Analyzing Verbal Narratives in TV News and Commercials

Analyzing Verbal Narratives in TV News and Commercials

Dennis T. Lowry (Southern Illinois University – Carbondale, USA)
Copyright: © 2014 |Pages: 18
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5003-9.ch014
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This chapter acknowledges the truism that “television is a visual medium” but discusses six reasons for sometimes focusing scholarly attention on the non-visual, lexical content of TV news and commercials. It summarizes three different lexical analyses of network TV news dealing with economic news reporting, the reporting of presidential approval polls, as well as general presidential news coverage. All three studies were carried out within the context of charges of political news bias, and all three found evidence to support public perceptions of such bias. The fourth study summarizes a longitudinal analysis of presidential campaign TV commercials from 1952-2008. The particular focus of this study was to look for lexical differences in the content of commercials from winning vs. losing campaigns. The four studies summarized in this chapter demonstrate that, even in this visual age of television, words still mean things.
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Analyzing Verbal Narratives in TV News and Commercials

Content analysis is one of the most frequently used research tools by mass communication scholars, along with survey research and experiments. While the range of content analysis topics has been wide, two content areas that have received considerable attention have been news and advertising.1

Traditional content analysis has employed manual reading/viewing of content by multiple coders, followed by inter-coder reliability checking to assure that the coders are applying the coding categories and definitions in consistent and replicable ways. The entire process is slow and highly labor intensive, thus placing pragmatic limitations on the amount of content analyzed. It is understandable, therefore, that many scholars have been switching to computerized analysis of textual material. This chapter will review the successful use of one such software program, DICTION 5.0 and 6.0, as well as one other program, to analyze network TV newscasts for political bias, and also to analyze rhetorical choices in a large sample of presidential campaign commercials.

Both of these mass communication areas, TV news and TV commercials, are naturally assumed to be heavily visual in terms of information---and their texts or narratives are assumed to be relatively unimportant. Intuitively, TV content on the surface, would not seem to be a good area in which to conduct lexical analyses. This chapter will argue that the lexical content of TV news and commercials is often at least as important as the visual content, and for some research purposes, it is more important.

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