Researchers lambasted media coverage of racial demonstrations shared on social media

Their findings were released in Journalism Studies.

3 min read

News outlets across the world have yielded media coverage of social demonstrations considered to be repellent and undermine the causes protesters are fighting for, according to new research. The findings were released in Journalism Studies.

The etiology of the purported mass media implications, referred to as a “protest paradigm,” was evident after the research team analyzed more than 1,400 news clips in both English and Spanish. The news stories in question garnished widespread virality across a constellation of blogs and social networking sites.

“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,” Summer Harlow, the study’s lead author, stated in the findings.

“How journalists cover protests and social movements matters because the more delegitimizing the coverage is the less likely the public is to support it,” said Harlow in a news release.

According to Harlow, coverage from international news outlets should be fixated on the root cause of the issues facing populations rather than the violence glamorized or sensationalized to the top of their headline columns.

“Reporters should focus on the real issues, not just the violence you see on television or read about in newspapers between police and protestors or the inconvenience to bystanders. It hurts a movement’s ability to be successful,” Harlow asserts.

In the findings, Harlow and her colleagues determined that the type of protest, location of protest, and the type of news outlet was correlated with whether or not news clips cohered to what they regarded as the protest paradigm.

The results were publicized at a time where journalists and news sources alike underwent scrutiny over their coverage of recent social demonstrations, particularly involving a 46-year-old Minnesota resident who died during a tragic and controversial conflict with a local law enforcement officer.

“This goes back to traditional journalistic practices and values. If you are a journalist on a deadline, you rely on official sources such as law enforcement for information. As a result, protestors are seen as less credible and the reason why they are so upset gets lost in the coverage.”

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