Williams: Journalists Are Using the “Game Frame” Regarding Politics More than Ever


By Brook Williams

Have you ever listened to your friend energetically explain the latest drama in their life and as you listened you thought to yourself, “They’re probably exaggerating and acting biased.” You can’t stop listening due to the hype they’ve now put into their story and it has suddenly become so entertaining that you find that you couldn’t care less if it were completely false. Besides, you’re still taking your friend’s side on the matter regardless because that is what friends are for. This sort of interaction is similar, I think, to how Americans consume politics via media nowadays.

It seems as though journalists and media outlets have followed a sort of production model over the past few years, or some would say, the past few decades. Instead of leaning towards being unbiased and fact-based outlets, they have begun to shamelessly claim their reputations for swinging more towards one political party than the other, regardless of the evidence supporting their loyalties. For example, many articles during the recent government shut down consisted of alleging titles such as, “A Win For the Democrats,” or, “A Win For the Republicans.” This type of journalism tactic is what is known as the “game frame” or a “game model.”  These models are successful, as articles gain stronger favor, attention and support from the reader because the average reader typically only pays attention to the political side they support.

Dannagal G. Young, a writer for the NeimanLab.org, a website that assesses and predicts the future of journalism, analyzes the “game frame” tactics being used in journalism, the motives for it and how it can affect the public’s interpretation and consumption of news. “’Game frames’ purport to give ‘the inside scoop’ while playing into journalism’s perceived need for the dramatic and personalized,” she claims. “The game frame and the party cues that accompany [the news] also matter in terms of shaping how able and motivated our citizens are to think critically about policies that actually affect them.”

This poses the question of whether the public would even pay much attention to the news if there were no crutch for them to rely on or biased headline to attract their attention. Part of me wants to believe that Americans would be as engaged as we are now in politics, but I assume that if there were no biases or “game frame” at all in the media, many Americans would fail to keep up with the political climate because they would have to form their own opinions off of factual bases.

“Put simply, journalists’ reliance on this practice is allowing elites to further divide the country, avoid scrutiny and distract citizens away from thoughtful policy debate on issues that carry real-life consequences,” explains Young. I agree with her point and think that news journalists need to steer for more of an unbiased route, even if there is the risk that the public wouldn’t pay as much loyal attention to their content.

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