Tea Party Endorses ‘Lamestream’ Media Coverage of Tea Parties

Amy Gardner’srecent reporting on the Tea Party in the Washington Post has been very insightful. Today’s piece (10/27/10) deals with the activists’ views of the media.There’s astandard right-wing whine about mainstream media neglect, but actual Tea Party activists see things differently:

Most local tea party organizers interviewed in an extensive canvass this month by the Washington Post said media coverage of their groups has been fair, suggesting that perceptions of antagonism between the tea party and traditional news media are overstated.

Seventy-six percent of local organizers said that coverage of their groups is either very fair or somewhat fair. Only 8 percent said coverage has been very unfair; 15 percent said somewhat unfair.

It’s difficult to imagine many progressive activists could say the same thing. The truth is that Tea Party activism has receivedan abundanceof press coverage. But Gardner tries to make the case that this wasn’t so, at least early on:

Media coverage of the tea party has evolved markedly since the groups first began forming in February 2009.

Major news outlets paid little attention to the first wave of tax-day protests in April 2009 and even a large march the following September in Washington.

Those April 2009 anti-tax protests were actually well-covered by the media; as FAIR noted at the time, they werefeatured prominently on every network newscast, which is a pretty good indication that an event has been deemed important by the press. The idea that these events escaped the media’s notice is a popular one, butthere’sno good evidence toback it up.

As for otherTea Party coverage, Gardner cites the September2009 event in Washington, which happened around the same time as a gay rights National Equality march. The events were of comparable size, but as Julie Hollar noted (Extra!, 12/09), one was considered far more newsworthy:

In major newspapers, the Washington Post and L.A. Times ran articles about the Tea Party on the front page (9/13/09), and the New York Times (9/13/09) published a front-page photo (teasing an article inside); a month later, only the Post (10/12/09) put the gay march on A1. (USA Today didnâ┚¬Ã¢”ž¢t cover either rally.)

Across the handful of segments on network TV news, conservative protesters got twice as many quotes as gay rights protesters, 32 to 16. (CBS was even with eight apiece.)

It’s good to know that Tea Party activists realize that they’re not being ignored by the media. But it’s odd to see journalists try to argue that the movement was ever neglected; if anything, it’s hard to imagine a Tea Party movement would exist at all without the constant press attention it’s been getting all along.

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.