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Public Relations in Primetime: A Framing Analysis of The West Wing

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PUBLIC RELATIONS IN PRIMETIME: A FRAMING ANALYSIS OF THE WEST WING By STACI L. PRIEST A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS IN MASS COMMUNICATION UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2004

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Copyright 2004 by Staci Priest

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This document is dedicated to my grandmother, Virginia Word Priest.

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I thank Arron Angelo for always believing in me. I thank my parents for all of their love, support, and encouragement. I thank Dr. Spiro Kiousis for his patience and guidance. I thank Dr. Meg Lamme, Dr. Debbie Treise, and Dr. Leonard Tipton for their assistance and support in completing my thesis. iv

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TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS.................................................................................................iv LIST OF TABLES............................................................................................................vii ABSTRACT.....................................................................................................................viii CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION........................................................................................................1 2 BACKGROUND..........................................................................................................3 Past Perception Studies.................................................................................................3 Past Content Studies.....................................................................................................5 3 CULTIVATION THEORY..........................................................................................9 4 THEORY OF FRAMING...........................................................................................13 Framing Background..................................................................................................13 Framing Defined.........................................................................................................14 5 THE WEST WING.......................................................................................................17 6 METHODOLOGY.....................................................................................................20 Sample Selection........................................................................................................21 Instrument...................................................................................................................22 Analysis......................................................................................................................26 7 RESULTS...................................................................................................................28 Strategies and Tactics.................................................................................................30 Frames.........................................................................................................................31 Image Building....................................................................................................31 Puppet Master......................................................................................................34 Patriotism.............................................................................................................37 Dominant Frames........................................................................................................39 v

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Models........................................................................................................................40 Practitioner Portrayals................................................................................................41 8 DISCUSSION.............................................................................................................48 Frames.........................................................................................................................52 Image Building Frame................................................................................................53 Puppet Master Frame..................................................................................................54 Patriotism Frame.........................................................................................................55 Framing Theory..........................................................................................................55 Implications for the Public Relations Profession........................................................56 Limitations of Study and Recommendations for Future Research.............................57 9 CONCLUSION...........................................................................................................60 APPENDIX A EPISODE GUIDE......................................................................................................63 Season Two.................................................................................................................63 Season Three...............................................................................................................64 B CODING SHEET.......................................................................................................66 C CODING GUIDE.......................................................................................................69 LIST OF REFERENCES...................................................................................................74 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH.............................................................................................80 vi

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LIST OF TABLES Table page 1. References to public relations.......................................................................................29 2. Tone of public relations................................................................................................29 3. Strategies and tactics.....................................................................................................30 4. Distribution of primary and secondary frames.............................................................40 5. Models of public relations presented in The West Wing................................................41 6. Mean character ratings for seasons two and three on a five-item scale........................42 vii

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Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Master of Arts in Mass Communication. PUBLIC RELATIONS IN PRIMETIME: A FRAMING ANALYSIS OF THE WEST WING By Staci L. Priest August 2004 Chair: Spiro Kiousis Major Department: Mass Communication This study analyzed the portrayal of public relations and its practitioners in seasons two and three of the primetime television drama The West Wing. The research questions were (1) how is public relations framed on The West Wing and what frames dominated, (2) what models of public relations are presented on The West Wing, and (3) how are public relations practitioners portrayed on The West Wing? The three frames that emerged were image building, puppet master, and patriotism. The most common frames in the two seasons were image building and puppet master (39.5%, n=17 episodes, respectively). The image building frame defined public relations as the management function of keeping up appearances. It most often involved making the public relations practitioners organization and employer look better than the other guyno holds barred. The puppet master frame defined public relations as the management function that incorporates any means possible to control a particular situation, circumstance or event. The five main public relations characters viii

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were the puppet masters who pull the strings of all the other characters getting them to do and act as they wish. The patriotism frame occurred in 21% (n=9) of the episodes. This frame occurred when the public relations practitioner characters acted on behalf of a love for the United States. The dominant model of public relations practiced on seasons two and three of The West Wing was the public information model (n=34), followed by the two-way symmetrical model (n=22). Contrary to previous public opinion and content analysis research, public relations and its practitioners were portrayed positively or favorably on The West Wing. On average, the five public relations practitioner characters were found to be trustworthy, honest, responsible, moral, and to posses a strong work ethic. ix

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CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION Years of public relations research has indicated that while one function of public relations is to maintain favorable images, the profession does not maintain a favorable image of its own. The major professional organization for public relations practitioners, the Public Relations Society of America, recognized this in 1994 and decided to conduct a five-year credibility study. The results, which were released in 1999, revealed that public relations practitioners ranked 42 nd in credibility out of 44 public figures (Supreme Court justices ranked first). Other perception studies have shown that journalists are antagonistic toward the profession and its practitioners (e.g., Aronoff, 1975; Brody, 1984; Kopenhaver, 1984), and that the general public believes public relations practitioners and the organizations they represent are not credible (e.g., Callison, 2001). Researchers have attempted to determine where the negative reputation of public relations originated from through content analysis studies. Everything from mass communication textbooks (e.g., Cline, 1982) to newspapers (e.g., Bishop, 1988; Spicer, 1993) to network television news (e.g., Keenan, 1996) to film and fiction (e.g., Miller, 1999) has been examined. Still lacking in the content analysis research is an examination of how public relations is portrayed in entertainment television. Cultivation theory has shown that beliefs and attitudes of the public often correlate with what the public views on entertainment television. A framing analysis of The West Wing will build on previous perception and content analysis studies while providing a description of entertainment 1

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2 television content from which to build future theory and research on public perceptions of public relations.

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CHAPTER 2 BACKROUND Past Perception Studies Survey research examining journalists and public relations practitioners attitudes and perceptions held about each other has evolved over the past three decades to content analysis of news and entertainment media in an effort to determine how public relations is framed for the general public. Aronoff (1975) is credited with starting this long line of research when he examined the attitudes and perceptions of Texas journalists toward public relations practitioners and the attitudes of Texas public relations practitioners and public information officers toward journalists (Kopenhaver, 1984; Spicer, 1993; Keenan, 1996). Aronoff attempted to ascertain journalists and public relations practitioners attitudes toward each other by administering a questionnaire to members of each group. Aronoff (1975, p. 49) found that the role of the public relations practitioner is perceived quite differently by the two groups. For example, 59 percent of journalists agreed that public relations and the press are partners in the dissemination of information; however, 72 percent disagreed with the statement that public relations is a profession equal in status to journalism (Aronoff, 1975, p. 50). Aronoff concluded that journalists are much more antagonistic toward public relations practitioners than vice versa and that journalists believe their news values are much more credible than practitioners. Brody (1984, p. 11) recognized that a certain aura of antipathy long has enshrouded relationships between journalists and public relations practitioners. In order to determine how journalists perceive public relations practitioners, he surveyed 3

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4 reporters, editors and public relations practitioners in Tennessee. Brody found that while both groups respect the quality of each others work, journalists feel that public relations practitioners are far more unethical. Brody (1984, p. 11) noted, however, that the differences between the groups were not as great as street gossip sometimes makes them appear. Kopenhavers (1984) survey of journalists, editors, and public relations practitioners in Florida reinforced previous studies that revealed journalists have negative attitudes toward public relations practitioners. Kopenhavers survey was designed to measure attitudes the two groups have toward one another and how much understanding they have of each others goals. One portion of the survey asked respondents to rank-order 16 professions in the order of their respect for themEditors ranked journalists first on the list and public relations practitioners 15, ahead of only politicians, which were 16 (Kopenhaver, 1984, p. 39). Callison (2001) set out to answer the age-old questions, Do PR practitioners have a PR problem? In an attempt to determine public perception of source credibility, Callison conducted a 2 x 2 factorial experiment in which information source typepublic relations spokesperson or generic spokespersonand message topicclient-neutral or client-negativewere varied. The results of his study suggest, public relations professionals and the organizations they represent are perceived as less credible than unidentified sources and their employers (Callison, 2001, p. 219).

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5 Past Content Studies While previous research had revealed that journalists show disdain for public relations practitioners, it had not shown exactly how that disdain was conveyed to the public. Clines (1982) seminal content analysis examined how journalists show their antipathy for the profession and its practitioners to the public. Cline compared how public relations is taught in 12 introductory mass communication texts and found while there are few exceptions, students in the introductory mass media courses which use these texts are receiving a negative introduction to public relations (Cline, 1982, p. 64). Cline found mass communication text books teach students that telling half-truths is an integral part of the public relations business; the prime function of public relations is to obtain space free of charge; and public relations is prostituting media skills. Cline argued that biased teaching materials perpetuate negative images current journalists have of public relations and its practitioners to new and future generations of journalists. Bishop (1988) conducted a content analysis of three well-known regional newspapers to determine what newspapers say about public relations. While there were no mentions of the terms public relations, press relations, public information, government information or press officer and the term PR occurred only once, the term publicity occurred 121 times during the month of June, 1987. Bishop (1988, p. 51) reached the limited conclusion that public relations is equated solely with publicity. Spicer (1993) analyzed 84 print articles to determine if the negative attitude journalists hold towards the profession and its practitioners resulted in connotative use of the terms public relations and PR in the print media. Spicers analysis revealed seven different connotative themes or definitions of the two terms: distraction, disaster, challenge, hype, merely, war and schmooze. While it is difficult to draw conclusions

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6 from this data sample because of its small size, and because Spicer may have been biased in choosing the sample because public relations practitioners are possibly more likely to attend to articles using the terms public relations and PR in a pejorative manner (Spicer, 1993, p. 52), Spicer found that more than 80% of the sample used public relations or PR in a negatively embedded context. Analyses of print media have been extended to include network television news coverage. Keenan (1996) built on Spicers analysis by examining 79 stories mentioning public relations or PR on evening newscasts on ABC, CBS and NBC that aired between 1980 and 1995. According to Keenan (1996, p. 216), PR is usually presented as being synonymous with publicity or press agentry and is often associated with negative connotations. He contended that there is not much of an explanation as to why public relations is portrayed in such a manner except for previous research attributing them to journalistic attitudes. Keenan felt it was imperative that he discover why public relations is often associated with press agentry and publicity; therefore he coded his sample for which model of public relations was used. Of the 67 stories Keenan identified that dealt with public relations practices, 31 stories dealt with the press agentry model, while 18 dealt with two-way asymmetrical, 16 with public information and 2 with two-way symmetrical. Keenan also found that public relations is receiving more network news attention each year; the average number of public relations stories per year increased from 1.6 in the eighties to 10.5 in 1995. While Keenan found that television news stories with a negative tone in regards to public relations were more common than those with a positive tone, television news tends to take a neutral tone in reporting public relations and it

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7 appears that television is more neutral than the print media in covering the field (Keenan, 1996, p. 225). Content analysis of print and television news media was extended to entertainment media when Miller (1999) analyzed 202 different public relations practitioner characters in film and fiction released from 1930 to 1995. Millers sample was not representative of all images of public relations practitioners in film and fiction from 1930 to 1995 because she relied on peer recommendation. While no attempt at formal content analysis was made, Miller did develop exhaustive categories based on archetypal characters. The categories were named after the following recurring character traits: ditzy, obsequious, cynical, manipulative, money-minded, isolated, accomplished, and unfulfilled. In addition to coding for character traits, Miller coded for: definitions of public relations, strategies and tactics employed by practitioners, the moral life of the practitioner, effectiveness, consequences of choices made by the practitioner, and relationships with key groups (peers, clients and employers, etc.). While there are several limitations to the study, Miller found that representations of PR are woefully inadequate in terms of explaining who practitioners are and what they do, and it shows that writers dislike primarily PRs apparent effectiveness (Miller, 1999, p. 3). Miller concluded that the media has relayed misconceptions about and stereotypes of public relations to the public, setting the stage for the enduring quality of representations the public receives. Still lacking in the literature on this issue is a consideration of how entertainment television presents public relations and public relations practitioners. Researchers have used content analysis to examine how the entertainment media portray the medical and legal professions and their practitioners (e.g., Pfau & Mullen, 1995; Pfau, Mullen,

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8 Diedrich, & Garrow, 1995). To date, this line of research has not been extended to the public relations profession and its practitioners.

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CHAPTER 3 CULTIVATION THEORY According to Gerbner, Gross, Signorielli, and Morgan (1980), decades of research investigating the relationship between television content and constructed social realities developed into cultivation theory. Cultivation theory offers a useful framework for explaining how public perception is built on entertainment television content. Cultivation theory holds that television viewers who say they are exposed to greater amounts of television are predicted to be more likely (compared to viewers who say they are exposed to lesser amounts) to exhibit perceptions and beliefs that reflect the television world messages (Potter, 1994, p.1). Cultivation theory posits that television is a dominant source of shared perceptions or images, and it maintains that network television, in particular, is a powerful source of shared images, which in turn provide lessons for viewers about the ways of the world (Gerbner & Gross, 1976, p. 178; Signorielli, 1987; Pfau & Mullen, 1995). A cultivation analysis is typically conducted via two methods, content analysis and survey research. A detailed content analysis serves to determine how a topic is presented in the media. Subsequently, survey research serves to measure level of media exposure and audience perceptions or the topic under study. Combined, the two methods allow conclusions to be reached about media influence on perceptions of social reality. 9

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10 According to Gitlin (1980), primetime television programming has the ability to transform reality for many viewers. Schramm, Lyle, and Parker (1961) explain this reality transformation. The viewer goes to television for entertainment and stores certain items of information without seeking them (Scramm, Lyle, & Parker, 1961, p. 75). Malmsheimer (1988) maintains that storing items of information found in entertainment television distorts reality. Such distortions, routinely presented to a receptive mass audience, have great potential for affecting peoples attitudes and expectations about the everyday world around them (1988, p. 130). Cultivation theory has been used to examine audience contentions of reality concerning a range of phenomena, including violence (e.g., Gerbner et al., 1980), mental illness (e.g., Gard, 2001), crime (e.g., Valkenburg and Patiwael, 1988), aging, womens rights (e.g., Holbert, Shah, and Kwak, 2003) and much more. Pfau and Mullen (1995) used cultivation theory to examine the influence of television viewing on public perceptions of physicians. Pfau, Mullen, Diedrich, and Garrow (1995) also examined the influence of television viewing on public perceptions of attorneys. Pfau and Mullen (1995) found that primetime network television programming does transform reality for many television viewers in their attempt to ascertain the influence of television viewing on public perceptions of physicians. Pfau and Mullen (1995, p. 458) argue contemporary network primetime television programming often illuminates a broader range of professional behaviors than direct experience. Goffman (1973) explains the range of professional behaviors by dividing them into the front region where professionals play their public roles and they back region or backstage which is nonpublic, and where professionals may act inconsistently with their frontstage

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11 performance. In Pfau and Mullens (1995) study of physicians, front region activities may include meeting with patients to diagnose ailments, conducting tests, etc. Back region or backstage activities may include arguing with a coworker, having lunch with a spouse, etc. In their study, Pfau and Mullen (1995) found that contemporary primetime television depictions of physicians feature both front and back regions. According to Pfau and Mullen (1995, p. 458), Meyrowitz (1985) argues that television exerts a powerful, though subtle influence on attitudes by opening access to previously restricted back regions, thus exposing the foibles of parents, politicians, physicians, and others. Pfau and Mullen (1995) conducted their cultivation research in three phases. Phase one consisted of a content analysis of network primetime shows that depicted characters who work as medical professionals in a medical setting. The three shows analyzed were Doogie Howser M.D., Northern Exposure, and Nurses. Phase two was a mail survey of a random sample of practicing physicians in a midwestern state. This phase was conducted to provide a link between fiction and reality (i.e., were television portrayals representative of real world physicians?). The third phase consisted of a telephone survey of a random sample of households in order to gather relevant demographic data, examine television viewing habits and preferences, and evaluate public perceptions of physicians (Pfau & Mullen, 1995, p. 446). According to Pfau and Mullen (1995, p. 450), the results clearly indicated that television depictions of physicians influence public perceptions. Content analysis revealed that televisions depiction of physicians stressed front region behaviors; however, back regions were often exposed, revealing character and morality traits that

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12 were unflattering (adultery, arrogance, etc.). Cultivation analysis revealed that the back regions portrayed in television caused viewers to lose trust in physicians. The results also revealed that the number of medical programs that people watch is positively related to their tendency to perceive physicians as primetime network television depicts them. Pfau and Mullens (1995) use of cultivation theory to explore how television portrayals of physicians and attorneys effect public perception of those professions can be useful to the public relations profession. Just as Doogie Howser M.D., Northern Exposure and Nurses depicted physicians in their occupational setting, The West Wing depicts public relations practitioners in their occupational setting. In addition, The West Wing portrays a great deal of the back region of public relations. A full cultivation analysis to examine the relationship between television coverage to audience perceptions of public relations is beyond the intentions of the current study; however, in supplement to previous researchers attempt to examine how public relations is portrayed, this study will provide a description of entertainment television content from which to build future theory and research based on a cultivation approach to the subject.

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CHAPTER 4 THEORY OF FRAMING The theoretical lens through which this analysis will be conducted is media framing. A framing analysis is the first step in detecting how public perception of public relations is formed. While cultivation theory explains how public perception is built on entertainment media content, framing theory explains how media content is created. According to Entman (1993, p. 52), to frame is to 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. Entmans definition of framing also entails both salience and selection. Making an issue more salient consists of making a piece of information more noticeable, meaningful, or memorable to an audience (Entman, 1993). By conducting a framing analysis of The West Wing, the researcher attempts to discover how the writers, creators and producers of The West Wing select some aspects of a perceived reality and make them more salient in such a way as to promote a particular definition of public relations, causal interpretation of the profession, and moral evaluation of the profession and its practitioners. Framing Background Framing is a relatively new concept that did not emerge until the 1970s. While it is a concept most commonly used in disciplines such as political communication, advertising, public relations and marketing, the roots of framing theory are sociological and anthropological. Gregory Bateson (1972), an anthropologist, and Erving Goffman 13

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14 (1974), a sociologist, are credited as the first to examine communication using a framing paradigm (Zoch & Molleda, 2000; Hallahan, 1999). Bateson (quoted in Hallahan, 1999, p. 209) defined a frame psychologically, saying it is a spatial and temporal bounding of a set of interactive messages. Goffman (quoted in Hallahan, 1999, p. 209) elaborated on Batesons idea, defining framing as the definition of a situation . built up in accordance with principles of organization that govern eventsat least social onesand our subjective involvement in them. Framing Defined Gitlin (1980) defines framing as a process of selection, emphasis, and exclusion, used by communicators or symbol handlers to routinely organize verbal and/or visual communication activities. In this study, the symbol handlers are the creators, writers and producers of The West Wing. By selecting, emphasizing or excluding the aspects of public relations portrayed in the show, the communicators or symbol handlers may influence how audiences perceive public relations. Framing is social and cultural in nature according to Hertog & McLeod (2001, p. 140). Frames are organizing principles that are socially shared and persistent over time, that work symbolically to meaningfully structure the social world (italics in original). However, frames that are social in nature carry with them cultural structures with ideas and broad concepts that are central to the cultural nature of the frame; therefore, the frame cannot be understood outside of the culture it is used in (Hertog & McLeod, 2001). Framing is essential to the construction of social reality, according to Hallahan (1999), because it helps shape the perspectives through which people see the world. The processes of inclusion and exclusion, selection, as well as emphasis, are crucial to framing because they allow key elements of a message to be focused on (Duhe & Zoch,

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15 1994). By determining what attributes of public relations and its practitioners are included and excluded, selected and emphasized on The West Wing, the researcher will determine what elements of public relations are focused on and how they might contribute to the perspectives through which people see public relations. According to Hertog and McLeod (2001), frames also define the roles of individuals, groups, organizations and institutions in the defined reality. For example, Pfau and Mullen (1995, p. 441) found that past prime-time television depictions of physicians were consistently positive, offering an idealized view of physicians contributing . . to a cultural predisposition to hold the entire medical profession in . awe . .. A framing analysis of The West Wing will determine how prime-time depictions of public relations define the reality of public relations for the general public. According to framing theorists Gamson and Modigliani (quoted in Maher, 2001, p. 86), a frame is a central organizing ideafor making sense of relevant events, suggesting what is at issue. Pan and Kosicki (1993) agree, with the organizational role of framing, defining it as a form of news discourse construction. They view the idea behind framing as viewing news text as an organized system signifying elements that both indicate the advocacy of certain ideas and provide devices to encourage certain kinds of audience processing of the texts (p. 61). Frames are largely relational. Framing implies relationships among a messages elements. Thus, the messages within a frame are organized by a communicator and communicated to the receiver as being mutually relevant, while those outside of the frame are less important (Maher, 2001). Framing thus implies that some items will be identified as facts, while others will not (Miller & Riechert, 2001). Cognitive

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16 psychologist Friedman defines framing as a function that specifies the relations that hold among the arguments comprising a particular conceptual bundle at a particular level of abstraction (Maher, 2001, p. 86). Framing can have a significant influence on public understanding and public opinion of a particular issue, and thus, policy formation (Andsager & Smiley, 1998). Actors and interests compete to dominate the text presented through the media. The topic and the relative power of those individuals or groups will affect the degree to which they influence the frame of an issue (Andsager & Smiley, 1998). The study of framing aims to identify the dominant frame for a particular social issue or phenomenon, while also identifying alternative frames that arise due to the position of opposing groups (Hertog & McLeod, 2001). Issues are topics that acquire public attention, and that usually require policy decisions be made (Miller & Reichert, 2001). Framing includes the context, content, topic, coverage and packaging of news events (Palenchar, 2001). Framing attempts to detect the strategies and tactics used by various groups in their attempts to influence the frame of the particular issue. Finally, framing seeks to discover what is present in the form of reading material for the general public, such as newspaper stories and news coverage on television (Hertog & McLeod, 2001).

