BECA Graduate Student Wins CSU Research Competition

Author: Department of BECA
May 1, 2023

BECA MFA student Morgan Butler placed first in the graduate division of the Behavioral, Social Sciences, and Public Administration category at the California State University Systemwide Student Research Competition.

Her research project, Watching Protests Unfold: An Analysis of Visual Framing in Live Bay Area Broadcast News Coverage of Black Lives Matter Protests, examines aesthetic differences between helicopter and field cameras used during the reporting process.

The content analysis builds upon previous work on the Protest Paradigm which argues that journalists reporting on protests typically focus on the actions and behaviors of protestors.

The research found that live video feeds from helicopters were more likely to focus on protestors, while live feeds from ground cameras were more likely to provide a balanced frame, showing both protestors and police, or a focus on police.

The result also showed a reliance on helicopter footage by news stations, with nearly 90% of live images coming from helicopter cameras. The study cautions against this overreliance on helicopter cameras due to the extreme long shot framing and lack of audio creating difficulties for journalists to be able to tell what is happening on the ground, as well as that the cinematography of helicopter cameras has been argued to dehumanize its subjects.

The exploratory research has implications for how journalists approach their live coverage of protests.

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