Framing the mass media: Exploring ‘fake news’ as a frame embedded in political discourse

Jan R Riebling, Ina von der Wense


The recent growth of alternative media sites and sources has also seen the rise of an aggressive rhetoric decrying mass media or parts thereof as being untrustworthy and politically biased. While it is unclear whether the ‘fake news’ debate is directly connected with this, it is surely a framing of mass media. In this article, we use techniques of quantitative text analysis in order to analyse how the ‘fake news’ frame is structured and to understand its central determinants in terms of social context and political orientation. Using quantitative text analysis, we analyse the frame usage and semantic embeddedness in eight blogs. We find evidence for a generalised frame that tends to be independent of political orientation of the blog.


Alternative media, embedded frames, fake news, quantitative text analysis, structural embeddedness

Full Text:



Bernhard U (2018) ‘Lügenpresse, lügenpolitik, lügensystem. Wie die berichterstattung über die pegida-bewegung wahrgenommen wird und welche konsequenzen dies hat. Medien & Kommunikationswissenschaft 66(2): 170–87.

Bird S, Klein E & Loper E (2009) Natural Language Processing with Python – Analyzing Text with the Natural Language Toolkit. Newton, MA: O’Reilly Media.

Bollen J, Mao H & Zeng X (2011) Twitter mood predicts the stock market. Journal of Computational Science 2(1): 1–8.

Bonfadelli H (2015) Medienwirkungsforschung 5, Überarbeitete Auflage. Konstanz: UVK Verlagsgesellschaft mbH.

Callaghan K & Schnell F (eds) (2005). Framing American Politics. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press.

Cohen R & Ruths D (2013) Classifying political orientation on Twitter: It’s not easy! Proceedings of the ICWSM.

Deerwester S, Dumais ST, Furnas GW, Landauer TK & Harshman R (1990) Indexing by latent semantic analysis. Journal of the American Society for Information Science 41(6): 391–407.

Denner N & Peter C (2017) Der begriff lügenpresse in deutschen tageszeitungen. Publizistik 62(3): 273–97.

Downing JD (2003) Audiences and readers of alternative media: The absent lure of the virtually unknown. Media, Culture & Society 25(5): 625–45.

Entman RM (1993) Framing: Toward clarification of a fractured paradigm. Journal of Communication 43(4): 51–8.

Entman RM (2004) Projections of Power. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Entman RM (2007) Framing bias: Media in the distribution of power. Journal of Communication 57(1): 163–73.

Entman RM (2010) Media framing biases and political power: Explaining slant in news of campaign 2008. Journalism 11(4): 389–408.

Etling B, Kelly J, Faris R & Palfrey J (2010) Mapping the Arabic blogosphere: Politics and dissent online. New Media & Society 12(8): 1225–43.

Farrell H & Drezner DW (2008) The power and politics of blogs. Public Choice 134(1/2): 15–30.

Goffman E (1986) Frame Analysis: An Essay on the Organization of Experience. Boston: Northeastern University Press.

Graves L (2015). Blogging back then: Annotative journalism in IF Stone’s Weekly and Talking Points Memo. Journalism 16(1): 99–118.

Harcup T (2003) The ‘unspoken-said’ the journalism of alternative media. Journalism 4(3): 356–76.

Heiberger RH & Riebling JR (2016) Installing computational social science: Facing the challenges of new information and communication technologies in social science. Methodological Innovations 9: 1–11.

Hookway N (2008) ‘Entering the blogosphere’: Some strategies for using blogs in social research. Qualitative Research 8(1): 91–113.

Jecker C (2014) Entmans Framing-ansatz: Theoretische grundlegung und empirische umsetzung. Munich: UVK.

Karlgren J, Holst A & Sahlgren M (2008) Filaments of meaning in word space. Proceedings of European Conference on Information Retrieval. Dordrecht: Springer, 531–8.

Lazer D Pentland A, Adamic L, Aral S, Barabási A-L et al. (2009) Computational social science. Science 323(5915): 721–3.

