Police & protesters

Police Representation in CNN News Media: Privileged and Powerful Actors

Group 6: Alyson Wang, Linda Carey, Linda Quach, Sanya Dhermy, Samantha Wong


There are many different news outlets in society, and many have different agendas depending on the certain interests groups that fund them. Some of these interest groups have a liberal or conservative view, which often end up dictating the content produced and the articles written by these sources. In addition, editors and writers of these news outlets are also supposed to produce unbiased articles, but our group feels that this is impossible. We believe that the individuals – writers, producers, and editors –who make up the forces behind these news outlets hold beliefs and ideas that involuntarily transcend through the articles they produce and in doing so create and re-creates certain norms within our culture, and these in turn shape our beliefs and the way we view our culture. With this said, the topical focus for our group is concerned with how CNN news media portrayed police involvement within the Occupy Movement. The end question we want to explore by looking at police portrayal is this – how does CNN view the police and its role within the Occupy Movement?

We chose to look specifically at word choice and phrases used in the articles to develop a general consensus of whether the representation of police involvement was skewed more negatively or positively to the public in this particular mainstream news. It is important to examine the portrayals of police because other than the protestors, they are active participants and are constantly referred to in articles written about in the Wall Street Movement.  We believe that the police are depicted as a group that holds power but also depicted as using that power in a negative way, and through our research we recognized that journalists further reconfirmed those power roles that police have within our society. Based on these findings, we can also conclude that police representation is controlled by the storytellers – the journalists – and the more powerful actors in the movement – police authorities. In the proceeding sections of this paper, we will discuss how we came to the claims mentioned above and provide evidence that exemplify the influential role of journalists for depicting how police authorities are viewed by their audience because of these representations.


For the purpose of this paper, a corpus linguistics and qualitative coding approach was employed to uncover significant patterns on our topic of interest. Under the Corpus Linguistics approach, we utilized the KWIC program to draw on word frequencies (generates a list of all words in the text and how frequently they occur), collocation tables, and concordance lines. These methods and strategies are objective and quantitative and help us by stripping the corpus down to raw data. The word frequency is a generated list of all the words in the text and how frequently each unique word occurs in the corpus.  Collocation tables show “the simplest, most obvious relationship,” as they describe what words occur in the spatial proximity of a given word from the corpus to 4 words in either direction, which helps us see what meanings and associations may be being made if repeated in a similar manner continuously. (Sinclair, 14) Concordance lines are useful, according to Adolph in the book Introducing Electronic Text Analysis, to visualize the data so that one search item is seen as a node and its use can be easily portrayed in the concordance lay out. Some patterns that these techniques produce are: power relations between the police and demonstrators, CNN seems to be siding with the Occupy Movement as part of the 99%, hence the police can be seen as an out-group while the protesters are seen more as an in-group, with the police given more power as they are seen as oppressors. For Qualitative Coding, we chose to use specific key codes of importance to the research to analyze them using the Dedoose program. These codes were: representers of police (statements and opinions by sergeants, chiefs, police officers that are used as a source in the article), police brutality (when violence is being used by police), attacks on police (when violence is being used on police), arrest (incidents of police arresting protestors), and positive police portrayals (incidents where police are being portrayed in a positive manner). Some of the lexical units that we chose to analyze as a group were: pepper spray, police, aggression, and violence. It is important to not only break the text down into raw numerical data in terms of frequency of word use, but to juxtapose the general syntactic and semantic patterns into the greater social context. Qualitative analysis is important to be able to “elucidate the ways in which meaning and action are created by individuals producing the language.” (Hodges, 1)  So, it is a way to see how the language and ideas fit into the greater social context of humanity. Another method of discourse analysis we used is analysis of representations of social actors. We focused specifically on named/classified and inclusion/exclusion. We found this interesting because “impersonal representation of social actors can dehumanize social actors, take away from them as people, represent them for instance, instrumentally or structurally as elements of organizational structures and processes. The opposite extreme to impersonalization is naming – representing individuals by name” (Fairclough 150).

The discourse genre our group focused on is mainstream news media, more specifically CNN news media. We looked into CNN news because of its global influence. “Domestically, CNN reaches more individuals on television, the web and mobile devices than any other TV news organization in the United States; internationally, CNN is the most widely distributed news channel reaching more than 259 million households abroad; and, the CNN Digital Network is consistently the No.1 current events and news destination on the web” (CNN). CNN news is well known for having the “CNN effect” because its coverage of major events will cause that event to be a primary concern for its audience (McPhail, 2007, p. 156). Given that CNN was very mainstream and powerful, our group felt that we would find more stories on major instances of police involvement within the Occupy Movement that other news media are less likely to discuss.

We collected our corpus by looking at the following search parameters: the Occupy Movement, 99% movement and Occupy Wall Street within CNN news media. We used the search engine, LexisNexis, to develop our corpus using these three terms: ‘99% Movement’, ‘Occupy Movement’, ‘Occupy Wall Street’. We did not want to narrow the search parameters to be specifically geared towards our topical focus because we wanted to uncover general themes and patterns from all of the CNN texts that talk about the movement in some way. The date range that we included in our corpus dated back to September 2011, when the 99% movement began. Our final corpus included a total of 183 documents consisting of a total of 238,050 words.


1)  Police used as a source

–  Police sources were a privileged voice in that they represent themselves.

From our analysis, we can see that CNN news media reproduced power relations in their coverage of the Occupy Movement through their choice of sources. When speaking about any instance of police involvement, journalists allowed police authorities to speak for themselves or on behalf of their colleagues. For example, stories mentioning instances of arrest included the following named or categorized participants followed by quoted text.
CNN journalists provided police authorities the opportunity to represent themselves or their colleagues when speaking about their involvement with the movement, whether the involvement was an instance of arrest or any other altercation. Instead of paraphrasing how the police was involved, the police authority was quoted in the text, as seen in the following excerpts:

“Demonstrators agreed to ‘voluntary arrest’ as a form of protest, said Sheriff Margaret Mims, and did not resist. ‘They staged a good, old-fashioned sit-in,’ she said (“Occupy…”)

“The demonstrators were arrested…according to New York Police Department spokesman Detective Marc Nell. ‘Protesters were asked to leave because of sanitary reason…’ Nell said.” (Verello)

Another application of the analysis on articles using police as sources with an inherent privilege attached is to view it in the context of representations of social actors. “Social actors can be represented by name (e.g. ‘Fred Smith’) or in terms of class or category (e.g. ‘the doctor’). If the latter, they can be referred to individually (‘the doctor’) or as a group (‘the doctors’, ‘doctors’)” (Fairclough 146).  Through coding analysis focusing on “representers of police,” we have many instances where the article would present an update on the violence or arrests and would also say that the police provided the information. There was also many times where names of authorities were also used. An example of this in our corpus is, “But Interum Police Chief Howard Jordan said…” The names of the police office were used as well as their position in the police force. In both instances, we can see that the police officers are actors in the situation that holds power and authority. Whether they are named or classified, they still are represented with power. Since they are used as a source of information most of the time, they are deemed credible. When the article quotes an authority and even includes their position as an authority, like Chief, Commissioner, Sergeant, they are being recognized with more credibility as an appeal to authority persuasive method.

2)  Police as Social Actors
                  – Police are seen as exerting this power through brutality.

Now, focusing on the pattern of using police as social actors, this representation needs to be analyzed further. When analyzing how police authorities are represented in CNN news media, we can see that they act as the more powerful actor based on the active language in use to describe the action. This is explicitly shown in the following excerpts:

“Police hauled away protesters in various cities on Sunday as Occupy Wall Street…”

(“Protestors Arrested…”)

“Police fired pepper spray and used pepper-ball guns against demonstrators…”

(“Occupy Demonstrators…”)

From these observations, we can conclude that police authorities are represented as powerful social actors in comparison to other participants, such as the protestors/demonstrators. Although the active language in use may describe more negative police actions, the language used only works to further confirm the powerful role that police figures have within our society.

Police is indeed a very powerful word in our corpus. We used our word list to “compare different corpora, such as those that represent spoken versus written discourse, or American versus British English for example” (Adolphs, 40). In our analysis, we compared our corpus to the British National Corpus. Using a log-likelihood calculator, we compared how likely a word shows up in our corpus compared to the British National Corpus that contains 100 million words. The log-likelihood calculator showed that the word “police” shows up in our corpus 45% more than in the British National Corpus, having a heavy role in our topic and corpus. Furthermore, to support this finding, in our word frequency table, the word “police” shows up in our corpus 768 times, the word “authorities” shows up 123 times, and “officers” show up 123 times as well. In our collocation table, the word “arrested” shows up 78 times within 5 spans of the word “police”.There were many instances where “police” was represented in a position of power, exerting their power and force over protestors of the movement. For example, the word “police” was used in certain sentences with words such as “arrest”, “arrested”, “misconduct”, and “brutality” and there were even some bi-grams/tri-grams such as “used pepper spray” and “deeply saddened”.

3) Portrayal of police power
                  – When police are not social actors, they are portrayed in a negative light

Something of interest that follows from the analysis of power is the portrayal of police power in a negative light, generally highlighting the fact that they had weapons being wrongly used against the protesters.  For example, an October 2011 CNN  article included the following scene:

“Authorities made a series of arrests at Occupy Wall Street protests in California and Georgia on Tuesday and Wednesday, with clashes in one city that involved tear gas being used on demonstrators” (“Tear Gas…”).

In addition, many other articles with similar stories filled our corpus:

“After the camp was dispersed, the protesters reconvened for demonstrations later in the day, the affiliates said, prompting the new clashes.” Video from the Oakland clashes showed a chaotic scene, with protesters running from clouds of tear gas.” (“Tear Gas…”).

This portrayal was enhanced and driven by the use of one-sided stories. This bias is known as exclusion/ inclusion. No explanation was given for the police’s actions in many of the articles, showing the protesters as victims of police brutality that had no publicly recorded justification. Such an unbalanced view of the movement shows CNN as not so neutral as it aims to be and is therefore seen as identifying more with the 99 %.  The above-mentioned article, Wall Street protests enter 11th day also exemplifies this issue.  Throughout the article, the police’s use of force and ‘brutality’ are listed and portrayed, however, there is no comment about why this force seemed necessary; only the crowds reactions to the act are displayed, rather than their actions that may have caused this.  With only testimonies from fellow demonstrators, the emotionally swaying opinions in this article that are used as supporting sources for the claims are inherently biased towards the side of the Occupy Movement demonstrators. The way in which articles are written also inherently hold some emotional lures to bring the audience’s sympathies to the movement protestors.  The article, Protesters arrested nationwide as Occupy Wall Street rallies hit monthlong mark, states that approximately 150 people were left without shelter after police took away their tents that they had camped out under near city hall. This statement followed by an appeal to emotion of a basic necessity of human beings with demonstration organizer April Lukes-Streich’s words, “It’s cold. We don’t have any protection from the elements.”  Emotionally, the audience would want to question the powers that were merciless enough to snatch a shelter away, however it takes extra thought to ask what the other side of the confrontation was and what their motivations and justifications were, instead of settling for ignorance and uncertainty.

In the midst of the negative representations of the Police, the actions that are portrayed as positive are only through the statements and opinions of police representers as actors. Every instance we found of positive police portrayal comes from the words of a police representer.  The fact that CNN puts these statements in their articles indicate that they are attempting to maintain a balanced view of police, but when looking at who is talking about the police, it is clear that the general public are not the ones who feel that police action is positive.

