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Corporate Media Stumped On How To Cover The Occupy Movement

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opednews.com Headlined to H3 11/7/11

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Cross-posted from WhoWhatWhy

Conventional journalism is increasingly irrelevant in a time of crisis. We find abundant proof in a recent column from the New York Times' so-called "Public Editor," who is supposed to somehow magically represent the public interest and rarefied ethical values to the rest of the paper.

In this column, he says the media is having difficulty figuring out how to cover Occupy Wall Street and its offshoots.

What are the themes? How should The New York Times cover this movement that resembles no other in memory?

Certainly, media organizations are intrinsically better able to cover snapshot moments like official actions and pronouncements than movements or complex and subtly if rapidly evolving situations -- like climate change, or Occupy.

In any case, for answers, the Public Editor turns to colleagues outside The Times, and solicits their wisdom:

Stephen Buckley, dean of faculty, The Poynter Institute; former managing editor, St. Petersburg Times

To my mind, the compelling question driving the Occupy Wall Street story is: How come these people are so angry? And maybe more compellingly: Why did it take them so long to get angry? (We've been feeling the effects of a recession for more than four years....)

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[Snip]

First of all, "we" (being Mr. Buckley) presumably are not feeling the effects of the recession in quite the same way as those who lost their homes and jobs. Second of all, this is not a protest over the recession. It is the result of a few brave souls who finally had had enough of a lousy system and took to the streets, inspiring others to (gradually) follow.

Here's another deep thinker:

Jerry Ceppos, dean, Manship School of Mass Communication, Louisiana State University; former executive editor, San Jose Mercury News

This certainly must be the first significant movement for which I can't paint a picture of typical leaders and followers. How is that possible? Have I simply not followed the stories carefully? Or have we as journalists covered the forest and failed to profile the trees?

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Here are some ways I'd identify the trees:

  • Leadership tells you a lot about a movement. But I can't cite the name of a single Occupy Wall Street leader. I know some members say the groups are "leaderless." But I have trouble believing that this is an entirely organic movement that grew without a leader. I'd push hard to see if there are leaders and to profile them.

  • Likewise, I don't have a clear picture of a typical protester. Is there such a thing? If so, tell me the story of a few such people. These stories could be fascinating: Are the protesters ex-Lehman millionaires who lost it all in the melt-down? Or are they regular people who just can't get jobs? Or do they have jobs but think that financial life still is unfair? In addition, is the mix of protesters similar in each city?

[Snip]

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Author, investigative journalist, editor-in-chief at WhoWhatWhy.com

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