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CHAPTER 5 THE WEST WING The West Wing is a prime-time network television drama that depicts a fictional, but seemingly accurate, account of the life of a present-day President of the United States and his various staff members who have established personal and professional relationships with him during his two presidential campaigns and first few years in office. According to Aaron Sorkin (August & McDowell, 2002), creator of the series, the idea behind The West Wing was to give the American public an idea of what happens the two minutes before and the two minutes after the president appears on CNN. Central to those two minutes, and of particular concern to this study, are the main characters of the show who carry out public relations dutiesthe chief of staff, deputy chief of staff, communications director, deputy communications director, and press secretary. According to Holbert, Pillion, Tschida, Armfield, Kinder, Cherry, and Daulton (2003), the show offers a unique a vision of what it is like to be president on a daily basis to the American public. In short, they argue, The West Wing represents the fly on the wall that the media wish they could be (Holbert et al., 2003, p. 428). The unique vision of the show is due in part to the shows consultants: President Jimmy Carters policy and strategy advisor, Lawrence ODonnell, press secretary to the Clinton White House, Dee Dee Myers, and a former adviser to Senator Patrick Moynihan (Topping, 2002). 17

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18 The West Wing, which originally aired September 22, 1999, has achieved high critical acclaim. The series was honored with 13 Emmy Awards for its debut season, including Outstanding Drama Series, and went on to receive Emmys for Outstanding Drama Series in 2001 and 2002. The West Wing currently holds the record for most Emmys won by a series in a single season. In addition to receiving nods from Emmy voters, the show has received a Peabody Award for excellence in television. The program not only has achieved high critical acclaim, but also has become extremely popular as well. For example, the April 3, 2002 airing was viewed by 12,027,000 television households (Broadcasting & Cable, 2002). In short, this popular program has the potential for influence, given the large number of people who watch this fictional account of the daily activities of a sitting president and his staff. According to Pfau and Mullen (1995), whenever television programming communicates a coherent set of images about professionals, those who consume a greater quantity of such fare will tend to accept part or all of such images. Before a cultivation study is conducted to determine if viewers of The West Wing accept part or all of The West Wings portrayal of public relations, it must be determined how public relations is actually portrayed on The West Wing. The following research questions will guide this analysis covering the portrayal of public relations and its practitioners in primetime entertainment television. Research Question 1: How is public relations framed on The West Wing? What frames dominate? Research Question 2: What models of public relations are presented on The West Wing?

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19 Research Question 3: How are public relations practitioners portrayed on The West Wing? Based on the previous content analysis of public relations portrayal in the media (e.g., Cline, 1982; Bishop, 1988; Spicer, 1993; Keenan, 1996; Miller, 1999), the following hypothesis has been formed. Hypothesis 1: The public relations profession and its practitioners will be negatively or unfavorably portrayed on The West Wing.

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CHAPTER 6 METHODOLOGY A framing analysis conducted via content analysis was chosen for purposes of this study. Krippendorff (1980, p. 198) defines content analysis as a research technique for making replicable and valid inferences from data to their context. Content analysis may be conducted on two levelsmanifest content and latent content. Manifest content is content that can be seen and counted. For example, the number of times the word publicity is mentioned or the number of times public relations characters employ publicity as a tactic is manifest content. Latent content deals with the underlying or deeper meanings of a message and is more qualitative in nature. Analysis of latent content is crucial because the underlying meaning of a message may be more important than the number of times the message is presented. For example, analysis might reveal that public relations characters employed 10 publicity tactics in one episode; however, one of the publicity tactics may be so dramatic and over-the-top that it weighs more heavily with viewers. According to Kaid (1989, p. 199) a researcher who engages in counting alone might incompletely describe the programming content as well as miss the chance to correlate content with communication effects. In order to provide a more complete, well-rounded picture of how public relations is framed on The West Wing, and because the ultimate goal of this research is to correlate content with communication effects, both manifest and latent content were coded for. Kaid (1989) posits that reliability is typically of great concern to most researchers conducting a content analysis because the objectivity or degree to which data are 20

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21 independent of the measurement instrument (Kaid, p. 208) is often questionable, especially where latent content is concerned. Reliability is achieved by recruiting additional coders. When different coders reach the same inferences with the same coding protocol, the analysis is reliable (Kaid, 1989). While validity is not as easy to determine as reliability, Kaid (1989, p. 199) argues, Content validity is satisfactory if the researcher intends only to provide a description of a particular sample. Since a framing analysis functions to provide a description of a particular sample, in this case, The West Wing, validity was considered satisfactory. Sample Selection Interested in exploring the framing of public relations in United States entertainment television, the researcher concentrated on NBCs primetime television drama The West Wing because it is critically acclaimed, and a large portion of the American public has an opportunity to view it since it airs on NBC, one of the four major broadcast networks. The fact that The West Wing airs on a network, which is free television, is important to note because more viewers have an opportunity to see it, therefore, improving the likelihood that cultivation takes place. Additionally, The West Wing is one of only a handful of current U.S. television programs that portray the public relations professions and its practitioners. The current study analyzed seasons two (2000-2001) and three (2001-2002) of The West Wing. Those seasons were chosen because season one garnered much attention from critics. For its first season, the show received Emmys for Outstanding Drama, Outstanding Supporting Actor, Outstanding Supporting Actress, and Outstanding Writing For A Drama Series. Receiving numerous awards after its first season may have

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22 recruited new viewers to the series in addition to maintaining first season viewers. According to Tucker (2001), 25 million viewers watched the second season premier of the series. The West Wing received numerous Emmys for its second season, including, Outstanding Drama and Outstanding Supporting Actor. These acclamations again recruited new viewers and maintained regular viewers. The writers, producers, and actors were the same during seasons two and three. To gather the episodes to be analyzed, the researcher made videocassette recordings of reruns of The West Wing on the cable channel BRAVO. The West Wing began running in syndication on the channel during August 2003 at 7 and 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday. The entire sample consisted of 43 episodes from season two and 21 from season three (See Appendix A). 1 Instrument An individual episode served as the unit of analysis. The coding protocol (see Appendices B and C) was pretested. An additional coder trained in framing analysis was recruited to code a random sample of 10 percent of the episodes, and to determine the degree to which the coders agreed upon the frames. An intercoder reliability of 89% was achieved (coders agreed on 117 out of 132 judgments). After an identification number was assigned to each episode, the name of the episode, the date it originally aired, the date it aired in syndication, the writers, the plot of the episode, and the main characters in the plot were all recorded. Public relations is often seen as a broad concept that is difficult to define. In order to determine what public relations is on The West Wing, coders referred to Cutlip, 1 A documentary episode about the making of The West Wing was omitted from season 3.

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23 Center and Brooms (2000, p. 6) definition of public relations, which is in a core public relations textbook, Public relations is the management function that establishes and maintains mutually beneficial relationships between an organization and the public(s) on whom its success or failure depends. For purposes of this study, the organization was the President of the United States (or office of the President) and the publics were the White House staff (secretaries, FBI, interns, etc.), Congress (House and Senate), media, the American public (voters, taxpayers, etc.), foreign governments, state governments, military, lobbyists (activist groups), etc. Building on Keenans 1996 research of network television news coverage of public relations, the researcher coded for the model of public relations practiced in each episode. Keenan posited that public relations is often presented as being synonymous with publicity and press agentry, and is often associated with negative connotations. Recording the strategies and tactics employed by public relations characters in The West Wing aided in determining which model, public information, press agentry, two-way asymmetrical, or two-way symmetrical, was practiced. In addition to strategies and tactics, scholarly definitions of each model were used to determine which model was practiced. Cutlip et al. (2000, p. 14) define press agentry as creating newsworthy stories and events to attract media attention and to gain public notice. According to Kelly (1998), the public information model works to bring about unbalanced effects. No effort is made to balance the organizations needs with the needs of its donor prospects (its publics); the model is asymmetrical because the organization is right and its interests take precedence (Kelly, 1998, p. 165). The public information model is characterized

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24 by incomplete messages, selected to place the organization in a favorable light (Cutlip et al., 2000). According to Grunig (1984, p. 165), the two-way asymmetrical model consists of finding out what the public likes about an organization and then highlighting that aspect . or by determining what values and attitudes public had and then describing the organization in a way that conformed to those values and attitudes. The two-way symmetrical model is characterized by an ongoing dialogue between an organization and its public according to Cutlip et al. (2000). Coders were trained to recognize, via strategies and tactics, which model of public relations was being practiced. By coding for the models of public relations practiced in each episode, the researcher attempted to ascertain how public relations is framed in The West Wing. Building on Millers (1999) analysis of film and fiction and Pfau and Mullens (1995) analysis of physicians in primetime network television shows, the researcher coded for the demographics, personality traits and moral life of public relations practitioners, and the overall tone (positive, negative or neutral) of public relations in each episode. Miller (1999) found that characters who portray public relations practitioners are predominately male, when in practice, public relations practitioners are predominately female. Miller (1999) also found that public relations practitioners are often portrayed as being dishonest, ditzy, manipulative and cynical. Miller (1999) contended that the aforementioned factors all contribute to the negative image of public relations. Pfau and Mullen (1995) found that contemporary televisions depictions of physicians are negative

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25 in tone. More importantly, they found that negative portrayals of physicians on television cultivate negative opinions of physicians in viewers. Also building on Pfau and Mullens (1995) research, the researcher coded the tone of front and back region behaviors. Since Pfau and Mullens (1995) cultivation analysis showed that negative back region behaviors caused viewer trust in physicians to decline, it is important for future cultivation research to discover the tone of front and back region behaviors in The West Wing. A positive portrayal in one region versus a negative portrayal in the other region may weigh heavily with viewers as it did in Pfau and Mullens (1995) study. In addition to coding for the personality of public relations characters, the researcher evaluated the practitioner characters relationships with key groups (the public, peers, superiors and journalists). Analyzing such relationships offered insight into how viewers come to understand public relations as a profession. For example, in Pfau and Mullens (1995) analysis of television physicians, physicians often treated nurses and other medical staff as peons. Cultivation analysis revealed that this caused viewers respect of physicians to decline. The researcher took extensive notes on the plot lines, characterizations, and dialogue in order to provide insight into how public relations is defined and to discover what public relations responsibilities are attached to each character. Recording responsibilities is key, according to Miller (1999), because that is how the public (viewer public in this case) will build their definitions of what public relations is. Finally, the researcher recorded miscellaneous items such as powerful dialogue spoken by public relations characters.

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26 Analysis Using the coding sheet and guidelines, the researcher coded all 43 episodes. A second coder coded approximately 10 percent (n=5) of the episodes. In addition to establishing reliability, the second coder aided the researcher in negotiating categories and enriching established categories. Analysis essentially consisted of examining coding sheets for themes. The constant comparative method was used to discover emergent themes and categories. This method advocates a cyclical process that is key to all qualitative research (Boeije, 2002). Glaser and Strauss (1967) developed this four-step method as a strategy for developing grounded theory. The first step of constant comparison began by comparing data within a single episode to form categories. Categories were defined, expanded and created as new information emerged. Categories were labeled according to the most appropriate codes. From the categories, it was possible to formulate the core message from a single episode (Boeije, 2002). The second step of constant comparison involved analyzing all episodes in a single season and comparing them with each other. Categories were continually defined, expanded and created as new information emerged. A code tree or inventory of characteristics of each category was created. Finally, categories were examined to see if they could be combined or eliminated. The third step consisted of comparing season two with season three. Categories were refined and developed until they became saturated or so well defined that there was no point in adding further exemplars to them (Lauffer, 2002, p. 101).

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27 Analysis was completed in the fourth step when explanatory and predictive frames emerged. It is important to note that more than one frame existed in numerous episodes. Despite the existence of more than one frame, however, one frame was always dominant. The dominant or primary frame in each episode was easily identified by the number of times characteristics of that frame were present in a given episode. Characteristics of the secondary frame occurred often, but not as often as those of the primary frame.

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CHAPTER 7 RESULTS A total of 43 episodes of The West Wing were coded for this study. A second coder analyzed 10% of the episodes. An intercoder reliability of 89% was achieved (coders agreed on 117 out of 132 judgments). All of the original episodes aired Wednesdays on NBC at 9 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, with the exception of episodes 202 and 302, which aired at 10 p.m. immediately following season premier-episodes 201 and 301. All episodes were an hour long or approximately 40 minutes without commercials. Public relations functions, activities, and positions were most commonly referred to as communications, not public relations. The term public relations was not used in any of the episodes (see Table 1); however, the term PR was used twice in the second season premier. The term spin and various forms of spin such as unspinnable were used four times in season two and 13 times in season three. The term press secretary was used 10 times in season two and three times in season three. The term spokesperson was used four times in season two. The term communications, as in Communications Director, communications office, and Im in communications, was used 14 times in season two and 11 times in season three. The term damage control was used once to refer to public relations activities. Eleven of the 23 episodes in season two contained none of the aforementioned terms, and 10 of the 21 episodes in season three contained none of the aforementioned terms. 28

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29 A chi-square goodness of fit test was calculated comparing the total mentions of the references to public relations for both seasons. A chi-square value of 62.645(6), p< .05, was found, indicating that there are differences in the proportions of terms used to refer to public relations. Table 1. References to public relations. Terms used Season two Season three Total mentions Public relations 0 0 0 PR 2 0 2 Spin 4 13 17 Press Secretary 10 3 13 Spokesperson 4 0 4 Communications 14 11 25 Damage Control 0 1 1 Seasons two and three of The West Wing portrayed public relations favorably or positively overall (46.5%, n=20) (see Table 2). Public relations was portrayed negatively 37.2% of the time (n=16) and neutrally portrayed 16.3% of the time (n=7). Public relations was negatively or unfavorably portrayed in season two (n=10) and positively or favorably portrayed in season three (n=13). The overall positive or favorable portrayal of public relations in The West Wing contradicts years of content analysis research that has found that the portrayal of public relations in the mass media (television news, text books, print, film and fiction books) is predominantly negative (e.g., Cline, 1982; Bishop, 1988; Spicer, 1993; Keenan, 1996; Miller, 1999). Table 2. Tone of public relations. Tone Season two Season three Total Negative/unfavorable 10 6 16 Neutral 5 2 7 Positive/favorable 7 13 20 Total 22 21 43

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30 A chi-square goodness of fit test was calculated comparing the total tone of public relations for both seasons. A chi-square value of 6.186(2), p< .05, was found, indicating that there are differences in the proportions of the total tone of public relations. Strategies and Tactics There were 197 strategies and tactics mentioned and/or implemented in both seasons. Thirty-six percent (n=71) of strategies and tactics were only mentioned and never implemented, 48% (n=92) were only implemented, and 18% (n=35) were both mentioned and implemented (see Table 3). A chi-square goodness of fit test was calculated comparing the total mentions and implementations of public relations strategies and tactics for both seasons. A chi-square value of 25.182(2), p< .05, was found, indicating that there differences in the proportions of strategies and tactics mentioned, implemented or mentioned and implemented. Table 3. Strategies and tactics. Season two Season three Total Mentioned 29 42 71 Implemented 44 48 92 Mentioned and Implemented 23 12 35 Total 95 102 197 An example of a strategy that was only mentioned and never implemented occurred in episode 209, Galileo, when the communications team strategizes that they organize a photograph opportunity of the president eating green beans to make up for a damaging statement in the press that the president hated green beans (Falls, Sorkin, & Graves, 2000). The most common strategy or tactic that was implemented without being discussed prior (mentioned) was press briefings and conferences. A strategy or tactic that

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31 was mentioned and implemented, for example, occurred in episode 216, Somebodys Going to Emergency, Somebodys Going to Jail. In a meeting with the communications team, Leo discusses strategies and tactics that will aide in building relationships with various publics. These strategies and tactics are implemented throughout the episode in the form of meetings with various groups that normally would not get to talk one-on-one with White House staff. Strategies and tactics mentioned, implemented or both included: press conferences, press briefings, leaking information to reporters, polling, special events, blackmail, attending events, meetings with various publics, feasibility studies, photograph opportunities, and refraining from saying no comment. The most commonly used tactics were press conferences and briefings (n=45). Frames RQ#1: How is public relations framed on The West Wing? What frames dominate? Many similar frames were found in seasons two and three of The West Wing. The most common dominant frames were: image building, puppet master, and patriotism. Image Building The image-building frame dominated 39.5% (n=17) of the episodes. This frame defines public relations as the management function of keeping up appearances. It most often involves making the public relation practitioners organization and employer look better than the other guy no holds barred. Of the episodes that were dominated by this frame, 53% (n=9) were overall positive in tone and 18% (n=3) were overall negative in tone. Strategies and tactics employed in each episode that contributed to this frame

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32 included creating photograph opportunities (photo-ops) for the press, staging events to make up for communication blunders, being forthright about mistakes with the press, environmental scanning to avoid potential image damaging situations, sending White House representatives to meet with different publics, lying to various publics, including the press, hiding or covering the truth, and making sure the press secretary or other White House spokespersons did not say no comment. The image-building frame often portrayed public relations as the practice of lying to various publics, including the press, and hiding or covering the truth in order to make the White House and/or president look good. For example, in episode 212, The Drop-In, C.J., the press secretary, asks a well-known black comedian to decline from hosting a dinner that the president will be attending because of an incident that happened two years agothe president laughed at a joke about New York City cops shooting black men. When the press asked C.J. about the incident, she lied and said the president did not laugh at the joke (Sorkin, ODonnell, & Antonio, 2001). C.J. needed to get the comedian to decline from hosting the dinner, so the story about the president laughing or not laughing at a racial joke does not become news again. While the image-building frame often involved using lies or employing tactics to hide the truth, it also involved being forthright with mistakes and blunders made by the president and White House staff. For example, in episode 213, Bartlets Third State of the Union, the president invites a Detroit policeman to attend the State of the Union so he can be recognized as a hero. It later comes to C.J.s attention that the white policeman got an official reprimand for using excessive force on a black suspect seventeen years ago. Trying to keep a lid on the story, C.J. quizzes the policeman after the address,

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33 asking him why he didnt tell them about his past when he was invited. She informs him that shell have to alert the press so it doesnt look like theyre hiding anything. The policeman doesnt understand why she has to tell the press. C.J. replies, Cause theyll find out and I have to stay ahead of the pitch. If I issue it in a brief statement then it looks like were not trying to hide anything, and I get to control the story for a while (Sorkin, Abner, Myers, & Mislano, 2001). Environmental scanning or looking for potentially image damaging events and situations also contributed to the image-building frame. For example, in episode 211, The Leadership Breakfast, Sam, the deputy communications director, writes a memo about moving the press corps out of the White House and across the street so the communications staff will have more office space in the west wing. C.J. protests, saying, We cant exile the press! The press doesnt want physical distance from the president and the American people would prefer it if the president didnt have physical distance from the press (Redford & Winant, 2001)! C.J. goes on to argue that it would look like the White House and president are trying to hide something from the press. Sam says, We are trying to hide things from them. But I dont think were going to be any better at it if theyre across the street (Redford & Winant, 2001). The image-building frame occurred when the communications staff staged events and created photo opportunities to rectify potentially damaging statements published in the news. In episode 209, Galileo, the presidents aide tells some food writers that the president doesnt like green beans. A small Michigan newspaper prints a story about it. Hours later it becomes big news, especially in Oregon, a big bean-producing state. This

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34 is a problem because the president won Oregon by less than 10,000 votes in the last election. Toby, the communications director, suggests, Lets do a photo-op with the president eating green beans. We can drop in a quoteHes always looking for new green bean recipes (Falls, Sorkin, & Graves, 2000). Puppet Master The puppet master frame dominated 39.5% (n=17) of the episodes. This frame defines public relations as the management function that incorporates any means possible to control a particular situation, circumstance or event. The five main public relations characters are the puppet masters who pull the strings of all the other characters getting them to do and act as they wish. Of the episodes dominated by this frame, 56% (n=9) were overall negative or unfavorable towards public relations and 12% (n=3) were overall positive or favorable to public relations in tone. Underhanded and sneaky strategies and tactics such as blackmail, bribes, and leaking information to the press were characteristic of this frame. The puppet master frame was most often recognizable when any of the five major characters leaked information to the press in order to get momentum behind an issue. In episode 303, Ways and Means, for example, C.J. decides to take a congressional investigation of the president into her own hands. The president is being investigated for failing to disclose to the American public that he has Muscular Sclerosis (he knew before he was elected). C.J. wants a different prosecutor to investigate the case. Were not going to get anywhere putting on a calm face, she says. We need to pick a fight! We need a different enemy (Sorkin, Attie, Sperling, & Graves, 2001).

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35 A conversation between C.J. and Leo leads C.J. to drop clues to the press that ultimately force the replacement of the prosecutor with someone more favorable to the president: C.J. Leo, We need to be investigated by someone who wants to kill us just to watch us die. We need someone perceived by the American people to be irresponsible, untrustworthy, partisan, ambitious and thirsty for the limelight. Am I crazy or is this not a job for the U.S. House of Representatives? Leo Well, theyll get around to it sooner or later. C.J. So lets make it sooner. Lets make it now. Rollins (the prosecutor) is driving them slow, he wont talk to the press, theyre ready to jump. . I swear to God, Leo, I think we can move the show. Leo You got a briefing now? C.J. Yeah. Leo Show me what youre starting with. (Sorkin, Attie, Sperling, & Graves, 2001). Before the briefing, C.J. discovers that the prosecutor was a college buddy of an important White House employee. Rather than state this bluntly, C.J. tells the press about an article the prosecutor wrote while he was the editor of the Yale student newspaper; the White House employee was the coauthor of the article. The press takes C.J.s proverbial bait and discovers the last bit of information. It shows up in the news the next day and the House of Representatives decide that the prosecutor is too soft, and they speed the hearings along and absolve him of his duties. The press secretary effectively manipulated the situation and took control.

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36 Blackmail was another tactic that is characteristic of the puppet master frame. In episode 205, And Its Surely to Their Credit, an army general who is about to retire sends an aide to talk to C.J. The aide says the general has some concerns about the readiness of the armed forces, and he feels its his patriotic obligation to voice them to the public before he retires (Sorkin, Falls, Glasser, & Misiano, 2000). C.J. doesnt like this act of cowardice, that will make her organization look bad. She takes it upon herself to prevent the general from doing this. General Well, I'll be telling my story to Tim Russert. [turns to the door] C.J. No, I don't think you will, General. General [turns back] I'm sorry? C.J. I said, "I don't think you will." I notice among your many decorations is the Distinguished Combat Service Medal. You're wearing it now, as well as in numerous photographs, including some taken with enlisted men in the field. You won it while on temporary duty with the Navy's U.S.S. Brooke. The thing is, the Brooke was never fired on, and it never shot its guns. Right now, and in photographs, you're wearing a medal you never won. How does that usually go over with the boys? [long pause] General He never served in uniform, not once... and he presumes... C.J. Is there anything else, sir? (Sorkin, Falls, Glasser, & Misiano, 2000). The puppet master frame occurred when the five key public relations characters bribed other characters. For example, in episode 307, The Indians in the Lobby, Josh bribes a Georgia district attorney to do what is in the administrations best interest. A 13-year-old Georgia boy shot his teacher in the head. His parents immediately sequestered

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37 the boy out of the country, and Interpol arrested him in Rome. The state governor wants the boy back, but Italy wont extradite to a country with the death penalty. Josh flies to Atlanta to meet with the district attorney, who happens to be a prospective Democratic candidate for senator. Josh You raised $232,000 in four months, but then the well dried up after you prosecuted a corporate polluter and got stuck as anti-business. You were left with 41,500 for the last two months and that was the ball game. They stare at each other. A voice comes through the airport announcing the boarding of a flight to Dallas/Ft. Worth. District attorney [looks up to the ceiling towards the voice] That's my flight. Josh [reaches into jacket and pulls out an envelope, then places the envelope on the bar top] Guarantee you won't seek the death penalty, and you'll have endless media to explain it to your district. District attorney Josh, please don't tell me there's any money in that envelope. Josh Well, in a manner of speaking. District attorney Names. Josh Yeah, three of them. None of them local. Do it, I'm telling ya, and all three of them will take your call. (Sorkin & Barclay, 2001). Patriotism The patriotism frame dominated 21% (n=9) of the episodes. Of the episodes dominated by this frame, 100% (n=8) were overall positive or favorable towards public relations in tone. A patriot is one who loves his or her country (Merriam-Webster

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38 Dictionary, 1997, p.540). The patriotism frame occurred when the five main public relations characters acted as patriots. This frame is characterized by American values, particularly democratic values. Episodes dominated by this frame may be described as heart-warming. American values most often characterized the patriotism frame. Episodes dominated by the patriotism frame were in the spirit of the infamous poem at the foot of the Statue of LibertyGive me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore, Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door! (Lazarus, 1883). For example, in episode 216, Somebodys Going to Emergency, Somebodys Going to Jail, Leo informs all of the White House staffers that it is Big Block of Cheese Day. He explains, Andrew Jackson, in the main foyer of the White House had a big block of cheese. The block of cheese was huge. . the block of cheese was two-tons, and was there for any and all who might be hungry. It was there for the voiceless, the faceless. . (Redford, Sorkin, & Yu, 2001). He goes on to remind his staff that, in the spirit of Big Block of Cheese Day, they will all take on meetings with various people and groups that wouldnt ordinarily be able to get the ear of the White House (Redford, Sorkin, & Yu, 2001). In several episodes, the patriotism frame occurred when characters acted according to their personal sense of American values. In episode 319, Enemies Foreign and Domestic, C.J. makes a potentially damaging statement in a press briefing about 17 Saudi Arabia girls who died in a fire; no one would help them because they werent dressed properly.