We noticed that, generally, journalists liked to position protesters as victims in the Occupy movement, and the police as the antagonists. There were many instances in these articles where police arrested protestors and sprayed tear gas while protests just stood by hopelessly playing the role of victim. For example a CNN article wrote:

“Police carried handcuffed demonstrators from the park—some of them struggling, others limp. According to the New York Police Department, the charges included disorderly conduct, trespassing, assault and resisting arrest. Online, however, Occupy Wall Street and its supporters accused police of abusing peaceful demonstrators” (“Dozens arrested…”).

The idea that protestors were the victims of power abuse by the police force was also supported by protestors who felt this way too:

“All we’re trying to do is have a peaceful protest and they (the police) are attacking us,” protester Sean Drigger told CNN affiliate KUSA” (Candiotti).

Similar to other theme, by analyzing this text we can see structurally the text reflecting institutionalized power and relationships. We can see the police as having the power both physically and culturally; abusing their power to force the crowd into submission rendering them to seem helpless in the eyes of the reader.
It is because CNN has portrayed protestors as weaker, and also as victims of police brutality we begin to form a fuller picture of how these two actors interact in the Occupy movement sphere. Power relations displayed within these articles should make the public think hard about what is being constructed as normal within a protest, what is right? And also what is wrong.

Following this, we decided to further look into the use of power relations between the police and demonstrators. The police is shown as in power over demonstrators.  In an article dated September 26th, 2011 by Ed Payne, entitled Wall Street protests enter 11th day, Payne states “Demonstrators have accused police of using excessive force, following the release of a video from Saturday that shows an officer pepper spraying several women.” In this article, this act is described as “disturbing’ and ‘horrible’ as officers seemingly were taking the situation into their own hands and pepper spraying even those that were not actively posing threats in order to subdue the situation.  Another article from October 16th, 2011, entitled Month-long protests show no sign of abating as rally enters Times Square, states that police arrested protesters for wearing masks.  Showing the police taking actions such as arresting due to something as simple and mundane as a mask.  This juxtaposition is highlighted by the author in the article and makes it seem like the authorities were just exerting their power.

Michael Foucault supports the idea that power is something that is a repeating idea that exists throughout society as a ‘technology’.  “[D]iscipline is a complex bundle of power…power is thust exercised with intention – but not individual intention.” (Wodak, 9). This leads to believe that this sense of power is part of a greater group mentality and a motivation to preserve one group’s own standing in the social hierarchy. Similarly, the police is enacting this disciplinary scene with excessive force to maintain a status quo of power, demonstrating this power on the protesters in the 99% movement.


To conclude, our group understands that CNN is a very large and influential news company. The articles they write on the Occupy movement are read by many, and influence the way these readers view the movement and the social actors within the movement. Our group believes that the articles produced by CNN are bias because of their political views, and believe that CNN depicts police in a negative light favoring the protestors.

Our findings were that we saw CNN using the police as a source. CNN let police voice their opinions on the events of the Occupy movement pertaining to arrest, brutality, etc… giving them unequal power over the protestors. We also saw that in many instances police were seen exerting power by brute force. These include pepper spraying the crowd, arresting, and beating the protestors. A final theme we saw was that whenever the protestors were positioned as social actors, the police were portrayed in a negative light. They were portrayed as having too much power and abusing their power. All these themes support our thesis because they position the police as having power and abusing that power over the protestors.

This paper has hopefully helped us better understand how police authorities interact with protestors in the Occupy Wall Street movement as seen by CNN. Hopefully, this will challenge us to critically analyze and question news sources that write biased stories based on their personal beliefs and the beliefs of those that fund them. By analyzing these texts and articles; we can see clearly which side CNN stands for in terms of the Occupy movement.


Adolphs, S. (2006). Introducing electronic text analysis: A practical guide for language and literary studies. London: Routledge.

Candiotti, Susan, and Ross Levitt. “‘Occupy’ Demonstrators Battle Wind and Cold as Storm Moves in.” CNN. 29 Oct. 2011. Web. 03 June 2012. <;.
CNN Worldwide Fact Sheet. (2011). Retrieved May 24, 2012.

“Dozens Arrested as ‘Occupy Wall Street’ Marks 6 Months.” CNN. 18 Mar. 2012. Web. 03 June 2012. <>.

Fairclough, N. (2003). Representation of social events (134-155). In Analyzing discourse:
Textual analysis for social research. London: Routledge.

Hodges, Brian David, Ayelet Kuper, Scott Reeves. Qualitative Research. Discourse Analysis.
Practice. Bmj Clinical Research Ed. (2005). Volume: 337, Issue: aug07 3, Publisher: Sage.

McPhail, T. L. (2007). Global communication: Theories, stakeholders, and trends. Malden, MA [u.a.: Blackwell.

“Occupy’ Demonstrators Battle Wind and Cold as Storm Moves in.” CNN. 29 Oct. 2011. Web. 03 June 2012. <>.

“Occupy Movement Fights Foreclosures, Protests Program Cuts.” CNN. 08 Nov. 2011. Web. 03 June 2012. <>.

Payne, Ed. Wall Street protests enter 11th day. September 26, 2011

“Protesters Arrested Nationwide as Occupy Wall Street Rallies Hit Monthlong Mark.”CNN. 16 Oct. 2011. Web. 03 June 2012. <>.

Sinclair, John. “The Lexical Item.” In Contrastive Lexical Semantics. Ed. Edda Weigand.
Amsterdam ; Philadelphia : J. Benjamins, 1998. 1-24.

“Tear Gas Used on Occupy Protesters in Oakland, California.” CNN. 26 Oct. 2011. Web. 03 June 2012. <;.

Verello, Dan. “Occupiers Clash with Police in New York; 6 Arrested.” CNN. 21 Mar. 2012. Web. 03 June 2012. <;.

Wodak, R, and Meyer, M. (2009). Critical discourse analysis: History, agenda, theory and
methodology (pp. 1-33). In Methods of critical discourse analysis. London: Sage.


Photographer: Unknown

Shut the Front Door: Disempowerment of protesters by popular culture and mainstream media on Occupy Wall Street 

Group 8: Sarah Carson, Dayna Feller, and Tracy Tsujii (Gregory Burrell and Grace Shih)


Topical focus: As part of the generation that is mass consuming media information and news, we found it to be vital that we examine both mainstream media news  (local and national) and popular culture television shows because they have become our major source of knowledge about current events. Based on how stories are portrayed and delivered to audiences on an enormous level, happenings within our societies can either be taken seriously by spectators or tossed in the wind like the weather report. It is important to take a critical look at what news and entertainment sources are showing us and how they want us to feel about them.

Thesis: Although conducted in different ways, both mass media reportings from CNN and comical coverage from South Park, Saturday Night Live (SNL), and the Colbert Report dismissed the seriousness of the Occupy Wall Street Movement and kept it from gaining proper momentum by disempowering protesters and subjecting them to the portrayals of being an ‘out-group’. However, our more local news from The Seattle Times helped to elevate the protesters by giving them a voice and not scorning their demands.

Outline: In this analysis, we examine articles and transcripts from our sources and display evidence of how humor and “othering” take away the validity of the Occupy Wall Street movement while using quotes from participants gives empowerment to participants.


Since each group member was assigned a specific news source, we have collaborated our works and will display excerpts from each piece while explaining their correlation.  

 Discourse analysis is the name given to a variety of different approaches to the study of texts (Gill, 2000).  There are many different methods used in discourse analysis and we can use these methods to get a deeper understanding and meaning of a text.  The purpose of discourse analysis is to show how discourse in its first sense (language in use) also functions as discourse in its second sense (a form of social practice that constructs the objects of which it purports to speak) (Cameron, 2001).  It can show that how something is written/ spoken can construct the purpose or stance of the article. Describing discourse as a social practice implies a dialectical relationship between a particular discursive event and the situation(s), institution(s) and social structure(s) which frame it: the discursive event is shaped by them but it also shapes them (Wodak, 2009).  Through use of corpus linguistics analysis- coding, word frequencies and collocation- and study of social actors, we were able to analyze our variety of texts and identify ideas or patterns of how Occupy Wall Street was being talked about.

Our group chose to focus on news from CNN and The Seattle Times, while looking at the popular television shows such as South Park, Saturday Night Live, and the Colbert Report. As young adults, we are the targets of both news channels and popular culture television shows, which display and project content aimed at influencing our views on the world. CNN gives us a worldly perspective, while The Seattle Times keeps it close to home, but the entertainment from South Park, SNL, and the Colbert Report clue us in on how our social worlds are and/or should experience Occupy Wall Street (OWS).

Our corpus consists of the transcripts of three popular culture television shows: South Park, Saturday Night Live, and The Colbert Report, and articles from CNN and The Seattle Times. Since each analysis was done separately we have displayed the quantitative data respectively:

South Park, SNL, and the Colbert Report:

Data Set Description: One transcript from each show

Word Count: 6292

Type/Token Ratio: 1493/6292

Validation: This is a valid set of data because even though it seems like our corpus is on the small end, this is a relatively new movement and there were not very many popular culture television shows that covered this topic.  We do believe that the range of shows we have selected is a good representation of shows made about the Occupy Movement and it is a good variety to analyze.


Data Set Description: 30 articles from CNN

Date Range: October to November of 2011

Word Count: 23,971

Type/Token Ratio: 0.1603187 or 16%,

Validation: Given the selection of 30 texts in the allotted time frame for conducting this research and the broad audience needed to be reached by CNN, very little lexical variation is to be expected. Having been given a longer period of time or larger resources, one could conduct a much deeper analysis with a larger corpus.

The Seattle Times:

Data Set Description: 30 articles from The Seattle Times

Date Range: October  to November of 2011

Word Count: 18,022

Type/Token Ratio: .17634%

Validation: Since the Occupy Movement only started on September 17, 2011, it is understandable that there is not a cornucopia of news articles, especially since Occupy Seattle did not hit until September 26. Furthermore, the given time frame for conducting this research was limited so using a smaller corpus allowed for a deeper, more detailed analysis.


One of major patterns we noticed in analyzing the television transcripts was in how the television shows spoke about the movement.  Jokes were constantly made about the Occupy Movement, giving it a much less serious feel.  The constant jabs and sarcasm undermines the movement and makes it seem as if it’s nothing that should be taken seriously.  For example, on Saturday Night Live, character Mayor Michael Bloomberg states:

“Now, even though we have gone to great lengths to make them feel welcome, there have, regrettably, been some clashes between the protestors and law enforcement. Several demonstrators have even been pepper-sprayed. Although these were isolated incidents, on behalf of the city I would like to apologize and to make one thing absolutely clear: All pepper spray used was made from 100% pure cayenne extract, without any added oil or trans fats and was completely salt-free.”


After stating that demonstrators have been pepper sprayed, instead of explaining why or what was done wrong, a joke is cracked instead.  By doing this, it draws attention away from the fact that many instances of pepper spraying and police brutality have occurred because of the Occupy Movement.  It makes the whole situation seem less serious and concerning. Another example of this joking manner can be seen in analyzing the South Park episode and how they talk about the Occupy Movement. Here are a just a few examples of how the word occupy was used:

“I’m reporting from the middle of a protest where two fourth grade students are fed up, and have decided to occupy Red Robin. Occupy Red Robin has been going on for several hours now”

Occupy Red Robin Clip

“The 89%ers movement continues to grow as more and more Americans occupy Red Robin”

The use of the word occupy in the South Park episode was depicted  in a jokingly manner the majority of the time.   Over half of the time, the word occupy was followed by Red Robin.  This takes the idea of the Occupy Movement and turns it into just the physical act of being in a location (in this case Red Robin).   By using the word occupy in this fashion, in a way, it almost dismisses the movement as being a big problem.

