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Previous research suggests that mainstream media coverage around the world follows a “protest paradigm” that demonizes protesters and marginalizes their causes. Given the recent increase in global protest activity and the growing importance of social media for activism, this paper content analyzes 1,438 protest-related English and Spanish news stories from around the world that were shared on social media, examining framing, sourcing, and marginalizing devices across media outlet type, region, language, and social media platform in order to create a typology of how the protest paradigm operates in an international and social media context. Results showed type of protest, location of protest, and type of media outlet were significantly related to whether news stories adhered to the protest paradigm. Social media shares were predicted by region of media outlet, English-language media, and type of protest.
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Journalism Studies
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Is the Whole World Watching? Building a Typology
of Protest Coverage on Social Media From Around
the World
Summer Harlow, Danielle K. Brown, Ramón Salaverría & Víctor García-
To cite this article: Summer Harlow, Danielle K. Brown, Ramón Salaverría & Víctor García-
Perdomo (2020) Is the Whole World Watching? Building a Typology of Protest Coverage
on Social Media From Around the World, Journalism Studies, 21:11, 1590-1608, DOI:
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Published online: 12 Jun 2020.
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Is the Whole World Watching? Building a Typology of Protest
Coverage on Social Media From Around the World
Summer Harlow
, Danielle K. Brown
, Ramón Salaverría
Víctor García-Perdomo
Jack J. Valenti School of Communication, Houston;
John & Elizabeth Bates Cowles Professor of Journalism,
Diversity and Equality, Hubbard School of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Minnesota -
Twin Cities, Minneapolis;
School of Communication, University of Navarra Pamplona, Spain;
Universidad de
La Sabana, Autopista Norte de Bogotá, Colombia
Previous research suggests that mainstream media coverage
around the world follows a protest paradigmthat demonizes
protesters and marginalizes their causes. Given the recent increase
in global protest activity and the growing importance of social
media for activism, this paper content analyzes 1,438 protest-
related English and Spanish news stories from around the world
that were shared on social media, examining framing, sourcing,
and marginalizing devices across media outlet type, region,
language, and social media platform in order to create a typology
of how the protest paradigm operates in an international and
social media context. Results showed type of protest, location of
protest, and type of media outlet were signicantly related to
whether news stories adhered to the protest paradigm. Social
media shares were predicted by region of media outlet, English-
language media, and type of protest.
Activism; content analysis;
international news; news
audiences; protest paradigm;
social media
Over the last decade, there has been a global increase in large-scale protests around the
world. The Global Database of Events, Language, and Tone (GDELT 2016) found that on-
going protest frequency is higher in the 2010s than it was in the 1990s and 2000s.
Given the international spike in protest activity (Carothers and Youngs 2015), it is impor-
tant to understand the role of the media, particularly social media, in spreading news
about protests.
According to the protest paradigm, mainstream media coverage tends to demonize pro-
testers and delegitimize protests (Chan and Lee 1984; McLeod and Hertog 1999), which
can inuence whether society will accept or reject protestersclaims (McLeod and
Hertog 1992). Considering the complex and often antagonistic relationship between main-
stream media and protesters (Gitlin 1980), exploring how dierent types of media treat
dierent types of protests in various countries around the world becomes all the more
critical. This study of English- and Spanish-language news coverage shared on social
media of global protests in 2015 aims to oer a typology for better understanding how
the paradigm operates in an international and social media context. More specically,
© 2020 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group
CONTACT Summer Harlow
2020, VOL. 21, NO. 11, 15901608
this content analysis examines protest-related articles published by mainstream, alterna-
tive, and digital-only media outlets, and distributed via Facebook and Twitter, to test
the continued relevance of the paradigm in this new media ecology, and to identify the
content characteristics that might inuence the extent to which social media audiences
choose to engage with articles about protests.
Protest Paradigm
Research points to an asymmetrical relationship between the mainstream news media and
protesters. Protesters need media coverage to promote their cause, but to attract media
attention the protest must involve many people and employ radical tactics (Gitlin 1980;
McCarthy, McPhail, and Smith 1996). At the same time, news coverage often stigmatizes
protesters as deviants (McLeod and Hertog 1992,1999). Scholars refer to this pattern of
negative coverage as the protest paradigm (Chan and Lee 1984). Stories adhering to this
paradigm are characterized by journalistsreliance on ocial sources over voices of pro-
testers, and narrative structures, such as framing, that favor conict and the status quo
(McLeod and Hertog 1999).
The protest paradigm typically is attributed to the norms and routines underlying tra-
ditional journalistic practices that value conict in stories and privilege ocial viewpoints
(McLeod 2007; McLeod and Hertog 1999). Recent research, however, questions the extent
to which paradigmatic coverage is automatic, in light of the complexities of issues and
identities in todays social movements (Cottle, 2008). Some studies, especially those exam-
ining the paradigm in an online context, identify factors mediating adherence to the para-
digm. For example, Shahin and colleagues (2016) found that while an over-reliance on
ocial sources and a focus on violence where characteristic of news coverage in India,
China, and Brazil, use of other marginalization devices varied, suggesting that country spe-
cicities diminished adherence to the paradigm outside of Western countries. Studies
examining traditional media indicate that protesters advocating against the status quo
are delegitimized while those protesting on behalf of the status quo are covered in
more substantial ways (Gitlin 1980; McLeod and Hertog 1992).
Frames and Devices
Media framing can shape the publics understanding of an event by emphasizing certain
elements in a news story over others (Entman 1993). Media frames have the potential to
inuence attitudes and behaviors. As such, framing is an important factor in inuencing
whether the public will perceive a protest as legitimate (McLeod and Detenber 1999).
Key components of framing include the use of story narratives (or frames), devices that
portray certain characteristics of the storys actors, and source selection.
Hertog and McLeod (1995,2001) noted four main frames in media coverage of protests:
riot (highlighting the conict between protesters and society, and portraying protesters
as deviants), confrontation (emphasizing the conict between police and protesters), spec-
tacle (focusing on the drama, oddity, and spectacle of the protests and protesters, includ-
ing the number of protesters), and debate (emphasizing the reasons for the protest and
focusing on protestersviewpoints and demands). The riot, confrontation, and spectacle
frames usually serve to delegitimize protests and protesters (McLeod and Hertog 1992).
Protests can be marginalized through the use of certain devices, such as the way protes-
terstactics and actions are characterized (e.g., Dardis 2006). Describing protesters as
violent associates lawlessness with a particular cause. However, peaceful protest descrip-
tions have a counter eect. While still focusing on protestersactions instead of protesters
demands, mentions of peaceful protest serve as legitimizing devices.
Mainstream news coverage relies on ocial sources a product of journalistic practice
that can impact the framing of a story. The use of ocial sources to drive narratives also
gives ocial sources more control over the portrayal of a story (Bennett and Segerberg
2011). Thus, relying on ocial sources often delegitimizes protests while inclusion of pro-
testers as sources increases balance and legitimizes protesters and their claims.
Protest Coverage Online
Foundational studies on protest coverage examine mainstream, traditional media.
However, a growing line of research that explores the paradigm in a digital context has
detected some deviations in predicted coverage patterns. Harlow and Johnsons(2011)
analysis of news coverage of the 2011 Egyptian protests showed that The New York
Times mostly abided by the protest paradigm, while journalists on Twitter and a citizen
journalism news cite often broke free from it. In an international study comparing
Twitter coverage of the Ferguson protests, Harlow (2019)) found media outlets, journalists,
and the general public followed or deviated from the paradigm to varying degrees.
Alternative and online-only media approach protest coverage dierently. Alternative
media are expected to publish stories that legitimize socialmovements and include perspec-
tives the mainstream media ignore (Downing 2000). Similarly, online-only news outlets have
been shown to cover the news dierently than traditional mainstream media (Brown and
Sinta 2016), suggesting a need to understand how type of media outlet might inuence
the way protests are portrayed in articles shared on social media. By focusing on protest cov-
erage published by mainstream, alternative, and online-only media outlets that was shared
via Facebook and Twitter, this present research adds to nascent scholarship by examining
the paradigm in digital, international, and social media settings, in one comprehensive
research project. We propose the following hypothesis:
H1: Online mainstream outlets are more likely to publish protest news coverage that includes
riot, confrontation, and spectacle frames than protest coverage published in online-native or
alternative outlets.
