GRIID Releases New Study on Local TV War Coverage

The Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy (GRIID)has released a new study entitled “Violence, Soldier Deaths and Ommissions: Local TV News Coverage of the Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.” This study looks at war coverage during the period from August 1 to November 8, 2005. Key findings of this study are:

The majority of all local TV coverage about the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan was focused on area soldier deaths or local soldiers returning home.

Coverage of Iraq was primarily focused on violence with little contextual information provided.

Coverage of Afghanistan was almost nonexistent with only three stories about Afghanistan appearing during the study period on all three stations combined.

WXMI had more time devoted to war coverage than WZZM 13 or WOOD 8.

The primary sources used in news coverage were US government officials, military personnel, or friends and family of those in the military.

There were very few Iraqi voices (5) and no Afghani voices in the entire 72 day study period.

There were very few stories with dissenting voices. Cindy Sheehan was the primary dissenting voice in most anti-was stories.

This is the fifth study GRIID has conducted on war coverage since the attacks on the World Trade center in 2001 and the third since the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. The major difference noted in local news coverage is that there was substantially less coverage of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan during this most recent study period compared to the previous studies. In GRIID’s initial study after September 11, 2001, there were a total of 278 stories over a two month period on the US war in Afghanistan. Despite the fact that there are still US military forces carrying out military actions in Afghanistan, there were only three stories on local TV news about Afghanistan in this recent study period. In the first six weeks of the war in Iraq there was over 17 hours of local TV coverage whereas in this study only a total of two hours and twenty-eight minutes of air-time was devoted to the war in Iraq.

The content of the coverage in this study period was similar to what was seen in previous studies. Many of the stories were focused on local soldiers and their families, with some of the longest stories in this period being about local soldiers that had been killed. The voices presented in the stories were predominately from the US government or military. Iraqi and Afghani voices were rarely heard and anti-war voices, with the exception of Cindy Sheehan, were not given much airtime.

If people are concerned with the state of local TV war reporting, we recommend contacting the local stations and demanding improvements in both the quantity and quality of coverage of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. For a list of constructive steps the TV stations could take to improve coverage, go to http://www.griid.org/fcc-international_standards.shtml for a list of proposed community standards for War and international coverage. To read the full report on war coverage in Iraq and Afghanistan, go to http://www.griid.org/pdfs/War_Coverage_2005.pdf.

Contact:

WOOD TV 8

News Director: Patti McGettigan

Phone #: 771-9366

E-mail: patti.mcgettigan@lintv.com

WXMI FOX 17

News Director: Tim Dye

Phone #: (616) 364-1717

E-mail: tdye@wxmi.com

WZZM 13

News Director: Tim Geraghty

Phone #: (616) 785-1313

E-mail: tgeraght@wzzm.gannett.com

Grand Rapids Press

Editor: Mike Lloyd

Phone #: (616) 222-5455

WZZM 13 Fails to Ask Candidates Serious Questions in Interview

On November 17 and 18 WZZM 13 ran two different interviews with gubernatorial candidates Jennifer Granholm and Dick Devos. The interviews were quite lengthy by TV news standards, being about 4 minutes each, and had been advertised throughout the week during WZZM newscasts. The interviews were framed as “personal” looks at the candidates, not focused on politics. In the piece, the candidates are asked some questions about their home life and hobbies as well who they thought was going to win the super bowl, whether they preferred chicken or steak, or whether or not they liked the film Austin Powers. These were just a few examples of the actual questions asked in the interviews, other questions involved finding out the candidates preferences concerning cars, sports teams, and cake. None the questions asked provided any information to the viewer that would help them make an informed choice on Election Day.

The election is roughly one year away and while it is possible that WZZM 13 may run other, more useful interviews with the candidates, past experience shows that this has not traditionally been the case. In the last gubernatorial in 2002, WZZM 13 ran only one minute and forty six seconds of Jennifer Granholm speaking during the thirty days preceding Election Day. Her opponent Dick Posthumous received only one minute and fifty six seconds of speaking time during that same time period. If we use the previous election coverage as a guide, it is quite likely that these recent interviews of Granholm and Devos might very well end up being the most airtime devoted to the candidates voices.

We would encourage people to contact WZZM 13 and let them know that the viewing public deserves more serious and substantive coverage of gubernatorial elections. For a list of further recommendations for local TV election coverage standards, check the GRIID website at http://www.griid.org/fcc-community_standards.shtml

Contact:

WZZM 13

News Director: Tim Geraghty

Phone #: (616) 785-1313

E-mail: tgeraght@wzzm.gannett.com

Local TV Coverage: Election 2005

This past Tuesday saw another Election Day, with local leaders being chosen across West Michigan. Up for grabs were city commission seats in Grand Rapids, the mayor’s office in Muskegon, Wyoming and Kalamazoo, as well as numerous smaller city elections and ballot initiatives. Turnout is typically low for local elections, one of the most common reasons given by people for not voting is that they didn’t know about the election or about the candidates. For the past seven years GRIID has monitored the local TV news to find out if these stations are using the public airwaves in a manner that would allow citizens to be informed voters. We have found that local elections consistently get insufficient coverage in the local media, this current election being no excerption.

