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Journalism and social movements: Re-drafting our 1st draft of history. The case of the #UmbrellaMovement in Hong Kong and #RenunciaYa in Guatemala

Garcia Rodriguez Blancas, Laura (2017) Journalism and social movements: Re-drafting our 1st draft of history. The case of the #UmbrellaMovement in Hong Kong and #RenunciaYa in Guatemala. In: ECREA Journalism Studies Conference 2017, 23-24 March, 2017, Odense, Denmark. (Unpublished) (KAR id:73940)


Since the “Arab Spring” in 2011, the world has re-discovered the power of “social movements”. Likewise, journalists have been confronted with the enormous challenge of covering them for an international audience, hungry for news and detail. However, social movements, and the forces that breed them, are much more than just public demonstrations. Online media coverage of social movements ends up being the 1st draft that many audiences will have with such events. Most of the literature that examines social movements and their relationships with different media outlets generally comes from sociology, and political science. They recognise the vital role that journalism and journalists play when they cover social movements, however there isn’t a newsroom perspective to break down how these interactions actually happen. Journalism research has overlooked journalists’ civic responsibility towards its audience when it covers events like social movements. Motivated by news values, diminishing budgets, and new digital landscapes to grapple with, our coverage most of the times ends up being no more than “riot porn”. My research looks at quantitative data collected from 2 years of online publications about 2 social movements, and fills in the gaps with interviews with journalists who have covered them. The idea is to re-examine our journalistic approach to social movements, identifying the characteristics that make them unique and challenging to cover, while recognising how we could re-evaluate journalistic habits to improve our coverage. The main problem comes from the most basic dichotomy embedded in the identity of journalism and journalists. We proudly take our place as the publishers of history’s first draft and consider it our democratic duty to do so, but the nature of our work is ephemerous and carries a daily (hourly) death sentence. We need to re-examine how we cover social movements to better serve our audience, who is ready to fact check us on social media. My research hopes to start that conversation, by confronting us with the basic premise that we might be missing out on a big component of these stories. Journalists and journalism academics need to address journalism’s historical function, no longer leaving it for historians to piece together, or for sociologists to funnel into theory. If our true purpose is to better serve our changing audiences, thinking about how we cover social movements, and therefore social change, is a good place to start.

Item Type: Conference or workshop item (Other)
Uncontrolled keywords: social movements, Umbrella Movement, journalism, riot porn
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Divisions: Divisions > Division for the Study of Law, Society and Social Justice > Centre for Journalism
Depositing User: Laura Garcia
Date Deposited: 16 May 2019 12:28 UTC
Last Modified: 11 Dec 2022 18:26 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Garcia Rodriguez Blancas, Laura.

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