This study explores the feasibility and usefulness of five generic frames (conflict, responsibility, economic consequences, human interest and morality) in analysing framing practices in a multifaceted journalistic field over time. We show that supplementing generic frames through the tonality expressed in news stories enhances analytical quality. Mapping Swiss media outlets by how they frame a highly polarizing policy, we identify different framing practices in covering the issue. Using multiple correspondence analyses, the results first show that, while cultural background and media partisanship lead to heterogeneity in how the issue is initially framed, the state’s involvement homogenizes framing practices over time. Second, unlike previous research, our study provides empirical evidence that both conflict frame and attribution of responsibility frame can measure the same underlying construct. Third, we find evidence that these two frames are strongly associated with a negative tone. Limitations and implications for future research are discussed.