January 29, 2007

Three People Attend Washington Anti-War Protest


I got an interesting email from a reader yesterday about Saturday’s anti-war demonstrations.  He said he was looking around the main news sites for photos of the size of the protests, but mostly all he could find were celebrity pics.

That lead me to the newswire at YahooNews, where the protest coverage — concerning crowd shots, at least — was confined almost strictly to Washington. Still, I found at least as many crowd scenes as celebrity shots (if that isn’t a commentary right there).  What I didn’t see much of, however, were those longer angles offering a broader sense of the scale.  What seemed to shape perception just as much, however, were the captions.  Repeatedly, they noted that “thousands of people” had shown up to participate.

Thousands?  Checking some news headlines, the number of participants were consistently described in the “tens of thousands.”

(Actually, the most detailed crowd data I found was in the Washington Post photo gallery.  One slide said: “…the rallies stretched the entire length of the route from the Mall to the east front of the Capitol and back to the Mall.”  A following slide stated: “The crowd, while exuberant, seemed significantly smaller than the half million people organizers said were present, and may not have matched similar protests in September 2005 and January 2003.”  … Even if the rally “only” drew a-hundred-and-fifty to two-hundred-thousand, however, it’s curious that the story attached to the WAPO slide show, still carried that minimal designation: “Thousands Protest Bush Policy.”)

Thinking about the disconnect between the Yahoo newswire photos and the actual event, I was then interested how The Times would visualize it.

Maybe the photo editor at the NYT would tell you, in regards to covering demonstrations, that crowd shots don’t capture attention anymore, or that the paper is always trying to find new ways to capture the reader’s attention regarding these things.  Anyway, counting the three people above — as well as the Marine Dad on the pick-up truck in the second pic accompanying the Times article — we know at least four people were there.

Perhaps The Times felt its bases were fully covered, however, by also linking to a You Tube page of the event?

In the “evolving by the day” world of on-line journalism, this was certainly a novel move.  The rationale, however, seems either awkward or suspect.  For instance, when I checked the You Tube page last night, right after the article was posted, none of the videos included the event itself.  That’s wasn’t the case today, but if the aim of The Times, at least partially, was to supplement their “picturing” of the demonstration with theYou Tube content, the choice was a weird one given the extreme variability of pickings in terms of format, quantity and quality.  Even more problematic, however, was the fact that the videos were mostly partisan.  Given no context,  were moderates and conservatives (not to mention liberals not that up on YT) supposed to know they were being transferred to NetRoots TV?

Aside from the numbers, I’m also interested in your take on the view of the Capitol new hippies photo itself.

(hat tip: Dick)

(image: Veronika Lukasova for The New York Times. January 27, 2006. nytimes.com)

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Michael Shaw
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