Sympathetic media and social movements. Some evidence from the cycle of protest against precarity in Italy
SPS European University Institute San Domenico di Fiesole (FI), Italy
Contemporary media environments are made up by overlapping information flows channeled through multiple media. When addressing media practices developed by social movements, for instance, it is possible to single out media that differ both from mainstream media, because they are not completely commercial and profit oriented, and from alternative media, because they are not completely linked to social movements and their protests. I named this peculiar type of media "sympathetic media", since they are usually politically oriented and near to claims social movements raise, while keeping a certain degree of autonomy from them. Literature about social movements devotes scarce attention to sympathetic media, while activists consider them important in terms of visibility and develop specific media practices aiming at catching their attention, pushing their collective action frame and obtaining support in protest diffusion. The paper intends to fill this gap in the literature by adding empirical knowledge on the relationship between sympathetic media and social movements and by developing further the sensitizing concept of ?sympathetic media? at the theoretical level.
The paper is based on a qualitative and comparative case-studies approach. Five case studies belonging to the same cycle of protest, the one against precarious employment in Italy occurred from 2001 to 2006, are indeed investigated. Though different under many respects, the five case studies presented multifaceted "communication repertoires" in which media practices oriented towards mainstream, alternative and sympathetic media developed in parallel and sometimes intertwined. The paper focuses on the latter, taking into consideration: (a) perceptions of sympathetic media among activist groups; (b) media practices that activist groups developed towards sympathetic media and (b) reactions of sympathetic journalists to these media practices. The investigation is based on two data sets: semi-structured interviews with activists and journalists and documents generated by social movements. The discourse analysis and frame analysis approaches have guided the investigation of the collected data.