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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 -23- definitely have defined topical themes for protests. Do large numbers of people suddenly become passionate about the same cause at the same time, or do the media help add fuel to movements by exposing mass audiences to groups’ causes? Protests that identify with a larger trend or have familiar targets might be easier to report, because the audience has some past context or prior knowledge. Location is important, because certain places, probably urban, will draw newspapers’ attention more quickly than other places. Also, logistically, it is easier to draw support for an event in a highly populated area. These issues are all mentioned to show the complexity of the relationship between media, protest groups, and society at large. They are also to spark interest for future research in this area. An integral step in this study would be to investigate specific social movements (from sources other than newspapers), their originations, and their influences throughout history, to look for factors corresponding to newspaper coverage. It could also be beneficial to sample national papers and papers from other states throughout the United States to see how newspaper coverage of protests may or may not change with in response to regional differences. Conclusion This historical study of the newspaper coverage of protest groups in Wisconsin has illuminated trends of stability and change over time. It has shown that the no decade has surpassed the 1960s in sheer volume of protest-related articles. Yet, throughout the decades, protests regularly received neutral treatment and high prominence in the paper. The dominant topics of protests changed from decade to decade, but their targets are often limited, with the government being a common recurring target. The place of protests may depend on the topic of the protest, but most of those covered by both big city and small town newspapers took place in urban areas. The number of articles in urban papers may be slightly increasing, while the number

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 -23-
definitely have defined topical themes for protests. Do large numbers of people suddenly
become passionate about the same cause at the same time, or do the media help add fuel to
movements by exposing mass audiences to groups’ causes? Protests that identify with a larger
trend or have familiar targets might be easier to report, because the audience has some past
context or prior knowledge. Location is important, because certain places, probably urban, will
draw newspapers’ attention more quickly than other places. Also, logistically, it is easier to draw
support for an event in a highly populated area.
These issues are all mentioned to show the complexity of the relationship between media,
protest groups, and society at large. They are also to spark interest for future research in this
area. An integral step in this study would be to investigate specific social movements (from
sources other than newspapers), their originations, and their influences throughout history, to
look for factors corresponding to newspaper coverage. It could also be beneficial to sample
national papers and papers from other states throughout the United States to see how newspaper
coverage of protests may or may not change with in response to regional differences.
Conclusion
This historical study of the newspaper coverage of protest groups in Wisconsin has
illuminated trends of stability and change over time. It has shown that the no decade has
surpassed the 1960s in sheer volume of protest-related articles. Yet, throughout the decades,
protests regularly received neutral treatment and high prominence in the paper. The dominant
topics of protests changed from decade to decade, but their targets are often limited, with the
government being a common recurring target. The place of protests may depend on the topic of
the protest, but most of those covered by both big city and small town newspapers took place in
urban areas. The number of articles in urban papers may be slightly increasing, while the number


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