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Power and Representation: Activist Standing in Broadcast News, 1970–2012*

Media and Power in International Contexts: Perspectives on Agency and Identity

ISBN: 978-1-78769-456-9, eISBN: 978-1-78769-455-2

ISSN: 2050-2060

Publication date: 12 November 2018

Abstract

This study uses the concept of standing, or legitimacy, to bridge the disciplinary divide between social movement and communication scholarship on activism. Here, the authors examine whether activist standing in 269 broadcast news stories sampled between 1970 and 2012 across five social movements – Women’s Rights, Gay Rights, Immigrant Rights, Occupy Wall Street, and Tea Party – is undermined by (1) the mix of visuals included in media coverage and (2) activists’ social statuses at the intersection of gender, race, and age. The authors find that broadcast media undercut the standing of activists in some social movements more than others. Occupy activists faced the most challenges to their standing because they were more likely to be shown as angry, young protestors wearing anti-government costumes and engaged in nonnormative protest behavior than activists associated with other movements. In contrast, Tea Party movement activists, who also made anti-government claims during the same relative time frame, were not cast in a similarly negative light. The authors also find that activist standing is diminished and enhanced at the intersection of gender, race, and age. For example, the social movements with the most racial diversity – the immigrant rights and Occupy movements – were also shown as the most deviant and deserving violent repression in coverage. The authors conclude the study with a discussion of the importance of interdisciplinary research and a call for additional research on the movement–media relationship.

Keywords

Citation

Rohlinger, D.A., Redmond, R.A., Gentile, H., Stamm, T. and Olsen, A. (2018), "Power and Representation: Activist Standing in Broadcast News, 1970–2012*", Williams, A.A., Tsuria, R., Robinson, L. and Khilnani, A. (Ed.) Media and Power in International Contexts: Perspectives on Agency and Identity (Studies in Media and Communications, Vol. 16), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 9-34. https://doi.org/10.1108/S2050-206020180000016005

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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