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39 Reporter Well, do you have a comment? C.J. I don't. No. Reporter I'm sorry, C.J., but you're not outraged by this? C.J. Outraged? I'm barely surprised. This is a country where women aren't allowed to drive a car. They're not allowed to be in the company of any man other than a close relative, they're required to adhere to a dress code that would make the Maryknoll Nun look like Malibu Barbie. They beheaded 121 people last year for robbery, rape, and drug trafficking, they've no free press, no elected government, no political parties, and the royal family allows the religious police to travel in groups of six, carrying nightsticks and they freely and publicly beat women. But "Brutus is an honorable man." Seventeen schoolgirls were forced to burn alive because they weren't wearing the proper clothing. Am I outraged? No, Steve. No Chris. No, Mark. That is Saudi Arabia, our partners in peace. Bonnie, then Scott. (Redford, Sorkin, & Graves, 2002). Dominant Frames While more than one frame existed in many episodes, one frame was always dominant (i.e., primary frame). Frames that did not receive as much attention (did not dominate) were labeled secondary frames. When primary and secondary frames are combined (see Table 4), the puppet master frame occurs 44.6% (n=25) of the time and the image building frame occurs 34.5% of the time (n=20). A chi-square goodness of fit test was calculated to examine the distribution of the aggregate of primary and secondary frames used. A chi-square value of 22.857(5), p< .05, was found, indicating that there are differences in the proportions of primary and secondary frames used.

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40 Table 4. Distribution of primary and secondary frames. Frames Season two Season three Totals Puppet master primary 7 10 17 Image building primary 11 6 17 Patriotism primary 4 5 9 Puppet master secondary 6 2 8 Image building secondary 2 1 3 Patriotism secondary 0 2 2 Totals 30 26 56 Models RQ#2: What models of public relations are presented on The West Wing? All four models of public relationspress agentry, public information, two-way assymetrical, two-way symmetricalwere presented on The West Wing during seasons two and three. The public information model was presented in 79% (n=34) of the episodes. The two-way symmetrical model was portrayed in 51% (n=22) of the episodes. Both the press agentry and two-way asymmetrical models were portrayed in 33% (n=14) of the episodes. Most episodes, 63% (n=27) presented more than one model of public relations; however, one model typically dominated (see Table 5). The public information model was portrayed in the most episodes (n=34), followed by two-way symmetrical (n=22), and press agentry (n=14) and two-way asymmetrical (n=14). The public information model was also the dominant model practiced (53.5%, n=23). It was followed by two-way symmetrical, 37.2% (n=16), press agentry, 25.6% (n=11), and two-way assymetrical, 7% (n=3). While the press agentry and two-way assymetrical models were each

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41 portrayed in 14 episodes, the press agentry model was the dominant model practiced in 11 episodes and the two-way assymetrical model was the dominant model practiced in only three episodes. A chi-square goodness of fit test was calculated comparing the dominant models of public relations presented for both seasons. A chi-square value of 16.057(3), p< .05, was found, indicating that there are differences in the proportions of dominant models of public relations presented on The West Wing. Table 5. Models of public relations presented in The West Wing. Model Season two Season three Total Total portrayals 7 7 14 Press agentry Dominant portrayals 6 5 11 Portrayals 18 16 34 Public information Dominant portrayals 14 9 23 Portrayals 6 8 14 Two-way assymetrical Dominant portrayals 3 0 3 Portrayals 8 14 22 Two-way symmetrical Dominant portrayals 6 10 16 Practitioner Portrayals RQ#3: How are public relations practitioners portrayed on The West Wing? There are five public relations practitioner characters on The West Wingfour male (Leo, Josh, Toby and Sam) and one female (C.J.). None of the characters are married and two are divorced. The public relations characters on The West Wing hold a lot of power in their organization. They are all a part of the dominant coalition. Leo, Josh, Toby, Sam, and C.J. predominantly interacted with each other (61%, n=265). Thirty-nine percent of interactions (n=169) occurred with other characters such

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42 as: the media (reporters), congressmen and women, refugees, foreign dignitaries, ambassadors, the FBI, attorneys, other White House staff (secretaries, interns), U.S. citizens, the president and voters. The characters never describe their jobs to anyone; they only tell others their job title. The majority of interactions, 92% (n=398) take place in the White House and are work related (72%, n=312). Interactions that did not take place in the White House occurred in: Air Force One, bars, hotels, restaurants, the Capitol Building, the Hill, parks, and homes. There was no difference in the tone of front and back-region behaviors. Characters were overwhelmingly portrayed in the back region. When characters were portrayed in front regions, their behavior did not differ. For example, C.J. was just as sarcastic and witty with reporters during press briefings and conferences (front region) as she was with her fellow employees behind the closed doors of the west wing (back region). All five characters were rated on their work ethic, morality, and how trustworthy, honest and responsible they are on a five-item Likert-type scale (see Table 6). The mean rating (of all five characters) for work ethic was 4.71; responsibility, 3.98; morality, 3.9; honesty, 3.73; trustworthiness, 3.99. Sam was the only character to receive a rating less than 3, receiving a rating of 2.86 for responsibility. Table 6. Mean character ratings for seasons two and three on a five-item scale. Trustworthiness Honesty Work Ethic Responsibility Morality Leo 4.37 4.28 4.86 4.6 4.19 Josh 4.4 3.65 4.8 4.37 3.86 Toby 3.78 3.42 4.37 4.12 3.63 Sam 3.93 3.7 4.6 2.86 4.12 C.J. 3.47 3.58 4.93 3.91 3.7 Mean for all characters 3.99 3.73 4.71 3.98 3.9

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43 An independent sample t test was calculated comparing the mean scores of trustworthiness, honesty, work ethic, responsibility and morality for female characters (C.J.) to the mean scores of trustworthiness, honesty, work ethic, responsibility and morality for male characters (Leo, Josh, Toby and Sam). A significant difference was found for trustworthiness (t(213) = -4.047, p< .05) and work ethic (t(213) = 2.934, p< .05). C.J.s mean score for trustworthiness was significantly lower (m = 3.47, sd = .827) than the mens mean score for trustworthiness (m = 4.12, sd = .981). C.J.s mean score for work ethic was significantly higher (m = 4.93, sd = .258) than the mens mean score for work ethic (m = 4.66, sd = .596). Leo McGarry is the chief of staff. He is the hierarchical superior to all of the other public relations characters. Leo is clean-shaven and always dressed in a suit. He is approximately 60-years-old. It is revealed in seasons two and three that Leo is a recovering alcoholic and drug addict who regularly attends AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) meetings. He is a veteran of the Vietnam War and a former pilot. Leo is divorced, from Chicago, and has an Irish Catholic background. Leo interacts more with the president (his boss) and Joint Chiefs of Staff more than any of the other characters. All of his interactions with other characters take place in the White House. Leo is very powerful, oftentimes, making decisions for the president. All of Leos interactions with others result in some sort of action being takenthe other characters do as Leo says. Leos job responsibilities include: managing the other four characters, advising the president, and monitoring local and global news for potential opportunities and threats.

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44 Josh Lyman is the deputy chief of staff. He is second in command to Leo. Josh is approximately 40-years-old and is typically dressed in business attire. From seasons two and three, it is revealed that Josh is Jewish and likes baseball. He was born in Connecticut and is a graduate of Harvard and Yale. He does not drink alcohol because he has a sensitive system. Josh interacts more with his secretary/assistant than with any other characters on the show. There is a lot of sexual tension in their relationship. Josh is not good with women; however, he starts a relationship with a prominent womens rights activist at the end of season three. He is the only character shown as having a sexual relationship. Joshs main job duties are: assisting Leo, deciding when polls need to be conducted and what questions should go on the polls, and meeting with various congressional committees and special interest groups. Toby Ziegler is the director of communications. He reports to Leo, and has equivalent hierarchical status as Josh. Toby is 48-years-old, Jewish, divorced, and was born in Brooklyn, New York. He is always dressed in a suit, but his tie is typically loosened, and he appears to be disheveled. Toby is balding and has a beard and mustache. Toby is shown in bars and drinking alcohol more than any of the other characters; however, he does not have a drinking problem. Toby is usually grumpy or melancholy at besthe never smiles or laughs. He has a dry sense of humor and is a pessimist. Toby interacts with Sam more than the other characters because Sam is his deputy, and they write the presidents speeches together. In addition to writing speeches, Tobys responsibilities include: supervising C.J. and

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45 Sam and helping Leo decide what should go on the presidents agenda (this is often done when he writes speeches). Sam Seaborn is the deputy communications director. He is approximately 40-years-old. Sam was a prominent lawyer before he came to work at the White House. He is a native Californian and a graduate of Princeton and Duke Law. He cares what other people think about him, especially women. He is notoriously known for having slept with a call girl (from season one), and is formerly engaged, however, he does not have an ongoing relationship with any women in seasons two or three. Sam is a strong advocate of the environmental lobby and an excellent speechwriterall of the other characters think so. He tends to overreact when proper attention is not paid to his speeches. In addition to writing speeches, Sams responsibilities include meeting with various publics on behalf of the president. In episode 216, Somebodys going to emergency, somebodys going to jail, for example, Sam researches criminals who have applied for a presidential pardon and makes recommendations to the president. C.J. (Claudia Jean) Cregg is the press secretary. She is approximately 50-years-old and is the lowest person on the totem pole. Prior to becoming secretary, C.J. worked for a public relations firm in Hollywood, California. She is a graduate of Berkley. C.J interacts with reporters more than any of the other characters. This is mainly due to the fact that this is the primary function of her job. C.J. is humorous, witty and sarcastic. She typically makes reporters laugh during press briefings. C.J. is shown drinking socially in a few episodes and gets drunk with the First Lady in episode 316, Dead Irish Writers (Sorkin & Graves, 2002). Her sexuality is

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46 often a topic of conversation; however, she is not shown in any sexual situations. She does not date anyone in seasons two or three, mainly because she works too much. It is revealed in season two that she would date a certain reporter if he werent a reporter and she wasnt the press secretary. C.J.s primary responsibility is conducting and preparing for press briefings and conferences. She is constantly monitoring U.S. and global news and happenings of the White House in order to anticipate any and all questions members of the press may ask her. C.J.s position causes her to work and interact more with the media than any of the other characters. One of her duties is to prepare the president for every press conference and address he makes. C.J. is also responsible for various events at the White House (not all events). In episode 208, Shibboleth, for example, C.J. is in charge of the annual White House Thanksgiving event of pardoning a turkey. Specifically, she must choose the most photogenic turkey for the president to pardon from being eaten on Thanksgiving Day. She describes herself as the Thanksgiving Cruise Director. H1: The public relations profession and its practitioners will be negatively or unfavorably portrayed on The West Wing. Hypothesis one was not supported. Contrary to previous content analysis research that has found that the portrayal of public relations in the mass media is predominantly negative, the portrayal of public relations on The West Wing is predominantly positive. Additionally, public relations practitioners were found to be trustworthy, honest, responsible, and moral and to possess a strong work ethic. The positive or favorable portrayal of public relations on The West Wing is due in large part to the models practiced of public relations practiced. The public information

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47 model was portrayed most often, and it dominated more episodes than the other models. Oftentimes, the public information model is characterized by incomplete messages, selected to place the organization in a favorable light (Cutlip et al., 2000), however, that is not the case in The West Wing. The main characteristic of the public information model on The West Wing was simply the one-way dissemination of information to various publics via press conferences or briefings. The two-way symmetrical model was the second most portrayed model and second most dominant model of public relations practiced by the characters on The West Wing. This model, which epitomizes public relations, is characterized by an ongoing dialogue between an organization and its publics (Cutlip et al., 2000). The public relations characters are constantly meeting with various publics and conducting formative research to see what direction the American public wants the president to go with his policy formation. Finally, the fictional aspect of an entertainment television show may have contributed to the positive portrayal of public relations. The writers of The West Wing may have framed public relations, particularly the practitioner characters, positively, so viewers would relate to them and, therefore, comeback to watch the show week after week. Therefore, the findings of this study may differ from previous content analysis studies because the writers of the subject matter in previous studies (reporters, textbook authors, etc.) were obligated to be objective.

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CHAPTER 8 DISCUSSION This study explored how public relations is portrayed in entertainment television. Specifically, how public relations is framed, and which frames dominate, what models of public relations are presented, and how practitioners are portrayed. Past content analysis studies have focused on mass communication textbooks, newspapers, television news, film, and fiction novels. This study offers new insight into how public relations is portrayed in entertainment television. Additionally, this study offers new insight into the use of framing theory. This study suggests that while public relations practitioners, scholars and students should easily be able to identify the job duties and functions of Leo, Josh, Toby, Sam, and especially C.J., as being typical of a public relations practitioner, viewers who are unfamiliar with public relations may not be able to. Because the term public relations is never used and the term PR was only used twice in one episode, viewers who are ignorant about public relations may not recognize it when they see it. Viewers, however, may identify the job duties and functions of all five characters as communications since that word was used 25 times to describe their jobs. Additionally, viewers may label the characters or some of the characters as spin doctors since spin and various forms of the word were used 17 times. Viewers may not, however, associate spin with public relations, since the term public relations was never used. The ability of a viewer to identify the jobs of the five characters as a public relations job is complicated by the fact that the characters never describe their job in any 48

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49 of the episodes. Also, viewers may not be able to distinguish between the nature of public relations or communications jobs and politics, because the two are so intertwined. This study suggests that public relations is portrayed positively or favorably on The West Wing. This is due in large part to the social responsibility exhibited by all of the characters. From researching unjustly prosecuted criminals to receive presidential pardons to meeting with a cartographers association to better understand why the world map used in public schools should be changed, the characters took on numerous meetings and tasks in an effort to better understand and work for their publics. The study revealed that public relations practitioners are not accurately represented on The West Wing. All public relations practitioners on the show are Caucasian, and male practitioners outnumber female practitioners four to one. According to Grunig (2001, para. 15), however, public relations is a profession with a female majority and with practitioners of many racial and ethnic backgrounds. All of the public relations practitioners on The West Wing are part of the dominant coalition. Being part of the dominant coalition is something that all practitioners should strive for, however, most are not part of the powerful elite in their organization (Kelly, 1998). The public relations characters are portrayed as having a strong work ethic. This is due in part to the small amount of time devoted to showing their personal lives on the show. The show is named The West Wing for a reason most of it takes place in the west wing of the White House, and it centers on the work that goes on in the west wing. The strong work ethic of the characters examined may be interpreted as devotion and loyalty

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50 to their jobs or a love for their job. The practitioners strong work ethic may lead viewers to think that all of the public relations characters are workaholics or it may lead viewers to think that working for the President is very demanding. Viewers may think that public relations practitioners are extremely well educated. Characters discuss their prestigious alma maters in several episodes. It is well known among White House staffers that C.J. graduated from Berkley, Sam from Duke and Princeton, and Josh from Harvard and Yale. Most of the characters were found to be trustworthy, honest, responsible and moral. Sam is the only character that is somewhat irresponsible. In numerous episodes, Sam acts according to his strong convictions about the environment and need for others approval (especially womens approval) instead of acting appropriately for his position or on behalf of the President. He speaks without considering the ramifications of what he is saying. The definition of public relations used during the coding process was public relations is the management function that establishes and maintains mutually beneficial relationships between an organization and the public(s) on whom its success or failure depends (Cutlip, Center and Broom, 2000, p. 6). The organization is the President of the United States (or office of the President) and the publics are the White House staff (secretaries, FBI, interns, etc.), congress (House and Senate), media, the American public (voters, taxpayers, etc.), foreign governments, state governments, military, lobbyists (activist groups), etc. All of the episodes present public relations as a management function. Through meetings strategizing how to create, maintain or change public opinion and/or build

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51 relationships, the characters are constantly managing communication and relations with various publics. All of the episodes, however, do not portray public relations as the management of mutually beneficial relationships. This is evident in the dominant model of public relations practiced public information. The main characteristic of the public information model is the one-way flow of communication/information from the organization to its publics. There is no discourse between the organization and its publics, simply dissemination of information on behalf of the organization. The public information model was the dominant model portrayed in seasons two and three because the dominant tactic was press conferences and briefings. C.J. would stand behind a podium and tell reporters what the White House wanted them to know. If the reporters were lucky, she might answer one of their questions. If the reporters were unlucky, she would deflect their questions. Some of the episodes did portray public relations as the management of function of building and maintaining mutually beneficial relationships between an organization and its publics. This is evident in the second dominant model of public relations practiced in seasons two and three the two-way symmetrical model. The main characteristic of this model shown in The West Wing is an ongoing discourse between the organization and its publics or the two-way flow of information/communication. Strategies and tactics employed that were characteristic of this model included meetings with various publics and acting on behalf of various publics. In episode 210, Noel, for example, C.J. fields a question in a press briefing about a female tourist who screamed and fainted after seeing a painting in the White House that was donated by the French government. C.J. researches the incident and discovers that the womans father

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52 owned the painting before he was sent to Auschwitz, and the painting was confiscated by the Nazis. C.J. negotiates with the French government to give the painting to the woman. Not all strategies and tactics mentioned during seasons two and three were implemented. The majority was simply implemented no forethought or planning was shown. Only a full cultivation analysis would reveal if mentioning a strategy or tactic, implementing a strategy or tactic, or both mentioning and implementing a strategy or tactic would weigh more heavily with viewers. For purposes of this study, all three scenarios were considered equal. However, a tactic that is simply mentioned and not implemented may weigh as heavily or more heavily with viewers than a tactic that was only implemented. For example, strategizing in a private meeting that C.J. should lie and tell the press, The president really likes green beans, in fact, he is always looking for new green bean recipes may weigh just as heavily with viewers if it is or isnt said to the press (implemented). Frames Interestingly, the image-building frame and puppet master frame were used equally. Additionally, the number of negative, neutral, and positive portrayals of public relations in each frame was proportionally the same. The image-building frame was predominately positive (39.5%, n=17) and the puppet master frame was predominantly negative (39.5%, n=16). Both frames were concerned with maintaining a favorable image of the President; however, the puppet master frame took maintaining a favorable image to a different level. Episodes in the puppet master frame employed more underhanded and sneaky tactics than episodes in the image-building frame.

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53 It is not surprising that one frame was inherently positive and the other inherently negative. Items on the coding sheet such as strategies and tactics, tone, and model of public relations practiced, were used to develop the categories and code tree that aided in defining the frames. The tone thus became an innate characteristic of the frame. All of the episodes framed as patriotism were positive or favorable to public relations in tone. Even if there were underhanded or sneaky strategies and tactics mentioned, implemented, or both, the high sense of morality and values, particularly American and democratic values, associated with this frame, overshadowed any negativity. However, only a full cultivation analysis will reveal if negativity can be overshadowed by a high sense of morality or by a character doing the right thing. Image Building Frame The image-building frame dominated 39.5% of the episodes. It communicated that public relations is concerned mainly with maintaining a favorable image. The practice of maintaining favorable images is a stereotype of public relations that is perpetuated by the media according to Saunders (1993). Saunders (1993) found that 71% of first time public relations students at four Florida universities agreed or strongly agreed that public relations specialists make flower arrangements of the facts. Because The West Wing perpetuates this image of the profession through the image-building frame, viewers may develop the same thoughts about the profession as the students in Saunders study. After watching episodes framed as image building, viewers may think that public relations practitioners will do anything to make themselves and their organization look good. Viewers may come to distrust public relations practitioners.

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54 Episodes that framed public relations as image building also show viewers that public relations is not simply making flower arrangements of the facts. This frame reveals that public relations practitioners do not simply react to situations, they prevent them. As it is aptly named, the image building frame shows that a big part of the public relations practitioners job is to build relationships. Building strong relationships contributes positively to the image of the organization. The West Wing may frame public relations as the practice of image building because of the nature of politics, not public relations. The underlying plot in most of the third season was the presidents reelection campaign. In order for the president to get reelected, he must have a pristine image. Puppet Master Frame The puppet master frame also dominated 39.5% of the episodes. It communicated that public relations practitioners will do just about anything and everything to ensure that their organization/employer comes out on top. Blackmail, bribing, and leaking information to the press characterized this frame. Viewers may question the ethics of these practices. The puppet master frame may lead viewers to believe that public relations practitioners are fraudulent. On numerous occasions, characters deliberately deceived the public by leaking news stories to the press in order to get information into the public domain without having it be attributed to someone at the White House. While The West Wing portrays public relations negatively, as part of this frame, it is uncertain if viewers will attribute this frame to public relations or to politics. Viewers may attribute the string pulling the characters engage in as a characteristic of politics or they may view it as a characteristic of public relations.

