October 19th, 2011
Occupy Wall Street: As (Not) Seen on TV
One month into the Occupy protests and I’ve been fascinated with the media coverage of the movement. From the media stations set up by protesters at Occupy Wall Street to the media blackout-turned-circus surrounding the protests, there is so much -and at times so little- being discussed. Case in point: Internet coverage versus television coverage of the protests.
A few weeks ago Emily Long posted a piece about the Pew/Knight Foundation report findings on how differently people interact with the media. The research tells us, “people younger than 40 are more likely to use the Internet for more news on a wider variety of topics” whereas “people 40 or older are more likely to begin with newspapers, then go to TV stations and then to the Internet.” The 99% over 40 who are largely affected by the issues addressed through the Occupy Wall Street protests are the ones turning to television, not the Internet, first. Surprisingly, TV networks aren’t offering the most well-rounded coverage of the movement for their viewers.
From Fox News to CNN, it’s as though the same conversation is happening again and again: What is this movement about? The responses range from “nothing” to “hippies” to “the economy” and while some pundits and guests have offered important critique, it is often framed in opposition. There have only been a few people following the protests that have taken them seriously and offered them some sort of depth on television: Jon Stewart, Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow, Lawrence O’Donnell.
The Internet, especially Twitter, Facebook and various civic action organizations, have helped the movement spread globally and inspired global conversations and criticisms of the protests. There are various Livestreams, independent news organizations, and even The Occupy Wall Street Journal. Still, it’s not surprising that network television stations are engaging a much more superficial discussion; one which seems to show so little of what the movement is really about. This is the coverage that much of our country is watching, and there is so much they’re missing because of it.
As many critical voices point out, this movement against Wall Street is a symbol for larger inequalities that have long existed for people in our society. Poverty is racialized and people of color in the U.S. have experienced class discrimination since the founding of this country. From the issue of gay marriage to the Prison Industrial Complex, all of these social issues directly affect and are affected by the economy, and perhaps this is a movement where all of these issues can be addressed. This conversation is long overdue and while the Internet is the place for it to happen, I wish it was more accessible to those citizens who, as the Pew/Knight Foundation points out, turn to TV instead of the Internet for their nightly news.