Are American News Magazines Setting the Agenda for Japan Bashing? A Content Analysis of Coverage of Japanese Economic Activities: 1981-1990
According to the longitudinal survey results annually conducted by the Japanese Foreign Ministry, American attitudes toward Japan as a dependable ally began deteriorating in the middle of the 1980s. In the same decade, the Japanese economy received heavy coverage from the U.S. media. Manheim positions valence--"the general sense of favor, neutrality, or disfavor associated with the portrayal of a given subject" in transference of general negativeness to the public--as one of the three important dimensions of the media agenda. In this sense, it was hypothesized that the three American news magazines (i.e. Time, Newsweek, and U.S. News and World Report) may have intensified the negativeness of their coverage of Japanese economic activities in the 1986-1990 period. Also, subscription circulation indicates the amount of financial resources available for deeper investigation that may eliminate unbalanced coverage. Thus, it was predicted that the investigative and reporting performance would have been more balanced in the order of Time, Newsweek, and U.S. News and World Report. From the agenda-setting standpoint, only the number of "war"-related words the media often used showed a significant increase for the 1986-1990 period. The causal direction from the media to the public remains unclear in this research. Nevertheless, assuming the existence of this causality based on the public's heavy dependence on the media, the choice of language may affect the transferability of negativeness as well as the public issue salience. On average, the public was expected to see "war"-related words more than twice both per article and per page in the 1986-1990 period. The calcified imagery of economic "wars" that connotes mutual antagonism seems to underlie the public's general perception of Japan as an "economic threat." On the other hand, subscription circulation difference had no significant impact on the performance of the three news magazines for all the three dependent variables. The most important finding is that all these magazines offered a balanced presentation of opinions whether on an attributed or unattributed basis.
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