Abortion Politics, Mass Media, and Social Movements in America (2015) is Deana A. Rohlinger’s tour de force thus far. The book coalesces her years of research on the abortion debate, social movement organizations, and media discourse in a way that is satisfying and compelling. I was pleased to see so many of the concepts she’s used over the last 10+ years (radical flank, organizational identity vs. reputation, professionalization, branding, etc.) deployed in this book. Finally, we are able to see her extensive data (that includes content analyses of thousands of newspaper, radio, magazine, and television accounts, as well as organizational newsletters, and in-depth interviews with members of the four organizations) used in a comprehensive analysis of a movement in which Rohlinger spent well over a decade of her research career immersed.
As she highlights in the introductory chapter, Rohlinger shifts the conceptual gaze away from examining the power of media outlets to select social movement events and issues for coverage and towards how activists strategize their interactions with mass media. For those of us knee-deep in research that assumes media power, it is refreshing to rethink these interactions as truly interactive, where activists use media as much as media use them. She crafted the entire book to emphasize activists’ and organizations’ ability to partly control and build a media repertoire. By repertoire I mean the very rich set of potential interactions organizations can choose to instigate or sustain with media outlets, including external media (mainstream outlets) and direct media (media organizations control, such as a website or social media profiles). Continue reading