Another Violent Protest? New Perspectives to Understand Protest Coverage
Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania, USA
School of Communications, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Chile / Center for the Study of Media, Public Opinion, and Politics in Chile, Chile / Millennium Institute for Foundational Research on Data, Chile
Abstract: This study assesses the relationship between two well-established sets of frames to better understand the news coverage of massive political protests. By relying on Semetko and Valkenburg’s generic frames and McLeod and Hertog’s protest frames, this study aims to identify whether certain generic frames emphasized in news stories increase the tendency to delegitimize protest movements. To this end, we analyzed the news coverage of Chile’s Estallido Social, a series of massive political demonstrations that developed across the country from October to December 2019. Data for this study come from stories published by Radio Bío Bío, the most trusted news outlet in the country, according to Reuters Institute. By analyzing a sample of 417 stories, we found the coverage replicated patterns that usually delegitimize protest movements, as many of the stories focused on violent acts and depicted demonstrators as deviant from the status quo. We also found a direct relationship between generic frames and protest frames, in which the presence of the former determines that of the latter. Generic frames provide information about how the news media interpret and package the news, which in turn affects demonstration-related features that the news media pay attention to. As such, we argue that combining both generic and issue-specific frames is a helpful approach to understanding the complexities of protest news coverage.