news coverage of Raleigh's Feb 15th anti-war rally
was biased in favor of the tiny counter-demonstration
(Thanks to Dave, Matt, Mark and JB for the assist)
This page has three purposes:
2) To encourage editors who underplay coverage of organized protests
to rethink their position
and stop dismissing protests as "staged" events with little news value.
3) To debunk the myth of "equal time" in coverage of large
protests and counter-protests.
The 7,000 to 8,000 old folks, parents, kids, punks, veterans, yuppies and other citizens
who showed up Saturday deserved more than to have their efforts given "equal time" with the
sixty-five (yes, I counted) pro-war demonstrators. Reporters who painted the story
as a clash of two rallies did a horrible disservice to the truth that day by presenting
the counter-protesters as half of the story. They were not half of the story.
I challenge any newspaper or TV news editor
to provide a solid journalistic rationale
for giving equal amounts of coverage to the two crowds below.
(Top: Collage of three stills from video taken by my friend Mark
Bottom: Looking east from the corner of Martin and Wilmington Streets;
the marchers filled the street and had already turned left onto Blount two blocks up)
and Crowd B:
(The shot Channel 14 wouldn't show you)
It can't be done.
There's no justification whatsoever for putting equal
emphasis on those two groups in coverage of this event. Giving so-called
"equal time" to spokespeople from groups with widely different
turnouts - and organizing efforts that don't even begin to compare
- does not count as balanced journalism. It's biased and unfair coverage
that distorts the truth.
In the stories I saw, Channel 14 never once aired a front shot of the counter-protesters (like the one above) to put the size of the pro-war crowd into perspective. Instead, the station showed footage taken from a side angle that exaggerated appearances and made it impossible to see how thin the line of 65 pro-war demonstrators really was. Why was that?
14 also never gave viewers an estimate of the easily counted pro-war crowd, even as it estimated the number of anti-war marchers with an absurd guess of "several hundred" people.
Again, the 65-person counter-protest...
...and the massive crowd police and organizers put at 7,000:
There's just plain no excuse for treating the two rallies as co-equal.
(Note the insults directed at marchers by the pro-war folks: "parasites,"
"idiots" and "stupid."
The anti-war folks at bottom right, btw, were having a blast turning Missy Elliot
into an anti-war sloganeer: "Is it worth it, let me work it, I put my thang down, flip it and reverse it")
The idea that organized marches are somehow less worthy of coverage than
spontaneous events is similarly ridiculous. It doesn't get much more newsworthy than this:
Those sure don't look like citizens on the fringes.
Neither do those.
Are we representing middle America yet?
When so many obviously mainstream U.S. citizens gather
downtown to express discontent
with their government - on a rainy day, yet - are we really supposed to believe it's
not news simply because the event was planned in advance?
What kind of logic is that?
Hell, I'll bet almost every one of these people has a story worth printing.
One also has to wonder what tools will be left to
the average citizen once
organized protest is no longer capable of drawing media attention.
Editors who refuse to fully cover heartfelt, organized
political expression are undermining
one of the few things citizens have at their disposal to effect democratic change.
By dismissing protests as not newsworthy, they're
a status quo that leaves citizens increasingly powerless.
That's not quite the mission I've always heard journalists were supposed to aspire to.
It's about time local editors realized their easy
acquiescence to the possibility
of a U.S. "preemptive strike" is not shared by a majority of voters.
It would be nice if local coverage reflected that little bit of reality.
It would also be nice if local coverage stopped playing games with the truth.
I need a break.
Take me to the Monkey Media Report.