There are a number reasons why a journalist might decide to write an article in a particular way. In the past it has been a journalistic goal to watch over the government, to shed light on important subjects, and to make sure that everyone’s right to freedom of speech still holds up in America. However, it is impossible for any journalist to inform the public of everything that is happening, so journalists have to make important decisions. What to include and what to exclude.

Today these important decisions are still being made in the news and in particular the news for the 2012 Presidential Election Campaign. Take, for example, the article Cain Allegations: legitimate issue or political drama? written by Tom Cohen for CNN. This particular article is focused on the recent sexual harassment allegations brought up against Herman Cain.

Why did Cohen decide to write about this particular subject? There are a number of other candidates and issues that he could have focused on, but in this specific article the “Media Obsessions”, as explained in the text The Media of Mass Communication by John Vivian, factor into why Cohen decided to focus on Cain’s dilemma. Vivian gives a number of reasons why the media writes as is does, he calls them media obsessions, or stories that journalists tend to gravitate towards.

The first of these media obsessions is presidential campaign coverage and in particular horse races, or races between candidates. As seen in the article written by Cohen his first decision in deciding what to write was that he was going to inform people about the presidential campaign. Most likely the second decision he made was to talk about another media obsession; conflict involving fundamental values. This is definitely the case with Cain. His alleged sexual harassments involve difficult moral questions, both for Cain himself and readers. Lastly, Cohen probably looked for scandals and in Cain’s case, if the allegations are true, this is quite a big scandal and could have the potential to change Cain’s campaign. However, Cohen did not write about these media obsessions, because they interest him the most, but because they are the topics that readers find entertaining. So, although Cohen is probably writing about a subject that he enjoys or believes to be important, he is also keeping in mind his readers and what they want from him.

As mentioned above Cohen could not have possibly talked about every single detail pertaining to Cain’s campaign; therefore, he needed to decide what in particular he wanted to talk about. This is called framing a story. Sometimes framing stories is a very conscientious act by a reporter, but in many cases it is not. Most of the time reporters will frame a story based on routines, like deadlines and the number of words they are allowed. Journalists also base their articles off of standard story-telling structures, familiar narratives, and partisan perspectives. Cohen most likely had a given number of words he could use and also a deadline that influenced the way in which he framed the story. Even with these restrictions he was able to stay away from a few of the framing mishaps.

Cohen had to decide which quotes he needed in his article; therefore, framing had a huge influence on where he wanted to place a republican’s quote versus a democrat’s quotes. His writing seems to be unpartisan, because he gives both the democratic and republican opinion and he quotes people directly by using their name, instead of using the tricky phrase “some people say”.

Lastly agenda setting influenced Cohen’s writing and ultimately what information readers receive. Agenda setting often changes or influences the way in which people place their priorities. The large amount of coverage on Cain’s sex scandal boosts people’s interest in the subject and tells readers that this particular story is of importance. However, one of the most essential aspects of agenda setting is that the media does not tell people what to think, but what to think about. Although there are many articles out there that do in fact tell people what to think, or give people specific opinions on a subject, in this article Cohen leaves it up to readers to decide what they believe.

Cohen is able to keep his personal opinion out of the story by giving both sides of the issue. On one side he has the people who believe the scandal is important enough that the truth needs to be brought out and talked about and these people also believe that once the truth is brought to light it could have a big affect on Cain’s campaign. At the beginning of the article he first gives this side of the story, “Those opposing the former business executives campaign called for keeping the issue alive, saying the necessary scrutiny of presidential candidates requires Cain to answer all questions…(Cohen, 2011).”

Cohen also makes it a point to give the other side of the story, which is that there is not enough substantial proof against Cain to change the way people view Cain. “Conservatives, angered by the media attention to the potentially fatal accusations for the tea party favorite’s campaign, argued that the lack of specifics…showed it was all more circus than substance (Cohen, 2011).”

Like any good reporter should Cohen also goes beyond the simple facts and opinions of the issue and adds a little more substance to his article. He does this by digging into Cain’s background as a businessman and explaining why Cain is having such a hard time confronting the issues brought up against him; “Cain is undergoing a difficult transition from private business figure to public politician” (Cohen, 2011). In the end Cohen adds in one last quote meant to keep readers thinking about their own opinions and priorities, “’The real issue here beyond Cain is what candidate’s moral compass is and how that shapes their policy views” (Cohen, 2011). This quote is a perfect example of how Cohen is not telling readers what to think, but simply what they should think about. He’s telling readers to be cautious and listen closely to candidates to see how they are guided or not guided by they’re morals and if people can do that they will gain a better view of the presidential candidates.

In the end Cohen’s article was influenced by a number of different things each just as important as the next. Media obsessions fueled his interest in the Cain scandal, framing helped him to decide what aspect of Cain’s campaign he wanted to cover, and keeping in mind agenda setting he remained unbiased and didn’t tell readers what to think, but what to think about.

 

 

 

 

Works Cited

 

 

 

Cohen, Tom. “Cain Allegations: Legitimate Issue or Political Drama? – CNN.com.” CNN.com – Breaking News, U.S., World, Weather, Entertainment & Video News. 06 Nov. 2011. Web. 07 Nov. 2011. <http://www.cnn.com/2011/11/06/politics/cain-allegations/index.html&gt;.

 

Vivian, John. The Media of Mass Communication. Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 2011. Print.

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