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sources were framed in the coverage of gay marriage, based upon the newspapers' perspectives ... human morality associated with the gay marriage debate.

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The Social Science Journal 47 (2010) 630–645

Morality or equality? Ideological framing in news coverage of gay marriage legitimization Po-Lin Pan a,∗ , Juan Meng b , Shuhua Zhou c a

Department of Radio-Television, College of Communications, Arkansas State University, P.O. Box 2160, State University, AR 72467, USA b Department of Communication, The University of Dayton, USA c Department of Telecommunication and Film, The University of Alabama, USA

Received 18 June 2009; received in revised form 17 January 2010; accepted 1 February 2010

Abstract This content analytic study investigated the approaches of two mainstream newspapers—The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune—to cover the gay marriage issue. The study used the Massachusetts legitimization of gay marriage as a dividing point to look at what kinds of specific political or social topics related to gay marriage were highlighted in the news media. The study examined how news sources were framed in the coverage of gay marriage, based upon the newspapers’ perspectives and ideologies. The results indicated that The New York Times was inclined to emphasize the topic of human equality related to the legitimization of gay marriage. After the legitimization, The New York Times became an activist for gay marriage. Alternatively, the Chicago Tribune highlighted the importance of human morality associated with the gay marriage debate. The perspective of the Chicago Tribune was not dramatically influenced by the legitimization. It reported on gay marriage in terms of defending American traditions and family values both before and after the gay marriage legitimization. Published by Elsevier Inc on behalf of Western Social Science Association.

Gay marriage has been a controversial issue in the United States, especially since the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court officially authorized it. Although the practice has been widely discussed for several years, the acceptance of gay marriage does not seem to be concordant with mainstream American values. This is in part because gay marriage challenges the traditional value of the family institution. In the United States, people’s perspectives of and attitudes toward gay marriage have been mostly polarized. Many people optimistically ∗

Corresponding author. E-mail addresses: [email protected], [email protected] (P.-L. Pan).

0362-3319/$ – see front matter. Published by Elsevier Inc on behalf of Western Social Science Association. doi:10.1016/j.soscij.2010.02.002

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support gay legal rights and attempt to legalize it in as many states as possible, while others believe legalizing homosexuality may endanger American society and moral values. A number of forces and factors may expand this divergence between the two polarized perspectives, including family, religion and social influences. Mass media have a significant influence on socialization that cultivates individual’s belief about the world as well as affects individual’s values on social issues (Comstock & Paik, 1991). Moreover, news media outlets become a strong factor in influencing people’s perceptions of and attitudes toward gay men and lesbians because the news is one of the most powerful media to influence people’s attitudes toward gay marriage (Anderson, Fakhfakh, & Kondylis, 1999). Some mainstream newspapers are considered as media elites (Lichter, Rothman, & Lichter, 1986). Furthermore, numerous studies have demonstrated that mainstream newspapers would produce more powerful influences on people’s perceptions of public policies and political issues than television news (e.g., Brians & Wattenberg, 1996; Druckman, 2005; Eveland, Seo, & Marton, 2002) Gay marriage legitimization, a specific, divisive issue in the political and social dimensions, is concerned with several political and social issues that have raised fundamental questions about Constitutional amendments, equal rights, and American family values. The role of news media becomes relatively important while reporting these public debates over gay marriage, because not only do the news media affect people’s attitudes toward gays and lesbians by positively or negatively reporting the gay and lesbian issue, but also shape people’s perspectives of the same-sex marriage policy by framing the recognition of gay marriage in the news coverage. The purpose of this study is designed to examine how gay marriage news is described in the news coverage of The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune based upon their divisive ideological framings.

1. Literature review 1.1. Homosexual news coverage over time Until the 1940s, news media basically ignored the homosexual issue in the United States (Alwood, 1996; Bennett, 1998). According to Bennett (1998), of the 356 news stories about gays and lesbians that appeared in Time and Newsweek from 1947 to 1997, the Kinsey report on male sexuality published in 1948 was the first to draw reporters to the subject of homosexuality. From the 1940s to 1950s, the homosexual issue was reported as a social problem. Approximately 60% of the articles described homosexuals as a direct threat to the strength of the U.S. military, the security of the U.S. government, and the safety of ordinary Americans during this period. By the 1960s, the gay and lesbian issue began to be discussed openly in the news media. However, these portrayals were covered in the context of crime stories and brief items that ridiculed effeminate men or masculine women (Miller, 1991; Streitmatter, 1993). In 1963, a cover story, “Let’s Push Homophile Marriage,” was the first to treat gay marriage as a matter of winning legal recognition (Stewart-Winter, 2006). However, this cover story did not cause people to pay positive attention to gay marriage, but raised national debates between punishment and pity of homosexuals. Specifically speaking, although numerous arti-

