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Outsourcing and the Class Divide:
The Framing of an Economic and Social Issue in Fortune and Time
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Submission: 2005 AEJMC Convention – Magazine Division
C. Wright Mills defined an "issue" as "public matter," which means
that "some value cherished by publics is felt to be threatened"
(1959, 9). However, "often there is a debate about what that value
really is and about what it is that really threatens it" (Mills 1959,
9). Issues are "often without focus" because they involve "a crisis
in institutional arrangements" and "cannot very well be defined in
terms of the immediate and everyday environments of ordinary men"
(Mills 1959, 9).
The "globalization of production and distribution" and the
accompanying restructuring of the economy has been termed "perhaps
the most important change that has occurred in the American economy
during the past three decades" (Marger 2002, 97). Outsourcing is
part of the shift in institutional arrangements known as
globalization. As a social and political issue, outsourcing has been
over 20 years in the making.
In the early 1980s, the social construction of outsourcing began to
take shape. What we today think of as outsourcing is in reality an
amalgamation of two, once-distinct terms and ideas: "outsourcing" and
"offshoring." Whereas the former meant the purchase of a product or
service from an outside firm, foreign or domestic, the latter
indicated that a company relocated part or all of its own processes
overseas. In the media and popular dialogue of the United States
today, when the term "outsourcing" is used, it usually implies the
hiring of non-American workers in a foreign country by a U.S.
company, regardless of the specific method.
The confusion over the true meaning of "outsourcing" is in the
tradition of other economic buzzwords. In both Britain and the
United States, the meaning of "downsizing," once the dominant
management term in media coverage, was blurred (Collins 2000, 285;
Baumol, Blinder, and Wolff 2003, 1, 93). In many ways, "outsourcing"
has outstripped "downsizing" as the prevalent term related to
industry affairs. Generally, "downsizing" denotes a reduction in
employees, but "downsizing" and its associated terminology also
include today's idea of "outsourcing" (Collins 2000, 285; Baumol,
Blinder, and Wolff 2003, 1-2, 88). Often, when comparing an article
about downsizing and an article about outsourcing side-by-side, it is
difficult to distinguish between the two processes, apart from the
difference in terminology, without consulting outside
documents. While outsourcing only represents one element of
downsizing, the coverage of outsourcing has increased over the same
period that coverage of downsizing has decreased. In both Fortune
and Time, the coverage of downsizing has diminished over the past ten
years, while the coverage of outsourcing increased steadily at first,
then sharply in recent years. The declining coverage of downsizing
may reflect "issue-attention cycle," in that it simply ran its course
as an attention-getting issue (Downs 1972, 27-30). It also may be
that, taken as distinct processes, outsourcing is simply the next
cost-cutting step after downsizing. Such confusion has made it
unclear whether the uses of these terms have always denoted different
phenomena, or whether the phenomenon has been fairly constant and
merely a change in terminology has occurred. Perhaps the transition
from the use of the term "downsizing" to the use of the term
"outsourcing" can be said to denote both an actual, if perhaps
subtle, change in business practice, and a metaphorical change in terminology.
Like many political and social buzzwords, the idea of outsourcing is
much more powerful than its definition. Outsourcing is a complex
issue, one that is in fact comprised of numerous, intricate facets of
related issues including "private profit," "private income wages,"
"working conditions," "the efficiency of labor," "unemployment," and
"restraint of trade," all of which involve "data that are at best
spasmodically recorded," meaning that "the news on these subjects is
bound to be debatable, when it is not wholly neglected" (Lippman
1922, 14-15). Yet, outsourcing has been far from neglected by the
media recently. But the very nature of the issue has lead to
intense, widespread debate. As various interested parties—such as
politicians, organizations, and other social actors—have attempted to
shape, spin, and slant coverage of the issue, the media have been
giving the issue its "public character," which occurs when "mere
happenings" are transformed into "publicly discussable events"
(Tuchman 1978, 3). This public character began to take shape as the
media framed outsourcing. Frames are "principles of selection,
emphasis, and presentation composed of little tacit theories about
what exists, what happens, and what matters" (Gitlin 1980,
6-7). Media outlets frame issues when they "select some aspects of a
perceived reality and make them more salient in a communicating text,
in such a way as to promote a particular problem definition, causal
interpretation, moral evaluation, and/or treatment recommendation for
the item described" (Entman 1993, 5).
News stories "avoid structural linkage between events" (Tuchman 1978,
180). When faced with an issue as complex as outsourcing, which
allows for many different categorizations, framing is used as a tool.
Framing allows journalists "to process large amounts of information
quickly and routinely: to recognize it as information, to assign it
to cognitive categories, and to package it for efficient relay to
their audiences" (Gitlin 1980, 6-7). Almost from the first instance
of what is today termed "outsourcing," assuming a first instance of
such a subjective happening could ever be determined, journalists had
to categorize the happening in some way fitting with the structure of
existing news categories. These initial instances were likely not
termed "outsourcing;" however, at some point the transfer of
production overseas became known specifically as "outsourcing."
The term first appeared in The New York Times in 1981 and The
Washington Post in 1982. In both instances, "outsourcing" was
used in the context of automotive industry labor negotiations
(Holusha 1981, D1; Brown 1982, A6). The Washington Post article
introduced the term this way: "The job security issues largely
involve plant closings and so-called 'outsourcing'—the use of outside
contractors, foreign and domestic, to make GM parts" (Brown 1982,
A6). In The New York Times, it first appeared in a quotation from
the president of the United Auto Workers: "'They've got to think
seriously about preventing companies from outsourcing our work,' he
added. 'Those are our jobs and we've got to be addressing this
problem more seriously in 1982 than ever before'" (Holusha 1981, D1).
