Friday, January 21, 2005

Amy Goodman warned us about "The Lies of the Times"

Amy Goodman (with David Goodman) has written an excellent book that we've mentioned on this site many times: The Exception to the Rulers. And on Sunday's lists of books you cited, with forty-five members going on the record noting their favorite books, The Exception to the Rulers was noted eight times. (As always, check my math. And I'm counting the five members who now put out the incredible Third Estate Sunday Review as one since they weighed in as a group.)

The point? Most of you know how wonderful this book is. And those of you who haven't yet read it, know Amy Goodman as a host (along with Juan Gonzalez) of Democracy Now! which may be the last broadcast news that still focuses on news that actually impacts our lives.

If you haven't read the book, please consider reading it. Check your library or check your bookstores.

Today the New York Times dismissed the nation wide protests against the Bully Boy's inauguration. With a snarky, dismissive tone, they dismissed the protestors in D.C. and they rendered the protestors across the nation invisible. Hard to believe the Times of all papers would do that?

Maybe not so hard to believe. We're quoting from Goodman (and Goodman)'s The Exception to the Rulers, chapter seven "The Lies of Our Times." And we're focusing on pages 147 to 149:

On October 26, 2002, the Democracy Now! crew headed to Washington, D.C., to cover a major protest against an attack on Iraq. Although the police in Washington, D.C., no longer issue official estimates of crowd size, they told us unofficially that there were between 150,000 and 200,000 people.
The next day, The New York Times reported that "fewer people had attended than organizers had hoped for . . . even though the sun came out." NPR reported "fewer than 10,000" showed up.
It was clear to all of us who were actually there (more on this in a moment), including the police, that the size of the crowd was significant. In addition to our broadcast on Pacifica, C-Span was carrying the protest live. Anyone watching from home could clearly see the masses of people. And not all media outlets misreported the event. The Washington Post headline was ANTIWAR PROTEST THE LARGEST SINCE '60S; ORGANIZERS SAY 100,000 TURNED OUT.
The Times had gotten it so wrong that we had to ask: Was the reporter even there?
. . .
[Mike Burke, Democracy Now! producer, tracked down some of the people quoted in the Times and found out that the Times reporter interviewed them . . . by phone.]
The UNC student said, "She did interview me at the rally -- on my cell phone. I asked her why she wasn't here. She said she was working on another story." It turns out that the Times reporter covering the rally was pulled away to work on the Washington sniper story that day.
Now, we all know that the Times has an army of reporters it could deploy to cover any story, but it's a matter of what they care about and where they decide to put their resources.
Three days later, The New York Times ran another story on the same protest. . . . "The turnout startled even organizers . . ." stated this new, improved Times report. The article continued, "The demonstrations on Saturday in Washington drew 100,000 by police estimates and 200,000 by organizers.'"
. . .
Who do you believe: The New York Times . . . or The New York Times?
Democracy Now! attempted to question the reporter and her editors at the Times about their coverage, but the Times declined to comment. Finally, after we did our show on the misreporting, the reporter called us and confirmed that she had left the protest before it had even started. She had seen only the early crowds trickling in, not the actual demonstration. When she realized that the rally was much bigger, she called in a correction to her editors, but they didn't change the numbers.

. . .
After Democracy Now! ran a story on the rally article discrepancies, producer Kris Abrams asked a Times editor, "Why didn't you print a correction stating that your first article was wrong?"
Because we didn't make a mistake, he replied.
"Well, what do you call it, then?" she asked.
A matter of emphasis, he answered.

Why did members of The Common Ills heap praise on the Times for their first two weeks coverage of the human costs of the tsunami? Because the paper chose to work that story from every angle. They "flooded the zone" with that story as only they can still do (because they're one of the few papers that still has a huge staff and originates the bulk of the stories their paper carries). We learned about victims in various areas, we learned about countries that some of you admitted you were new to (don't ever feel bad for admitting to learning something, I learned many new things as well -- including countries), we learned about the warnings that were registered outside of the region, we learned about scientists who were working towards ways to avoid a similar event from being as damaging, we learned about the tourists as well as the citizens of the area, we learned about the reactions of other countries, we heard from groups and organizations that were giving (and would be giving) aid, we heard from the UN and we heard from the administration, but most of all we heard from people effected by the events.

("Heard" includes "saw" -- certainly the Times ran some of the most powerful images in recent times and those photo-journalists certainly helped get the story out and enlarge our scope and understanding of the tragedy.)

