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Michael Brown as a news icon


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The shooting of Michael Brown by a police officer cued an intense reaction from citizens, officials, and activists. Guided by the theory of indexing during “event-driven” news and the literature on protest coverage, this paper investigates the voices in the news following Brown’s shooting. A content analysis of five newspapers during the first cycle of protests analyzed three aspects of the media coverage of Ferguson. First, we assessed the reliance on official and nonofficial sources in the content published. Second, we tested the relationship between official and nonofficial sources to episodic or thematic coverage. Third, we tested the relationship between sources and the frames of the “protest paradigm,” a pattern of coverage emphasizing violence and deviant behavior. Findings reveal that nonofficial sources dominated the coverage after the shooting. But such sources challenged neither the episodic nature of the coverage nor negative portrayal of protestors. Therefore, our unique linking of the theory of indexing and protest coverage literature reveals that the nonofficial sources’ access is not enough to deter “protest paradigm” coverage. Frames emphasizing violence and clashes with the police were overwhelmingly more present than those emphasizing protestors’ grievances and demands. Our findings also reveal that frames emphasizing deviance prevailed more in the local newspaper than in national outlets. Overall, the predominance of nonofficial sources was not accompanied by thematic stories and critical viewpoints.

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Michael Brown as a news icon

  1. 1. Michael Brown as a news icon Event-driven news and its impact on protest paradigm Rachel  R  Mourao   Danielle  Kilgo   George  Sylvie   The  University  of  Texas  at  Aus3n  
  2. 2. What voices were heard?
  3. 3. The degree of conflict among official sources (such as elected and government officials, and police personnel) determines critical coverage of the issue EVENT-DRIVEN NEWS News thrives from developments of events themselves, instead of the daily routine of institutional organizations
  4. 4. Media routinely delegitimize and marginalize social movement organizations that challenge the status quo. INDEXING + EVENT-DRIVEN + PROTEST PARADIGM
  5. 5. RQs and hypothesis RQ1: Which types of sources were used in the coverage of Ferguson by the mainstream press? RQ2: Which type of coverage – episodic or thematic – is prevalent in the coverage of Ferguson? RQ3: Are there any differences in the use of official/nonofficial sources between episodic and thematic content items? RQ4: What protest frames did the mainstream press use in covering Ferguson protests? H1: Episodic content items are more likely to adhere to protest paradigm frames (riot and confrontation) than thematic content items. RQ5: How does the use of official/nonofficial sources relate to protest paradigm frames?
  6. 6. Methods Content analysis of newspaper articles during the first cycle of protests (Aug. 8- Sep. 8) The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA TODAY, The Washington Post and St. Louis Post-Dispatch
  7. 7. Methods Generic Frames: episodic or thematic Protest paradigm: riot, confrontation and debate N= 623
  8. 8. Sources & episodic/thematic (RQ1, RQ2 and RQ3)
  9. 9. Protest frames (RQ4) Riot
  10. 10. Frames of protest & sources (RQ5) Confrontation
  11. 11. Frames of protest & episodic/thematic (H2)
  12. 12. Which voices were heard? Non-official sources, but not critical Protest paradigm remains intact, especially for local newspapers Future studies: –  How does coverage expand to accommodate dissent (e.g. DOJ report)? –  Role of gender –  Ethnography of sourcing practices
  13. 13. What does it mean?
  14. 14. Thank you!