Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Front Page: Comparing '93 v '09

DC Gay Marches

This analysis was carried out by veteran gay progressive thinker Bill Dobbs of New York City. He's got some startling figures about how the media covered those two
marches - a huge drop in front page stories. Thanks, Bill, for updating your '93 project and comparing it with coverage of Sunday march and rally for LGBT rights. Here's the Dobbs take on front page news coverage of the two marches:
Today I tried to update a project from some years ago - Front Page: How American Newspapers Covered the 1993 March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay, and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation. The project was both a survey of the coverage and a traveling exhibit of 156 front pages from April 26, 1993.

Many of the newspapers gave that march very prominent coverage. My contention then was that no lesbian/gay organized event had ever received such wide notice.

Here are some highlights from '93:

87% had front page coverage (136 papers)

6% had headlines or photos on the front page referring to stories inside

6 % had inside stores

1% did not cover the march in Monday editions.

Back then it took quite a lot of effort to collect the papers. Now the Newseum www.newseum.org puts hundreds of newspaper front pages online everyday. With the Newseum material as a resource I tried to use the same sample of daily newspapers.

The 1993 sample was 156 daily papers including the largest by circulation along with some others for geographic balance, also a few with small circulation and two Spanish language papers.

Fast forward to 2009 and some of the papers have merged, gone out of business, unavailable, etc. – so the sample for this quick look is 145 papers from all 50 states and Washington, DC. published October 12, 2009.

Here’s what I found:

11% had front page (16 newspapers)

22% had a headline or photo on the front page referring to inside coverage (32 papers)

Without print editions handy it is not feasible to survey for the inside stories or papers that did not cover the story at all. This is a quick look and that may be all that’s possible for me to do.

For whatever the reasons the coverage of the 2009 event rarely made the front page. If the complete print editions were available one might be able to see sidebars, accompanying graphics, photos, etc. and draw some conclusions about the overall quality of coverage.

For example, some papers in 1993 took the trouble to do stories about local contingents heading off to DC. How original was the reporting? No doubt the AP story was picked up by many outlets in 1993 and 2009 but my sense is that more papers assigned their own reporters to do the coverage in 1993.

These events had different organizing schemes and which may have impacted coverage – the 1993 march enjoyed a broader community consensus.

Here are the 16 papers with front page coverage of Sunday’s event:

Los Angeles Daily News CA

Denver Post CO

New Haven Register CT

Washington Post DC

Chicago Tribune IL

Louisville Courier-Journal KY

Bangor Daily News ME

Concord Monitor NH

Trenton Times NJ

Rochester Democrat & Chronicle NY

Toledo Blade OH

Providence Journal RI

Salt Lake Tribune UT

Richmond Times-Dispatch VA

Charleston Gazette WV

Casper Star-Tribune WY

The Front Page exhibit was itself the subject of some news coverage in the Philadelphia Inquirer and The New York Times.


CharlesMerrill said...

It's probably a good thing there wasn't more coverage. The march established Lady GaGa as the queer Rosa Parks. GaGa in the dictionary means fool, crazy. It wasn't enough that the President called out her hame at the HRC dinner putting her in the spotlight, her performance at the march was aired 24/7 by MSM. Can a movement really be taken seriously by lawmakers and the President with spokespersons like Lady GaGa getting all the attention? The news pundits, left and right, were all laughing, not something the movement needs. Julian Bond was not mentioned even though he gave an inspiring speech. If the young generation in pajamas at the computer want Lady GaGa as a leader, then we deserve the Bil Maher description of the "24 hour party people".

Old Timer said...

The Equality march was a joke. Everything about it, from the lack of a real purpose or agenda, to "Lady Gaga," to the laughably inflated crowd estimates, to Cleve Jones.

If all of that wasn't bad enough, there is the kicker: There are two vitally important referendums this fall, both of them close. One in Maine, one in Washington State. In both places, they need people to make phone calls and knock on doors, and they need money.

The "Equality" march drew people and resources away from those battles. And for what? A lightly attended lawn party on a holiday weekend whose real purpose was to provide the illusion of doing anything.

At least the Human Rights Campaign succeeded in getting President Obama to its dinner, where he made a rousing speech that embraced our goals and us as people. I watched it, and I was stunned.

The Equality march? They drew a city councilman from L.A.