Open access peer-reviewed chapter

Journalism and Social Media Frame Social Movements: The Transition to Media Matrix

Written By

Alonit Berenson

Submitted: 03 February 2018 Reviewed: 03 May 2018 Published: 31 October 2018

DOI: 10.5772/intechopen.78290

From the Edited Volume

Social Media and Journalism - Trends, Connections, Implications

Edited by Ján Višňovský and Jana Radošinská

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Audiences all over the globe are experiencing an unprecedented communication challenge. The intensity of the transnational media platforms and the rapid media distribution information implies a huge adaptation and interaction to diverse media technologies. These have created a transition in the culture of citizens’ acts, creating the era of “Media Matrix.” The printed press and the television still today cover the social movements’ demonstrations playing an important role in which these are revealed to the public. The importance of the news framing and Internet, as well as social media, depends upon one other crucial component for the social movements’ visibility. The present study aims to offer a theoretical reflection on this issue describing a three-stage analyses, which the media coverage underwent. The study describes the different stages in the coverage and “news-making” of social movements, which brings us to today’s matrix era. Furthermore, it also deliberates the impact this phenomenon has had in the civil society.


  • journalism
  • social media
  • social movements
  • news
  • social protest

1. Introduction

At the beginning of the twenty-first century, as the Internet entered the world of communication, the journalistic media underwent a profound change adapting to the new news-making wave. The old “traditional printed press” changed its old format and adjusted itself to the new media formats, that is, the digital media. Online journalism, for instance, 24/7 Internet broadcast news via websites, and smartphones has established itself as a constant presence in the virtual world. The news new platform of diffusion, commentary articles, and the television broadcasting - have depicted a new complicated picture in need of interpretation. These innovative circumstances allowed a huge transformation in the industry of journalism and its practices.

The aim of this chapter is to provide a better understanding of the transition occurring in the journalistic practice in the coverage of social protests. The present three-stage model is a framework to understand the relationship social movements-media during the last few decades in framing this kind of events. The first stage comprises the predominance coverage of social movements by the exclusive of traditional media printed media, television, and radio. The second stage is the digital media, Internet in the press web sited one-way communication. The third stage is the interactive virtual media - social media as part of “Media Matrix,” a variety of representations with constant re-mediation and “panmedia” media contents in the virtual world in diverse information platforms, available everywhere at every time in the smartphones.

The question that needs to be asked is to what degree the media have been encouraging social change by employing researchers from the social sciences during the last few decades. Castells et al. [1] have pointed out that the wireless media was more quickly absorbed than any other communications technology in history. With the establishment of the use of the smartphone space and time ceased being barriers. This changed the practices and contexts of social movements’ interaction in a range of areas—including protest activists. These ways of communicating made it possible for people to reconstruct their views on governmental institutions as never before. Similarly, these communication technologies made cross-continental ideological and strategic brainstorming activity possible in civil societies in order to advance social change through the use of more efficient unifying contacts to advance political interests and shared political identities.

McLuhan and Force [2] observed the dominant communications media in society as the explanation for the development of the national state that was the outcome of the dominance of the printing press technology in Europe prior to the drawing of national borders. Later, predicted that television would cancel out these borders because of the features of the technology involving the transfer of information that, to a great degree, was returning us to the era of oral communication. He defined this new phenomenon the “global village” without national borders nations would return to live in tribal frameworks. The adoption of this vision has provided the media as a social agent with enormous power. McLuhan [3] boldly predicted how the speed of the dissemination of information would convert the world into the present “global village” and this is a vision that has been brought to fruition by the Internet network. People all over the world share ideas and exchange messages in real time and are able to provide real responses to each other about ideas and activities.

Thus, arises are the question to what extent the media influences in the process of group identity construction? This study’s aims is to help decipher by means of a three-stage model, what is the contribution of the communications technologies in the social changes processes, and how they influence and strengthen existing identities, create new identities or, alternatively, lead to the disappearance of identities such as the national state.

