Occupy Wall Street: From the Point of View of Fox News and CNN.com News

Occupy Wall Street:  From the Point of View of Fox News and CNN.com News

Group #2: Ariel (An) Tang, Sarah Divya, Adriene de Leuw, Richard Bounds, and Bobby (Robert) Nguyen

Introduction

The Occupy Wall Street Movement centers around government policies and how politics play a predominant role in the outcome. Therefore, it will be interesting to look into how these various governmental bodies are represented in the media. Our media is typically controlled by members of the 1%, who hold influential power in this country, while the movement itself is created by the other 99%. That is why it is important to examine this phenomenon, and see how the media presents the two groups’ opinions about the Occupy Wall Street Movement. Also, since this is an election year, it will be interesting to see how the presidential candidates attack this controversial issue.

This post’s central focus is based on how mainstream news media outlets report different and conflicting viewpoints when discussing and generating opinions on governmental bodies efforts surrounding the Occupy Wall Street Movement.

In this analysis we will examine three patterns we found to differentiate the two binary positions in our corpora, CNN.com news and FOX news. We will demonstrate how we used word frequencies and structured coding to incorporate corpus linguistic and qualitative methods in our analysis. Furthermore, we will explain the discourse genre and corpus we evaluated to support our thesis.

Methods

One corpus linguistic method is Word Frequencies, which generates a list of all words in the text and how frequently they occur. This includes word occurrence and phrase occurrence.  In addition, “word frequency distributions have been studied for corpora as well as for subsets of words selected according to some linguistic criterion” (Baayen, 1992).  This method is useful for our analysis since “norming techniques can facilitate the comparison of individual items across two corpora in terms of overall frequency of occurrence” (Adolphs, 2006). Thus, we were able to compare the frequencies of certain lexical items, such as Democrat and Republican, between our individual corpus and our group’s larger corpora.

One qualitative coding method is structured coding, which is a process of looking for a set series of patterns (codes) in the corpus.  This includes locating every instance of the pattern and determining differences and commonalities between excerpts.  Our group could then, “analyze several parts and their connections, that is the specific way they could be linked or connected to form a meaningful picture” (Bauer, 285). Thus, we can use these patterns to examine how media portray governmental bodies within the Occupy Wall Street Movement.

We chose CNN.com news and Fox news for two different perspectives on the Occupy Wall Street Movement. We are looking at how governmental bodies are portrayed through these two news sources. Generally Fox news is more conservative, while CNN usually leans towards the liberal side. We hope to find differences in how the two publications describe this movement with these two varying viewpoints. Our group focused on the two months following the first large protest because we feel that this period had the most crucial media coverage. We searched for articles from September to November 2011.

We used split-sample method to divide our corpora into five individual corpus. We split the corpora based into two groups: CNN.com news and Fox news. We used LexisNexis Academic Search Engine to search “Occupy Wall Street” on each respective website and within the date range of September to November 2011. Then we pulled articles within that date range so that each member has thirty different articles. The total token of both CNN.com news and Fox news is 415,229 and the total type is 14,095. This gives the type/token ratio of 0.03394512 or 3.4%.

Analysis

First finding: Fox news criticizes President Obama’s involvement in the Occupy Wall Street Movement.

Fox news criticizes President Obama’s action and efforts in restoring the Occupy Wall Street Movement. When speaking about President Obama’s actions within the movement, this news media source rarely praises or acknowledges the benefits of his actions during this event.  The articles within the corpus reinforce the news source’s position, which is against the ideas of the movement and the protesters involved.  Thus, they criticize Obama for his support towards this cause through the actions and comments he has made about it.  This idea is illustrated with the following excerpts:

“Never before has a boisterous campaign of civil disobedience punctuated by more than 700 arrests received the kind of warm welcome from a sitting president and his party that President Obama and leading Democrats have accorded to Occupy Wall Street.”

“Well, they are wrapping their arms around it, but around the tail, not the body of this movement. They are desperately trying to catch up with it. This is like an Obama campaign without Obama. And it’s a manifestation of this feeling on the left. That Obama has aligned himself with Goldman Sachs, sold himself out to those $3,500.00 a plate dinner companion of his. And there’s a real feeling on the left that he’s abandoned liberalism.”

After searching word frequencies and coding the sections about Obama’s interaction with the movement, in general, these passages represent President Obama as an “active” social actor within the Occupy Wall Street Movement.  Thus, this sets up a pattern of activating the role that Obama has within the movement, as “the actor in processes (loosely, the one who does things and makes things happen)” (Fairclough, 2003).  Activating Obama puts him in the position of influencing the Occupy Movement, rather than a participant that is being affected or rather “passivated”.  Fox News discredits the President’s position, since he offers support and is associated with a group that is labeled as agenda-less, boisterous, and disobedient.  The process of activating his role as a social actor makes it seem that he largely agrees with the beliefs of the Wall Street Movement, which the news source believes to be bad.  This is an interesting pattern since as an election year, it is a crucial time for the President to maintain his support from voters and Fox News usually leans towards the conservative side (and against the President).  Therefore, Fox News criticizes Obama’s position and actions, by activating his role as a social actor within the Occupy Movement, which they are against.

Second finding: CNN.com news establishes Present Obama as a powerful social actor.