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cles reported before the 1960s provided growing visibility for homosexuals, they were still highly critical of them (Bennett, 1998). In September 1967, the first hard-hitting gay newspaper—the Los Angeles Advocate—began publication. Different from other earlier gay and lesbian publications, its editorial mix consisted entirely of non-fiction materials, including news stories, editorials, and columns (Cruikshank, 1992; Streitmatter, 1993). The Advocate was the first gay publication to operate as an independent business financed entirely by advertising and circulation, rather than by subsidies from a membership organization (Streitmatter, 1995a, 1995b). After the Stonewall Rebellion in June 1969 in New York City ignited the modern phase of the gay and lesbian liberation movement, the number and circulation of the gay and lesbian press exploded (Streitmatter, 1998). Therefore, gay rights were discussed in the news media during the early 1970s. Homosexuals began to organize a series of political actions associated with gay rights, which was widely covered by the news media, while a backlash also appeared against the gay-rights movements, particularly among fundamentalist Christians (Alwood, 1996; Bennett, 1998). Later in the 1970s, the genre entered a less political phrase by exploring the dimensions of the developing culture of gay and lesbian. The news media plumbed the breadth and depth of topics ranging from the gay and lesbian sensibility in art and literature to sex, spirituality, personal appearance, dyke separatism, lesbian mothers, drag queen, leather men, and gay bathhouses (Streitmatter, 1995b). In the 1980s, the gay and lesbian issue confronted a most formidable enemy when AIDS/HIV, one of the most devastating diseases in the history of medicine, began killing gay men at an alarming rate. Accordingly, AIDS/HIV became the biggest gay story reported by the news media. Numerous news media outlets linked the AIDS/HIV epidemic with homosexuals, which implied the notion of the promiscuous gay and lesbian lifestyle. The gays and lesbians, therefore, were described as a dangerous minority in the news media during the 1980s (Altman, 1986; Cassidy, 2000). In the 1990s, issues about the growing visibility of gays and lesbians and their campaign for equal rights were frequently covered in the news media, primarily because of AIDS and the debate over whether the ban on gays in the military should be lifted. The increasing visibility of gay people resulted in the emergence of lifestyle magazines (Bennett, 1998; Streitmatter, 1998). The Out, a lifestyle magazine based in New York City but circulated nationally, led the new phase, since its upscale design and fashion helped attract mainstream advertisers. This magazine, which devalued news in favor of stories on entertainment and fashions, became the first gay and lesbian publication sold in mainstream bookstores and featured on the front page of The New York Times (Streitmatter, 1998). From the late 1990s to the first few years of the 2000s, homosexuals were described as a threat to children’s development as well as a danger to family values in the news media. The legitimacy of same-sex marriage began to be discussed, because news coverage dominated the issue of same-sex marriage more frequently than before (Bennett, 1998). According to Gibson (2004), The New York Times first announced in August 2002 that its Sunday Styles section would begin publishing reports of same-sex commitment ceremonies along with the traditional heterosexual wedding announcements. Moreover, many newspapers joined this trend. Gibson (2004) found that not only the national newspapers, such as The New York Times, but also other regional newspapers, such as the Houston Chronicle and the Seattle Times, reported surprisingly large