Those examples taken from publications that are part of the so-called
"prestige press" represent the role of the media in the introduction
of the term outsourcing into social dialogue. As the examples
demonstrate, the initial use of the term was usually related to job
losses in production industries, losses that were usually sustained
by blue-collar workers. Both of the examples cited above dealt with
shutdowns in the automotive industry and the movement of production
to outside firms, both Japanese and domestic.
References to outsourcing remained relatively sparse throughout the
1980s, peaking in 1984, when it was mentioned in 15 articles and
advertisements in The New York Times ("Outsourcing" 2004). At that
point, the term was still primarily related to manufacturing
industries and blue-collar jobs. However, by the early 1990s,
outsourcing in the computer industry also began to receive
coverage. A December 16, 1991, article in The New York Times
addressed the rising threat outsourcing presented to white-collar workers:
Like past recessions, blue-collar workers have been hit harder than
white-collar workers…. Yet professionals, administrators and other
desk-holders have lost jobs in record numbers, and economists believe
the white-collar occupations and service industries will come under
further pressure in the years ahead, just as manufacturing did in the
1980s" (Lohr 1991, A1).
Framing the issue in terms of job loss, this prescient piece
foreshadowed the spread of job-loss anxiety from predominantly
blue-collar workers to white-collar workers, a trend that would
continue over the years to come.
Though automotive and manufacturing outsourcing was still covered,
references to outsourcing by companies such as Xerox and AT&T
increased. As outsourcing spread beyond the automotive and steel
industries, the issue received more attention. By 1996,
"outsourcing" appeared in 131 articles and advertisements in The New
York Times ("Outsourcing" 2004). Similar trends occurred in The
Washington Post. From January through October, 2004, "outsourcing"
was mentioned in over 250 Washington Post articles; while
"outsourcing" appeared in only 37 Washington Post articles in all of
1997 ("Outsourcing" 2004).
As the examples of media content cited demonstrate, many of the
early references to outsourcing framed the issue in terms of the
domestic job losses which often result from the practice. Because of
the complexity involved in unraveling the causal factors of media
coverage, any assertion of causation relating to long-term changes in
the coverage of outsourcing would rely simply on anecdotal evidence
and speculation. Yet, several social and historical factors likely
influenced the coverage of outsourcing. According to Shoemaker and
Reese, "systematic repetitive patterns of content make it more likely
that content represents some underlying cultural pattern or
organizational logic" (1996, 32). Indeed, the increased prominence
of outsourcing in the media corresponds with several economic and
social changes of the past several decades.
While employment statistics are readily available and job losses in
recent years have been widely noted, the precise number of jobs lost
due to the particular phenomenon of outsourcing is
debatable. However, widely reported research conducted by the
University of California, Berkeley's Fisher Center for Real Estate &
Urban Economics has indicated that over 125 million U.S. jobs may be
susceptible to outsourcing (Bardhan and Kroll 2003, 6). That
possibility, though speculative, is perhaps reflected by the fact
that, over the past two years, when asked how likely it is that "you,
someone in your family, or someone else you know personally will lose
their job in the next six months," between 40% and 50% of respondents
have told pollsters that it is at least "somewhat likely" (IPSOS-Reid
It is economic anxiety in the context of a changing economy that has
created fertile ground for increased media coverage of both
downsizing and outsourcing. The rise of both downsizing and
outsourcing as significant issues, demonstrate the "rise of
middle-class frustration politics" that began in the 1980s (Phillips
1993, xxiii). While much of the debate surrounding these issues
relates to the validity of such fears, this period brought previously
unknown economic anxiety to middle-class American families, and even
some upper-middle class American families, as they began to worry
about the safety of their "bank accounts, insurance coverage, home
values, and pension coverage" (Phillips 1993, xxii). By the
mid-1980s, the majority of American workers were employed in the
service sector (Marger 2002, 84-85). In the face of "downsizing,"
blue-collar and white-collar workers alike felt there had been a
change in the traditional "loyalty of firm to worker," that the
"postwar middle-class 'social contract' broke down" (Newman 1993, 14;
Phillips 1993, 9). As Phillips noted:
In this climate, top executives lost compunctions about terminating
blue-collar and middle-class jobs in order to make their companies
'competitive.' They moved production to Taiwan and Mexico,
liquidated company pension plans and reduced other employee
benefits. Upper-middle-class professionals and vendors of private
sector services were also able to charge rapidly escalating prices
for health care, legal costs, banking services, college tuition,
entertainment tickets, cable television charges and the like (1993, xxii).
Such conditions created a sense of unease, as even educated,
white-collar workers were struggling to attain the same standard of
living as their blue-collar postwar parents (Newman 1993, 18). Many
women entered the workforce for the first time as middle-class
families found that two incomes were now necessary to "keep pace"
(Marger 2002, 93; Phillips 1993, 11).
Considering demographic shifts that have occurred in the past several
decades, economic restructuring and the global economy have helped
the upper-middle class prosper, while those below have struggled and
lost ground (Marger 2002, 89). Throughout the 1980s and into the
1990s, the earning of those in the upper-middle class and above, the
top 20% of earners, pulled away from the middle-class workers, whose
inflation-adjusted incomes were stagnant or decreasing (Marger 2002,
43-44, Phillips 1993, 28). For those workers who had internalized
the American values and ideals of "meritocratic individualism" and
the Puritan work ethic, the possibility of downward mobility caused a
profound sense of despair (Newman 1999 7-9, 76).
