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Why the Local Media doesn’t and won’t get Occupy Grand Rapids

October 12, 2011

Over the past several days there have been numerous stories done by local commercial news media on the Occupy Grand Rapids movement, with much of the coverage focused on the drama and conflict of any protest movement.

This kind of coverage is doomed to fail in terms of what the Occupy Grand Rapids might want to achieve, which seems to be systemic change, particularly over economic issues. What follows are some reasons why the local news media just won’t get it.

  1. The local commercial news media has consistently over the past 20 years of monitoring (conducted by GRIID and other sources) has demonstrated that an inherent bias in favor of the status quo because of their general lack of holding power accountable. Even though holding power accountable is a fundamental principle of journalism, rarely is it ever practiced.
  2. One basic premise of the Occupy Wall Street movement is that the current economic system of capitalism is bankrupt and only serves the interests of the 1%. However, the local news media (like the national news media) has failed to fully understand and report on how this economic system inherently serves the interest of the 1%. Economic news coverage is flawed because it accepts the myth that the economic system serves the majority and when there are “problems,” like the 2008 crash it is simply because of a lack or regulation or a few corrupt individuals or companies.
  3. The failure of commercial news media to investigate and question the real reasons behind the 2008 crash is reflected in their continual acceptance of the current economic system. Economic reporting continues in the same way it has for decades and even if the local commercial media gives some attention to the Occupy Grand Rapids movement it will be token at best because the bulk of their economic reporting accepts that capitalism works for everyone.
  4. The local news stories about the Occupy Grand Rapids movement are event based, meaning they have been reporting on the initial gathering, subsequent gatherings and conflicts with the city government and police. This kind of reporting ignores the work and efforts of people for decades to challenge the economic system and its consequences – poverty, unemployment, underemployment, wage theft and who are the primary beneficiaries of this economic system. In other words, there is no historic context to why people are engaged in the occupy movement now. This means there is no linkage with the anti-globalization movement, which challenged global capitalism as it has evolved since NAFTA, the creation of the WTO, the role of the IMF and the World Bank.
  5. The local commercial news media will never be able to objectively report on any movement that is calling for a systemic change of the current economic system, because the local news media is part of that system. All of the local commercial news media outlets are owned by for profit companies, many of which are part of large media monopolies. The Grand Rapids Press is owned by Advanced Publications, WZZM 13 by Gannett, Fox 17 by the Tribune Company, WOOD TV 8 by LIN Media and WOOD radio by Clear Channel.
  6. Another reason why local commercial news media can never really report honestly and objectively about the Occupy Grand Rapids movement is because they rely on advertising for the majority or all of their revenue. The Occupy movements are inherently opposed to the hyper-consumption message of advertising, which is the life-blood of commercial media. Advertisers will not tolerate consistent and substantive news reporting on the crisis of capitalism and since these media companies operate on advertising revenue they are unable to investigate and report on this movement with any depth.
  7. Lastly, the local commercial news media will not be able to honestly report on the 1% that lives in West Michigan because they have demonstrated an unwillingness to challenge the local economic power structure. In fact, not only are they unwilling to expose the local 1%, they often provide a forum for the local 1% or act as cheerleaders.

Having attended numerous general Assembly meetings I am aware of the desire of the Occupy Grand Rapids movement to have a media policy. However, I have yet to see a concrete policy and based on the stories already done by the local news media there doesn’t seem to be any indication that a clear policy or coherent talking points have been adopted.

A media policy will be critical if the local movement is to have a chance at preventing the commercial news media from distorting their message. More importantly, such a media policy should be focused on developing independent and autonomous media that they and their allies can distribute. This kind of a media strategy will have a more positive and long term benefit than relying on the for profit media to “report the truth.”

15 Comments leave one →
  1. October 12, 2011 2:09 am

    To be more precise the .001% … the DeVos Family.

  2. Ben permalink
    October 12, 2011 6:29 am

    “One basic premise of the Occupy Wall Street movement is that the current economic system of capitalism is bankrupt and only serves the interests of the 1%. ”

    Ok, Jeff. Why don’t you tell the world what economic system you would rather have where you can enjoy the level of existence you have now.

