Articulating Dissent: Journalistic practice and autonomous protest

Pollyanna Ruiz (University of Sussex, UK): Articulating Dissent: Journalistic practice and autonomous protest

This paper examines the fractured organisational interface between the regimented or arborescent structures of professional journalists and the more chaotic ‘rhizomatic’ structures of grassroots activists. In doing so, this paper will explore the difficulties journalists experience when attempting to bridge the gap between hierarchically organised, corporate media spaces and perpetually fluxing protest spaces. It will argue that while journalists have succeeded in accessing protest organisations prepared to capitalise on the move away from ‘costly investigative journalism’ and towards ‘routine source supply’, communicating with protest groups organised according to autonomous principles remains inherently problematic. These issues will be discussed with particular reference to the relationship between journalists from the Brighton and Hove Argus and spokespeople for two Brighton based anti-war groups, Save Omar and Smash EDO. In interview local media organisations frequently interpret autonomous organisations’ reluctance to adopt social roles such as ‘leader’ or ‘spokesperson’ as being wilfully abstruse at best and downright arrogant at worst. However this paper will argue that despite journalists’ almost inevitable preference for face-to-face communications, virtual spokespeople (which enable autonomous activists to maintain key principles such as anonymity and collectivity) can provide a single, reliable and accurate source of information. Thus this paper will conclude by suggesting that the internet provides a space in which the journalistic need for narrative order and protesters’ preference for creative flux can temporarily overlap, circumventing some of the organisational differences which have traditionally underpinned the journalist/protester relationship and contributing to the renegotiation of the boundaries which both separate and connect the political margins to the mainstream.

Timing - Friday - Panel Session C1



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