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number of news stories about the everyday lives of gays and lesbians, especially since the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled in November 2003 that same-sex couples had the same right to marry as heterosexuals. Previous studies investigated the increased amount of news coverage of gay and lesbian issues in the past six decades, but they did not analyze how homosexuals are framed in the news media in terms of public debates on the gay marriage issue. These studies failed to examine how newspapers report this national debate on gay marriage as well as what kinds of news frames are used in reporting this controversial issue. 1.2. Framing gay and lesbian partnerships Framing is particularly useful in understanding the media’s role in political lives, but its origins can be traced to a general perspective that is termed as social constructivism (Entman, 1993; Reese, 2003; Scheufele, 1999). According to Price, Nir, and Cappella (2005), media recipients can be viewed as active audiences in interpreting and discussing public events, but they rely on the mass media to provide common frames of references that guide interpretation and discussion. The idea of framing is closely aligned with the concept of a schema. According to Price et al. (2005), a frame is a package of associated ideas that guides people’s attention, comprehension, storage, and information retrieval. Frames evolve out of collective efforts to make sense of social problems and help people locate, perceive, identify, and label their experiences of social events. Through exposure to the different courses of public debate framed in the mass media, people on the different sides of the public debate understand it differently, focus on different aspects of social problems, decide which value to connect to a specific issue, and actively shape their perspectives on the debate in terms of an abstract value (Brewer, 2002; Kindler & Sanders, 1996; Nelson, Clawson, & Oxley, 1997; Price et al., 2005). Previous studies indicated that issues surrounding gay rights have been controversial for several decades. Since the 2000 presidential election campaign, the question of whether gay and lesbian partnerships should be granted the same legal status as heterosexual marriages has received more coverage than before (Price et al., 2005). Following George Bush’s election to the presidency, the controversies over gay marriage continued, highlighted by the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruling in 2003 that same-sex couples were legally entitled to marriage rights under that state’s constitution. Consequently, the U.S. Congress began debating a constitutional ban on gay marriage that was supported by President Bush. The bulk of studies found that the news coverage of the legal standing of gay marriage is framed in terms of two core values: morality and equality (e.g., Brewer, 2002, 2003; Gallagher & Bull, 1996; Rimmerman, Kenneth, & Wilcox, 2000). These studies demonstrated that the news coverage focuses on equal rights commonly invoked by gay activists. The news coverage frames gay activists as those who intend to obtain full marital status for same-sex partnerships because marriages are involved in both religious and legal standing. According to Brewer (2002), these gay and lesbian activists are inclined to constitute a politically powerful minority group. Their goal is to attain full social acceptance of homosexuality by using the legal system to reinforce their view of morality. By contrast, opponents strive to frame the matter in terms of “traditional moral values,” emphasizing that legally granting the martial status for samesex partnerships may cause problems to the long-standing social and religious institutions of

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marriage and family. Further, most opponents of gay rights are inclined to use “gay civil unions” rather than “gay marriage” in describing gay and lesbian partnerships. The two kinds of frames that concern the two core values most frequently appear in the news coverage of gay marriage, especially during the presidential campaign in the fall of 2000 (Price et al., 2005). It is evidence that whereas opponents of gay rights emphasize morals and family values, supporters highlight equality as a basic value, and counter that hate is not one of the family values. The current study examines whether the debates over the gay marriage legitimization are framed by news organizational ideologies in terms of equal rights versus morality. Furthermore, it explores how functional relationships between the gay marriage issue and other political or social issues are ideologically framed and investigates the most frequently used news sources in the news coverage of gay marriage as well as the changes in the reporting patterns of gay marriage news during gay marriage legitimization in the state of Massachusetts. Moreover, it is important to specifically investigate the ideological framing of two influential newspapers—The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune—on the gay marriage issue, because they are two leading national newspapers in the United States. The study applies ideological differences between Liberalism and Conservatism to examine how gay marriage legitimization is framed by two national newspapers. According to Kerlinger (1984), Liberalism as a set of political, economic, religious, and other social beliefs that emphasizes freedom of the individual, constitutional participatory government and democracy, the rule of law, free negotiation, discussion and tolerance of different views, constructive social progress and change, egalitarianism and the rights of minorities, secular and rational approaches to social problems, and positive government action to remedy social deficiencies and to improve human welfare. By contrast, Conservatism is viewed as a set of political, economic, religious, and other social beliefs characterized by emphasis on the status quo and social stability, religion and morality, liberty and freedom, the nature of inequality of human beings, self-discipline and sanctity, the uncertainty of progress, obedience to authority, and the weakness of human reason. The ideologies can reflect differences between The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune. The bulk of studies have indicated that The New York Times is inclined to employ a liberal tone to frame political and social issues (e.g., Angela & Frederick, 1994; Lichter et al., 1986; Ju, 2005). On the other hand, the Chicago Tribune has been considered as a conservative newspaper (Gallagher, 1998). According to Fraley and Lester-Roushanzamir (2004), by using sources, reliance on police reports, and official statements, the Chicago Tribune’s reporting encouraged the development of a moral panic when fundamental beliefs and institutions were challenged. Therefore, the ideological differences that exist in these two national newspapers can be conceptually applied in this study in order to identify the controversial characteristics of the gay marriage issue. In this vein, four research questions and three hypotheses were proposed in this study: RQ1: Are some specific topics related to gay marriage, such as the Constitution amendments banning gay marriage, equal human rights, American traditions and family institution, and adoption policy for gay and lesbian couples, evenly covered in The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune?