The new communication systems challenge the old traditional media. The digital technologies have provided with unprecedented wide-ranging communication options. This, in turn, has led to an exponential increase in the range of platforms that host political content. The old established media, consecutively, has continued to fashion the backbone of the communication system by adjusting to the changing reality. The political communication communities thus, navigate themselves through a maze of complex communication possibilities. In our three-stage model, we explain the different stages of relationships between the media and the social groups. These are: (1) Traditional media; the printed and electronic journalism coverage of social movements events; (2) Web 1.0—traditional journalism adjusts to the Internet still being one-way transmission; and (3) The media Matrix Era—introduction of the smartphone, Web 2.0, interactive communication, and “pan-media.”

The development of the presented three stages model has significantly influenced the diverse strategies used in the different social movements activities. Especially at times of social protest calling for changes in policy of the political elites, in attempting to exert influence upon policy in the decision-making process.


2. Traditional media, the printed and electronic coverage of social movements events

In the first stage (of the model), the traditional media and the printed journalism had hegemony over the editing of news content, which included social movements activities, and especially social protest events. The coverage which arose out of different interests, such as economic interests and rating considerations [4] created the construction of a reality by journalists in which the dependence of social movements upon the news media was created. In contrast, today’s widespread use of smartphones, and their unimaginable and unprecedented presence of the Internet in it makes it possible to discuss and access to information during the coverage, or not, of contentious moments.

The tactics of journalism news coverage play an important role in our perception of a protest and its legitimacy in the public agenda-setting. Framing and “media logic” are means to presents these narratives. Framing means the processes in which journalists, who are in the dynamic process of constructing meaning, present their interpretation of subjects and events in the form of a news narrative. Framing means the process in which the journalists choose and categorize information. They choose the arguments and adopt a position. In so doing, in fact, they create a frame in the consciousness of the subscribers [5]. It is generally associated with the term “agenda setting” in which the journalists decide “what is important”. It is “agenda setting” that defines what is “worth reporting” for public attention. Entman [6] defines as the emphasis placed upon the reasons for the problem, its moral judgment, and suggestions for the best way to “deal” with it [6]. Framing thus fulfills an important task in the structuring of the reality that is presented covered in interpretation using metaphors or selected connotations suited to the chosen narrative [7]. “Media logic” refers to that the mass media gained power not only by cementing their institutional status but also by developing a commanding discourse that guided the organization of public space. The formal grid of understanding that steers information, news, and communication was effectively exported to vital areas beyond media organizations, where mass media gained legitimacy mostly through the influence of its logic [8]. According to McQuail [9], by framing the image of the reality, the information is presented in an interpretive coverage, and it is considered to have a strong influence on the structuring of social reality. Therefore, journalism discourse is part of the process by which individuals construct meaning, and form a public opinion, developing and crystallizing meaning in the public discourse [7].

2.1. The battle for the narrative

To gain journalism support is important for the protest event. On the one hand, the mass media needs the social movements to “make news” but the interests of the movements’ activists and the journalists are not often compatible. Gitlin [10], a pioneer scholar-researcher, in his seminal book The Whole World is Watching, describes the connection between journalism coverage and new leftist groups protests, active during the 1960s in the United States. He clearly expressed the problematic nature of the relations between these groups and the media. He found that, during the framing of coverage, it assisted this group to garner wide support. However, most of the time the coverage of social demonstrations is negative [10]. Journalism mostly focuses on issues such as drama, conflict, struggle, and personalization (of figures) that will allow it to be newsworthy. In contrast, the social movements were interested in spreading their ideas to the wider public and their mission was to attract media (and public) attention to their causes while the journalists often do not focus upon problems or the issues the movements raise but act according to other interests such as rating considerations for the commercial advertisers [4]. Thus, journalists not only focus on coverage that presents characteristics of violence and conflicts or the personal details about the leaders of the struggle. But also, also prefer to rely upon information that comes from sources that are linked to political power bases and safety organizations such as the police, because such sources provide “office narratives,” the points of view of the elites are given preferential treatment in the coverage [11]. Social movements must struggle to gain attention and when they are included in the coverage they are treated to framing, which creates an interpretation of the issues that they are raising and for their activities, which do not always suit the agendas they are aiming at so that they mostly receive negative coverage [12, 13].

Thus, raises the necessity of asking questions about the mechanisms that determine why there are events that are included in the media coverage while other events are left out. News values, the gate keepers of the mass media, the cruel competition over the available room in the journalistic space are everyday realities for the social movements and their chances to gain visibility in the news.

