53 by Chipangula (2004), Chimombo & Chimombo (1996) and Chimombo (1998) are combined qualitative discourse and quantitative content analysis studies whose scope was either too broad (Chimombo & Chimombo, 1996) or the sample too small (Chipangula, 2004) to effectively apply the findings to the media in Malawi. This study attempts to fill that gap by employing frame theory analysis concentrated on three case studies spread over a ten year period since 1994. Further, it draws on three substantial datasets. In this way, this study will enable generalisations that cannot be confidently made from any of the studies reviewed here. Third, this study will make conclusions on the actual content of political debate and how ownership may have influenced that debate. As can be noted from the studies revealed in this section, none of them, except maybe Chirambo‟s (1998) study on political discourse in cartoons, offer a sustained examination of the content of political debate. This study will not only examine the content of the political debate in newspaper editorials but it will also compare that content to parliamentary debate on the same issues. 2.5 Comparison of Editorials against Parliamentary Speeches The preceding sections have provided a discussion of frame theory as the bedrock of this study. Further, the chapter has examined the prevailing literature on political communication in Malawi. As this chapter comes to an end, it is important to examine the genre of political discourse from which the frames detected in this study are drawn. Specifically, this section examines newspaper editorials and parliamentary speeches as recorded in the Hansard, the official record of proceedings in the National Assembly, and attempts to establish the basis of comparison between the two.
2.5.1 Editorials and Opinion Columns 54 Editorials are public, mass communicated types of opinion discourse that normally appear in a newspaper and are the “official” voice of a media outlet on matters of public importance. In Malawi, Op-ed articles usually represent the expressed opinion of a single individual approved by the editor and tend to follow the party line of the owners. Sometimes, an alternative voice different from the newspaper‟s party line may appear. According to van Dijk (1996), newspapers‟ editorials and opinion discourse has influence over political opinion leaders including politicians, institutional and/or elite actors, and corporate executives. Thus, Greenberg (2000) argues that the influence of newspapers is only surpassed by that of primetime television. Greenberg (2000) further notes that: . . . these opinions are often perceived by readers to be consistent with the viewpoints of the newspaper as an organizational entity equipped with the facts and information required for informed opinion formation, which are generally unavailable to the average newsreader. News, on the other hand, is “. . . information about recent events that are of interest to a sufficiently large group, or that may affect the lives of a sufficiently large group” (Reah, 2002, p.4). Firmstone (2003, p.6) argues regarding news: “. . . newspapers select information from a range of alternatives and „package‟ news content with meaning . . . .” On the other hand, editorials comment: “. . . represents a newspaper‟s decision to select a specific issue on which the newspaper wishes to contribute an opinion . . .” Editorials thus represent the ideological position of a newspaper even though the opinions expressed in the editorial are not necessarily those of the owner or owners.