Protest Issue and Location
Type of protest and location of protest in particular have bearing on the nature of media
coverage. Mourão and Chen (2019) examined left- and right-leaning protests in 2013 and
2015, respectively, in Brazil, and found journalists were more critical of the rightist protests,
contradicting previous literature that would suggest more favorable coverage. Boyle and
colleagues(2004) found that war-related protests adhered to the paradigm more closely
than protests related to social or labor issues. In their study of protest coverage across
various U.S. media market types, Brown and Harlow (2019) found protest issue to be
key to paradigmatic coverage in traditional media, and identied a hierarchy of social
strugglein which protests related to racial injustice tended to follow negative coverage
patterns more than other protest topics. Following these comparative approaches, the
present study adds a global comparison of protest coverage to identify variance in
news coverage or social media interactions according to protest type.
Most of the studies examining the importance of protest type in media portrayals of
protest are limited to protests in one city or one country. Still, some research suggests
that country of protest can make a dierence. Wittebols (1996) showed that news cover-
age of protests was more favorable when protestersissues aligned with the govern-
ments foreign policies. Other studies suggest that general attitudes toward protest
activity can inuence adherence to the paradigm, as the more protesters are seen as
outsiders, the more negative coverage will be (Shahin et al. 2016; Streeck and Ken-
worthy 2005). Kim and Shahin (2019) pointed out that news media ideological simi-
larities could sometimes overcome national boundaries when covering certain social
movements and protests. The authors argued there is an ideological parallelism
among transnational media coverage that is sometimes mediated by foreign policy
interests. McCluskey and colleagues (2009) found that anti-government protests in
low-pluralism countries received negative coverage, and Brown et al.s(2018) compari-
son of media coverage of protests related to human rights issues in Mexico and the
U.S. found that foreign protests received more legitimizing coverage in the U.S. than
domestic ones. The current study pays particular attention to the importance of type
and region of protest as potentially shaping adherence to the paradigm, thus furthering
our understanding of the mediating factors disrupting paradigmatic coverage. With this
in mind, we propose the following research question:
RQ1a-d: How do protest topic and location predict use of the a) riot, b) confrontation, c) spec-
tacle, and d) debate frames in protest-related articles shared on social media?
Bilingual and Comparative Research
Language and geographic dierences can change media representation patterns. Studies
have found a modulating eect of languages on news framing (Branton and Dunaway
2008; Oganian, Korn, and Heekeren 2016). Language also can have a signicant eect
on journalistsselection of news topics (Lams 2016; Van Doorslaer 2009). Additionally,
news coverage is aected by a countrys economic, cultural, political, and historical con-
texts (Hanitzsch 2011; Weaver 1998), so geographic dierences can shift representations.
Framing dierences have been detected when dierent countries cover the same news
events (e.g., Machill, Beiler, and Fischer 2006; Peng 2008). Dierences in news framing
also stem from culturally specic journalistic practices and audience resonance (Gamson
and Modigliani 1989; Van Gorp 2007). With this in mind, any typology looking to identify
commonalities in protest coverage across borders must take into account linguistic and
regional dierences of media outlets, as both inuence news coverage.
RQ2a-d: How do language and location of media outlet predict use of the a) riot, b) confronta-
tion, c) spectacle, and d) debate frames in protest-related articles shared on social media?
Share-Ability and Online News
Social media like Facebook and Twitter have amplied peoples ability to spread, shape,
and comment on online news, and an increasing number of people retrieve news from
social media (Matsa & Shearer, 2018). This shift demands an understanding of the charac-
teristics of news coverage that is shared on social media. Social media userscapability to
overcome mainstream medias gatekeepers through their recommendations and personal
networks is one of the main disruptions to the media ecosystem (Tenenboim and Cohen
2015). Social recommendations raise questions about what elements make news spread-
able in digital spaces. While some studies focus on the psychological processes (e.g., Ho
and Dempsey 2010) or socio-technical aordances (e.g., Carlson 2015) behind online
engagement, a growing line of studies has focused on how content features trigger
share-ability (García-Perdomo et al. 2018; Trilling, Tolochko, and Burscher 2017); this is
the perspective taken in the present research inquiry.
News values, tone, and valence can inuence audience reactions on social media (e.g.,
Bright 2016; García-Perdomo et al. 2018; Brown et al. 2018). Trilling, Tolochko, and Burscher
(2017) found that conict and human interest increased interactions. Surprise, controversy,
and relevance likewise can predict news shared online (Rudat et al., 2014). This present
study broadens the scope of previous research by exploring audience engagement with
protester coverage on social media, posing the following research questions:
RQ3: What media outlet characteristics, protest characteristics, and protest-paradigm cover-
age components predict the number of Facebook interactions?
RQ4: What media outlet characteristics, protest characteristics, and protest-paradigm cover-
age components predict the number of Twitter interactions?
To better understand the journalistic coverage of protests by news media outlets globally,
a content analysis of news stories shared on social media was conducted. Articles were
collected using Newswhips Insights platform, which includes records from the application
program interfaces (APIs) of over 50,000 news organizations worldwide, and archives all
unique universal record locators (URL) for articles shared on social media. Each URL is
then tracked within the APIs of social media networks to provide the number of times
the URL (news article link) was engaged with on Facebook and Twitter.
A search for all articles with the words protestand protesterand their Spanish
equivalents, protesta,”“protestar,and protestante,was conducted from Jan. 1, 2014
to Dec. 31, 2014. Due to limited download capacity, the top 24,000 most-shared articles
from Facebook in English (n = 12,000) and Spanish (12,000) were collected. Though
these selection criteria were not without limitation, Facebook shares were prioritized
because its network was signicantly larger and thus more representative from a global
perspective. Facebook data available included the total number of likes, shares, and com-
ments that appeared cumulatively on all public links shared. Twitter data available
included the total number of times a link appeared as an original tweet, retweet, or any
tweets from link-shortening sites. Favorites on Twitter were not available. From the total
24,000 posts, a random sample of 750 English articles and 750 Spanish articles was ana-
lyzed. A total of 62 articles were not relevant, resulting in a nal sample of 692 English
articles and 746 Spanish articles. Dead hyperlinks were replaced.
All four authors of this study served as coders. Intercoder reliability was calculated on
10% of the sample, resulting in Krippendors alphas that ranged from .71 to 1.0. Variables
individual alpha levels and operationalizations are presented below.
News Organization Variables
Coders identied the type of news organization as online versions of traditional/mainstream
news outlets (e.g.,, CBS, CNN, FOX, BBC or any local newspaper/television
station); alternative media outlet/activist/partisan website (sites that self-identify as such,
i.e., Democracy Now, Alternet, Anonymous, Latino Rebels, Radio Free Europe); and
online-native media outlets (online-native news sites, social news aggregators, video
sharing sites, portal news sites, online media outlets with no explicit alternative desig-
nation in their aboutsections). Coders were instructed to visit each websitesabout
section to identify the outlets type (α= .79). Dummy variables were created for media
type, with traditional/mainstream as the reference.
Coders identied the geographic region of the news outlet from seven regions: Central
and South America & Caribbean; Europe; the United States and Canada; Africa; Asia;
Middle East; and the Pacic Islands of Australia or New Zealand (α= .77). Due to low fre-
quencies, Pacic was collapsed with Asia. Dummy variables were created for media
region, with U.S./Canada as the reference.
Protest Identication Variables
Coders identied the geographic region of the protest: Central and South America & Carib-
bean; Europe; United States and Canada; Africa; Asia; Middle East; Pacic (Australia or New
Zealand); more than one region/worldwide; or not applicable (α= .85). Pacic again was
collapsed into Asia. Dummy variables were created for protest region with the U.S./
Canada as the reference. Additionally, using the geographic location for the media
outlet and the protest, variables were re-coded into whether the media outlet was
located in the same region as the location of the protest.
The type of protest was open coded. Coders wrote descriptions including what the
protest was about, the aim of the protest, whether any names of people were mentioned
as symbolizing the protest, and whether specic hashtags were mentioned. The authors
convened several times to discuss the categories and thus increase interpretive validity
(Lindlof and Taylor 2002). Researchers together settled on 33 specic types of protests
(i.e., Black Lives Matter, pro-freedom of expression, indigenous rights) that ultimately
were collapsed into six broad categories: (1) anti-government/corruption, (2) human
rights/justice/peace, (3) socio-economic (i.e., labor issues, net neutrality, education), (4)
environment/animals, (5) religious (i.e., pro-Islam, pro-Palestine), and (6) conservative/
revivalist (i.e., anti-abortion, anti-LGBTQ+ rights, anti-immigration, pro-gun rights). The
rst ve categories represent progressive protests or those that challenge the status
quo, while the nal category includes those protests that seek to uphold the status quo or
maintain hegemonic power structures. Dummy variables were created for the protest
type, with anti-government/corruption as the reference.