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55 Patriotism Frame According to Topping (2002), the very nature of The West Wing makes viewers proud of the red, white, and blue. The patriotism frame reveals that the five main public relations characters play an important role in making viewers feel proud of the United States. Viewers may feel like they can relate to episodes framed as patriotism, especially since the plots of many episodes in this frame are directly related to current issues in the United States. The public relations characters on the show have dealt with war, gun control, and Big Tobacco. The public relations characters act according to their own values American and democratic values in episodes framed as patriotism. Viewers may relate to characters who act on behalf of their morals and sense of American values rather than what is appropriate for their job. Framing Theory This study offers new insight into the applications of framing theory. Framing studies typically examine nonfiction media, i.e., newspapers, television news, journals, magazines. Little to no framing studies have examined how information is framed in fictional media, particularly primetime television programming. This study shows that framing is a useful paradigm for determining how an occupation and its professionals are portrayed in entertainment television programming. Specifically, it is useful in examining what elements of the profession and its professionals are emphasized and what are excluded. This is contrary to previous studies that have simply relied on content analysis to determine how various professions and their professionals are portrayed. By discovering the emergent frames of a television

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56 show depicting a particular profession, professionals can see how the social reality of their profession is constructed for viewers. Implications for the Public Relations Profession Most public relations scholars, practitioners, and students would agree that the general public does not know much about the profession or its practitioners. Generally, the American public does not encounter public relations practitioners as often as they do other professionals such as doctors, attorneys, salesmen, etc. The public typically experiences public relations through the media; therefore, it is important how the profession is portrayed in the media. Numerous studies, including this one, have attempted to determine how public relations is portrayed in the media. Historically, the media channels that most often portray the profession are news media; however, because the profession is one of the fastest growing occupational fields in the United States (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2004), its portrayals in the media, particularly entertainment media, are increasing. Public relations professionals, scholars, and organizations, such as the Public Relations Society of America, need to be more attentive to how the profession is portrayed in all types of media, particularly entertainment media. Public relations practitioners have long indicated that the profession has its own public relations problem. Studies, including this one, indicate that the profession is misunderstood. One problem that needs to be addressed is the name of the profession public relations. According to Sparks (1993, p. 27), the credibility of our industry public relations is so low that many practitioners are distancing themselves from the term public relations while continuing to practice the discipline of public relations. She declares that the term public relations is being replaced with alternative terminology such

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57 as public communications, public affairs, corporate communications, and marketing communications. As aforementioned, The West Wing is modeled after the real-life drama of the communications office in the White House. The term public relations is never used in seasons two or three, yet communications is used numerous times. Perhaps that is simply a reflection of reality. Does the U.S. government rely on terms such as public affairs, press secretary and communications director to describe the public relations discipline and its practitioners because they recognize that low credibility is associated with the term public relations? Limitations of Study and Recommendations for Future Research What makes good politics may not make good public relations and vice versa. The political premise of The West Wing is a limitation. While the characters function as public relations practitioners, they also function as political strategists; therefore, it is difficult at times to determine if a character is acting according their political motivations or if they are acting in an effort to build and maintain mutually beneficial relationships for the President. A framing analysis of public relations in the primetime television drama The West Wing cannot suffice for a framing analysis of public relations in entertainment television. The West Wing is not representative of the entire public relations field. The models of public relations practiced, strategies and tactics employed in politics may vary greatly from models practiced and strategies and tactics employed in nonprofits, public relations agencies, and industry. Framing and content analysis of other entertainment television shows portraying public relations should be conducted.

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58 A full cultivation analysis to examine the relationship between television coverage of public relations in The West Wing and audience perceptions of public relations should be conducted. A full cultivation analysis would exhaust or add credibility to this study. It would either create cause for concern or lay-to-rest any concerns public relations practitioners and scholars have about how public relations is portrayed in entertainment television. A cultivation analysis would examine several things. First, it would determine if viewers of The West Wing are knowledgeable of the public relations profession. Second, it would determine if viewers of the show recognize Leo, Josh, Toby, Sam, or C.J. as public relations practitioners or if they simply see them as political strategists. Third, a cultivation analysis would reveal if viewers knowledge and opinion of the public relations profession and its practitioners changes after watching the show. Finally, a cultivation analysis would determine if the amount of time spent watching The West Wing effects viewers perceptions of public relations. While a causal relationship cannot be determined from this study, recent public opinion data suggests that while Americans still do not trust the public relations industry, the amount of trust in public relations may be on the rise. According to a 2002 survey of more than 700 Americans, the public relations industry is more trustworthy than the following industries: advertising, marketing, journalism, telecommunication, insurance, accounting, oil/gas, utilities, and airlines/travel (Lohman, 2002). A cultivation analysis would reveal if The West Wing has created an increase in trust in the public relations profession.

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59 Research should be conducted to determine how the general American public views the public relations profession and its practitioners even if a full cultivation analysis of The West Wing is not conducted. Perhaps, simply surveying the general public about their knowledge and opinion of public relations would suffice. Finally, it is highly recommended that future studies be conducted in order to determine if the name of the public relations profession should be changed, and implications associated with a name change. Would changing the name of the profession make it more or less credible? Would a name change help or harm the profession?

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CHAPTER 9 CONCLUSION Research has shown that the public relations profession suffers from a poor reputation. A poor reputation due in part to the negative stereotypes perpetuated by the mass media. This study reveals that while negative stereotypes of the profession are evident in primetime entertainment television via The West Wing, entertainment television (The West Wing) provides a more balanced picture of the profession than other mass media outlets. The West Wing shows both positive and negative aspects of the public relations profession and its practitioners. Approximately 50% (n=20) of the episodes in seasons two and three were positive or favorable towards public relations in tone, and approximately 40% (n=16) were negative or unfavorable towards public relations in tone. The most idealized model of public relations, two-way symmetrical, was portrayed in 51% of the episodes (n=22). And practitioners were shown to be trustworthy, honest, responsible, moral, and possessed a strong work ethic. It is fairly evident through the work of other researchers that the public may not understand the purpose of public relations and what its practitioners do. The West Wing gives the public a look at what public relations is and what its practitioners do without referring to public relationsthe term was never used in either season. Only a full cultivation analysis will reveal if the public understands the profession after viewing The West Wing. 60

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61 Viewers of The West Wing may not be able to tell where public relations ends and politics begin and vice versa. At times, politics and public relations are indistinguishable. This is evident in the frames that emerged. Through the image building frame, which dominated 39.5% (n=17) of the episodes, public relations was framed as a profession concerned with building and maintaining images. Image building must occur in the political arena because a candidates image is what gets him or her elected and reelected. Through the puppet master frame, which also dominated 39.5% (n=17) of the episodes, public relations practitioners were framed as string-pullers who do anything and everything to manipulate others and events so their organization comes out on top. Politicians and their employees must pull strings to get bills passed and make their constituents happy. Through the patriotism frame, public relations practitioners were as people who act out of love, respect and a sense of duty to their country. Politicians act patriotically as well. The effects of The West Wing on the publics perception of public relations and its practitioners will not be fully known until a cultivation analysis is conducted. The picture the media paints of public relations and its practitioners can affect how the profession is perceived. How the profession is perceived greatly affects how organizations that employ public relations are perceived. In order for the profession to overcome its image problem, and improve credibility, it must work to change how the media portrays it. If The West Wing, an entertainment televisions show, has the ability to change how the American public perceives the President of the United States (Holbert et al., 2003), it

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62 may have the ability to change how the American public perceives public relations and its practitioners.

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APPENDIX A EPISODE GUIDE Season Two 201: In The Shadow Of Two Gunmen: Part I 202: In The Shadow Of Two Gunmen: Part Ii 203: The Midterms 204: In This White House 205: And It's Surely To Their Credit 206: The Lame Duck Congress 207: The Portland Trip 208: Shibboleth 209: Galileo 210: Noel 211: The Leadership Breakfast 212: The Drop-In 213: Bartlet's Third State Of The Union 214: The War At Home 215: Ellie 216: Somebody's Going To Emergency, Somebody's Going To Jail 217: The Stackhouse Filibuster 63

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64 218: 17 People 219: Bad Moon Rising 220: The Fall's Gonna Kill You 221: 18th And Potomac 222: Two Cathedrals Season Three 300: Isaac And Ishmael 301: Manchester, Part I 302: Manchester, Part II 303: Ways And Means 304: On The Day Before 305: War Crimes 306: Gone Quiet 307: The Indians In The Lobby 308: The Women Of Qumar 309: Bartlet For America 310: H.Con-172 311: 100,000 Airplanes 312: The Two Bartlets 313: Night Five 314: Hartsfield's Landing 315: Dead Irish Writers 316: The U.S. Poet Laureate

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65 317: Stirred 318: Documentary Special 319: Enemies Foreign And Domestic 320: The Black Vera Wang 321: We Killed Yamamoto 322: Posse Comitatus

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APPENDIX B CODING SHEET ID# _____ 1. Name of Episode 2. Date originally aired ____/____/____ 3. Day of week 4. Date aired in syndication ____/____/____ 5. Day of week 6. Plot 7. Subplots 8. What is the overall tone of public relations in this episode? -negative/unfavorableneutral +positive/favorable+ 9. References to public relations: PR Public relations Publicity Spin doctor/doctoring Public information officer Press Secretary Gatekeeper Media relations Spokesperson Other: 66

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67 10. List the public relations strategies and tactics mentioned and implemented. Strategy/Tactic Mentioned Implemented 11. Models of public relations practiced. ____ Press Agentry ____ Public Information ____ Two-way asymmetrical ____ Two-way symmetrical 12. Provide the demographics of each public relations character. This will not be necessary for every episode. Name ~ Age Race Sex Description CJ Caucasian Female Leo Caucasian Male Sam Caucasian Male Toby Caucasian Male Josh Caucasian Male Character __________ 13. Does the character describe their job to anyone in this episode? If so, what do they say? 14. Who did they interact with in this episode? 15. What was the context of the interaction? Was it work-related or personnel?

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68 16. What was the topic of conversation? 17. What was the outcome of the interaction? 18. Where did the interaction take place? (At the white house, a bar, on a plane, press conference, etc.) 19. What activities does the character engage in? Professional and personal. 20. What are the recurring traits of the character? 21. Rate the character on each of the following: Not at all Absolutely Trustworthiness 1 2 3 4 5 Honesty 1 2 3 4 5 Work ethic 1 2 3 4 5 Responsibility 1 2 3 4 5 Morality 1 2 3 4 5

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APPENDIX C CODING GUIDE Refer to the following definition for answering, what is public relations? Public relations is the management function that establishes and maintains mutually beneficial relationships between an organization and the public on whom its success or failure depends. In the case of The West Wing, the organization is the office of the President. The publics are: White house staff (secretaries, FBI, interns, etc.), congress, media, the American public (voters, taxpayers, etc.), foreign governments, state governments, military, lobbyists (activist groups), etc. Therefore, public relations in The West Wing, is the management function that establishes and maintains mutually beneficial relationships between the President of the United States (or office of the President) and the aforementioned publics on whom its success or failure depends. For purposes of this study, only public relations activities thought of or carried out by the five main public relations characters (Leo, CJ, Sam, Toby and Josh) will be considered. ID# _____ (Episode number) 13. Name of Episode 14. Date originally aireddd/mm/yy. 15. Day of week. All Wednesday. 16. Date aired in syndicationdd/mm/yy. 17. Day of week. Write the day of week the episode aired in syndication. 18. Plot Briefly describe the plot of the episode. This information can be obtained from the NBC web site. This will be professional related. For example: In this episode, the president and staff prepare to run for reelection. Meanwhile, CJ makes a potentially damaging statement to the press. 69

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70 19. Subplotsbriefly describe the subplots of the episode. This will be drama relatedit will not deal with a public relations activities. For example: Josh is having an affair with a White House intern. 20. What is the overall tone of public relations in this episode? -negative/unfavorableneutral +positive/favorable+ Circle the appropriate tone. 21. References to public relations: Record how many times each of the terms below are used in the episode. Record alternate terms for public relations that are not listed. PR Public relations Publicity Propaganda Spin doctor(ing) Public information officer Press Secretary Gatekeeper Media relations Spokesperson Other: 22. List the public relations strategies and tactics mentioned and implemented. For example: The public relations characters could meet to discuss specific strategies and tactics to use in the reelection campaign; however, they may not implement any of those strategies or tactics in that episode. If that is the case, you will record the strategy or tactic and place a (x) in the corresponding box mentioned or implemented. Strategy/Tactic Mentioned Implemented

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71 23. Models of public relations practiced. Based on the following definitions, and the strategies and tactics above, rankorder the model practiced in the episode. 1 = predominate model to 4 = least used model. If two models are used equally, place the same number next to each model. For example: If press agentry and public information are the only models used in the episode, and they are used equally, place a 1 next to each model. If you are unable to determine which model is being practiced, mark N/A. If a model is not used, leave it blank. Press Agentry Public Information Two-way asymmetrical Two-way symmetrical Definition Creating newsworthy stories and events to attract media attention and to gain public notice. No effort is made to balance the organizations needs with the publics needs. The org.s interests take precedence. Research is conducted to find out what the public likes about the organization and that aspect is highlighted. Mutually beneficial relationships are maintained between the organization and its publics. Purpose Propagandize a cause Disseminated needs information Persuade Reach mutual understanding Nature of communication One-way Unbalanced effects Truth not important One-way Unbalanced effects Truth important Two-way unbalanced effects Two-way balanced effects Example strategies and tactics: The president visits a red Press conference. Polling. The PR staff shows voters The president visits a red cross shelter after a hurricane and talks

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72 cross shelter after a hurricane and the media are notified. 3 different delivery methods of the same state of the union speech to determine which delivery method the pres. should use. with victims. Victims tell him that evacuation routes were not publicized. The president gets someone to correct the problem with the evacuation routes. ____ Press Agentry ____ Public Information ____ Two-way asymmetrical ____ Two-way symmetrical 24. Provide the demographics of each public relations character. This will not be necessary for every episode. Give the approximate age of each character and provide a brief description of how they dress, how they look, etc. For example: Toby is balding, has a beard and mustache. He wears a suit, but his tie is always loosened. Name ~ Age Race Sex Description CJ Caucasian Female Leo Caucasian Male Sam Caucasian Male Toby Caucasian Male Josh Caucasian Male Character __________ 22. Does the character describe their job to anyone in this episode? If so, what do they say? 23. Who did they interact with in this episode? The press, each other, significant others, congress, etc.

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73 24. What was the context of the interaction? Was it work-related or personnel? A press conference, a date with a significant other, dinner with a senator, etc. 25. What was the topic of conversation? 26. What was the outcome of the interaction? 27. Where did the interaction take place? (At the white house, a bar, on a plane, press conference, etc.) 28. What activities does the character engage in? Professional and personal. Smoking, drinking, volunteering, mentoring, sexual relations. 29. What are the recurring traits of the character? Bossy, driven, isolated, lazy, pushy, understanding, sympathetic, grumpy, etc. 30. Rate the character on each of the following: Not at all Absolutely Trustworthiness 1 2 3 4 5 Honesty 1 2 3 4 5 Work ethic 1 2 3 4 5 Responsibility 1 2 3 4 5 Morality 1 2 3 4 5

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74 LIST OF REFERENCES Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Emmy results Retrieved October 26, 2003 from http://emmys.redlinemedia.com/awards/results Aronoff, C. (1975). Credibility of public relations for journalists. Public Relations Review, 1(2), p. 45-56. August, M. & McDowell, J. (2002, April 1). The new capitol gang. Time, 159(13), p. 64-65. Bishop, R. L. (1988). What news papers say about public relations Public Relations Review, 14(2), p. 51-51. Boeije, H. (2002). A purposeful approach to the constant comparative method in the analysis of qualitative interviews. Quality and Quantity, 36, p. 391-409. Brody, E. W. (1984). Antipathy betw een PR, journalism exaggerated Public Relations Review, 10(4), p. 11-16. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved March 15, 2004 from http://stats.bls.gov/oc o/content/ocos086.stm Callison, C. (2001). Do PR practitioners have a PR problem? The eff ect of associating a source with public relations and client-negative ne ws on audience perception credibility. Journal of Public Relations Research, 13(3), p. 219-234. Cline, C. (1982). The image of public relations in mass comm texts Public Relations Review, 8(3), p. 63-72. Cutlip, S.M., Center, A.H., & Broom, G.M. (2000). Effective Public Relations 8th edition. Duhe, S. F., & Zoch, L. M. (1994). Fram ing the medias agenda during a crisis. Public Relations Quarterly, 39(4), p. 42. Entman, R. (1993). Framing: Toward cl arification of a fractured paradigm. Journal of Communication 43(4), 51-58. Falls, K. (Writer), Sorkin, A. (Writer), & Graves, A. (Director). (2000). Galileo [Television series episode]. In A. So rkin, T. Schlamme, & J. Wells (Executive Producers), The West Wing New York: National Broadcasting Company.

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75 Gard. C. (2001). How the media portray mental illness. Current Health, 228(1), p. 2425. Gerbner, G., & Gross, L. (1976). Living w ith television: the violence profile. Journal of Communication, 26, p. 173-199. Gerbner, G., Gross, L., Signorielli, N., & Mo rgan, M. (1980). Aging with television: images on television drama and c onceptions of social reality. Journal of Communication p. 37-47. Gitlin, T. (1980). The Whole World is Watching: Mass Media in the Making and Unmaking of the New Left. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. Glaser, B.G., & Strauss, A. L. (1967). The Discovery of Grounded Theory: Strategies for Qualitative Research. Chicago: Aldine. Grunig, J.E. (2001). Speech delivered in Taipei, Taiwan. Retrieved March 24,, 2004 from ( http://www.instituteforpr.com/pr_and_ management.phtml?article_id=2001_role_p r_management ) Grunig, J.E., & Hunt, T. (1984). Managing public relations. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston. Hallahan, K. (1999). Seven models of fram ing: Implications for public relations. Journal of Public Relations Research 11(3), 205. Hawkins, R. P., & Pingree, S. (1981). Usi ng television to constr uct social reality. Journal of Broadcasting, 25(4), p. 347-364. Hertog, J., & McLeod, D. (2001). A Multiperspec tival Approach to Framing Analysis: A Field Guide. In S. Reese, O. Gandy and A. Grant (Eds.), Framing Public Life: Perspectives on Media and Our Un derstanding of the Social World (139-161). New Jersey: Erlbaum. Holbert, R. L., Shah, D. V., & Kwak, N. ( 2003). Political implications of prime-time drama and sitcom use: genres or repr esentation and opinions concerning womens rights. Journal of Communication, p. 45-60. Holbert, R. L., Pillion, O., Tschida, D. A., Ar mfield, G. G., Kinder, K., Cherry, K. L., & Daulton, A. R. (2003). The West Wing as endorsement of the U.S. presidency: expanding the bounds of priming in political communication. Journal of Communication, p. 427-443. Kaid, L. L. (1989). Content Analysis. In P. Emmert and L. Barker (Eds.), Measurement of Communication Behavior (p. 197-217). New York: Longman. Keenan, K. L. (1996). Network television news coverage of public relations: an expletory census of content. Public Relations Review, 22, p. 215-31.

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76 Kelly, K. S. (1998). Effective fund-raising management. London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers. Kopenhaver, L. L. (1984). Aligning va lues of practitione rs and journalists Public Relations Review, 11(2), p. 34-42. Krippendorff, K. (1980). Content analysis: An intr oduction to its methodology. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage. Lauffer, K. A. (2002). Defining and dramatizin g death: a framing analysis of newspaper coverage of physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia in selected Michigan newspapers from 1996 to 1999. Dissertation, Univer sity of Florida.. Lazarus, E. (1883). The New Colossus N.p.: n.d. Lohman, M (2002). Golin/Harris trust survey finds 69 percent of Americans say I just dont know whom to trust anymore. Retrieved April 15, 2004 from http://www.prfirms.org/res ources/research/trust.asp. Maher, T. (2001). Framing: An Emerging Paradi gm or a Phase of Agenda Setting. In S. Reese, O. Gandy and A. Grant (Eds.), Framing Public Life: Perspectives on Media and Our Understanding of the Social World (p. 83-94). New Jersey: Erlbaum. Malmsheimer, R. (1988). Doctors only: the evolving im age of the American Physician. New York: Greenwood Press. Merriam-Webster Dictionary (1997). Boston, Massachusetts: MerriamWebster, Incorporated. Meyrowitz, J. (1985). No sense of place: The impac t of electronic media on social behavior. New York: Oxford University Press. Miller, K. S. (1999). Public relations in film and fiction: 1930 to 1995 Journal of Public Relations Research, 11(1), p. 3-28. Miller, M., & Riechert, B. (2001). The Spir al of Opportunity a nd Frame Resonance: Mapping the Issue Cycle in News and Pub lic Discourse. In S. Reese, O. Gandy and A. Grant (Eds.), Framing Public Life: Perspectives on Media and Our Understanding of the Social World (107-121). New Jersey: Erlbaum. New Capitol Gang, The. (2002, April 1). Time, 159(13), p. 64-65. Palenchar, Michael J. (2001). Media Cove rage of Risk Events : A Framing Comparison of Two Fatal Manufacturing Accidents, A ssociation for Education in Journalism and Mass Communications Conference. Pan, Z. & Kosicki, G. M. (1993). Framing an alysis: An approach to news discourse. Political Communication, 10, p. 61-75.

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77 Pfau, M. & Mullen, L. J. (1995). The in fluence of television viewing on public perceptions of physicians. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 39(4), p. 441-59. Pfau, M., Mullen, L.J., Diedrich, T., & Ga rrow, K. (1995). Television viewing and public perceptions of attorneys. Human Communication Research, 21, p. 307-330. Potter, W. J. (1994). Cultivation theory and research. Journalism Monographs, 147, p. 1-34. Potter, W. J., & Chang, I.C. (1990). Televi sion exposure measures and the cultivation hypothesis. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 34(3), p. 313-333. Redford, P. (Writer), Sorkin, A. (Writer), & Graves, A. (Director). (2002). Enemies foreign and domestic [Television series epis ode]. In A. Sorkin, T. Schlamme, & J. Wells (Executive Producers), The West Wing New York: National Broadcasting Company. Redford, P. (Writer), Sorkin, A. (Writer), & Yu, J. (Director). (2001). Somebodys going to emergency, somebodys going to jail [Television series episode]. In A. Sorkin, T. Schlamme, & J. Wells (Executive Producers), The West Wing New York: National Broadcasting Company. Redford, P. (Writer), & Winant, S. (Direct or). (2001). The leadership breakfast [Television series episode]. In A. So rkin, T. Schlamme, & J. Wells (Executive Producers), The West Wing New York: National Broadcasting Company. Rouner, D. (1984). Active television viewing and the cultivation hypothesis. Journalism Quarterly, 61, p. 168-174. Saunders, M. (1993). Media di storts fields image. The Public Relations Journal, 49(10), p. 8. Scheufele, D. A. (2000). Agenda-setting, primi ng, and framing revisited: another look at cognitive effects of pol itical communication. Mass Communication & Society, 3(2&3), p. 297-316. Schramm, W., Lyle, J., & Parker, E.B. (1961). Television in the lives of our children. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Signorielli, N. (1987). Drinking, se x, and violence on television: the cultural indicators perspective. Journal of Drug Education, 17, p. 245-260. Sorkin, A. (Writer), Abner, A. (Writer), Myer s, D. (Writer), & Misl ano, C. (Director). (2001). Bartlets third state of the union [Television series episode]. In A. Sorkin, T. Schlamme, & J. Wells (Executive Producers), The West Wing New York: National Broadcasting Company.