Despite those shifting demographics and the focus on domestic job
losses that characterized much of the early coverage of outsourcing,
the experience of outsourcing has been far from universal and
reactions to it have varied accordingly. To various interested
parties, outsourcing is a means of achieving cost effectiveness, a
threat to human rights, a vital component of free-market capitalism,
a cause of job losses, a process which creates more U.S. jobs than it
sheds, a demonstration of anti-American business values, a practice
necessitated by competition, and a manifestation of corporate
greed. Such inherent contradictions in viewpoint, and the values
that underlie each viewpoint, create the potential for conflicting frames.
While changes in the coverage of outsourcing are likely indicative of
real events, "media content does not always mirror reality" and
"different media produce different content" due to a "network of
influences, ranging from communication workers' personal attitudes
and role conceptions, routines of media work, media organizational
structure and culture, the relationships between the media and other
social institutions, and broad cultural and ideological forces"
(Shoemaker and Reese 1996, 258). Media content is both a
"manifestation of culture" and a "source of culture," and it offers a
"specific view of social reality to the audience" (Shoemaker and
Reese 1996, 60, 258). Framing is one of the processes by which
reality is filtered and shaped by the media.
It can be said that "some media coverage will affect the agendas of
some people, regarding some issues, some of the time" (Gandy 1982,
265). Because the media are the primary disseminators of
information, it has been shown that frames omitted from the aggregate
media discourse are unavailable to and unknown by the public (Gamson
1992, 180-181; Tuchman 1978, 156). Yet, various media outlets often
frame the same issue differently. The frames presented by different
outlets are not always congruent because "mass media are a site for
various actors to contest the ways in which we think and talk about
policy issues" (Kosicki and Pan 1997, 83). Provided that the frames
used stay within the confines of what Hallin termed the "sphere of
legitimate controversy," an issue such as outsourcing provides ample
opportunities for frame conflict (1986, 116-117).
While some framing research has attempted to discover if differences
in outlets' framing of an issue lead to corresponding differences in
each outlet's audience's perceptions of the issue, there has been
very little compelling evidence demonstrating such between-outlet
media effects, perhaps because individuals who largely rely on one
outlet are also aware of frames used by other outlets, and are
therefore able to utilize all frames. Yet, this lack of
between-outlet audience media effects does not mean that examining
how different publications, networks, or programs frame a topic is
irrelevant. Even if an effect on audiences cannot be demonstrated,
knowledge of between-outlet differences in framing still has value.
As recent critics have noted, the study of framing is more than the
study of media effects (Carragee and Roefs 2004,
215-218). Ascertaining how an issue such as outsourcing is framed
between two publications, for example, is an attempt at understanding
"the complex interactions between the dominant meaning within news
texts, the class and cultural positions of the readers and viewers
attending to these texts," and "the discourses and codes associated
with these positions" (Carragee and Roefs 2004, 223). Rather than an
action undertaken by an editorial staff without regard for the
consumers of a publication, framing is an exercise in "the social
construction of meaning, a construction shaped by both producers and
consumers of media frames" (Carragee and Roefs 2004, 215).
Nearly all publications have "target" audiences (Shoemaker and Reese
1996, 191-192). While it may be incorrect to assume that every staff
member consciously writes with the publication's audience in mind at
all times, informal social controls in the newsroom help to orient
all staff members to the publication's "slant," much of which stems
from "considerations of class" with regard to "the principle areas of
policy," namely "politics, business, and labor" (Breed 1955, 327).
Consumers are not simply passive actors in the framing process. No
one publication serves as an individual's sole source of information,
and the media, in general, are not the only source of information
available to the public. In fact, the most "robust" frames are
those which are formed by a combination of "media discourse,
experiential knowledge, and popular wisdom" (Gamson 1992,
128). Because the idea of slant is widely discussed, presuming that
consumers are able to select from a variety of media outlets, with
some perhaps presenting conflicting frames, the selection of one
outlet over another is relevant. In that light, the selective
exposure to an outlet that frames an issue in a certain way may
represent consumers' world views expressed through media choice. The
reciprocal relationship between a publication's targeting of a
specific audience and that audience effectively rewarding the
publication via the process of subscription or newsstand purchase not
only reinforces the particular slant of the publication but also the
corresponding framing techniques used by the publication.
To an even greater extent than most newspapers, the consumption of
national magazines is a highly selective process. National magazines
are not tied to a geographic area, eliminating the possibility that
class differences in readership are merely a reflection of geography,
a possibility inherent in local media. Uses and gratifications
theory would suggest that readers purchase Fortune or Time for a
reason. Similarly, magazines, even more so than other media, cater
to "highly targeted audiences," and income is one of the specific
demographics considered (Johnson and Prijatel 1999, 27, 148). As a
previous study has demonstrated, a magazine specifically considers
the class of its target audience when selecting content (Cantor and
Jones 1983, 113). Therefore, an analysis of the framing of an issue
in two magazines whose audiences are of different socioeconomic
classes would be perhaps the most logical method to understand the
relationship between the class of a target audience and the framing
of outsourcing. Because the aforementioned relationship between a
magazine and its audience reinforces the use of a particular set of
frames, studying how different magazines frame outsourcing can offer
insight into how each particular publication slants its coverage of
outsourcing and each outlet's respective audience views
outsourcing. Furthermore, if two publications, with two distinct
audiences, frame outsourcing differently, those differences may help
to articulate a fundamental clash in viewpoint between two segments of society.