Protest Frames
Coders identied use of the protest paradigms riot, confrontation, spectacle, or debate
frame. Frames were not mutually exclusive. The riot frame included a focus on the violence
of protestors through rioting, looting, or causing damage to public property or society (α
= .83). Confrontation included a focus on clashes between protesters and police or auth-
orities, or the arrests of protesters (α= .81). The spectacle frame included articles that
focused on the emotions, drama, or unusualness of protests (α= .80). The debate frame
focused on the social critique of the movement, characterized by the presence of protes-
tersviewpoints and demands. It also included attention to the background and history of
a movement (α= .80).
Coders identied if the article attributed violence or violent acts to protesters (α= .73).
Mentions of peaceful protests also were coded (α= .71).
Coders counted the number of named individuals directly quoted in each story. Consider-
ing all the sources used in the story, coders identied whether protesters or ocials (gov-
ernment ocials, ocial representatives of the organization being protested, or police)
were cited more often, equally, or not at all (α= .85).
Social Media Interactions Variables
Two social media interaction variables were used in this study. For Facebook, the numbers
of likes, shares, and comments were combined into one composite interaction variable. On
Twitter, only cumulative retweet counts were available via Newswhip, so interactions were
limited to the number of retweets on Twitter. These outcome variables were normalized
using a log-10 transformation so that outcomes would provide more appropriate results
for use in linear regressions.
Data Overview
Most online articles analyzed were published on the websites of mainstream news outlets
(43.3%), followed by alternative outlets (32.1%) and online-native sites (24.6%). The most
common regions where outlets were located were U.S./Canada (40.7%), Latin America/Car-
ibbean (33.1%), Europe (19%), Asia/Pacic (4%), Middle East (1.9%), and Africa (1.5%).
Results showed that most articles were about protests related to human rights/justice/
peace (43.8%), followed by anti-government/corruption (35.5%), socio-economic issues
(8.2%), conservative/revivalist (6.5%), environment/animals (4.3%), and religious (1.7%).
Most stories were about protests located in the U.S./Canada (36.6%), followed by Latin
America/Caribbean (29.3%), Europe (16.6%), Asia/Pacic (6.6%), Middle East (4.4%), mul-
tiple regions (3.7%), and Africa (2.7%). Nearly two-thirds of stories (64.5%) were published
in media outlets in the same regions where the protests occurred, whereas 34.6% were
about protests taking place in regions other than where the media outlet was located.
For frames, 56.4% of stories contained a debate frame, 45.6% a confrontation frame,
34.1% a spectacle frame, and 21.2% a riot frame. Stories that quoted protesters the
most totaled 34.6%, while 22.3% quoted ocials the most, 9.4% quoted protesters and
ocials equally, and 33.7% quoted neither protesters nor ocials. More articles men-
tioned violence (23.1%) than peacefulness (14.1%).
Protest Paradigm Predictors
RQ1a-d and RQ2 a-d considered 1) how protest type and location and 2) media
outlet language and location might predict adherence to the framing components
of the protest paradigm. Four binary logistical regressions were run with the a) riot, b)
confrontation, c) spectacle, and d) debate frames as the dependent variables (Tables
Results for RQ1a showed that articles about conservative protests had signicantly
decreased odds of having the riot frame [exp(B) = .143], and articles about socio-economic
protests had signicantly increased odds [exp(B) = 2.194] of having a riot frame.
For RQ1b, stories about socio-economic protests [exp(B) = .227] and human rights/
justice/peace protests [exp(B) = .645], as well as those about protests in Europe [exp(B)
= .521], had decreased odds of employing the confrontation frame.
Table 1. Binary logistical regression predicting use of the riot frame
ΒS.E. e
Confrontation frame*** 1.095 .217 2.991
Spectacle frame .352 .233 .703
Debate frame*** 1.652 .222 .192
Media region: Lat Am/Car. .160 .376 .852
Media region: Europe .075 .367 1.078
Media region: Africa .599 1.177 .549
Media region: Asia/Pacic 1.243 .646 3.465
Media region: Middle East .853 .929 2.347
Media type: Online .129 .253 1.137
Media type: alternative .172 .245 1.187
Media language: English .168 .345 .846
Protest type: Socio-economic* .786 .381 2.194
Protest type: Human rights .338 .270 1.402
Protest type: Envir/animals .078 .555 .925
Protest type: Religious .411 .743 1.508
Protest type: Conservative* 1.948 .780 .143
Protest region: Lat Am/Car. .664 .351 1.943
Protest region: Europe .390 .422 1.477
Protest region: Africa 1.140 .809 3.128
Protest region: Asia/Pacic.863 .606 .422
Protest region: Middle East .338 .655 1.402
Media region dierent protest region .235 .260 .229
Constant** 1.476 .502 .229
*p<.05, **p<.01; ***p<.001
Answering RQ1c, stories about conservative protests [exp(B) = 2.511] had increased
odds of having a spectacle frame. Articles about protests in regions other than where
the media outlet was located also had higher odds [exp(B) = 1.559] of including the spec-
tacle frame than articles about protests in the same region as the media outlet.
Table 2. Binary logistical regression predicting use of the confrontation free.
βS.E. e
Riot frame*** 1.113 .213 3.044
Spectacle frame*** .786 .180 .456
Debate frame** .464 .176 .629
Media region: Lat Am/Car. .136 .300 1.145
Media region: Europe .003 .279 1.003
Media region: Africa 1.994 1.113 .136
Media region: Asia/Pacic .368 .511 1.444
Media region: Middle East .619 .712 .538
Media type: Online .284 .201 .753
Media type: alternative* .380 .192 .684
Media language: English .355 .282 1.427
Protest type: Socio-economic*** 1.484 .370 .227
Protest type: Human rights* .439 .211 .645
Protest type: Envir/animals .132 .420 1.141
Protest type: Religious .359 .679 .699
Protest type: Conservative .196 .354 1.217
Protest region: Lat Am/Car. .092 .270 1.096
Protest region: Europe* .652 .292 .521
Protest region: Africa 1.023 .860 2.781
Protest region: Asia/Pacic.007 .416 .993
Protest region: Middle East .890 .532 2.434
Media region dierent protest region .234 .201 1.263
Constant .342 .381 1.407
*p<.05, **p<.01; ***p<.001
Table 3. Binary logistical regression predicting use of spectacle frame
βS.E. e
Riot frame .406 .230 .666
Confrontation frame*** .805 .181 .447
Debate frame*** .985 .186 .374
Media region: Lat Am/Car.* .641 .323 1.899
Media region: Europe .208 .288 .812
Media region: Africa 1.417 1.326 .243
Media region: Asia/Pacic** 1.692 .563 5.428
Media region: Middle East .381 .738 .683
Media type: Online .215 .215 .806
Media type: alternative .269 .200 .764
Media language: English*** 1.171 .298 3.226
Protest type: Socio-economic .524 .386 .592
Protest type: Human rights .272 .225 1.313
Protest type: Envir/animals .174 .449 1.191
Protest type: Religious .156 .681 .855
Protest type: Conservative* .921 .361 2.511
Protest region: Lat Am/Car. .256 .280 .774
Protest region: Europe .040 .299 1.041
Protest region: Africa .270 .797 .763
Protest region: Asia/Pacic.787 .464 .455
Protest region: Middle East .375 .525 1.456
Media region dierent protest region* .444 .211 1.559
Constant .592 .412 .553
*p<.05, **p<.01; ***p<.001
For RQ1d, stories about protests in Europe [exp(B) = 2.876] had increased odds of
having a debate frame.
Considering RQ2a-d, which examined the medias characteristics, the odds of using the
spectacle frame increased signicantly for media outlets located in Latin America/Carib-
bean [exp(B) = 1.899] and Asia/Pacic [exp(B) = 5.428]. The chances of a spectacle-
framed article being in English [exp(B) = 3.226] were more than three times higher than
the likelihood of being in Spanish. Results also showed articles from media in Latin
America/Caribbean [exp(B) = 2.468], and those in English [exp(B) = 2.945] had increased
odds of employing a debate frame.
Our rst hypothesis, which suggested that mainstream news coverage of protests
would include more riot, confrontation, and spectacle framing than coverage in alternative
and online-native sites, was partially supported. Articles published by alternative media
outlets had signicantly decreased odds [exp(B) = .684] of using the confrontation
frame. Articles in alternative media outlets [exp(B) = 1.619] also had increased odds of
employing a debate frame.
