Call for Papers for a Special Issue of The International Journal of Press/Politics: “Protest and the Press”

Call for Papers for a Special Issue of The International Journal of Press/Politics

“Protest and the Press”

Guest editors:
Summer Harlow, University of Houston (
Danielle Kilgo, University of Minnesota (

The changing racial and ethnic composition in many countries around the world has contributed to the rise of racist and xenophobic politics, as well as more active political participation by ethnic and racial minorities. Social protests against state-sanctioned police brutality, racial injustice, xenophobia, and Islamophobia—as well as pro-status quo protests such as those against increased migration, in favor of white supremacy, and even against the wearing of masks during a pandemic—have intensified in every region of the globe since the beginning of the new millennium. Previous research, particularly from Western societies, has shown that social movements need the media to help validate their agendas and mobilize supporters (Gamson & Wolsfeld, 1993). At the same time, mainstream news media routinely stigmatize collective action efforts, highlighting protesters’ deviance and marginalizing their goals, grievances, and demands (McLeod & Hertog, 1999). This delegitimizing pattern of news coverage, referred to in the literature as the “protest paradigm”, has prompted renewed interest from researchers seeking to understand how the paradigm operates around the world, in a digital era, when it comes to modern protests and hashtag activism (Jackson et al., 2020).

Over the past decade in particular, protest activity around racial injustice and conservative backlash has skyrocketed. This includes, among other examples: the massive 2020 protests over the killing of George Floyd in the United States that triggered (the revival and attention to) additional movements in countries around the world including Australia, the United Kingdom, and Kenya; right-wing anti-mask/anti-lockdown protests (e.g., in the United States and Brazil); repression and coverage of protests against citizenship laws targeting Muslims in India; protests against China’s national security laws in Hong Kong; the 2019 anti-government demonstrations in Sudan where hundreds of protesters were killed, and recent anti-immigration protests in Italy sparked by fears of COVID-19.

This special issue of The International Journal of Press/Politics aims to provide new research perspectives on how news media’s coverage of police and protests contributes to the legitimization of some movements and the delegitimization of others, with the goal of fleshing out the hierarchies of social struggle created by the press (Kilgo & Harlow, 2019) and the effects of that hierarchy on the public.

Recent research explores mediating factors that might diminish adherence to the protest paradigm, including the level of formality of a country’s political system (Streeck & Kenworthy, 2005; Shahin et al., 2016); the ideology of the media outlet and of the protesters (Claussen, 2000; Luther & Miller, 2005); and whether the coverage appears in traditional media, online-only publications, or social media (e.g., Harlow & Johnson, 2011; Harlow et al., 2020; see also this edited collection of articles on news coverage of protests published in IJPP). These, too, are likely contributors to the hierarchy of social struggle, helping us better predict when coverage of social movements will be more or less delegitimizing. This special issue seeks articles situating different movements, protests, demonstrations, rallies, and unrest within the hierarchy in order to identify other mediating factors that influence protest coverage and its ability to affect public opinion.

Research that offers a nuanced understanding of the effects of news coverage on public opinion is currently limited (but see Arpan et al., 2008; Kilgo & Mourao, 2019), so with this issue we aim to address that gap and shed new light on the ways in which news coverage might help or hinder social movements’ ability to mobilize supporters and acquire or strengthen their legitimacy. Methodologically, inquiries based on the protest paradigm have mostly been limited to content analyses, thereby overlooking the role of journalists or audiences. Scholarship also mostly neglects the perspective of activists and protesters. Further, most protest paradigm research is limited to the Global North. We therefore seek research overcoming these limitations to develop cumulative knowledge that explains the boundaries of the paradigm in an age of digital news and digitally enabled protest.

In addition, we call for research that moves beyond the paradigm, considering shifts in axiological and epistemological philosophies and pushing away from normative presumptions of news media’s allegiance to traditional journalistic routines, norms, and values. We encourage researchers to identify theoretical approaches that might explain and predict journalism’s role in contributing to broader power structures that suppress—or embolden– dissent.

We seek contributions that broaden the scope of research on protest and the press geographically, methodologically, and theoretically, and we particularly encourage comparative studies to better understand how contextual specificities, including media, criminal justice, and political systems, as well as culture, social and economic inequalities, racism, and ethnocentrism, might play a role in media representations of protest and audience and movement responses to those representations. This special issue aims to host contributions that offer a more holistic, global understanding of news coverage of protests and repression of protests, and the news media’s contribution to the public’s willingness to support protesters and their causes. Additionally, this special issue seeks to showcase fresh possibilities for theory development, methodological innovation, and cross-national comparisons to move past asking whether the protest paradigm remains relevant in this digital age, and instead interrogate new approaches to how, when, and why the relationships between media and protest vary around the world, what other factors may affect news coverage and audience responses, and what the consequences are not just for activists and movements in terms of repression or validation and mobilization, but also for social and policy change more broadly.