In coverage done on social groups, one can quite often see that the news media take on the role of news frame fashioner when journalists present a position for or against certain social movements [14]. Moreover, the autonomous role played by the media in the choice of news items and their content opens the gates to some groups but not to others. In an essay written by Smith et al. [15] it seems that sometimes the coverage subverts the agenda of the protest events. They find that the coverage tends to focus on both the drama of the event such as violence and arrests and go on to conclude that the social movements have failed in their attempt to attract the public’s attention to the subjects of the protests to which they wished to mobilize them. The mass media tends to frame the protest as a “passing episode” in which the role of the movements was supposed to have been the presentation of the “subjective” narrative of the protest. In fact, in the results of an earlier research literature [15, 16, 17] one can see that in the journalistic coverage journalists tend to create a clear division between the protestors and the public in which the protestors are presented as being a factor that is breaking the rules of what constitutes urban life. The bias of such coverage makes both the mobilization of protestors and the public’s attention that the protestors are trying to attract difficult, which, in turn, also makes it difficult to arouse public debate about the subjects the protest was demonstrating about. If protestors are presented as those who are violating the public’s daily routine and disturbing the peace then the result is a drop in the support for the demonstrators, the demonstration, and its agenda-setting. An opposite trend to these findings can be found in the research that examined the coverage of demonstrations against the war in Iraq in eight states [18] in which they found that the demonstration and its agenda attracted a great deal of coverage and even received the support of people from all sections of the public. The newspapers paid a lot of attention to the claims made, the slogans used and to the narrative of the protestors while emphasizing their arguments against the war in Iraq.

Even though, in the professional discourse, the journalists use the words “news report” and “story” there is a misunderstanding in the culture about recognizing that these same journalists who are dealing with the news are also creating selective narratives. The way Bird [19] sees it arises out of the tendency to relate to news as facts that can be verified, but the news is a cultural construct, a narrative that tells a story about new and important events. Oring [20] notes that it is an illusion to think that the news reflects reality and argues that all the choices made in selecting a media text are determined by the editors and writers. Similarly, the journalistic coverage is not free of emotional content and values since journalistic writing is creative and is the product of constructing reality from the point of view of the journalist [21].

The journalism, which covers things on the national and international levels, bring major conflicts to the attention of the world, and for most of the people around the world, the news is the essential sources of information about conflicts, struggles, and even wars that display the collective destruction of human dignity. This mediation of the conflict has important implications for the way in which the audience of news subscribers, including the leading decision makers, react to events [22]. This is in light of the encounter between different variables such as political pressures, economic motives, local outlooks, professional styles, and the mechanisms of human perception. Some of the conflicts are considered to be more important for coverage than others and, as a result, some of the events receive more attention than others [23]. “Media logic” is responsible for creating a format for the reporting of conflicts and the tendency is to emphasize violence and to present the visual dimension as support for the chosen narrative. The report aims for less critical thinking, emphasis on the winners and losers, the creation of differentiation between “us” and “them” and the drawing of “them” as the source of the problem. It has sometimes been found that routinely the news and its values tend toward escalating the conflict in the report. Thus, the report about the conflict tends to choose a side for the news consumers that provide them with little information about the socio-political context and the historical perspective of the reported upon event.