RQ3 and 4 were answered using hierarchical linear regressions. Media outlet type,
region of media outlet, and language were in Block 1; type of protest, and whether the
protest was in the same region as the media outlet in Block 2; the riot, confrontation, spec-
tacle, and debate frames were in Block 3; and whether protesters or ocials were quoted
most as sources, and whether an article mentioned protesters as violent, or mentioned
protesters as peaceful were in Block 4.
For Facebook interactions (RQ3) all four models were signicant (see Table 5). Overall,
the nal model [F(21, 305) = 2.644, p< .001)] accounted for 15.4% of variance. Results
showed the signicant predictors to be region of media outlet [Africa (B = .138, p
< .05) and Asia/Pacic(B=.128, p< .05)], and language (English, B = .246, p< .01).
Table 4. Binary logistical regression predicting use of the debate frame.
βS.E. e
Riot frame*** 1.646 .221 .193
Confrontation frame** .471 .176 .625
Spectacle frame*** .980 .185 .375
Media region: Lat Am/Car.** .903 .313 2.468
Media region: Europe .015 .295 1.015
Media region: Africa .585 1.089 1.794
Media region: Asia/Pacic** .387 .518 1.473
Media region: Middle East 1.848 1.202 6.350
Media type: Online .217 .209 1.242
Media type: alternative* .482 .199 1.619
Media language: English*** 1.080 .292 2.945
Protest type: Socio-economic .128 .344 .880
Protest type: Human rights .130 .225 .878
Protest type: Envir/animals .024 .435 .976
Protest type: Religious .746 .683 .474
Protest type: Conservative .399 .372 .671
Protest region: Lat Am/Car. .087 .285 1.091
Protest region: Europe*** 1.056 .316 2.876
Protest region: Africa .232 .812 .793
Protest region: Asia/Pacic.343 .433 .710
Protest region: Middle East .621 .568 1.860
Media region dierent protest region .158 .212 1.171
Constant .054 .404 .947
*p<.05, **p<.01; ***p<.001
For Twitter (RQ4), all four models were signicant (see Table 6). The nal model [F(21,
408) = 3.907, p< .001] explained 16.7% of variance in Twitter interactions. Media outlet
location in Latin America/Caribbean (B = .178, p< .05), English language (B = .438, p
< .001), religious protest (B = .098, p< .05)], and the debate frame (B = .109, p< .05) all sig-
nicantly predicted increased Twitter interactions, while media outlets from Asia/Pacic
regions (B = .121, p< .05)], protest type [socio-economic (B = .101, p< .05) predicted
fewer interactions.
Discussion and Conclusions
This study analyzed how the protest paradigm, particularly frames, devices, and sourcing,
operates on social media across media outlets, languages, and countries in order to oer a
global typology of protest coverage for the digital era. This study contributes to a growing
body of paradigm scholarship by disaggregating types of protest and types of media
outlets, nuancing the dierent levels at which the paradigm operates on social media.
By examining all types of protests published around the world in two languages, this
study makes an important contribution by demonstrating that protest type has bearing
on the nature of coverage. Our comparative global ndings conrm research in studies
conducted in singular locations.
Fewer conservative/revivalist articles included the riot frame, in some ways reinforcing
U.S.-based studies that show pro-status quo protests receive less delegitimizing coverage
than other protests (McLeod and Hertog 1999; Shoemaker 1982). The decreased riot frame
Table 5. Hierarchical linear regression predicting Facebook interactions
Model Correlation
pvalue rpvalue
Media type: alternative .079 .186 .056 .158
Media type: online .104 .082 .061 .136
Media region: LatAm/Car .041 .672 .202 .000***
Media region: Europe .011 .860 .065 .121
Media region: Africa .138 .013* .118 .017*
Media region: Asia/pacic.128 .030* .043 .219
Media region: Middle East .090 .114 .028 .305
Media language: English .246 .008 .253 .000***
Protest type: Socio-economic .003 .958 .009 .432
Protest type: human rights/justice/peace .087 .209 .040 .236
Protest type: environment/animals .089 .119 .102 .033*
Protest type: religious .060 .290 .044 .214
Protest type: conservative/revivalist .003 .958 .015 .392
Media region dierent than protest region .044 .431 .054 .165
Riot frame .049 .462 .069 .105
Confrontation frame .074 .219 .110 .023*
Spectacle frame .039 .498 .068 .109
Debate frame .105 .088 .159 .002**
Violent protest .023 .731 .083 .068
Peaceful protest .005 .931 .011 .421
Sources quoted .048 .416 .112 .022*
*p<.05, **p<.01; ***p<.001
Standardized coecients
could be a result of these protests not engaging (or not needing to engage) with tactics
that tend to produce negative coverage. In other words, governments are less likely to use
force to repress pro-status quo protests, so radical tactics become unnecessary. However,
conservative/revivalist protest coverage also had increased odds of having the spectacle
frame, thus suggesting a push-back against the paradigms status quo-supporting predic-
tion. The increased use of the spectacle frame for right-wing protests, rather than the
overtly negative riot frame, may be one way journalists subtly question the protesters
legitimacyuse of the spectacle frame could perhaps be construed as a way to maintain
paradigmatic coverage when the riot and confrontation frames are not applicable. Too,
the increased spectacle-frame use may be indicative of this type of protest engaging
more regularly in spectacular protest tactics. Future research might explore how protest
tactics have changed in the age of social media news and an information-saturated
digital environment.
Stories about socio-economic and human rights/justice protests had reduced odds of
using the confrontation frame, pointing to the uctuating parameters of the status quo
and the ways in which journalists negotiate it. Failing systems that maintain the status
quo may be reported dierently by journalists. It also is likely that the tactics employed
in these types of protests, such as boycotts for an economic protest, do not frequently
provoke confrontation with police.
Location of protest predicted use of the confrontation and debate frames. Stories about
protests in Europe had decreased odds of having a confrontation frame and increased
odds of having a debate frame. As most research has explained national or local
Table 6. Hierarchical linear regression predicting Twitter interactions.
Model Correlations
pvalue rpvalue
Media type: alternative .046 .372 .082 .046*
Media type: online .047 .350 .023 .320
Media region: LatAm/Car .178 .040* .145 .001***
Media region: Europe .037 .511 .002 .481
Media region: Africa .038 .421 .003 .479
Media region: Asia/pacic.121 .020* .024 .309
Media region: Middle East .018 .701 .046 .171
Media language: English .438 .000*** .299 .000***
Protest type: Socio-economic .101 .050* .110 .012*
Protest type: human rights/justice/peace .099 .079 .038 .213
Protest type: environment/animals .060 .219 .089 .033*
Protest type: religious .098 .046* .095 .025*
Protest type: conservative/revivalist .057 .267 .055 .126
Media region dierent than protest region .025 .601 .009 .423
Riot frame .007 .898 .071 .070
Confrontation frame .058 .256 .057 .119
Spectacle frame .020 .677 .010 .414
Debate frame .109 .034* .191 .000***
Violent protest .046 .424 .030 .266
Peaceful protest .017 .723 .012 .400
Sources quoted .008 .875 .035 .232
*p<.05, **p<.01; ***p<.001
Standardized coecients
dierences in media coverage, the current research advances the protest paradigm as an
international theory by showing regional inuences shaping adherence to the paradigm.
These ndings can be partially explained in two ways. First, as McCluskey et al. (2009)
pointed out, protests in high-pluralism countries, such as those in Europe, tend to
receive more positive coverage than in low-pluralism countries. Second, social movements
in Europe have a long history of struggle and high levels of organization to negotiate with
states and the press, which may allow them to convey in a more eective way the main
arguments behind their protests (Mathers 2007; Tilly 2017), thereby gaining more legiti-
mized news media coverage.
Region where the media outlets were located also predicted use of the spectacle and
debate frames. Media outlets in Latin America/Caribbean and Asia/Pacic had increased
odds of using the spectacle frame, and outlets in Latin America/Caribbean also had
increased odds of using the debate frame. The probability of Latin American and Asian
media of adopting the spectacle frame is not a surprise as previous research has shown
a tendency to highlight the drama, oddity, and circus of protests and protesters in
these regions (Boyle, McLeod, and Armstrong 2012; Harlow et al. 2017). What was some-
what contradictory is the fact that Latin America/Caribbean media also were more inclined
to use the debate frame. This nding may indicate a shift in Latin American media cover-
age that could show the relevance of social protest and the vindication of major social
movementsclaims in the region. Given the fact that social movements and protests
have gained signicance in social media and in alternative media environments (Harlow
et al. 2017; Harlow and Johnson 2011; Brown et al. 2018), there is a possibility that Latin
American media in general are changing their coverage to focus more on the underlying
reasons for protest, legitimizing some historical grievances. Moreover, the transition from
authoritarian military regimes to fragile democracies in the region which led to the
partial end of direct censorshipmay also explain the emergence of a media counter-nar-
rative that favors the debate frame and challenges the protest paradigm in Latin America.
