Critical Issue—Framing

By Alice Du See Kee

I was given an assignment to interview people who had their businesses in the Occupy Central areas and how the movement had negatively affected their income. Little did I know, I already touched upon one of the critical issues in journalism—Framing.

Framing is about how the story is told to the audiences from a specific perspective. It is associated with the perception and can be achieved by phrases or words. If the story is framed in a positive way, it would enhance the chance to get across a positive image of the story, and vice versa.

Although I was not working for a news organization, my teacher was in fact my editor giving me directions for the reporting and writing. Since the given topic was to present the negative side of the movement, therefore, I have already framed my story in a way that the movement had a negative impact on businessmen.

I interviewed a newspaper stand operator in Causeway to have him talking about his opinions of the movement from the business angle. From the interview, he talked about how he struggled to sustain his business because of the peaceful sit-in near his newspaper stand. As I continued writing, I realized that the story presented only the negative side and I wanted to give voices to the neutral or positive side. However, when I tried to interview more business operators, they all expressed similar opinions. My editor then suggested me to focus on one person only.

For me, I think framing is not necessarily a bad thing. I believe that the reporters did try their best to find different sides of the story in order to achieve balance reporting and prevent framing the story into a negative or positive way. But sometimes, the public opinions can be one-sided. Nevertheless, I tried to frame the story in a more neutral way by presenting the facts and using impartial adjectives.

Also, framing can give minorities or a particular group of people a voice. Since there were a large proportion of people supporting the Occupy Central movement and most reporters were merely posting the updates of the movement, what I did can give a different side of the story for the public to know that their actions affected other citizens.

Ultimately, it’s the decision of the editors and news organization that drove the development and presentation of the story. It’s important to remember that we should be careful not to sway the public views but to present only the facts. Regardless of the side chosen by the news organization, readers should have the ability to analyze and digest the story and have their own interpretations on the story.

Below is my previous work:

555 Hennessy Road
In normal times, 555 Hennessy Road in Causeway Bay is full of tourists carrying shopping bags, pushing their way out of the department store to enter the hustle and bustle of the city streets.

But these days, the street is now devoid of traffic and packed with people wearing black shirts and yellow ribbons, sitting peacefully on the road, protesting for universal suffrage.

An old man with silver gray hair and a wrinkled face continues to go about his business: selling newspapers.

“I need to make a living. I can’t stop my business just because of the protest,” said Ken Wong, owner of a newspaper stand near the Sogo department store.

Mr. Wong opened the newspaper stand in 2009 when he got laid off as a night guard at an old building because of the financial crisis.

“I used to make around $500 a day for selling newspaper and magazine but because of the recent occupy movement, I can only make less than $200,” he said. “No one wants to stop by my stall: there are not many tourists in this area now and the business people just walk past the protesters hastily to avoid getting into trouble.”

The Occupy Central movement started in the early morning hours of Sept. 28. It escalated day by day as protesters have taken over main roads in Admiralty, Mong Kok and Causeway Bay. Several bus routes have been redirected or cancelled, and schools in the occupied areas were forced to close down temporarily. Some opponents of the protests fought back and attacked part of the occupied areas in Mong Kok. The protests still continue.

“I want to support democracy but I would not sacrifice my income to do it. I got bills to pay and my wife needs the medication. Where can I get the money if I don’t work?” Mr. Wong said.

Seating beside him was a large crowd of protesters. Many of them were using mobile phones but not a single one of them was reading newspapers.
“I have to get the latest information from social media apps and to check if the government has responded us yet,” a 24-year-old tertiary education student said while scrolling through student activist leader Joshua Wong’s Twitter feed.

Mr. Wong has in fact tried to move his newspaper stand a few blocks away from the protester’s site but there were too many people blocking his way.

“I’ll move away whenever it’s possible,” he said.