Journalism professor RayGamache spoke on Dec. 10 at the College of St. Scholastica as part of the School of Arts and Letters Faculty Colloquium lecture series.
Gamache’s speech, titled “Framing Bode Miller: From Iconoclast to Whipping Boy to Olympic Hero,” focuses on how the media coverage of famous skier Bode Miller framed him in a negative light, as well as the impact of Miller’s standings on the reporting that involves him.
Gamache uses the framing of Miller to demonstrate how news frames work.
Throughout the speech, Gamache talked about three of the five generic frames; human interest was the first.
He said that “human interest has been a staple of print journalism since its very beginnings, it was electronic sports journalism that fully capitalized in the technique.”
Gamache quoted Raymond Williams about the legitimacy of linking athletes’ character and performance while discussing the human interest frame.
“Modern American sports media have utilized this personalized approach of framing athletes in which ‘the way people play the game is generally also the way they are as human beings,’” Gamache said.
Miller’s character--from his untamed upbringing in Franconia, N.H., to his penchant for partying to his becoming a father--has been a topic of media coverage since he started winning ski races, and Gamache discussed how Miller’s unconventional attitude towards the media, and skiing in general, has played a role in any framing that involves Miller.
“Miller’s iconoclastic approach produced unexpected results,” Gamache said, referring to Miller’s tendency to make “acrobatic recoveries” and still finish races.
Miller is known for his ability to hone in on the race and increase his speed, but at the same time increasing the risk of falling, which for many skiers mean the end of the race. Part of the reason why Miller’s style is so different is because he embraced that aspect and worked on making fast recoveries and “satisfying expectations,” Gamache said.
Gamache pointed out that this attitude that Miller developed started at a young age. Miller has said that he has skied that way forever, which may be a large reason that his attitude towards skiing is so unique. It is how the media covers this uniqueness that frames Miller, however.
“Media accounts coupled Miller’s penchant for going fast and his ability to recover with his failure to finish races,” Gamache said.
Gamache also described the conflict and responsibility frames that have been used for Miller and demonstrate how they work.
As far as the conflict frame goes, Gamache covered issues that Miller had with the USSA as well as the media coverage of a rumor that Miller was planning on developing a rival circuit.
Miller is also quoted in the speech critiquing the U.S. policy in Iraq. By expressing opinions about governmental issues in an interview, Miller essentially gave ammo to the media to use the conflict frame.
The responsibility frame is what Gamache called “Miller’s road to redemption.” Using Miller’s relationship with his daughter and seemingly renovated attitude towards the Olympics and skiing in general to reframe society’s ideas about Miller.
Miller’s seemingly different attitude about rejoining the ski team raised some skepticism.
“That Miller and the U.S. Ski Team reached an agreement on team and training rules can be attributed to movement from both parties,” Gamache said.
Miller had left the team after a disappointing 2008-09 World Cup, and it was during that time that the news that Miller was a father was released.
This was the main factor in the media’s shift in frames, Gamache explained. Miller’s “road to redemption” came with becoming a father to Neesyn Dacey and eventually led to a victorious return at the Vancouver Olympic Games.
“Rather than minimize the importance of the Olympics, Miller seemed to embrace the idea of being inspired by the importance of the games,” Gamache said.
After Miller’s reunion with the Olympic Games, the media embraced his now inspiring and transformed persona. It was at that point that his victories were linked to his maturity and fatherhood while his comments about not changing went largely unnoticed.
“Few chose to quote Miller when he related in the press conference after the race that he ‘has not changed as a skier or a person,’” Gamache said of the shift in the framing of Miller.
To watch a video of Dr. Gamache's presentation at the International Ski History Congress in 2009, go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PEphgCURZjo