As previous scholars have pointed out, counter narratives in Latin American democracies
can be produced either by alternative media that want to confront the massication of
media (Straubhaar 1989), or by traditional media that changed journalistic norms and rou-
tines to favor certain protests, particularly those that adopt a conservative, elite-supported
account (Mourão 2019). In both cases, the return to democracy in the region showed a
media shift form partisan to a more commercial-corporate press that supports some
Western principles such as objectivity, pluralism, or watch dog journalism, although the
relationships between the press, the state, and the market continue to be intertwined
in the region (Waisbord 2000). As Lugo-Ocando (2008) claimed, media in Latin America
as a whole have become more oriented toward satisfying market needs,but they con-
tinue to operate within the ideological framework of liberal democracies(2) that
favors public opinion and audiences (18-19).
Type of media outlet had bearing on the confrontation and debate frames. Alternative
outlets had decreased odds of publishing stories with the confrontation frame and increased
odds of using the debate frame. Such a nding substantiates claims of alternative medias
role as the media of social movements, protesters, and dissidents (e.g., Downing 2000). It
follows that alternative media would include more legitimizing than delegitimizing
protest coverage. Much research dierentiates outlets based solely on ideology, so this
study contributes to scholarship by examining dierences in platforms. Including
mainstream media, alternative media, and online-native media (i.e., portals and social news
aggregators) allows this study to demonstrate the importance of distinguishing between
platforms, as type of outlet indeed predicts adherence to the protest paradigm.
Building on previous research that shows language inuences journalistsframing and
agenda-setting decisions (Lams 2016; Van Doorslaer 2009), our study nds English articles
were associated with increased odds of use of the spectacle and debate frames. Future
research should consider how journaliststraining and opinions about protest topics
might inuence how much they follow the paradigm. It also would be interesting to con-
sider whether English-language audiences prefer spectacular stories, or perhaps why
English-language journalists think they do.
Stories published by media outlets in a region dierent than the location of the protest
increased odds of use of the spectacle frame. This suggests a type of othering through the
dramatization or exoticization produced by the frame. Thus, journalistsability to accu-
rately and fairly report on protests in foreign regions is brought into question, and in
turn, so are audiencesunderstandings of citizen uprisings in a foreign context.
This study reveals important ndings about how social media users interact with cover-
age. Results showed that region of media outlet and language inuenced the number of
Facebook and Twitter interactions. Coverage from outlets located in Africa and Asia/Pacic
regions were negatively related to the number of Facebook interactions. Those in Asia/
Pacic also were negatively related to the number of Twitter interactions, and outlets in
Latin America/Caribbean were positively associated with increased Twitter interactions.
Notably, these ndings could be attributed to smaller sample sizes for stories from
these regions, and because English and Spanish, the languages of this study, are not
necessarily the native languages in these regions. Still, these ndings raise questions
about the general government and public acceptance of protests in African and Asian
regions. Protests in these regions might be less tolerated by the governments, and there-
fore less accepted as legitimate by the public, potentially explaining the relationship with
social media interactions. Government censorship, lack of internet access in these regions,
and lower social media penetration, also must be considered, and in some of these
countries (e.g., China, Iran, North Korea), Facebook and Twitter are outright banned.
English-language articles received more interactions on Facebook and Twitter, provid-
ing further evidence for the dominance of English on the internet, and social media audi-
encessharing decisions reinforce this trend. Additionally, inequalities in Internet access
and social media use also are surely at play. Thus, these results must be examined critically
with a foundational understanding that most social media users are English speakers to
begin with.
Interestingly, type of protest and frames predicted the number of Twitter interactions,
but they did not predict the number of Facebook interactions, highlighting dierences
across social media platforms and underscoring the importance of disaggregating social
media in order to fully examine the dierent uses, aordances, and audiences of individual
platforms. Socio-economic protests and those related to religion garnered increased
Twitter interactions. This nding could be related to the culture of Twitter and the type
of news that attracts more public interest generally. Although unaccounted for in this
studys analysis, proprietary algorithms that inuence what news users see could also
aect the number of interactions, and these algorithms operate dierently on each site.
The debate frame was positively related to Twitter interactions. This signicance suggests
Twitter audiences might prefer more legitimizing coverage than journalists traditionally
have provided, indicating a potential disjuncture between journalistsvalues and audi-
encesvalues. This extends previous research on social media and protest coverage that
found news shared on social media tended to disrupt the paradigm (Harlow et al. 2017;
Brown et al. 2018), adding that, internationally, there is a potential desire for more legiti-
mizing coverage of protests in some social media networks.
The fact that only a limited number of framing components explained engagement
suggests that how journalists write about protests may not be as important to social
media users as which protests journalists write about. Such a nding emphasizes the out-
sized role of social media audiences in news distribution patterns, indicating that social
media users, more than journalists, might be responsible for whether the most-circulated
protest news follows or deviates from the protest paradigm. There is potential for impor-
tant, real-world consequences for social movements that are more controversial or less
popular, as social media audiences seemingly have the gatekeeping authority to deter-
mine, based on their personal preferences, which protests receive public attention, and
which are made invisible on social media.
While previous studies have identied various factors that limit adherence to the paradigm
(e.g., Cottle, 2008; Harlow and Johnson 2011; Shahin et al. 2016), little research has
attempted to comprehensively show how the paradigm in stories shared on social
media varies across the world in dierent types of media. With this in mind, we oer a
typology to better explain how the protest paradigm operates across countries, languages,
protest topic, and types of media outlets in this social media age (see Figure 1).
The most important observation that can be discerned from this typology is that all
descriptive aspects of the protest must be considered when addressing whether coverage
shared on social media will follow or disrupt the paradigm. This is evidenced by this studys
ndings that frames matter most when it comes to breaking the protest paradigm.
Our typology predicts alternative media organizations will continue to diverge from
mainstream outlets (traditional and other online media sources) and the paradigm.
Alternative outlets can be expected to use more legitimizing frames and more protesters
as sources, and are increasingly important to consider as alternative outlets have oppor-
tunity for increased exposure in the digital realm. Overall, however, protests around the
world continue to ght the stigmas associated with marginalizing coverage media cover-
age of protests in every region showed few signicant dierences in patterns of overall
adherence to the paradigm and individual frames, devices and sourcing patterns, indicat-
ing that protest coverage shared on social media is similar to protest coverage generally.
Our ndings build on previous research that suggests protest agendas that align with
the status quo the current or more traditional state of political and social aairs in a par-
ticular geographic area receive news coverage that adheres less to the paradigm (Boyle
et al. 2004). However, it is important to mention that conservative/revivalist protests may
be marginalized through spectacleization and other rhetorical methods not analyzed here.
When it comes to protest region, the concept of otheringmay come into play.
Western media organizations have a tendency to outgroup Africa and other non-
Western countries, ultimately leading to a misidentication of needs and demands, and
a simplication of political and social issues (Besteman 1996). This studysndings indicate
othering could be occurring in coverage of any foreign protests outside the region of the
media outlet.
This study is limited in that it analyzed only the most-shared protest-related news
stories, so that any conclusions made herein are restricted to the most popular social
media content. Including stories that were not shared on social media could have pro-
duced dierent results, and perhaps identied other important factors inuencing how
social media audiences interact with protest news. Future research should examine the
paradigm in less-shared content, too. Further, while this study expands the literature by
focusing on two languages, future studies should include additional languages of media
from around the world. It also is important to note that engagement on social media
with certain protest stories does not necessarily mean users support those protests.
Further research should examine to what extent userssupport for a particular movement
inuences social media engagement with news about that movement.
Disclosure Statement
No potential conict of interest was reported by the author(s).
Summer Harlow
Danielle K. Brown
Ramón Salaverría
Víctor García-Perdomo
Figure 1. Protest typology. This gure illustrates the elements that comprise a typology of protest news
coverage shared on social media.
