Story made for the media
I’m a sucker for a good story. All this Occupy stuff is like eye candy for the media, especially for TV.
You can just imagine what has been going on in TV news meetings:
Reporter: “Hey, we got a bunch a guys holding signs and chanting downtown. They’re wiggling their fingers up in the air, banging on drums and stuff, and pitching tents down at the park!”
Assignment Editor: “Well, get every camera we have rolling … and now! We can take a break from those six crime stories we lead the broadcast with!”
OK, OK, us print guys aren’t exactly innocent. We appreciate a good protest as well.
But how exactly do we find the balance point between covering a protest and being used by protesters?
Look, it’s no secret why protesters protest. They need to get their message out and they mostly do that from media coverage.
And the protesters will be happy to admit it.
It is important to note that simply wanting to draw media coverage isn’t a bad thing. The media actually has a proud history of giving a voice to the voiceless.
Big business and big unions and big government all have the power to get their message out. But average, struggling people have no such power. The media is their hope.
Still, there almost always comes a point where either the story gets stale or the message simply isn’t resonating. And that’s where the media has to begin to make difficult decisions. Do we stay or do we go?
I contacted my friend, Oregonian Editor Peter Bhatia, several days ago about the complexities of covering protests like this one.
“I agree it is difficult. We feel like we have had to stay on top of the Occupy story locally because it continues to run and continues to be a topic of local interest.
“We have asked ourselves the same questions you describe about relevance, are we being used, how much is the right amount of coverage, etc.
“To date, we’re staying with it because it is still playing out.”
Peter is absolutely right. You ask yourself the tough questions and then you make the best decision you can based on the circumstances.
Who is this guy?
As noted, I’m a sucker for an interesting story, so the day after the Portland police routed the Occupy camp from two parks, I went down there to see the aftermath.
Sure enough, the joint was cleared out. I mean, I couldn’t find a protesting soul.
Really, just one guy. He was on a corner holding a sign. With a very simple message.
“Save the Whales.”
I was confused. How is this fitting in? Even when I asked him how I could help with the whales, he sort of winked and said he didn’t know.
Then I figured it out!
It was the classic but rarely used double reverse secret message play.
Follow me now.
Whales, you see, is the term used in Vegas for the big, big, big gamblers. Definitely the 1 percent in Sin City. He supports the 1 percent. But — wait for it — by supporting these 1 percenter fat cats who regularly lose millions, you’re really supporting all those folks who stay employed servicing these guys.
For example, someone has to catch and then serve sushi to them. And they’re the 99 percenters!
It’s genius, I tell ya. Genius!
Lou Brancaccio is The Columbian’s editor. Reach him at 360-735-4505 or firstname.lastname@example.org.