Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Gandy, Oscar

Second Advisor

Wright, Charles


This dissertation is a case study of the historical interaction between the New York Times and The National Organization for Women, 1966-1980. It investigates whether commercial news media can be used as a political resource by social movement groups. Using archival and content analysis methods, the study investigates the development of media strategies by NOW and then assesses whether these strategies "succeeded," through an analysis of NOW's representation in the Times, over a 15 year period. The study found that news was a resource In some ways. Through resource investments in media work, a general strategy of reflexive appropriation of news conventions (media pragmatism), and the creation and maintenance of relationships with some key women reporters, NOW was able to produce some routine access to news over time. Despite some marginalizing coverage In the early years, NOW's legitimacy as a source in the Times increased generally over 1966-1980. However this "success" had important limitations. NOW's news access and the legitimacy of its representation shifted depending on the kind of issue NOW was addressing and on the context in which the group was being judged. If NOW talked about more traditionally "public" issues (such as sex discrimination in employment), it was represented as a more legitimate source and its stories were more likely to be placed in the news sections. When the organization talked about "newer" issues or invoked more structural frames -- such as child care issues or structural "sexism" or patriarchy frames -- these stories would be placed in lifestyle or "women's page" sections and in the context of these tories, NOW's organizational legitimacy was likely to be questioned. I argue that these and other patterns in the NOW-Times relationship indicate a general "processing" of NOW's discourse by the Times through a pUblic-private filter which worked to contain NOW's public communication and which makes news a contradictory resource for feminists.

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