This happened during a vacation period when so many people were off on holiday. That the Amy Waldmans and Ian Fishers (to name only two) were able to convey the scope of the damage and destruction is all the more amazing when you realize that this disaster occurred in what should have been a "slow news" period (there's no such thing). But with a limited staff (and no so-called "all stars" as so many of you pointed out) the paper did the best work they've done in years. It was truly something that they could take pride in.

The inauguration was a planned event. That they couldn't staff this to cover it from the same wide perspective is truly saddening. It's, as a Times editor told Democracy Now!'s Kris Abrams, a matter of emphasis.

And somewhere along the line, the paper decided the emphasis and the spotlight should go on the official events and only on those events. The people who traveled huge distances (and I met a great many of them) didn't matter. Why they were there was of no concern. The only thing that mattered was covering the balls and the speeches.

Guess what, that's not the full picture and the Times damn well knows that or should.

Even if they wanted to place more emphasis on the "action" -- the inauguration -- there was no reason for them to deny the "reaction" -- the activities of the people. But that's what they did.
And what could have been this wonderful portrait of all the aspects of the inauguration became instead a summary of the official events.

It's not reporting. And it's not up to any standard that the Times should hold itself to.
I saw a NPR reporter interviewing protestors. (I'm not sure whether she was local or national.) I saw Democracy Now! there. I saw people from independent media. I didn't see anyone from the Times interview anyone (and I was at several of the protests including the one covered by Democracy Now! at the Quaker church).

Where was the Times?

A number of us meeting for the first time, exchanged e-mails. This morning I sent out forty-two e-mails asking if anyone had spoken to any reporters for the Times or if they knew anyone who had. The forty-two contacted various people they knew from the protests. Out of close to 4,000 people, no one recalled a New York Times reporter speaking to them or anyone around them. (Four, however, recalled a LA Times reporter. Hopefully, the story by that reporter is linked to below.)

Where was the Times?

It is a matter of emphasis and if you weren't an elected official or someone "in power," you were rendered invisible by the Times. (They did slightly better covering Bush supporters attending events, but only slightly better.)

To read the Times, you learned nothing of the events along the parade route ("Turn Your Back on Bush"), you learned nothing of the moving speeches at the Quaker church, you learned nothing of Medea Benjamin and Code Pink's activities, of the various people who traveled from all over the nation (I spoke to two people who came from Hawaii just to protest, I didn't encounter anyone from Alaska but I'm told at least three people from that state traveled to the D.C. as well).

And guess what, those of us lucky enough to swing a trip to D.C. weren't the only ones protesting. Community members Dallas and In Dallas reported on the turnout for the protest they attended in Dallas, TX. Portland reported on what was happening in his city. Three NYC community members reported on the huge turnout in their city. (Which, of course, is the base of the New York Times but apparently, no reporter from the paper could be spared to cover even that.) I could go on. (And anyone who says: "Please share this" will be quoted on this site.)

It is a matter of emphasis in terms of deciding what you want to report on. And the Times showed no interest in reporting on the reactions of average citizens. They were more concerned with covering the official events.

That's not reporting.

With the tsunami, the Times poured all their resources (at a time when the resources were probably limited due to so many being on "holiday") into covering every aspect. Yesterday, they couldn't be bothered with recording (for history) a very vocal, nation wide movement.
It was shoddy reporting. The sort that if you found it in a small town weekly, you'd tell yourself, "Well they're turning out a paper on a shoe-string budget and they've got such a small staff."

The paper doesn't have that excuse. It won't wash. The reason this site was flooded with so much praise for the Times' initial coverage of the tsunami was because there was something to reach everyone. It wasn't "Oh my God, the tragedy of it all!" Each reporter (text or visual) was giving a "snapshot" of one area of the costs of the tsunami.

The paper was working the way it should, illuminating many areas and when you bumped into someone who read the Times, you shared what stood out to you and they shared what stood out to them.

If the paper wants to maintain their prominence, that's what they're going to have to do. Now maybe the "all stars" will resist mixing with the "common people." Then you assign one of your strong reporters who doesn't garner the attention of Elisbeth Bumiller, for instance. (And the "common people" probably aren't any more interested in mixing with Bumiller than she is with them.)

You do not render a national outpouring like this invisible.

Kara wondered if the Times disliked like protestors? I have no idea. But it really doesn't matter what they like or what they don't like because the job of the paper is to report.

It's been a crappy week for the Times (and judging by e-mails to this site, they've pretty much destroyed the good will they had built up early in the month) as they decided to turn the main section into a style section. A number of you have e-mailed, "I'm not paying for this ___!"
I hear you.