Earlier research has suggested that class may indeed play a role in
the framing process. Though not termed "outsourcing," Gamson studied
media coverage of "troubled industry" issues (layoffs and shutdowns
in the steel and automotive industries during the late-1970s and
1980s) and compared them to "working" people's perceptions of the
issues (1992, 40, 132). The primary frames used by the media,
according to Gamson, were "partnership," which focused on cooperation
between business, labor, and government in the face of adversity and
"free enterprise," which stressed the ability of the market to
correct itself. As Gamson notes, neither of these frames are
adversarial in nature, nor are they related to class. The "capital
flight" frame, which blamed multinational corporations for seeking a
"docile, unorganized, or cowed labor force," was rarely mentioned in
the national media at this time (1992, 87-88). The media blamed
Japanese competition for layoffs 63% of the time, with Time magazine
featuring particularly inflammatory copy in that respect (Gamson 1992, 40).
In accordance with the vast majority of national media discourse,
only 19% of "troubled industry" discussion groups studied by Gamson
referenced class conflict without prompting (1992, 90). However,
when prompted, participants' discussions indicated a familiarity with
this frame that extended beyond the discourse present in the
media. Overall, people were able to pull from personal experience
and popular wisdom, as well as media discourse, meaning that some
form of adversarial frame, including "capital flight" arose in over
half of the conversations, even though rarely featured in the media
(1992, 108). Additionally, participants rarely blamed the Japanese,
despite media focus on that frame (1992, 145-147).
Not insignificantly, these discussion groups were comprised of
"working people," which generally meant that most were blue-collar
workers, and few had graduated from college. While this study seems
to support the relevance of class to the framing process, Gamson's
findings cannot be generalized beyond "working people." The findings
are also specific to the social context of the time period the study
was conducted. The issue of outsourcing is much more prominent today
and is perhaps as relevant to white-collar Americans as to
blue-collar Americans, meaning that such blue-collar/white-collar
distinctions are perhaps no longer as relevant as in the past.
Through the examination of how Fortune and Time frame the issue of
outsourcing, the "degree to which specific frames are linked to
central issues of power" can be better understood, particularly the
issue of socioeconomic class (Carragee and Roefs 2004, 224). Though
both are owned by Time, Inc., these two publications are aimed at
different audiences. Time is a general newsmagazine, while Fortune
bills itself to advertisers as the "world's premiere business
magazine" that "reaches the most sought-after leaders in business"
(Fortune/FSB 2003). An analysis of relevant demographic information
obtained from MediaMark Research, Inc. reveals the class differences
between the readers of Fortune and Time (Mediamark, Spring
1997). Income and wealth, occupational prestige, and educational
level are often defined as the three key components of class (Marger
2002, 26). When compared to the overall makeup of the population,
the households of the subscribers to both publications are found
disproportionately in the upper class categories. However, when
compared to each other, Fortune's readership is clearly higher in
socioeconomic class than that of Time. Of the adult readers of each
publication, 78.5% of those who read Fortune are employed full-time,
while only 60.0% of Time readers are employed
full-time. Furthermore, 29.5% of Time readers are unemployed, while
only 15.0% of Fortune readers are unemployed. In terms of household
income, 48.1% of Fortune readers earn $75,000 or more per year, a
level that approximately denotes the upper-middle class, while only
37.3% of Time readers earn the same. This difference is drawn more
sharply when the individual employment incomes of subscribers are
compared, with 37.3% of Fortune readers and 15.5% of Time readers
earning over $50,000 per year. A comparison of the total stocks and
other investments, measures of wealth, owned by readers of each
magazine reveals that Fortune readers significantly exceed Time
readers in that category also. For example, 6.0% of Fortune readers
own stocks with a total value of $50,000 or more in comparison to
3.4% of Time readers who own the same.
While distinguishing between white-collar and blue-collar workers was
once considered crucial, with the increase in the number of
low-paying white-collar jobs that has occurred over the past several
decades, white-collar workers are increasingly found in categories
below the middle-class (Jackman and Jackman 1983, 32). Nonetheless,
occupational distinctions can be seen in the distribution of Time and
Fortune readers into occupational categories. Of all Fortune
readers, 33.7% fall into the Executive, Administrative, and
Managerial category, a category comprised of jobs that most people
associate with the upper-middle or upper class, while 13.8% of Time
readers have jobs in the same category (Jackman 1979, 449). Fortune
readers are also more highly educated than Time readers. College
degrees were held by 52.1% of Fortune readers and 35.8% of Time
readers, while high school was the highest level of education
completed by 26.0% of Time readers, compared to 12.6% of Fortune readers.
When income, investments (wealth), occupation, and education are
considered, the vast majority of Time readers would be classified as
lower-middle class and middle class (or, the "new working class" and
the "contingent class"). While a substantial number of Fortune
readers are drawn from the same groups that compose Time's
readership, nearly half of all Fortune readers would fall into the
upper-middle or "privileged" class, with perhaps some readers likely
representing the elite "capitalist" class (Heider 2004, 10-13;
Perruci and Wysong 2003, 19-30; Gilbert and Kahl 1993, 308-317). Put
another way, the $40,000-$49,999 bracket approximately represents the
median family income range for the years being studied (Marger 2002,
36). A majority of Time readers are below this bracket, while a
majority of Fortune readers are above this bracket. This is not to
say such distinctions are clear-cut. Some working-class individuals
read each publication, and some members of the "capitalist" class may
read both publications. Though the demographic makeup of each
audience clearly overlaps with that of the other, and neither is
comprised solely of individuals in the classes described, these
classifications work as a general rule.