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RQ2: Is there an increased number of pro-gay marriage people and homosexuals cited by the two newspapers after the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court authorized the license of gay marriage? RQ3: What types of news sources are more frequently used by the two newspapers before and after the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court legitimized gay marriage? To investigate the ideological perspectives of The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune on the public debate over gay marriage, two hypotheses are also proposed in the following: H1: The New York Times prefers to use liberal sources, whereas the Chicago Tribune employs relatively conservative sources in its news stories, especially after gay and lesbian couples receive legal marital status in the state of Massachusetts. H2: The New York Times frames the gay marriage stories in a positive way, whereas the Chicago Tribune used a negative tone to report the gay marriage stories. Finally, one research question is also formed to examine the general changes of the reporting patterns in the two newspapers: RQ4: Are the patterns of reporting the gay marriage news in the two national newspapers changed during the period of gay marriage legitimization?

2. Methods 2.1. Sampling design A content analysis was conducted in this study. Gay marriage news stories published in The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune between November 18, 2002, and November 18, 2004, were the sampling frame in this study. The reason for selecting the time period was because on November 18, 2003, the Massachusetts commonwealth officially authorized gay marriage, and that day was considered a landmark day in gay-rights history in the United States. Therefore, the news stories published within one year before and after gay marriage legitimization would enhance the representativeness of gay marriage-related news stories in this study. By using November 18, 2003, as the watershed, the time period under investigation was divided into four sections in two periods. In the first period, November 18, 2002, to November 18, 2003, the first section included 91 news stories related to gay marriage identified in The New York Times, and the second section contained 128 in the Chicago Tribune. Because of the legitimization of gay marriage on November 18, 2003 and the United States presidential election held on November 2, 2004, the gay marriage topic was frequently discussed in the two mainstream newspapers. Therefore, the sample size in the second period was much larger than that in the first period. Specifically, in the second period, November 18, 2003, to November 18, 2004, the third section covered 712 news stories related to gay marriage in The New York Times and the fourth section included 596 in the Chicago Tribune. To increase the validity of sampling, systematic sampling strategy was used for the generation of samples. Systematic sampling is one of probability sampling designs. Probability

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sampling, can predict which population the sample may be generalized to as well as the limits of generalizability (Singleton & Straits, 2009). According to Riffe, Lacy, and Gico (2005), systematic sampling involved selecting every nth unit—skip interval—from a sampling frame. The skip interval was determined by dividing the sampling frame size by the sample size. Since the sampling frame size of The New York Times was different from that of the Chicago Tribune and the sampling frame size of the first period was also different from that of the second period, the skip intervals would be calculated as different in four sections. We attempted to sample an equal number of news coverage in each section for the later statistical analysis. Specifically, 30 news stories were expected to be systematically selected in each section by using different skip intervals. In the first period, the skip intervals were three for The New York Times and four for the Chicago Tribune, representing that every third and fourth story in all of the news stories in the first period were sampled. Consequently, in the first period, 30 news stories were selected from The New York Times and 32 from the Chicago Tribune. The same sampling strategy was used for the second period. However, since the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court officially authorized gay marriage and the focus of the presidential election of 2004 on the public debate over the gay marriage legitimization increased the number of the gay marriage news in the second period, the skip intervals used in this period were larger than those in the first period. The skip intervals in the second period were 24 for The New York Times and 20 for the Chicago Tribune, representing that every 24th and 20th story in all of the news stories in the second period were sampled. That is, 29 news stories were generated from both newspapers. To put it simply, a total of 120 news stories were coded in this study, with a separation of 59 news stories in The New York Times and 61 in the Chicago Tribune. 2.2. Coding categories A wide range of topics associated with the same-sex marriage issue was developed to describe the recognition of gay and lesbian couples addressed by a news story, including the story type, story source, location of news stories, news approach, news value, framing type of news stories, relational space, ideology of news source orientation, description of gay and lesbian partnerships, and characteristics of persons appeared in news stories, in order to examine the news perspectives of gay marriage. The main coding categories were listed in the following: Topic associated with gay marriage was coded so as to look at whether specific political or social issues were highlighted as well as which topics were intentionally linked with gay marriage. The topics that were coded included: Constitutional amendment, human right, adoption of laws or policy, AIDS epidemic, American values, traditions and family institution, religious disciplinary, workplace or job discrimination, sexual crime or violence, military service, and other. News approach to the gay marriage issue was coded so as to look at what kind of function was represented in news stories, including the presentation of information, the expression of opinion, or other. News tone was coded to examine the perspectives of news stories were positive, negative, balanced, or neutral on gay marriage or other topics associated with gay marriage.

