Over the past few weeks, the media’s attention has shifted to the protests against police brutality that has arisen across the United States following the death of George Floyd, a black man killed by a police officer in Minneapolis.
But the media hasn’t paid much attention to protests against police brutality or misconduct over the last few years. These protests, often grouped under the umbrella of the Black Lives Matter movement, featured prominently in national media during and after the 2014 demonstrations in Ferguson, Missouri. In recent years, though, they have received much fewer media attention.
It’s not only important for protest movements to receive media coverage — but the focus of the coverage also makes a difference. In order to successfully achieve policy aims, protest movements must walk a fine line. They need to be disruptive enough to capture and hold national attention but also retain enough public support to pressure politicians into action.
Any large social movement is shaped by the technology available to it and tailors its goals, tactics, and rhetoric to the media of its time.
Today, #BlackLivesMatter has been included in nearly 20 million posts on Instagram alone and has become synonymous with the fight against systematic racism and police violence.
The media industry is at another inflection point. In the way the Me Too movement reshaped newsrooms, sparked debate, and purged bad actors from positions of authority, the Black Lives Matter movement is bringing about a similar upheaval by putting questions about race and reporting on the center stage.
Four top editors have resigned their positions in the last few days and it feels like this could just be the beginning of an extended reckoning within the business. Similar to the Me Too movement.