Thursday, January 15, 2009

Why wasn't this news?? - Local media blackout of a St. Louis pro-peace event

What events are 'worthy of reporting' by the media? How big should a protest crowd be before getting some coverage? And does the nature of the protest subject matter at all?

Or is it all at the discretion of the media reporters and their editors?

These questions were on the mind of many people I know, with significant sense of frustration for the last 5 days. And here is the reason why.

Last Saturday, over a thousand pro-peace demonstrators (1100-1200 by my estimate) walked through the streets of University City near the Delmar loop peacefully singing, and shouting pro-Palestinian and pro-peace slogans. At least 2 dozen police cars were there, with many dozens of police officers in helmets, with their riot batons in their hands, not in the scabbards.

The demonstration was organized by several pro-peace groups (Instead of War, Women in Black, Veterans for Peace, to name some). The demonstrators were of all religions and creeds, and of all races and ethnicities. And, believe me, traffic was not fun in that area for nearly two hours in the middle of a Saturday.

In a nutshell, the demonstration was quite noticeable to many many thousands of St. Louisans, to the police, and even to many pro-Israel groups that had token representation nearby with large Israeli flags.

Why, then, was not their ANY reporting of any significance about it in our local printed media, TV or radio stations? that is a question that irks many people I know, and probably all the demonstrators, and probably many other St. Louisans that were on the street that day, and possibly were hoping to know a bit more about what was going on there and why.

I truly do not know why such an event was ignored and probably your guess is as good as mine. But some assumptions tend to surface in such a situation: that it was not worthy on coverage, that readers and viewers are tired of hearing and reading about Gaza and Israel, or that the issue has been covered ad nauseam and one more article or video clip will not add much. Finally, and as the most aggressive/sinister of all assumptions, is the one suggesting that Pro-Israel lobby have the media in a choke hold and would not like to make known that there are a lot of average Americans that may sympathize with Palestinians these days.

While one or more of these factors could be at play, I am certain their contribution to over- or under-exposure of a particular issue would vary depending on the market, readership, and the issue at hand.

The Post Dispatch for example had done reasonable coverage of the latest Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and at least one its journalists have been under attack by pro-Israel readers of portraying local Palestinians, during a previous protest, in a human form. So I cannot accuse it of yielding to 'pro-Israel' lobby for not covering the rally. But I strongly disagree with their editors judgment that the event was not news-worthy.

Channel 4, surmised some friends, gave the rally the cold shoulder because one week before that there was a demonstration in their own front yard by pro-peace activists; so it was pay back time.

But how about Channle 2, 5 and 11. And how about KWMU, KMOX, etc. Who knows.

Yet it is intriguing to me that any event of that size on St. Louis streets would not get mentioned at all. And to have unanimous agreement among all local media to ignore such a large street event is even more intriguing.

Regardless of the political aspect of the event, blocking some section of St. Louis streets in the middle of the day on a Saturday for several hours for an event that required the presence of 2 dozen police cars and was attended by at least a thousand people should have gotten some attention from some media.

Wouldn't you think so?

  • Sorry. No links available, since it received NO coverage. But one St. Louis blogger, Umar Lee, who attended the rally, posted about the event on his blog and had some pictures of the event as well here.
  • If you know of any worhtwhile coverage please let me know. and if you have some good pictures of the crowd, please let me know and I will be happy to post you pictured here.
Shiela Musaji, a St. Louis Muslim Activist and writer has writtena nice article about the rally, and it is worth reading. Here is the link:
-- Protests for Gaza, St. Louis and Worldwide


  1. Br. Khaled, i am sure you sent releases out to the local media. I am not sure why this wasn't covered, should have been. Could be many factors, too much going on and low on staff, someone dropped the ball. but surely some media outlets should have put out some coverage...

  2. \Khaled
    From my political experiences in Berkeley California and in St Louis, I think there are three parts to this news blackout:

    1. although the peace rally did involve large numbers of people new to attending st Louis's peace rallies, it was organized primarily by Instead of War (IOW). The following is not criticism but a fact--really a compliment: IOW has been having peace rallies here in the Loop and Forest Park and elsewhere for years on end. So although it's news (because of new Muslim and Palestinian participants and others), to the media it still may have the ring of what we might call "same old stuff". In general, then, a peace rally by IOW is not considered to be newsworthy--and the organizers could not have reliably predicted a large crowd. the press is inured to IOW/ Women in Black stuff. See below

    2. contacting media has never been a strength of IOW. I went to an event protesting new monies for the Iraq war about three years ago. A whole group of us spent the day at Carnahan's office in a sit-in--this was , I forget, i think right before the important event in Congress. There were about 20 of us there reading aloud the names of those killed in Iraq. As planned ahead ,about four or five members of IOW had decided to be arrested in protest at this event. EVEN SO, with a sit in and arrests of four or five people, no media covered it--and sit-ins and arrests particularly are inherently better video . But I think IOW had not effectively notified the media of this ---at least that was my impression, from my friend who is/has been very involved in IOW. I am not sure that anyone is consistently notifying any media contacts, much less being savvy, writing good press releases, coming up with tactics to interest the press, etc

    3.I think the flak that the media receive from the right wing Jewish voices in town also has a dampening effect But I really do believe the first two elements are more significant. My guess is that the organizers have not figured out how to court the media or alert them to all the new attendees which could make for some visually interesting footage.

    I used to be part of a grassroots organization which protested time after time, and we faced much of the same blackout, also much because of number one and number two above. In that case, we were protesting nuclear weaponry, which wasn't really as controversial a stance as the stance to have Israel stop the attacks....the kinds of people who have the willingness to organize rallies of different sorts often don't have the patience, the pre-planning, or the contacts with local papers/radio etc. Which certainly the organizers of the "stand with Israel" rally had.