    Now, I know you dont like hearing these phrases, and you might run away from them, but here are your choices of other systems that exist:

    Fascism
    Socialism
    Communism
    Marxism

    The people behind those economic systems didnt like Capitalism either. So we’ve established that you are on the same page there. So now it is a small issue of you telling us which one makes you the most comfortable.

    “The local commercial news media will never be able to objectively report on any movement that is calling for a systemic change of the current economic system, because the local news media is part of that system. All of the local commercial news media outlets are owned by for profit companies, many of which are part of large media monopolies. The Grand Rapids Press is owned by Advanced Publications, WZZM 13 by Gannett, Fox 17 by the Tribune Company, WOOD TV 8 by LIN Media and WOOD radio by Clear Channel.”

    So? if you have evidence that they are engaging in conspiracy to not further along the great crusade to replace capitalism with.?. then show it. Hints and insinuations are not evidence.

    “Another reason why local commercial news media can never really report honestly and objectively about the Occupy Grand Rapids movement is because they rely on advertising for the majority or all of their revenue. The Occupy movements are inherently opposed to the hyper-consumption message of advertising, which is the life-blood of commercial media. ”

    But, as has been pointed out, you guys rely on the fruits of that “hyper-consumption message of advertising”. The computer you are on, the phones you use, the cars you drive, the clothes you wear, the food you eat.

    And please spare me the “I buy it all used” line. Someone has to buy it new first, use it and then resell it in order for you to get it used.

    It doesn’t matter how separated you are from Kevin Bacon, you still are connected to Kevin Bacon.

    “Lastly, the local commercial news media will not be able to honestly report on the 1% that lives in West Michigan because they have demonstrated an unwillingness to challenge the local economic power structure. In fact, not only are they unwilling to expose the local 1%, they often provide a forum for the local 1% or act as cheerleaders.”

    And how willing are you to expose who is behind the “occupy” movement? Because from what I can tell, you don’t really seem to care, know and don’t want to say, and act as a cheerleader. it almost seems like you are a member yourself and thus have no objectivity.

    Who’s coordinating and funding this. Why is people like George Soros, and the president of Iran lavishing praise? Why are millionaires able to so easily walk in and give speeches to applause? Why are these protesters, that claim to be peaceful, resorting to breaking laws like blocking bridges, trying to rush the Smithsonian, and storming into Senate offices?

    and what are these “general Assembly meetings”? General Assembly sounds like someone’s poorly veiled attempt at trying to replicate exactly what happened in Pre-Soviet Russia, just what some term changes.

  3. Carol Ann permalink
    October 12, 2011 9:52 am

    Hey all, the company that owns the Grand Rapids Press is ADVANCE publications (a locally owned company) not ADVANCED. Just FYI.

  4. October 12, 2011 11:14 am

    “Ok, Jeff. Why don’t you tell the world what economic system you would rather have where you can enjoy the level of existence you have now.”

    Now here’s a guy familiar with global economic systems as well as the way his neighbors have to live. Well….. maybe not HIS neighbors, but the folks outside his gated community. (and not all gates are visible to the eye)

    General assembly, to me, by the way, sounds just as much like Constitutional Convention as anything related to Communism… but hey… have it your way.

    Why is people like George Soros and the president of Iran? I don’t know… why is you lavishing praise on your ignorance of the issues (first) and the way Jeff Smith lives (second)? Maybe they didn’t teach you too good in those great for-profit schools upon which all your brothers and sisters in the tea party lavish praise.

  5. Jeff Smith permalink*
    October 12, 2011 11:49 am

    Carol, you are wrong. The GR Press was part of the Booth News Chain, which was bought by Don and Si Newhouse years ago, thus they are owned by Advanced Publications. Check the hyperlink in the article.

