Episodic vs. Thematic Framing: An Example

For example, take the 2016 Josh Brown NFL domestic abuse case. Here are the two opening paragraphs from a CBS News article describing what happened:

“The NFL is reopening its investigation of a domestic violence complaint against New York Giants’ placekicker Josh Brown. Newly released documents show the athlete admitted he verbally and physically abused his former wife. Brown was suspended for the first game of the season, but critics say that punishment was too lenient.

Police in Washington have decided not to file charges against Brown, but these latest revelations and other red flags are raising more questions about how the league deals with domestic abuse issues, reports CBS News’ Dana Jacobson.

Brown was back on the field in week two after the NFL suspended him just one game this season. That decision followed their investigation into a 2015 arrest stemming from a domestic abuse complaint made by Brown’s now ex-wife, Molly.”

(CBS, n.a., Oct. 21, 2016)

Compare that coverage with the opening paragraphs by the Washington Post article on the same story on the same day:

“Thursday’s news that New York Giants owner John Mara knew that his place kicker, Josh Brown, abused his wife yet signed him to a free agent contract anyway — and the sidebar that the NFL’s investigation of the allegations was something of a clown-car affair — shouldn’t really be all that surprising. The Ray Rice fiasco showed that investigating claims of domestic abuse isn’t the NFL’s strong suit. But it did show that the league and its teams — including the Giants, hailed as a model franchise for decades — learned exactly nothing from their missteps in 2014, when Rice was sanctioned fully only after TMZ broadcast the video of him punching out his fiancee.

How can an entity that is so good at making money, at creating a product so enticing that millions of Americans spend one day a week consuming it and only it, be so bad at investigating such allegations?”

(Bonesteel, Washington Post, Oct. 21, 2016)

In the first article, the story focuses on the news specific to Josh Brown—an episodic frame. In the second, the article briefly (vaguely) alludes to the Josh Brown story, in order to tell a broader, more thematic story, indicating higher levels of responsibility and lack of oversight.

Next Page: Macro vs. Micro-Level Media Framing Analysis