Christopher R. Martin argues that the mainstream news media (and the large corporations behind them) put the labor movement in a bad light even while avoiding the appearance of bias. Martin has found that the news media construct "common ground" narratives between labor and management positions by reporting on labor relations from a consumer perspective.
Martin identifies five central storytelling frames using this consumer orientation that repeatedly emerged in the news media coverage of major labor stories in the 1990s: the 1991-94 shutdown of the General Motors Willow Run Assembly Plant in Ypsilanti, Michigan; the 1993 American Airlines flight attendant strike; the 1994-95 Major League Baseball strike, the 1997 United Parcel Service strike, and the 1999 protests against the World Trade Organization's conference in Seattle.
In Martin's view, the news media's consumer "take" on the labor movement has the effect of submerging issues of citizenship, political activity, and class relations, and elevating issues of consumption and the myth of a class-free America. Instead of facilitating a public sphere, the democratic ideal in which the public can engage in discovery and rational-critical debate, Martin says, news organizations have fostered a consumer sphere, in which public discourse and action is defined in terms of consumer interests-the impact of strikes, lock-outs, shut-downs, and protests on the general consumer economy and the price, quality, and availability of things such as automobiles, airline flights, and baseball tickets.
Christopher R. Martin