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   NY Times, NPR Change Their Take on DC Protests


Times, NPR Change Their Take on DC Protests

A report by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR)

New York, Oct. 30, 2002—Three days after its first report on the D.C. antiwar protests, readers of the New York Times were treated to a much different account of the same event. On October 30, the Times reported that the October 26 protests “drew 100,000 by police estimates and 200,000 by organizers,” forming a two-mile wall of marchers around the White House. The turnout startled even organizers, who had taken out permits for 20,000 marchers.

This directly contradicted the Times' October 27 report, which noted that the "thousands" of demonstrators were "fewer people... than organizers had said they hoped for." The October 30 Times report also included much more information about similar protests around the country, and featured quotes from various antiwar activists.

The second Times story may have been a reaction to the overwhelming response to FAIR's October 28 Action Alert critical of the paper's downplaying of the protest. FAIR has received more than 1,100 copies of individual letters sent to the Times or to NPR, whose coverage was also cited in the action alert--one of the largest volumes of mail ever generated by a FAIR action alert. The newspaper trade magazine Editor and Publisher (10/30/02) suggested that the October 30 piece was a "make-up article" that may have been written "in response to many organized protest letters sent to the Times since the paper's weak, and inaccurate, initial article about the march on Sunday."

The paper has not yet issued an editor's note or correction explaining the different reports, though senior editor Bill Borders sent an apologetic message to many of the people who wrote to the paper. "I am sorry we disappointed you," he said. "Accurately measuring the size of a crowd of demonstrators is nearly impossible and often, as in this case, there are no reliable objective estimates." Borders defended the Times' overall coverage of the Iraq debate, and thanked activists for contacting the paper: "We appreciate your writing us and welcome your careful scrutiny. It helps us to do a better job."

National Public Radio, another target of FAIR's action alert, has also offered a correction of its misleading coverage of the D.C. protest. The following message is now posted on NPR's website:

On Saturday, October 26, in a story on the protest in Washington, D.C. against a U.S. war with Iraq, we erroneously reported on “All Things Considered” that the size of the crowd was "fewer than 10,000." While Park Service employees gave no official estimate, it is clear that the crowd was substantially larger than that. On Sunday, October 27, we reported on “Weekend Edition” that the crowd estimated by protest organizers was 100,000. We apologize for the error.

See the New York Times' new report.

Read the initial NPR story with the correction.

For information about FAIR call 1-800-847-3993 or visit FAIR’s website. FAIR produces CounterSpin, a weekly radio show heard on over 130 stations in the U.S. and Canada. Find the CounterSpin station nearest you.

Copyright © 2003 The Baltimore Chronicle and The Sentinel. All rights reserved. We invite your comments, criticisms and suggestions.

Republication or redistribution of Baltimore Chronicle and Sentinel content is expressly prohibited without their prior written consent.

This story was published on November 9, 2002.
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