Workshop Resources: Language and Framing

Published July 2022

Brush up on our language and framing workshop with this list of core concepts.


  • Core Concepts: Language
  • Core Concepts: Framing
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Core Concepts: Language

Intent-impact gap: The space between the effect a messenger wants their message to achieve and the impact it has on the receiver.

Sign: The combination of a signifier (i.e. the word “tree”) and the signified, or what it’s meant to represent (i.e. the plant with a trunk and branches).

Relational vs. differential: Words find their meanings in relation to other words and in the differences between those definitions.

Semiotic triangle: A graphic representation of a sign, including the signifier, the signified (the literal thing being represented) and its related concept.

Encoding vs. decoding: The process of producing and sending a message (encoding) and the receiving and interpretation of that message (decoding).

Coded language: Terms understood to have ulterior meanings or connotations, particularly within in-groups.

Opportunity cost: The difference in impact between the option you choose and the best option you pass up. In economics, the impact is literal cost.

Self-description: Empowering others by encouraging and utilizing their descriptions of their personal identities and lived experiences.

People-first language: Terms that emphasize the humanity in an individual or group of people, instead of defining them by a trait or experience.

Sensitivity reader: Editors who give special attention to how historically oppressed people are represented in media with the goal of eliminating bias.

Core Concepts: Framing

News frame: The information in a news story that suggests what the problem is about, how it can be addressed, and who is responsible for creating and solving it.

Hallin’s Spheres: A concept that describes how problems are framed in the media within the ranges of public consensus, legitimate controversy, or deviance.

Framing effect: A cognitive bias in which individuals make decisions based on whether options are presented positively or negatively.

False balance: Framing opposing viewpoints as equal simply because they are in opposition, rather than framing them in proportion to their evidence.

Epistemic injustice: The wronging of individuals and communities in their capacity as “knowers” due to prejudices against their credibility and knowledge.

Asset framing: The act of framing a conversation about an individual or community in terms of their assets and aspirations, rather than in terms of what they lack.

Solutions journalism: Rigorous, evidence-based reporting on the responses to social problems.

Frameworks: Ways of organizing or ascribing meaning to patterns found within news frames or in the use of frames across media.

Role performance: A framework for examining how journalists’ practices do or do not align with their stated professional ideals and missions.

Episodic vs. thematic: Focusing on a singular story, event, or instance in lieu of or as the sole representation of its systemic or thematic context.

Metanarrative: The stories we tell about our stories; a way of understanding the themes and bird’s eye views of the products of journalism.

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