Sunday, September 13, 2009

When is a Protest not worthy of Reporting?

I confess this is the first time I've been totally dumbstruck at the disconnect between the blogs I follow and the mainstream news. Certainly on some controversial topics the emphasis is often a little (sometimes a lot) different but when it came to the protests in Washington DC, it was as if they didn't even happen for some in the mainstream press (just looking at the Google News roundup).

Except that they did. Irrespective of your political views, there's something seriously wrong when they choose not to report on a significant issue when it doesn't fit within their political view of the world. Have a look at the viciousness of ABC News when they state, "ABC News Reported D.C. Rally Size in Tens of Thousands, Not 1M to 1.5M as Activist Said." I wonder when the last time they quibbled on something they've gone out of their way to make seem so irrelevant.

To find the most seemingly objective news (versus how it seems much of the press would like to paint the protesters as conservative trolls and a fringe unenlightened minority) it would seem you have to look abroad. The Daily Mail (UK) reports it was "up to two million people marched to the U.S. Capitol today, carrying signs with slogans such as “Obamacare makes me sick” as they protested the president’s health care plan and what they say is out-of-control spending."

According to QandO, "Now perhaps the count is a bit high – Michelle Malkin quotes Parks and Recreation estimate 1.2 million and DC Police 1.5 million." CNN doesn't even bother reporting a number. Now compare this to the overestimates of the Iraq war protests where the Los Angeles times acknowledges that in the previously quite widely publicized numbers, "in 2003, San Francisco police and organizers estimated that 200,000 attended an anti-Iraq-war protest. But when the San Francisco Chronicle had experts review aerial photos of the march, they concluded that only 65,000 participated."

I'm not going to guess at what the right number is - I'm sure we'll get more accurate numbers in the aftermath but even judging by the pictures and video that are coming out, compared with other protests or even large crowds I've been in, the 65-70,000 numbers ABC has insisted on reporting appear overabundantly cautious or worse. It really makes you wonder - has this always been happening? If they can't report on relatively simple, objective facts, why would we trust them to report on serious issues?

The barriers shielding journalists from immediate economic threats and their reporting appear to be working perhaps too well though I used to think that the mainstream media was at least self interested enough in survival. The scarcest and most valuable commodity in any commerce is trust - and this must be at least doubly so for those who provide us with the news. Apparently the editors at these organizations just no longer care.

Update: Maybe I'm burying the lede here. This protest is remarkable however for a variety of reasons that are worth mentioning - "most of those in attendance came on their own and said they had never taken part in any type of protest before Saturday ... Rally-goers said they are not strictly anti-Obama, or anti-Democrat, but instead are fed up with big government, corruption, high taxes, and runaway spending. They said they have had enough of politicians who don't listen to their concerns and are more afraid of special interests than they are of the voters. Many in the crowd said they were Democrats or independents. The protestors were clearly from across the political spectrum, young and old, black and white, male and female. It will be hard to dismiss them as being only angry Republicans" ( Except that they will and are.

Like the buildups to the removal of Van Jones and Acorn, it would seem it is difficult to see how the mainstream press can claim ignorance of events that were neither surprising nor shocking. Except that they do. May they reap what they sow.

Update (09/14/09): "Doing their jobs honorably would mean a setback for the Leftist cause, and so they chose B. The good news is that this appears to be a suicide run" (Ed Driscoll). Indeed. And it won't happen soon enough.

Update (09/14/09): "Public respect for the media has plunged to a new low, with just 29 percent of Americans saying that news organizations generally get their facts straight." (Washington Post, h/t Instapundit). I'm on the fence as to which is worse - reporting the wrong facts (if unintended - ie incompetence) versus trying your hardest not to barely report them even when they're relevant (ie malicious and deceitful).

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