Historical Drifts Without Paradigm Shifts: A Historical Analysis of Newspaper Coverage of Social Protest
Unformatted Document Text:
Protest Coverage in Wisconsin Newspapers 1960-1999 -8-
journalists at larger newspapers (Qualter, 1989). They look for consensus and avoid conflict
(Edelstein & Contris, 1966). Such tendencies may cause those journalists to frame stories as
being caused by deviant individuals, rather than as part of a broader cultural problem. Rewards
and motivations may differ as well. Small-town journalists are more likely to reflect community
values, and more likely to be rewarded by their community contacts, such as through praise in
casual conversations with local residents at the grocery story.
Along with other government and civic agencies that perform the “guard dog” function
(Donohue, Olien & Tichenor, 1992), the media in a small community also serve to reinforce a
consensus system rather than a conflict system by more frequently reporting and stressing only
the positive side of civic affairs, the courthouse, the local council and other “pillars” of a stable
community. This leads to the next two research questions.
RQ2. What differences and/or similarities are visible in the coverage of various protests
between rural and urban newspapers in Wisconsin over four decades?
RQ3. What differences between rural and urban Wisconsin newspapers are seen in their
coverage of protests based on the location of the actual protest itself?
The changing face of the target
In postwar America, the shape of political and cultural life was in flux. After the
depression of the 1930s and the market scarcities of the war years, most Americans had achieved
an unprecedented level of material comfort by the 1960s. America’s emerging international role
in both economic and political terms also contributed to this flux. By the 1960s, local customs
and local power elites were being challenged and subverted by national and international forces.
New kinds of authorities like macro-economists, public policy analysts, foreign area experts,