Saturday, October 22, 2011

Occupy . . . 24/7 Media!

A recent college graduate I know decided—rather spontaneously—to explore for herself some of the recent "Occupy Wall Street" protests in her nearby city. Along with a few of her friends, she arrived at a park, grabbed a pre-fab sign and stood on a corner expressing her right to protest what she saw as "economic inequality." It was a personal participation in democracy for a political science major.

Within a few hours, a reporter from a major daily newspaper stopped by to chat. The grad expressed appreciation for her college education, felt well prepared and given great experiences, but that, alas, she had yet to secure the job of her dreams. The reporter scribbled and nodded and walked away. The grad held her sign higher and when evening came, traveled back to her apartment with her friends, glad for the opportunity of solidarity.

Until the next day. The grad read in horror one lone quote out of all she'd told the reporter. Out of context, she appeared in print as other than she knew herself to be. And her education continued as 24/7 bloggers and lazier reporters grabbed that quote (without one calling the graduate to verify if she'd really said it) and recycled it for their own—often ugly—purposes. One lone sentence ripped from the bigger story of this graduate's life threw her into a tailspin of doubts: maybe she hadn't looked hard enough to get a job. Maybe she wasn't qualified. Maybe she shouldn't have protested.

When reporters get it wrong, especially in this 24/7 news cycle, more than just a story goes awry. Talented and well meaning young people who want to make a difference are affected, their vision to contribute is compromised, their voice diminished a little more than it should have been. They begin to think twice about what they can and can't do, and worse, who they can and can't trust in the media. Without truth in context, the news defeats the very purpose it was supposed to provide: reporting accurate information that helps citizens draw their own conclusions about what should or should not be occupied.


  1. Thanks for filling in the important context on this story.

  2. As one who started the thread I'm glad we found someone who knows the student and could shed light on the context. Perhaps a letter to the editor would be appropriate? To be sure, I have never read an article and attempted to contact the author or those they have interviewed before discussing the ideas communicated. This is more than just an idea. This is about a young woman with her own challenges that was selectively quoted and hurt in the process. I appologize to the young woman for asking "Is that all she got at Gordon?". Clearly she has a lot more going for her than the present discouragement she feels. - Bruce Aulie