  6. grover permalink
    October 12, 2011 12:14 pm

    I think the relatively simplistic class analysis also makes it difficult for the media to understand the movement. There are a lot more problems than just the 1% of the super rich — think landlords, cops, gentrifying business owners, prison security companies, the media, etc — and that the narrative that somehow everyone other than the super rich is appealing, but ultimately it doesn’t accurately describe the realities of class, privilege, and power. It’s a good soundbite, but ultimately I think the unity is based on a lot of over simplifying and avoiding an honest and frank discussion of how things work. I’ve got no faith in the media, but I think that if they are trying to make any sense of this, they can see that the class analysis presented by the movement is way too simple.

    I also think that there is so much difference within the movement, both here and at Wall Street, that the media honestly doesn’t know what the heck to do. This article implies that the movement agrees the problem is capitalism, but other quarters think the problem is just with the particular regulations that govern capitalism.

    I do think some of the particular problems with the Occupy Grand Rapids group could be handled with a media policy and a coherent message about what folks are doing, even if that doesn’t include political demands.

  7. chewey permalink
    October 12, 2011 3:45 pm

    I couldn’t care less what people like you think, but I’m bored so I’ll respond JUST to the first response you gave to Jeff, the “capitalism makes your existence great” part.

    1. My life (i’m very privileged, i’m white, straight, cisgendered, male, and from a middle class family) consists of waking up with far too little sleep, transit to work, wasting eight or more hours of my life doing bullshit i couldn’t care less about, transit back home, then wasting the rest of my day zoning out on the internet or watching netflix instant because i’m too worn out from work to do anything i really want to do, then falling asleep to repeat the cycle. life under capitalism, even for privileged people like me, is a terrible excuse for a life. it’s either stressful or boring as hell. all my creative and productive energy gets wasted making money for some rich assholes i don’t care about. ever wonder why near everyone in this country, the ‘richest’ in the world, is on prozac or some other anti-depressant? Human beings are meant to live fun, productive, creative lives, taking care of themselves and our friends naturally because we should care about each other. Instead everything we do is forced, we’re forced to go to work, forced to get along with people we don’t like, forced to pay rent, forced to identify by our assigned ‘genders.’

    2. My privileged life can only exist because other people, here in the U.S. but mostly in the third world, have to work 10-16 hours a day making my clothes, technological equipment, and food. they work in extremely dangerous conditions, they are usually being constantly monitored, and if they try to better their conditions chances are they’ll be shot, or raped, or have acid thrown in their face (it happened in greece three years ago, look it up).

    3. You wouldn’t say this existence is so great if you didn’t have to worry about being raped everytime you’re walking home late at night, where half the people out and about could be potential rapists, or where your own friends or partners take advantage of you when you’re drunk, or your own husband or boyfriend pressures you into having sex or doing things you don’t want on a daily basis,

    In conclusion, fuck you.

  8. kswheeler permalink
    October 12, 2011 7:14 pm

    Chewey, great post. The price that people pay for capitalism is different in different parts of the world, but the way you express how demoralizing it is for the “privileged” worker in the capitalist system is brilliant.

    Eugene Debs said,
    “Civilization has done little for labor except to modify the forms of its exploitation.”

  9. October 12, 2011 11:28 pm

    Ben, Communism and Socialism are two radically different things. Most of the developed and highly educated democratic countries on the planet … northern and eastern Europe, and Canada, come to mind … run very well on a blend of socialism and democracy. The USA, in fact, has become much more like Communist China … an extreme capitalist system where only a few people control both the politics and the wealth. Don’t you agree that the USA needs to be less like Communist China and more like these democratic countries I mention? The USA needs to start moving away from China, not towards it.

  10. Joel V. permalink
    October 13, 2011 5:03 am

    Jeff,
    I want to comment and say I think you’re doing a great job. I live in Chicago now but I grew up in West Michigan and so I love reading your stuff. Lets hope struggle carries on and OGR can be sustained – OccChi here seems to be picking up steam and building solidarity with labor. I’d love to meet you sometime when I’m back in GR!
    Joel

  11. October 13, 2011 4:51 pm

    Well said!

  12. October 13, 2011 4:51 pm

    Good article!!

Trackbacks

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