Independent journalist Allison Kilkenny, co-producer of the political radio show Citizen Radio, has been tracking the mainstream media’s coverage of Occupy Wall Street. She was interviewed for Free Press’ podcast Media Minutes. She said the public is right to question reporters and news anchors who are dismissive of Occupy Wall Street. CNN’s Erin Burnett, for example — who has been lambasted for her comments on the protests — is a former Citigroup employee. “It’s not surprising that someone who is herself a corporate shill, and who is on a network that has corporate advertisers, would not depict Occupy Wall Street in the most favorable light,” Kilkenny said.
Corporate favoritism and self-censorship are just two ill effects of a heavily consolidated media system. Here’s another: There aren’t enough reporters on the ground to cover the protests blooming throughout the country. As companies have gobbled up media outlets across the country, they’ve cut their costs by laying off thousands of media workers, closing bureaus, paring down camera crews and sharing stories with outlets they used to compete against.
Many local media outlets aren’t equipped to cover a story like Occupy Wall Street with depth or true investigation. Instead, you’ll find two-minute news segments about activists protesting “corporate greed” (a made-for-TV agenda that simplifies a more complex movement), or stories focusing on arrests with only a brief reference to why people are gathering in droves.
When [reporters] say stuff like, ‘[The protesters are] scattered ideologically,’ what they mean is, this isn’t a traditional, hierarchical organization and it confuses me. I don’t understand the democratic process that they’ve chosen to adopt. I’m overwhelmed because I have to interview a lot of people and I just want to interview one person who’s the leader.’
John Farley is the multimedia Web editor with New York City’s public media magazine MetroFocus. On Sept. 24, he was arrested while reporting on the protests. In an email, he told Free Press how he thinks the mainstream media has been covering Occupy Wall Street.
By the second week of the protest, mainstream media began to acknowledge that the protests were happening, but the coverage was largely patronizing, even mocking. Coverage made fun of the relative youth of the protestors, of their attire and even of the fact that they had time to camp out on Wall Street because they don’t have jobs — ignoring the fact, of course, that joblessness is a cornerstone of their complaints.
Kilkenny said these judgments hid the real story, and made it hard for the audience to discern what was actually going on in Zuccotti Park. “Americans should be angry in the sense that this is the only meaningful resistance that has emerged since corporations robbed the country blind,” she said. “Now there’s actually a legitimate response to it, and what are they saying? ‘Oh, there’s hippies in a drum circle.’”
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