The three assigned articles, Young’s “Late Night Comedy in Election 2000: Its Influence on Candidate Trait Ratings and the Moderating Effects of Political Knowledge and Partisanship”, Ellsworth’s “Rationality and Campaigning: A Content Analysis of the 1960 Presidential Campaign Debates”, and Kaye & Sopolsky’s “Offensive Language in Prime Time Television: Before and After Content Ratings”, provide three different examples of how content analysis may be applied to forms of public discourse as filtered through the media. Whereas the themes of each article are essentially different, they demonstrate a homogeneity, in so far as here data collection and its analysis serves as the foundation for social and political analysis. However, it would also seem that the legitimacy of these analyses are ultimately determined by the precise content being analyzed: that is to say that the basic common methodology to all three texts is germane not from the perspective of methodology alone, but from the context in which this methodology operates.
For example, in the case of Kaye and Sapolsky’s text, the authors note that there has been an increase in the number of curse words used during prime time television. The logic behind this increase, as the authors themselves appear to concede, perhaps falls outside of the boundaries of content analysis itself: as the authors write “content analysis limits this study’s findings to the frequency and use of offensive language on television.” (317) The mere increased frequency of the phenomenon is not sufficient to develop the logic for this increasing frequency: one has to step outside these parameters in order to determine not only the etiology of the phenomenon, but also the effects of this phenomenon. Hence, in this article Raye and Sopolsky demonstrate the effectivity of this method in regards to a starting point, but other methodologies are required for a rigorous account of the phenomenon.
Young’s text, in contrast, appears to be a fairly self-enclosed system according to the way in which the research question is established and how it corresponds to the method employed. To analyze how the promotion of various stereotypes by prominent media personalities about political candidates and how this promulgation correlates to the public seeing these political candidates through this same lens appears logical to content analysis and describing correlations, as a clear correspondence can be determined or rejected. The majority of the population is familiar with these political figures through the media: how they are portrayed in the media therefore forms the personality of the politician to the populace.
This notion of the media informing opinion is implicitly confirmed in Ellsworth’s article, at least to the following extent: as Ellsworth notes, the reasoning behind introducing radio and television debate into the U.S. Presidential Process was to engender “rational choice on the part of the electorate.” (794) As Ellsworth’s study seems to confirm, this hypothesis was in fact correct: operating within the paradigm of rational choice, Ellsworth concludes that the candidates did in fact employ a more rational structure for the presentation of their political platforms. (802) As opposed to the comedic example of Young, which is a monologue according to which the comedian can state whatever he or she wants, the debate structure is a dialogue, not only between candidates but also between the candidates and the audience public. Accordingly, basic norms of rationality must be adhered to, thus justifying the initial logic behind introducing such debates.
Hence, all three articles demonstrate the diverse subject matters as well as means by which data collection and general content analysis may be executed. Nevertheless, the above analysis suggests that the validity of method is tied to the precise object needed. At times, the analysis may be fairly self-contained and not require other methodological supplements, whereas in specific cases, such supplements are precisely required in order to make the account more rigorous.
Ellsworth, John W. “Rationality and Campaigning: A Content Analysis of the 1960
Presidential Campaign Debates.” The Western Political Quarterly. pp. 794-802.
Kaye, Barbara R. & Sopolsky, Barry S. “Offensive Language in Prime Time
Television: Before and After Content Ratings.” Journal of Broadcasting &
Electronic Media. 45(2), Spring, 2001. pp. 303-319.
Young, Dannagal Goldthwaite. “Late Night Comedy in Election 2000: Its Influence on
Candidate Trait Ratings and the Moderating Effects of Political Knowledge and
Partisanship.” Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media. 48(1), March, 2004. 1-22.