But when the Occupy Wall Street protests began on Sept. 17, the liberal media was quickly bombarded with complaints from the left that the media were ignoring this massive "news" story. NPR Executive Editor Dick Meyer said the early protests "did not involve large numbers of people, prominent people, a great disruption, or an especially clear objective." So the protesters went out and blocked the Brooklyn Bridge and drew 700 arrests -- voila, a national story.
Contemplate this: The Occupy Wall Street folks drew more broadcast network stories in the first nine days of coverage (with 24 stories) than the Tea Party drew in the first nine months(with 19 stories).
NBC's Michelle Franzen was the first promoter - OK, she calls herself a reporter -- on the scene. "Protesters fed up with the economy and social inequality turned out en masse over the weekend," she announced on "Today" on Oct. 3. "Voicing their discontent and marching for change." Her expert source, Columbia professor Dorian Warren, dutifully proclaimed the Wall Street protests were "a liberal version of the Tea Party" that "could potentially carry over into the 2012 elections and get people to the polls."
So let's get this straight. The protests were like a stumbling little fawn trying to find its legs. They'd been in existence for about two weeks, and NBC was already suggesting the "potential" for what the Tea Party achieved in 2010 -- a massive Democratic wave election in 2012. Journalists are either easily impressed or very energetic practitioners of wishful thinking.
ABC's Dan Harris followed that night to offer his tributes. "This past weekend, 700 people were arrested when they stormed the Brooklyn Bridge. Now major unions are joining in, as are celebrities like Susan Sarandon and Alec Baldwin, and similar protests are popping up across America." It might seem a little funny -- and noteworthy -- to have a protest against the mega-rich with mega-rich movie stars standing around, but it fits the media's "prominent people" standard, so never mind.
This provides a crystal-clear contrast with the first Tea Party events in 2009. "There's been some grassroots conservatives who have organized so-called Tea Parties around the country," NBC's Chuck Todd noted on the April 15, 2009, "Today," but "the idea hasn't really caught on." On ABC, Dan Harris warned viewers that "critics on the left (wonder who?) say this is not a real grassroots phenomenon at all, that it's actually largely orchestrated by people fronting for corporate interests."