(NOTE: Please read the update to this alert.)
National Public Radio and the New York Times arrived at the same conclusion about the anti-war rally in Washington, D.C. this weekend: The turnout was disappointing. But neither report matched reality.
The Times account on October 27 was vague, reporting that "thousands of protesters marched through Washington's streets," adding that "fewer people attended than organizers had said they hoped for." The report, which was under 500 words, appeared on page 8 of the paper.
On the October 26 broadcast of All Things Considered, NPR's Nancy Marshall went even further to disparage the turnout by offering an estimate on the crowd's size: "It was not as large as the organizers of the protest had predicted. They had said there would be 100,000 people here. I'd say there are fewer than 10,000."
While a turnout of less than 10,000 might have been a disappointment, NPR's estimate is greatly at odds with those of other observers. The Los Angeles Times (10/27/02) reported that over 100,000 participated in the march, while the Washington Post's page A1 story (10/27/02) was headlined "100,000 Rally, March Against War in Iraq." The Post added that Saturday's march was "an antiwar demonstration that organizers and police suggested was likely Washington's largest since the Vietnam era." While both the Times and NPR reported the apparent disappointment of the organizers, none were named or quoted directly. Those who spoke to other news outlets expressed just the opposite; organizer Mara Verheyden-Hilliard told the Washington Post the march was "just extremely, extremely successful."
Perhaps someone at NPR noticed: The next day Weekend Edition anchor Liane Hansen introduced a report about anti-war demonstrations by saying that "organizers say 100,000 protesters were gathered." The New York Times did not run any follow-up article updating its estimate of the crowd size.
ACTION: Contact NPR and the New York Times and ask them why they did not provide more substantive reports about the anti-war demonstrations in Washington, D.C. on October 26.
National Public Radio
Jeffrey A. Dvorkin
New York Times
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[Corrected version, 10/30/02]