Wednesday, October 31, 2007

 

Gripe of the Day

[I]t seems remarkable to me that in some of the 11 cities in which protests were held – Boston and New York, for example – major news outlets treated this "National Day of Action" as though it did not exist. —Jerry Lanson, former newspaper editor and journalism professor, writing in "War Protests: Why No Coverage?"

Professor Lanson participated in the antiwar march in Boston last Saturday, and my guess is that he's a first-timer. What struck me about this op-ed was not the point he makes: that there is a stunning lack of coverage of antiwar protests. Anyone who has ever rallied, marched, sat down, stood up or screamed knows that. What is striking is that he, a former newspaper editor and journalism professor, seems not to have known it.

Coordinated antiwar protests in at least 11 American cities this weekend raised anew an interesting question about the nature of news coverage: Are the media ignoring rallies against the Iraq war because of their low turnout or is the turnout dampened by the lack of news coverage?

I find it unsettling that I even have to consider the question.

I find it unsettling that he's never before considered the question.

As far as I can tell, neither The New York Times nor The Boston Globe had so much as a news brief about the march in the days leading up to it. The day after, The Times, at least in its national edition, totally ignored the thousands who marched in New York and the tens of thousands who marched nationwide. The Globe relegated the news of 10,000 spirited citizens (including me) marching through Boston's rain-dampened streets to a short piece deep inside its metro section. A single sentence noted the event's national context.

As a former newspaper editor, I was most taken aback by the silence beforehand. Surely any march of widespread interest warrants a brief news item to let people know that the event is taking place and that they can participate. It's called "advancing the news," and it has a time-honored place in American newsrooms.

But this is not the news that the media bosses wish to advance.

It reminds me of a certain Vietnam protest after which I shared a cell with a highschool civics teacher. The teacher was having a hard time taking it all in. "This is illegal! This is unconstitutional! They can't do this!" To which I could only reply, "Umh... Where do you think you are?"


11/1/07 – 11:30 am — Mr. Lanson's complaint about media coverage of the antiwar demonstrations certainly cannot be leveled at the Washington Post. Our little "Pravda on the Potomac" ran an Associated Press account of the rally in San Francisco, which even mentioned the protests in Seattle and New York. Lanson may have missed it because it was in the Finance section!

Was the Post trying to hide it? Shame on you for thinking such thoughts. No, they were trying to keep the readership they care about—the movers and shakers of finance—informed.

Here's the lede paragraph of the story—

Thousands of people called for a swift end to the war in Iraq as they marched through downtown on Saturday, chanting and carrying signs that read: "Wall Street Gets Rich, Iraqis and GIs Die" or "Drop Tuition Not Bombs."

If you were a New York fat cat, wouldn't you want to know what they're saying about you in the streets?

And it was not just the Post that viewed this story as financial news. The story was shopped around by COMTEX, "the leading wholesaler of real-time news and content for the world's major financial and business information distributors. "

Related posts
The Washington Post: Pravda on the Potomac (6/7/06)

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