Claiming the News 2: This Time It’s Classy

Yesterday I wrote about the co-occurrence of claims about homosexuality in national newspapers since 1950. As part of that analysis, I argued that the more relationships that exist between claims, the denser the co-occurrence networks, the more discourse work is being done. If a claim is made without justification or contradiction, the claim is taken on its face – it is not considered controversial. A controversial, or unpopular, claim requires justification and will likely be accompanied by opposing claims, which leads to denser networks. Yesterday I focused on how these claim networks changed over time. Today, I want to briefly explore how these networks differ across types of speakers.

In addition to the data I described in my previous post, I also coded for who was speaking in a particular paragraph. I classified the speakers into 14 different types or classes of speaker:

  • The author of the article
  • Democratic politician
  • Republican politician
  • Other politician
  • Medical Professional
  • Science Professional
  • Religious Professional
  • LGBT Layperson
  • LGBT SMO representative
  • Countermovement representative
  • Other SMO representative
  • Law Professional
  • Police
  • Military

I was curious how the claim networks might differ across these classes and I found some interesting results. Ignoring the author of the article (a far too heterogenous group to draw usable conclusions from), most classes have very sparse claim networks. Below are a selection of the network classes. The maximum number of ties in a single graph is just four.

science republican religious police medical law democrat


However, this sparseness is not characteristic of all classes. Both LGBT layperson and LGBT SMO representatives have much richer claim networks.

lgbtperson lgbtsmo


There are many more ties between claims in these graphs. I think this reflects the fact that LGBT people were actively engaged in discourse work in the media arena: they were trying to change how the media, and by extension, the public, talked about and understood homosexuality. As a result, LGBT speakers would make multiple claims in a single article through the process of persuading the public to support gay rights. Other speaker classes were not actively engaged in this type of discourse work, and so would make claims with little justification or contradiction.

These results may also reflect the status of the different types of speakers. Most other speaker classes were considered experts and/or elites by the news media, and a great deal of deference was given to these speakers by journalists. So claims made by these elites did not require justification or follow up. LGBT people, on the other hand, were not granted the same amount of deference, and so to convince journalists and the public of their stance, they had to engage in much more debate.