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'Occupy Wall Street': Why this revolution isn't made for TV

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Tom Rosenstiel, director of The Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ) at the Pew Research Center, notes that coverage of the events involving the Occupy protests represented 12 percent of the economic stories, or about 2 percent of all the news studied in PEJ’s News Coverage Index last week.

“It is complicated and probably fraught to compare different news events that occur years apart,” he says via e-mail, “but that is more than the tea party received initially when it held its first rallies in February 2009.”

However, the Observer points out, coverage is missing the bigger picture in favor of the simple narrative, noting, “when the shows started interviewing protesters, they were more focused on the actions of the police than what the protesters were fighting about.” This includes the YouTube video of a New York policeman pepper-spraying young women and the mass arrests on the Brooklyn Bridge over this past weekend.

No surprises there, says Mark Naison, a history professor at Fordham University in New York, who argues that broadcast media favor simple visual narratives. If the imagery does not lend itself to a quick explanation, and the subjects themselves intentionally represent many points of view, as is the case with the Occupy movements, then the journalist’s task becomes complicated.

“The media has focused on the pepper spray incidents and the arrests on the bridge because these are familiar to them,” he says, noting that there were issues of police mishandling of protesters in New York City when the Republican National Convention was held there in 2004.

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