3. Web 1.0—traditional journalism adjusts to the internet

Throughout the 1980s and into the 1990s the business of printed-media underwent a crisis because of the public’s preference for the electronic media and this crisis was expressed in a fall in the sales of newspapers and the competition over advertising between the newspapers and commercial television [24]. Newspapers were purchased by profit-seeking corporation that, according to McManus [25], were seeking ways to maximize the profits of their investors. McChesney [4] notes that there was a crisis in democracy in the US and the rest of the western world following the creation of partnership deals and cross-ownerships involving media, which was something that damaged the necessary conditions for preserving the quality of the democracies. He also points out the concentration of ownership, the greater commercialism, and the decline of the traditional and professional newspapers and relates this to the globalization of partnerships in the field of the media. He also relates these to the neo-liberalist global economy as reasons for the collapse of the idea that the role of the media is to provide a service to the public. Consequently, the media serve the needs of commercial factors (the owners of the media, investors, and advertisers) and not the wider public. For example, in 1999–2000 a number of massive deals were made in the area of the media, media corporations broadened their activity on the global level and the absence of limitations on cross-ownership paved the way to colossal deals being made. The ownership of a number of media creates a concentration of management and decision making and these do damage to journalistic pluralism, see [4]. Some of the difficulty arises out of the need to justify selection in the news that deals with certain subjects or events that preserve the status quo. The claim is that as long as there are no shocks and the status quo is preserved the business cycle will also be preserved. Another problem that arises from this policy is the unwillingness to deal with investigative journalism at all, and especially not to express criticism of business bodies that are sources of income for the newspaper. Like all commercial bodies, the media try to maximize their profits and, in general, commercial enterprises that advertise in the newspaper receive complimentary coverage. According to McChesney, this kind of behavior causes the newspapers to behave unethically and unprofessionally. All of the above are part of the outlook of the western journalism at the beginning of the twenty-first century [26].

As a result of the influence of the commercial owners of the newspapers, journalistic framing expresses itself in the selection of the subjects or events that will be included or made prominent in the coverage or will not be covered at all, particularly when it comes to protesting against hegemonic economic policy. An example of this is the coverage given to the summit meeting of the World Trade Organization (WTO), which met in Seattle in 1999. The journalists did not want to cover the protest events because of their support for global capitalistic economics and because of their views about the modern liberal ethos that supports trade, the increase of commercial activity, and the growth of sales outside the USA. Taking into account the finding that their main advertisers are corporations that are trying to grow their cross-border markets, there is a need to avoid reporting about the protest agenda or, at least, to create framing in reports made about such events, see [4]. Journalists are motivated by business considerations when they choose subjects to cover and business factors exert pressure on the journalists to write positively about the globalization of capitalism and to relate to the protestors against the WTO with expressions of doubt, suspicion, and even disappointment. In the news coverage of events of this kind, the emphasis is placed upon the damage done to property, the violence of the demonstrators and, in contrast to this, the activities of the police.

Underwood [24] sees another reason for journalistic framing and argues that newspaper marketing, by paying attention to the issues that concerned the public and today the newspapers are planned and “packaged” to “give the readers with what they want” ([24], p. xii). Underwood uses terms such as “reader driven journalism” ([24], p. xii) and “customer driven journalism” ([24], p. xiii), which means that the readers influence the contents and character of the newspaper editing and an expression of this influence can be seen in the management of market research and public opinion polls.

It is important to emphasize that some of the newspapers in the world have even adjusted to the technological developments of the Internet and have built new online sites in order to keep up with news updates online and turn the printed newspaper of tomorrow into something irrelevant. Moreover, the newspapers have adapted themselves to the Internet era and are giving less emphasis to the news and more to commentary articles and opinion columns. The components of the newspapers have also changed and we are now witnessing to the addition of special supplements devoted to the sport, economics, health, and other topics that may interest their audiences. The above-mentioned phenomenon was acceptable until “fast-growing networks like Facebook and Twitter with millions of active users are rapidly penetrating public communication, affecting the operational and institutional power balance of media systems” ([27], p. 3), which switch us to the third stage of the model.


4. The media matrix era: introduction of the smartphone, Web 2.0 interactive communications

4.1. Social movements visibility’s emancipation

The distinction between the role of the newspapers, on the one hand, and the Internet, on the other is important and significant. According to Castells [1] mass self-communication has displaced mass media. Let us describe the distinctions between them. The later, traditional mass media is characterized by its centrality, professional-produced and private proprietary, informing in a one-to-many format. In contrast, mass self-communication, or social media is basically decentralized, peer-produced, nonproprietary, based on open-source platforms, informing in a many-to-many format, and basically free access and distribution or inexpensive (cited in [28], p. 485). Hence, protesters coverage is framed accordingly to each segments interest.