Another technique that can be seen in our corpus is in the reporting from CNN where the use of semantic prosody produces power relations between the police and protesters as a means of aggressive dominance through certain word associations of police actions. When speaking about how situations unfolded between protesters and police, aggressive adjectives and verbs were often used. Take for example the following excerpts in the collocation lines for police:

Line Left Key Right
28 he Brooklyn Bridge … after multiple warnings by police were given to protesters to stay on the pedestria
121 strators have addressed various issues, including police brutality, union busting and the economy.  LOAD-D
264 trations have addressed various issues, including police brutality, union busting and the economy, the gro
437 eks, demonstrations have addressed issues such as police brutality, union busting and the economy, the gro
565 untries to deny protesters the status of martyrs. Police crackdowns on orderly protests became rare, altho
570 eared heavy-handed. The incident, together with a police officer using pepper spray against female protest
646 arty movement, there were few confrontations with police . But violent rhetoric was often caught on camera
748 dnesday evening, as some protesters scuffled with police , resulting in the arrest of 23 people for various
754 e said five people were detained after charging a police line.  The majority of Wednesday’s protests, howe
766 t Codes (48278-48420) Police Aggression Saturday, police arrested hundreds as they marched across a roadwa
1438 protest tactic,” he told CNN.  Meanwhile, Seattle police arrested six men and one woman who refused orders
1555 KPTV.  “This tonight was, ICodes (101601-101708) Police Aggression think, an unnecessary confrontation th
1673 llowed a crackdown on protesters October 25, when police fired tear gas, and Iraq war veteran Scott Olsen
2271 U.S.  LENGTH: 927 words  DATELINE: San Francisco   Police in riot gear moved intCodes (140478-140752) Polic

The choice of analyzing ‘police’ as the lexical item is key in looking at this certain power relationship, making it a prime candidate that may facilitate the process of uncovering a certain type of ideology in the corpus sample (Adolphs, 2006). The bolded words highlight some of the words that create this negative connotation about the relationship between police and protesters. The use of explicit force with protesters gives police the upper hand and since the reports do not confront the issue, readers are left to accept this as the ‘norm’. These negative, forceful words being used around ‘police’ also paint this image and thus, the meaning of daunting power that appears threatening and harmful. This power is further enforced with the violent actions taken against protesters from police actors and the violent words used to describe protesters’ actions as displayed in the following chart

line Left Key Right
10 AM EST  Police: Hundreds of ‘Occupy Wall Street’ protesters arrested  BYLINE: By the CNN Wire Staff  SECTION:
22 odes (214-402) Police Police arrested hundreds of protesters who occupied an iconic New York bridge during dem
26 ing the roadway, authorities said late Saturday.   Protesters banged drums and chanted, “the whole world is wat
30 e Department.  Browne said authorities had warned protesters they would be arrested if they occupied the roadw
36 n-bound lanes were open during the incident.  The protesters are rallying against what they say are social ine
90 ork protesters.  Video: Police arrest hundreds of protesters in NYC  The lack of coherent message has not stop
113 r being given tickets.  The confrontation came as protesters along the road banged drums and chanted, “The who
166 Wall Street’ protests  On Saturday, more than 700 protesters were arrested for blocking the Brooklyn Bridge. A
748 t turned violent later Wednesday evening, as some protesters scuffled with police, resulting in the arrest of
750 howed police officers wielding batons and forcing protesters to the ground as the officers made arrests. Other
1086 ay Kelly said an investigation is under way after protesters claimed officers used excessive force when corral
1673 807) Police Aggression ke followed a crackdown on protesters October 25, when police fired tear gas, and Iraq
1673 ured skull after being struck in the head by what protesters say was a tear-gas canister.  Occupy groups in ot
1735 arged onCodes (110994-111214) Police Aggression e protesters with aggravated assault and obstruction after the
1769 34) Police Aggression ralia, dragged away several protesters Saturday after they refused to comply with an ord
1785 ities will not charge a motorist who struck three protesters Friday night during a demonstration in Washington
1913 staged a good, old-fashioned sit-in,” she said.   Protesters arrested Sunday were released the same day, accor
2007  November 13, 2011 Sunday 10:28 PM EST   Protesters arrested, challenged as police confront Occupy ac
2109 past several days,” KCBS said.  Also Saturday, 27 protesters were arrested in St. Louis after defying an exist
2201 Codes (135476-135657) Police Aggression d evicted protesters from the Occupy Wall Street site. This comes on t
2318 ers who had been given trespassing citations. The protesters had been demonstrating at the state Capitol groun
2336 Monday, but added it could be dismantled later.   Protesters are meanwhile looking for a private space from wh

These two tables help us draw the conclusion that the relationship between police and protesters is not one of peace and tolerance but one of aggression and violence. The following table displays how when analyzing the word ‘police,’ two of the words most associated were aggression and arrested, which furthers my original conclusion.

Word Count L5 L4 L3 L2 L1 Node R1 R2 R3 R4 R5
aggression 28 0 0 0 1 1 police 20 0 1 2 3
arrested 23 0 1 2 1 1 police 11 1 0 4 2

A final way in which our corpus displays these patterns is in The Seattle Times, which shows bias support of the 99% movement and reproduced power relations in their news stories by those that they chose as sources. When covering news on the Occupy Movement, there are multiple times when protesters are able to have the floor and speak for themselves. While running a collocation of the word “protest,” the word “said” and “protest” co-occurred near each other 27 times. In addition, the word “protesters” appeared within these 30 articles a total of 136 times. One example of such inclusion of protesters as sources include:

“Liam Wright, 24, of Seattle, said protesters received word about 10 p.m. there might be arrests. ‘So we called people to defend the occupation,’ he said, ‘but the cops never showed up.’”

The use of the word “protesters” and the representation of protesters as sources in the news articles set up a pattern of inclusion of people who are protesting in the Occupy Movement. Since The Seattle Times is a more liberal newspaper, reproducing power relations of protesters could be a subtle way of producing the ideological viewpoints of liberals. According to Wodak and Meyer, ideology is the representations of the world, which contribute to establishing and maintaining relations of power (Wodak, 2009). Since liberals are for the people and the protesters claim to be “the people” or “the 99%,” then including and representing protesters in a more liberal newspaper is expected.

By using these different methods of analysis catered to each type of discourse genre, we were pointed towards the concept of ideology of power relations and how, by employing such strategies in discourse, the media has a way of selecting, creating, and establishing power relations in the social realm (Fairclough, Mulderring, & Wodak, 2009).


Throughout our research, it was easy for us to see that although conducted in different ways, both mass media reportings from CNN and comical coverage from South Park, SNL, and the Colbert Report dismissed the seriousness of the Occupy Wall Street Movement and kept it from gaining proper momentum while disempowering protesters and subjecting them to the portrayals of being an ‘out-group’. However, our more local news from Seattle Times helped to elevate the protesters by giving them a voice and not belittling their demands.

Our key findings of popular culture’s comical dismissal and CNN’s bug crushing semantics disempowered the Occupy Wall Street protesters which in turn takes away the critical element of the movement’s purpose. It was refreshing, however, to know that our beloved Seattle stayed true to it’s liberal roots and gave it’s occupiers a voice to chant it’s feelings to the world.

A social phenomenon that was disturbing to realize at the end of this research was that those who run mainstream news and profit-driven popular culture have created a discourse surrounding Occupy that make the public not take it seriously. We, ourselves, did not think much of this movement until we were asked to study it in depth in this class project. Knowing that we were subjected to and had succumb to what could be an over arching goal of those considered the “1%”, was quite chilling. It has made us critical thinkers of how and where we get our information while questioning what or whose agenda is behind what is being projected.


Adolphs, S. (2006). Electronic Text Analysis, Language and Ideology. In Introducing Electronic Text Analysis (pp. 80-96). Routledge, London.

Cameron, D. (2001). Excerpts from Working with spoken discourse (pp. 123-129, 137-140). London: Sage Publications.

Fairclough, N., Mulderring, J., & Wodak, R. (2009). Critical Discourse Analysis. In V. Dijk (Ed.), Discourse Studies: A Multidisciplinary Introduction (pp. 357-378). London: Sage Publications.

Gill, Rosalind. “Discourse Analysis.” Chapter 10 in Qualitative Researching with Text, Image, and Sound. Eds. Martin Bauer & George Gaskell. London : SAGE, 2000. 172-    190.

Wodak, R, and Meyer, M. (2009). Critical discourse analysis: History, agenda, theory and methodology (pp. 1-33). In Methods of critical discourse analysis. London: Sage.

The Voice: East vs. West Newspaper Representation of Protesters

Group 5


As the topical focus of our group, we focused on the issue of inequality and injustice in terms of how the protesters of the Occupy Wall Street movement and the police involved were being portrayed in society. Thus, our research group thought it would be both interesting and compelling to pursue this topical focus in a way that challenged the thinking of mainstream cosmology by conducting a systematic review of the very media the movement opposes. By looking at the issue from two major publications, The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times, which are respectively located on either side of the U.S. coast (East and West), we were able to further assess the discourse happening (i.e. How they are talking about the issue, the police, the protesters, and the violence being inflicted). Later, we intend to collectively compare our respective data to uncover whether the locations affected the discourse (or journalistic accounts) or if there were other factors involved. Based upon our analysis of both The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times, we will make the argument that the mainstream journalists of The Los Angeles Times engaged in a process of legitimization of the police, thereby empowering them whereas, in The New York Times, the protesters were given power in the discourse through interviews and portrayals. To further solidify our claims, we will be analyzing several patterns within our sampled texts and subsequently draw upon discourse analysis methods, namely the CDA (Critical Discourse Analysis) and CL (Corpus Linguistics) traditions, and later discuss our results and the implications they have on the larger issue of power inequality and Occupy-related discourse.


Discourse analysis methods can serve to explain the relationship that discourse has with our social environment. This type of analysis rejects the notion that language is neutral. Rather, discourse analysts stress the significance of how texts can shape society (Gill, 2000). This idea is reinforced by Critical Discourse Analysis, which uses the relation of society and language to understand the concepts of power and inequality (Fairclough, Mulderrig, & Wodak, 2011).  For our analysis, we employed several methods that had a close association with the discipline of discourse analysis traditions, being CDA and CL. In the case of CDA (which employs social theories in analyzing discourse to understand the different micro-physics of power), we made extensive use of Theo Van Leeuwen’s strategies for legitimation, which is a part of a larger Social Actors Approach to understanding how individual actors within the text, are constantly engaging in a process to reproduce social structure (Wodak, 2009). We also utilized Gill’s speech-act theory because it is focused on conversation within the text and was thus important in our analysis of how protesters are represented through the accounts that they told (Gill, 2000). This essentially eased us into the CL approach to discourse analysis. This analysis focuses on larger bodies of texts, or corpora, using tools like concordance lines, collocation tables, and key word frequency (Adolphs, 2006). The aforementioned tools aided our group in being able to narrow our scope based on the words most closely associated with the protest paradigm and their meaning in the texts through the KWIC program.