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... A variety of factors affect the way and the extent to which news coverage adheres to the protest paradigm, making the "boundaries of the paradigm…less rigid than previously described" (Harlow & Kilgo, 2020, p.3), and include factors related to the protest, such as the type of the protest (Boyle et al. 2004;Harlow et al., 2020), the protest location (Oliver & Myers, 1999) and its proximity to the news organization (Kilgo et al. 2018a), the tactics of the protest group (Boyle et al., 2012), the topic of the protest, its ideological background, social claims and challenge of the status quo (Kilgo & Harlow, 2019;Shahin et al., 2016), as well as their organizational sponsor and structure (Oliver & Myers, 1999). Adherence to the protest paradigm is also influenced by factors related to media and journalistic perceptions and practices, including the type of media outlet, such as traditional versus online media or social media versus news organizations (Boyle & Schmierbach, 2009;Harlow et al., 2017;Harlow et al., 2020), newsworthiness of the topic (Amenta et al., 2012), journalistic norms and professional routines (Harlow & Kilgo, 2020;Oliver & Maney, 2000;Tenenboim-Weinblatt, 2014) and the ideological affinities of media organizations (Kim & Shahin, 2020). ...
... A variety of factors affect the way and the extent to which news coverage adheres to the protest paradigm, making the "boundaries of the paradigm…less rigid than previously described" (Harlow & Kilgo, 2020, p.3), and include factors related to the protest, such as the type of the protest (Boyle et al. 2004;Harlow et al., 2020), the protest location (Oliver & Myers, 1999) and its proximity to the news organization (Kilgo et al. 2018a), the tactics of the protest group (Boyle et al., 2012), the topic of the protest, its ideological background, social claims and challenge of the status quo (Kilgo & Harlow, 2019;Shahin et al., 2016), as well as their organizational sponsor and structure (Oliver & Myers, 1999). Adherence to the protest paradigm is also influenced by factors related to media and journalistic perceptions and practices, including the type of media outlet, such as traditional versus online media or social media versus news organizations (Boyle & Schmierbach, 2009;Harlow et al., 2017;Harlow et al., 2020), newsworthiness of the topic (Amenta et al., 2012), journalistic norms and professional routines (Harlow & Kilgo, 2020;Oliver & Maney, 2000;Tenenboim-Weinblatt, 2014) and the ideological affinities of media organizations (Kim & Shahin, 2020). Finally, research has shown that factors related to the socio-cultural context of the protest location, such as structural characteristics of the communities in which news organizations are located (McCluskey et al., 2009) and particularities of different countries (Shahin et al., 2016) also affect how protests are framed by media, according to the protest paradigm. ...
... A variety of factors affect the way and the extent to which news coverage adheres to the protest paradigm, making the "boundaries of the paradigm…less rigid than previously described" (Harlow & Kilgo, 2020, p.3), and include factors related to the protest, such as the type of the protest (Boyle et al. 2004;Harlow et al., 2020), the protest location (Oliver & Myers, 1999) and its proximity to the news organization (Kilgo et al. 2018a), the tactics of the protest group (Boyle et al., 2012), the topic of the protest, its ideological background, social claims and challenge of the status quo (Kilgo & Harlow, 2019;Shahin et al., 2016), as well as their organizational sponsor and structure (Oliver & Myers, 1999). Adherence to the protest paradigm is also influenced by factors related to media and journalistic perceptions and practices, including the type of media outlet, such as traditional versus online media or social media versus news organizations (Boyle & Schmierbach, 2009;Harlow et al., 2017;Harlow et al., 2020), newsworthiness of the topic (Amenta et al., 2012), journalistic norms and professional routines (Harlow & Kilgo, 2020;Oliver & Maney, 2000;Tenenboim-Weinblatt, 2014) and the ideological affinities of media organizations (Kim & Shahin, 2020). Finally, research has shown that factors related to the socio-cultural context of the protest location, such as structural characteristics of the communities in which news organizations are located (McCluskey et al., 2009) and particularities of different countries (Shahin et al., 2016) also affect how protests are framed by media, according to the protest paradigm. ...
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This thesis examines the effects of media stereotypic framing of social protests on audiences. The aim of this dissertation is to explore how public protests and media protest coverage are discussed by young Greek audience and to examine a proposed mechanism through which stereotypical protest coverage framing, known as protest paradigm, affects the audience’s perceptions on protest support and mobilization as well as political participation. The research interprets the protest paradigm framework from Media/Communication Studies and its effects on audiences, through the socio-psychological framework of Minority Influence theory. I examine the perceptions of the audience concerning protests and protest coverage as well as the pathway through which the protest paradigm influences these perceptions. I review the theory of Minority Influence with focus on the definition of minorities not in arithmetic but in power terms, as non-privileged groups which bring innovative ideas, challenge the existing social arrangements and dominant discourse and try to diffuse their ideas and mobilize the audience towards them. In addition, the conceptualization of the dual content and function of the construct of ideology is discussed, examining both the abstract nature of ideology with the use of social representations and the functional character of ideology as a substructure, motivating bottom-up processes linked to the theory of system justification.The empirical research of this thesis took place in three different phases from November 2019 to January 2021 and used both qualitative and experimental quantitative methodology approaches for a multi-faceted and in-depth examination of how an audience represents protest and protest coverage, as well as how the protest paradigm framing creates a mechanism of interrelated effects on the audience’s perceptions and attitudes towards protest issues. The first two studies aimed to map the audience’s discourse and shared meanings of protest and protest coverage by using a qualitative methodology approach. The objective of the third study was to examine how - mainly mainstream - media stories on public protests, which adhere to the protest paradigm framing mechanisms, act as a mechanism blocking the influence of the minority, affecting the audience’s perceptions on minority/protest groups and collective action mobilization, under the moderating effects of political ideology and system justification. To achieve this, a quantitative experimental research design was opted.The findings of this thesis’ studies indicate that young Greeks represent public protest as a dipole which consists of the antithetical representations of protest as a democratic tool on the one hand and as a space of social violence and conflict on the other. In addition, there are contradicting images of the protest coverage by the media in the discourse provided by this particular audience. The main differentiating point is the distinction between traditional/mainstream media, which are viewed as means of supporting and justifying the status quo through adhering to the protest paradigm and new/alternative media perceived as spaces for resistance and promotion of social change. Finally, studies’ findings support the hypothesis that the protest paradigm effects have a negative impact on the perceptions of an audience with regards to the behavioral and negotiation style of the protest/minority group, moderated by individual differences in political ideology and individual system justification motivations.This research offers a new insight into the ideological function of the protest paradigm effects, as it attempts to find the common ground between social and political psychology and reveals not only that these effects are ideologically moderated but that they also serve the function of justifying the existing social order by discouraging citizens’ support and mobilization towards unconventional forms of political participation, such as protest.
... While aspects of the paradigm have been found in media coverage around the world, recent research problematizes the paradigm, suggesting the relationship between the media and protesters might not be as automatically inimical as previously thought. Studies indicate that country of media outlet, language, and location of the protest all factor into the continued relevance of the protest paradigm (Boyle et al., 2012;Harlow et al., 2020). Most protest paradigm studies, however, tend to be ideographic (i.e., study a local protest in local media), or are conducted under an assumption that the way the paradigm operates within the U.S. media and political systems is similar around the globe (Shahin et al., 2016). ...
... Importantly for the purposes of our study, research increasingly suggests that country -of the outlet and protests-influences adherence to the paradigm (Harlow et al., 2020). While the United States and Western Europe have traditionally been the focus of most media and protest research (Benson, 2013;Ferree et al., 2002), increased protest activity across the globe has spurred research in areas traditionally overlooked in communications research. ...
... This study adopted the codebook from previous studies (e.g., Harlow et al., 2020) to ensure consistency. The coding instrument was translated into the Serbian language and pretested on a small, random sample of texts after which we carried out two rounds of coding after extensive training. ...
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Most protest paradigm studies examining news media's portrayals of protesters are based on an assumption that the way the paradigm operates within the U.S. media system is similar around the globe. To overcome these weaknesses, this content analysis (n = 1200) of protest-related news coverage in two Balkan and two Central American countries examines how media clientelism-manifested via ownership, concentration, and state advertising-influences media representations of protesters. Results highlight important regional differences in protest coverage, and confirm the role of government and elites in clientelist environments is more complex than hypothesized. We found that while clientelism contributes to the protest paradigm, delegitimizing coverage is not automatic, and varies by frame and media ownership, as political and economic interests differentially influence protest coverage depending not just on the outlets’ ties to the state, but also the social contexts surrounding the protests themselves.
