Occupy Movement Media Success: Staying on Frame

How do we know when framing is successful for getting issues on the public agenda?

One proxy for influence is to look at how well groups have been able to redirect media attention. In the case of the Occupy Movement, Prof. Tim Groeling (UCLA, Communications Studies), discusses the media success of recent Occupy events.

From this data, we can see just how successful well-placed frames are at affecting media attention cycles.

From a larger perspective, the Occupy Movement challenges the conventional ways people think about government, business, and the common good. The movement consistently orients people’s thinking with core values like fairness and inequality, presents the current economic system as averse to democracy,  and unites a diversified group of people under one clear big idea.

As a result, media attention has now moved away from the Tea Party and the deficit and is now oriented towards OWS and issues of equality and redistribution.

The ability to stay on frame will become more important as time goes on. As social movement framing scholars, David Snow and Robert Benford have noted, “Once a movement’s collective action frame has become established as a master frame, efforts to extend its ideational scope may encounter resistance from its progenitors and guardians, as well as from external supporters.”

We are already starting to see this happen with GOP strategists who are struggling with counter-frames to the Occupy Movement. One article sums up some of the reframing strategies offered at the recent Republican Governors Association.

If the Occupy Movement wants to continue to shape media and public attention in the future, it is imperative that they continue to stay on frame. It is also important to recognize that framing is most effective when used to mobilize groups with resources and influence to affect outcomes.

In the meantime, it will remain important for Occupy groups to continue to stay on the media agenda if they wish to have a longer term impact.

“Changing the debate doesn’t affect the outcomes, but it does affect American politics,” says Prof. Groeling.


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