The media here in Vancouver, Canada gave the local occupy movement a lot of attention.  Through this study I seek to explore and identify certain trends in print and online media articles related to the initial protest and later encampment.  I examine free articles, from weekly and daily print magazines such as the metro, the straight and various online sources.  Because of the nature of the studies variables, results are not objective, but reflect my personal understanding of the media articles in question.

 

Throughout the occupation at the Vancouver Art Gallery my primary sources of information came from free magazines.  Most of the information I found from these sources discussed the physical and logistical constraints and hazards of the encampment on city grounds, and it was difficult to understand what people in the movement were actually doing or aiming to do.  I found that while there were both positive/supportive and negative/unsupportive articles to be found in the free press, this lack of basic information on the progress, developments, and decisions being made and discussed by the organization of occupy protesters to be very troubling.  I found the media to be grabbing my attention with headlines, but upon reading them to be inundated with diversions about events surrounding the protest but not the protest itself.

 

In order to better understand what issues the press was focusing on I developed a number of variables outlining often cited issues as well as issues I was surprised to find were not often being addressed. I found that through the emphasis on certain issues media articles impacted my associations with the movement and certain socially and politically contentious or charged factors or issues.

 

In order to get a sense of the themes being associated with Occupy Vancouver by the media I counted the mention of each theme and recorded them.  My method in identifying each theme was based by exact words, or general references.  For example, “smashing windows” was categorized as property damage not crime, and “collective action” was recorded as cooperation.

 

Table 1 illustrates the discrepancy between print and online media, 21% and 79% respectively.  I had easier access to online media so this may affect results.  My sources came from somewhat politically diverse sources including:   Canadian Business, CBC, CTV, The Metro, News1130.com, The Agora, the Georgia Straight, TheMarkNews.com,   While sources are not evenly distributed, TheProvince.ca, The Tyee.ca, VancouverObserver.com, and TheVancouverSun.com.  Frequency distributions can be found in Figure 1.  I think this represents a fairly accurate cross-section of where I personally found information on Occupy Vancouver in the media.

 

Table 1 – print or online

Frequency

Percent

Valid Percent

Cumulative Percent

Valid online

19

79.2

79.2

79.2

print

5

20.8

20.8

100.0

Total

24

100.0

100.0

 

Figure 1

fig1

 

I classified each article based upon whether I felt they presented a negative, positive, or neutral opinion on the Occupy Vancouver Movement.  I based these general descriptives on the tone and focus of the article and they are entirely opinion based.  The frequency of positive, negative, and neutral articles is shown in Figure 2.  I found the majority of these articles to present a neutral opinion of Occupy Vancouver, and slightly more negative slanted articles than positive.  I was curious to see whether as some have hypothesized that media coverage of the movement in Vancouver was becoming increasingly negative as it drew on. I was surprised to find that opinions of the movement remained fairly consistent from October 1st until December 10th.  Results are shown in Figure 3.  The mean of negative articles is slightly later than positive articles, but positive articles had a greater time range.

Figure 2

fig2

 

Figure 3 – Opinions of Occupy Vancouver over Time, (in boxplots the middle line represents the mean, the box is the inner quartiles or central tendency, and the whiskers show the range of all the dates.)

fig3

 

The main focus of my study on mainstream media portrayals of the Occupy Vancouver movement was to identify what associations the media was connecting the Occupy Movement with.  By tallying the mention of each theme in each article, I summed the results and graphed them based on frequency within the entire sample, see Figure 4.  I chose a number of themes that had stood out to me in my casual reading and hearing of Occupy Vancouver, including: police, violence, fire, death, peace, system change, property damage, other crime, riots, justice, inclusion, education, and solidarity.  I found that the most common of these themes mentioned in Occupy Vancouver articles was the police, at a total of forty mentions.  In comparison to the other themes, police were mentioned a lot.  The second most frequent of these themes was system change with 25 mentions.  System change was also quite prevalent in comparison to other themes.  Violence and fire were mentioned 15 times each, and crime and drugs 13 times each. However had I considered violence, fire, drugs, property damage, and riots under a more general category of crime, this would have resulted in a total of 63 mentions, much higher than system change or even police.  Cooperation and peace were mentioned only 9 times each throughout these articles, somewhat surprising in contrast to violence at 15 mentions.  Other themes appeared to be less significant, with solidarity at 8, education and inclusion at 4, and justice at 3.  While system change was a significant theme in these articles the most prevalent themes were on police and crime.  I feel that these results reflect mainstream media’s tendency to sensationalize events and promote fear through the association of Occupy Vancouver with certain ideas.  While the media did make mention of the aims of the movement, these were secondary to other framing devices that link the movement to anti-social behaviour.

Figure 4

fig4

 

While my study was very limited and subjective, it does offer insight into how the media in Vancouver has characterized Occupy Vancouver.  While things like property damage and police prevalence have been a major component of the movement in Vancouver, so too have things like cooperation and inclusion shaped this movement, but they have been underrepresented by the media.  The media’s focus on certain issues can affect our own perceptions and understandings of the movement.  Being wary of bias in mainstream media is helpful in gaining a more fully informed opinion on Occupy Vancouver.

 

 13 December 2011  Posted by alatimer media , , ,  Add comments