If you've been watching mainstream TV news or reading mainstream newspapers, chances are you're not aware that protesters in New York have been marching, speaking and waving signs against Wall Street. Dubbed "Occupy Wall Street," the action has drawn about 1,000 people, who are occupying a park in lower Manhattan.
But if you've been using social networking sites, you've likely known about this for a week or more. You probably know they're well into the second week of protests against corporate domination of politics. You've probably heard about the arrested marchers and allegations of police brutality. Chances are you've seen the video of peaceful protesters being pepper sprayed by police.
The contrast between the protest's prominence on, say, Facebook and its near-invisibility in the mainstream media is beginning to ebb a bit as local papers draw on newswire material, but what took so long for national news to pick up on a very visible protest in the media capital of the country?
Might news organizations' reluctance stem from the fact that most of them are owned by the large corporations that are publicly traded on Wall Street? It's hard to explain otherwise. After all, polls show that many Americans would be interested in the marchers' arguments. A Pew Research Center poll shows that "nearly half of Americans — 47 percent — say Wall Street hurts the nation's economy more than it helps." According to a Bloomberg poll, a whopping "70 percent of Americans say big bonuses should be banned this year at Wall Street firms that took taxpayer bailouts." In another poll conducted by Lake Research Partners, 77 percent of respondents approved of tougher rules for Wall Street. Seems like viewers and news readers would enjoy having a look at these protests.
Instead, however, there seemed almost to be a news blackout, with little to no coverage of the action in its first week. Here in Detroit, only one daily paper has run a 200-word AP item, even with Michigan's own Michael Moore in New York to pump up the crowd yesterday. (The AP did write Moore's visit up, although the Washington Post chose to run it in their "entertainment" section.)
Is it fair to wonder, as some have speculated, that the occupation is subject to a "media blackout"? Does the protest deserve greater, wider coverage in the United States, such as it is getting overseas? Good questions all. Perhaps the best comment yet was from Keith Olbermann -- and quoted in a post to the website of FAIR: Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting -- "So, five days of clogging downtown Manhattan, protesting corporate control of the economy, and you haven't heard a word about it on the news? ... If [it were] a Tea Party protest in front of Wall Street about Ben Bernanke ... [it would be] the lead story on every network newscast."
This double-standard prompted FAIR to say: "The answer to the problem of non-coverage would seem to be simple: If the people occupying Wall Street want more media attention, they should just call themselves Tea Party activists."