Lecheler S & Kruikemeier S (2016) Re-evaluating journalistic routines in a digital age: A review of research on the use of online sources. New Media & Society 18(1): 156–71.

Matthes J (2007) Framing-effekte. Zum einfluss der politikberichterstattung auf die einstellungen der rezipienten. Vol. 13. Munich: Reinhard Fischer.

Matthes J (2014). Framing. 1. Auflage. Baden-Baden: Nomos.

Matthes J & Kohring M (2004) Die empirische erfassung von medien-frames. Medien & Kommunikationswissenschaft 52(1): 56–75.

Matthes J & Kohring M (2008) The content analysis of media frames: Toward improving reliability and validity. Journal of Communication 58(2): 258–79.

Meraz S (2009). Is there an elite hold? Traditional media to social media agenda setting influence in blog networks. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 14(3): 682–707.

Messner M & Distaso MW (2008). The source cycle. Journalism Studies 9(3): 447–63.

Nahon K, Hemsley J, Walker S & Hussain M (2011) Fifteen minutes of fame: The power of blogs in the lifecycle of viral political information. Policy & Internet 3(1): 1–28.

Neumann K (2015). Reziproke effekte auf rechtsextreme. Erweiterung des modells und empirische daten. Medien & Kommunikations Wissenschaft 63(2): 190–207.

Newman MEJ (2003). Mixing patterns in networks. Physical Review E 67(2): 026126.

Pürer H (2014) Publizistik- und kommunikationswissenschaft. 2. völlig überarbeitete und erweiterte Auflage. Konstanz: UVK Verlagsgesellschaft mbH.

Riebling JR (2018) The medium data problem in social science. In: Stuetzer CM, Welker M & Egger M (eds), Computational Social Science in the Age of Big Data: Concepts, Methodologies, Tools, and Applications. Köln: Herbert von Halem, 77–103.

Salton G (1979) Mathematics and information retrieval. Journal of Documentation 35(1): 1–29.

Scheufele BT (2003) Frames – framing – framing-effekte. Wiesbaden: Westdt Verl.

Scheufele BT & Scheufele DA (2010) Of spreading activation, applicability, and schemas: Conceptual distinctions and their operational implications for measuring frames and framing effects. In: D’Angelo P and Kuypers JA (eds), Doing News Framing Analysis: Empirical and Theoretical Perspectives. New York: Routledge, 110–34.

Scheufele DA (1999) Framing as a theory of media effects. Journal of Communication 49(1): 103–22.

Schmid H (1995) Improvements in part-of-speech tagging with an application to German. Proceedings of the ACL. Dublin: ACL.

Schultz VT, Jackob N, Ziegele M, Quiring O & Schemer C (2017) Erosion des vertrauens zwischen medien und publikum? Media Perspektiven 5: 246–59.

Simon AF & Jerit J (2007) Toward a theory relating political discourse, media, and public opinion. Journal of Communication 57(2): 254–71.

Soucy P & Mineau GW (2005) Beyond tfidf weighting for text categorization in the vector space model. Proceedings of International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence, 19: 1130–5.

Spärck Jones K (1972). A statistical interpretation of term specificity and its application in retrieval. Journal of Documentation 28(1): 11–21.

Tumasjan A, Sprenger TO, Sandner PG & Welpe IM (2010). Predicting elections with Twitter: What 140 characters reveal about political sentiment. Proceedings of the ICWSM.

Tversky A & Kahneman D (1986) Rational choice and the framing of decisions. The Journal of Business 59(4): S251–78.

Watts DJ (2007) A twenty-first century science. Nature 445(7127): 489.

Watts DJ & Strogatz SH (1998) Collective dynamics of small-world networks. Nature 393: 440–2.

Ziegele M, Schultz T, Jackob N, Granow V, Quiring O & Schemer C (2018) Lügenpressehysterie ebbt ab. Media Perspektiven 4: 150–62.


  • There are currently no refbacks.