Protesters as the new gatekeepers? An analysis of how journalistic language and new technologies shape the identity of UK protest movements

Newlands, Maxine (2009) Protesters as the new gatekeepers? An analysis of how journalistic language and new technologies shape the identity of UK protest movements. In: Papers from Culture, Media: Protest. pp. 1-16. From: Culture, Media: Protest, 3-5 September 2009, Lucerne, Switzerland.

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Radical forms of direct action and protest have undertaken a new cycle in the past three years. Climate camp protests re-emerged at Drax (2006), and against the third runway at Heathrow Airport (2007-present); juxtaposed with resurgence in anti-capitalist/global justice protests from the late 1990s and early noughties and the recent G20 Meltdown (2009) in central London.

Drawing on the work of Halloran, Murdock and Elliott's (1971) use of Lang and Lang's (1958) notion of an inferential structure – where news reports often frame protest stories as violent or potentially violent - this study will argue that journalist continual use of this structure, through set linguistic patterns, influences how the mainstream media construct our cultural understanding of protest movements. Historically journalist reports on (UK based) protest events by following an established news agenda, and this work will show how journalists covering these events follow an established news agenda. The G20 protest were no exception, the usual formulaic build-up in coverage focus on the threat of, or potential for violence. The Sunday Mirror newspaper headline two days prior to the event proclaimed 'Anarchy in the UK; Exclusive the London summit 2009 countdown as world leaders head for G20 summit rioters come out of retirement secret plans to 'take over' city (29/04/09:9); and The Guardian newspaper revels 'Police tactics queried as Met says G20 protests will be 'very violent' (28/04/09:1).

At the Heathrow Climate camp (August 2007), news reports repeat the language of earlier protests. Echoing Halloran, Elliott and Murdock’s findings protestors identities are framed with a context of what Hall would argue (1968, 1971) as 'scoundrels', 'deviants' and 'violent' ( Halloran et al, 1971). In 1968 The Times newspaper carried the headline, 'Militant Plot Feared in London' (1968); whereas the Evening Standard coverage of the Heathrow climate camp ran with Extremist to Hijack Climate Camp Demo' 'Militants in Plot to Paralyse Heathrow' (2007)

However, the emergence of citizen journalism, Web 2.0 and new technologies, this paper will show, it is becoming increasingly difficult for journalists to repeat the patterns that shape the identity of protesters. G20 Meltdown and Heathrow Climate camp protest flagged up important shifts in the relationship between mainstream media organisations and protest groups. At both events protesters engaged with new technologies to produce their own news reports. To counter this approach, journalists increasingly are 'embedded' with protest movements. These two factors, citizen journalism and embedded journalism have, I would argue, led to an opening up of relationship between protest movements and journalist. Journalist will now struggle to follow the inferential structure in light of clear evidence of state and protest violence. Moreover, it shifts the cultural perception of protest groups and the wider field of new social movements.

This paper will argue that such use of new technologies and forms of communication raises questions around traditional forms of reporting. The new forms of communication initially offer a balance between protesters and gatekeepers in the style of reporting; but does dispensing with the journalist rely too heavily on the protester for footage? In other words how does, or does, web 2.0 mean changes the pattern of protest reporting?

Item ID: 35224
Item Type: Conference Item (Presentation)
Keywords: language, anticapitalism, violence, tactical media, geopolitics, Heathrow, meltdown
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Date Deposited: 07 Oct 2014 00:43
FoR Codes: 16 STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY > 1606 Political Science > 160699 Political Science not elsewhere classified @ 60%
19 STUDIES IN CREATIVE ARTS AND WRITING > 1903 Journalism and Professional Writing > 190301 Journalism Studies @ 40%
SEO Codes: 95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9502 Communication > 950204 The Media @ 100%
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