Furthermore, the previously mentioned methods were applied to our groups discourse genre, being two very prominent, mainstream newspaper sources, The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times. These particular sources were considered to be an important set of public texts for our group to look at not only because of their positions as top outlets for mainstream media, but based upon the papers’ geographic locations (East and West). These locations play a great role in our analysis of the protest paradigm because both L.A. and N.Y. are widely considered to be “hotspots” for the Occupy movement and there has been a history of altercations with the police in those areas. Furthermore, in order to ensure that our group had a representative sample of both (ensure validity), our group split up into two, with one analyzing The New York Times and the other, The Los Angeles Times. Additionally, both groups looked at a series of lexical items and bundles in relation to the protest paradigm. We collected articles through a series of LexisNexis searches with the search parameters, “Occupy Wall Street” OR “Occupy movement” OR “99% Movement” AND “Violence”.  The “AND” term at the end was interchanged with the terms “Police Brutality”, “Police”, “Protest”, “Pepper Spray”, “Arrest”, “Tear Gas” and “Vandalism”.  This gave us a corpus that contained 1,845 articles from The New York Times at just fewer than 1.5 million words and 252 articles with a total of 199,562 words from The Los Angeles Times. Our group collectively felt that the eight main search words above would give us a wide array of instances in which injustices were happening within the Occupy Movement, from the perspectives of both the police and protesters.


Pattern 1: The Los Angeles Times: Journalists Justify Police Action Through Sources

One way that the journalists of the LA Times engaged in a process of justifying the actions of the police force (i.e. the use of pepper spray, the need to “sweep” out encampments, or conduct camp raids), can be seen in who they chose as official sources. Whenever cases that required a need for a particular course of action arose, mainstream journalists would draw upon official sources, namely police and city officials, health inspectors, and administrators, to attach positive attributes to the police and negative attributes to protesters; so as to provide justification for actions and/or future actions.

Instances in which official sourcing is used to attach negative attributes to protesters is shown in the following excerpts:

Pike and other police contend that the spray was the “most appropriate” tool on hand to deal with what they described as an unruly mob encircling the officers…

John Bakhit, an attorney who represents the campus police union, said he “completely disagreed” with the study’s conclusion that Pike had no reason to use the pepper spray. He said the panel did not take seriously enough the threat police faced from “this large mob of people” who refused police orders to disperse”…

In the first excerpt, Pike (the man who used pepper spray upon the protesters) and “other police” are used as official sources in framing the protesters in a negative manner. By categorizing the protesters as an “unruly mob,” this could provide a simple justification for the police to use the “most appropriate” tool on hand, being pepper spray. In the second excerpt (of the same article), John Bakhit who represents the interests of the police union is again used as a primary source to help justify Pike’s use of pepper spray by pinning the protesters as a threat and a defiant group; and further implies that the spray was used as a necessary tool to contain this “large mob.”

Instances in which official sourcing is used to attach positive attributes to police is shown in the following excerpts:

Los Angeles police officials said they have no plans to move the protesters out. “We’re still working as best we can and trying to be cooperative,” said Cmdr. Andrew Smith. He said police have a contingency plan to clear out protesters if they have to, but said if police are forced to evict protesters they would take pains to avoid the tear gas used by police in Oakland…

Protesters received a relatively warm welcome, with the City Council endorsing their action and council President Eric Garcetti inviting them to stay as long as they liked. But as days rolled into weeks and months, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and other city leaders began showing signs of impatience with rising costs, petty crime and property damage. Ultimately, Villaraigosa saying he feared for the safety of children at the camp, order the protesters to leave. They refused…

In the first excerpt, the Los Angeles police officials and Cmdr. Andrew Smith are employed to portray the police as cooperative, which provides some justifications for the police to act in the future (evict protesters and use tear gas) if the protesters do anything to perturb such a positive balance. In the second excerpt, the council President and the Mayor again portray themselves as cooperative and attributes negativity towards the protesters in associating them with “petty crime, property damage,” and as a threat to safety; and when they show defiance in terms of refusing to leave, this paves way for future actions by the police to apply force.

In essence, such values of the journalist in using specific sources to justify police action(s) can be explained through Van Leeuwen’s strategy for legitimation, or more specifically, rationalization (Fairclough, 2003). By attaching the texts to the legitimacy of institutionalized practices, readers use the knowledge (endowed to them by society) that police and other officials possess the authority/capacity to eliminate public threats and disturbances, in order to cognitively justify police actions. Additionally, it can be assumed that the journalist is aware of the knowledge that readers of the LA Times share, because they are consumers of not independent, but that of mainstream media.

Pattern 2: The New York Times: Police Actions Lack Context and Justification

After cutting down the NY Times corpus down to sixty texts through a process of random sampling, we put these texts into, a web application for textual analysis.  Here we created excerpts and attached codes to those excerpts to define them.  One of the most common codes that we found while doing this was “police aggression.” There was a pattern of talking about a peaceful protest that was followed by the police taking action in very aggressive ways.  Some examples of this aggression are:

“A larger number of protesters later returned and tried to re-establish the camp. The police responded by launching tear gas canisters and firing projectiles..One protester, a former Marine, suffered a fractured skull, veterans groups said.”

“Moments later, the police began firing canisters of tear gas into the crowd. Many people ran, but a few protesters wearing gas masks stayed”

“Riot police in Oakland dispersed hundreds of protesters with tear gas on Tuesday night as crowds tried to re-enter a plaza outside of City Hall that the authorities had cleared of an encampment earlier in the day.”

“The Oakland police force has acknowledged firing bean-bag rounds – also known as flexible baton rounds – and tear gas, but not rubber bullets.”

If we look at the co-text surrounding the actions (launching tear gas..etc), we find that in the first three excerpts, the aggression made was in response to what the protesters were doing; and in the fourth, it is merely an acknowledgment of the tactics used by the police. Before the first two passages, the journalists talk about how the protesters tried to re-enter an area peacefully, in neither case, did the protesters speak of cases of violence or aggression. This shows that the police are abusing their power and being overtly aggressive in situations that don’t call for it. The way that these violent police events are being recontextualized to the people is that they are unwarranted. In other words, the journalists are providing reasons as to why police actions are unjustified, without actually labeling it specifically in that language.  The fact that there has been little to no backlash on police officers from the federal government is adding to the need to take action and call for reform.

Pattern 3: The Los Angeles TimesProtesters position against police within the text

Protesters within the Movement are not represented and if they are present in the new it would be less frequency than the police officers. Within looking at our codes in corpus to compare “protester” and “police” said shows evident with the amount of times the word had shown up on search. The Los Angeles Times corpus that our group collected indicated that police representation compares to protester representation was 3 times more frequently. Upon researching the data, I found a pattern that shows protesters limited voice in The Los Angeles Times as an individual but as a group compare to the representation of a police/officer identity:

Attorneys for the campus police union also expressed muted optimism Friday. “We believe we accomplished our goal today,” said John Bakhit. “All the sections we asked to be held back were held back. We’re happy — but it’s temporary.”

“Shame on you!” protesters shouted, as the officers ran to pre-assigned spots, instantly dividing the park into small, easily controlled segments. “Get back!” police shouted to those who came too close.

“We are peaceful!” protesters yelled.

The operation began at 12:13 a.m., on orders from Deputy Chief Jose Perez, watching from the steps of Los Angeles police headquarters across the street.

Police Chief Charlie Beck, Assistant Chief Earl Paysinger and others were certain that traditional approaches wouldn’t work…..

……”We knew we didn’t want to just push them out,” Beck said. “The last thing we wanted was to be chasing them through the streets.”

Highlighting my claim that protesters are not empowered within The Los Angeles Times discourse the texts, has clear pattern arises where protesters are maybe express in the situation but does not have a saying of what had taken place compare to the police:

“There were only two things we weren’t going to allow,” Deputy Police Chief Robert Luna said. “One was camping overnight … and we weren’t going to allow temporary shelters.”

Protesters say that they’ve been stymied partly because their group lacks the sheer size of Occupy Los Angeles.

…where Police Chief Charlie Beck said officials were working out a timeline to evict Occupy protesters from their camp outside City Hall.
In Oakland, Portland, Ore., and other cities where police have targeted Occupy encampments, protesters have been scattered and forced to ponder how to sustain the momentum that began Sept. 17, when scores of people demanding a crackdown on corporate greed staked their claim to Zuccotti Park and sparked a nationwide movement.

Paul Browne, a spokesman for the New York Police Department, said most people began filing out of the park once they received the notices; one person was arrested for disorderly conduct. Browne said the park was not heavily popu-lated early Tuesday.
The protesters said hundreds of police were mobilizing around the park and that the eviction of the de-monstrators was in progress. ….The demonstrators’ website urged people to “get to the park immediately for eviction defense.”….Demonstrators shouted “We love our country” and “You don’t have to do this.”

With each voice spoken from the protester view point, they all identify the police as the cause or the one to be blame for any unfortunate event. With these quotes from The Los Angeles Times shows the disempowered group of protesters through lack of representation of voice and individual identity. Furthermore, with these findings the protesters are not giving the space to explain their side of the story as clearly compare to the police throughout the violence/abuse act during the occupy movement.

Pattern 4: The New York Times: Protesters Are Defined As Actors Within The Text

The Occupy Movement protesters are represented as social actors within The New York Times discourse. The text producers of the national newspaper provide protesters with speaking opportunities and portrayals, giving them agency. Often, these opportunities employ the use of legitimation strategies to achieve this grammatical accomplishment.

The protesters are frequently named preceding the quotation attributed to their speech.  Often, the journalists use protesters’ full names or titles in the discourse, thus giving them agency as social actors. Further, they are classified, or categorized, sometimes as a group and in other instances individually. The act of naming or classifying the actors is crucial to their role as participants in the text (Fairclough, 2003). Additionally, The New York Times journalists also refer to the protesters specifically and generically where they are classified within the text. The individual supplying the quote is often given a specific title, and then refers to the group as a collective as seen in the passage below:

Alex Barnard, a spokesman for Occupy Cal, said protesters planned to put the tents back up.“Tents are the means by which we have chosen to express our First Amendment rights,” said Mr. Barnard, who is working on a Ph.D. in sociology. “We are not going away.”

In this particular example, the protester, Barnard, is referred to as “a spokesman” tied to an organization, Occupy Cal, thus the representation is specific. More generically, he is referred to as a Ph.D. candidate. The occupiers are also referred to in a generic fashion as “protesters” through paraphrasing by the text producer. In other similar excerpts, the journalists employ many of the same methods:

Caitlin Manning, 55, a film professor and member of the movement, said on Sunday afternoon that only a handful of officers were visible at the group’s gathering at the Frank H. Ogawa Plaza.“It looks like they’re going to let us do our thing here today,” she said.

David Suker, a 43-year-old teacher from the Bronx, said the officer struck him with a two-handed swing. On Thursday he displayed a long red welt on the side of his abdomen that he said was caused by the blow. “It felt like he was trying to hit a home run,” Mr. Suker said of the officer. Mr. Suker said that he knew that being part of a group that had announced an intention to cross the barricades could result in arrest, but said that he did not expect to be struck by a baton. He called the blow an instance of brutality.

In these excerpts, the speech actors are represented generically. Manning is referred to as a “professor” and “member of the movement” and Suker is referred to as a “teacher.” Some level of specificity could be argued here as well in that the journalists provide the reader with the ages of the participants, thus they are both classified as middle-aged. The level of specificity achieved in the Bernard excerpt is not realized here, but the participants are both named. The protesters in the context of both passages are referred to as “group,” another generic representation.

In summation of these findings, it is clear that protesters are included as social actors within the discourse and referred to personally through the process of naming. In addition to the specific and generic associations, those actors classified as such (i.e. Alex Bernard, Caitlin Manning, David Suker, protesters, and group) are activated in the text. That is, the protesters have the ability to act and a capacity to do (Fairclough, 2003). For example:

…protesters planned to put the tents back up.