As the data indicate, distinctions between the reader's of Time and
Fortune are significant, but they are not drastic. A comparison of
how a labor union frames outsourcing in its literature and how a
major manufacturing corporation frames outsourcing in its literature
would stem from a desire to examine extreme, but expectedly drastic
differences. Any differences in the way Time and Fortune frame the
issue essentially represent the different viewpoints of two segments
of the middle-class. Limiting an examination to such a narrow range
means that differences are magnified and are more significant. In
fact, many of the aforementioned demographic differences may not
merely represent general class differences, but may rather indicate a
more specific class difference: the distinction between a business
publication's audience and a general newsmagazine's audience. In
that way, the demographic differences themselves may merely be a
representation of that distinction.
This study seeks to answer these questions: First, how do Fortune and
Time each frame outsourcing? Second, what is the significance of any
similarities or differences in each magazine's framing?
Forty-seven Time articles and 224 Fortune articles were
examined. Those numbers represent the population of articles from
1994 through October 2004 that use the term "outsourcing,"
"outsource," or "outsourced." The population was determined by a
full-text search of each magazine's historical database, each
available through EBSCOhost. While EBSCOhost does not enumerate any
caveats associated with the Fortune and Time databases, the
possibility that some articles have been erroneously excluded clearly
exists. However, the potential to uncover every instance in which
those terms are used outweighs any possible pitfalls associated with
electronic databases, and makes the database the most accurate method
of determining the population. Specifically, an early examination of
the articles demonstrated that very often the term "outsourcing" was
used in an article with neither a headline nor an introductory
paragraph that in any way indicated the issue would be addressed. If
the issue of outsourcing was examined through a study of the issues
themselves, many articles clearly would have been overlooked.
While the population size was initially quite large, once each
article was coded, the true population was determined to be
twenty-nine Time articles and fifty-three Fortune articles. As noted
earlier, initial references to outsourcing in the early 1980s often
denoted the type of outsourcing discussed today. However, many
articles, particularly those from 1994 to 2002, that used the term
did not use it in the current sense. Many of these references to
outsourcing were simply referring to business practices that utilized
an outside source, including other U.S. companies. Any article in
which it was not clear that the outsourcing being addressed was
offshore outsourcing was excluded. It was reasoned that the
inclusion of frames that may be employed in reference to domestic
outsourcing would skew the results, because foreign, not domestic,
outsourcing is the current topic of debate. Other articles were
excluded from the population size because the references to
outsourcing were brief and the issue was not framed in any way.
The frame analysis technique used for the study was based on both the
methods of Gamson and the methods of Martin (1992; 2003). The most
salient frames used by the media, politicians, and other interested
parties were identified. A sample of the Time and Fortune articles,
other mass media sources, and interest group literature were all
consulted. Four frames that generally cast outsourcing in a positive
light and four frames that generally cast outsourcing in a negative
light were identified. A pre-test was then conducted and this list
of frames was revised and modified. The following positive frames
were used for this study: Cost Effectiveness and Profits, Free
Enterprise, Inverse, and Necessity. The following negative frames
were used for the study: Human Rights, Job Loss, Patriotism, and
Unfairness (See Appendix A for a complete description of each frame
with examples). Two catchall categories were also added: Positive
Other and Negative Other.
The frame was the unit of analysis. However, for the purposes of
this study, one frame unit was determined to be no longer than a
paragraph, and multiple frames could be used in a paragraph. If one
frame was used throughout an entire paragraph, it was only coded as
one use of the frame. However, if it was used for multiple
paragraphs, each paragraph was considered a frame. For example, one
paragraph could frame outsourcing using the Free Enterprise frame in
the first two sentences, and the Inverse frame in the last
sentence. The next paragraph could continue the Inverse frame. That
scenario would be coded as one use of the Free Enterprise frame and
two uses of the Inverse frame. Thus, every instance of appearance of
a frame in an article was noted.
All articles that dealt with offshore outsourcing were coded,
including opinion/editorial pieces and letters to the editor. If
only a portion of an article dealt with outsourcing, only that
portion of the article was coded. For example, an article addressing
job loss that only mentioned job loss due to outsourcing in one
paragraph was only counted as one frame. Even if job loss was
mentioned throughout the article, if outsourcing was not portrayed as
the reason for the job loss being addressed in the entire article,
only the section which attributed a specific instance or type of job
loss to outsourcing was coded. However, even if outsourcing was only
mentioned once or twice in the article, if outsourcing was clearly
implicated as the cause, or one of the causes, for all of the job
loss being discussed in the article, the entire article was coded.
All of the coding was done by the author. An intracoder reliability
test was performed to test reliability. Ten percent of the
population was randomly selected and recoded. The reliability for
frame recognition—the ability to recognize the total number of frames
used in the article—was 93%. The reliability for positive frames,
based on percentage of agreement, was 89%, while the reliability for
negative frames was 86%. To determine the ability of the study to be
replicated, an undergraduate was trained to code. Ten percent of
the sample was randomly selected and coded by the
student. Reliability for frame recognition was 92%, while
reliability for positive frames was 80% and reliability for negative
frames was 91%.