Rheingold [29] argues that there was erosion in the media and free discussion following the increase in manipulation that was being carried out in the news and public opinion by governments and corporations through advertising, public relations, and information management. While television had turned into a means of entertainment for the purposes of profit, the Internet, in his opinion, was an objective electronic forum through, which citizens could take part in the rational discussion and so revive public opinion. Rheingold focuses on structures of control - meaning the way in which the new electronic networks make the creation of new structures that bypass the existing institutions possible. In his opinion in any place in which the media is mediating there is a computer available, a virtual community grows and this phenomenon also reflects the “hunger for community” ([30], p. 6). The virtual sphere becomes the new public sphere [48]. On The background of the death of the public space in our lives, the electronic community acts as a framework for the development of collective values. In contrast to the system of one-directional broadcasting that transmits information from one source to many subscribers who do not have the ability to react to the information they receive the Internet provides the free interactive approach. The interactive media makes it possible for many and varied voices to be heard, which creates democratic pluralism and, through this, the Internet global electronic communities can exist as can new forms of fashioning sharing, community, and democracy.

The information and communications technologies, which operate through the cellular telephones and the world-wide Internet web, change the ways activists connect up, cooperate and go out to social demonstrations. The architecture of the activities of the social movements changes because of the mobile phone, which is used to arrange the demonstrations in a way that bypasses the country’s authorities, including the network of barriers and restrictions. The technology also facilitates rapid and widespread mobilization structures, which attest to its being a mechanism that allows individuals to organize themselves and join up with collective activity through the sharing of information about such things as new social structures and new repertoires of action strategies.

Available and shared support for the organizational system led to widespread mobilization and conventional forms of demonstration, which contributed to the rise in the active participation of social movements. The new information technologies make things quicker through the way they allow the news to flow to the citizens, especially those that include current and relevant information. In this way, an information environment is created that provides a flexible and variegated environment that includes information that is passed on through different forms of communication via photos, audio and video, and represents the dynamic sharing of these technologies by the users. Information crosses physical borders in such a way that the speed with which it arrives deepens its penetration into the social movements operating in the demonstrations during the last two decades.

The printed press and the television are those media that still cover the demonstrations and even play an important role in the way the demonstrations are revealed to the public – including how the demonstrators look. The importance of the news and Internet media depends upon one other crucial component for the social movements and that is mobilization. The nature of the messages that will be passed on in the social networks and the printed and electronic media will play a significant role in the level of legitimacy of the demonstration and its agenda in the eyes of the citizens and it is this that can crystallize their readiness to be mobilized to support the protest and even to take an active part in the demonstration.

Research literature shows that, not only media protesters coverage is presented negatively, overstating the faults, partial toward protesters, and overlooking their main agendas, but also, is intended to have a better narrative by focusing on the erupting violence of the covered events [11, 31, 32]. Furthermore, journalistic storytelling news media are likely to use sensationalism to attract mainstream audience [33]. In addition, when covering global demonstrations, the media tends to emphasis the outbreak of violence misleading the coverage [31]. Consequently, intended for forming public opinion, by overemphasizing sensational narrative, the press’ framing coverage reports unacceptable violence and resistance [33]. Framing tools are specially used to build cognitive schema. Research scholars [21], discovered that the use of myths and archetypes, narratives, and values [34], via connotation and metaphors induce the spectator to think about the “what” and “how” is framed. Subsequently, journalists create and maintain the constructed schema by means of repetitive metaphors across events. In agreement with Meade ([33], p. 131), when an event coverage is trivial, hostile, and/or partial, the protesters’ credibility is reduced to the non-participants’ eyes. As a result, the media defines the worthy of public attention agenda setting, highlighting what should be audiences’ moral judgments, and how it should be solved [6].

It is well-known that the media influence people’s behavior and the media does not have the power to impose sanctions, to punish or to threaten and yet it does engender inspiration, reveals, advertises widely, and even accuses. The media has public influence. It can open people’s eyes and arouse consciousness ([23], pp. 36–37). Wirston ([35], pp. 170–171) describes the information generation as something that gives strength to people throughout the world in a way that many years ago seemed impossible. The electronic media allow citizens access to an enormous and unprecedented amount of information. Earlier communication was carried out through the use of telephones, radio, and television, and later the Internet through the use of email, forums, social media, and varied shared sites, and ultimately it has been the smartphone that concentrates the presence of all the above to operate within the smartphone. When one deals with the question of how a communication medium contributes to changing the environment the answer can be found in the appearance of the cell phone at the beginning of the 1990s and the transition to the use of the smartphone in the middle of the first decade of the millennium. A turning point transition was created by the medium that changed it from being a tool used for carrying out a task to being a tool that shapes one’s social environment. With the spread in use of the smartphone, space and time stopped being barriers to existence in a world that could mediate all the time, at any given moment. The search for an Internet connection in all places we get to has become something we can find in our own pockets, a part of ourselves. This changed practices and contexts in a range of areas including those of the protest activists, businessmen, in consumerism, in international communication, in newspapers, in culture and in entertainment, and others. The mobiles and the accessibility have turned us into being always available [36].

