Historical Drifts Without Paradigm Shifts: A Historical Analysis of Newspaper Coverage of Social Protest
Unformatted Document Text:
Protest Coverage in Wisconsin Newspapers 1960-1999 -13-
actions, strikes and demonstrations. Only stories about protests that took place in the State of
Wisconsin were used in this analysis.
Coder training was conducted through a series of meetings conducted over a three-month
period. Coders trained in the application of the recording instrument and on proper coding
technique. The majority of the measures employed in this study were closed-ended, however,
open-ended coding was necessary for the following variables: protest location (Alpha = .94),
protest target (Alpha = .79), protest topic (Alpha = .80) and reasons for protest (Alpha = .79).
For these measures, coders were instructed to indicate the location of the protest (based on where
it began), the main target of the protest, the main topic of the protest, as well as the main reason,
or reasons, for the protest.
To more closely look at the relationship between protest-type and the nature of the
protest’s coverage, the following dependent variables were used in this analysis: (a) headline
valence, (b) article valence, and (c) number of paragraphs (alpha= .99). An initial indication of
differences in news coverage is demonstrated through the degree of support or criticism the
article and its headline direct toward the protesters and their actions. Headline valence (Alpha =
.71) and article valence (Alpha = .70) were coded using a five-point scale with “1” being highly
supportive, “3” being neutral, and “5” being highly critical of the protest. For this analysis, the
categories were collapsed into critical, neutral, and supportive.
While the content analysis yielded over 60 different topics of protest, we recoded these
into six broader categories of issues: (1) social (2) police (3) war (4) labor (5) student, and (6)
other. Cases were also recoded based on the publication dates of the articles into a “decade”
category (“1960s,” “1970s,” “1980s,” and “1990s”). Crosstabs and chi-square tests were run