Fortune and Time do, indeed, frame the issue of outsourcing quite
differently. Furthermore, statistically significant differences in
the use of the several specific frames, and the values each frame
stresses, demonstrate the role that class plays in the perception of
outsourcing. In terms of the percentage of positive and negative
frames each magazine used, Fortune's framing of outsourcing is almost
the exact inverse of Time's framing of outsourcing. Of the 258
instances of frames use in Fortune between 1994 and 2004, in 162
(62.8%) instances positive frames were used, while in 56 (37.2%)
instances negative frames were used. Of the 155 instances of frame
use in Time, in ninety-nine (63.9%) instances negative frames were
used and in 56 (36.1%) instances positive frames were used. A
z-score and analysis of its two-tailed probability reveal that this
distribution is statistically significant (z = 5.46, p < .001). The
distribution of individual frames reveals several specific framing
differences (See Appendix B for a complete table of frequencies and
percentages). The Job Loss frame (z = 3.87, p < .001) and the Human
Rights frame (z = 2.92; p = .004) were employed significantly more
often in Time magazine, while the Cost Effectiveness and Profits
frame (z = 5.22; p < .001), Inverse frame (z = 3.48; p = .001), and
Other Positive frame (z = 2.23; p = .026) were employed significantly
more often in Fortune magazine.
The Cost Effectiveness frame and the Free Enterprise frame were
essentially tied for the most prevalent frame in Fortune. The Cost
Effectiveness frame was used sixty-four times (24.8%) and the Free
Enterprise frame was used sixty-five times (25.2%). These frames
stress the values of good business sense and profits and capitalism
and the common good, respectively. In Time, the Job Loss was by far
the most prevalent, appearing 61 times (39.4%). This frame
emphasizes numerous values, but specifically employment, stability,
and the promise of the American dream related to the "hard work leads
to success" notion. Additionally, it is worth noting that Job Loss
was also a common frame in Fortune, appearing 55 times (21.3%), and
that Free Enterprise was used 35 times in Time (22.6%). Time used
the Free Enterprise frame to counterbalance its dominant construction
of outsourcing as negative, and Fortune used the Job Loss frame to
counterbalance its dominant construction of the issue as
positive. While each magazine did use those frame significantly
less, statistically, than the other, the fact that each acknowledged
a contrary frame as significant reflects at least some agreement on a
few facets of the issue. It is noteworthy, though, that both
magazines used a counterbalancing frame that is generally presented
in a non-controversial manner and is not used to place blame or point
fingers. Yet, a drastic difference was noted in the use of the Cost
Effectiveness frame, one which could possibly be considered what
Gamson termed an "adversarial" frame, in that it usually identifies
the parties that benefit from outsourcing and those that are harmed
by it, but makes no apologies for such an outcome (1992, 87-88). The
Cost Effectiveness frame was used only 11 times (7.1%) in Time and,
as previously noted, 64 times in Fortune (25.2%). This statistically
significant difference perhaps reflects a clear distinction in the
degree to which profits are valued as a reasonable motive for outsourcing.
When frame use each year is examined over the decade being studied,
it becomes clear that Fortune began covering and framing the issue
well before Time addressed the subject. Eighteen instances of frame
use, thirteen of which were usages of positive frames, occurred in
Fortune in 1994. The magazine continued to address outsourcing every
year, to a greater or lesser extent, throughout the 1990s. Time, on
the other hand, did not address outsourcing until 2000. For both
magazines, coverage of outsourcing spiked in 2003; however, before
2003, only six instances of frame use occurred in Time, while 85
instances occurred in Fortune, a distribution which reflects the
greater attention Fortune gave to the issue.
What do the contrasting uses of frames by Fortune and Time reveal
about how the issue of outsourcing is perceived? As noted earlier,
when income, wealth, education, and job prestige are considered,
nearly half of all Fortune readers are in the upper-middle-class or
above, while over seventy percent of Time readers are found below the
upper-middle class. It is clear that different constructions of the
issue are created by each magazine for its respective audience. When
readers select Fortune or Time, they are selecting one worldview over
another. The editors and publishers of each magazine are also likely
acutely aware of the dominant demographics and views of their
readers. Yet, it is difficult to discern which demographic factors
are most relevant to the issue of outsourcing.
As noted earlier, Fortune is a business magazine aimed at executives,
administrators, and managers. While Time is a magazine aimed at a
general audience. Perhaps the true division reflected in the
conflicting views presented by Fortune and Time is one of executives,
administrators, and managers versus other workers. Or is it those
who own stocks and other market instruments versus those who do
not? Or is it high income versus lower income? Or is it something
else? Those factors are difficult to untangle, because so many are
If these magazines can indeed be said to represent their respective
readers, this study confirms the findings of Jackman and Jackman
(1983, 61-66). Even between such closely related groups as the
middle and upper-middle classes, they noted distinct differences in
how each group perceived issues. For example, in their survey they
found that middle class respondents were more likely to feel that
both the poor and they themselves are hurt by private ownership of
corporations and businesses, while upper-middle class respondents
were likely to believe that everyone benefited from private ownership
(Jackman and Jackman 1983, 61-66). Jackman and Jackman received
roughly the same results when they asked respondents what classes
they thought benefited from tax deductions for business investment
and what classes they thought were hurt by it (Jackman and Jackman
1983, 61-66). For both questions, the differences between the
opinions of those in lower classes and those in the upper-middle
class were even more drastic (Jackman and Jackman 1983, 61-66).
