Oct
04
2011

Whitewashing the Blackout of Occupy Wall Street

I checked out a post from the Web-based publication Capital (9/28/11) about media coverage of the Occupy Wall Street protest because CJR (9/29/11) told me it was a "smart post" that "crunched the numbers" and showed "how there really is no media blackout." I have to say I would have thought CJR would have higher standards when it came to crunching media numbers.

Capital's Joe Pompeo states his thesis early on:

The idea that there is a media blackout has gained appeal on the left with support from Michael Moore and Keith Olbermann, who said on the September 21 edition of his primetime show on Current TV: "The majority of the media is ignoring the public uprising."

In fact, an (admittedly unscientific) survey of news organizations suggests the protest, despite lacking any clear goal or purpose (that's by design), has been making headlines since it began on September 17.

OK, so Pompeo is trying to show that Olbermann was wrong when he said on September 21 that "the majority of the media" was ignoring the protest. (Michael Moore made a similar statement on the Rachel Maddow Show on September 19.) He does this by doing Nexis and Google searches that include a full week of additional coverage:

A Nexis query for "Occupy Wall Street" yielded 428 results as of press time [i.e, September 28], including 248 items that appeared on blogs, 71 in newspapers, 63 on the wires, 31 in "Web-based publications," 18 as news transcripts, nine as "aggregate news sources," one in the industry trade press and one in a legal news publication. Google News has indexed more than 2,000 articles between September 17 and today.

That is "admittedly unscientific"–not to mention patently unfair.

How much coverage had Occupy Wall Street actually gotten when Olbermann made his claim? Well, Nexis gives me 17 articles from September 16 through September 21 in the "Newspaper Stories, Combined Articles" database with the words "Occupy Wall Street" in them. Of these, 10 are from overseas papers–from Britain, Australia, Canada, China and Pakistan. Another four are from the St. Joseph News Press, a Missouri paper that reprints tiny items from CNN's wire service. So when Olbermann made his comment, there had been three actual U.S. newspaper stories during five days of demonstrations in the heart of the nation's media capital–the New York Daily News (9/17/11), Newark Star Ledger (9/18/11) and New York Newsday (9/19/11)–that are at least in-depth enough to mention the name of the event. That's a grand total of 1,047 words.

That Newsday piece, by the way, was headlined "Protests Close Wall Street Second Day." Nothing to see here–move along!

About Jim Naureckas

Extra! Magazine Editor Since 1990, Jim Naureckas has been the editor of Extra!, FAIR's monthly journal of media criticism. He is the co-author of The Way Things Aren't: Rush Limbaugh's Reign of Error, and co-editor of The FAIR Reader: An Extra! Review of Press and Politics in the '90s. He is also the co-manager of FAIR's website. He has worked as an investigative reporter for the newspaper In These Times, where he covered the Iran-Contra scandal, and was managing editor of the Washington Report on the Hemisphere, a newsletter on Latin America. Jim was born in Libertyville, Illinois, in 1964, and graduated from Stanford University in 1985 with a bachelor's degree in political science. Since 1997 he has been married to Janine Jackson, FAIR's program director. You can follow Jim on Twitter at @JNaureckas.