We study how actors engage in institutional work to manage legitimacy by influencing media discourse in the face of discontinuous innovation. We content-analyze actor quotes reproduced in newspaper articles about the ‘sharing economy’ in the taxi and lodging industries to survey this aspect of media discourse and offer a taxonomy of the discursive strategies used in the public debate on institutional change. We find that actor quotes are dominantly from offensive actors striving for institutional change, mostly due to a relatively low share of voice of incumbent firms as defensive actors aiming at institutional maintenance. Whereas offensive actors aimed for legitimacy in their discursive strategies by balancing attacks on existing institutions with assertions of new institutions, defensive actors aimed for legitimacy more by attacking new institutions than by reinforcing existing ones. Our findings suggest that, contrary to prior beliefs, preventing the emergence of new institutions plays a crucial role for defensive institutional work.