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Framing types of news story represented how news stories were framed in terms of empathy, distance, or other. This category attempted to investigate whether the reporters would be sympathized with the gays and lesbians in news stories and be emotionally involved with gay marriage while reporting the gay marriage stories. If not, the category wanted to examine whether the reporters would use an objective approach while they described the gay marriage stories. Relational space was aimed at examining what kinds of sources were cited as well as whose voices were provided in news stories. This category contained official-speaking people, unofficial-speaking people (elite or ordinary), official written documents, unofficial documents (e.g., elite, ordinary, or others). More specifically, official-speaking people were those who served for the governmental institutions (e.g., president, mayors, state governances, senators, or officials). Elites were those opinion leaders who did not serve for the government (e.g., professors, scholars, or professionals in some specific areas). Otherwise, ordinary people were those who were not opinion leaders as well as did not serve for the governmental institutions. Ideology of source orientation was coded to explore the position of news sources on gay rights. In general, people who held conservative ideologies were represented to protect American values and traditions. By contrast, liberals were described as those who were open-minded to defend gay rights. Persons who appeared and made some statements or comments in news stories were coded to examine their characteristics and their perspectives of gay marriage based upon whether their statements were for or against gay marriage legitimization or which political party they belonged to. This category was aimed at examining who was more frequently reported by news in the public debate over gay marriage. 2.3. Inter-coder reliability Two graduate assistants coded the materials in this content analysis. One coded all news stories from the sample, and the other coded 30 news stories randomly selected, approximately 25% of sampling. Scott’s pi generalized formula (1955) was used to calculate the inter-coder agreement on each coding category. The overall reliability of Scott’s pi value was about .87. Specific reliability for each variable is in the following: .96 for story location, .93 for story source, .83 for story type, .91 for topic associated with gay marriage, .84 for news approach, .86 for news tone; .86 for framing type of news story, .88 for relational space, .83 for ideologies of source orientation, .84 for description of gay and lesbian partnerships, and .87 for persons who appeared and made statements in news stories.

3. Results RQ1 was designed to find the differences between The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune in terms of topics related to gay marriage. As indicated in Table 1, although the proportions of different topics in the two newspapers were slightly different, four major topics were heavily exposed in both newspapers: Constitutional amendment (26.6% for The New York Times and 27.2% for the Chicago Tribune), equal rights (33.6% and 19.1% separately),

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Table 1 Topics associated with gay marriage in The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune. Topics

New York Times (%)

Constitutional amendment Equal rights Adoption law/policy AIDS epidemic American tradition and family values Religious disciplinary Workplace discrimination Sexual crime/violence

Chicago Tribune (%)

26.6 33.6 7.7 0.7 17.5 11.9 2.0 0

Total

27.2 19.1 7.4 1.2 22.2 19.8 1.9 1.2

100

100

American tradition and family values (17.5% and 22.2% separately), and religious disciplinary (11.9% and 19.8% separately). More specifically, among the four top topics, Constitutional amendment was more frequently reported. However, more topics about equal rights were identified in The New York Times (33.6%), compared with the Chicago Tribune (19.1%). By contrast, the topics concerning American tradition and family values and religious disciplinary were presented less in The New York Times (17.5% and 11.9% separately) than in the Chicago Tribune (22.2% and 19.8% separately). Other topics associated with gay marriage, such as AIDS epidemic, workplace discrimination, sexual crime, etc., received less attention. RQ2 examined how many people who were pro-gay or anti-gay marriage cited in The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune. Table 2 indicated the percentage of people cited in the news coverage based on their attitudes toward gay marriage. According to the results, a total of 186 people representing their perspectives of gay marriage were cited in The New York Times. Before gay marriage legitimatization 11.8% pro-gay marriage people and 5.4% homosexuals were reported in The New York Times. On the other hand, after the legitimization 45.6% pro-gay marriage people and 20% homosexuals were identified in the news coverage. Statistically, there was a visible increased number of people who supported gay marriage covered in The New Table 2 Coverage of People’s attitudes toward gay marriage before and after its legitimization. Attitude toward gay marriage

New York Times Freq.

