Tuesday, March 21, 2006

From Where They Might Hail Should Not Matter

I don't want to get into the effectiveness or the rightness of the wheelchaired protestors on Capitol Hill over the last couple of evenings. I feel ambivalent about their protests. Let's just leave it at that.

But I do have clear feelings on a couple of reports by New 2 video journalists Andy Cordan and Scott Fralick, and those feelings are not good. Cordan at the 5:00 or 6:00 hour and Fralick at the 10:00 hour filed reports that the protestors were "not even from Tennessee," in terms that I felt were too strong and overblown. Implied in both was a creeping sectionalism that seems more of a hang-over from the provincial old south than it does an objective or balanced focus on who the protestors are.

Segregationists across the south in the 1950s and 1960s tried to discredit the Civil Rights Movement because many of its own came from non-southern states to ride buses, sit at lunch counters, register voters, and join marches. I do not know very many reporters or people in general now who begrudge that movement for bringing "outsiders" in to initate social change (in fact, MLK, Jr. returned the favor by taking his southern organization to Chicago in 1966). So, other than providing a sensational appeal to re-open sectionalist emotions, I fail to see how Cordan's and Fralick's hail-from angle contributes anything to our knowledge of the event.

Beyond being moot, it also seemed slanted. When video journalists cover local anti-abortion rallies do they ask people where they are from or who is paying for their lodging? I can't remember ever seeing the hail-from angle applied to conservative movement protests. Does anyone remember if the stories on all the horn-honking of the anti-income tax advocates a few years ago garnered a single story on whether the protestors were disqualified to protest because of their backgrounds? I don't remember one. I am concerned that tonight's reports contained seeds of bias, since the same questions might not be asked of conservative protestors.

It seems to me that in America, no citizen is an outsider just because she may protest in another state. News 2 may have forgotten that detail in their rush to play the hail-from angle on what was already a very controversial and emotionally charged story.

1 comment:

  1. The Tennessean has a copy of an interesting email from Commissioner of the Dept of Safety. Not sure who it was sent to, but I know all state employees in the downtown area got it. The most interesting parts were when he blames Metro for the disturbances and when he called them all professional protesters.