“…they’re going to let us do our thing here today.”

…he knew that being part of a group that had announced an intention to cross the barricades…

With these social activations, journalists effectively grant the protesters power to define the Occupy Movement in their own words.


In our research analysis, our group made the initial argument that mainstream journalists of The Los Angeles Times engage in processes of legitimization in which the police are justified or portrayed in a positive manner. In The New York Times, police are portrayed in a negative manner and their actions aren’t justified, thereby giving voice and empowerment to the protesters of the movement.

In the first two patterns of this paper, we found similarities and connections between Pattern #1 and the selective use of sources in texts and in Pattern #2, in which the text lacked sources, contexts, and justifications when speaking about the police. Thus, this showed that the mainstream journalists of both sources were placed in a power position in which they were able to dictate which actors in the texts received preferential voice when speaking. In other words, the journalists of The Los Angeles Times endowed police with power through the careful use of sources, which primarily portrayed police officials in a positive manner and legitimized their actions. In the case of The New York Times, journalists gave power to the Occupy protesters by avoiding the justification of police actions through the lack of context provided in the narrative and in the texts.

In the second two patterns, there were parallels between Pattern #3 and Pattern #4. Specifically, Pattern #4 showed the ways that Occupy protesters were defined as actors within The New York Times discourse by relying on the idea of social representation. Journalists provided protesters with ample speaking opportunities and numerous portrayals throughout the discourse. They further empowered the protesters through the process of naming and classification. However, in The Los Angeles Times protesters are disempowered throughout the articles especially when a violence act was caused. Police may have the up hand when telling the story of the situation, but ultimately it comes down the journalist and the way they want the story to be portrayed. Given that the protesters had their two sentences in at various newsletters they were rarely portrayed as an individual but more as a collective group of the occupy movement compare to the police. Overall, the voices were raised in both parties but not as equally as the story are told in the perspective of the journalist.

In summation, it is clear that the The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times differ in terms of their coverage of the Occupy Movement. These major East and West coast publications are located in the midst of the movement’s most active cities, yet the journalists supply very different portrayals of the action therein. The unequal portrayals of police and protesters is central to our argument. It is evident that these portrayals are different depending on the source of media. Journalists at The New York Times contribute to this inequality by over representing the Occupy protesters, while negatively portraying police actions. Conversely, text producers from The Los Angeles Times justify the police actions by engaging in the process of legitimization.


Adolphs, S. (2006). Exploring words and phrases in use: basic techniques, Chapter 4. Introducing Electronic Text Analysis (pp. 51-63). New York, NY: Routledge.

Fairclough, N. (2003). Representations of social events, Chapter 8. Analysing Discourse (pp.145-150). New York, NY: Routledge.

Fairclough, N., Mulderrig, J., & Wodak, R. (2006). Critical Discourse Analysis, Chapter 17.  In Teun A. Van Dijk (Ed.), Discourse Studies: A Multidisciplinary Introduction (p. 357). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Gill, R. (2000). Discourse Analysis, Chapter 10. In Martin W. Bauer & George Gaskell (Eds.), Qualitative Researching With Text, Image, And Sound (pp.173-174). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Wodak, R, and Meyer, M. (2009). Critical discourse analysis: History, agenda, theory and methodology (pp. 1-33). In Methods of critical discourse analysis. London: Sage.

Power and Peace: A portrayal in a prejudiced world of police and protestors

Group 11: Rocky Frahm, Aurora Gangan, Caroline Kelly, Bo-Ryoung(julie) Lee, Kate Stern

I. Introduction

The topical focus of our group is power. While there are many different aspects of power to be observed in a movement like Occupy Wall Street, we chose to look at it through the text of the New York Times (NYT). The NYT is considered, according to common knowledge, to be an unbiased source of news, and therefore should present the Occupy movement neither positively or negatively; however evidence has been found that The NYT is a biased source of news, as it does not always present controversial social events equally. This led us to our thesis: although the NYT is often claimed to be an unbiased news source, analysis methods reveal NYT’s distortion in portraying the antagonistic relationships involved in the Occupy Movement.

In this paper, we flesh out the means by which the NTY portrays the power imbalances. The three patterns of interest we explore are: (1) NYT portrayed the violent suppression of police officers as justifiable actions when encountering the protesters; (2) people labeled “protestors” were not able to represent themselves properly; and (3) the word “power” appears to be more associated with the 1%, corporations, and government forces. To analyze these patterns, we use the discourse analysis strategies (tools) of semantic relation and representational meaning, syntagmatic choice, and collocation.

II. Methods

Firstly, we employed the discourse analysis methods of semantic relation and representational meaning. These were effective in analyzing stories about a social event that contains polarity such as the Occupy Movement. This peculiar phenomenon can be approached in totally different ways depending on how semantic relations (Fairclough p.145) are structured and how social actors and social events (Fairclough p.138) are placed in the clause. The main motivation to use these strategies originated from the view of a discourse analyst who sees all discourse as social practice (Gill p.175). These strategies were helpful in scrutinizing the portrayal of power relations in news media and provided insight for “what seems ‘right’ or what ‘comes naturally’ for that particular interpretive context” (Gill p.175).

Secondly, we use the syntagmatic choice as a strategy for analyzing language, specifically grammatical sentence structure. This looks at the relationship between elements. For instance, within an image or text, the rearrangement of elements within the image, such as the positioning of words in a phrase, would affect the perceived meaning on the audience. Regarding our topic, the order of words or choice of grammatical structure heavily influences the perceived meaning on the audience.

Lastly, we used ‘collocation’ which refers to “the relation between a word and individual word-forms which co-occur frequently with it” (Lindquist 2009 p.57) to figure out the habitual co-occurrence near the key terms. The results stemming from an analysis with collocation indicates the difference in the habitual co-occurrence of language usage between the descriptions of the 1 percent group and the 99 percent group. Indeed, the aforementioned can be used as an evidence to pinpoint the presence of distorted perspectives of NYT towards the Occupy Movement.

Discourse Genre

We chose to look at the national newspaper, The NYT as our discourse genre. We chose this source for a few important reasons. The first being that it is a national source, meaning that it covers news beyond its local frame and reports without a bias and aims to appeal to all types of audiences. The second reason why we chose The NYT is for its actual proximity to the start of the movement. Because the movement started on Wall Street in New York City, we thought that the NYT might have a slight advantage over other national sources due to its numerous staffers that have a closeness advantage to the occupiers and happenings of the movement.


Our group employed the software called, Lexisnexis, to collect the data for this project. There were 262 articles, 248,900 words from NYT from October 1st 2011 to present, when searched with the key term “Occupy Movement”. We decided to use the very first 150 articles as our sample data for this project because we concluded that the articles issued near September have more contents pertinent to the Occupy Movement, which in turn, would provide more reliable corpus. Since our corpus defined as topical corpus which “is designed for a narrowly defined research purpose”(Bauer p.31), it is limited them down to our topical key terms. Therefore, this collection of 150 articles involves a fair representativeness as a corpus for discourse analysis.

III. Analysis

(1) NYT portrayed the violent suppression of police officers as justifiable actions when encountering the protesters –semantic relations, representational meaning

The first pattern that we discovered is that NYT tended to portray the violent suppression of police officers as justifiable actions when encountering the protestors. For example, an October 30th 2011 NYT article reported the following:

At another time, Ms. Quan, the mayor of Oakland, might have joined the hundreds of protesters who have camped out near City Hall as part of Occupy Oakland. Instead, she is now a focus of their wrath. Late Thursday night, protesters chased her from a rally, shouting ”Go home,” and refusing to let her speak. The protesters were reacting to her decision to shut down the encampment, which led to a night of street violence on Tuesday, with police unleashing tear gas on the demonstrators. Ms. Quan said the area had become unsanitary and unsafe.

First, from a ‘semantic relation’ perspective, “which led to” is an element that marks the causal relationship between “street violence” and “her decision”. Also, the preposition “with” functions the same as “which led to”, since it indicates a causal relationship between the “street violence” triggered by the protestors and the “unleashing tear gas” by the police.  Providing such causal notion in the context can be interpreted as the violence of the police officer being reasonable since it is only a mere response to the aggravated protestors. In addition, when approaching this paragraph to analyze the representational meaning, the protestors are described as more ‘activated’ social actor ‘who make this happen’(Fairclough, p.145) while the police officers are described as ‘passivated’ social actors who were affected by the process. This representation of the social event (street violence) of the paragraph in NYT indicates that the cause of ‘unleashing gas’ has shifted from the police officers to the protestors.

Here is another example how semantic relation is illustrated between the protestors and the police officer speaking about the violence. The following is an excerpt from May 16th 2012 NYT article:

“Some of the protesters removed their tents, but others did not. When the police took the tents down, some of the remaining protesters locked arms and refused to move, leading to the pepper spray use…” Here, “leading to” is a conjunction which marks the causal relation between the police’s usage of force and protestor’s refusal to cooperate. Again, in this paragraph, the protesters are illustrated as a group who triggered the violent suppression of the police officer.

Both excerpts above demonstrate that NYT contains an unbiased depiction towards two different power groups. When they describe the detail of an instance of a violent scene between the protesters and police officers, they employed causal semantic relations that justify the violent behavior of police towards the protestors. Therefore NYT is not stranger to biased media sources.

(2) People labeled “protestors” were not able to represent themselves properly

As previously described, syntagmatic choice is a good filter of analysis when looking at the representation of power and protesters. This is mainly because the relationship between elements (i.e. phrasing of words) is biased against the protestors. By this, we mean the way the text is grammatically written produces biased meaning. For instance, in an excerpt from the NYT on May 14, 2012, the author describes the situation by saying:

“The powerful 1 percent that controls your publication does not represent the majority of Americans who actually purchase and read your paper.”

In this sentence, the author places the top 1% before the rest of the “majority of the Americans” in terms of location in the sentence. This gives the effect that they, the 1%, come before everyone else in other aspects of life; they come across as most important. In another instance, on May 12, 2012, another author from the NYT wrote:

“We are at the end of the 30-year Reagan era, a period that has culminated in soaring income for the top 1 percent and crushing unemployment or income stagnation for much of the rest. The overarching challenge of the coming years is to restore prosperity and power for the 99 percent.”

This excerpt follows the same pattern; the 1% comes first, and the 99% after them. The same effect results.

Regarding syntax, simply put, the placement of words has an obvious effect on meaning. This is shown in the two texts mentioned above. Because the author introduces the 1% first places emphasis on that crowd over the 99%. Symbolically speaking, they are deemed more important, and are the main focus worthy of speaking first.

(3) The word “power” appears to be more associated with the 1%, corporations, and government forces.

Another pattern we noticed deals with the word “power” in general. Throughout the articles in The NYT, the word power appears to be more associated with the 1%, corporations, and government forces. We came to this conclusion by looking closely at sentences that contained information regarding our topic. Context and cotext are important to pay attention to when trying to find and determine meaning. The cotext are the words that appear on either side of the key word. (Adolphs, 2006) When reading for cotext, electronic tools are extremely helpful as they can create different tables and highlight patterns that bring certain issues and information to attention.

With the help of technology, we developed collocation tables and concordance lines to help find the meaning that was associated with the word power. The excerpt provided below blatantly defines the 1% as the more powerful group:

“The powerful 1 percent that controls your publication does not represent the majority of Americans who actually purchase and read your paper.”

