Date of Completion
Research on the relationships between mass media and social movements has focused largely on the ways in which newspapers and mainstream television networks represent leftist movements. The conservative, pro-capitalist Tea Party movement, which began to receive national news coverage in February 2009, provides an opportunity to examine the same types of relationships on the other end of the political spectrum, in order to test generalizability of existing models. The Tea Party has received extensive media coverage by 24-hour cable news networks; these networks have not been included in prior studies on media framings of social movements. Using both qualitative and quantitative content analysis, and building on the theoretical framework of elite mediation, I inquire as to whether and how three major cable news networks and three national broadcast networks differ in their coverage of this movement. I also examine the extent to which frames put forth by movement members are accurately covered by these media outlets.
Analysis of the framing devices used by each network reveals significant positive and negative biases on the parts of Fox News Channel and Microsoft National Broadcasting Company, respectively. Consistent bias over time is also found for these two networks. Analysis of media accuracy in terms of describing the goals and motivations of protest actors also reveals differences between networks. Mainstream networks are found to provide more thorough and accurate descriptions of movement motivations, while the more biased cable networks limit the depth of their coverage to that which fits the ideological bent of the target audience. The findings presented in this paper extend our current understanding of the relationship between mass media and social movements, a relationship that is more complex and nuanced than prior research on media framings of social movements has shown.
Taylor, Malaena J., "Patriotic Protest, Racist Revolt, or Just Another Event: Television News Framing of the Tea Party Movement" (2011). Master's Theses. Paper 202.