The Framing of Governmental Information

Jannie Botes

Assistant Professor, Program on Negotiations and Conflict Management, University of Baltimore

Interviewed by Julian Portilla, 2003

This rough transcript provides a text alternative to audio. We apologize for occasional errors and unintelligible sections (which are marked with ???).

There are a number of other things that we must remember if we talk about the

relationship between journalism and conflict. One is that conflict is a commodity; it's something that journalists, for lack of a better term, compete over. I was fascinated a couple of years ago when Somalia occurred and there was this clan fighting.

The US government decided to get involved with some troops and also decided that it was going to send and I've forgotten his name now but it was going to send an Ambassador, I have forgotten his name, over to Somalia to basically facilitate, mediate between these clan leaders, early on in the process. But it was announced on something like a Friday night, I might have my facts wrong here, but by Saturday morning, both Ted Koppel for ABC, and I've forgotten whether it was Dan Rather or NBC's Tom Brokaw, were on the ground in Somalia, interviewing those clan leaders, asking them questions. In my mind this framed that conflict for the public even before the real mediators got in there and started framing this conflict, which I just thought was fascinating.

The media in essence framed that conflict before the real people who were going to frame it and then tell us about it. Ted Koppel went to the Hill, to Congress and answered much of the criticism of the media and one of the responses he said was, "Gentlemen, it's very simple, either you frame it or we frame it, your choice. If you don't tell us what's going on and we report that or if you leave a vacuum in any situation the media are going to come in and they are going to frame it. And they are going to tell people here's what we think is going on. So if you want things to be framed in a way that you think is right, then you get out there and tell us. If you don't do it, then we're going to do it, that's just a natural phenomenon."