Saturday, January 03, 2009

If 4000 people protest in Chicago, but the AP isn't around to hear it....

You can never be sure if you'll get decent media coverage.

Yesterday I linked to a decent news story about the Gaza protest in Chicago. It quoted some protesters saying basically reasonable things, and cited the city's estimate of the size of the protest: 4000 people.

"The news coverage so far has been all right", I said. I was hopeful. Since that article was by a Tribune writer, I sort of assumed it would be appearing in the Tribune.

But now I can't find it at the Tribune. Here is what I did find at the Tribune: a tiny story saying the protesters numbered in the "hundreds", with precious little background information; and this set of pictures, which is all right as far as pictures go, but not a real news story. Other local coverage was similarly dismal, like this TV segment which did not mention any statistics, but did feature rebuttals (both before and after the protest) by Jewish groups.

Meanwhile American protests are invisible in the major national media.

CNN covers the London protest, and that's it. This story is actually relatively defensible, since it was arguably the most visible protest -- although the 12,000 in London was smaller than the 20,000 in Paris, the London protest featured some big-name people, including Annie Lennox, who is awesome.

The NYT dittos a Reuters article which covers protests in Europe and parts of the Middle East. Some of those protests are smaller than the Chicago protest, but they get mentioned while the Chicago protest does not.

This CBS article is the worst. It copies an AP article describing protests only in Europe, and supplements it with some bizarrely chosen anecdotes of tiny protests here and there in this part of the world: 50 people in Sioux Falls S.D., a protest in Bogota (no number given), a small group (no number given) in Calgary which seems full of crazy people. Of course, by mentioning these protests going on in the Americas, the article implies that it has told you all you need to know about protests in the Americas. And meanwhile, at the very top of the article, the bit people actually read:
Meanwhile, thousands of Jews and Christians are expected at demonstrations to be held this weekend in New York, London, Toronto, Miami, Washington, Los Angeles and Tel Aviv to protest Hamas' rocket attacks from Gaza.

Some activists are billing the demonstrations as counter-rallies against what they call "assemblies of hatred for Jews and Israel."

Sunday's protest in Miami, to be held at the Holocaust Memorial, is billed as the Rally For Israel to Destroy Hamas.
And, finally, this interactive map from the AP, of protests all over the world. What is conspicuously missing from this map? The better part of the western hemisphere.

I found decent coverage of American protests in China, in Pakistan.... But in America, here is what the news coverage says: "Dear Americans. Here at home, no one really objects to the attacks on Gaza. Here at home, good Christians and Jews are rallying in support of the attacks on Gaza. With very few exceptions, only people in foreign places are against the attacks. These people are strange, they probably aren't members of reputable faiths like Christianity and Judaism, so you can dismiss their opinions with your usual prejudices."

So, WTF? Is this a media conspiracy? Well, maybe in part. Israel is waging a propaganda war, and doing it pretty well:
Israel appears to think its [PR] efforts are working.

One of its spokespeople, who has regularly appeared on the international media, Major Avital Leibovich, said: "Quite a few outlets are very favourable to Israel."
But I think the other side of this may be that the organizers of these protests are not doing the proper media liaison work. Jewish groups responding to the Chicago protest had proper press conferences in rooms with microphones and chairs; I don't think the protest organizers attempted any such thing. Nowadays the national news outlets mostly just ditto AP and Reuters, so you need to get the ear of those services in order to get heard, and I don't think this was attempted either. I might like to have a word with them about that -- except there were dozens of organizations "organizing" the rally, so who knows who was actually doing any real organizing at all. Maybe things could be better next time, but as things stand it looks like 4,000 people marched in the cold for next to nothing.


christian said...

local protest made the news in seattle, dunno about its accuracy...

Toby said...

That was a decent article. And good pictures, too -- they don't give the impression that everyone there is Arab, which will make it look more respectable to a lot of people.