While the protest movements in the past used offline low-tech media technology, analogic print-based technology, posters, proclamations, and newspapers, now, in a period when everybody has a computer and mobile phone, one sees a move across to high-tech and the digital approach makes the widespread, rapid transmission of messages more efficient. This kind of media is the product of technological development and works online through the autonomous use wireless Internet networks while creating new communicative tools and platforms [26].

The Internet has provided opportunities for establishing online coalitions such as simultaneous mobilizations of lots of net users in cities throughout the world. The potential of the use of the Internet for political goals has enticed many and the possibility of there being an “electronic democracy” in which the use of the Internet as a political channel for mobilization, participation, and the transmission of political information has appeared more promising and has even been partially actualized. Friedland [37] and Street [38] have presented different models according to which modern democracy can be assisted by computer communication to increase the participation of citizens in daily current discussions, in the use of expressing needs and demands to their representatives and to allow them to participate in polls through using computer communication. There are also researchers and thinkers [39] who believe that it is possible to use technology in order to create participative democracy in the style of the Greek polis.

4.2. Protester’s new visibility

As aforementioned the essence of the relations between the media and the social movements focuses upon the term “visibility.” Social players have an interest in the visibility of the subject matter they raise, in the media’s coverage that acts as inspiration for the way the movements and their agendas are presented in the news. The Internet has created the opportunity for open discussion, which has somewhat liberated the dependence of the social movements upon the traditional media in the battle for news attention. Thompson (cited in [17], p. 4) argues, that presentations in diverse communication channels are about the “management of visibility” and the “struggle for recognition.”

Researchers into social movements believe that identity is a key concept that can help us understand the naissance of the social movements [40]. Collective identity is a shared definition that is produced by individuals who have a shared link and who cooperate in the space of opportunities and limitations that are dependent upon the place in which they operate ([41], p. 33). A collective identity defines the boundaries of a group, its beliefs, and world view that basically helps in the building of trust as an essential stage in the acceptance of members wishing to join and will work for the benefit of things that, for them, are burning subjects [42]. A modern communications technology, the Internet network, created a mass social and political awareness and the challenge was to endow renewed power to citizens to strengthen the contact between individuals as an expression of “civil democracy”. The new technologies have far-reaching implications because of the way they speed up the processes that crystallize the formation of a shared identity through language and symbols. The culture includes ideas and especially the shared values the human group that is shaping its identity ([42], p. 85).

Thanks to the involvement and efficient way, the Internet is used in a democratic and egalitarian way. With no gatekeepers more and more citizens in the world are making use of the Internet medium to get information, to inform others, and to build new political and social relations. The communications technologies actually appeared in order to change the ability of social movements to organize themselves politically with the help of “electronic support” [43]. As they oppose the information hierarchies of the traditional media, the Internet and the social networks provide a platform for a variety of “alternative” voices and make it possible for them to be heard [11, 17].

Together with this, in relation to traditional and virtual media it is important to note that, despite the advantages of the Internet because of the absence of the gatekeepers over the filtering and regulation of the information, there is a disadvantage involving the question of to what degree the information that comes up on the net is correct. What is the proportion between truth and evaluation? How much of the information is reliable and what part of it is misleading information? Or, for example, what part is played by conspiracy theories? In an environment like this citizen might continue to expect to receive information from the news media since they rely upon the professionalism of the journalists on the assumption that the rules of ethics are being preserved. Similarly, the desire to hear commentaries about current issues by experts in different areas will return us to the traditional media news also because of the amount of information on the net that does not allow us to identify the nature of the information.