While the way in which each publication frames outsourcing does seem
to correspond with differences of opinion regarding other economic
issues expressed by members of each class in the Jackman and Jackman
study, perhaps the readers of each publication are not overtly aware
that they are purchasing a distinct worldview when they purchase
Fortune instead of Time, or vice versa; though it would be hard to
miss the differences. Rather than reflecting conscious, overt
displays of class values, the purchase of Fortune or Time and the
relationship between the demographics of each magazine's readership
and the manner in which each magazine frames outsourcing may reflect
the symbiotic relationship between the values and opinions of a
magazine's readers and the magazine's editorial content. Each both
reinforce and shape the other.
While not initially identified as a research topic, the difference in
the chronology of each magazine's coverage raised an important
question. What is the significance of Fortune's covering the issue
of outsourcing long before Time covered the issue? Research has
demonstrated that trade publications "act as insider channels of
communication during early industry-related policy process" by
addressing key issues long before newspapers and other media sources
(Hollifield 1997, 764). While Fortune is a consumer magazine with a
highly targeted audience of business people that focuses on business
and finance matters, not a trade publication, the same pattern noted
in regard to trade publications held true for Fortune, in that it led
Time in the coverage of outsourcing by six years. The research cited
above also indicated that trade publications shape policymakers views
of key issues (Hollifield 1997, 759). Did the coverage of
outsourcing by publications such as Fortune have the same effect? If
nothing else, Fortune was able to submit its framing of outsourcing
to the public and policymakers before Time. Because business
publications often neglect to address the social and political
implications of policies, there is the possibility that "some
under-reported social implication related to a new industry proposal
or innovation will generate unexpected public opposition when news of
it becomes more widely disseminated" (Hollifield 1997, 766-768).
The ability of industry publications to shape issues before the press
at large has several potential negative impacts both for the public,
industry, and politicians. If business and industry publications
shape policies without considering their broad social implications,
that practice may continually lead to policies the public at large is
unhappy with, which often results in a public and media backlash that
may eventually hurt the businesses and politicians who shaped the policy.
Rather than serving the interests of specific audiences, when
important policies and issues are discussed, all implications and
perspectives should be addressed by all publications. However, the
current pattern is unlikely to change. As discussed earlier, issues
such as outsourcing can simultaneously seem to benefit some and hurt
others. That fact, combined with the fundamentally different
perspectives of various segments of society, means that perhaps the
conflict runs too deep to be resolved.
It is the media that helps to construct the notion of a classless
society (Heider 2004, 6). The different class viewpoints and values
noted in this study are rarely articulated, at least not in terms of
class. Perhaps this is because "often there is a debate about what
that value really is and about what it is that really threatens it"
(Mills 1959, 9). One group can see promise in outsourcing and threat
in its end, while another can see the opposite. While both the media
and society as a whole neglect to mention or even ignore these
differences, by examining the media, the "institutional arrangement"
of class can be understood (Mills 1959, 9).
Both the content of Fortune and the content of Time demonstrate that
each publication presents a unique perspective to its readers. Not
only are these differences in framing instructive of the significant
divisions in the country, but also of the potential dangers of such
targeted content, which is designed to attract and reinforce
viewpoints, rather than to challenge them and foster intelligent debate.
Cost Effectiveness and Profits – This frame stresses the positive
economic benefits which accrue to businesses in the form of profits
when work is outsourced. It stresses profit maximization as the
logical goal of any business. Generally, this frame is used in a
way that does not claim the benefits are evenly
distributed. Therefore, to a certain extent, this frame can be
viewed as what Gamson termed an "adversarial" frame (1992,
87-88). The values stressed by this frame include good business
sense and profits. Example: "Offshoring keeps costs down ... 24/7
says that by running and managing call centers in India from the
U.S. it can cut companies' costs by 30% to 60%" (Vogelstein 2004, 212).
Free Enterprise – The Free Enterprise frame stresses the purported
universal benefits of capitalism. The notion that everyone, not
just businesses, benefits from laissez-faire capitalism is
presented. Outsourcing is framed as part of the nature of
capitalism; therefore, to fight it would be futile and damaging to
the system. Among the specific claimed benefits often enumerated
are that savings are passed on to consumers through reduced product
prices, the increased value of stocks, and the overall benefits to
the U.S. economy as well as foreign economies. This frame may also
note the benefit to countries receiving U.S. jobs. The values
stressed by this frame are capitalism and the
common good. Examples: "Outsourcing has become an increasingly
important element of corporate efficiency strategies around the
world, allowing high-cost operations in developed countries to be
replaced by low-cost production in developing countries such as
China. Ultimately, these benefits are also passed on to consumers
around the world" (Roach 2004, 64).
Inverse – This frame is used to counterbalance and contradict the
focus on outsourcing either by claiming that it is not as prevalent
as reported or that more jobs are actually "insourced" than
outsourced. Often, this frame explicitly or implicitly suggests
that opposition to outsourcing is unfounded because most people are
not properly informed. By generally framing the issue in terms of
jobs, the frame stresses employment as a value as well as correct
information. Example: "Surprisingly absent is mention of the
global 'insourcing' trend, the fact that foreign companies are
constantly arranging to do business within the U.S. and hiring U.S.
workers. Currently, we insource 6.4 million jobs" (Herger 2004, 31).
