Win the lead! Television news philosophy and the life cycle of a social movement

Marie Curkan-Flanagan, University of Nevada, Las Vegas


The purpose of this study is to investigate what effect the evolution of a social movement has on the depth of broadcast news coverage. By focusing on the American Indian take-over of Alcatraz Island 1969-71, this study examines whether a television news story has a life cycle of its own which contributes and/or detracts from the life cycle of a social movement. The Alcatraz occupation was selected because it was the first aggressive and prolonged act of Indian protest in the United States. The foundation for this thesis rests upon the idea that the "lead story" to a television newscast revolves around the philosophy "Win the Lead!". This premise is then balanced against Stewart, Smith and Denton's (1989) definition for the life cycle of a social movement which asserts that a social movement has a life cycle which consists of 5 stages: genesis, social unrest, mobilization, maintenance and termination.