Publication Date


Document Type



Purpose – To theorize and research the conditions under which a high-profile social movement organization (SMO) receives newspaper coverage advantageous to it. Design/methodology approach – To explain coverage quality, including “standing” – being quoted – and “demands” – prescribing lines of action – we advance a story-centered perspective. This combines ideas about the type of article in which SMOs are embedded and political mediation ideas. We model the joint influence of article type, political contexts and “assertive” SMO action on coverage. We analyze the Townsend Plan's coverage across five major national newspapers, focusing on front-page coverage from 1934 through 1952, using fuzzy-set qualitative comparative analyses (fsQCA). Findings – We find that only about a third of the Townsend Plan's front-page coverage was initiated by its activity and very little of it was disruptive. The fsQCA results provide support for our arguments on coverage quality. Disruptive, non-institutional action had no specific influence on standing, but its absence was a necessary condition for the SMO expressing a demand; by contrast, assertive action in combination with movement-initiated coverage or a favorable political context prompted the publication of articles with both standing and demands. Research limitations/implications – The results suggest greater attention to a wider array of SMO coverage and to the interaction between article type, SMO action, and political context in explaining the quality of coverage. However, the results are likely to apply best to high-profile SMOs. Originality/value – The paper provides a new theory of the quality of newspaper coverage and finds support for it with fsQCA modeling on newly collected data.

Publication Title

Book Series: Research in Social Movements, Conflicts and Change



First Page


Last Page




Open Access Status

OA Deposit


© Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Find in your library

Included in

Urban Studies Commons