Movement–Media Relations in the Hybrid Media System: A Case Study from the U.S. Transgender Rights Movement

Thomas J. Billard*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Whereas social movement–media relations were, in the era of mass media, a dialogic relationship of mutual, albeit asymmetric, dependency between news makers and social movement organizations, the hybridization of the media system has complicated matters considerably. The dialogic tensions that drove organizations’ access to the political information environment have been supplanted by new tensions—tensions that have transformed organizations’ media work routines. Organizations must now manage tensions over the temporality of issue emergence, tensions between identity and policy knowledge as sources of expertise, tensions between emotional charge and informational novelty as criteria of newsworthiness for journalists, and tensions between policy demands and media demands in the formation of communications strategy. And these new tensions demand new work practices oriented toward addressing multiple audiences concurrently and via multiple media streams. Because the discourses of social media influence the press to such an extent, the successful management of press discourse requires both direct influence via routine media work targeting journalists and indirect influence via steering digital media discourse—the combination of which presents significant resource costs to movement organizations. This article draws on an ethnographic case study of media work in the U.S. transgender rights movement to extend theorizations of movement–media relations to account for the structuring influence of the hybrid media system, illustrating these news tensions in the context of the panic over transgender passport policy that erupted in the summer of 2018.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)341-361
Number of pages21
JournalInternational Journal of Press/Politics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2021


  • ethnography
  • hybrid media
  • media activism
  • political information environment
  • transgender rights movement

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Sociology and Political Science


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