4.3. The media matrix and the power of social media

At the end of the twentieth century and into the twenty-first century with the development of the Internet, the news is streamed to us rapidly in real time and to all over the world. Protest activity in one place can expand to wider parts of the same area and have the potential in the future to create motivation for activity everywhere. Evidence of this can be seen in the spreading of the protests that took place in 2010–2012 in Arab countries, in Europe and in the USA and, in Israel, there was the feeling of there being contagion between different areas and different countries even if the objects of the demonstrations were sometimes different.

2010–2012 will be remembered most of all for the social protests that became a powerful part of the political, social, and economic discourse in different parts of the world. The scope of the social protest broke through the boundaries of the nation states and aroused many citizens in the global space. We were witnesses to a flood of massive demonstrations that developed in a number of countries throughout the world and among the goals of most of the demonstrations that took place during these 2 years, were governments and their social policies but they also provided a strong international outlook upon democratic processes. At the end of 2010 and the beginning of 2011 social movements, in the name of democracy, began to blossom in the Arab countries of Tunisia, Libya, Yemen and others and took part in some of the wider demonstrations of the “Arab Spring”. At the same time, demonstrators also initiated quieter demonstrations in the streets and squares of many European countries among, which were Great Britain, Spain, Portugal and Greece, and Israel. At the beginning of autumn in 2011 a number of protest activists in the USA, as a form of protest, broke into Zuccotti Park in the area of Wall Street in New York. A few weeks later the “Occupy Wall Street” demonstration began in New York and spread to other cities throughout the USA. The inspiration for the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) demonstration was the wave of protests that began in Tunisia and spread throughout the Middle East and North Africa eventually becoming what we today known as the “Arab Spring,” and which continued through the “Social Justice” protest in Israel, the “Indignados” in Spain and the uprising against the austerity steps taken in Greece [27]. Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators identified with the significance and percolation of images and practices of a democracy that was in opposing, struggling against, and protesting the dominant economic—social system—whether this was against authoritarian or elected regimes. What was common to all these demonstrations, even if the context was different, was the use of the same tools of communication—the Internet and especially the social media networks. There are those who call the present period “revolutionary” or the “Twitter and Facebook revolutions” and so on while those who are nostalgic criticize the saintliness that is part and parcel of the demonstrations together with the physical presence and the visibility in the public space. Those who oppose this will say that this is the public space of society that is emerging in the Internet era and even call this phenomenon “the political power of the social media” [28, 44, 45].

Together with this, it was mainly in the traditional media of printed and electronic journalism that the shaping of the public echoing could be seen. The news media play an important role in the shaping of the perception of the protest, the agenda-setting and the way these are handled for the subscribers throughout the world and in the eyes of the protestors, is an important social institution and influential player in the battle over the public discourse. The news coverage is important for a number of main reasons: (1) the coverage has a direct effect upon the ability to mobilize people to join the demonstrations and the recruiting of the media is a necessary early stage to achieve this. (2) Coverage by the newspapers creates either the legitimation or the de-legitimation for the existence of the movement and its issues in the eyes of the political elite. The importance of the news coverage here grows because in order to realize the demonstration’s goal influence has to be exerted upon the decision makers and the process of decision making. (3) This reason deals with the question of whether the social movement will manage to gain supportive coverage from the media, which will allow the creation of a situation in which people who had not been interested in the demonstration’s issues up till then begin to pay attention, examine the subjects and perhaps become allies of the movement. This is true for most of the wider public because a positive opinion that is widely accepted by the public is an important resource for the achievement of the legitimacy of the social movement’s demands and will become a powerfully influential political tool.

Social movements sometimes succeed in their ability to breathe life into new ideas in the public and media debate. It is true that the basis of the information is transmitted through the social media but the public echoing, to no little degree, is created by television—“the tribal campfire”—particularly by the central news broadcasts.

There is, allegedly, a battle between the social media that expresses itself through the Internet sites and uses them to mobilize and gain support for the social protest and the newspaper coverage that is mostly negative. If this so is the battle between the traditional and the new media based upon values and world views or upon active role-playing as part of a rating war? Or are there, perhaps, business considerations that arise out of the struggle for economic survival by the printed and electronic media that are creating the difference?