As you can see, “1 percent” directly follows the word “powerful”, and not to far away lies the word “control”. These words give meaning to the 1% and help to describe them in a way that is much different than the 99%. These instances and patterns throughout our corpus of The NYT insinuates that while The NYT is said to be an unbiased source, they seem to be identifying the 1% as having more power than the 99%. This next excerpt also directly describes the 1% as more powerful:

“they claim to stand up on behalf of the ‘little guy’ (the 99 percent), while raising a fist of protest against the big, rich, greedy and powerful 1 percent.”

Once again, using Collocation tables and concordance lines to examine cotext, we see that the cotext around the 1% includes words such as, “big”, “rich”, and “powerful”. These words give clear meaning to the 1% and who they are. Just like before, the text assigns the 99% as the role of the underdog while expressing the power of the 1%.

IV. Conclusion

Through our research using multiple discourse analysis strategies, it has become clear that the so-called “unbiased” title given to the NYT is undeniably incorrect. It wouldn’t be outrageous to say that all newspapers and other news sources are biased; it’s practically impossible to have it any other way. In fact, we are all political actors who feel one way or another regarding a certain subject and the existence of those feelings alone creates a bias. The multiple excerpts that defended police officers and justified their violent actions are a clear example of how The NYT, like all other news sources, feels a certain way rather than keeping neutral. This is also evident in the many excerpts that tie the word “power” to groups like the 1%, corporations and government forces. With power as our topical focus, we have seen the huge role it plays in politics. The big take-away message here is that there really is no way to report in a non-partisan way. Everyone has a political agenda, regardless of whether they admit it or not. While this is the case, I would like to commend The NYT for attempting to be an un-biased source; although they are attempting the impossible, it’s nice to know they try. For this reason alone, The NYT is, by default, a biased source.


V. References

Adolphs, Svenja. “Exploring Frequencies in Texts: Basic Techniques.” Chapter 3 inIntroducing Electronic Text Analysis. London ; New York : Routledge, 2006. 37-50.

Fairclough, N. (2003). Meaning relations between sentences and clauses (pp. 87-104). In Analyzing discourse: Textual analysis for social research.London: Routledge.

Gill, Rosalind. “Discourse Analysis.” Chapter 10 in Qualitative Researching with Text, Image, and Sound. Eds. Martin Bauer & George Gaskell. London : SAGE, 2000. 172-190.

Wodak, R, and Meyer, M. (2009). Critical discourse analysis: History, agenda, theory and methodology (pp. 1-33). In Methods of critical discourse analysis. London: Sage.

Fight the Power: The New York Post and Portrayal of the Conflict Between Police and Protesters During the Occupy Movement

Group 19: Matt Martin, Lindi Rohrenbach, Paul Sikora, and Rachel Johnston


As a group we decided to look at both the New York Post and the Salon’s coverage of the Occupy Wall Street/99% movement. In particular we were interested in the differing portrayals of the conflict between police and protesters. Our corpus included coverage of events not just in New York, but in San Francisco, Oakland, and Washington D.C. The Occupy Movement has been a topic heavily covered by the media and a phenomenon that has been a lightning rod for controversy. It is a polarizing topic as people tend to side with the 99% movement or against it. It is important to examine because of the social impact that the movement has had as well as the developing relationship between police and protesters. Demonstrations throughout history have always sparked conflict when the police are called to control the demonstrators. In most cases, the media has the ability to garner sympathy one way or the other by how they portray events and who they paint as the victims. I’ve utilized corpus linguistics tools as well as critical discourse analysis theory to analyze my corpus and support my following claim. The New York Post and’s coverage of the occupy movement takes a sensational approach with polarizing portrayals of police and protesters as either the aggressor or the victim.


The first method that we used was to make a corpus. We got together articles from and the New York Post and put them together to make a reference corpus. “ The word ‘corpus’ simply means ‘body’… It may be defined as ‘a body of complete collection of writings or the like; the whole body of literature on any subject… several works of the same nature, collected and bound together’” (Bauer 23). The reason that this is important to look as is because there is such a vast collection of texts out there would be no way to analyze them all. “Corpora in the linguistic sense are collections of language data for the purposes of various types of language research” (Bauer 23). The reason we chose a corpus was to make sure that we were able to analyze what is being said about the participants in the occupy movement those being the police and the protesters. To get our corpus we went onto to to the Occupy section. Once there I looked at all of the incidents of police and protester interaction. Later we went and grabbed all of the articles form the salon to analyze so we could see what was really being said about the protesters and the police activity. By doing this we was representing the movement as a whole, not just picking and choosing articles to look at.

The discourse genre we focused on was online news articles; in particular we focused on the New York Post and We chose the New York Post because of its long tradition of journalism and the fact that it is produced in the city where the movement began. Although it is generally regarded as a conservative news source, we found a great deal of balance among the articles in our corpus. It was important that we explore this bias because the other half of the group examined a very liberal online publication, The Salon. We collected articles from the New York Posts website and the which included the words police, protesters, and occupy. The resulting corpus was a collection of representations of events centering on conflict between protesters and police during the occupy movement.

One key aspect of critical discourse analysis that we have employed is power. The critical discourse analysis theory surrounding power basically focuses on how the group in power uses their power through force or threat of force and those not in power resenting the perceived abuse of that power. According to the Wodak and Meyer article “CDA researchers are interested in the way discourse (re)produces social domination, that is, the power abuse of one group over others, and how dominated groups may discursively resist such abuse. This raises the question of how CDA researchers understand power and what moral standards allow them to differentiate between power use and abuse” (Wodak 9). The concept behind the existence of a power group and their use of that power is a constant issue within any society. Within my corpus, the power group is clearly the police, who are mandated by the local government to maintain peace and order, authorized to use force when necessary. Protest creates a conflict of interest between the protesters and police, a situation where the police are called upon to demonstrate their authority. Therefore power is an important theory I will explore while analyzing my corpus.

I will also utilize the critical discourse analysis tool of analyzing social actors. The Fairclough article discusses this concept and how it can be used. “Social actors are Participants in clauses…Inclusion/exclusion…Pronoun/noun: is the social actor realized as a pronoun or as a noun?…Grammatical role: Is the social actor realized as a Participant in a clause, within a Circumstance, or as a Possessive noun or pronoun…’Activated’/’passivated: Is the social actor the actor in the processes or the affected or beneficiary?…Personal/impersonal: Social actors can be represented impersonally as well as personally…Name/classified: Social actors can be represented by name or in terms of class or category. If the latter, they can be referred to individually or as a group…Specific/generic: Where social actors are classified, they can be represented specifically or generically.” (Fairclough 145)

This tool has proven very useful in analyzing our corpus because the articles are accounts of events which have happened involving police and protesters. Both are social actors in the articles and depending on how they appear within the clause they produce differing representations.

Another point of emphasis in our analysis will be to look at the narrative structure of the articles. In particular, because of the nature of the coverage of the occupy movement; we will focus on the key event present within the articles in my corpus. In our textbook, Van Dijk explains this aspect of the narrative structure. “All characterizations of the stories will specify a key event that disrupts the equilibrium of ordinary…provoking psychological responses and actions…these psychological and actional responses in turn will have outcomes” (Van Dijk 75).  The narrative structure is vital when analyzing this type of news coverage because each article itself is trying to tell a story. By looking at each article as the presentation of a key event and actions attempting to return the situation to equilibrium, I am able to better understand the encoded representation.

Within the corpus then we used corpus linguistics to get a better understanding of what was really going on in our corpus. We used a website titled KWIC. This website was great we could plug in our corpora and it would do all the analyzing for us.  This made our job easier.  KWIC also helped us generate the Type Token Ratio “ratio between grammatical and lexical items in the text, which is also referred to as lexical density” (Adolphs 39).  One we get the Token Type Ratio for our group of text we can compare it to BNC to see if ours is normal, or on the high end.


Violence between Protestors and Police

This pattern is one that is a reoccurring one throughout all of the articles. We see that the police are over using their power in a negative way. The triangle of communication is a good theory to look at when considering this pattern. “The three elements cook calls the ‘triangle of communication’ are necessarily interdependent in that the topic, or ‘ the spoken about’ is linked to the speakers and the prospective audience, or the ‘spoken to’” (Adolphs 82). With that being said we need to make sure that we look at these three key parts of the text when evaluating whether it is the truth or not. The writer is writing to the public to identify with the protesters rather than the police. The reporter is positioning us that the police are bad and the protesters are peaceful and good.

Here is another instance in history of authority oppressing the rights of peaceful protesters. “Absent probable cause or reasonable suspicion that a person is engaging in or will engage in criminal activity, the F.B.I.’s targeting and questioning of political protesters is antithetical to America’s commitment to the First Amendment right to engage in peaceful, nonviolent protest activity. The reported F.B.I. activity interferes with and chills longstanding First Amendment freedoms” (Siegel)

A specific tool that we used to look at this was the KWIC program we used in class. “A concordance program arranges all instances of a particular search item in a way that makes the search appear in the center of the page” (Adolphs 52). We found that in the concordance the word protester was used in the same sense of being oppressed by the police. The law enforcement officials were walking on their rights and there was nothing that they could do about it or to ensure that they get their rights back. This is one of the specific tools that we have in the corpus linguistics that helps us evaluate language as a whole.

This pattern that we see means that the media needs to take a step back and look and see what is truly going on. If the police are over stepping their boundaries the people need to know, because it they know they might be able to do something about it. The media would be doing their job in performing the watchdog effect. But if they are just trying to push their opinions on the people consuming the media the people need to realize this and hold the media to their job. The people consuming the media need to be informed on what it going on.

In coding my group found a number of interesting things. The most prevalent of which is the clear violence between the police and the protestors. In the coding process in it was clear the police were being portrayed in a negative light for example,

“Like the massive crowd control arsenal unleashed on OWS — riot gear, smoke bombs, rubber bullets, pepper spray, horses, metal blockades, helicopters, plastic cuffs, and the police motorcycles, cars and vans that clog the streets — the three-tiered surveillance seemed like overkill for an overwhelmingly peaceful movement, where the occasional slur thrown at police is usually shouted down with reminders not to goad cops because they’re part of the 99 percent.”

This is just one of the many instances where the code ‘protestors as victims’ was used. In there is no argumentation defending the police, there is not even an attempt at justifying the force the police used against the protesters. However the argumentation is in accusing the police. Inversely in coding of the articles of The New York Post. This is an excerpt of discourse from The New York Post where it is clear that the protestors are made out to be in the wrong, even without mentioning the representation of the movement as a whole,

“There were marches, arrests and plenty of YouTube videos of protesters getting pepper-sprayed. In the end, though, it appeared that eliciting these kinds of moments – provoking the police until they overreacted – was the movement’s primary, if not only, goal.”

That is a clear use of argumentation on page 85 of Discourse Studies by Teun A. Van Dijk says, “Argumentation uses language to refute or justify a standpoint.” Then later on page 93 in figures 5.1 and 5.2 Van Dijk shows the process of argumentation. In the excerpt from the grounds are smoke bombs, riot gear etc. the warrant is the movement was not just peaceful, but overwhelmingly peaceful and the claim is that it seemed like overkill. Then in the New York Post it is the opposite the claim being the police were being provoked. As with the New York Post has many of these examples showing the police being the victims of the protestors, provoking them.  These two excerpts show that there is violence between police and protestors, the argumentation in each one if these excerpts clearly show the varying views from one source to another.