Before legitimization Number of homosexualsa Number of pro-gay marriage people Number of anti-gay marriage people After legitimization Number of homosexualsa Number of pro-gay marriage people Number of anti-gay marriage people Total a

Chicago Tribune %

Freq.

%

10 22 10

5.4 11.8 5.4

11 12 24

10.0 10.9 21.8

37 85 22

20.0 45.6 11.8

13 21 29

11.8 19.1 26.4

186

100

110

100

Homosexuals are only those who have been clearly identified as gays or lesbians or open with their sexual orientation by themselves in news coverage.

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Table 3 Types of sources used in two newspapers before and after gay marriage legitimization. Types of sources

Official speaking Elite speaking Ordinary people speaking Official written Elite written Ordinary people written ∗ ∗∗

New York Times

Chicago Tribune

Before (%)

After (%)

**

**

15.7 25.5 29.4 13.7 15.7 0

31.3 28.1 28.1 3.1 7.8 1.6

Before (%)

After (%)

*

27.1* 35.6 16.9 15.3* 5.1 0

18.8 37.5 35.4 4.2* 6.3 0

p < .05. p < .01.

York Times after gay marriage legitimization. On the other hand, the percentage of anti-gay marriage people covered in The New York Times also increased from 5.4% to 11.8%. Different from The New York Times, there was not a significant increase in the Chicago Tribune. As showed in Table 2, a total of 110 people expressing their attitudes toward gay marriage were covered in the Chicago Tribune. Before gay marriage legitimization, 10.0% pro-gay marriage people and 10.9% homosexuals were identified in the Chicago Tribune; after the legitimization, 19.1% pro-gay marriage people and 11.8% homosexuals were cited in the news coverage. There was an increase in the Chicago Tribune in terms of the percentage of people who supported the legitimization of gay marriage, but the increasing percentage of people who supported the legitimization was not as significant as it was found in The New York Times. The results also found that the percentage of anti-gay marriage people cited in the Chicago Tribune increased from 21.8% to 26.4%, which was relatively stable. RQ3 examined news sources that were used more frequently in the two newspapers before and after the gay marriage legitimization in the state of Massachusetts. Descriptive data were shown in Table 3. Before the legitimization, unofficial-speaking people, including elite and ordinary people, were the major sources for The New York Times; after the legitimization, the source of official-speaking people increased dramatically, X2 (1, 59) = 10.40, p < .01. That is, official-speaking, elite-speaking, and ordinary-speaking people became the major sources for The New York Times. Similar results were found in the Chicago Tribune. Before gay marriage legitimization, elite-speaking and ordinary-speaking people were also the major sources. However, after the legitimization, the source of official-speaking people increased considerably, X2 (1, 61) = 4.53, p < .05. Additionally, official written documents also increased dramatically, X2 (1, 61) = 6.22, Table 4 Ideology of source orientation in The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune. Ideology of source orientation Conservative Liberal Both None Total

New York Times (%) 6.8 44.1 37.3 11.9 100

Chicago Tribune (%) 39.3 16.4 36.1 8.2 100

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Table 5 Tone differences between The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune. Tone used Negative Positive Balanced Neutral Total

New York Times (%) 3.4 64.4 16.9 15.3 100

Chicago Tribune (%) 50.8 19.7 21.3 8.2 100

p < .05. In this vein, official-speaking, elite- speaking and ordinary-speaking people became the major sources in the Chicago Tribune coverage after gay marriage legitimization. In order to find out the perspectives the two newspapers held to report the public debate over gay marriage, three hypotheses were developed. As indicated in Table 4, for H1, chi-square tests were used to test the prediction and significant result was found, X2 (3, 120) = 21.52, p < .001, which further suggested that The New York Times was inclined to use more liberal sources (44.1%) while reporting controversial topics such as gay marriage legitimization, whereas the Chicago Tribune used relatively conservative sources (39.3%) when covering the issue of gay marriage. Table 6a Changing of reporting patterns in The New York Times. Reporting patterns

