Triggering the Protest Paradigm: Examining Factors Affecting News Coverage of Protests

Francis L. F. Lee


Communication scholars have articulated the concept of protest paradigm to capture the news media’s tendency to portray social protests as deviant, threatening, or impotent. Developments in the media and social environment have led to more diversified media representations of protests, however. Correspondingly, scholars have started to treat the protest paradigm as a variable. Extending this line of research, this study content-analyzed Hong Kong newspaper coverage of protests. The results show that the protest paradigm is more likely to emerge if the protest involved radical tactics, if the protest’s target responded to the media, and, in politically conservative newspapers, when the protest addressed political topics. Protest coverage is less negative when the protest addressed a political matter, and there is evidence that protest coverage has become less negative over time.


social protests, protest paradigm, news coverage of protest, radicalism, content analysis

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