Necessity – In some ways, this frame is a mid-point between the Free
Enterprise and Profits frames. This frame implicitly acknowledges
that at least short-term stress may be felt by those whose jobs are
outsourced. It may, in fact, label those who ignore this as having
a callous disregard for workers. This frame suggests that everyone,
including businesses are feeling the effects of globalization, and
that outsourcing is a response that most businesses have tried to
avoid, but have essentially had their hands forced. Primarily, this
frame argues that outsourcing is necessary for businesses to stay
afloat. This frame stresses the value of survival and the notion of
common struggle. Example: "Rosen Sharma is sure about one thing.
His nine-month-old company, Solidcore, a start- up that makes backup
security systems for computers, could not survive
without outsourcing." (Kiviat, et al. 2004, 26)
Human Rights – This frame constructs outsourcing as a question of
poor treatment of foreign workers in some countries, particularly in
"sweat shops." This frame plays primarily on the value of
compassion. Example: "In a recent survey by India's
Dataquest magazine, 40% [of people working in Information Technology
jobs 'outsourced' from U.S. companies] said they suffered from sleep
disorders, and 34% complained of digestive problems" (Rajan 2004, 34).
Job Loss – This frame constructs outsourcing as an issue that should
primarily be thought of as one that results in job loss. This frame
does not necessarily cast aspersions on outsourcers. Generally,
this frame is not an adversarial frame, because it usually is
not concerned with placing blame. It may focus on the types of jobs
being lost, the personal effects of job loss, etc. Sometimes the
Job Loss frame may be used in the context of a discussion of job
loss as whole, other times it may be used when reporting job losses
in a certain sector of the economy or a particular occupation. This
frame may emphasize many different values, including employment—both
in an individual sense and one related to the economy as a whole,
stability, and the American dream, among others. Example: "'In some
instances, the rage is not off-target,' writes a computer engineer
who had worked for the Kennedy Space Center. 'When several hundred
of us were laid off in 2002, Florida sent outplacement counselors,
who emphatically and repeatedly told us to try to work for
Wal-Mart--that there were no other jobs'" ("Outrage" 2004, 32).
Patriotism – The Patriotism frame asserts that outsourcing is
un-American. This frame is used to argue that, by sending jobs
overseas, companies are turning their backs on American workers, to
whom they have a responsibility as fellow Americans, meaning it is
usually used as an "adversarial" frame (Gamson 1992, 87-88). This
frame also argues that, by "abandoning" American workers, the
country will be severely weakened. In the latter sense, a concern
for the strength of the country is expressed. The Patriotism
frame may be applied in the context of "buy American" movements,
etc. Obviously, this frame primarily underscores the notion of
patriotism and concern for American strength. Example: "Notes Juan
Carlos Leon-Barth of Orlando, whose six-figure job was moved
to Bangalore: 'When the highly educated people in a booming economy
like India's are hired to do our jobs for less, they may soon learn
to do it better. What will keep them from taking over? Rome was once
the center of the world. Now it's just a nice place to visit'"
(Outrage 2004, 32).
Unfairness – This frame is perhaps the clearest example of an
"adversarial" frame (Gamson 1992, 87-88). Rather than enumerate
specific negative effects of outsourcing, this frame is used to
express outrage, and to place blame on the "villains" of
outsourcing. Primarily, this frame is employed to underscore the
disparity between corporate profits, CEOs' salaries, etc. and the
common person. Generally, it displays anger at
corporations. However, it may also express disbelief or resentment
when addressing actions (or lack thereof) by businesses and the
government to stop outsourcing or counteract its effects. The values
it stresses are fairness, equality, and justice. Example: "The stock
market had a strong 2003, and corporate profits in many industries
exceeded expectations, so why haven't companies that started
outsourcing as a way to cut costs reversed course and brought the
jobs back home?" (Kiviat, et al. 2004, 26)
Letters to the Editor
Cost Effectiveness **
Job Loss **
Z-Test (Two-Tailed) Significance Levels:
* Total frame distribution - p = .026
** Total frame distribution - p = .001
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 No database with full-text search capability is available for
Time or Fortune (the publications to be studied) prior to 1992;
therefore, the issue's ascent to prominence was traced through the
historical databases of The New York Times and The Washington Post.
 The database was also queried for "offshoring" and its other
forms; however, that did not dramatically increase the number of
viable articles. Those articles were excluded from the sample
because the term "outsourcing" has been coined, however erroneously,
to denote the issue being debated. Therefore, it seemed unwise to
include articles that do not use that term, particularly if the
inclusion of such articles would yield a negligible impact.
 Letters to the editor were included because they represent
content that is selected by the editorial staff, even though it is
not generated by the staff. Also, letters to the editor are often
printed because the writers disagree with the content of an article
published in the magazine. In that way, they are used to
counterbalance to the editorial content.
 It is worth noting that the undergraduate student was not
familiar with framing theory. She also was trained very briefly and
coded the sample in a period of only a few hours.
 While the reported agreement reflects agreement regarding
"positive frames" and "negatives frames," the total number of
positive frame agreements was not simply divided by the total number
of decisions. However, such a process would have lead to a higher
percentage of agreement than that reported above. Rather, the total
number of agreements for each individual frame was the numerator and
the total number of decisions was the denominator (the standard
mathematical procedure for the computation of simple
agreement). Then, the numerators of all the individual frame
agreement fractions were summed and the denominators of all the
individual frame agreement fractions were summed. Reliability was
computed this way because some frames are so rare that the 10% of the
population randomly selected did not contain any of those
frames. Therefore, it was impossible to report reliability for each
frame individually. Also, it would not be reflective of the actual
reliability to note that reliability for a frame was 100% when it was
one agreement out of one opportunity, or that reliability was 0% when
it was zero agreements out of one opportunity.