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78 Sorkin, A. (Writer), Attie, E. (Writer), Sper ling, G. (Writer), & Grav es, A. (Director). (2001). Ways and means [Television series episode]. In A. Sorkin, T. Schlamme, & J. Wells (Executive Producers), The West Wing New York: National Broadcasting Company. Sorkin, A. (Writer), & Barclay, P. (Direct or). (2001). The indians in the lobby [Television series episode]. In A. So rkin, T. Schlamme, & J. Wells (Executive Producers), The West Wing New York: National Broadcasting Company. Sorkin, A. (Writer), Falls, K. (Writer), Gla sser, L. (Writer), & Misiano, C. (Director). (2000). And its surely to their credit [Telev ision series episode]. In A. Sorkin, T. Schlamme, & J. Wells (Executive Producers), The West Wing New York: National Broadcasting Company. Sorkin, A. (Writer), & Graves, A. (Director). (2002). Dead Irish writers [Television series episode]. In A. Sorkin, T. Sc hlamme, & J. Wells (Executive Producers), The West Wing New York: Nationa l Broadcasting Company. Sorkin, A. (Writer), ODonnell, L., Jr. (Write r), & Antonio, L. (Director). (2001). The drop-in [Television series episode]. In A. Sorkin, T. Schlamme, & J. Wells (Executive Producers), The West Wing New York: National Broadcasting Company. Sorkin, A., Schlamme, T., & Wells, J. (Executive Producers) (2000-2002). The West Wing [Television series]. New York : National Broadcasting Company. Sparks, S. D. (1993). Public relations : is it dangerous to use the term? Public Relations Quarterly, 38(3), p. 27-28. Spicer, C. H. (1993). Images of Pub lic Relations in the Print Media. Journal of Public Relations Research, 5(1), p. 47-61. Tan, A. S. (1982). Television us e and social stereotypes. Journalism Quarterly, 59, p. 119-122. Topping, K. (2002). An unofficial and unauthorized guide to The West Wing: inside Bartlets White House. London: Virgin Books. Tucker, K. (2001, October 19). Broken wing. Entertainment Weekly, 621, p. 19. Valkenburg, P.M., & Patiwael, M. (1998). Do es watching court TV cultivate peoples perceptions of crime? Gazette, 60(3), p. 227-238. Volgy, T.J., & Schwarz, J.E. (1980). TV entertainment programmi ng and sociopolitical attitudes. Journalism Quarterly, 57, p. 150-155.

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79 Zoch, L.M., & Molleda, J.C. (2000). Build ing a theoretical mode l of media relations using framing, information subsidies and agenda setting. Presented at the 2000 Annual Conference of the National Comm unication Association, Seattle, WA, 25pp.

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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Staci Lyn Priest is a lifelong resident of north central Florida. She received her Bachelor of Science in Public Relations degree from the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida, in May of 2002. Priest decided to pursue a career in public relations because of the creative and learning opportunities it affords. Priests ultimate career goal is to own and operate her own public relations firm. Priests interest in how the general public perceives public relations came after years of unsuccessfully explaining what public relations is to others (i.e., trying to answer the question what are you getting your degree in, again?). This interest was furthered because Priest feels that public relations practitioners, scholars and organizations should do something to change the somewhat soiled reputation of the profession. 80


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PUBLIC RELATIONS IN PRIMETIME:
A FRAMING ANALYSIS OF THE WEST WING















By

STACI L. PRIEST


A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
MASTER OF ARTS IN MASS COMMUNICATION

UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA


2004

































Copyright 2004

by

Staci Priest



























This document is dedicated to my grandmother, Virginia Word Priest.















ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I thank Arron Angelo for always believing in me. I thank my parents for all of

their love, support, and encouragement. I thank Dr. Spiro Kiousis for his patience and

guidance. I thank Dr. Meg Lamme, Dr. Debbie Treise, and Dr. Leonard Tipton for their

assistance and support in completing my thesis.
















TABLE OF CONTENTS

page

A C K N O W L E D G M E N T S ................................................................................................. iv

L IST O F T A B L E S ........ .......................................................... ..................... vii

A B S T R A C T ......... .................................. ................................................... v iii

CHAPTER

1 IN TR O D U C TIO N ......................................................................... .... .. ........

2 B A C K G R O U N D .................... .... ................................ ...... ........ ...............

Past Perception Studies.................. .. .............. ....... .........3
P ast C content Studies ................................................................. ................ .. 5

3 CULTIVATION THEORY ............................................................. .................9

4 TH EO R Y O F FR A M IN G ........................................................................... ........ 13

Fram ing B background .................. ....................................... .. ........ .... 13
F ram in g D efin ed ............................................................. ............ ..... ..... 14

5 TH E W E ST W IN G ....................................................................... ........................... 17

6 M E T H O D O L O G Y ............................................................................. ................... 20

S am p le S election ................................................................2 1
In stru m e n t .............................................................................................................. 2 2
A n a ly sis ..............................................................................2 6

7 R E S U L T S .............................................................................................................. 2 8

S trateg ies an d T tactics ............................................................................................ 3 0
F ram es .................................................. 3 1
Image Building ........................................................................................................31
P u p p et M a ster ................................................................................ 3 4
P a trio tism ........................................................................................................ 3 7
D om inant Fram es .......................................................................................... ........39


V









M o d e ls ....................................................... 4 0
P ractition er P portray als ........................................................................ ................... 4 1

8 DISCUSSION .................. .................................... .......... .......... 48

F ra m e s ............................................................................5 2
Im age B building Fram e ...................... ........................ .. .... ................ 53
Puppet M aster Fram e .................. .............................. ........ .............. .. 54
P atrio tism F ram e .................................................................................................... 5 5
Fram ing Theory .................................................... ......... 55
Implications for the Public Relations Profession.................................... 56
Limitations of Study and Recommendations for Future Research.............................57

9 C O N C L U SIO N ......... ......................................................................... ......... ........60

APPENDIX

A E P ISO D E G U ID E ............................................................................. ....................63

S ea so n T w o ....................................................................... 6 3
S ea so n T h re e ..................................................................... 6 4

B C O D IN G SH EE T ...................... .......................... ....... ... ....... ..66

C CO D IN G G U ID E ......................................... .. .. .. .. ...... ... ....... ..69

L IST O F R E F E R E N C E S ......... ................. ........................................ .......................... 74

BIOGRAPH ICAL SKETCH ..................................................... 80
















LIST OF TABLES

Table p

1. R eferences to public relations ............................................... ............................ 29

2 T one of public relations. ............................. ............... ....................................... ....29

3. Strategies and tactics .................. ..................................... .. ...... .... 30

4. Distribution of primary and secondary frames. ................................. .................40

5. Models of public relations presented in The West Wing ................. ...... ............41

6. Mean character ratings for seasons two and three on a five-item scale...................42















Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Master of Arts in Mass Communication.

PUBLIC RELATIONS IN PRIMETIME:
A FRAMING ANALYSIS OF THE WEST WING

By

Staci L. Priest

August 2004

Chair: Spiro Kiousis
Major Department: Mass Communication

This study analyzed the portrayal of public relations and its practitioners in seasons

two and three of the primetime television drama The West Wing. The research questions

were (1) how is public relations framed on The West Wing and what frames dominated,

(2) what models of public relations are presented on The West Wing, and (3) how are

public relations practitioners portrayed on The West Wing?

The three frames that emerged were "image building," "puppet master," and

"patriotism." The most common frames in the two seasons were "image building" and

"puppet master" (39.5%, n=17 episodes, respectively). The "image building" frame

defined public relations as the management function of keeping up appearances. It most

often involved making the public relations practitioner's organization and employer look

better than the other guy-no holds barred. The "puppet master" frame defined public

relations as the management function that incorporates any means possible to control a

particular situation, circumstance or event. The five main public relations characters









were the "puppet masters" who pull the strings of all the other characters getting them to

do and act as they wish. The "patriotism" frame occurred in 21% (n=9) of the episodes.

This frame occurred when the public relations practitioner characters acted on behalf of a

love for the United States.

The dominant model of public relations practiced on seasons two and three of The

West Wing was the public information model (n=34), followed by the two-way

symmetrical model (n=22).

Contrary to previous public opinion and content analysis research, public relations

and its practitioners were portrayed positively or favorably on The West Wing. On

average, the five public relations practitioner characters were found to be trustworthy,

honest, responsible, moral, and to posses a strong work ethic.














CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION

Years of public relations research has indicated that while one function of public

relations is to maintain favorable images, the profession does not maintain a favorable

image of its own. The major professional organization for public relations practitioners,

the Public Relations Society of America, recognized this in 1994 and decided to conduct

a five-year credibility study. The results, which were released in 1999, revealed that

public relations practitioners ranked 42nd in credibility out of 44 public figures (Supreme

Court justices ranked first). Other perception studies have shown that journalists are

antagonistic toward the profession and its practitioners (e.g., Aronoff, 1975; Brody, 1984;

Kopenhaver, 1984), and that the general public believes public relations practitioners and

the organizations they represent are not credible (e.g., Callison, 2001). Researchers have

attempted to determine where the negative reputation of public relations originated from

through content analysis studies. Everything from mass communication textbooks (e.g.,

Cline, 1982) to newspapers (e.g., Bishop, 1988; Spicer, 1993) to network television news

(e.g., Keenan, 1996) to film and fiction (e.g., Miller, 1999) has been examined.

Still lacking in the content analysis research is an examination of how public

relations is portrayed in entertainment television. Cultivation theory has shown that

beliefs and attitudes of the public often correlate with what the public views on

entertainment television. A framing analysis of The West Wing will build on previous

perception and content analysis studies while providing a description of entertainment






2


television content from which to build future theory and research on public perceptions of

public relations.














CHAPTER 2
BACKGROUND

Past Perception Studies

Survey research examining journalists' and public relations practitioners' attitudes

and perceptions held about each other has evolved over the past three decades to content

analysis of news and entertainment media in an effort to determine how public relations

is framed for the general public. Aronoff (1975) is credited with starting this long line of

research when he examined the attitudes and perceptions of Texas journalists toward

public relations practitioners and the attitudes of Texas public relations practitioners and

public information officers toward journalists (Kopenhaver, 1984; Spicer, 1993; Keenan,

1996). Aronoff attempted to ascertain journalists' and public relations practitioners'

attitudes toward each other by administering a questionnaire to members of each group.

Aronoff (1975, p. 49) found that "the role of the public relations practitioner is perceived

quite differently by the two groups." For example, 59 percent of journalists agreed that

"public relations and the press are partners in the dissemination of information";

however, 72 percent disagreed with the statement that "public relations is a profession

equal in status to journalism" (Aronoff, 1975, p. 50). Aronoff concluded that journalists

are much more antagonistic toward public relations practitioners than vice versa and that

journalists believe their news values are much more credible than practitioners.

Brody (1984, p. 11) recognized that "a certain aura of antipathy long has

enshrouded relationships between journalists and public relations practitioners." In order

to determine how journalists perceive public relations practitioners, he surveyed









reporters, editors and public relations practitioners in Tennessee. Brody found that while

both groups respect the quality of each other's work, journalists feel that public relations

practitioners are far more unethical. Brody (1984, p. 11) noted, however, that the

differences between the groups "were not as great as street gossip sometimes makes them

appear."

Kopenhaver's (1984) survey of journalists, editors, and public relations

practitioners in Florida reinforced previous studies that revealed journalists have negative

attitudes toward public relations practitioners. Kopenhaver's survey was designed to

measure attitudes the two groups have toward one another and how much understanding

they have of each other's goals. One portion of the survey asked respondents to rank-

order 16 professions in the order of their respect for them-"Editors ranked journalists

first on the list and public relations practitioners 15, ahead of only politicians, which were

16" (Kopenhaver, 1984, p. 39).

Callison (2001) set out to answer the age-old questions, "Do PR practitioners have

a PR problem?" In an attempt to determine public perception of source credibility,

Callison conducted a 2 x 2 factorial experiment in which information source type-public

relations spokesperson or generic spokesperson-and message topic-client-neutral or

client-negative-were varied. The results of his study suggest, "public relations

professionals and the organizations they represent are perceived as less credible than

unidentified sources and their employers" (Callison, 2001, p. 219).









Past Content Studies

While previous research had revealed that journalists show disdain for public

relations practitioners, it had not shown exactly how that disdain was conveyed to the

public. Cline's (1982) seminal content analysis examined how journalists show their

antipathy for the profession and its practitioners to the public. Cline compared how

public relations is taught in 12 introductory mass communication texts and found "while

there are few exceptions, students in the introductory mass media courses which use these

texts are receiving a negative introduction to public relations" (Cline, 1982, p. 64). Cline

found mass communication text books teach students that telling half-truths is an integral

part of the public relations business; the prime function of public relations is to obtain

space free of charge; and public relations is "prostituting" media skills. Cline argued that

biased teaching materials perpetuate negative images current journalists have of public

relations and its practitioners to new and future generations of journalists.

Bishop (1988) conducted a content analysis of three well-known regional

newspapers to determine what newspapers say about public relations. While there were

no mentions of the terms public relations, press relations, public information,

government information or press officer and the term PR occurred only once, the term

publicity occurred 121 times during the month of June, 1987. Bishop (1988, p. 51)

reached the limited conclusion that "public relations is equated solely with publicity."

Spicer (1993) analyzed 84 print articles to determine if the negative attitude

journalists hold towards the profession and its practitioners resulted in connotative use of

the terms public relations and PR in the print media. Spicer's analysis revealed seven

different connotative themes or definitions of the two terms: distraction, disaster,

challenge, hype, merely, war and schmooze. While it is difficult to draw conclusions









from this data sample because of its small size, and because Spicer may have been biased

in choosing the sample because "public relations practitioners are possibly more likely to

attend to articles using the terms public relations and PR in a pejorative manner" (Spicer,

1993, p. 52), Spicer found that more than 80% of the sample used public relations or PR

in a negatively embedded context.

Analyses of print media have been extended to include network television news

coverage. Keenan (1996) built on Spicer's analysis by examining 79 stories mentioning

public relations or PR on evening newscasts on ABC, CBS and NBC that aired between

1980 and 1995. According to Keenan (1996, p. 216), "PR is usually presented as being

synonymous with publicity or press agentry and is often associated with negative

connotations." He contended that there is not much of an explanation as to why public

relations is portrayed in such a manner except for previous research attributing them to

journalistic attitudes. Keenan felt it was imperative that he discover why public relations

is often associated with press agentry and publicity; therefore he coded his sample for

which model of public relations was used. Of the 67 stories Keenan identified that dealt

with public relations practices, 31 stories dealt with the press agentry model, while 18

dealt with two-way asymmetrical, 16 with public information and 2 with two-way

symmetrical.

Keenan also found that public relations is receiving more network news attention

each year; the average number of public relations stories per year increased from 1.6 in

the eighties to 10.5 in 1995. While Keenan found that television news stories with a

negative tone in regards to public relations were more common than those with a positive

tone, "television news tends to take a neutral tone in reporting public relations and it









appears that television is more neutral than the print media in covering the field"

(Keenan, 1996, p. 225).

Content analysis of print and television news media was extended to entertainment

media when Miller (1999) analyzed 202 different public relations practitioner characters

in film and fiction released from 1930 to 1995. Miller's sample was not representative of

all images of public relations practitioners in film and fiction from 1930 to 1995 because

she relied on peer recommendation. While "no attempt at formal content analysis was

made," Miller did develop exhaustive categories based on archetypal characters. The

categories were named after the following recurring character traits: ditzy, obsequious,

cynical, manipulative, money-minded, isolated, accomplished, and unfulfilled. In

addition to coding for character traits, Miller coded for: definitions of public relations,

strategies and tactics employed by practitioners, the moral life of the practitioner,

effectiveness, consequences of choices made by the practitioner, and relationships with

key groups (peers, clients and employers, etc.). While there are several limitations to the

study, Miller found that "representations of PR are woefully inadequate in terms of

explaining who practitioners are and what they do, and it shows that writers dislike

primarily PR's apparent effectiveness" (Miller, 1999, p. 3). Miller concluded that the

media has relayed misconceptions about and stereotypes of public relations to the public,

setting the stage for the enduring quality of representations the public receives.

Still lacking in the literature on this issue is a consideration of how entertainment

television presents public relations and public relations practitioners. Researchers have

used content analysis to examine how the entertainment media portray the medical and

legal professions and their practitioners (e.g., Pfau & Mullen, 1995; Pfau, Mullen,






8


Diedrich, & Garrow, 1995). To date, this line of research has not been extended to the

public relations profession and its practitioners.














CHAPTER 3
CULTIVATION THEORY

According to Gerbner, Gross, Signorielli, and Morgan (1980), decades of research

investigating the relationship between television content and constructed social realities

developed into cultivation theory. Cultivation theory offers a useful framework for

explaining how public perception is built on entertainment television content. Cultivation

theory holds that "television viewers who say they are exposed to greater amounts of

television are predicted to be more likely (compared to viewers who say they are exposed

to lesser amounts) to exhibit perceptions and beliefs that reflect the television world

messages" (Potter, 1994, p.1).

Cultivation theory posits that television is a dominant source of shared

perceptions or images, and it maintains that network television, in particular, is a

powerful source of shared images, which in turn provide lessons for viewers about "the

ways of the world" (Gerbner & Gross, 1976, p. 178; Signorielli, 1987; Pfau & Mullen,

1995).

A cultivation analysis is typically conducted via two methods, content analysis

and survey research. A detailed content analysis serves to determine how a topic is

presented in the media. Subsequently, survey research serves to measure level of media

exposure and audience perceptions or the topic under study. Combined, the two methods

allow conclusions to be reached about media influence on perceptions of social reality.









According to Gitlin (1980), primetime television programming has the ability to

transform reality for many viewers. Schramm, Lyle, and Parker (1961) explain this

reality transformation. "The viewer goes to television for entertainment and stores

certain items of information without seeking them" (Scramm, Lyle, & Parker, 1961, p.

75). Malmsheimer (1988) maintains that storing items of information found in

entertainment television distorts reality. "Such distortions, routinely presented to a

receptive mass audience, have great potential for affecting people's attitudes and

expectations about the everyday world around them" (1988, p. 130).

Cultivation theory has been used to examine audience contentions of reality

concerning a range of phenomena, including violence (e.g., Gerbner et al., 1980), mental

illness (e.g., Gard, 2001), crime (e.g., Valkenburg and Patiwael, 1988), aging, women's

rights (e.g., Holbert, Shah, and Kwak, 2003) and much more. Pfau and Mullen (1995)

used cultivation theory to examine the influence of television viewing on public

perceptions of physicians. Pfau, Mullen, Diedrich, and Garrow (1995) also examined the

influence of television viewing on public perceptions of attorneys.

Pfau and Mullen (1995) found that primetime network television programming

does transform reality for many television viewers in their attempt to ascertain the

influence of television viewing on public perceptions of physicians. Pfau and Mullen

(1995, p. 458) argue "contemporary network primetime television programming often

illuminates a broader range of professional behaviors than direct experience." Goffman

(1973) explains the range of professional behaviors by dividing them into the "front

region" where professionals play their public roles and they "back region" or "backstage"

which is nonpublic, and where professionals may act inconsistently with their frontstage









performance. In Pfau and Mullen's (1995) study of physicians, front region activities

may include meeting with patients to diagnose ailments, conducting tests, etc. Back

region or backstage activities may include arguing with a coworker, having lunch with a

spouse, etc.

In their study, Pfau and Mullen (1995) found that contemporary primetime

television depictions of physicians feature both front and back regions. According to

Pfau and Mullen (1995, p. 458), "Meyrowitz (1985) argues that television exerts a

powerful, though subtle influence on attitudes by opening access to previously restricted

back regions, thus exposing the foibles of parents, politicians, physicians, and others."

Pfau and Mullen (1995) conducted their cultivation research in three phases.

Phase one consisted of a content analysis of network primetime shows that depicted

characters who work as medical professionals in a medical setting. The three shows

analyzed were Doogie Howser M.D., Northern Exposure, and Nurses. Phase two was a

mail survey of a random sample of practicing physicians in a midwestern state. This

phase was conducted to provide a link between fiction and reality (i.e., were television

portrayals representative of real world physicians?). The third phase consisted of a

telephone survey of a random sample of households "in order to gather relevant

demographic data, examine television viewing habits and preferences, and evaluate

public perceptions of physicians" (Pfau & Mullen, 1995, p. 446).

According to Pfau and Mullen (1995, p. 450), the results "clearly indicated that

television depictions of physicians influence public perceptions." Content analysis

revealed that television's depiction of physicians stressed front region behaviors;

however, back regions were often exposed, revealing character and morality traits that









were unflattering (adultery, arrogance, etc.). Cultivation analysis revealed that the back

regions portrayed in television caused viewers to lose trust in physicians. The results also

revealed that the number of medical programs that people watch is positively related to

their tendency to perceive physicians as primetime network television depicts them.

Pfau and Mullen's (1995) use of cultivation theory to explore how television

portrayals of physicians and attorneys effect public perception of those professions can be

useful to the public relations profession. Just as Doogie Howser M.D., Northern

Exposure and Nurses depicted physicians in their occupational setting, The West Wing

depicts public relations practitioners in their occupational setting. In addition, The West

Wing portrays a great deal of the back region of public relations.

A full cultivation analysis to examine the relationship between television

coverage to audience perceptions of public relations is beyond the intentions of the

current study; however, in supplement to previous researchers' attempt to examine how

public relations is portrayed, this study will provide a description of entertainment

television content from which to build future theory and research based on a cultivation

approach to the subject.














CHAPTER 4
THEORY OF FRAMING

The theoretical lens through which this analysis will be conducted is media

framing. A framing analysis is the first step in detecting how public perception of public

relations is formed. While cultivation theory explains how public perception is built on

entertainment media content, framing theory explains how media content is created.

According to Entman (1993, p. 52), "to frame is to 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's definition of framing also entails

both salience and selection. Making an issue more salient consists of making a piece of

information more noticeable, meaningful, or memorable to an audience (Entman, 1993).

By conducting a framing analysis of The West Wing, the researcher attempts to

discover how the writers, creators and producers of The West Wing select some aspects of

a perceived reality and make them more salient in such a way as to promote a particular

definition of public relations, causal interpretation of the profession, and moral evaluation

of the profession and its practitioners.

Framing Background

Framing is a relatively new concept that did not emerge until the 1970s. While it

is a concept most commonly used in disciplines such as political communication,

advertising, public relations and marketing, the roots of framing theory are sociological

and anthropological. Gregory Bateson (1972), an anthropologist, and Erving Goffman









(1974), a sociologist, are credited as the first to examine communication using a framing

paradigm (Zoch & Molleda, 2000; Hallahan, 1999). Bateson (quoted in Hallahan, 1999,

p. 209) defined a frame psychologically, saying it is "a spatial and temporal bounding of

a set of interactive messages." Goffman (quoted in Hallahan, 1999, p. 209) elaborated on

Bateson's idea, defining framing as "the definition of a situation ... built up in

accordance with principles of organization that govern events-at least social ones-and

our subjective involvement in them."

