Donald L. Shaw. 1972. "The Agenda-Setting Function of Mass Media." Public Opinion Quarterty 36:176. Punakallio, E., &Dervin, F. (2015). The best and most respected teachers in the world?Counternarratives about the ‘Finnish miracle of education’in the press. Power and Education, 7(3), 306-321. Scheufele, D. A. (1999). Framing as a theory of media effects. Journal of communication, 49(1), 103-122. Torin, A. (2014). Teacher representations in the Israeli media. Tel- Aviv: Mofet. “(In Hebrew)” Valentino, N. A., Hutchings, V. L., & White, I. K. (2002). Cues that matter: How political ads prime racial attitudes during campaigns. American Political Science Review, 96(01
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