We know a lot about the ways media coverage shapes mobilization. Supportive coverage can help movements challenge dominant discourses, expand support, and gain leverage (E.g. Gamson et al 1992). Conversely, negative coverage can delegitimize movements in various ways, including by skewing coverage away from substantive issues or disproportionately highlighting violence in the movement (E.g. Gitlin 1980). Although research on movements and media take varying methodological and substantive approaches, it is a generally accepted proposition that, all things being equal, positive media coverage supports movement mobilization. Yet we would expect it likely is not this simple.
Some movements have especially salient frames about media bias that are central to their grievances. Conservative movements in the U.S. in particular have long-held perceptions of liberal bias about the “mainstream” media. This belief appears broadly held and supported by major conservative media (e.g. Brock 2004). Consequently, negative coverage may have a complicating effect on some (especially conservative?) movements. Continue reading