Framing Defined

Gitlin (1980) defines framing as a process of selection, emphasis, and exclusion,

used by communicators or "symbol handlers" to routinely organize verbal and/or visual

communication activities. In this study, the "symbol handlers" are the creators, writers

and producers of The West Wing. By selecting, emphasizing or excluding the aspects of

public relations portrayed in the show, the communicators or "symbol handlers" may

influence how audiences perceive public relations.

Framing is social and cultural in nature according to Hertog & McLeod (2001, p.

140). "Frames are organizing principles that are socially shared and persistent over time,

that work symbolically to meaningfully structure the social world" (italics in original).

However, frames that are social in nature carry with them cultural structures with ideas

and broad concepts that are central to the cultural nature of the frame; therefore, the

frame cannot be understood outside of the culture it is used in (Hertog & McLeod, 2001).

Framing is essential to the construction of social reality, according to Hallahan

(1999), because it helps shape the perspectives through which people see the world. The

processes of inclusion and exclusion, selection, as well as emphasis, are crucial to

framing because they allow key elements of a message to be focused on (Duhe & Zoch,









1994). By determining what attributes of public relations and its practitioners are

included and excluded, selected and emphasized on The West Wing, the researcher will

determine what elements of public relations are focused on and how they might

contribute to the perspectives through which people see public relations.

According to Hertog and McLeod (2001), frames also define the roles of

individuals, groups, organizations and institutions in the defined reality. For example,

Pfau and Mullen (1995, p. 441) found that "past prime-time television depictions of

physicians were consistently positive, offering an 'idealized' view of physicians

contributing '. to a cultural predisposition to hold the entire medical profession in ...

awe .. .'." A framing analysis of The West Wing will determine how prime-time

depictions of public relations define the reality of public relations for the general public.

According to framing theorists Gamson and Modigliani (quoted in Maher, 2001,

p. 86), a frame is "a central organizing idea...for making sense of relevant events,

suggesting what is at issue. Pan and Kosicki (1993) agree, with the organizational role of

framing, defining it as a form of "news discourse construction." They view the idea

behind framing as "viewing news text as an organized system signifying elements that

both indicate the advocacy of certain ideas and provide devices to encourage certain

kinds of audience processing of the texts" (p. 61).

Frames are largely relational. Framing implies relationships among a message's

elements. Thus, the messages within a frame are organized by a communicator and

communicated to the receiver as being mutually relevant, while those outside of the

frame are less important (Maher, 2001). Framing thus implies that some items will be

identified as facts, while others will not (Miller & Riechert, 2001). Cognitive









psychologist Friedman defines framing as "a function that specifies the relations that hold

among the arguments comprising a particular conceptual bundle at a particular level of

abstraction (Maher, 2001, p. 86).

Framing can have a significant influence on public understanding and public

opinion of a particular issue, and thus, policy formation (Andsager & Smiley, 1998).

Actors and interests compete to dominate the text presented through the media. The topic

and the relative power of those individuals or groups will affect the degree to which they

influence the frame of an issue (Andsager & Smiley, 1998).

The study of framing aims to identify the dominant frame for a particular social

issue or phenomenon, while also identifying alternative frames that arise due to the

position of opposing groups (Hertog & McLeod, 2001). Issues are topics that acquire

public attention, and that usually require policy decisions be made (Miller & Reichert,

2001). Framing includes the context, content, topic, coverage and packaging of news

events (Palenchar, 2001).

Framing attempts to detect the strategies and tactics used by various groups in

their attempts to influence the frame of the particular issue. Finally, framing seeks to

discover what is present in the form of reading material for the general public, such as

newspaper stories and news coverage on television (Hertog & McLeod, 2001).














CHAPTER 5
THE WEST WING

The West Wing is a prime-time network television drama that depicts a fictional,

but seemingly accurate, account of the life of a present-day President of the United States

and his various staff members who have established personal and professional

relationships with him during his two presidential campaigns and first few years in office.

According to Aaron Sorkin (August & McDowell, 2002), creator of the series, the idea

behind The West Wing was to give the American public an idea of what happens the two

minutes before and the two minutes after the president appears on CNN. Central to those

two minutes, and of particular concern to this study, are the main characters of the show

who carry out public relations duties-the chief of staff, deputy chief of staff,

communications director, deputy communications director, and press secretary.

According to Holbert, Pillion, Tschida, Armfield, Kinder, Cherry, and Daulton

(2003), the show offers a "unique a vision" of what it is like to be president on a daily

basis to the American public. In short, they argue, "The West Wing represents the fly on

the wall that the media wish they could be" (Holbert et al., 2003, p. 428). The "unique

vision" of the show is due in part to the show's consultants: President Jimmy Carter's

policy and strategy advisor, Lawrence O'Donnell, press secretary to the Clinton White

House, Dee Dee Myers, and a former adviser to Senator Patrick Moynihan (Topping,

2002).









The West Wing, which originally aired September 22, 1999, has achieved high

critical acclaim. The series was honored with 13 Emmy Awards for its debut season,

including Outstanding Drama Series, and went on to receive Emmys for Outstanding

Drama Series in 2001 and 2002. The West Wing currently holds the record for most

Emmys won by a series in a single season. In addition to receiving nods from Emmy

voters, the show has received a Peabody Award for excellence in television.

The program not only has achieved high critical acclaim, but also has become

extremely popular as well. For example, the April 3, 2002 airing was viewed by

12,027,000 television households (Broadcasting & Cable, 2002). In short, this popular

program has the potential for influence, given the large number of people who watch this

fictional account of the daily activities of a sitting president and his staff.

According to Pfau and Mullen (1995), "whenever television programming

communicates a coherent set of images about professionals, those who consume a greater

quantity of such fare will tend to accept part or all of such images." Before a cultivation

study is conducted to determine if viewers of The West Wing accept part or all of The

West Wing's portrayal of public relations, it must be determined how public relations is

actually portrayed on The West Wing.

The following research questions will guide this analysis covering the portrayal of

public relations and its practitioners in primetime entertainment television.

Research Question 1: How is public relations framed on The West Wing? What

frames dominate?

Research Question 2: What models of public relations are presented on The West


Wing?






19


Research Question 3: How are public relations practitioners portrayed on The

West Wing?

Based on the previous content analysis of public relations' portrayal in the media

(e.g., Cline, 1982; Bishop, 1988; Spicer, 1993; Keenan, 1996; Miller, 1999), the

following hypothesis has been formed.

Hypothesis 1: The public relations profession and its practitioners will be

negatively or unfavorably portrayed on The West Wing.














CHAPTER 6
METHODOLOGY

A framing analysis conducted via content analysis was chosen for purposes of this

study. Krippendorff (1980, p. 198) defines content analysis as a "research technique for

making replicable and valid inferences from data to their context."

Content analysis may be conducted on two levels-manifest content and latent

content. Manifest content is content that can be seen and counted. For example, the

number of times the word publicity is mentioned or the number of times public relations

characters employ publicity as a tactic is manifest content. Latent content deals with the

underlying or deeper meanings of a message and is more qualitative in nature. Analysis

of latent content is crucial because the underlying meaning of a message may be more

important than the number of times the message is presented. For example, analysis

might reveal that public relations characters employed 10 publicity tactics in one episode;

however, one of the publicity tactics may be so dramatic and over-the-top that it weighs

more heavily with viewers. According to Kaid (1989, p. 199) "a researcher who engages

in counting alone might incompletely describe the programming content as well as miss

the chance to correlate content with communication effects." In order to provide a more

complete, well-rounded picture of how public relations is framed on The West Wing, and

because the ultimate goal of this research is to "correlate content with communication

effects," both manifest and latent content were coded for.

Kaid (1989) posits that reliability is typically of great concern to most researchers

conducting a content analysis because the objectivity or "degree to which data are









independent of the measurement instrument" (Kaid, p. 208) is often questionable,

especially where latent content is concerned. Reliability is achieved by recruiting

additional coders. When different coders reach the same inferences with the same coding

protocol, the analysis is reliable (Kaid, 1989).

While validity is not as easy to determine as reliability, Kaid (1989, p. 199)

argues, "Content validity is satisfactory if the researcher intends only to provide a

description of a particular sample." Since a framing analysis functions to provide a

description of a particular sample, in this case, The West Wing, validity was considered

satisfactory.

Sample Selection

Interested in exploring the framing of public relations in United States

entertainment television, the researcher concentrated on NBC's primetime television

drama The West Wing because it is critically acclaimed, and a large portion of the

American public has an opportunity to view it since it airs on NBC, one of the four major

broadcast networks. The fact that The West Wing airs on a network, which is free

television, is important to note because more viewers have an opportunity to see it,

therefore, improving the likelihood that cultivation takes place. Additionally, The West

Wing is one of only a handful of current U.S. television programs that portray the public

relations professions and its practitioners.

The current study analyzed seasons two (2000-2001) and three (2001-2002) of

The West Wing. Those seasons were chosen because season one garnered much attention

from critics. For its first season, the show received Emmys for Outstanding Drama,

Outstanding Supporting Actor, Outstanding Supporting Actress, and Outstanding Writing

For A Drama Series. Receiving numerous awards after its first season may have









recruited new viewers to the series in addition to maintaining first season viewers.

According to Tucker (2001), 25 million viewers watched the second season premier of

the series. The West Wing received numerous Emmys for its second season, including,

Outstanding Drama and Outstanding Supporting Actor. These acclamations again

recruited new viewers and maintained regular viewers. The writers, producers, and

actors were the same during seasons two and three.

To gather the episodes to be analyzed, the researcher made videocassette

recordings of reruns of The West Wing on the cable channel BRAVO. The West Wing

began running in syndication on the channel during August 2003 at 7 and 11 p.m.

Monday through Thursday. The entire sample consisted of 43 episodes-22 from season

two and 21 from season three (See Appendix A).1

Instrument

An individual episode served as the unit of analysis. The coding protocol (see

Appendices B and C) was pretested. An additional coder trained in framing analysis was

recruited to code a random sample of 10 percent of the episodes, and to determine the

degree to which the coders agreed upon the frames. An intercoder reliability of 89% was

achieved (coders agreed on 117 out of 132 judgments).

After an identification number was assigned to each episode, the name of the

episode, the date it originally aired, the date it aired in syndication, the writers, the plot of

the episode, and the main characters in the plot were all recorded.

Public relations is often seen as a broad concept that is difficult to define. In

order to determine what public relations is on The West Wing, coders referred to Cutlip,


1 A documentary episode about the making of The West Wing was omitted from season 3.









Center and Broom's (2000, p. 6) definition of public relations, which is in a core public

relations textbook, "Public relations is the management function that establishes and

maintains mutually beneficial relationships between an organization and the public(s) on

whom its success or failure depends." For purposes of this study, the organization was

the President of the United States (or office of the President) and the publics were the

White House staff (secretaries, FBI, interns, etc.), Congress (House and Senate), media,

the American public (voters, taxpayers, etc.), foreign governments, state governments,

military, lobbyists (activist groups), etc.

Building on Keenan's 1996 research of network television news coverage of

public relations, the researcher coded for the model of public relations practiced in each

episode. Keenan posited that public relations is often presented as being synonymous

with publicity and press agentry, and is often associated with negative connotations.

Recording the strategies and tactics employed by public relations characters in The West

Wing aided in determining which model, public information, press agentry, two-way

asymmetrical, or two-way symmetrical, was practiced. In addition to strategies and

tactics, scholarly definitions of each model were used to determine which model was

practiced.

Cutlip et al. (2000, p. 14) define press agentry as "creating newsworthy stories

and events to attract media attention and to gain public notice." According to Kelly

(1998), the public information model works to bring about unbalanced effects. "No

effort is made to balance the organization's needs with the needs of its donor prospects

(its publics); the model is asymmetrical because the organization is right and its interests

take precedence" (Kelly, 1998, p. 165). The public information model is characterized









by incomplete messages, selected to place the organization in a favorable light (Cutlip et

al., 2000). According to Grunig (1984, p. 165), the two-way asymmetrical model

consists of "finding out what the public likes about an organization and then highlighting

that aspect... or by determining what values and attitudes public had and then

describing the organization in a way that conformed to those values and attitudes." The

two-way symmetrical model is characterized by an ongoing dialogue between an

organization and its public according to Cutlip et al. (2000).

Coders were trained to recognize, via strategies and tactics, which model of public

relations was being practiced. By coding for the models of public relations practiced in

each episode, the researcher attempted to ascertain how public relations is framed in The

West Wing.

Building on Miller's (1999) analysis of film and fiction and Pfau and Mullen's

(1995) analysis of physicians in primetime network television shows, the researcher

coded for the demographics, personality traits and moral life of public relations

practitioners, and the overall tone (positive, negative or neutral) of public relations in

each episode.

Miller (1999) found that characters who portray public relations practitioners are

predominately male, when in practice, public relations practitioners are predominately

female. Miller (1999) also found that public relations practitioners are often portrayed as

being dishonest, ditzy, manipulative and cynical. Miller (1999) contended that the

aforementioned factors all contribute to the negative image of public relations. Pfau and

Mullen (1995) found that contemporary television's depictions of physicians are negative









in tone. More importantly, they found that negative portrayals of physicians on television

cultivate negative opinions of physicians in viewers.

Also building on Pfau and Mullen's (1995) research, the researcher coded the

tone of front and back region behaviors. Since Pfau and Mullen's (1995) cultivation

analysis showed that negative back region behaviors caused viewer trust in physicians to

decline, it is important for future cultivation research to discover the tone of front and

back region behaviors in The West Wing. A positive portrayal in one region versus a

negative portrayal in the other region may weigh heavily with viewers as it did in Pfau

and Mullen's (1995) study.

In addition to coding for the personality of public relations characters, the

researcher evaluated the practitioner characters' relationships with key groups (the

public, peers, superiors and journalists). Analyzing such relationships offered insight into

how viewers come to understand public relations as a profession. For example, in Pfau

and Mullen's (1995) analysis of television physicians, physicians often treated nurses and

other medical staff as "peons." Cultivation analysis revealed that this caused viewer's

respect of physicians to decline.

The researcher took extensive notes on the plot lines, characterizations, and

dialogue in order to provide insight into how public relations is defined and to discover

what public relations responsibilities are attached to each character. Recording

responsibilities is key, according to Miller (1999), because that is how the public (viewer

public in this case) will build their definitions of what public relations is.

Finally, the researcher recorded miscellaneous items such as powerful dialogue

spoken by public relations characters.









Analysis

Using the coding sheet and guidelines, the researcher coded all 43 episodes. A

second coder coded approximately 10 percent (n=5) of the episodes. In addition to

establishing reliability, the second coder aided the researcher in negotiating categories

and enriching established categories. Analysis essentially consisted of examining coding

sheets for themes.

The constant comparative method was used to discover emergent themes and

categories. This method advocates a cyclical process that is key to all qualitative

research (Boeije, 2002). Glaser and Strauss (1967) developed this four-step method as a

strategy for developing grounded theory.

The first step of constant comparison began by comparing data within a single

episode to form categories. Categories were defined, expanded and created as new

information emerged. Categories were labeled according to the most appropriate codes.

From the categories, it was possible to formulate the core message from a single episode

(Boeije, 2002).

The second step of constant comparison involved analyzing all episodes in a

single season and comparing them with each other. Categories were continually defined,

expanded and created as new information emerged. A code tree or inventory of

characteristics of each category was created. Finally, categories were examined to see if

they could be combined or eliminated.

The third step consisted of comparing season two with season three. Categories

were refined and developed until they became saturated or "so well defined that there was

no point in adding further exemplars to them" (Lauffer, 2002, p. 101).






27


Analysis was completed in the fourth step when explanatory and predictive

frames emerged. It is important to note that more than one frame existed in numerous

episodes. Despite the existence of more than one frame, however, one frame was always

dominant. The dominant or primary frame in each episode was easily identified by the

number of times characteristics of that frame were present in a given episode.

Characteristics of the secondary frame occurred often, but not as often as those of the

primary frame.














CHAPTER 7
RESULTS

A total of 43 episodes of The West Wing were coded for this study. A second

coder analyzed 10% of the episodes. An intercoder reliability of 89% was achieved

(coders agreed on 117 out of 132 judgments). All of the original episodes aired

Wednesday on NBC at 9 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, with the exception of episodes

202 and 302, which aired at 10 p.m. immediately following season premier-episodes 201

and 301. All episodes were an hour long or approximately 40 minutes without

commercials.

Public relations functions, activities, and positions were most commonly referred

to as communications, notpublic relations. The term public relations was not used in

any of the episodes (see Table 1); however, the term PR was used twice in the second

season premier. The term spin and various forms of spin such as unspinnable were used

four times in season two and 13 times in season three. The term press secretary was used

10 times in season two and three times in season three. The term spokesperson was used

four times in season two. The term communications, as in Communications Director,

communications office, and "I'm in communications," was used 14 times in season two

and 11 times in season three. The term damage control was used once to refer to public

relations activities. Eleven of the 23 episodes in season two contained none of the

aforementioned terms, and 10 of the 21 episodes in season three contained none of the

aforementioned terms.









A chi-square goodness of fit test was calculated comparing the total mentions of the

references to public relations for both seasons. A chi-square value of 62.645(6), p< .05,

was found, indicating that there are differences in the proportions of terms used to refer to

public relations.

Table 1. References to public relations.
Terms used Season two Season three Total mentions
Public relations 0 0 0
PR 2 0 2
Spin 4 13 17
Press Secretary 10 3 13
Spokesperson 4 0 4
Communications 14 11 25
Damage Control 0 1 1


Seasons two and three of The West Wing portrayed public relations favorably or

positively overall (46.5%, n=20) (see Table 2). Public relations was portrayed negatively

37.2% of the time (n=16) and neutrally portrayed 16.3% of the time (n=7). Public

relations was negatively or unfavorably portrayed in season two (n=10) and positively or

favorably portrayed in season three (n=13). The overall positive or favorable portrayal of

public relations in The West Wing contradicts years of content analysis research that has

found that the portrayal of public relations in the mass media (television news, text

books, print, film and fiction books) is predominantly negative (e.g., Cline, 1982; Bishop,

1988; Spicer, 1993; Keenan, 1996; Miller, 1999).

Table 2. Tone of public relations.
Tone Season two Season three Total
Negative/unfavorable 10 6 16
Neutral 5 2 7
Positive/favorable 7 13 20
Total 22 21 43











A chi-square goodness of fit test was calculated comparing the total tone of public

relations for both seasons. A chi-square value of 6.186(2), p< .05, was found, indicating

that there are differences in the proportions of the total tone of public relations.

Strategies and Tactics

There were 197 strategies and tactics mentioned and/or implemented in both

seasons. Thirty-six percent (n=71) of strategies and tactics were only mentioned and

never implemented, 48% (n=92) were only implemented, and 18% (n=35) were both

mentioned and implemented (see Table 3).

A chi-square goodness of fit test was calculated comparing the total mentions and

implementations of public relations strategies and tactics for both seasons. A chi-square

value of 25.182(2), p< .05, was found, indicating that there differences in the proportions

of strategies and tactics mentioned, implemented or mentioned and implemented.

Table 3. Strategies and tactics.
Season two Season three Total
Mentioned 29 42 71
Implemented 44 48 92
Mentioned and
Implemented 23 12 35
Total 95 102 197


An example of a strategy that was only mentioned and never implemented

occurred in episode 209, "Galileo," when the communications team strategies that they

organize a photograph opportunity of the president eating green beans to make up for a

damaging statement in the press that the president hated green beans (Falls, Sorkin, &

Graves, 2000). The most common strategy or tactic that was implemented without being

discussed prior (mentioned) was press briefings and conferences. A strategy or tactic that









was mentioned and implemented, for example, occurred in episode 216, "Somebody's

Going to Emergency, Somebody's Going to Jail." In a meeting with the communications

team, Leo discusses strategies and tactics that will aide in building relationships with

various publics. These strategies and tactics are implemented throughout the episode in

the form of meetings with various groups that normally would not get to talk one-on-one

with White House staff.

Strategies and tactics mentioned, implemented or both included: press

conferences, press briefings, leaking information to reporters, polling, special events,

blackmail, attending events, meetings with various publics, feasibility studies,

photograph opportunities, and refraining from saying "no comment." The most

commonly used tactics were press conferences and briefings (n=45).

Frames

RQ#1: How is public relations framed on The West Wing? What frames

dominate?

Many similar frames were found in seasons two and three of The West Wing. The

most common dominant frames were: "image building," "puppet master," and

"patriotism."

Image Building

The image-building frame dominated 39.5% (n=17) of the episodes. This frame

defines public relations as the management function of keeping up appearances. It most

often involves making the public relation practitioner's organization and employer look

better than the other guy no holds barred. Of the episodes that were dominated by this

frame, 53% (n=9) were overall positive in tone and 18% (n=3) were overall negative in

tone. Strategies and tactics employed in each episode that contributed to this frame









included creating photograph opportunities (photo-ops) for the press, staging events to

make up for communication blunders, being forthright about mistakes with the press,

environmental scanning to avoid potential image damaging situations, sending White

House representatives to meet with different publics, lying to various publics, including

the press, hiding or covering the truth, and making sure the press secretary or other White

House spokespersons did not say "no comment."

The image-building frame often portrayed public relations as the practice of lying

to various publics, including the press, and hiding or covering the truth in order to make

the White House and/or president look good. For example, in episode 212, "The Drop-

In," C.J., the press secretary, asks a well-known black comedian to decline from hosting a

dinner that the president will be attending because of an incident that happened two years

ago-the president laughed at a joke about New York City cops shooting black men.

When the press asked C.J. about the incident, she lied and said the president did not laugh

at the joke (Sorkin, O'Donnell, & Antonio, 2001). C.J. needed to get the comedian to

decline from hosting the dinner, so the story about the president laughing or not laughing

at a racial joke does not become news again.

While the image-building frame often involved using lies or employing tactics to

hide the truth, it also involved being forthright with mistakes and blunders made by the

president and White House staff. For example, in episode 213, "Bartlet's Third State of

the Union," the president invites a Detroit policeman to attend the State of the Union so

he can be recognized as a hero. It later comes to C.J.'s attention that the white policeman

got an official reprimand for using excessive force on a black suspect seventeen years

ago. Trying to keep a lid on the story, C.J. quizzes the policeman after the address,









asking him why he didn't tell them about his past when he was invited. She informs him

that she'll have to alert the press so it doesn't look like they're hiding anything. The

policeman doesn't understand why she has to tell the press. C.J. replies, "Cause they'll

find out and I have to stay ahead of the pitch. If I issue it in a brief statement then it

looks like we're not trying to hide anything, and I get to control the story for a while"

(Sorkin, Abner, Myers, & Mislano, 2001).

