All the movements fit to print: Who, what, when, where, and why SMO families appeared in the New York Times in the twentieth century


Why did some social movement organization (SMO) families receive extensive media coverage? In this article, we elaborate and appraise four core arguments in the literature on movements and their consequences: disruption, resource mobilization, political partisanship, and whether a movement benefits from an enforced policy. Our fuzzy-set qualitative comparative analyses (fsQCA) draw on new, unique data from the New York Times across the twentieth century on more than 1,200 SMOs and 34 SMO families. At the SMO family level, coverage correlates highly with common measures of the size and disruptive activity of movements, with the labor and African American civil rights movements receiving the most coverage. Addressing why some movement families experienced daily coverage, fsQCA indicates that disruption, resource mobilization, and an enforced policy are jointly sufficient; partisanship, the standard form of “political opportunity,” is not part of the solution. Our results support the main perspectives, while also suggesting that movement scholars may need to reexamine their ideas of favorable political contexts.

American Sociological Review