An analysis of how The Scotsman, The Herald and The Aberdeen Press and Journal are framing the Independence Debate in Scotland
(2014) An analysis of how The Scotsman, The Herald and The Aberdeen Press and Journal are framing the Independence Debate in Scotland, no. 85.
The aim of this research project was to answer one fundamental question; How are The Scotsman, The Herald and The Aberdeen Press and Journal framing the independence debate? To answer this question, an inductive approach to research was decided and clear research questions and hypotheses were created. Using content analysis theory, a manual coding method was developed and tested. Coding of the articles entailed headline analysis, opening frame analysis, framing around key words of research (independence and referendum) and dominant source analysis. Computer-assisted analysis was also used to identify word frequencies and source frequencies. These techniques allowed this research project to uncover themes in the publications coverage of the debate. Research findings suggested that The Scotsman had taken an unbiased approach in its framing and overall presentation of the independence debate had similar amounts of favourable, unfavourable and neutral articles. However, The Aberdeen Press and Journal (APJ) and The Herald both took biased approaches to their coverage. The Herald was found to have adopted a largely favourable frame towards independence, suggesting the publication had a Pro-Independence agenda within the debate. The APJ was found to have adopted an overall unfavourable frame in its coverage of the independence debate suggesting it has a Pro-Union agenda. These findings challenged the research project's pre-determined hypotheses which had suggested framing to be linked to ownership, implying that publications owned in Scotland would have a more nationalist agenda versus ones owned outwith of Scotland. The findings show this is untrue as The Herald is owned by a multinational corporation News Quest based in Surrey, News Quest is owned by Gannet which is based in Washington DC. The ABJ is owned by DC Thompson which is a Scottish company based from Dundee. Testing of the manual coding sheets was conducted on a sample of 35 articles from The Evening News (Edinburgh). This publication is also owned by DC Thompson. The Evening News was identified in testing as having an overall unfavourable frame in the independence debate, which is consistent with The Aberdeen Press and Journal. This research project also disproved Hypothesis 2, which predicted a link between sources used and favourably framing, none of the publications demonstrated this in the findings. Consequently this research project would recommend further research across other publications to identify whether Scottish owned publications are opposing independence and are demonstrating this position in their framing. This research project could also be used as the basis of a sociological study on the effects these publications and their framing in the independence debate may have on voting decisions and participation.