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Historical Drifts Without Paradigm Shifts: A Historical Analysis of Newspaper Coverage of Social Protest
Unformatted Document Text:  Protest Coverage in Wisconsin Newspapers 1960-1999 -10- Research has indicated that media coverage can marginalize protest groups that challenge the status quo. A key factor in the ‘isolation’ or ‘acceptance of a protest group by the larger society is the mass media’s treatment of the protesters, which is shaped to a large extent by a routinized journalistic paradigm used in covering social protest. Termed the “protest paradigm” by Chan & Lee’s (1984), this approach has been extended by other scholars. McLeod and Hertog (1999), for example, classified characteristics of the protest paradigm into the following categories: narrative structures, reliance on official sources and official definitions; the invocation of public opinion; and other techniques of delegitimization, marginalization, and demonization. Often, the narrative structure presents a protest event as a confrontation between protesters and police, choosing to ignore the ideological conflict between protesters and their chosen target (McLeod & Hertog 1992). Physical confrontation and violence are the points of emphasis of media coverage, with the protesters being projected as norm or law violators (Cohen, 1980; Gitlin, 1980; McLeod & Hertog, 1992; Murdock, 1981). The protesters, in their efforts to catch the public eye, frequently engage in a barter arrangement (Gamson, 1989) with the media, giving the latter ‘good video and pictures.’ While such ‘action’ ensures media coverage of the protest itself, there are opportunity costs such as the media’s obfuscation of the underlying issues, and the protesters being labeled as ‘deviants’ and ‘criminals’ (Gitlin, 1977; Hall, Clarke, Critcher, Jefferson & Roberts, 1978). Another way that newspapers can affect the public’s perception of a protest is by giving the news story greater or lesser prominence within the newspaper edition. Prominence can be demonstrated by both where the story appears in the newspaper, as well as through the actual size of the story (number of paragraphs). This leads to the next set of research questions:

Authors: Devanathan, Narayan., Boyle, Michael., Shevy, Mark., McCluskey, Michael., Stein, Susan., Hillback, Elliott. and McLeod, Douglas.
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Protest Coverage in Wisconsin Newspapers 1960-1999 -10-
Research has indicated that media coverage can marginalize protest groups that challenge
the status quo. A key factor in the ‘isolation’ or ‘acceptance of a protest group by the larger
society is the mass media’s treatment of the protesters, which is shaped to a large extent by a
routinized journalistic paradigm used in covering social protest. Termed the “protest paradigm”
by Chan & Lee’s (1984), this approach has been extended by other scholars. McLeod and Hertog
(1999), for example, classified characteristics of the protest paradigm into the following
categories: narrative structures, reliance on official sources and official definitions; the
invocation of public opinion; and other techniques of delegitimization, marginalization, and
demonization.
Often, the narrative structure presents a protest event as a confrontation between
protesters and police, choosing to ignore the ideological conflict between protesters and their
chosen target (McLeod & Hertog 1992). Physical confrontation and violence are the points of
emphasis of media coverage, with the protesters being projected as norm or law violators
(Cohen, 1980; Gitlin, 1980; McLeod & Hertog, 1992; Murdock, 1981). The protesters, in their
efforts to catch the public eye, frequently engage in a barter arrangement (Gamson, 1989) with
the media, giving the latter ‘good video and pictures.’ While such ‘action’ ensures media
coverage of the protest itself, there are opportunity costs such as the media’s obfuscation of the
underlying issues, and the protesters being labeled as ‘deviants’ and ‘criminals’ (Gitlin, 1977;
Hall, Clarke, Critcher, Jefferson & Roberts, 1978).
Another way that newspapers can affect the public’s perception of a protest is by giving
the news story greater or lesser prominence within the newspaper edition. Prominence can be
demonstrated by both where the story appears in the newspaper, as well as through the actual size
of the story (number of paragraphs). This leads to the next set of research questions:


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