March 21 2010
Carrie L. Lukas
On March 10th, the Washington Post 's Nicole Norfleet wrote a feature story entitled "Thousands rally to support health-care reform in downtown Washington." It's a pretty straight piece. It provides quotes from activists calling for passage of the health care legislation, and a brief rebuttal with the insurance industry's perspective. Notably, the picture accompanying the story parrots the rally's organizers estimates of the crowd-5,000-and in the second to last paragraph, Norfleet reports that:
No one was arrested during Tuesday's demonstration, Elliot said. But there was a minor skirmish between police and protesters when some tried to gain access to a parking tunnel next to the hotel.
Fast forward to the rally that took place yesterday on the Mall to oppose health care legislation.
The Washington Post's only article covering the rally for March 20th has the headline "'Tea party' protesters accused of spitting on lawmaker, using slurs." It details accusations made by Members of the Black Caucus and Rep. Barney Frank that protesters used inappropriate language and spit at them as they entered the Capitol. Yet video footage brings at least one of the charges into question. CNN has footage of one Representatives who claimed to be harassed as he entered the building, which shows the crowd simply chanting "vote no."
This doesn't mean that no one at the rally said anything inappropriate. Allegations made should be covered. But there should also be some balance. The Washington Post all but ignores the rally other than to report these allegations.
The Washington Post provided some pictures of the protest, one of which had the caption, "Hundreds of conservative activists gather outside the U.S. Capitol to protest health-care legislation." Was it really hundreds? The mainstream media avoided offering an estimate of crowd size beyond "hundreds" or "thousands," but an analysis of the photographs taken of the rally, using the rule of thumb provided by Park Serve on how many people fill up a square foot, suggests that the crowd size was in excess of 30,000.