Through critical discourse analysis, we have been able to dissect the power dynamics and narrative structure of the social actors present in the New York Post and coverage of the Occupy Wall Street Movement. Each article has a clear preferred reading stance which is reinforced by who is portrayed as the aggressor and the victim. Police and protesters are inevitably going to clash because of the nature of demonstration and the duties of police officers. The media is able to garner sympathy for either side by the way that events are represented in discourse. The New York Post focuses on utilizing the narrative structure to create stories which comment on the social construction of power through force, legality, and position of the social actors. The focuses more on what the participants have to say and there role in the social movement. Although the demonstrator’s only power is to occupy space, when they are not committing any crimes and the police excessively demonstrate their power, the protesters are seen as being morally in the right. As a whole, our corpus can be an important statement on how the actions of individuals can positively, but more commonly in the news negatively impact the image and reputation of the group they are a part of. The negative press whether it be toward protesters or police generally highlight radical or sensational actions by a few individuals and may not reflect the actions or beliefs of the group as a whole.


Adolphs, Svenja. “Exploring Frequencies in Texts: Basic Techniques.” Chapter 3 in Introducing Electronic Text Analysis. London ; New York : Routledge, 2006. 37-50.

Adolphs, Svenja. “Exploring Words and Phrases in Use: Basic Techniques.” Chapter 4 in Introducing Electronic Text Analysis. London ; New York : Routledge, 2006. 51-63.

Adolphs, Svenja. “Electronic Text Analysis, Language and Ideology.” Chapter 6 in Introducing Electronic Text Analysis. London ; New York : Routledge, 2006. 80-96.

Bauer, Martin, & Bas Aarts. “Corpus Construction: A Principle for Qualitative Data Collection.” Chapter 2 in Qualitative Researching with Text, Image, and Sound. Eds. Martin Bauer & George Gaskell. London : SAGE, 2000. 19-37.

Fairclough, N. (2003). Meaning relations between sentences and clauses (pp. 87-104). In Analyzing discourse: Textual analysis for social research. London: Routledge.

Hall, S. (1997).” The spectacle of the ‘other’”. In M. Wetherell, S. Taylor & S. Yates (Eds.), Discourse Theory and Practice (pp. 324-344). London: Sage.

Kelle, Udo. “Computer-Assisted Analysis: Coding and Indexing.” Chapter 16 in Qualitative Researching with Text, Image, and Sound. Eds. Martin Bauer & George Gaskell. London: SAGE, 2000. 282-298.

Lindlof, T. (2001). The challenge of writing the qualitative study. Ed by Alexander, A. & Potter, J. How to publish your communication research: An insiders guide (pp. 77-95). London: Sage.  *see below*

O’Halloran, K. (2012). Electronic deconstruction: Revealing tensions in the cohesive structure of persuasion texts. International Journal of Corpus Linguistics, 17(1), 91-124.

Van Dijk, T. (2011). Discourse studies: A multidisciplinary introduction. (2nd Ed.) London, UK: Sage.

Wodak, R, and Meyer, M. (2009). Critical discourse analysis: History, agenda, theory and methodology (pp. 1-33). In Methods of critical discourse analysis. London: Sage.

A Faceless Mob: Mainstream Media Portrayals of Occupy Wall Street Protesters

Group 1: Brittany Bolz, ChaeEun Cho, Alaina Schwartz, Tim Murphy, & Orinna Weaver

Our group examined how the media represents protesters involved in the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement by tracking’s coverage of this story over a six month period. This is an important trend to research because the media serves as the primary source of information regarding the OWS movement for most Americans and many people around the world. As a popular news site,’s representations of the movement are highly influential in affecting how the demonstrations are viewed by the public at large. Depending on the general public’s perception of the movement, they can either help facilitate or inhibit the overall success of the movement. In our analysis, we found that, generally, portrayed protesters negatively, but that within this trend,’s representation of the protesters improved over time. In our examination of’s coverage we will introduce the three methods we will use to analyze the texts: Word frequencies, authorization, and qualitative coding. Each method offers valuable tools to analyze texts and provides evidence of the progressively more positive representations of the protesters. Lastly, we will present the findings of the analysis and explain how this data relates to my claim.

Our group took a constructionist approach to this project, meaning, we know that the truth is socially constructed, and thus we needed to unpack how it is constructed through the text. In this paper, we use the methods of both corpus linguistics and qualitative coding. To draw on corpus linguistics, we examined lexical and grammatical choice as discussed in Chapter 10, “Dialogue in Institutional Interactions” by Paul Drew et al. According to Drew, trends in word choice in multiple texts help us to identify the “norm”. By analyzing lexical choice, we can identify trends in the text and what is normal in certain situations, and thus, what is also irregular in the text. We also found John Sinclair’s “The Lexical Item” to be very helpful when using corpus linguistics. Sinclair makes the point that meaning is influenced by both word choice and context. Sinclair’s methods such as semantic reversal and collocation can tell us how a word can take on certain meanings based on what other words surround it.

Using the Key Word in Context (KWIC) program, we were able to calculate word frequencies within the corpus.  Keyness is a measure of word occurrence, which is defined as “the statistically significantly higher frequency of particular words or clusters in the corpus, or a comparable specialized corpus” (Baker, Gabrielatos, Khosravinik, Krzyzanowski, McEnery, & Wodak, 2008).  Keyness is important because by looking at what words are used most frequently one can deduce common themes throughout the sample.  Furthermore, you can use word frequencies as a base for comparison between words, as we did with protestor/protester versus protesters/protesters.

Furthermore, we used representation of social actors to define who are empowered and disempowered in the text. In addition, analyzing whether protesters are described as active or passive will help reveal whether they are influential in society or powerless (Fairlough, 2003).

Lastly, we used “Methods of Critical Discourse Analysis” by Ruth Wodak and Michael Meyer, to conduct qualitative coding of my data set. This source specifies that Critical Discourse Analysis is not interested in investigating a linguistic unit, but in studying a social phenomenon. To better understand CDA, we studied the seven dimensions Wodak and Meyer outline in their article. We found that analyzing the relationship between language and society could tell me quite a bit about how CNN wants to portray Occupy Wall Street protesters.

Our group focused on for our discourse analysis project. We believe CNN is a mainstream media news source that is particularly influential with the general public. We chose to examine CNN as our discourse genre because it is often seen as providing a moderate or slightly liberal viewpoint. By examining this particular mainstream media outlet, we can gather a thorough understanding of how an “objective” source represents the protesters of the Occupy Wall Street Movement. CNN was the optimal choice for our group because it is a moderate mainstream news outlet, whereas Fox and MSNBC tend to voice more extreme conservative or liberal viewpoints.

Our group’s CNN corpus is a specialized report (topical corpus), which has a specific genre format, modality, topic and time frame. We collected the data for our corpus through the academic search engine LexisNexis. We made sure that our corpus included these three important parameters: genre of interest (homogeneity), topics of interest (theoretical relevance) and time frame of interest (synchronicity). Our genre of interest, CNN, was easy to search. Our group simply selected the CNN search tab to query within the CNN database. We then used the key term “Occupy Wall Street” to search for topics of interest within the CNN database. We also specified our time frame of interest as September 2011 – April 2012. Our finalized CNN corpus had 187 articles, 133,126 words, and a type-token ratio of .19 (25,642/133,126). This is a valid corpus for analysis because it has a large sample, and balances characterization with comparison.


Pattern 1: Use of the Word ‘Arrest’ Over Time

To first decide whether or not the attitudes towards the Movement have changed, I decided to use the tool of Norming word frequencies, to see how often “arrest” has been used in our corpus. I counted any use of any form of the word, and I came out with very pleasant results Below, you can see the graph that shows how the use has gone down over time. For example, during the first months of protesting, “arrest” consisted of nearly 7 of every thousand words about the Movement on Compare that to April when it is just over 1 per thousand words.

But how is it that this data can represent my thesis? Now we know exactly how the protesters have been represented for the past 8 months. We see that by being identified as arrestees, the protesters become undesirable in the eyes of the readers. It is not often that the people against the government (represented here by the police) are supported by the majority of the public, in fact, by connecting the words protester and arrested together in every 7 of 100 words, it is hard for the readers to disregard that association (Adolph 46). However, by the time April came around, feelings on the protesters had improved, and though they were just as active, there was a more positive discourse about them.

Pattern 2: Protesters Rarely Given a Voice of their Own

The next pattern we observed was the tendency to refer to the participants in the Occupy Wall Street movement as a collective group.  This occurrence can be measured using word frequencies, or keyness, within the corpus.  In order to measure this group vs. individual notion, I looked at the frequency of the word protester vs. protester in the text.  Due to multiple spellings in the corpus I combined protesters and protesters into one category, as well as protesters and protesters.  The number of times protesters/protesters occurred in the text was 690, whereas protester/protestor only occurred 21 times.  Moreover, “demonstrators” is used 233 times, while “demonstrator” was only used 14 times. Although simply looking at the frequency that a word occurs in a text may not be as telling as a more in-depth strategy such as coding, it can still be useful to the discourse analysis process. This clearly shows that, in general, the movement was referred to as a broader group effort – with individual accounts used less often.

By almost exclusively grouping the protestors together as a single entity, CNN is making them seem less personal.  Fairclough discusses this concept concerning representations of social actors in terms of personal or impersonal and named or classified (2003, p. 146).  In relation to the protesters of the Occupy Wall Street movement, they would be categorized as impersonal because they rarely get their own voice as individuals, and classified as opposed to named because personal information does not often get reflected.  As a result of this grouping tendency, the individual protestors rarely get to speak for themselves, and instead are discussed, and therefore seen, as a collective.

Pattern 3: Protesters are Passive Social Actors Whose Behaviors are Affected by Authorities

Journalists reproduced power relations in their coverage of protests can be seen in choices in the representation of social actors. When speaking about legitimacy of protesters staying at parks, journalists rarely allowed protesters to become social actors. Instead, Supreme Court has authority to decide whether protesters are allowed to stay at parks. For instance, a December 9, 2011 story included the following sentence:

In a move similar to McIntyre’s ruling, a New York Supreme Court announced last month that Occupy protesters would be allowed to return to Zuccotti Park — considered a home base for demonstrators — but would be restricted from camping overnight.

The main social actors included are ‘a New York Supreme Court’, ‘protesters’, and ‘demonstrators’. While New York Supreme Court is activated (‘announced’), protesters are passivated (‘be allowed to return’ and ‘would be restricted from’). The formers leads a process of activity ‘announce’ and the latter are affected by the former’s decision. Paying attention to ‘activation’ and ‘passivation’ is significant because it tells who have capacity for agentive action (Fairclough, 2004). In this instance, a New York Supreme Court has authority to allow protesters to stay at Zuccotti Park and, therefore, the court controls the protesters’ actions. Protesters, who are passivated, are subjected to processes and affected by the actions of the court. Following excerpts show similar patterns:

A New York Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that Occupy protesters will be allowed to return to Zuccotti Park, but they can’t bring their tents and generators — once a mainstay of the movement.

As seen in the above cases, protesters cannot make their own decision to return to camp without the court’s approval because they are lack of authority to legitimize their protests. Passivation of protesters reflects that protesters are subjugated to the authority in society (Fairclough, 2003).

Pattern 4: Police Aggression is Justified, which Portrays Protesters as Powerless Out-Group

Lastly, our group compared CNN’s portrayals of police aggression to the portrayals of protester aggression. We found substantially less occurrences of police aggression (60 occurrences compared to 115 occurrences of protester aggression). Further, when analyzing the individual excerpts, I found there to be a pattern of mythopoesis legitimization. Often, when speaking about police actions against protesters, CNN journalists used language to legitimize a logical outcome. For example, excerpts from January and February of 2012 said:

Officers were forced to remove several people clinging to a wood structure erected in the square, and a total of 31 people were arrested over the course of the day, the police said.

