If the reporters like the issue a group is demonstrating against, such as is happening in the Wisconsin public union protests, then they describe the protest as a grassroots movement spawned by a groundswell of anger over a perceived injustice. If the news media is not in favor of the issue involved in a demonstration, such as with the Tea Party movement, then reporters refer to the demonstrations as phony, orchestrated events designed to unfairly embarrass someone the media likes.
As a reporter and then as a communications professional, I knew that every demonstration I ever witnessed was orchestrated by some group or coalition of groups. The planning of such events became even more orchestrated with the advent of the mini-cam, and the strategies and methodologies employed by demonstrators became almost predictable to those of us who had a professional interest in being either a part of or witness to these protests. Of course, whenever someone would questions the motives and methods of demonstrators, the advocacy group or groups involved would denounce the questioning as a way of averting attention away from the real issues.
Nevertheless, I always thought that the methods behind such media stunts, as I call them, deserved at least some attention, if not just as much attention as the issues involved. It seems strange to me that the very news media that celebrated the civil rights and counter-culture demonstrations of the 60s and 70s, and now heralds the demonstrators in Madison, Wisconsin, has been intent on ridiculing and even discrediting the citizen outrage that spilled out in the various town hall meetings and demonstrations that took place during 2009 and 2010 by the Tea Party groups.
I recall the civil rights demonstrations and marches that I watched on television when I was in grammar schools and high school. Most black people in the south, where these demonstrations took place, were too afraid to protest. Therefore, the Southern Christian Leadership Council, under the direction of Martin Luther King, Jr., orchestrated and planned bus and car caravans with people from all parts of the country to descend on Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Georgia, so that the marches and demonstrations could be held. At that time, no one in the media condemned the orchestrations of such events, and no one dared to say that such planning made the cause of civil rights less just. Do you remember the Hollywood celebrities that marched along side King during many of these demonstrations? They weren’t from the towns in which they were demonstrating, but did that make the cause of civil rights any less noble?
Even though much of the coverage by a large segment of the media is negative toward the Tea Party demonstrators, I was hoping that the media was about to usher in a new era in which all the motivations, strategies and methodologies of every advocacy group would now undergo scrutiny. I agree with many who say that the liberal advocates in the media may have unfairly characterized the demonstrators as right-wing kooks and bigots, but I was still happy to finally see the media begin focusing on what is behind much of what I believe are made-for-media events.
Alas, the Wisconsin demonstrations are taking place, and most of the mainstream media is back to celebrating the demonstrators. Why aren't the reporters examining the motives and methodologies of the Wisconsin demonstrators? Shouldn't these factors be explored just as much as the other issues involved?
Believe me when I say that reporters know the drill. Most of them have seen many times the typical theatrical media stunts that advocacy groups utilize, but they seldom tell the public that part of the story. I would love to see just once a reporter admit in a news story or during a news broadcast that virtually every media person under the sun received a news release announcing the protest before it began. Why aren’t the dubious and sometimes even dishonest practices of the advocacy and activist groups in Wisconsin just as news worthy as any dubious action of a government official or corporate head?
Once again, I contend that if we really had journalists instead of advocates in the news media, the public would become just as aware of the questionable tactics of activists and advocates as they are of crooked government officials and wayward corporation executives. When searching for the truth, you shouldn’t pick sides, and if you do, you shouldn’t call yourself a journalist. I want to know who is behind all demonstrations, not just the Tea Party events. In my opinion, knowing such information does not detract from the issues, it provides a more accurate and complete picture of those involved, offering a greater understanding of the issues.