Things about national media coverage of Wisconsin that are completely inaccurate
Every day I check Media Matters and The Media Research Center’s Newsbusters, the country’s two most prominent “media watchdog” groups, for their spin on events in the country. Needless to say, Wisconsin has become a prominent theme in their coverage and has led to some interesting, but mostly airheaded, analysis of the union conflict from the outside.
“Historical? A balloon makes history? Even when liberals lose badly, they want to put a balloon in their state scrapbook for all the memories of their losing ways. This seems to be more emotional than rational.”
Aside from the shrill “DAMN LIBERALS” tone that stains this (and every other Newsbusters) piece, author Tim Graham misses the crucial, newsworthy angle on the piece: the Wisconsin State Historical society wants to take the balloon for preservation.
If there’s one theme about the partisan media I’ve taken away from the protests, it’s that national groups (see: MSNBC, FoxNews) will stop at nothing to disregard any local analysis of a local issue. Everything about Wisconsin for major outlets has been a battle between unions and Governor Walker resulting in the following hypothetical outcomes:
a. Walker wins, unions lose and Republicans save jobs and the budget and Wisconsin rises like a phoenix out of a (manufactured) fiscal crisis. (The Newsbusters view)
b. Walker wins, unions lose and thousands of Wisconsinites’ lives are destroyed by a dictatorial governor. (The Ed Schultz view)
c. Unions win, Walker loses and Wisconsin plunges into a debt crisis, risks defaulting like Greece or California and brings Sharia law to America (The Glenn Beck view)
d. Unions win, Walker loses and Wisconsinites turn Walker into lame duck (The unrealistically hopeful view of many progressives)
For those outlets that answer a) and c), the balloon symbolises some sort of destructive movement that has no regard for state finances or leadership. God forbid a cute feature about it be published in a local paper, right?
But the truth is this: the State Journal has been one of the most consistently non-partisan news sources throughout the entire #wiunion saga. Some of Mary Spicuzza’s work has been used to attack protesters as disruptive and troublemaking. But being a fair-weather friend is very convenient, isn’t it?
With such a polarized environment in both politics and media coverage developing, media watchdog groups are only further fueling the fire to turn Badgers against Badgers. Given my personal political leanings, I agree with much of Media Matters’ analysis. But they are only ground soldiers in a needless war to control the news.
The analysts in charge of watchdog groups wear blinders—they can’t understand that the news is just as unchangeable as the weather; you don’t control the storm, you watch it happen before your eyes. That’s what local outlets like the Journal Sentinel and State Journal or international outlets like the BBC and Al Jazeera have done, and it’s one of the biggest problems about national media that the next guard of reporters and executives must fix.
Reporter arrests would never happen in Madison…outside the Capitol
As I tried to leave, I was told by the same blond female officer to “stay put.” I told her I was leaving and attempted to exit the building. I was then surrounded by officers, and told to remain still or I would be arrested.
I didn’t move, but I tried to get the attention of a group of cab drivers who were standing nearby. At this point I was arrested.
I spent the remainder of the day in a cell in the basement of the building. I was released at about 4PM.
In many of these cases, the arrested reporters have been working for mainly ideological outfits. Vermont-based freelancer Sam Mayfield, notable for her arrest at the Capitol this month, should not have been arrested. But she’s been pretty vocal since the arrest and, based on her Twitter feed, she’s pretty unabashedly anti-Walker. Epstein and Pete Tucker, who runs an independent local website and once worked for Pacifica Radio, both work for political or activist publications.
This, of course, doesn’t legitimize their arrests or the curtailment of free-speech that the arrests represent. But so far these arrests are only used as rallying cries in certain communities. Mayfield’s incident was only more fuel for the anti-Walker fire, while this week’s arrests in Washington bring back memories of a similar event last month at the Jefferson Memorial. In both cases, United States Park Police officers made the arrests.
But until a cop arrests Jessica Arp or Bob Woodward for taking their iPhones out at an open meeting, public attention will never rally behind reporters. It’s a shame since these incidents should spark a serious discussion about free speech and the 1st Amendment’s current state. But frankly, people don’t care.
Luckily, I’ve never had to worry about anything like this happening at a public meeting in Madison. People on even the smallest committees are encouraging enough to the press (and tolerant of sometimes excruciatingly naïve student reporters) that a similar arrest at a Madison city meeting is unthinkable.
Unfortunately, I can’t say the same thing about a meeting at the Capitol.