Despite the fact that the social media offers variety in its social activity tasks, the traditional mass media institutions are still influential in constructing reality, and despite the fact that the balance of power in the media world has changed with the appearance of the Internet and the social media, the traditional mass media institutions are important, and play a significant role in the determination of the presence and acceptance of the social movements. Unsurprisingly the traditional media have a permanent interest in preserving the world as it is and in maintaining the status quo. As a result of this, the social activists that support social change have strained and forced relations with the traditional mainstream mass media [28].

As already stated, the complex media matrix constructs our today’s social worlds [1, 35]. Worlds which are not often complementary nor singular. The media matrix is in constant flux. It is an unprecedented combination of diverse media formats, from written media to photographs, from radio to television or cinema, in our laptops, electronic devices, or/and smartphones. Moreover, scholars observe that there is a constant remediation of a media, changing it to be remediated. Bolter and Grusin ([46], p. 44), termed “remediation” to this persistent representation of one medium into another medium, that is, Vimeo, Hulu. Subsequently, research literature suggests, that creating new representations bring us to a “panmediation,” suggesting that we live immersed in a Wi-Fi-cloud ([28] p. 146).

This stream, whose different directions cross social areas and use a variety of the communication ways ([19], p. 3) has been called by DeLuca and his colleagues “Panmediation” matrix ([28], p. 487). It shows how counter-framing activities pass through mediation processes that combine different communication technologies ([47], p. 136).

The influence of the interaction between the media tools can be seen in the 2011 demonstrations in the USA. The media take and the unequivocal support provided in the OWS demonstrations in the USA came late and the public and media attention paid to social protest in the USA as a whole can be divided into three stages: completely ignoring it; raising questions about the identities of the demonstrators and the subject of the demonstration; and public and media support. In the case of protest in the USA, one can see that media activity expresses the balance between the different media tools. In fact, only after the Internet displayed video clips, which showed the brutal violence of the police toward the demonstrators in their use of tear gas, did the OWS begin to get significant journalism cover. A short time later the printed and the broadcast media and the social networks turned their attention toward the violence of the New York police who arrested and handcuffed hundreds of demonstrators in a demonstration that took place on October 1st on the Brooklyn Bridge. In the process of spreading the movement, the demonstrators distributed content such as edited video clips and narrative texts. They utilized all the virtual communication space that was available to them—Facebook, blogs, YouTube, and Twitter and in addition, they edited and distributed a newspaper called the OWS Journal [27]. While the protest movement constructed autonomous platforms with technological infrastructures the members of the movement worked with freelancer journalists, local media producers and including journalists from the electronic and printed media and the contact with the television and radio networks was continually maintained. The members of the movement helped themselves by combining the media in every possible way and using every channel for passing on messages. This process was called “Transmedia mobilization,” meaning something that cuts across all the possible kinds of media [27].


5. Conclusion

Despite the fact that the social media offers variety in its social activity tasks, the traditional mass media institutions are still influential in constructing reality. And despite the fact that the balance of power in the old media exclusively control of the news framing has changed with the appearance of the Internet and the social media, the traditional mass media institutions are important, and play a significant role in the determination of the presence and acceptance of the social movements. Because of this the social activists that support social change have strained and forced to use all communication platform possibilities to gain their interest—influence decision-making policy.

The media, especially today, are not differentiated according to the division of tasks that characterize one kind of communication as opposed to another but, to a great degree in most of the societies; the multi-faceted media exist and connect with each other. For example, with aid of a smartphone, we talk, share information, and film clips on social networks, send and receive emails and watch or read the up-to-date news—and all this is, in fact, is managed by the media matrix.

Consequently, Matrix Era journalism needs to adapt itself to the new trends and innovations to maintain their competitiveness but they must also keep their professionalism. Thus, journalism and journalism studies should address this issue and prepare future journalist generations with the skills needed to endure this new challenge.



Our acknowledgments to Zefat Academic College, for supporting this research. We thank our colleague Nir Atmor who provided insight and expertise that greatly assisted the research and to Mrs. Ariane Cukierkorn, Information Specialist for her help.


Conflict of interest

The authors certify that they have NO affiliations with or involvement in any organization or entity with any financial interest or non-financial interest in the subject matter or materials discussed in this manuscript.


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Written By

Alonit Berenson

Submitted: 03 February 2018 Reviewed: 03 May 2018 Published: 31 October 2018