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Abstract

Past research on media coverage of social protests has yielded evidence of a protest paradigm: a set of news coverage patterns that typifies mainstream media coverage. This coverage generally disparages protesters and hinders their role as vital actors on the political stage. The lack of respect for the value of social protest inherent in such coverage has created frustration among the protesters, which has in turn contributed to dysfunctional confrontations. However, under certain conditions, journalists will deviate from the protest paradigm. Such aberrations were found in the Los Angeles Times' coverage of the May 1, 2006, "Day without Immigrants" demonstrations. An analysis of this coverage reveals that the reporters relaxed the conventions of the protest paradigm in favor of more constructive forms of news coverage, permitting a more functional discourse to emerge from the conflict. Based on insights gleaned from this analysis, this paper argues that society would reap enormous benefits if journalists would abandon the traditional protest paradigm in favor of multi-perspective approaches. Following a summary of this analysis, specific suggestions for improving protest coverage are made, which will ultimately enhance the dynamics and outcomes of social conflicts.

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