Edwin Amenta and Neal Caren

Jun 21, 2022

Rough Draft of History

A Century of US Social Movements in the News

Princeton University Press 2022

Rough Draft of History: A Century of US Social Movements in the News (Princeton UP, 2022) offers a new view of U.S. social movement history across the twentieth century by examining how movement organizations were covered in major national newspapers. The book analyzes U.S. social movements--ranging from temperance to women's suffrage to the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street--in a broad comparative fashion. Drawing on the full set of digitized newspapers from the twentieth-century (a task that as little as twenty years ago was considered impossible for researchers), the book offers both an institutional history of news--why the media covered what they covered, and to what effect--and also shows the influence of news coverage on a range of social movements, from the well-known to the obscure. Media coverage is a crucial component of movement visibility; news can draw the general public into battles over new issues but also shapes how movements are perceived. The authors show how a movement's structure--its organization, as well as the protest and non-protests activities it undertakes--influence its coverage, and consider too how macro-political conditions shape movement coverage. They reveal surprising gaps between contemporaneous coverage and current scholarly focus; for instance, the labor movement received the most journalistic attention of any movement of the twentieth century, but it is greatly understudied in comparison to how much it dominated the public sphere. Taking stock of news coverage across a century of movements thus illuminates movements that were influential in public discourse but have been neglected by scholars.

Edwin Amenta is professor of sociology and political science at the University of California, Irvine. His books include When Movements Matter and Bold Relief (both Princeton). Twitter @EdwinAmenta 

Neal Caren is associate professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Twitter @HaphazardSoc

Caleb Zakarin is the Assistant Editor of the New Books Network (Twitter: @caleb_zakarin)

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