The scoop on same sex marriage

 

Within the context of almost any political issue, the media finds itself at the epicenter of it. The media often has the power to control the majority of people who choose to access the news through their social networking sites or really any kind of medium. The concept of framing in the media deals with the journalists and reporters ability to present information to the public in a way that could potentially sway a person’s opinion or decision on an issue. Same sex marriage became a big ticket issue in the media when the Supreme Court was in the process of deciding whether or not to legalize it on the federal level. To prove the issue’s importance in the media, a study was done by the Pew Research Center, finding that news stories supporting legalization on the internet, were far more frequent than those opposing it. (Mitchell, 2013) Due to framing and agenda setting, the media has the power to shift the opinions of same sex marriage in the eye of the public, as well as politicians.

The change in power of political parties in office has brought upon a great debate on the issue of same-sex marriage. A lot of conservative politicians have shifted their views from not supporting gay marriage to either moderately accepting it or becoming completely for it. Conservatives have found criticism with how journalists will tend to shift their coverage of same-sex marriage to fit what the public opinions seem to be at that point in time. (Stelter, 2012)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the main problems surrounding Donald Trump was that during his candidacy, the media focused a lot on his running mate, Mike Pence and how “his opposition to gay rights goes back at least to his first congressional campaign, in 2000, when he opposed same-sex marriage and the non-discrimination laws that protected L.G.B.T. people.” (Stack, 2016) Many news sources have chosen to highlight this fact, making it appear that the entire Trump administration is against same-sex marriage. With that being said though since President Trump has come into office, there have been little to no action to repeal the law that allows same-sex marriage to be recognized in every state. By the media focusing on how Trump and Pence may be against same-sex marriage, there is potential that the media’s opinion has primed Trump to change his mind. In an interview following this year’s election, Trump stated that he is content with the fact that the cases of same-sex marriage have been settled by the Supreme Court. Or in other words that they are done. (Stokhols, 2016) Donald Trump is not the first president-elect to have their views skewed by the power of the media. Back in May 2012, the media had spent seven days fixating on the issue of why gays should be able to get married. During this week, Fox News had published an article entitled “Obama Flips Flops on Gay Marriage,” after information was released that he had stated back in 2004, “my religious beliefs say that marriage is something sanctified between a man and a woman.” Fox News clearly found it ironic that now as president, he was in support of it. (Steter, 2012).

This was an interview on MSBNC where they discussed how republicans in 2016 are becoming more moderate. 

This was a screenshot off a Huffington Post article that discusses Obama's changing view of gay marriage. 

Unfortunately, articles that are written about Trump and Pence being against same sex marriage displays fear mongering in the sense that they want the public to be afraid of this presidency and to not support it at all costs. One could argue that it actually makes the public opinion worse, especially if a person is set in their democratic beliefs, they will not give the opportunity to see if these are true opinions held by these individuals.

A large criticism has come from the public that the issue is not whether or not the media is reporting on same-sex marriage, but how they have reported on it. The common belief of equality deals with the idea that everyone in a community has equal rights and is looked at as the same as their counterparts. It could be argued that mentioning the debate at all is helpful in defending it, but if looked at in depth, it would be more clear that a lot of headlines and news stories tend to focus on the people being gay rather than them as a person. In Figure 3, the point of the cartoon is to represent the idea that the news tends to jump all over a story involving someone gay, a gay marriage simply because the individuals are gay. (Granlund, 2013)The change in power of political parties in office has brought upon treat debate on the issue of same-sex marriage. A lot of conservative politicians have shifted their views from not supporting gay marriage to either moderately accepting it or becoming completely for it. Conservatives have found criticism with how journalists will tend to shift their coverage of same-sex marriage to fit what the public opinions seem to be at that point in time. (Stelter, 2012) One of the main problems surrounding Donald Trump was that during his candidacy, the media focused a lot on his running mate, Mike Pence and how “his opposition to gay rights goes back at least to his first congressional campaign, in 2000, when he opposed same-sex marriage and the non-discrimination laws that protected L.G.B.T. people.” (Stack, 2016)

 

Many news sources have chosen to highlight this fact, making it appear that the entire Trump administration is against same-sex marriage. With that being said though since President Trump has come into office, there have been little to no action to repeal the law that allows same-sex marriage to be recognized in every state. By the media focusing on how Trump and Pence may be against same-sex marriage, there is potential that the media’s opinion has primed Trump to change his mind. In an interview following this year’s election, Trump stated that he is content with the fact that the cases of same-sex marriage have been settled by the Supreme Court. Or in other words that they are done. (Stokhols, 2016) Donald Trump is not the first president-elect to have their views skewed by the power of the media. Back in May 2012, the media had spent seven days fixating on the issue of why gays should be able to get married. During this week, Fox News had published an article entitled “Obama Flips Flops on Gay Marriage,” after information was released that he had stated back in 2004, “my religious beliefs say that marriage is something sanctified between a man and a woman.” Fox News clearly found it ironic that now as president, he was in support of it. (Steter, 2012).

