Published: 21 October
Region: US & Worldwide
By Pedja Urosevic
They’ve been ‘occupying’ Wall Street for almost a month, but people looking for information on what it’s all about are forced to go offshore for television journalism that will explain it to them. Mainstream media coverage of the Occupy Wall Street protest in the United States has been lamentable. As Jon Stewart, host of The Daily Show put it; the American news media "moved its coverage dial from 'blackout' to 'circus.' But those are the only two settings it has."
And he seems to be right, proving that even in the ‘land of the free’ there is still much to do in the push for democracy, equality and social mobility.
Fox News has sneered at the protest as “all that hippie nonsense”, but what’s happening in New York has caught the imagination of other news channels, particularly the international networks such as Al Jazeera and Russia Today.
Both outlets have their own reasons for extensive coverage of protests in the US, but they have also filled a gap left by American journalists whose coverage has been minimal and often dismissive without any serious reflection on street protests that have spread quickly to other urban centres in the US and abroad.
Jon Stewart’s caustic comment on the performance of American media and their coverage resonates around the world, even in Russia.
Given Russian experience of state propaganda that goes back almost over a century, their view as observers without a reason for spin of their own is relevant. This is how Russia Today sees American mainstream coverage of the Wall Street protest:
“Step 1 – Ignore. Step 2 – Ridicule. Step 3 – Undermine. That’s the approach some media outlets seem to have been taking when it comes to Occupy Wall Street”.
Independent journalists have noticed that among the protesters you rarely see their colleagues from major networks. The reason for that is that their satellite trucks are safe on the other side the street, opposite the Zuccotti Park.
Journalists from major networks are only on hand to report when there is violence and/or arrests. This is what you get when you Google “Fox on Occupy Wall Street”.
Surely, the best choice for covering the protest for Fox News is the notorious Geraldo Riviera, their most controversial and colourful correspondent. (See Below.)
His reports soon became epic, so popular among the protesters that they chanted “Fox News Lies!” while he was reporting live from Zuccotti Park.
“Is this the face of the 99% of America, or is it in a way a 1% of a different stripe?” – asks Riviera.
Viewers of one of the biggest networks in the USA, namely FOX news, were not informed about the first arrest of protesters - taking part in an event that was one of the biggest in the country’s recent history - when 780 people were detained on October 2 on Brooklyn Bridge.
Protest organisers say they take their inspiration from the Arab Spring that swept through Africa and the Middle East this year.
The protest began in July with the launch of a campaign website calling for a march and a sit-in at the New York Stock Exchange.
Usually, we emphasise the need to include the voices of minorities in media as a way of attracting broader audience to current news and events. In this case, some networks stood up for the minority - the wealthy and powerful - while failing to represent the voices of the socially disadvantaged and in the process to promote social mobility.
Rivera with his ‘is it in a way a 1% of a different stripe?’ question is very close to truth, though from a completely different point of view.
Protesters may be small in number but in this case they reflect the aspirations and concerns of a vast community of socially disadvantaged people in America. They are not afraid to speak their minds, to stand up for their rights and to confront the deceptive handling of the truth by some media with links to politics and the world of business.
The same wealthy minority who own the influential media are powerful in Wall Street and in Congress and their actions underline the need for more professionalism and, in the case of the United States, the need to reinforce public service values by strengthening networks like National Public Radio and Television.
More on Geraldo:
- Soon after 9/11, Riviera joined Fox News as a war correspondent covering the war against the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.
- In 2001, he reported from a scene of a friendly fire incident, allegedly in Afghanistan, but it was later revealed he was 300 miles away from where the shooting took place.
- He was suspended but he was back on the frontline in 2003 in Iraq, travelling with the 101st Airborne Division famously carrying a gun – “to get Saddam Hussein.”
- During a Fox broadcast, Rivera began to disclose plans for an upcoming operation, even going so far as to draw a map in the sand for his audience. The military immediately condemned the action saying it put the operation at risk, and threatened to expel him from Iraq.
- In 2005, Rivera engaged in a feud with The New York Times over their allegations that he pushed aside a member of a rescue team in order to be filmed "assisting" a woman in a wheelchair down some steps in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
- On October 10, 2011, he was filmed by Russia Today being jeered by the Occupy Wall Street protesters at Liberty Square. The crowd chanted, "FOX News lies!" until Rivera and his camera crew left.
(Source on Riviera, Wikipedia and research)