4.17: Media Framing of the Events of January 6, 2021

What really happened on January 6, 2021 at the U.S. Capitol?

How will it be discussed in history and civics classes not only today, but 10, 20, 30 or more years from now?

Was it a protest, a riot, an insurrection, a siege, or something else?

Was it done by a mob, a few bad actors, lawful protestors, political opportunists, or a group of carefully planned conspirators? 

2021 storming of the United States Capitol "6 January 2021" by Tyler Merbler is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Defenders claimed that the people who marched to the Capitol were living up to the ideals of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution by demonstrating against what they regarded as an unfair election.

Critics claimed nothing could be further from what actually happened. They contended that a crowd, intentionally inflamed by speeches by political leaders, became a violent mob, and sought to overturn the results of a free and fair presidential election, and in so doing, turned against the ideals and values of American democracy.

The public's understanding of January 6 depends in large part on how the media chose to frame it. Media framing is how reporters and editors present what happened - the words used in stories, the images shown in videos, the pictures that accompany news bulletins, the choice of who to interview to gain information and insights, etc... 

Different media outlets offered different framing, as evidenced by this report from PBS Newshour (There’s a Battle of Words to Describe January 6, 2021. Here’s Why It Matters). The following resources from AllSides.com offer more examples of different media framing: Capitol Breach Coverage Demonstrates Media Bias and Capitol Chaos.

In the following activities, you will compare and contrast different media framing of the January 6, 2021 events at the Capitol.

Activity 1: Compare and Contrast the Media Framing of January 6, 2021

Activity 2: Examine Media About and By the United States House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack

The events of January 6 continue to make news months later. In July, 2021, the United States House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack held its first hearings on what happened that day. The committee's investigations have continued throughout 2021.

Additional Resources

Connecting to the eBook

Building Democracy for All: McCarthyism, the Red Scare, and the Lavender Scare

Connecting to the Standards