Environmental scanning or looking for potentially image damaging events and

situations also contributed to the image-building frame. For example, in episode 211,

"The Leadership Breakfast," Sam, the deputy communications director, writes a memo

about moving the press corps out of the White House and across the street so the

communications staff will have more office space in the west wing. C.J. protests, saying,

"We can't exile the press! The press doesn't want physical distance from the president

and the American people would prefer it if the president didn't have physical distance

from the press" (Redford & Winant, 2001)!

C.J. goes on to argue that it would look like the White House and president are

trying to hide something from the press. Sam says, "We are trying to hide things from

them. But I don't think we're going to be any better at it if they're across the street"

(Redford & Winant, 2001).

The image-building frame occurred when the communications staff staged events

and created photo opportunities to rectify potentially damaging statements published in

the news. In episode 209, "Galileo," the president's aide tells some food writers that the

president doesn't like green beans. A small Michigan newspaper prints a story about it.

Hours later it becomes big news, especially in Oregon, a big bean-producing state. This









is a problem because the president won Oregon by less than 10,000 votes in the last

election. Toby, the communications director, suggests, "Let's do a photo-op with the

president eating green beans. We can drop in a quote-'He's always looking for new

green bean recipes'" (Falls, Sorkin, & Graves, 2000).

Puppet Master

The puppet master frame dominated 39.5% (n=17) of the episodes. This frame

defines public relations as the management function that incorporates any means possible

to control a particular situation, circumstance or event. The five main public relations

characters are the "puppet masters" who pull the strings of all the other characters getting

them to do and act as they wish. Of the episodes dominated by this frame, 56% (n=9)

were overall negative or unfavorable towards public relations and 12% (n=3) were

overall positive or favorable to public relations in tone. Underhanded and sneaky

strategies and tactics such as blackmail, bribes, and leaking information to the press were

characteristic of this frame.

The puppet master frame was most often recognizable when any of the five major

characters leaked information to the press in order to get momentum behind an issue. In

episode 303, "Ways and Means," for example, C.J. decides to take a congressional

investigation of the president into her own hands. The president is being investigated for

failing to disclose to the American public that he has Muscular Sclerosis (he knew before

he was elected). C.J. wants a different prosecutor to investigate the case. "We're not

going to get anywhere putting on a calm face," she says. "We need to pick a fight! We

need a different enemy" (Sorkin, Attie, Sperling, & Graves, 2001).









A conversation between C.J. and Leo leads C.J. to drop clues to the press that ultimately

force the replacement of the prosecutor with someone more favorable to the president:

C.J.
Leo, We need to be investigated by someone who wants to kill us just to watch us
die. We need someone perceived by the American people to be irresponsible,
untrustworthy, partisan, ambitious and thirsty for the limelight. Am I crazy or is
this not a job for the U.S. House of Representatives?"

Leo
Well, they'll get around to it sooner or later.

C.J.
So let's make it sooner. Let's make it now. Rollins (the prosecutor) is driving
them slow, he won't talk to the press, they're ready to jump. .. I swear to God,
Leo, I think we can move the show.

Leo
You got a briefing now?

C.J.
Yeah.

Leo
Show me what you're starting with.
(Sorkin, Attie, Sperling, & Graves, 2001).


Before the briefing, C.J. discovers that the prosecutor was a college buddy of an

important White House employee. Rather than state this bluntly, C.J. tells the press about

an article the prosecutor wrote while he was the editor of the Yale student newspaper; the

White House employee was the coauthor of the article. The press takes C.J.'s proverbial

"bait" and discovers the last bit of information. It shows up in the news the next day and

the House of Representatives decide that the prosecutor is too soft, and they speed the

hearings along and absolve him of his duties. The press secretary effectively manipulated

the situation and took control.









Blackmail was another tactic that is characteristic of the puppet master frame. In

episode 205, "And It's Surely to Their Credit," an army general who is about to retire

sends an aide to talk to C.J. The aide says the general "has some concerns about the

readiness of the armed forces, and he feels it's his patriotic obligation to voice them to

the public before he retires" (Sorkin, Falls, Glasser, & Misiano, 2000). C.J. doesn't like

this "act of cowardice," that will make her organization look bad. She takes it upon

herself to prevent the general from doing this.


General
Well, I'll be telling my story to Tim Russert. [turns to the door]

C.J.
No, I don't think you will, General.

General
[turns back] I'm sorry?
C.J.
I said, "I don't think you will." I notice among your many decorations is the
Distinguished Combat Service Medal. You're wearing it now, as well as in
numerous photographs, including some taken with enlisted men in the field. You
won it while on temporary duty with the Navy's U.S.S. Brooke. The thing is, the
Brooke was never fired on, and it never shot its guns. Right now, and in
photographs, you're wearing a medal you never won. How does that usually go
over with the boys? [long pause]

General
He never served in uniform, not once... and he presumes...

C.J.
Is there anything else, sir?
(Sorkin, Falls, Glasser, & Misiano, 2000).

The puppet master frame occurred when the five key public relations characters

bribed other characters. For example, in episode 307, "The Indians in the Lobby," Josh

bribes a Georgia district attorney to do what is in the administration's best interest. A 13-

year-old Georgia boy shot his teacher in the head. His parents immediately sequestered









the boy out of the country, and Interpol arrested him in Rome. The state governor wants

the boy back, but Italy won't extradite to a country with the death penalty. Josh flies to

Atlanta to meet with the district attorney, who happens to be a prospective Democratic

candidate for senator.

Josh
You raised $232,000 in four months, but then the well dried up after you
prosecuted a corporate polluter and got stuck as anti-business. You were left with
41,500 for the last two months and that was the ball game.

They stare at each other. A voice comes through the airport announcing the
boarding of a flight to Dallas/Ft. Worth.

District attorney
[looks up to the ceiling towards the voice] That's my flight.

Josh
[reaches into jacket and pulls out an envelope, then places the envelope on the bar
top] Guarantee you won't seek the death penalty, and you'll have endless media to
explain it to your district.

District attorney
Josh, please don't tell me there's any money in that envelope.

Josh
Well, in a manner of speaking.

District attorney
Names.

Josh
Yeah, three of them. None of them local. Do it, I'm telling ya, and all three of
them will take your call.
(Sorkin & Barclay, 2001).


Patriotism

The patriotism frame dominated 21% (n=9) of the episodes. Of the episodes

dominated by this frame, 100% (n=8) were overall positive or favorable towards public

relations in tone. A patriot is "one who loves his or her country" (Merriam-Webster









Dictionary, 1997, p.540). The patriotism frame occurred when the five main public

relations characters acted as patriots. This frame is characterized by American values,

particularly democratic values. Episodes dominated by this frame may be described as

heart-warming.

American values most often characterized the patriotism frame. Episodes

dominated by the patriotism frame were in the spirit of the infamous poem at the foot of

the Statue of Liberty-"Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to

breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore, Send these, the homeless,

tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!" (Lazarus, 1883). For

example, in episode 216, "Somebody's Going to Emergency, Somebody's Going to Jail,"

Leo informs all of the White House staffers that it is "Big Block of Cheese Day." He

explains, "Andrew Jackson, in the main foyer of the White House had a big block of

cheese. The block of cheese was huge. .. the block of cheese was two-tons, and was there

for any and all who might be hungry. It was there for the voiceless, the faceless. ."

(Redford, Sorkin, & Yu, 2001). He goes on to remind his staff that, in the spirit of Big

Block of Cheese Day, they will all take on meetings with various people and groups that

wouldn't ordinarily be able to "get the ear of the White House" (Redford, Sorkin, & Yu,

2001).

In several episodes, the patriotism frame occurred when characters acted

according to their personal sense of American values. In episode 319, "Enemies Foreign

and Domestic," C.J. makes a potentially damaging statement in a press briefing about 17

Saudi Arabia girls who died in a fire; no one would help them because they weren't

dressed properly.









Reporter
Well, do you have a comment?

C.J.
I don't. No.

Reporter
I'm sorry, C.J., but you're not outraged by this?

C.J.
Outraged? I'm barely surprised. This is a country where women aren't allowed to
drive a car. They're not allowed to be in the company of any man other than a
close relative, they're required to adhere to a dress code that would make the
Maryknoll Nun look like Malibu Barbie. They beheaded 121 people last year for
robbery, rape, and drug trafficking, they've no free press, no elected government,
no political parties, and the royal family allows the religious police to travel in
groups of six, carrying nightsticks and they freely and publicly beat women.
But "Brutus is an honorable man." Seventeen schoolgirls were forced to burn
alive because they weren't wearing the proper clothing. Am I outraged? No,
Steve. No Chris. No, Mark. That is Saudi Arabia, our partners in peace. Bonnie,
then Scott. (Redford, Sorkin, & Graves, 2002).


Dominant Frames

While more than one frame existed in many episodes, one frame was always

dominant (i.e., primary frame). Frames that did not receive as much attention (did not

dominate) were labeled secondary frames. When primary and secondary frames are

combined (see Table 4), the puppet master frame occurs 44.6% (n=25) of the time and

the "image building" frame occurs 34.5% of the time (n=20).

A chi-square goodness of fit test was calculated to examine the distribution of the

aggregate of primary and secondary frames used. A chi-square value of 22.857(5), p<

.05, was found, indicating that there are differences in the proportions of primary and

secondary frames used.









Table 4. Distribution of primary and secondary frames.
Frames Season two Season three Totals
Puppet master
primary 7 10 17
Image building
primary 11 6 17
Patriotism primary 4 5 9
Puppet master
secondary 6 2 8
Image building
secondary 2 1 3
Patriotism
secondary 0 2 2
Totals 30 26 56


Models

RQ#2: What models ofpublic relations are presented on The West Wing?

All four models of public relations-press agentry, public information, two-way

assymetrical, two-way symmetrical-were presented on The West Wing during seasons

two and three. The public information model was presented in 79% (n=34) of the

episodes. The two-way symmetrical model was portrayed in 51% (n=22) of the episodes.

Both the press agentry and two-way asymmetrical models were portrayed in 33% (n=14)

of the episodes.

Most episodes, 63% (n=27) presented more than one model of public relations;

however, one model typically dominated (see Table 5). The public information model

was portrayed in the most episodes (n=34), followed by two-way symmetrical (n=22),

and press agentry (n=14) and two-way asymmetrical (n=14). The public information

model was also the dominant model practiced (53.5%, n=23). It was followed by two-

way symmetrical, 37.2% (n=16), press agentry, 25.6% (n= 1), and two-way assymetrical,

7% (n=3). While the press agentry and two-way assymetrical models were each









portrayed in 14 episodes, the press agentry model was the dominant model practiced in

11 episodes and the two-way assymetrical model was the dominant model practiced in

only three episodes.

A chi-square goodness of fit test was calculated comparing the dominant models

of public relations presented for both seasons. A chi-square value of 16.057(3), p< .05,

was found, indicating that there are differences in the proportions of dominant models of

public relations presented on The West Wing.

Table 5. Models of public relations presented in The West Wing.
Model Season two Season three Total
Press agentry Total portrayals 7 7 14
Dominant
portrayals 6 5 11
Public Portrayals 18 16 34
information Dominant
portrayals 14 9 23
Two-way Portrayals 6 8 14
assymetrical Dominant
portrayals 3 0 3
Two-way Portrayals 8 14 22
symmetrical Dominant
portrayals 6 10 16


Practitioner Portrayals

RQ#3: How are public relations practitioners portrayed on The West Wing?

There are five public relations practitioner characters on The West Wing-four

male (Leo, Josh, Toby and Sam) and one female (C.J.). None of the characters are

married and two are divorced. The public relations characters on The West Wing hold a

lot of power in their organization. They are all a part of the dominant coalition.

Leo, Josh, Toby, Sam, and C.J. predominantly interacted with each other (61%,

n=265). Thirty-nine percent of interactions (n=169) occurred with other characters such









as: the media (reporters), congressmen and women, refugees, foreign dignitaries,

ambassadors, the FBI, attorneys, other White House staff (secretaries, interns), U.S.

citizens, the president and voters. The characters never describe their jobs to anyone; they

only tell others their job title. The majority of interactions, 92% (n=398) take place in the

White House and are work related (72%, n=312). Interactions that did not take place in

the White House occurred in: Air Force One, bars, hotels, restaurants, the Capitol

Building, the Hill, parks, and homes.

There was no difference in the tone of front and back-region behaviors.

Characters were overwhelmingly portrayed in the back region. When characters were

portrayed in front regions, their behavior did not differ. For example, C.J. was just as

sarcastic and witty with reporters during press briefings and conferences (front region) as

she was with her fellow employees behind the closed doors of the west wing (back

region).

All five characters were rated on their work ethic, morality, and how trustworthy,

honest and responsible they are on a five-item Likert-type scale (see Table 6). The mean

rating (of all five characters) for work ethic was 4.71; responsibility, 3.98; morality, 3.9;

honesty, 3.73; trustworthiness, 3.99. Sam was the only character to receive a rating less

than 3, receiving a rating of 2.86 for responsibility.

Table 6. Mean character ratings for seasons two and three on a five-item scale.
Trustworthiness Honesty Work Responsibility Morality
Ethic
Leo 4.37 4.28 4.86 4.6 4.19
Josh 4.4 3.65 4.8 4.37 3.86
Toby 3.78 3.42 4.37 4.12 3.63
Sam 3.93 3.7 4.6 2.86 4.12
C.J. 3.47 3.58 4.93 3.91 3.7
Mean for all 3.99 3.73 4.71 3.98 3.9
characters









An independent sample t test was calculated comparing the mean scores of

trustworthiness, honesty, work ethic, responsibility and morality for female characters

(C.J.) to the mean scores of trustworthiness, honesty, work ethic, responsibility and

morality for male characters (Leo, Josh, Toby and Sam). A significant difference was

found for trustworthiness (t(213) = -4.047, p< .05) and work ethic (t(213) = 2.934, p<

.05). C.J.'s mean score for trustworthiness was significantly lower (m = 3.47, sd= .827)

than the men's mean score for trustworthiness (m = 4.12, sd = .981). C.J.'s mean score

for work ethic was significantly higher (m = 4.93, sd = .258) than the men's mean score

for work ethic (m = 4.66, sd= .596).

Leo McGarry is the chief of staff. He is the hierarchical superior to all of the

other public relations characters. Leo is clean-shaven and always dressed in a suit. He is

approximately 60-years-old. It is revealed in seasons two and three that Leo is a

recovering alcoholic and drug addict who regularly attends AA (Alcoholics Anonymous)

meetings. He is a veteran of the Vietnam War and a former pilot. Leo is divorced, from

Chicago, and has an Irish Catholic background.

Leo interacts more with the president (his boss) and Joint Chiefs of Staff more

than any of the other characters. All of his interactions with other characters take place in

the White House. Leo is very powerful, oftentimes, making decisions for the president.

All of Leo's interactions with others result in some sort of action being taken-the other

characters do as Leo says. Leo's job responsibilities include: managing the other four

characters, advising the president, and monitoring local and global news for potential

opportunities and threats.









Josh Lyman is the deputy chief of staff. He is second in command to Leo. Josh is

approximately 40-years-old and is typically dressed in business attire. From seasons two

and three, it is revealed that Josh is Jewish and likes baseball. He was born in

Connecticut and is a graduate of Harvard and Yale. He does not drink alcohol because he

has a "sensitive system."

Josh interacts more with his secretary/assistant than with any other characters on

the show. There is a lot of sexual tension in their relationship. Josh is "not good with

women;" however, he starts a relationship with a prominent women's rights activist at the

end of season three. He is the only character shown as having a sexual relationship.

Josh's main job duties are: assisting Leo, deciding when polls need to be conducted and

what questions should go on the polls, and meeting with various congressional

committees and special interest groups.

Toby Ziegler is the director of communications. He reports to Leo, and has

equivalent hierarchical status as Josh. Toby is 48-years-old, Jewish, divorced, and was

born in Brooklyn, New York. He is always dressed in a suit, but his tie is typically

loosened, and he appears to be disheveled. Toby is balding and has a beard and

mustache. Toby is shown in bars and drinking alcohol more than any of the other

characters; however, he does not have a drinking problem.

Toby is usually grumpy or melancholy at best-he never smiles or laughs. He

has a dry sense of humor and is a pessimist. Toby interacts with Sam more than the other

characters because Sam is his deputy, and they write the president's speeches together.

In addition to writing speeches, Toby's responsibilities include: supervising C.J. and









Sam and helping Leo decide what should go on the president's agenda (this is often done

when he writes speeches).

Sam Seaborn is the deputy communications director. He is approximately 40-

years-old. Sam was a prominent lawyer before he came to work at the White House. He

is a native Californian and a graduate of Princeton and Duke Law. He cares what other

people think about him, especially women. He is notoriously known for having slept

with a call girl (from season one), and is formerly engaged, however, he does not have an

ongoing relationship with any women in seasons two or three.

Sam is a strong advocate of the environmental lobby and an excellent

speechwriter-all of the other characters think so. He tends to overreact when proper

attention is not paid to his speeches. In addition to writing speeches, Sam's

responsibilities include meeting with various publics on behalf of the president. In

episode 216, "Somebody's going to emergency, somebody's going to jail," for example,

Sam researches criminals who have applied for a presidential pardon and makes

recommendations to the president.

C.J. (Claudia Jean) Cregg is the press secretary. She is approximately 50-years-

old and is the lowest person on the totem pole. Prior to becoming secretary, C.J. worked

for a public relations firm in Hollywood, California. She is a graduate of Berkley. C.J

interacts with reporters more than any of the other characters. This is mainly due to the

fact that this is the primary function of her job. C.J. is humorous, witty and sarcastic.

She typically makes reporters laugh during press briefings.

C.J. is shown drinking socially in a few episodes and gets drunk with the First

Lady in episode 316, "Dead Irish Writers" (Sorkin & Graves, 2002). Her sexuality is









often a topic of conversation; however, she is not shown in any sexual situations. She

does not date anyone in seasons two or three, mainly because she works too much. It is

revealed in season two that she would date a certain reporter if he weren't a reporter and

she wasn't the press secretary.

C.J.'s primary responsibility is conducting and preparing for press briefings and

conferences. She is constantly monitoring U.S. and global news and happenings of the

White House in order to anticipate any and all questions members of the press may ask

her. C.J.'s position causes her to work and interact more with the media than any of the

other characters. One of her duties is to prepare the president for every press conference

and address he makes. C.J. is also responsible for various events at the White House (not

all events). In episode 208, "Shibboleth," for example, C.J. is in charge of the annual

White House Thanksgiving event of pardoning a turkey. Specifically, she must choose

the most photogenic turkey for the president to pardon from being eaten on Thanksgiving

Day. She describes herself as the "Thanksgiving Cruise Director."

HI: The public relations profession and its practitioners will be negatively or

unfavorably portrayed on The West Wing.

Hypothesis one was not supported. Contrary to previous content analysis research

that has found that the portrayal of public relations in the mass media is predominantly

negative, the portrayal of public relations on The West Wing is predominantly positive.

Additionally, public relations practitioners were found to be trustworthy, honest,

responsible, and moral and to possess a strong work ethic.

The positive or favorable portrayal of public relations on The West Wing is due in

large part to the models practiced of public relations practiced. The public information









model was portrayed most often, and it dominated more episodes than the other models.

Oftentimes, the public information model is characterized by incomplete messages,

selected to place the organization in a favorable light (Cutlip et al., 2000), however, that

is not the case in The West Wing. The main characteristic of the public information

model on The West Wing was simply the one-way dissemination of information to

various publics via press conferences or briefings.

The two-way symmetrical model was the second most portrayed model and second

most dominant model of public relations practiced by the characters on The West Wing.

This model, which epitomizes public relations, is characterized by an ongoing dialogue

between an organization and its publics (Cutlip et al., 2000). The public relations

characters are constantly meeting with various publics and conducting formative research

to see what direction the American public wants the president to go with his policy

formation.

Finally, the fictional aspect of an entertainment television show may have

contributed to the positive portrayal of public relations. The writers of The West Wing

may have framed public relations, particularly the practitioner characters, positively, so

viewers would relate to them and, therefore, comeback to watch the show week after

week. Therefore, the findings of this study may differ from previous content analysis

studies because the writers of the subject matter in previous studies (reporters, textbook

authors, etc.) were obligated to be objective.














CHAPTER 8
DISCUSSION

This study explored how public relations is portrayed in entertainment television.

Specifically, how public relations is framed, and which frames dominate, what models of

public relations are presented, and how practitioners are portrayed. Past content analysis

studies have focused on mass communication textbooks, newspapers, television news,

film, and fiction novels. This study offers new insight into how public relations is

portrayed in entertainment television. Additionally, this study offers new insight into the

use of framing theory.

This study suggests that while public relations practitioners, scholars and students

should easily be able to identify the job duties and functions of Leo, Josh, Toby, Sam,

and especially C.J., as being typical of a public relations practitioner, viewers who are

unfamiliar with public relations may not be able to. Because the term public relations is

never used and the term PR was only used twice in one episode, viewers who are

ignorant about public relations may not recognize it when they see it. Viewers, however,

may identify the job duties and functions of all five characters as communications since

that word was used 25 times to describe their jobs. Additionally, viewers may label the

characters or some of the characters as "spin doctors" since spin and various forms of the

word were used 17 times. Viewers may not, however, associate spin with public

relations, since the term public relations was never used.

The ability of a viewer to identify the jobs of the five characters as a public

relations job is complicated by the fact that the characters never describe their job in any









of the episodes. Also, viewers may not be able to distinguish between the nature of

public relations or "communications" jobs and politics, because the two are so

intertwined.

This study suggests that public relations is portrayed positively or favorably on The

West Wing. This is due in large part to the social responsibility exhibited by all of the

characters. From researching unjustly prosecuted criminals to receive presidential

pardons to meeting with a cartographers association to better understand why the world

map used in public schools should be changed, the characters took on numerous meetings

and tasks in an effort to better understand and work for their publics.

The study revealed that public relations practitioners are not accurately represented

on The West Wing. All public relations practitioners on the show are Caucasian, and

male practitioners outnumber female practitioners four to one. According to Grunig

(2001, para. 15), however, public relations is "a profession with a female majority and

with practitioners of many racial and ethnic backgrounds."

All of the public relations practitioners on The West Wing are part of the dominant

coalition. Being part of the dominant coalition is something that all practitioners should

strive for, however, most are not part of the powerful elite in their organization (Kelly,

1998).

The public relations characters are portrayed as having a strong work ethic. This is

due in part to the small amount of time devoted to showing their personal lives on the

show. The show is named The West Wing for a reason most of it takes place in the west

wing of the White House, and it centers on the work that goes on in the west wing. The

strong work ethic of the characters examined may be interpreted as devotion and loyalty









to theirjobs or a love for theirjob. The practitioners' strong work ethic may lead viewers

to think that all of the public relations characters are workaholics or it may lead viewers

to think that working for the President is very demanding.

Viewers may think that public relations practitioners are extremely well educated.

Characters discuss their prestigious alma maters in several episodes. It is well known

among White House staffers that C.J. graduated from Berkley, Sam from Duke and

Princeton, and Josh from Harvard and Yale.