This political cartoon shows how the media jumps over every story about gay couples to make news

 

Although the opinions of the media have recently been positive when it comes to same-sex marriage, it has not always been this way. Around the time of George Bush Junior’s presidency, a content analysis was done looking at how the media was covering the issue of gay marriage. One of the points that stood out in their research indicated that before the time that same-sex marriage actually began to be taken seriously, the media actually presented the idea in a negative light, due the public’s concern about the transmission of AIDS from gay men. (Hester & Gibson 2007) The media framed homosexual men as a problem in society. This was the first surge that offered media to talk more about homosexual individuals. This is proof that the conversation about gay marriage, or rights for gays in general, has shifted dramatically from a neutral issue to an issue that most people care about and support.

With all that said, it is believed that “media owners may focus solely on increased profits and may eschew ideological intervention on issues that are not directly related to the owner's corporate interests.” (Bennett, 2007) Implying that these journalists and broadcasters are not writing these articles to forward a personal agenda, but rather to keep their audience happy. Essentially, these journalists are performing agenda setting because putting the thought of gay marriage in their minds, but not telling them how to feel about it. (Lee & Hicks, 2011) Research has shown that there are multiple instances in the last five years that prove where the media has tried to set people up to think and care more about same sex marriage laws. In regards to multiple social media platforms, many news outlets have taken the opportunity to write their opinions as well as reporting on news that supports or goes against gay marriage.

 

 

 

An article written by a journalist from the Pew Research Center discusses what happened in the news during the time that the Supreme Court made their decision to legalize gay marriage on the national level. She mentions that research on the Huffington Post’s coverage of the issue concluded: “62% of the 365 stories on the site were dominated with statements of support – very close to the level of support in the LGBT news outlets studied.” (Mitchell, 2013) This goes to show that a large percentage of coverage is being focused on this issue to frame the public’s mindset. A lot of times, reporters do not have the freedom to write about what they want, management often tells them what subject matters to focus on. In fact, in the late 90’s, The New York Times had authors who struggled to write stories about same-sex marriage related topics because they were always turned down. (Chomsky & Barclay, 2010) Based on this evidence, this control is probably of the same degree, but it is more likely that now big name newspapers are encouraging writing about same-sex marriage as it is an important issue in the eyes of the public.

This graph was taken from Pew Research Center reflecting the opinions of different news outlets on gay marriage. 

From analyzing how the media has covered the issue of same sex marriage, it is evident that it is an ongoing phenomenon with how it is covered. Journalists know the power that they have to frame a political issue in a light that favors their agenda, or the agenda of their organization. The intent is remains unclear though; if they are doing it to serve the public good and help same sex couples feel supported, or if it is simply to make money on headlines that they know people will read related to the issue for economic gain. There is a clear correlation between the media’s coverage of an issue, and how it affects the public and policymakers by how many instances there were where these people changed their minds within a period of time. Whether or not President Trump really does support same sex marriage will be a question answered in the coming years of his presidency. For now, as stated before, it remains unknown. In the future, it will also be interesting to see if same sex marriage will cease to even be considered a political issue, but rather a normal thing in our society.

References

Chomsky, D., Barclay, S. (2010) The mass media, public opinion and lesbian and gay rights.

(6), 87-403.doi: 10.1146/annurev-lawsocsci- 102209-152825

 

Grandlund, D. (2013, May). Gay marriage and media [Digital image]. Retrieved from

http://www.davegranlund.com/cartoons/2013/05/14/gay-marriage-and-media/

 

Hester, J. B., Gibson, R. (2007). The agenda-setting function of national versus local media: A

time-series analysis for the issue of same-sex marriage. Mass Communication & Society,

10(3), 299-317. doi:10.1080/15205430701407272

 

Lee, T., & Hicks, G. R. (2011). An analysis of factors affecting attitudes toward same-sex marriage: Do

the media matter?. Journal Of Homosexuality, 58(10), 1391-1408.

doi:10.1080/00918369.2011.614906

 

Mandell, S. (2016, November). WTF: Steve Schmidt Thinks Mike Pence and the Rest of Trump’s Anti-Gay

Cabal Have Conceded on Marriage Equality [Digital image]. Retrieved from

http://www.towleroad.com/2016/11/steve-schmidt-gay-marriage/

 

Mitchell, Amy. (2013) News coverage conveys Strong momentum for Same-sex marriage. [PDF File]

Washington D.C.; Pew Research Center. Retrieved February 14, 2017, from

http://www.journalism.org/files/legacy/EMBARGOED_Same-SexMarriageandNews.pdf

 

Staff. (2012, May 9). Fox Nation: "Obama flip flops declares wars on marriage" [Digital image]. Retrieved

from https://mediamatters.org/blog/2012/05/09/fox-nation-obama-flip-flops-declares-war-on-

mar/184893

 

Stelter, B. (2012). Did the News Media Drive the Gay Marriage Debate? Retrieved February 14, 2017,

from https://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/05/10/the-role- of-the- media-in- the-gay-

marriage- debate/?_r=0

 

Stokols, E. (2013, November 13). Trump says he's 'fine' with legalization of same-sex

marriage. Retrieved March 08, 2017, from

http://www.politico.com/story/2016/11/donald-trump-same-sex-marriage-231310

 

Wormald, B. (2013). Differences by Media. Pew Research Center. Retrieved February 16, 2017, from

http://www.journalism.org/2013/06/17/differences-media/