HOW ALTERNATIVE IS ALTERNATIVE NEWS MEDIA?
Alternative News Media’s Framing of the COVID-19 Vaccine Process
Although research on alternative news media has been growing over the last decade, the focus is still predominantly on the far-right wing alternative media landscape. There is still little knowledge on the differences among different alternative news media and how they are embedded in the overall news media landscape.
This thesis sets out to get a better understanding on how alternative news media reported on the COVID-19 vaccination process in Germany and to what extent they might make use of mainstream news media’s mechanisms when reporting on a crisis. Using a dataset of 670 news articles, the thesis aims to provide a comparative analysis among different alternative news media on their news coverage in relation to mainstream news media.
Relying on the framing approach by Robert Entman, the present study used a quantitative framing analysis based on the codebook by Semetko and Valkenburg’s news media frames. Adjusting the codebook, it provided a total of seven frames with various subcategories that operationalize the specific frames, actors, context and tone of the news item. The data contains 670 news articles that reported on the vaccination process in Germany from three different alternative news media (Compact, NDS, RT Deutsch) and one mainstream news media (Tagesschau). The content analysis used cross tabulation analyses and chi-square tests to estimate the association between news outlet and frame usage.
The results suggest that there are differences regarding the frame use among different alternative news media. One thing in common however, is their high usage of fear and misinformation when it comes to the vaccine as well to possible restrictions that are related to the vaccination. Their high usage of different fear frames underlines the understanding of alternative news media as their own diverse conglomerate that might adapt dominant news frames from mainstream news media to some extent but with a broad range of different connotations and meanings. In that sense, alternative news media might, despite their political diverging perspectives offer generic news stories to some degree. Yet, they cannot be reduced to the assertion as being a homogenous counterpart of mainstream news media. Their different frame use indicates that their political orientation is indeed an important factor to some degree.