The Role of Engagement with Characters in Framing and Persuasion through News Narratives

  • Barbara Maleckar

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


While the field of narrative persuasion has widely stressed the persuasive power of (fictional) stories, the framing research tradition has overlooked the role of narrative properties in framing. Neither field has examined news as narrative and the influence that it might have on audiences through mechanisms of narrative persuasion. Because character is an integral component of the very definition of narrative, it is investigated in this project both as textual cue and reception process that can account for the persuasive power of news frames on audiences.
The first stage of the research involved a qualitative study of character at the textual level. Narrative devices used to portray individuals involved in a newsworthy event and to present their point of view were analysed in two framing analyses. Excerpts from crime news coverage clearly linked narrative devices pertaining to the treatment of character with the available frames about the crime. These devices were used in the news stories to invite readers’ engagement with certain characters instead of others and to transmit the frame accordingly.
The effect of character-based frames on reader engagement was then tested in two experimental studies that manipulated the perspective from which the crime events were presented by selecting appropriate excerpts from authentic news media materials. Readers’ engagement with characters was measured as the mediating mechanism based on a theoretical model which is developed throughout this thesis. The results of the experimental studies showed that the news frames successfully transferred to audience frames constructed through readers’ engagement with the individual from whose perspective the story was narrated. These findings provide evidence for the persuasive power of character engagement in news narratives, which had only been found previously with fictional narratives. The findings confirm that frame setting can occur through mechanisms of narrative persuasion and that news are indeed perceived as narrative.
Date of Award30 Jan 2013
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Winchester
SupervisorDavid Giles (Supervisor) & Magdalena Zawisza (Supervisor)

Cite this

The Role of Engagement with Characters in Framing and Persuasion through News Narratives
Maleckar, B. (Author). 30 Jan 2013

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis