Stakeholders in the free trade coverage and their effects on frame salience in the news
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Research in the news construction tradition has identified multiple levels of influence on the content. In the outside organizations level, this study goes beyond what influences the content and explores why some entities have greater influence on local newspapers’ content in free trade than others do. The stakeholder theory developed in the management research literature is used to explain that the relationships between the local newspaper and the examined entities are stakeholder relationships. The entity’s stakeholder power to the newspaper and its stake size in free trade coverage are two attributes of the stakeholder relationship and are examined as the independent variables. Four local daily newspapers in auto-manufacturing communities are selected for comparison because they are in different stakeholder situations. Related to free trade, the automaker, the UAW union and the local government are examined as stakeholders to each local newspaper. The two independent variables are analyzed using in-depth interview data. The salience of the stakeholder frames in the newspaper free trade coverage is the dependent variable and is measured in content analysis of the stories on free trade issues. The results show that stake size has a strong effect on stakeholder frame salience in the news. First, the percentage of stakeholder frame presence in the defined story population increases as stake size increases. Second, the percentage of frame presence in headlines and leads also is positively related to stake size. Third, stories that contain a stakeholder frame enjoy somewhat better visual salience treatment if the stakeholder has larger stake size. In comparison, stories that contain the stakeholder frame in headlines or leads enjoy more visual salience when the stake size is large. By contrast, stakeholder power only has a weak effect on stakeholder frame salience. However, stakeholder power has an interaction effect with stake size. When stakeholder power gets higher, the effect of stake size on frame salience accelerates. Besides theoretical contributions, the findings also provide practical implications to working journalists and various social groups. Limitations and future directions are discussed in the final chapter.