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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 -21- number of protest articles, but the number of articles appearing in rural papers declined. One contributing factor for this could come from differences in the locations of the protests themselves. In the 1970s, the rural papers covered a higher number of protests than they did in the 1980s or 1990s. During this time, the majority of the protests they covered were in both Madison and in rural areas as opposed to mostly covering only Madison protests in the other decades (e.g., protests over labor disputes in major manufacturing plants located in rural areas). Conversely, urban papers covered more protest articles during the 1990s than they did in the 1970s or 1980s. Like the rural papers, during their higher percentage decade (the 1990s), the urban papers mostly covered protests in both Madison and rural areas, whereas they focused on only one area or the other in the other years. The results raise important questions about why there were such contrasting trends between urban and rural newspapers. First, the larger urban papers no doubt had more resources for covering farther-reaching protest stories, while rural papers were constrained by limited budgets. At the same time, maintaining a narrow focus by emphasizing local events is a strategy rural newspapers employ in order to gain an edge over rivals in nearby communities as well as over urban communities. To this end, it would be to their detriment to cover protests occurring in urban locations since that would decrease the news hole available to editors to devote to community news (which in the process lead to more “civic boosterism” stories than stories about social conflict). Relating this back to Breed’s (1958) argument then, rural newspapers may also be reluctant to jeopardize the social fabric of the smaller-sized community they serve. Protest Paradigm and Coverage

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 -21-
number of protest articles, but the number of articles appearing in rural papers declined. One
contributing factor for this could come from differences in the locations of the protests
themselves. In the 1970s, the rural papers covered a higher number of protests than they did in
the 1980s or 1990s. During this time, the majority of the protests they covered were in both
Madison and in rural areas as opposed to mostly covering only Madison protests in the other
decades (e.g., protests over labor disputes in major manufacturing plants located in rural areas).
Conversely, urban papers covered more protest articles during the 1990s than they did in the
1970s or 1980s. Like the rural papers, during their higher percentage decade (the 1990s), the
urban papers mostly covered protests in both Madison and rural areas, whereas they focused on
only one area or the other in the other years.
The results raise important questions about why there were such contrasting trends
between urban and rural newspapers. First, the larger urban papers no doubt had more
resources for covering farther-reaching protest stories, while rural papers were constrained by
limited budgets. At the same time, maintaining a narrow focus by emphasizing local events is a
strategy rural newspapers employ in order to gain an edge over rivals in nearby communities as
well as over urban communities. To this end, it would be to their detriment to cover protests
occurring in urban locations since that would decrease the news hole available to editors to
devote to community news (which in the process lead to more “civic boosterism” stories than
stories about social conflict). Relating this back to Breed’s (1958) argument then, rural
newspapers may also be reluctant to jeopardize the social fabric of the smaller-sized community
they serve.
Protest Paradigm and Coverage


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