... On the other hand, when the coverage legitimizes the protest-as is the case in the debate frame-there is greater identification with protesters and more support for their demands . Several authors (e.g., Harlow et al., 2020;Kilgo et al., 2018;) have adopted the protest frame typology with some modifications. Instead of analyzing the five frames proposed by Hertog and McLeod, recent studies only use four of the five framing typesconfrontation, riot, spectacle, and debate. ...
... Nevertheless, some researchers have observed the prominence of other frames over spectacle, like riot or confrontation . Harlow et al. (2020) add that the protest's geographical context also determines what frames are more prominent. In the case of Latin America, the spectacle frame is most common, but the debate frame also shows up frequently, probably because of changes in how social movements are perceived by the public (Harlow et al., 2020). ...
... Harlow et al. (2020) add that the protest's geographical context also determines what frames are more prominent. In the case of Latin America, the spectacle frame is most common, but the debate frame also shows up frequently, probably because of changes in how social movements are perceived by the public (Harlow et al., 2020). Additionally, news media ideology, and how close to the government the media are, could also impact the coverage-the closer the media are to the authorities, the more they will have to stick to riot and confrontation portrayals (Shahin et al., 2016). ...
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This study assesses the relationship between two well-established sets of frames to better understand the news coverage of massive political protests. By relying on Semetko and Valkenburg’s generic frames and McLeod and Hertog’s protest frames, this study aims to identify whether certain generic frames emphasized in news stories increase the tendency to delegitimize protest movements. To this end, we analyzed the news coverage of Chile’s Estallido Social, a series of massive political demonstrations that developed across the country from October to December 2019. Data for this study come from stories published by Radio Bío Bío, the most trusted news outlet in the country, according to Reuters Institute. By analyzing a sample of 417 stories, we found the coverage replicated patterns that usually delegitimize protest movements, as many of the stories focused on violent acts and depicted demonstrators as deviant from the status quo. We also found a direct relationship between generic frames and protest frames, in which the presence of the former determines that of the latter. Generic frames provide information about how the news media interpret and package the news, which in turn affects demonstration-related features that the news media pay attention to. As such, we argue that combining both generic and issue-specific frames is a helpful approach to understanding the complexities of protest news coverage.
... Such a representation is generally studied under the framework of protest paradigm ( Chan and Lee 1984). Over the decades, researchers have found support for this paradigm Harlow et al. 2020). Previous studies have identified a range of factors that determine the delegitimizing patterns of news coverage. ...
... Previous studies have identified a range of factors that determine the delegitimizing patterns of news coverage. These include the level of formality of a country's political system (Shahin et al. 2016), the ideology of the media outlets and of the protesters (Luther and Miller 2005) and whether the coverage appears in traditional media or social media (Harlow et al. 2020). ...
... As discussed earlier, the media mainly frame protesters as either criminals (McLeod and Hertog 1999; Harlow and Johnson 2011), or unpatriotic or as a security threat (Di Cicco 2010; Tenenboim-Weinblatt 2014; Shahin et al. 2016), or as deviant and illegitimate (Peng 2008;Watkins, 200;Harlow et al. 2020). The media also give preference to elite sources over the protesters (Hughes and Mellado 2016). ...
This study analyzes the perspectives of journalists on the reporting of a civil rights movement known as Pashtun Tahafuz Movement in the Pakistani media. The movement was started by the people of tribal areas to demand an end to the existing state policies on the US-led “war on terror” amidst calls for institutional reforms in the region. The study borrows from the existing scholarship on the media representation of social movements and utilizes the protest paradigm as its theoretical framework. Through content analysis and detailed interviews with journalists, the study found the civil rights movement is mainly reported in unfavorable terms in the leading media outlets. While sharing their perspectives on this particular treatment, the journalists believed that the media was tightly controlled by the government to blackout the movement from the mainstream media. Moreover, the organizational and personal opinions of journalists also influenced the negative portrayal. Though the social media has provided alternative avenues to the movement’s activists to speak out against the state’s policies, the journalists feared that even this limited freedom would not last longer in the face of some upcoming legislation aimed at controlling the country’s social media.
... Moreover, the delegitimizing news coverage is more intense for protest movements that follow radical goals and employ extreme tactics, as this tends to lead news media to stricter adherence to the protest paradigm (Lee 2014;McLeod and Hertog 1999). Adherence to the protest paradigm is also greater for protests organized around issues of race (Harlow et al. 2020;Brown and Harlow 2019). The upshot of the protest paradigm here is that violent confrontations and property damage that occurs in the context of a protest will not only attract media attention, but such events tend to dominate the focus of the resultant news coverage. ...
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The murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer on 25 May 2020, sparked widespread protests led by the Black Lives Matter movement throughout the summer of 2020. Subsequent news coverage of these protests prominently featured acts of civil disobedience even though almost all protests were peaceful. In turn, protest “violence” was picked up by conservative political elites as evidence to promote legislation to control protests and keep communities safe. Since summer 2020, eight states have passed such legislation with additional bills pending in 21 states, raising concerns that the legislation suppresses political expression. This paper brings together literature on free expression, the protest paradigm, and news framing to provide the basis for a quantitative and qualitative analysis of 379 news stories and editorials covering Florida’s HB1 protest legislation. Results reveal that the most frequent news frame was fighting crime, with relatively less attention to free expression, political strategy, and race frames. In addition, very little attention was paid to the legislation’s potential chilling effects suppressing constitutionally protected speech and assembly. These results indicate news media were deficient in providing the public with a sufficient assessment of the implications of protest legislation.
Media coverage of protest, particularly its visual framing, is crucial to the legitimacy and impact of protest movements. Typical patterns in media coverage of protests, which account for discrepancies between how protests are portrayed, are the protest paradigm, and, WUNC (worthy, united numbers, commitment). In order to investigate how specific visual items and features of media images showing political protest elicit positive or negative perceptions and annotations by an audience, we study two questions: Which visual features in media images of protest elicit positive or negative perceptions and annotations by an audience? How do these perceptions correspond with the protest paradigm and WUNC, respectively? We answer these questions by conducting a qualitative focus group study with students from a mid-size German university.
Drawing from the protest paradigm and the mediation opportunity structure, this study textually analyzes mainstream and alternative media coverage of the 2019 inequality protests in Chile and the 2020 racial justice protests in the United States. In both cases, violence and forceful policing were linked to the protests, allowing this study to explore mediated violence and compare the discursive construction of the demonstrations, protesters, and police as articulated through 1) violence/damage, 2) repression, 3) oppression, and 4) blame. Findings revealed Chilean and U.S. mainstream media emphasized protester violence in juxtaposition with police trying to maintain order, peacefulness was portrayed as a novelty, and violence was disengaged from historical context. In contrast, alternative media treated protester violence as a response to structural violence, and police repression of protesters was criticized. This study shows the continued pervasiveness of the protest paradigm in mainstream news, and the way alternative media can offer discursive opportunities to counterframe police and protester violence and challenge mainstream media’s hostile portrayals of protesters’ use of the logic of damage. Ultimately, we suggest media and discursive opportunity structures are key to understanding mainstream and alternative media portrayals of protests.
“Mainstream media” and “mainstream journalism” have become significant concepts in political, popular, and academic discourse in recent years. They are key in how media, communication, and journalism scholars have been, and continue to be, concerned with relational dimensions in their work. However, the meaning of the word “mainstream” is often taken for granted. How and by whom this concept is used among media, communication, and journalism scholars is therefore of great importance. This article analyses uses of “mainstream” in academic discourse to unpack the various meanings ascribed to it. Through computational Topic Modelling Analysis and qualitative context analysis we analyse the relations, positions, normative underpinnings, and appropriate uses of “mainstream” in 779 journal articles published between 2000 and 2022. The analysis is framed by Wittgenstein’s notion of “language-game” as a way of analysing the meaning-making process constituted by uses of “mainstream” in these articles. We argue that “mainstream” resembles a “boundary object” but conclude that the rules of the “mainstream language-game” are confusing and need revisions, and that the concept only functions as an illusory boundary object, which is arguably problematic.
