Mainstream Media and Political Protest

In its minimal coverage of the Tea Party protests held over the weekend, Fox News reports that in Cincinnati "4,000 people showed up Sunday for a grassroots protest of wasteful government spending in general, and President Obama's stimulus package and budget in particular." The article quotes Noel Sheppard's critique of mainstream reporting on the events at Newsbusters, namely, that it was more or less non-existent. There, Sheppard notes that few television or print news outlets have covered the Tea Party protests, and submits: "Compare that to how these networks practically fell all over themselves to report war protests after the public's opinion changed concerning Iraq in late 2003." Yet this contrast does not hold. FAIR reported as late as 2005, that mainstream media in both television and print largely continued to downplay massive demonstrations against the Iraq war. What does hold in this comparison is the fact that the mainstream media generally ignore such manifestations of public activism regardless of its ideological slant or the object of its ire. In an interview from late 2002 on the media's coverage of the anti-war movement, FAIR's Peter Hart stated, "most reporters and editors find a statement from a single administration official more newsworthy than tens of thousands of citizens demonstrating." When the establishment media do take an interest in massive demonstrations by citizens, on the other hand, it is often not the message or the number of protesters that attracts them, but rather the number of riot police.

Note: it will be interesting to see how the media cover the national protest to take back the economy on March 19th.

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