Monday, January 23, 2017

Analysis: Mass Media Missed The March

The organizers of the many women’s marches that filled the streets of cities across the world on Saturday got the word out about their projects primarily via Facebook. From there, news spread from one feed to another, and from one mouth to another, feeding a vast river of humanity.

By contrast, writes Paul Fahri at The Washington Post, mainstream news outlets — focused primarily on the inauguration of a president, against whom many of the marchers were protesting — gave the run-up to the event relatively scant coverage.

Taken collectively, the Women’s March on Washington and its many affiliated “sister” marches were perhaps the largest single demonstration of the power of social media to create a mobilization.

Teresa Shook (Reuters)
As with those other grass-roots causes, traditional news media outlets were late in catching up to the story. “NBC Nightly News” did its first story about the march on Thursday, two days before hundreds of thousands took to the streets, according to a search of the Nexis database. ABC’s “World News Tonight” aired an 18-word sound bite from one of the march’s co-organizers on Wednesday.

“The women’s marches were pretty much under the radar in most mainstream-media coverage over the last few weeks,” says Marcus Messner, an associate professor of journalism at Virginia Commonwealth University, where he studies social media. The number of demonstrators and events, he says, “caught the media and public off guard,” even as the social-media buzz began growing into a “huge groundswell.”

TV reporters spent much of Saturday afternoon marveling at the massive crowds gathered in Washington, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, London and other cities.  Cable news coverage toggled between the march and Donald Trump’s activities during his first full day as president, including attendance at a morning prayer service and a visit to CIA headquarters in the afternoon.

The march itself began as a single Facebook post the day after Trump was elected on Nov. 8. Disappointed by Trump’s victory, Teresa Shook, a retired attorney who lives in Hawaii, dashed off a post asking if women were interested in rallying in Washington around Inauguration Day. She asked her online friends for help creating an event page and posted one for her proposed march. When Shook went to bed that night, 40 people had signed on to the idea. When she woke up the next morning, the number of responses had jumped to 10,000.

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