Most of the characters were found to be trustworthy, honest, responsible and moral.

Sam is the only character that is somewhat irresponsible. In numerous episodes, Sam

acts according to his strong convictions about the environment and need for others'

approval (especially women's approval) instead of acting appropriately for his position or

on behalf of the President. He speaks without considering the ramifications of what he is

saying.

The definition of public relations used during the coding process was "public

relations is the management function that establishes and maintains mutually beneficial

relationships between an organization and the public(s) on whom its success or failure

depends" (Cutlip, Center and Broom, 2000, p. 6). The organization is the President of the

United States (or office of the President) and the publics are the White House staff

(secretaries, FBI, interns, etc.), congress (House and Senate), media, the American public

(voters, taxpayers, etc.), foreign governments, state governments, military, lobbyists

(activist groups), etc.

All of the episodes present public relations as a management function. Through

meetings strategizing how to create, maintain or change public opinion and/or build









relationships, the characters are constantly managing communication and relations with

various publics. All of the episodes, however, do not portray public relations as the

management of mutually beneficial relationships. This is evident in the dominant model

of public relations practiced public information.

The main characteristic of the public information model is the one-way flow of

communication/information from the organization to its publics. There is no discourse

between the organization and its publics, simply dissemination of information on behalf

of the organization. The public information model was the dominant model portrayed in

seasons two and three because the dominant tactic was press conferences and briefings.

C.J. would stand behind a podium and tell reporters what the White House wanted them

to know. If the reporters were lucky, she might answer one of their questions. If the

reporters were unlucky, she would deflect their questions.

Some of the episodes did portray public relations as the management of function

of building and maintaining mutually beneficial relationships between an organization

and its publics. This is evident in the second dominant model of public relations

practiced in seasons two and three the two-way symmetrical model. The main

characteristic of this model shown in The West Wing is an ongoing discourse between the

organization and its publics or the two-way flow of information/communication.

Strategies and tactics employed that were characteristic of this model included

meetings with various publics and acting on behalf of various publics. In episode 210,

"Noel," for example, C.J. fields a question in a press briefing about a female tourist who

screamed and fainted after seeing a painting in the White House that was donated by the

French government. C.J. researches the incident and discovers that the woman's father









owned the painting before he was sent to Auschwitz, and the painting was confiscated by

the Nazi's. C.J. negotiates with the French government to give the painting to the

woman.

Not all strategies and tactics mentioned during seasons two and three were

implemented. The majority was simply implemented no forethought or planning was

shown. Only a full cultivation analysis would reveal if mentioning a strategy or tactic,

implementing a strategy or tactic, or both mentioning and implementing a strategy or

tactic would weigh more heavily with viewers. For purposes of this study, all three

scenarios were considered equal. However, a tactic that is simply mentioned and not

implemented may weigh as heavily or more heavily with viewers than a tactic that was

only implemented. For example, strategizing in a private meeting that C.J. should lie and

tell the press, "The president really likes green beans, in fact, he is always looking for

new green bean recipes" may weigh just as heavily with viewers if it is or isn't said to the

press (implemented).

Frames

Interestingly, the image-building frame and puppet master frame were used equally.

Additionally, the number of negative, neutral, and positive portrayals of public relations

in each frame was proportionally the same. The image-building frame was

predominately positive (39.5%, n=17) and the puppet master frame was predominantly

negative (39.5%, n=16). Both frames were concerned with maintaining a favorable

image of the President; however, the puppet master frame took maintaining a favorable

image to a different level. Episodes in the puppet master frame employed more

underhanded and sneaky tactics than episodes in the image-building frame.









It is not surprising that one frame was inherently positive and the other inherently

negative. Items on the coding sheet such as strategies and tactics, tone, and model of

public relations practiced, were used to develop the categories and code tree that aided in

defining the frames. The tone thus became an innate characteristic of the frame.

All of the episodes framed as patriotism were positive or favorable to public

relations in tone. Even if there were underhanded or sneaky strategies and tactics

mentioned, implemented, or both, the high sense of morality and values, particularly

American and democratic values, associated with this frame, overshadowed any

negativity. However, only a full cultivation analysis will reveal if negativity can be

overshadowed by a high sense of morality or by a character doing the right thing.

Image Building Frame

The image-building frame dominated 39.5% of the episodes. It communicated that

public relations is concerned mainly with maintaining a favorable image. The practice of

maintaining favorable images is a stereotype of public relations that is perpetuated by the

media according to Saunders (1993).

Saunders (1993) found that 71% of first time public relations students at four

Florida universities agreed or strongly agreed that public relations specialists "make

flower arrangements of the facts." Because The West Wing perpetuates this image of the

profession through the image-building frame, viewers may develop the same thoughts

about the profession as the students in Saunders' study.

After watching episodes framed as image building, viewers may think that public

relations practitioners will do anything to make themselves and their organization look

good. Viewers may come to distrust public relations practitioners.









Episodes that framed public relations as image building also show viewers that

public relations is not simply "making flower arrangements of the facts." This frame

reveals that public relations practitioners do not simply react to situations, they prevent

them. As it is aptly named, the image building frame shows that a big part of the public

relations practitioner's job is to build relationships. Building strong relationships

contributes positively to the image of the organization.

The West Wing may frame public relations as the practice of image building

because of the nature of politics, not public relations. The underlying plot in most of the

third season was the president's reelection campaign. In order for the president to get

reelected, he must have a pristine image.

Puppet Master Frame

The puppet master frame also dominated 39.5% of the episodes. It communicated

that public relations practitioners will do just about anything and everything to ensure

that their organization/employer comes out on top. Blackmail, bribing, and leaking

information to the press characterized this frame. Viewers may question the ethics of

these practices.

The puppet master frame may lead viewers to believe that public relations

practitioners are fraudulent. On numerous occasions, characters deliberately deceived the

public by leaking news stories to the press in order to get information into the public

domain without having it be attributed to someone at the White House.

While The West Wing portrays public relations negatively, as part of this frame, it

is uncertain if viewers will attribute this frame to public relations or to politics. Viewers

may attribute the "string pulling" the characters engage in as a characteristic of politics or

they may view it as a characteristic of public relations.









Patriotism Frame

According to Topping (2002), the very nature of The West Wing makes viewers

proud of "the red, white, and blue." The patriotism frame reveals that the five main

public relations characters play an important role in making viewers feel proud of the

United States.

Viewers may feel like they can relate to episodes framed as patriotism, especially

since the plots of many episodes in this frame are directly related to current issues in the

United States. The public relations characters on the show have dealt with war, gun

control, and Big Tobacco.

The public relations characters act according to their own values American and

democratic values in episodes framed as patriotism. Viewers may relate to characters

who act on behalf of their morals and sense of American values rather than what is

appropriate for their job.

Framing Theory

This study offers new insight into the applications of framing theory. Framing

studies typically examine nonfiction media, i.e., newspapers, television news, journals,

magazines. Little to no framing studies have examined how information is framed in

fictional media, particularly primetime television programming.

This study shows that framing is a useful paradigm for determining how an

occupation and its professionals are portrayed in entertainment television programming.

Specifically, it is useful in examining what elements of the profession and its

professionals are emphasized and what are excluded. This is contrary to previous studies

that have simply relied on content analysis to determine how various professions and

their professionals are portrayed. By discovering the emergent frames of a television









show depicting a particular profession, professionals can see how the social reality of

their profession is constructed for viewers.

Implications for the Public Relations Profession

Most public relations scholars, practitioners, and students would agree that the

general public does not know much about the profession or its practitioners. Generally,

the American public does not encounter public relations practitioners as often as they do

other professionals such as doctors, attorneys, salesmen, etc. The public typically

experiences public relations through the media; therefore, it is important how the

profession is portrayed in the media.

Numerous studies, including this one, have attempted to determine how public

relations is portrayed in the media. Historically, the media channels that most often

portray the profession are news media; however, because the profession is one of the

fastest growing occupational fields in the United States (Bureau of Labor Statistics,

2004), its portrayals in the media, particularly entertainment media, are increasing.

Public relations professionals, scholars, and organizations, such as the Public Relations

Society of America, need to be more attentive to how the profession is portrayed in all

types of media, particularly entertainment media.

Public relations practitioners have long indicated that the profession has its own

public relations problem. Studies, including this one, indicate that the profession is

misunderstood. One problem that needs to be addressed is the name of the profession -

public relations. According to Sparks (1993, p. 27), "the credibility of our industry -

public relations is so low that many practitioners are distancing themselves from the

term public relations while continuing to practice the discipline of public relations." She

declares that the term public relations is being replaced with alternative terminology such









as public communications, public affairs, corporate communications, and marketing

communications.

As aforementioned, The West Wing is modeled after the real-life drama of the

communications office in the White House. The term public relations is never used in

seasons two or three, yet "(c ,iuuIliiinii,\" is used numerous times. Perhaps that is

simply a reflection of reality. Does the U.S. government rely on terms such as public

affairs, press secretary and communications director to describe the public relations

discipline and its practitioners because they recognize that low credibility is associated

with the term public relations?

Limitations of Study and Recommendations for Future Research

What makes good politics may not make good public relations and vice versa. The

political premise of The West Wing is a limitation. While the characters function as

public relations practitioners, they also function as political strategists; therefore, it is

difficult at times to determine if a character is acting according their political motivations

or if they are acting in an effort to build and maintain mutually beneficial relationships

for the President.

A framing analysis of public relations in the primetime television drama The West

Wing cannot suffice for a framing analysis of public relations in entertainment television.

The West Wing is not representative of the entire public relations field. The models of

public relations practiced, strategies and tactics employed in politics may vary greatly

from models practiced and strategies and tactics employed in nonprofits, public relations

agencies, and industry. Framing and content analysis of other entertainment television

shows portraying public relations should be conducted.









A full cultivation analysis to examine the relationship between television coverage

of public relations in The West Wing and audience perceptions of public relations should

be conducted. A full cultivation analysis would exhaust or add credibility to this study.

It would either create cause for concern or lay-to-rest any concerns public relations

practitioners and scholars have about how public relations is portrayed in entertainment

television.

A cultivation analysis would examine several things. First, it would determine if

viewers of The West Wing are knowledgeable of the public relations profession. Second,

it would determine if viewers of the show recognize Leo, Josh, Toby, Sam, or C.J. as

public relations practitioners or if they simply see them as political strategists. Third, a

cultivation analysis would reveal if viewers' knowledge and opinion of the public

relations profession and its practitioners changes after watching the show.

Finally, a cultivation analysis would determine if the amount of time spent watching The

West Wing effects viewers' perceptions of public relations.

While a causal relationship cannot be determined from this study, recent public

opinion data suggests that while Americans still do not trust the public relations industry,

the amount of trust in public relations may be on the rise. According to a 2002 survey of

more than 700 Americans, the public relations industry is more trustworthy than the

following industries: advertising, marketing, journalism, telecommunication, insurance,

accounting, oil/gas, utilities, and airlines/travel (Lohman, 2002). A cultivation analysis

would reveal if The West Wing has created an increase in trust in the public relations

profession.









Research should be conducted to determine how the general American public views

the public relations profession and its practitioners even if a full cultivation analysis of

The West Wing is not conducted. Perhaps, simply surveying the general public about their

knowledge and opinion of public relations would suffice.

Finally, it is highly recommended that future studies be conducted in order to

determine if the name of the public relations profession should be changed, and

implications associated with a name change. Would changing the name of the profession

make it more or less credible? Would a name change help or harm the profession?














CHAPTER 9
CONCLUSION

Research has shown that the public relations profession suffers from a poor

reputation. A poor reputation due in part to the negative stereotypes perpetuated by the

mass media. This study reveals that while negative stereotypes of the profession are

evident in primetime entertainment television via The West Wing, entertainment

television (The West Wing) provides a more balanced picture of the profession than other

mass media outlets.

The West Wing shows both positive and negative aspects of the public relations

profession and its practitioners. Approximately 50% (n=20) of the episodes in seasons

two and three were positive or favorable towards public relations in tone, and

approximately 40% (n=16) were negative or unfavorable towards public relations in tone.

The most idealized model of public relations, two-way symmetrical, was portrayed in

51% of the episodes (n=22). And practitioners were shown to be trustworthy, honest,

responsible, moral, and possessed a strong work ethic.

It is fairly evident through the work of other researchers that the public may not

understand the purpose of public relations and what its practitioners do. The West Wing

gives the public a look at what public relations is and what its practitioners do without

referring to public relations-the term was never used in either season. Only a full

cultivation analysis will reveal if the public understands the profession after viewing The

West Wing.









Viewers of The West Wing may not be able to tell where public relations ends and

politics begin and vice versa. At times, politics and public relations are indistinguishable.

This is evident in the frames that emerged.

Through the "image building" frame, which dominated 39.5% (n=17) of the

episodes, public relations was framed as a profession concerned with building and

maintaining images. Image building must occur in the political arena because a

candidate's image is what gets him or her elected and reelected. Through the "puppet

master" frame, which also dominated 39.5% (n=17) of the episodes, public relations

practitioners were framed as "string-pullers" who do anything and everything to

manipulate others and events so their organization comes out on top. Politicians and their

employees must pull strings to get bills passed and make their constituents happy.

Through the "patriotism" frame, public relations practitioners were as people who act out

of love, respect and a sense of duty to their country. Politicians act patriotically as well.

The effects of The West Wing on the public's perception of public relations and its

practitioners will not be fully known until a cultivation analysis is conducted. The

picture the media paints of public relations and its practitioners can affect how the

profession is perceived. How the profession is perceived greatly affects how

organizations that employ public relations are perceived. In order for the profession to

overcome its image problem, and improve credibility, it must work to change how the

media portrays it.

If The West Wing, an entertainment televisions show, has the ability to change how

the American public perceives the President of the United States (Holbert et al., 2003), it






62


may have the ability to change how the American public perceives public relations and its

practitioners.















APPENDIX A
EPISODE GUIDE



Season Two

201: In The Shadow Of Two Gunmen: Part I

202: In The Shadow Of Two Gunmen: Part Ii

203: The Midterms

204: In This White House

205: And It's Surely To Their Credit

206: The Lame Duck Congress

207: The Portland Trip

208: Shibboleth

209: Galileo

210: Noel

211: The Leadership Breakfast

212: The Drop-In

213: Bartlet's Third State Of The Union

214: The War At Home

215: Ellie

216: Somebody's Going To Emergency, Somebody's Going To Jail

217: The Stackhouse Filibuster









218: 17 People

219: Bad Moon Rising

220: The Fall's Gonna Kill You

221: 18th And Potomac

222: Two Cathedrals



Season Three

300: Isaac And Ishmael

301: Manchester, Part I

302: Manchester, Part II

303: Ways And Means

304: On The Day Before

305: War Crimes

306: Gone Quiet

307: The Indians In The Lobby

308: The Women Of Qumar

309: Bartlet For America

310: H.Con-172

311: 100,000 Airplanes

312: The Two Bartlets

313: Night Five

314: Hartsfield's Landing

315: Dead Irish Writers

316: The U.S. Poet Laureate






65


317: Stirred

318: Documentary Special

319: Enemies Foreign And Domestic

320: The Black Vera Wang

321: We Killed Yamamoto

322: Posse Comitatus















APPENDIX B
CODING SHEET



ID#

1. Name of Episode

2. Date originally aired
/ /

3. Day of week

4. Date aired in syndication
/ /

5. Day of week

6. Plot

7. Subplots

8. What is the overall tone of public relations in this episode?
-negative/unfavorable- neutral +positive/favorable+

9. References to public relations:

PR
Public relations
Publicity
Spin doctor/doctoring
Public information officer
Press Secretary
Gatekeeper
Media relations
Spokesperson
Other:











10. List the public relations strategies and tactics mentioned and implemented.

Strategy/Tactic Mentioned Implemented


11. Models of public relations practiced.
Press Agentry
Public Information
Two-way asymmetrical
Two-way symmetrical


12. Provide the demographics of each public relations character. This will not be
necessary for every episode.

Name ~ Age Race Sex Description
CJ Caucasian Female
Leo Caucasian Male
Sam Caucasian Male
Toby Caucasian Male
Josh Caucasian Male


Character

13. Does the character describe theirjob to anyone in this episode? If so, what do
they say?


14. Who did they interact with in this episode?


15. What was the context of the interaction? Was it work-related or personnel?


-i +


-i +









16. What was the topic of conversation?

17. What was the outcome of the interaction?

18. Where did the interaction take place? (At the white house, a bar, on a plane,
press conference, etc.)

19. What activities does the character engage in? Professional and personal.

20. What are the recurring traits of the character?

21. Rate the character on each of the following:
Not at all Absolutely
Trustworthiness 1 2 3 4 5

Honesty 1 2 3 4 5

Work ethic 1 2 3 4 5

Responsibility 1 2 3 4 5

Morality 1 2 3 4 5














APPENDIX C
CODING GUIDE

Refer to the following definition for answering, "what is public relations?"
Public relations is the management function that establishes and maintains mutually
beneficial relationships between an organization and the public on whom its success or
failure depends.

In the case of The West Wing, the organization is the office of the President. The publics
are: White house staff (secretaries, FBI, interns, etc.), congress, media, the American
public (voters, taxpayers, etc.), foreign governments, state governments, military,
lobbyists (activist groups), etc.

Therefore, public relations in The West Wing, is the management function that establishes
and maintains mutually beneficial relationships between the President of the United
States (or office of the President) and the aforementioned publics on whom its success or
failure depends.

For purposes of this study, only public relations activities thought of or carried out by the
five main public relations characters (Leo, CJ, Sam, Toby and Josh) will be considered.

ID# (Episode number)

13. Name of Episode

14. Date originally aired-dd/mm/yy.

15. Day of week. All Wednesday.

16. Date aired in syndication-dd/mm/yy.

17. Day of week. Write the day of week the episode aired in syndication.

18. Plot
Briefly describe the plot of the episode. This information can be obtained from the
NBC web site. This will be professional related. For example: In this episode, the
president and staff prepare to run for reelection. Meanwhile, CJ makes a
potentially damaging statement to the press.









19. Subplots-briefly describe the subplots of the episode. This will be drama
related-it will not deal with a public relations activities. For example: Josh is
having an affair with a White House intern.

20. What is the overall tone of public relations in this episode?
-negative/unfavorable- neutral +positive/favorable+

Circle the appropriate tone.

21. References to public relations:
Record how many times each of the terms below are used in the episode. Record

alternate terms for public relations that are not listed.


PR
Public relations
Publicity
Propaganda
Spin doctor(ing)
Public information officer
Press Secretary
Gatekeeper
Media relations
Spokesperson
Other:
22. List the public relations strategies and tactics mentioned and implemented.
For example: The public relations characters could meet to discuss specific

strategies and tactics to use in the reelection campaign; however, they may not

implement any of those strategies or tactics in that episode. If that is the case, you

will record the strategy or tactic and place a (x) in the corresponding box-

mentioned or implemented.


Strategy/Tactic Mentioned Implemented

















23. Models of public relations practiced.
Based on the following definitions, and the strategies and tactics above, rank-

order the model practiced in the episode. 1 = predominate model to 4 = least used

model. If two models are used equally, place the same number next to each

model. For example: If press agentry and public information are the only models

used in the episode, and they are used equally, place a 1 next to each model. If

you are unable to determine which model is being practiced, mark N/A. If a

model is not used, leave it blank.


Press Public Two-way Two-way
Agentry Information asymmetrical symmetrical
Definition Creating No effort is Research is Mutually beneficial
newsworthy made to conducted to relationships are
stories and balance the find out what maintained between
events to organization's the public the organization and
attract media needs with the likes about the its publics.
attention and publics needs. organization
to gain The org.'s and that
public interests take aspect is
notice. precedence. highlighted.
Purpose Propagandiz Disseminated Persuade Reach mutual
e a cause needs understanding
information
Nature of One-way One-way Two-way Two-way balanced
communica Unbalanced Unbalanced unbalanced effects
tion effects effects effects
Truth not Truth
important important
Example The Press Polling. The The president visits a
strategies president conference. PR staff red cross shelter after
and tactics: visits a red shows voters a hurricane and talks









cross shelter
after a
hurricane
and the
media are
notified.


3 different
delivery
methods of
the same state
of the union
speech to
determine
which
delivery
method the
pres. should
use.


with victims.
Victims tell him that
evacuation routes
were not publicized.
The president gets
someone to correct
the problem with the
evacuation routes.


Press Agentry
Public Information
Two-way asymmetrical
Two-way symmetrical


24. Provide the demographics of each public relations character. This will not be
necessary for every episode.
Give the approximate age of each character and provide a brief description of how

they dress, how they look, etc. For example: Toby is balding, has a beard and

mustache. He wears a suit, but his tie is always loosened.


Name ~ Age Race Sex Description
CJ Caucasian Female
Leo Caucasian Male
Sam Caucasian Male
Toby Caucasian Male
Josh Caucasian Male


Character

22. Does the character describe theirjob to anyone in this episode? If so, what do
they say?


23. Who did they interact with in this episode? The press, each other, significant
others, congress, etc.






73




24. What was the context of the interaction? Was it work-related or personnel? A
press conference, a date with a significant other, dinner with a senator, etc.


25. What was the topic of conversation?


26. What was the outcome of the interaction?


27. Where did the interaction take place? (At the white house, a bar, on a plane,
press conference, etc.)


28. What activities does the character engage in? Professional and personal.
Smoking, drinking, volunteering, mentoring, sexual relations.


29. What are the recurring traits of the character? Bossy, driven, isolated, lazy,
pushy, understanding, sympathetic, grumpy, etc.


30. Rate the character on each of the following:
Not at all Absolutely


Trustworthiness

Honesty

Work ethic

Responsibility


Morality


1 2 3 4 5

1 2 3 4 5

1 2 3 4 5

1 2 3 4 5

1 2 3 4 5















LIST OF REFERENCES

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from http://emmys.redlinemedia.com/awards/results.

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August, M. & McDowell, J. (2002, April 1). The new capitol gang. Time, 159(13), p.
64-65.

Bishop, R. L. (1988). What newspapers say about public relations. Public Relations
Review, 14(2), p. 51-51.

Boeije, H. (2002). A purposeful approach to the constant comparative method in the
analysis of qualitative interviews. Quality and Quantity, 36, p. 391-409.

Brody, E. W. (1984). Antipathy between PR, journalism exaggerated. Public Relations
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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH

Staci Lyn Priest is a lifelong resident of north central Florida. She received her

Bachelor of Science in Public Relations degree from the University of Florida in

Gainesville, Florida, in May of 2002. Priest decided to pursue a career in public relations

because of the creative and learning opportunities it affords. Priest's ultimate career goal

is to own and operate her own public relations firm.

Priest's interest in how the general public perceives public relations came after

years of unsuccessfully explaining what public relations is to others (i.e., trying to answer

the question "what are you getting your degree in, again?"). This interest was furthered

because Priest feels that public relations practitioners, scholars and organizations should

do something to change the somewhat soiled reputation of the profession.