Social protest and the media. Social protest in a democracy Protest is considered crucial to a...

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  • Slide 1
  • Social protest and the media
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  • Social protest in a democracy Protest is considered crucial to a vital, working democracy The 1 st Amendment protects the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances Protest generates an ongoing public critique and debate that is vital for the working of the self- righting process
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  • Those without ready access to--or power over--government must turn to other means than direct communication. Only a few, powerful groups can command face time In years past, the most common means was to work through the political party Decline and professionalization of political parties
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  • Taking the critique public Though public protest has been around longer than the Republic, modern public protest was pioneered during the civil rights movement, as African Americans whose interests had been ignored took to the streets Sit-ins Mass marches Protests Televised coverage forced acknowledgement of the American Dilemma Sometimes brutal police reaction caught on tape
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  • Expansion of the protest strategy The success of the civil rights movement led others to adopt similar strategies and tactics by other groups Left Anti-war protesters Feminists Animal rights activists Globalization protesters Right Anti-abortion groups School prayer activists Pro-war demonstrators
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  • Role of the press/media Most protests cannot be successful if they are ignored by the media and therefore isolated Only likely to have a significant impact on those immediately present Oppositional messages carried widely in the press/on television, etc. will widen the field of conflict
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  • Agenda setting If the press covers social protest it may force the topic of protest onto the larger public agenda Race relations Concerns about the environment (To some extent) feminism Vietnam war (and other military excursions) HIV/AIDS
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  • Most protest is ignored by the media Public protest is a very common occurrence Limited media space/time/interest Some protest is not deemed worthy of coverage Some is offensive to journalists, who will be less likely to cover it Some does not fit a definition of news Recurrent actions of groups who regularly engage in public protest on a given topic
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  • How do protesters generate news coverage? To get in the papers, protesters must act in a newsworthy fashion Interaction between protest groups and the press is a form of exchange (Gamson & Wolfsfeld, 1993) Protesters get access to wider public Press gets raw materials for stories
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  • Ways to be newsworthy Sensationalism Social impact
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  • Sensationalism: Violent actions Hurting or killing someone else
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  • Hurting or killing yourself Much more common
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  • Confronting authority and having them hurt or kill you
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  • Strident rhetoric
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  • How protesters generate news coverage Dress funny, look funny (Mohawk, etc.) Do interesting things like smashing tvs or burning flags Puppets, street theater Challenge government leaders on important issues of the day Show up where the press will be anyway More likely to bring coverage in the event of disagreement among Senators, etc.
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  • How protesters get coverage Get a really large group to show up Million Man March Have something truly important and powerful to say that has not been said by a member of government or powerful business group, etc. Though this is less of a guarantee than many other options like those above Use good soundbites to make a point when you are interviewed Organize to accommodate the press
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  • The Devils Bargain Most of the spectacular or odd behavior draws attention, but simultaneously generates criticism -- bad press Focus will be on the protest tactics rather than on the critique of policy or government or whatever that the group is trying to advance
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  • Larger questions of framing and ideology News values usually draw attention to confrontation Confrontation is most often with police rather than with government policymaking officials Police are given the opportunity to speak to balance protesters statements
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  • Framing 5 frames in anarchist protest study Circus Riot Confrontation Legitimate protest Debate (alternative protest only)
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  • Normal news tendency Support status quo Regardless whether protest is liberal or conservative Focus on violence When violence is missing, focus on lack of violence or note violence in another protest Go for the sensational Any available conflict Disruption of normal life Weird-looking people Weird behavior
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  • News tendencies Focus on actions rather than meanings Careful review of the route taken for the march Find other side Often police Bystanders who disagree Anti-protesters Rarely actual officials being criticized Do not go into depth in explaining protesters position
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  • Objectivity 1. Factuality a. Truth veracity of account (getting the facts straight) b. Relevance inclusion of important facts, people, ideas, actions and exclusion of unimportant facts, etc.
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  • Objectivity 2. Impartiality a. Balance/non-partisanship equal time, equal coverage for balance. non-partisanship is parallel, but relaxes equal treatment to pursue relevance b. Neutrality report does not slant representation of contending parties (pejorative terms, etc.)
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  • Why should protesters even deal with the press? Many despair and do not What news coverage can do: Widen the audience for their views However, views are rarely express on-air in a way that will generate adherents Make clear that policy is not riding on consensus Easier to do and also very important Spiral of Silence Emboldens opposition within government
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  • What the press can do for protesters Press coverage provides legitimacy to certain groups Usually wimp groups who havent got the guts to break a window For dispersed groups, gives a feeling that they are not alone Energize protesters through the feeling that their actions are being noticed Builds a foundation for continued action and communication through other means Social movements
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  • How the press can hurt protest groups Define them as violent/dangerous Focus on conflict, etc. Define them as crazy Define their viewpoint as illegitimate, outside consensus Strategic use of bystanders, etc. Bring up all sorts of oppositional comment Legitimize opposition Declare public opinion to be in opposition to the group Ignore them