With this special issue we aim to bring together scholarly expertise from various disciplines and parts of the world. In particular, we encourage inter-disciplinary work that bridges different subdisciplines within communication as well as integrating approaches from sociology, political science, and criminal justice, among others. We also encourage submissions from scholars in under-represented regions to consider how the practice and discourse of news, police, and protests in non-Western countries varies from, and enables to expand, knowledge deriving from existing research.

We welcome contributions with a broad range of questions and methods. Possible topics include but are not limited to:

  • The myth of objectivity and the ethics of journalists covering protests and policing of protests from a particular standpoint
  • News values and the impact on coverage of relying on police as sources
  • The influence of social media platforms on media representations of police and protesters, from the perspective of users and of journalists
  • Analysis of the share-worthiness of news coverage of protests, and how narratives can create and discourage online engagement among news audiences
  • The mainstream media’s role and influence compared to alternative media sources, including social media influencer discourse and viral media
  • Visual analysis of protest images, including violent and peaceful depictions of protesters and police
  • Effects of protest representation on public opinion and interpretations of protest
  • The relationships between social movement actors, activists, citizen protesters, and local and national news media
  • Comparative analysis of protest coverage around the world for transnational protests or protests with similar agendas
  • Analysis of the intersection of freedom of speech and journalism, including how journalists understand freedom of speech personally and professionally
  • Differences in media representations of right-wing and left-wing protests
  • The relationships between misinformation, disinformation, and protest coverage
  • Qualitative or critical analyses of protest coverage and imagery.

Submission information

Manuscript submissions for this special issue are due on 15 September 2021. Please submit your work through the journal’s online submission portal and ensure that the first line of the cover letter states: “Manuscript to be considered for the special issue on Protest and the Press.” Manuscripts should follow the IJPP submission guidelines. Submissions will be subject to a double-blind peer review process and must not have been published, accepted for publication, or under consideration for publication elsewhere.

Please note that, to ensure consistency, submissions will only be considered for peer review after the 15 September 2021 deadline has passed.

Authors interested in submitting their work are encouraged to contact the guest editors, Summer Harlow ( or Danielle Kilgo ( with questions.

Expected timeline

  • Paper submissions: 15 September 2021
  • First decision: 15 January 2022
  • Paper revisions due: 15 March 2022
  • Final decision: 15 May 2022
  • Online publication: July 2022
  • Print publication: October 2022


Arpan, L. M., Baker, K., Lee, Y., Jung, T., Lorusso, L., & Smith, J. (2006). News coverage of social protests and the effects of photographs and prior attitudes. Mass Communication & Society9(1), 1-20.

Claussen DS (2000) “So far, news coverage of Promise Keepers has been more like advertising”: The strange case of Christian men and print mass media. In Claussen D (ed) The Promise Keepers: Essays on Masculinity and Christianity. Jefferson, NC, USA: McFarland.

Gamson, W. A., & Wolfsfeld, G. (1993). Movements and media as interacting systems. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science528(1), 114-125.

Harlow, S. & Johnson, T.J. (2011). Overthrowing the protest paradigm? How The New York Times, Global Voices and Twitter covered the Egyptian Revolution. International Journal of Communication, 5, 1359-1374.

Harlow, S., Kilgo, D. K., Salaverría, R., & García-Perdomo, V. (2020). Is the Whole World Watching? Building a Typology of Protest Coverage on Social Media from Around the World. Journalism Studies, 1-19.

Jackson, S. J., Bailey, M., & Welles, B. F. (2020). # HashtagActivism: Networks of Race and Gender Justice. MIT Press.

Kilgo, D. K., & Harlow, S. (2019). Protests, media coverage, and a hierarchy of social struggle. The International Journal of Press/Politics24(4), 508-530.

Kilgo, D., & Mourão, R. R. (2019). Media Effects and Marginalized Ideas: Relationships Among Media Consumption and Support for Black Lives Matter. International Journal of Communication13 (2019), 1487-4305.

Luther, C.A. & Miller, M.M. (2005) Framing of the 2003 US-Iraq war demonstrations: An analysis of news and partisan texts. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly 82: 78–96.   

 McLeod, D. M., & Hertog, J. K. (1999). Social control, social change and the mass media’s role in the regulation of protest groups. Mass media, social control, and social change: A macrosocial perspective, 305-330.

Shahin, S., Zheng, P., Sturm, H.A. & Fadnis, D. (2016). Protesting the paradigm: A comparative study of news coverage of protests in Brazil, China and India. The International Journal of Press/Politics 21: 143–164. Streeck, W., & Kenworthy, L. (2005). Theories and Practices of Neocorporatism. In T. Janoski, R. Alford, A. Hicks, & M. A. Schwartz (Eds.) The Handbook of Political Sociology: States, Civil Societies, and Globalization (pp. 441–460). New York: Cambridge University Press.

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