Decades after the development of the “protest paradigm,” scholarship continues to question the applicability of the paradigm under different circumstances, rather than pushing forward a more holistic theory that more adequately addresses the roles of producers, consumers, and media products. In this introduction to the special issue on news and protest, we argue that the relevance and any potential future advances of the protest paradigm depend on the (re)incorporation of its critical foundations, making explicit analyses of power hierarchies, and offering solutions for better journalistic coverage of protests. The articles in this special issue are linked by a recognition of the limitations of the protest paradigm and highlight emerging opportunities for moving beyond the paradigm and for considering the interplay of power structures to better understand protest news coverage. Acknowledging the media's place in and contribution to power hierarchies allows us to move beyond the paradigm's origins and contribute to a more holistic understanding of journalists’ role in the legitimization of social struggles. In doing so, we advocate for scholars to reimagine what news coverage should look like when it comes to social protests struggling against historic and systemic inequities and injustices.
Since 2017, 518 journalists have been attacked while covering protests (U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, 2021) which is one of the most dangerous places to be as a journalist in the United States (Sterne & Peters, 2017). Despite the volatile climate around journalists as they cover increasingly dangerous protests (Luqiu, 2020), there is minimal understanding as to the effect of these events on them (Talabi, et al., 2021). Furthermore, there is a gap in the hostility literature examining harassment that journalists face in the field. Through a survey of U.S. journalists, this study finds that covering protests causes journalists mental and emotional health concerns, which influences how they view their journalistic roles. Furthermore, the effects of positive and negative encounters at protests affected journalists personally, depending on who the perpetrator was (protestor or law enforcement)—influencing everything from PTSD and anxiety to intentions to leave journalism. The paper ultimately underscores the need for news organizations to make sure journalists not only are safe, but also feel safe, when reporting in the field.
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Until now, discussions of theories of media and society or media and the state in the North American literature have been limited. The four theories of the press advanced by Fred Siebert, Wilbur Schramm, and Theodore Peterson cover the main approaches of Western liberal society, the libertarian and social responsibility models, and some aspects of the Eastern bloc in the “totalitarian” model. Under the heading of “authoritarian,” however, a number of very diverse systems are lumped together. One major variation seen in Brazil is the continued vitality of the corporatist model of state and society, which has distinct implications for the role of mass media. In particular, aspects of corporatism seem to be combining with aspects of democracy and mass mobilization politics in ways that shed light on the role of the media in constructing or undercutting ideological hegemony in the heterogeneous, class-divided societies of Latin America.
This study uses a media sociology approach to untangle how multiple influences shape the way journalists cover left- and right-leaning protests on social media. Several studies have investigated how reporters portray social movements, finding that news marginalizes protestors by focusing on spectacle and violent tactics to the detriment of their ideas. In this study, we turn to journalists’ Twitter accounts to analyze if these patterns are transferred to social media, as predicted by the literature on normalization of new affordances. Through a mixed methodology matching survey and social media data from 466 Brazilian journalists who tweeted about protests in 2013 and 2015, results revealed individual attitudes predicted coverage, indicating that social media was a space for personal, not professional, expression. Contrary to the literature, findings show that social media portrayals were more legitimizing during the left-leaning demonstrations than during the right-leaning elite-driven one. As a result, marginalizing patterns of protest coverage were challenged, not replicated, on Twitter. These findings suggest a limitation of the theory of normalization to explain how global journalists use social media.
This study advances the protest paradigm as a transnational theory by examining how ideological affiliations within and across national borders influence the framing of a protest movement. Our empirical focus is the coverage of the 2016-17 South Korean “candlelight” protests to oust conservative President Park Gyun-hye in Korean and U.S. newspapers. Content analysis of six months of coverage suggests that liberal publications in both nations (Kyunghyang Shinmun and New York Times) were supportive of the movement, framing the protests as large yet peaceful and relying on protesters for information. In contrast, the conservative press in the U.S. (Wall Street Journal) was closer in its coverage to Korea’s conservative publication (Chosun Ilbo), which was defensive of Park and her supporters. We argue that ideological affinities can operate beyond national boundaries — what we term “ideological parallelism” — to make news organizations sympathetic or hostile toward a social movement. But nationalist sentiments also remain significant to the extent that a foreign (Korean) social movement affects a nation’s (U.S.) foreign policy. We identify a novel framing device — Gaze — under which the coverage of both U.S. newspapers converged and considered the adverse implications of candlelight protests for America’s relations with South Korea and its containment of North Korea and China. We also show how the U.S. media’s Gaze recursively shapes South Korean press coverage, indicating that transnational protest frames impact local perceptions of social movements and can potentially influence their legitimacy and outcome.
News coverage is fundamental to a protest’s viability, but research suggests media negatively portray protests and protesters that challenge the status quo (a pattern known as the protest paradigm). This study questions the validity of those claims within the context of digital newspaper coverage, interrogating how topic and region shape coverage. Using a content analysis of coverage from sixteen newspapers in various U.S. market types and regions, this research examines framing and sourcing features in articles about protests. Results suggest media coverage of protests centered on racial issues (discrimination of Indigenous people and anti-Black racism) follows more of a delegitimizing pattern than stories about protests related to immigrants’ rights, health, and environment. A model to understand news coverage of protest based on a hierarchy of social struggle is proposed.
Following the killing of unarmed teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, protests around the world—online and offline—grabbed headlines. Considering that previous research suggests that the news media tend to follow a protest paradigm of coverage that delegitimizes protesters, this study examined #Ferguson coverage on social media to re-assess the relevance of the paradigm. Using computer analysis, this study analyzed thousands of tweets posted by news organizations and individual journalists in the U.S., U.K., Spain, and France, as well as the general public’s tweets, to compare how race, police brutality, and the protests were discussed across countries. Findings fill the gap in the literature as to whether delegitimizing, paradigmatic coverage extends to Twitter, pointing to differences not just between countries, but also between media outlets and individual journalists, and between the public and the journalism industry. Implications for future research are discussed.
In 2013, small demonstrations against bus fares evolved into a series of large protests expressing generalized dissatisfaction with leftist President Dilma Rousseff in Brazil. Communication research has long examined the “protest paradigm,” a pattern of news coverage delegitimizing social movements. The Brazilian context provided a chance to assess the extent to which the paradigm holds when protests take on a conservative elite-supported narrative contesting the government. Through a quantitatively-driven mixed methods approach combining content analysis and interviews with mainstream journalists, results revealed that when grievances evolved into coherent anti-government demands, official sources from opposition parties served to legitimize the movement. As such, this study departs from an understanding of protest coverage as paradigmatic towards a complex view of the relationship between protestors and the press. Findings show that when elite opposition groups support protests, journalistic norms and routines validate demonstrations.
This study compares U.S. digital news coverage of recent foreign and domestic protests. Differences in coverage’s framing, sourcing, and device emphases were analyzed for two cases: protests that erupted after the death of Michael Brown and protests demanding justice for the 43 missing students from Ayotzinapa, Mexico. Building on protest paradigm literature, content analysis results show news articles that appeared on Facebook and Twitter emphasized legitimizing frames for foreign protests more than domestic protests. Foreign protests were framed with the spectacle frame more than domestic protests which were more often portrayed as confrontational. Digitally native news organizations produced content that deviated from expected paradigmatic norms the most. In addition, this research examines the relationship between content and sharing on Facebook and Twitter. Implications of these findings within the theoretical framework of the protest paradigm are discussed.
In 2014 protests erupted around the world after 43 college students from Ayotzinapa, Mexico, were kidnapped and massacred. This bilingual, cross-national content analysis explores the relationship between multimedia features in stories about the Ayotzinapa protests and how social media users liked, shared, and commented on that coverage. This study furthers our understanding of the protest paradigm in a digital context, and sheds light on differences in mainstream, alternative, and online media outlets' coverage of protesters. Additionally, this study suggests social media users might prefer more legitimizing coverage of protesters than mainstream media typically offer.
Audiences play a fundamental role in disseminating and evaluating news content, and one of the big questions facing news organizations is what elements make content viral in the digital environment. This comparative study of the United States, Brazil and Argentina explores what values and topics present in news shared online predict audience interaction on social media. Findings shed light on what news values and topics trigger more audience responses on Facebook and Twitter. At the same time, a comparison between popular content produced by traditional media versus online-native media reveals that the former lean more toward government-related news and con-flict/controversy news values than online native media. Brazilian stories prompted more social media interactivity than content from the United States or Argentina. Through content analysis, this study contributes to improving our understanding of audiences' news values preferences on social networks. It also helps us to recognize the role of users' online activities (sharing, commenting and liking) in the social construction of news and meaning inside the networked sphere. Finally, it opens an old media debate about whether providing and sharing too much media content with conflict, controversy and oddity could potentially hinder understanding and agreement in society. Articles were collected via media tracking and the data collection company NewsWhip.