NY Times media scribe Brian Stelter has a piece out today (Occupy Wall Street Protests a Growing News Story – NYTimes.com) that looks at how the news media is picking up on the Occupy Wall Street and associated movements and how coverage has been growing and changing in tone.
I’ve been talking about this movement for five weeks, because that’s when it started and I saw it start because I was watching it via Twitter. And as I’ve talked, lectured, blogged, tweeted, and posted about the event, my angle has been on how corporate media has ignored the story or covered it with a stunningly overt and largely unaddressed bias/objectivity problem. The media and telecommunications industry is the fourth largest private segment of the United States economy. While loudly discussing how critical their role is to holding government accountable, the “objective” media is not at all objective about covering criticism of the marketplace where their own stocks are traded. And that marketplace of the 1% of wealthiest Americans is dangerously intertwined and more powerful than the government of the people, and by the people. Here follows a lengthy excerpt of the piece:
In the first full week of October, according to Pew’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, the protests occupied 7 percent of the nation’s collective news coverage, up from 2 percent in the last week of September. Before then, the coverage was so modest as to be undetectable by the Project for Excellence in Journalism, which surveys 52 news outlets each week to produce a weekly study of news coverage.
The study released Wednesday showed that cable news and radio, which had initially ignored the protests almost entirely, started to give the protests significant coverage last week, often with a heavy dose of positive or negative opinion attached.
Some protesters have assailed news media outlets for scoffing at their leaderless nature and lack of agreed-upon goals, but some have also carefully courted attention from those outlets.
“They insist on their story being told, even as they’re arguing about just what the story should be,” the media critic James Rainey wrote in Wednesday’s Los Angeles Times. Mr. Rainey suggested that reporters resist the urge to make instant judgments about what the protests represent: “Sometimes the most courageous story is the one that says: I haven’t seen this before. I’m not sure what it means. I don’t have a clue where it is going.”
The populist main message of the occupy movement is actually quite clear to anyone who can see it with an open mind, particularly one that has not been deafened by three continuous decades of ‘free’ market trumpeting. The occupiers are trying to show everyone who hasn’t realized it yet that the so-called ‘free’ market is not free at all, it is rigged by the wealthiest participants, who have successfully used it and co-opted the government into plutocracy that is actually acting in kleptocratic ways, taking taxpayer money into corporations that don’t in turn pay taxes.
These very few people have used their wealth to influence the political process to deregulate certain segments, consolidate competition into monopolistic entities and subsidize certain industries, change tax codes to help them retain more of that money, and then use their influence to thwart any chance of a political or civic action that could threaten the accumulation of that wealth.
This is not only done through the campaign financing process (reform of which is a clearly stated goal of the occupy protesters) but also through very successful use of major corporate media platforms. Let’s just link to a google search of “Wall Street Journal scandal” to put a nail in the the ‘liberal media’ straw man so we can move on productively. I’ll let you the reader figure out just how pervasive, powerful, and completely unethical Rupert Murdoch’s media enterprise — the largest in the United States — is. It is pretty clear.
But even if they aren’t peddling their influence to candidates as the News of the World did in the U.K., all U.S. news media are completely dependent upon a divisive political process. Talking deeply and legitimately about campaign finance reform and the ultra wealthy would be literally attacking the richest and best customers.
Television news media on cable and broadcast cannot survive without political advertising revenue. And that’s all there is to that. 2012 will be a record year in political ad spending at a time when core media platforms are absolutely being destroyed by new media platforms. In much of the same way we only cover bombing body counts or protester arrests, all journalism stories on campaign finance reform talk in big, generalist terms that have little meaning to real citizens, and all of these stories start and stop with the obscene amounts that candidates raise. They never go the next step to tell the citizens the ultimate beneficiaries of these huge campaign war chests are their companies. The people used to own a great deal of the newspaper media without realizing it, their purchasing of classified advertising was the 42 percent revenue buffer that kept the super wealthy advertising customers from holding so much financial influence over that platform of critical, in-depth journalism.
But that bird has flown and, really, this is all old news to the Internet community that has been talking about this and calling for action and looking for solutions and changes for years. Many members of that community are holding an extended and protracted and diverse IRL meetup on Wall Street and elsewhere around the nation. Glenn Beck isn’t there and there are no organized, big money underwriters taking people to protest in busses. But, citizen media is there, and has been from the start. This time, a short quote from the piece:
The spike in news media coverage is significant because, among other reasons, it may lend legitimacy to the movement and spur more people to seek out protest information on Facebook and other Web sites.
I beg that the data calls for a different interpretation, Brian. Here’s my rewrite:
The lag in news media coverage is significant because, among other reasons, it shows how their legitimacy is becoming more questionable as they grow out of touch with the people they claim to serve while serving the wealthy and powerful that the occupy movement is protesting, having gotten their information from trusted friends on Facebook and other independent and objective Web sites.
See what I did there? But, hey, some nameless, uncredited, and therefore unaccountable editor (who may have gotten some stock options way back when) is probably going to cut that down for ‘clarity.’
P.S. Thanks, Brian. It’s a good piece.