CNN.com news identifies President Barack Obama as a powerful and influential social actor, who can make changes and take action against the Occupy Wall Street Movement. According to Fairclough, authorization is a form of “legitimation by reference to the authority of tradition, custom, law, and of persons in whom some kind of institutional authority is vested” (Fairclough, 2003). As the current President of the United States, Obama represents the authority and has the power to legitimate texts. Therefore, CNN.com news often quotes Obama as an important source for the Occupy Wall Street Movement. My corpus has 30 articles in total and Obama is used as a source for 37 times. One example is the following except from CNN.com news on October 6, 2011 shows how journalist quotes Obama to narrate the definition of the Occupy Movement:

“Protests cropping up in more than a dozen American cities prompted President Barack Obama to discuss the phenomenon Thursday by saying demonstrators “are giving voice” to those frustrated “about how our financial system works.”

In addition, Fairclough stated that social actors can be divided into “activated” or “passivated” and  “social actors can be represented impersonally as well as personally” (Fairclough, 2003). CNN.com news portrayal President Obama personally and as an activated actor, who does things and make things happen. The following excerpt describes Obama as a responsible human being, who has acknowledged the problem of the Occupy Movement, and as a hopeful leader, who will protect his citizens:

“He acknowledges Americans are angry. He knows times are tough and he continues to fight to restore some much-needed protections for exactly the people in that crowd at Wall Street.” 

As an activated actor, Obama is also perceived as policy maker who can make changes of our social system and as a problem solver. For example, one quote stated “he has injected some fairness and balance into the economy to spur growth and job creation” (CNN.com news, October 7, 2011) This shows that not only CNN.com news legitmaze its report on OWS Movement with President Obama’s role as an influential social actor, but also treats Obama as an actor who has the power to make changes and solve the issues aroused by the OWS Movement.

Third finding: Fox News’ conservative position makes its reports more subjective.

During our analysis, we found that Fox news has a more conservative viewpoint on the Occupy Wall Street Movement, and therefore report more subjectively in their articles. According to Fairclough, discourse theory includes the recontextualization of social events, which journalists often recontextualize an event for us through different representation of language use (Fairclough, 2003). Therefore, journalists from Fox News have the power to recontextualize a more subjective viewpoint of the Occupy Wall Street Movement to the readers. For example, Fox News tends to describe the OWS Movement more negatively, which is exemplified in the following quote:

“Even if this is another example of how frustrated the American people are, at the lack of leadership by Barack Obama. Fact is whether you are the far left of the spectrum or the right of the spectrum or somewhere in between, the one thing that everybody is agreeing on is, this president’s economic policies are a failure. I don’t agree with the Occupy Wall Street folks but the fact of the matter is, their frustration and anger is about the failure of this president. And everybody can agree on that”

The above quote shows Fox News’ negative portrayal of President Obama’s lack of leadership of taking a firm stand to resolve this issue. In contrast of our second finding, it is very interesting to see how Fox News perceives President Obama as an unfavorable social actor, whereas  CNN.com news identifies President Obama as an influential and powerful soical actor. This could be because CNN is a more neutral news provider, in comparison to Fox News which is more subjective. Furthermore, Fox News delegitimizes the Occupy Wall Street Movement and describes the Occupy demonstrators as protestors and mobs, which both words have a more negative connotation and meaning. The following quote illustrates this pattern:

“Continuing now with our lead story on these so-called anti- Wall Street protests popping up around the country. These mobs are now getting support from the biggest names in the Democratic Party.”

These two excerpts support the finding of how Fox News is more biased when reporting on events encompassing the Occupy Wall Street Movement. Since Fox News is on the right side of the governmental spectrum, which tends to be more conservative, this is unsurprising and is further evidence for why they would report on social actors, such as President Obama, more negatively. Reporting in this way helps strongly to sway voters opinions on the issue and how they will ultimately view and interact with the Occupy Wall Street Movement.

Conclusion

As stated above, this post’s central focus is based on how mainstream news media outlets report different and conflicting viewpoints when discussing and generating opinions on governmental bodies efforts surrounding the Occupy Wall Street Movement. The patterns discovered through our methods analysis included how Fox news criticizes President Obama’s involvement in the Occupy Wall Street Movement, how CNN.com news establishes Present Obama as a powerful social actor and how Fox News’ conservative position makes its reports more subjective.

As a mainstream media, CNN.com news draws on governmental bodies, institutions, and figures to legitimatize its texts and depict these governmental segments as powerful social actors and solution for the Occupy Wall Street Movement. Fox News is a mainstream source where many citizens get their news information, and which usually leans towards the conservative side.  Thus, it is understandable that they generally would not be in favor of a movement supported by the Democratic Party or Democratic President Obama. This analysis helps to establish that the Occupy Wall Street Movement is generally unsupported by conservatives and this news source may appeal to those that disagree with how governmental bodies have interacted with this movement.  In conclusion, this analysis helps us to better understand the way that news sources help shape the general public’s opinion on the Occupy Wall Street Movement by using different viewpoints.

References

Adolphs, Svenja. “Exploring Words and Phrases in Use: Basic Techniques.” Chapter 4 in Introducing Electronic Text Analysis. London ; New York : Routledge, 2006. 51-63.

Baayen, H. (December 01, 1992). Statistical Models for Word Frequency Distributions: A Linguistic Evaluation.Computers and the Humanities, 26, 6, 347-363.

Bauer, M. W., & Gaskell, G. (2000). Qualitative researching with text, image and sound: A practical handbook. London: SAGE.

Fairclough, N. (2003) Meaning relations between sentences and clauses (p. 87-104). In Analyzing discourse: Textual analysis for social research. London: Routledge

Fairclough, N. (2003) Representation of social events (p. 134-155). In Analyzing discourse: Textual analysis for social research. London: Routledge

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