Accuracy in Media

If a revolution happens and no reporters cover it, will it make a sound? That’s a good question because an anti-tax revolution as American as they come is under way, and the country’s top newsmen could care less.

Anti-tax protests have been sprouting like spring flowers from sea to shining sea the past couple of weeks. Inspired by the “Chicago Tea Party” rant of CNBC business analyst Rick Santelli, taxpayers have rallied in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Nashville, New York, Philadelphia and Washington, among other locales. A national “Tax Day Tea Party” of coordinated rallies is planned for April 15.

But if you only get your news from the mainstream media, you probably wouldn’t know the protests ever happened. Most major news outlets have provided zero coverage of any of the individual events or the grassroots movement as a whole. The conservative-leaning Internet startup Pajamas TV is the only outlet consistently covering the protests, which totaled nearly 30 by PJTV’s count after last weekend.

Readers who know of the gatherings are beginning to ask questions. Hence this defense from the Los Angeles Times for its failure to cover a protest focused not on the national level but in California:

We all agree that the tax issue is extremely important. That’s why, in the last few weeks alone, the Times has run more than 30 stories about the tax and budget proposals being pushed by the Legislature and the governor. That’s also why we ran a tax chart so you could see how much the new taxes would cost you. …

Between now and the May 19 election, we plan extensive coverage of both sides of the campaign over the ballot initiatives. We’ll explain the issues, tell readers what both sides are saying, figure out where the money is coming from to pay for the campaigns on both sides and show people what’s at stake. What we’re not likely to do is cover a lot of individual rallies — from either side. That’s not a political thing. We don’t cover a lot of government-worker rallies in favor of tax hikes, either.

To the extent that the Times maintains a consistent policy on covering rallies, that is a reasonable news judgment. But choosing not to cover individual rallies is quite different from blissful ignorance about the taxpayer unrest at the root of the protests. The ongoing reluctance of the establishment press to cover the grassroots revolt against tax-and-spend government is looking more and more like dereliction of journalistic duty.

The time-honored media tradition of trend stories is abused too often, but sometimes a trend is real and demands reporting. The tea parties and the anger that underlies them — an anger increasingly being voiced by celebrities like Whoopi Goldberg and Jim Cramer, too — are in the latter category.

As I’ve watched the movement materialize and my journalistic colleagues sit on their hands the past few weeks, my mind has drifted to the government-funded cartoon series “Liberty’s Kids,” which my wife and I just finished watching with our kids.

Apprentice journalists James and Sarah, the Ben Franklin proteges and stars of the show (who amazingly never age), are driven by passion to tell every story they can about the American Revolution unfolding before them. They have different viewpoints — James the colonial and Sarah the British loyalist — but both embrace the privilege they have been given to write the first draft of history. They give no quarter to doubters, naysayers and cynics.

True, James and Sarah are just cartoon characters, and the creators of the sometimes-politically-correct series had the benefit of hindsight in portraying the young journalists. But I can’t help but think that if they were around today, they would be covering the modern-day equivalent of the Boston Tea Party.

Their real-life counterparts, on the other hand, have become too jaded and cynical to think anyone could get that upset about taxes.

UPDATE: Patterico’s Pontifications shoots holes through the L.A. Times’ defense of its decision not to cover the protest — and instead to mock it as “a radio stunt.” So contrary to its editor’s suggestion, the Times doesn’t have a consistent policy on covering protests; they just cover the ones they agree with.


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