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Framed!: Labor and the Corporate Media (Ilr Press Books) Paperback – November 21, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The media has conspired to create an us-against-them framework for the most basic TV/newspaper discourse on all things corporate, Martin, a University of Northern Iowa communication professor, fervently asserts. Be it the shutdown of Michigan's General Motors plant made famous by activist filmmaker Michael Moore or worker strikes anywhere in the U.S., consumerism provides the nexus for media interpretation of labor conflicts, he writes. With densely illustrated examples, he deftly arrays his deliberate argument: the media consistently presents labor insurrection as preventing consumer contentment, thus making workers outside an immediate strike or protest side against their fellows on the picket line. By couching all labor disputes in management terms, Martin insists, corporations will turn consumers-even those working in the same arenas as striking workers-against workers and in favor of corporate control. Martin outlines several major strikes to demonstrate his claim. While acknowledging how, as a junior Republican in 1981, he lauded Reagan's firing of all striking airline controllers, he also came to understand the plight of laborers by watching them close up-beginning with his own mother and siblings. Compelling firsthand (and first-rate) accounts of strikes and protests opposing the skewed manner in which they were reported by the media (who can forget the scenes of seemingly anarchistic rioting in Seattle during the 1999 WTO protests?) make for fascinating reportage. With appendixes of specific media reports (and reporters), this thoroughly engaging sociopolitical commentary is worthy of Moore and Al Franken, but devoid of their often glib facility, putting scholarship first.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"Compelling firsthand (and first-rate) accounts of strikes and protests opposing the skewed manner in which they were reported by the media . . . make for fascinating reportage. With appendices of specific media reports (and reporters), this thoroughly engaging sociopolitical commentary is worthy of Michael Moore and Al Franken, but devoid of their often glib facility, putting scholarship first."―Publishers Weekly

"Framed! raises significant questions for journalists, and not just in terms of how they do their jobs. To what extent, for example, are Guild-represented reporters handicapped―as trade unionists―by the frames through which they view the world as journalists' Can those who accept a consumer perspective ever see themselves as engaged in class struggle?"―Andy Zipers, The Guild Reporter, January 23, 2004

"Framed! points out that news organizations place coverage of labor, like many other stories, in narrative frames that at the same time help to explain an issue and exclude alternative explanations."―James Boylan, Columbia Journalism Review, March/April 2004

"This volume joins the growing collection of carefully documented studies that demolish the myth of liberal media bias promulgated by the radical Right. . . . Martin carefully details the way in which the news media use negative framing in reporting stories about labor in general and organized labor in particular."―Choice 41:10, June 2004

"Christopher R. Martin lays bare the presumptions and preferences of an industry whose bottom line has become the bottom line."―Bill Knight, The Labor Paper 108:10, May 20, 2004

"As wages stagnate or decline while executive compensation rises, unions can make a stirring case that their members need a 'living wage' to become respectable consumers (aka readers and viewers). . . . The media is hardly management's enemy. But if company skirmishes become class warfare, it may become so."―John T. Landry, Harvard Business Review, April 2004

"Christopher R. Martin transcends the tired debate over media 'bias' by asking a more fundamental question: Are we to be a nation of citizens or consumers? His Framed! Labor and the Corporate Media shows how meaningful labor issues are transformed into a peculiar pseudo-plebian democratic consumerism that substitutes for both news and legitimate political opinion. Any real questions about the larger process of production or the working of the economy (let alone justice) seem to magically ricochet off the media's boilerplate understanding of the United States as a consumer's democracy. Martin's analysis is deft, his interpretations are sound, and his message is important."―Jefferson Cowie, Cornell University

"This is a thorough and insightful study of how the mainstream U.S. news media incorporate the premises of globalization into their coverage of labor. Christopher R. Martin analyzes how transnational capital's emerging values have come to underlie the news, from the Reagan administration's antiunion policies to the present. Sensitive to issues of race, gender and social class, Martin develops a powerful critique of the media's increasing marginalization and trivialization of organized labor. Framed! makes a strong contribution to research on political power and popular culture, as well as providing an excellent foundation for further research."―William S. Solomon, Rutgers University

"Coverage of the working class and labor issues may well be the weakest and most appalling aspect of the U.S. news media. It puts the lie to the notion that the United States enjoys an objective press that is politically neutral; in fact it is a press entirely subservient to big business and commercial interests. Christopher R. Martin has written a highly accessible and timely overview that provides historical depth as well as detailed case studies of recent episodes in media coverage of strikes. I recommend Framed! Labor and the Corporate Media to all citizens concerned about the prospects for democracy in this nation."―Robert W. McChesney, Institute of Communications Research, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

"Christopher Martin's case studies provide compelling evidence of the systematic antilabor bias of the corporate media. His analysis of the media's framing process that focuses on consumer effects, rather than workplace and citizen issues in labor-management strife, is persuasive and enlightening."―Edward S. Herman, Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania

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Product Details

  • Series: Ilr Press Books
  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • Publisher: ILR Press; 1 edition (November 21, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801488877
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801488870
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #719,521 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By David C N Swanson on May 28, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"Framed! Labor and the Corporate Media," by Christopher Martin.
Reviewed by David Swanson
May 27, 2004

I didn't need to be told that the corporate media do a horrendous job of covering organized labor. What this book tells us that I have not seen analyzed so well elsewhere is what the thought processes look like that lead to this horrendous coverage.

It's simple enough to observe that the media support capital and work against the concerns of workers. But why are there exceptions to this rule? And what are the thoughts going through a producer's head? I am certain that few producers or editors routinely think to themselves "Hey, here's a good way we can hurt workers." It would hurt the members of the media themselves too much to think such thoughts. What do they think instead?

According to Christopher Martin, five main themes organize their thinking. The first is that the consumer is king. The media are able to cover labor disputes without touching on the workers' demands or difficulties and while blaming labor unions, through the simple guise of viewing all events from the point of view of the consumer. For example, more attention is paid to tourists' travel delays than to the reasons airline employees have for going on strike. And through the "objective" technique of quoting "both sides" without commenting on the accuracy of the claims, the media often manage to distort the facts, even though that is not what they think of themselves as aiming to do. The direction in which they distort the facts is effected by the second and third themes.

The second theme is that the process of production is none of the public's business.
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Format: Paperback
The purpose of Martin's book is to inform people of the politics of work and to inform people that unions are not just, "belligerent organizations that protect lazy, unproductive workers". It could be read by anyone, however; it is aimed toward people who have developed a biased opinion due to the media and therefore, the book is meant to inform and persuade. This book would also be suitable for people who do not know a lot about labor unions because Martin explains what they are, not just the connection they have with the media. Martin researched and wrote about labor and the media for ten years, he is a professor at the University of Iowa, and he knows a lot of professors from other highly respected universities. One such school is the University of Michigan where he attended. Many professors contributed their knowledge to this book. Therefore, this book is very credible. Martin explains the strikes and issues in chronological order and uses pictures, quotes, and statistics to aid in his argument. This helps the reader learn and understand better because the book is organized, the pictures are interesting, and the quotes and statistics keep you aware that the material is credible. The book was published in 2004 and all of the issues discussed took place no earlier than the 1990s. My connection to the book is that my mom is an American Airlines Flight Attendant and a supporter of labor unions.
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