Let's hope the Times does. Let's hope they wake up at some point to the fact that they are a newspaper and not some house organ for the administration. I mean, if they want to be that, by all means do. But start charging them for the paper because your subscribers and your buyers are e-mailing this site that they won't continue to stand for this nonsense.

Brad: "If the paper doesn't start recognizing us as individuals and not poll respondents, if they don't start acknowledging the people of this country and not just the D.C. class, I'm not going to read the paper anymore. I didn't read crap like this when I was a kid, I've never had the need to press my face against the glass. The whole week read like pantings over those in power. There's a whole country, hell there's a whole world, out there that the paper is ignoring. And I'm in that world and if they want to ignore me they'll find out real quick that I can do the same with them."

Additional resources on the Times' poor coverage of the protests in October 2002 can be found at Democracy Now (, specifically
Who Do You Believe the New York Times Or the New York Times?: As the Nation's Paper of Record Changes Its Story On This Weekend's Anti-War Protests, We Look at How the Times and National Public Radio Have Minimized the Peace Movement .

To get the coverage that the Times overlooked of those protests, see the following Democracy Now! stories:

Saying "No" to War: From Boston to Washington, D.C. to Madison, Wisconsin, We Hear From Howard Zinn, Medea Benjamin and Others

Hundreds of Thousands Protest War From Coast to Coast: From D.C. to San Francisco to Seattle, to the Twin Cities and Dozens of Other Cities; We Hear From Rev. Jesse Jackson, Rev. Al Sharpton, Congresswoman Cynthia Mckinney (D-Ga), Former U.S. Attorney

For the coverage the Times failed to provide you today, check these links:

Democracy Now!:
Activists Disrupt Bush Inauguration Ceremony
Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark Calls For Bush Impeachment
Scenes from the Streets of DC: Democracy Now! Speaks With Supporters and Critics of Bush's Inauguration
Pentagon Turns Away Mothers of Soldiers Killed in Iraq
Undercover Police Dressed Like Activists Arrest Anti-Inauguration Protesters
Cynthia McKinney: "We Should Export Dignity Not Dictatorship"

DC Indymedia ( where you'll find the following:
* Protesters the big "tease" in evening news, Public security suffocating and obscene for what amounts to a private event
* Convergence Observance
* Police beat, pepper-spray anarchist march
* Washington DC Inaugural Protest Pictures 2005
* "Insurgents" Delay "Second Coming" of Bush
* One of the Most Powerful at the Vigil
* WSQT on the Counterinaugural-and the Inter-County Connector
* PHOTOS of Cops using pepper guns on protesters in DC

In Dallas sent this AP article from the Dallas Morning News "Scattered protests mark inauguration" which does acknowledge that protests were going on in places other than D.C.

Erika sent another AP article on the same topic "Thousands protest Bush's inauguration."

Tara sent this (go to the end of the article) about Maine's protest ("about a hundred" in Portland, Maine) "One Mainer's inspiration is another's reason to protest."

Information on the Jazz Funeral in New Orleans can be found here and here and at New Orleans Indy Media and also from New Orleans Indy (thanks Rob).

You should also check out Houston Indy Media (thanks Lois).

Please also check out NYC IndyMediaCenter for DC coverage and for the link to coverage from across the nation.

For more DC protest coverage, see (thanks Elaine).

Check out The Chicago Tribune for an article about nation wide protests (thanks go to BuzzFlash which has a number of articles on their site about the protests)

To read about protests in Berkeley and San Francisco read this San Francisco Chronicle article (again, the thanks on that go to BuzzFlash -- the site is worth visiting)

More news on Berkeley's protests can be found at the Berkeley Daily Planet.

To read about the protests in Boulder (including the high school students walk out) please read this Denver Post article.

Also check out the LA Times' "Mock Coffins, Real Anger" for D.C. coverage. (I believe this is the reporter that four people remember conducting interviews at the protests.)

For more information about Amy Goodman's Exception to the Rulers (and if you're interested in obtaining a copy signed by Goodman) click here. To read an excerpt (on blowback) from the book, click here.

I'll also note that Lizz Winstead and Rachel Maddow interviewed Medea Benjamin (of Code Pink among other organizations) on this morning's Unfiltered on Air America Radio. An archived broadcast should be posted here at some point, so please check (you're looking for the January 21st episode).

Code Pink really registered their presence at the organization and to learn more about this organization click here.