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Blatantly Biased Tabloids and Clueless Mainstream Media Keep Missing the Obvious Big Story at OWS

Many mainstream news outlets are flummoxed at best, condescending at worst, when it comes to their coverage of the new movement.

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So here's a tip for the reporters who are scared of Zuccotti Park: get off the 2/3 train at 60 Wall Street and enter a space that is quiet, taken over by circle after circle of protesters, using hand-signals and gestures and conversation to reach consensus-based decisions. Ask the people at these meetings--many of whom have "real" jobs or are students and teachers--what parts of their new process are better than the procedures they use at their offices or in classrooms. Ask them what they are planning, and when it will happen. New tents? Civil disobedience? Anti-oppression training? Ask them how they introduce each other using "preferred gender pronouns" and don't make fun of it, but note how it shows the way sophisticated gender theory has permeated the movement. Ask them where they're staying in New York City, or who's staying on their couches.

Not Buying Leaderlessness

On November 7, the New York Times public editor asked a group of his  media expert colleagues: "How should The New York Times cover this movement that resembles no other in memory?" The responses were almost universal in their derision of the movement's avowed uniqueness, and they were positive that any devotion to "leaderlessness" was a lie being passed off by a secret cabal of Occupy Wall Street leaders to deny their own existence.

One reporter for the Brooklyn Ink became  quite convinced that the media team are the "real leaders" of the movement; lost on him was the fact that this premature anointing had certain self-regarding elements.

But Occupy Wall Street is actually succeeding, without leaders. Are there a core of particularly active members? Yes. Have I started to notice regulars downtown moderating meeting and staffing desks? Yes. But while there may be point people, there are too many of them to even be a core. Every time I go downtown I meet more movement stalwarts, and more arrive each day. Yes, there are some things about Occupy Wall Street and its offshoots that resemble other old-school lefty movements. But this absolute dedication to horizontalism is real and it's big. And it deserves to be taken seriously.

Here's a story: how quickly the Internet has allowed the horizontal, leaderless, goal-less ethos of the movement to catch on, so that first-timers marching to Times Square or Foley Square were already using the human mic (they'd seen it on YouTube) and carrying signs that said "The Movement is the Message." Newcomers at GAs are embracing hand-signals. If all these people can understand and accept the direct democratic ideals of the movement, surely the media can.

Kevin Jones, commenting on the Public Editor's post at NYTimes.com, had this to advice to offer: 

Stop looking for leaders and answers. It's revisionist to do and you'll only find yourself behind the news--playing catch up. This is an open source movement ... Accept that it cannot be fit into preexisting categories and report on the organism itself as it grows and develops. Therein you will find the answers to many of the questions being asked....And be prepared to be patient--there is no rushing this process."

An Absurd Threshold for "Neutrality"

Occupy Wall Street's overarching message (income inequality and reckless financial institutions are bad) is a particularly pertinent one for media professionals, who have seen their sector shrink, their workload increase, and many of their jobs reduced to "contractor" status--no health insurance for you. 

And yet some of them, having been caught holding signs at protests, have been fired from jobs at public radio, while other reporters have to attend rallies clandestinely or refrain from chanting or using the "people's mic" to maintain their alleged neutrality. Neutrality, for many organizations, remains the hard and fast rule, when it's no secret anymore that pure objectivity doesn't exist, that journalists are people with opinions.

 
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