New York Times Before legitimization %

After legitimization %

Location U.S. city U.S. state U.S. national International Total

0 26.7 53.3 3.3 100

10.3 31.0 55.2 3.4 100

Story source Wire service Staff reported Both Total

17.6 82.4 0 100

4.3 82.6 13.0 100

Story type Events Issues Total

24.1 75.9 100

44.8 55.2 100

Approaches Information Opinion Total

46.7* 53.3* 100

75.9* 24.1* 100

Frames Empathy Distance Total

63.3* 36.7* 100

34.5* 65.5* 100



p < .05.

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H2 tested the differences in tones between the two newspapers while covering the issue of gay marriage. As showed in Table 5, the result of the chi-square tests indicated the statistical significance, X2 (3, 120) = 40.18, p < .001. A more positive tone was adopted by The New York Times to cover the gay marriage issue (64.4%); on the contrary, a more negative tone was used in the Chicago Tribune (50.8%). This result further supported what has been found in H1: The New York Times took a much more liberal stance than the Chicago Tribune to look at the gay marriage issue. RQ4 was developed to test whether gay marriage legitimization in the state of Massachusetts would influence the reporting patterns of related news coverage in the two newspapers. The reporting patterns of related news coverage in this study were defined as the location of the news story, the story source, the story type, the news approach used in news coverage, and the framing type of news story. By using the legitimization of gay marriage as a dividing point, two periods were identified for each newspaper: Before the legitimization and after the legitimization. Chi-square tests were used to examine the changes in reporting patterns. As indicated in Tables 6a and 6b, there were significant changes in two categories in terms of reporting patterns—news approach used in news coverage and framing type of news story—in The New York Times. Because of gay marriage legitimization, the news approach changed from opinion-based (53.3%) to information-based (75.9%) in the coverage of The New York Times, Table 6b Changing of reporting patterns in the Chicago Tribune. Reporting patterns

Chicago Tribune Before legitimization %

After legitimization %

Location U.S. city U.S. state U.S. national International Total

18.8* 9.4* 50.0* 21.9* 100

26.2* 8.2* 54.1* 11.5* 100*

Story source Wire service Staff reported Both Total

34.4 46.9 18.8 100

27.6 65.5 6.9 100

Story type Events Issues Total

28.1 71.9 100

27.6 72.4 100

Approach Information Opinion Total

50.0 50.0 100

72.4 27.6 100

Frames Empathy Distance Total

50.0 50.0 100

27.6 72.4 100



p < .05.

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X2 (1, 59) = 5.20, p < .05. The framing type of news story was also changed from empathy-based (63.3%) to distance-based (65.5%) in its news coverage, X2 (1, 59) = 4.83, p < .05. The same statistical tests were also used to investigate the changes in the Chicago Tribune. However, only one item—the location of news story—was significantly different before and after gay marriage legitimization, X2 (3, 61) = 7.97, p < .05. 4. Conclusions and discussion This study found that some topics were highlighted differently by the two newspapers. The New York Times repeatedly emphasized that human rights were equal between heterosexuals and homosexuals over this period. More specifically, The New York Times more strongly linked the issue of human equality to the gay marriage issue, especially before the Massachusetts commonwealth legitimized the martial status of gay and lesbian couples. One possible explanation for the result could be that The New York Times was inclined to stand by gay marriage as well as influence its news audiences to realize the importance of equal rights in this public debate over gay marriage. In the same vein, The New York Times tried to direct its news readers to emphasize human equality while discussing gay marriage. By contrast, the topics emphasized by the Chicago Tribune were different from those by The New York Times. The Chicago Tribune did not frequently highlight the importance of equal rights in the gay marriage issue, but paid more attention to other issues that were concerned with American tradition and family values, and religious disciplinary in the gay marriage debate. One possible explanation could be that the Chicago Tribune inclined to believe that gay marriage legitimization could endanger American traditions, family institution, and religion. The Chicago Tribune, therefore, tried to persuade its news audiences to realize the impact of gay marriage on American society. Additionally, the results indicated that the amount of the gay marriage news related to the issue of equal rights was significantly less covered in the news coverage of the Chicago Tribune after gay marriage legitimization. It may be explained that the backlash against gay marriage could occur because of the gay marriage legitimization, which caused the Chicago Tribune to overlook the importance of human equality in the gay marriage debate after gay marriage legitimization. Simply speaking, The New York Times embraced the issue of human equality, while the Chicago Tribune attempted to emphasize American family values in the public debate over gay marriage. In addition, the influence of gay marriage legitimization also reflected on the increased amount of homosexual presentation in the coverage of The New York Times, but not the Chicago Tribune. After gay marriage legitimization, The New York Times frequently used the perspectives of homosexuals as well as pro-gay marriage people in its news coverage. However, the Chicago Tribune did not increase homosexual coverage. One explanation could be that gay marriage legitimization encouraged The New York Times to give homosexuals more opportunities to speak in its news stories, implying that homosexuals were one part of the American population, and American society cannot ignore the existence of the homosexuals as well as the human rights of homosexuals. By contrast, the Chicago Tribune did not frequently mention the perspectives of homosexuals on gay marriage issues in its news stories. The number of homosexual appearances in the

