An Open Letter to NPR On Covering Wall St. Protests

Congratulations. You finally got around to doing a story about the Wall Street protests last night on "All Things Considered," after 11 days of ignoring them.
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Congratulations. You finally got around to doing a story about the Wall Street protests last night on "All Things Considered," after 11 days of ignoring them. What a disgraceful decision to have avoided coverage for so long, and having your ombudsman try to mitigate that dopiness by noting that you covered the demonstrations via several AP print stories and blogs on your website. I thought you were in the radio business. I must have been mistaken.

The ombudsman quotes your executive news editor explaining all the days of non-coverage this way: "The recent protests on Wall Street did not involve large numbers of people, prominent people, a great disruption or an especially clear objective."

Every one of those points is either flat wrong or ridiculous. (1) the protests involved hundreds, I would say at their height several thousands of protesters -- based solely on the videos I watched. Sorry that wasn't a large enough number for your executive news editor. (2) no prominent people were involved: what a ridiculous gauge of importance. If ordinary people from all over the country come to protest, that's not enough? How stupid can you get. (3) No great disruption: so if a few thousand people from all over the country stage more than a week of peaceful protests, that's not good enough for your executive news editor; they have to be disruptive to merit coverage.

That sends a message to all demonstrators that to attract the attention of the media (which, of course, is the aim of all demonstrations of all stripes for all causes) they have to break things and break the law. Forget about protesting peacefully day after day. Again, how stupid can NPR get? as far as (4) is concerned, that the demonstrators lacked "an especially clear objective," how come Mayor Bloomberg, in the story you finally ran, was able to clearly discern that objective, which was to protest against the Wall Street banks, when NPR can't figure it out?

Maybe Glenn Greenwald, in Salon, can help NPR out: he writes:

Does anyone really not know what the basic message is of this protest: that Wall Street is oozing corruption and criminality and its unrestrained political power -- in the form of crony capitalism and ownership of political institutions -- is destroying financial security for everyone else?

I've hated Ralph Nader ever since he was personally responsible for George W. Bush's election in 2000, but he and others sure are right when criticizing NPR for not covering the left and these protests (his phone call no doubt helped lead to NPR's belated coverage). If the Tea Party farts, that's news. But God forbid you should cover anything too far left of center.

As Greenwald notes further:

Any entity that declares itself an adversary of prevailing institutional power is going to be viewed with hostility by establishment-serving institutions and their loyalists. That's just the nature of protests that take place outside approved channels, an inevitable by-product of disruptive dissent: those who are most vested in safeguarding and legitimizing establishment prerogatives (which, by definition, includes establishment media outlets) are going to be hostile to those challenges.

As he points out, that sure does apply to NPR, among many other news organizations.

The network has hardly distinguished itself in several recent incidents: the Juan Williams firing and the fuss that led to the resignation of the two Schillers, one of them NPR's CEO. The long-delayed protest coverage adds one more black mark to NPR's record, although I remain more than grateful to it as the only serious, authoritative, widely disseminated, long-form source of radio news in this benighted country.

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