This is not a moment. This is a movement : how national newspapers reported 2015 protests against racism at the University of Missouri
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In 2015, protests against racism at the University of Missouri upended the university. Journalists from news outlets throughout the U.S. descended on the Columbia campus to document the historic protest movement, which toppled two university officials. This study considered how reporters from the Washington Post and New York Times, who were among the national outlets that covered the MU protests, reported on the movement. This research, conducted as a qualitative textual analysis, studied how the Post and Times used the protest paradigm in their coverage of MU. Previous research indicates journalists rely on the protest paradigm, a set of patterns in protest coverage, when they report on events such as this. Articles that follow the protest paradigm are often episodic and emphasize protesters’ tactics instead of their goals. The analysis shows the newspapers avoided the paradigm in early coverage, since the protest movement at MU came on the heels of protests in Ferguson after Michael Brown’s death, which had garnered favorable public attention. Communications professor Melissa Click derailed national coverage at MU, however, prompting the newspapers to rely more heavily on the paradigm in their follow-up coverage of the protests.