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Chicago Tribune coverage was fewer than that in The New York Times coverage, both before and after gay marriage legitimization. A possible reason for this result could be that an ideological perspective of the Chicago Tribune as well as other social pressures dominated the Chicago Tribune coverage about the gay marriage issues over this period. Surely, it could also be that the editors of the Tribune may feel it was not an appropriate identification. Thus, the visibility of the homosexual minority could not be frequently found in the Chicago Tribune coverage. Gay marriage legitimization in the state of Massachusetts also influenced how The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune used news sources in their stories. Both news media used more governmental officials to state their perspectives in their coverage. It is due to the fact that the gay marriage issue was a political debate between Republican and Democratic politicians. Furthermore, the gay marriage issue was framed as an important topic of the 2004 presidential election in the United States. On the other hand, the ordinary people did not have more opportunities to voice their opinions in the two news media after gay marriage legitimization. To put it simply, after gay marriage legitimization, the politicians’ viewpoints greatly dominated the coverage of the gay marriage news in both The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune. Because of gay marriage legitimization in the state of Massachusetts, gay marriage was not only viewed as a controversial issue related to human equality or traditional morality, but also involved with politicians’ perspectives and their strategies in the elections. Not only the content, but also the reporting patterns of The New York Times were influenced by gay marriage legitimization. After the legitimization, The New York Times became an activist for gay marriage. The study demonstrated that The New York Times was inclined to present journalists’ personal opinions about gay marriage in its news coverage while reporting gay marriage stories, especially after gay marriage legitimization. Moreover, The New York Times more frequently held the journalists’ empathy to describe the gay marriage issue. Thus, it is fair to say that The New York Times tried to push gay marriage to be nationally discussed through presenting its human equality perspective in the news coverage. Unlike The New York Times, the perspective of the Chicago Tribune on the gay marriage issue was relatively conservative. The Chicago Tribune preferred to use some conservative news sources in its new coverage as well as report the gay marriage news in a negative tone. Gay marriage legitimization did not dramatically influence its reporting patterns. It might be explained that the Chicago Tribune framed the gay marriage issue based upon its own ideology that was closely connected to American traditional values and family institution. Moreover, it can be seen that the Chicago Tribune attempted to oppose gay marriage legitimization as one part of American family.

5. Limitations This study demonstrated that the ideological framing of the two mainstream newspapers were quite different on the gay marriage issue. However, some limitation are found in this study. First, while ideological differences were found between The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune in their coverage of gay marriage, it is difficult to ascertain whether the ideological framing was built by media ownership or news reporters. It is also hard to investigate the influence of casual relationship between media ownership and news reporters on gay marriage coverage in this content analysis. Thus, future research may look at the influence of ideological

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differences in newsrooms on how a controversial issue is covered in news media. In addition, it was a long time in legitimizing the marital status for the gay and lesbian couples in the state of Massachusetts. The sampling might be implemented from the news stories of The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune in the longer time frame to compare their ideological differences on the gay marriage issue. Moreover, it would be better to compare their degree of positive or negative perspectives on the gay marriage issue if there would be more than two national newspapers to be examined in this study. Comparing more than two mainstream newspapers could explore the range of American perspectives on the reporting of gay marriage news, because it could be determined exactly how both The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune are placed in regard to the national scale.

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