In the violence, a crowd of several hundred people threw rocks and shot fireworks at officers after being asked to leave the scene, prompting officers to fire tear gas, authorities said.

These excerpts are also examples of ways journalists recontextualize social events. According to the Fairclough reading, social events happen but they are understood through how they are represented in language use. Journalists recontextualize certain events and reconstruct the meanings of those events for the public. In this case, the CNN journalists reconstructed the language in the excerpt to legitimize the actions of the police. By legitimizing the actions of the police and condemning the actions of the protesters, the journalists made the police appear active and powerful, and the protesters powerless and passive.


We found in our analysis that corpus linguistic strategies such as keyness and lexical choice, as well as qualitative discourse strategies such as Critical Discourse Analysis, were of great aid in understanding the social positioning in which even the most objective media sources are continuously engaged. In our analysis, we found that, generally, portrayed protesters negatively, but that within this trend,’s representation of the protesters improved over time. Moreover, our final realization is that even the most moderate of mainstream news sources strives to categorize people in their reporting. According to Stuart Hall, we want people to fit within the given symbolic order. As humans, we desire for people to belong to a category in order to make sense of our social surroundings. In the case of the protesters of the Occupy Wall Street movement, they were routinely categorized as part of a powerless, volatile out-group, while the police and other authorities were regarded as a powerful, respected in-group.

Works Cited

Adolphs, Svenja. “Exploring Frequencies in Texts: Basic Techniques.” Introducing Electronic Text Analysis. London ; New York : Routledge, 2006. 37-50.

Baker, P., Gabrielatos, C., Khosravinik, M., Krzyzanowski, M., McEnergy, T., Wodak, R. (2008). A useful methodological synergy? Combining critical discourse analysis and corpus linguistics to examine discourses of refugees and asylum seekers in the UK press. Discourse & Society, 19(3), 273-306.

Drew, Paul., & Sorjonen, M. (2011). “Dialogue in Institutional Interactions.” Discourse Studies: A Multidisciplinary Introduction. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 2, 191-214.

Fairclough, N. (2003). Representation of social events (pp. 134-155). In Analyzing discourse: Textual analysis for social research. London: Routledge.

Hall, S. (1997). The spectacle of the ‘other’. In M. Wetherell, S. Taylor & S. Yates (Eds.), Discourse Theory and Practice (pp. 324-344). London: Sage.

Sinclair, J. (1998). The Lexical Item. Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Toft, Amoshaun. “Analyzing Social Actors.” Com 470. University of Washington, Seattle. 01 May 2012. Lecture.

Wodak, R, and Meyer, M. (2009). Critical discourse analysis: History, agenda, theory and methodology (pp. 1-33). In Methods of critical discourse analysis. London: Sage.

Hero’s or villains: Representation of protesters and police officers through entertainment news media

Group 22: Marcy Inclan & Connie Ven


Our topical focus is on how police and protestors are portrayed through the media.  Our main focal point is on articles put out by the media through various news sources.   This is an important phenomenon to examine because people base their opinions of the Occupy movement from what they see or, in some cases, are told.  If you had no idea what was going on and read an article from a trusted news source saying protestors are out of control druggies, you will have a different view of the Occupy Movement than if you see one where protestors are peacefully and eloquently getting their points across.  Likewise, if you read an article saying police are pepper spraying college students for no legitimate reason, you would have a different view on authoritative figures than if you read an article saying police saved someone from being beaten up by irrational protestors.

The media portrays police and protestors very differently depending upon what they want you to think.  This can be misleading if the only things being reported on by the media are when people do outrageous things since there are multiple dimensions of the Occupy Movement that should be known to the public.  An analysis of mainstream media articles pertaining to the Occupy Movement reveals that the majority of police involved in the Occupy Movement are brutally aggressive and the protestors are victims in most cases.


Discourse analysis methods are the tools you use to break down the text and see the bigger picture of what the author is trying to portray to you.  These tools break down the text in many ways including, lexical bundles, semantics, token and type, concordance, cotext, collocation, colligation, and clause elements.  It is important to use discourse analysis methods because they help you understand the author’s orientation, role, and identity (Van Dijk).  I used discourse analysis methods to break down my articles of focus and gain insight on what the author intended on portraying through their literature.

The discourse genre being focused on is entertainment news media. This genre includes texts anywhere from blogs to editorials to media news sites and other things posted through personal opinion sections. These tools usually draw on appeal to draw in attention and reading or viewing. The fact that our culture has moved into the technology age, more and more of us are receiving our news from this media which adds on to it’s importance. Aside from this, this genre includes opinions and statements from the public itself, as well as important figures such as government officials and those actually involved in the movement. It displays a widespread of data that includes a larger example of facts from true testimonials. This genre is dominant in the culture and influential through being innovative.

Our corpus consists of 30 articles from various new sources.  We collected these articles using LexisNexis and searching for “Occupy Movement +police +protestor” with filters so only articles from news sources would come up.  This set of texts is valid for our analysis because it is the exposure that reaches the public.  These articles may be the only information the public gets of the Occupy Movement therefore they might form opinions of the movement based solely off what their news source says.

Semantic relations look at the grammar of the sentence and how it is written to describe the language. There is a split into two groups of semantic relations, being the following of: a “’local’ semantic relations between clauses and sentences,” to “’global’ or higher-level semantic relations over longer stretches of text, or even whole texts” (Fairclough 2003). Semantics take on from embedded phrases as well to show that “one clause functions as an element of another clause” (Flairclough 2003). Lexical choice is important to take into consideration since the lexical item balances both the syntagmatic and paradigmatic patterns in an article (Sinclair).  Therefore analyzing the aspects of the language used helps get an understanding of what the author is trying to say and if their language is persuasive, whether purposefully or not.  Similarly, it helps to pay attention to semantic preference because it connects syntax with meaning and semantic prosody can give words a certain meaning when used in specific ways or associations (Young).  Classification schemes are significant because since we are analyzing a social movement, social class plays a massive role in the ideological thoughts and perceptions one gets from reading an article.


First Pattern (Protestors are violent in order to get what they want):

One pattern observed throughout the text was that protesters were being represented through the language as violent beings. The conclusion to this was reached through certain words and phrases that were used in description throughout multiple texts. Each example showed an add-on of different similar phrases, one’s being that are usually violent, to show the protesters “fighting” on a deeper level. One of the examples below show a phrase that starts to list the different damages that had been done, creating a violent scene for the reader. Aside from clusters of words building upon one another to argue this point, through causal semantic relations, we were able to also analyze this point. Through the examples found below, the sentence structures are in the format of “the protesters horribly did this, so the policemen or public suffered this way.” This format skewed the reader into reading the statement as if the first didn’t happen, the second one would never have taken place. Below shows a deeper understanding of the two methods used, as well as excerpts/examples of each in action:

-Additive (Semantic Relations) is a “hierarchical clustering of words or    phrases to build meaning upon..” (Shepard 1979)

“The vandals shattered a door and cracked two windows.” – Damage through violence

“Protestors broke a number of shop windows in downtown Seattle, in Washington state, and set a fire outside a US District Court” – Damage through violence

-Causal (Semantic Relations) is specifying when one clause leads to the next one. The typical pattern that Causal sentences follow is the “Reason Consequence Purpose” structure, listing out the cause from one section to the next (Fairclough 2003).

“The protesters eventually left and the Vancouver Fire and Rescue Service moved in to extinguish the burning pile of wood, paper and other items,” – Building on violence through fire use

“After black-clad youth were seen hurling rocks at store windows, flash grenades were launched by police to warn them off. But the same youths picked up the smoke bombs lobbed by the police and threw them toward pedestrians.” – Initiating attack with violence

Pattern 2 (Police officers mentioned in kinder words than protestors)

Another pattern observed had to do with the representation of police officers through the entertainment news media. After analyzing the texts, we found that police officers were often mentioned, in opposites of protesters, as either in non-detailed way, or in kinder words that made them less violent. Going in to the analysis, we had a patter in mind we were searching for being that police officers would be the violent ones attacking against “civilians” or in this case, protesters. After reading through excerpts, we found that police officers often were just explained in the articles as making arrests or “detaining” someone, without being gone into much detail. Unlike protesters that were deeply spoken about the different violent acts and attempts made, the ones made by police officers were kept quiet, only stating the bare minimal of “chased down” or “ran after.” We found this pattern through using the Lexical tool of looking for specific word choices that would appear throughout multiple texts to provide meaning, such as “disperse,” “detain,” and “arrests.” We also saw through classification we were able to create meaning from the certain lexical word choices that rose throughout multiple texts, as well as words and phrases that society as pinned with certain meanings. In the example below, the sentence makes the reader feel like police officers could have made arrests, but they were “kind” enough to give the protesters a warning. The analysis from this sentence comes from the classification that “protesters” turn “violent,” but that they “made no arrests” but could have shows they were giving a warning instead of being the “bad guys” and forcing arrests.

-Lexical “consists of words, to each of which attached a number of statements, which together express the meaning of the word” (Weigand 1998).

four or five protestors were detained after being chased by officers.”

On the East Coast, in New York, where the roots of the Occupy Wall Street movement formed, police detained at least six people.”

Tensions rose after police chased down several protesters and detained them. A crowd quickly formed around them, shouting and hurling objects at the officers.”

Word usage: DETAIN

“Seattle Police made at least two arrests after hundreds of Occupy protestors marched through the city’s center Tuesday afternoon.”

“Riot police arrived on the scene and gave the protestors a warning to disperse.”

Word usage: Arrest

“Police on bicycles moved in and dispersed people, closing off the store entrances with crime scene tape.”

“Riot police arrived on the scene and gave the protestors a warning to disperse.”

Word usage: disperse

-Classification: a tool that “place people, processes, events, ideas in categories” that classifies the social world, creating meaning for the word (Wetherell 2001).

“Vancouver police say no arrests were made after a May Day protest on Commercial Drive turned violent last night, unlike in other cities such as Montreal and Seattle, where hundreds of people could face charges.


In conclusion, journalists are persuasive and if they want you to believe something and are successful, their article will spark certain emotions in you.  The articles I analyzed made it clear that the police involved in the Occupy Movement are very aggressive towards protestors and the protestors are victims of assault in the majority of cases.  This analysis helped me realize how certain words and lexical sequences can make a situation sound much more severe than others.  Critical discourse analysis is a great tool that helps you break down articles and see them for what they really are.

Works Cited:

Additive clustering: Representation of similarities as combinations of discrete overlapping properties. Shepard, Roger N.; Arabie, Phipps. Psychological Review, Vol 86(2), Mar 1979, 87-12.

Flairclough, N. (2003). Analysis discourse: Textual analysis for social research. (Master’s thesis, University of Munster), Available from Sage Publications. Retrieved from

Sinclair, J. (1998). Contrastive Lexical Semantics. Philadelphia, PA: John Benjamins Publishing Co.

Van Dijk, T. A. (2006). Discourse Studies: A Multidisciplinary Introduction. Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE Publications Inc.

Weigand, E. (1998). Contrastive lexical semantics. (Master’s thesis, University of Munster), Available from Sage Publications. Retrieved from

Whetherell, M. (2001). Discourse practice and theory. (Master’s thesis), Available from Sage Publications. Retrieved from

Young, L., & Harrison, C. (2004). Systemic Functional Linquistics and Critical Discourse Analysis Studies in Social Change. New York, NY: Continuum.