GRIID monitored the thirty days prior to the November 8 election, recording the weekday evening newscasts of channels 8, 13 and 17. All three stations ran stories on the election, with most of them being aired in the week prior to the election. WOOD TV 8 was the only station to run any election stories more than ten days before the election, and had the most election coverage with 16 stories totaling just less than 28 minutes of airtime. WZZM 13 ran 11 stories for a total of 20 minutes of airtime while WXMI ran 5 stories totaling about 18 minutes.

All three stations covered the City Commission races in Grand Rapids and the mayoral race in Wyoming and Muskegon, albeit in a limited and superficial manner. WOOD 8 and WXMI 17 also did stories on the mayoral race in Kalamazoo. WOOD 8 reported on the school bond ballot in Comstock, WZZM reported on some ballot initiatives in Ottawa County as well as a vote on legalizing snowmobiles in Whitehall. All three stations ran stories in which they played clips of the candidates for the Grand Rapids city commission and Muskegon and Wyoming mayoral races. These clips were very short; the most speaking time of any candidate on any one channel was Muskegon mayoral candidate Ric Scott who spoke 162 total words on WXMI 17. None of the stations interviewed or even told viewers the names of the candidates for the Kalamazoo City commission/mayoral race on-air.

The information that was provided on the local candidates was limited to a few issues and generally included little information as to past voting records, organizational endorsements or sources of funding. The on-air statements made by the candidates tended to be very general statements without many specifics offered as to platforms and proposals. The only exception to this was the coverage of the Wyoming mayoral race which included the candidates giving details about their plans to increase public safety services.

All three stations aired stories the day before the election reporting that turnout was expected to be low. These stories did nothing to inform voters about issues and candidates. In the case of WZZM 13, they spend three and a half minutes reporting on low projected turnout, an amount of time representing 17 % of their total election coverage air-time.

For people who feel that the local media have, by not covering local elections, have failed to fulfill their obligation to serve the public interest, we would suggest contacting the news directors at the three local TV Stations and demand that they provide better coverage of these crucial news topics. We suggest that people urge the local TV stations to adopt the election coverage standards presented during GRIID’s FFC license renewals of the local TV stations. Those standards can be read here. For more information on election coverage, visit the GRIID website.

Contact:

WOOD TV 8

News Director: Patti McGettigan

Phone #: 771-9366

E-mail: patti.mcgettigan@lintv.com

WXMI FOX 17

News Director: Tim Dye

Phone #: (616) 364-1717

E-mail: tdye@wxmi.com

WZZM 13

News Director: Tim Geraghty

Phone #: (616) 785-1313

E-mail: tgeraght@wzzm.gannett.com

Grand Rapids Press

Editor: Mike Lloyd

Phone #: (616) 222-5455

Local News Media Ignores Progressive Coalition Event

On Tuesday, September 20 some 40 organizations set up information tables at the Wealthy Theatre for the first annual Grassroots Action Fair. One Hundred and Fifty people came together to talk about all the great progressive work being done in the Greater Grand Rapids area. Several campaigns were highlighted, such as on protecting the Great Lakes, funding for public education, increasing the minimum wage, reproductive rights, protecting public access TV and numerous community campaigns being conducted by the Michigan Organizing Project. Despite such a diverse representation and great turnout, none of the mainstream news agencies reported on this event. None of them showed up despite the fact that the week before 2 of the local TV news stations heard 2 hours of criticism about the lack of local reporting, particularly on positive community work.

We are encouraging people to contact the 3 TV stations and the Grand Rapids Press and ask them why they did not cover this important event. Below are contact information and a listing of what the 3 TV stations ran on the late newscasts.

WXMI 17 – 10pm

Tropical Storm Rita

West Nile

Warehouse Fire

School closing due to pipe break

School Bus trip returns late

Body found

Sexual Assault

Break-in

area bridge inspections

GRPS budget

Selling babies

Post Labor Day Bill

Supermodels on drugs

WOOD TV 8 – 11pm

Tropical Storm Rita

Gas Prices

area shooting

Body found

Sexual Assault

Hurricane

Post Labor Day Bill

School Bus trip returns late

WZZM 13 – 11pm

Tropical Storm Rita

Boy hit by SUV

Parochial School finances

Marshall Fields becomes Macy’s

Too much road kill

Interest rates go up `

State House Budget

Post Labor Day Bill

GR Symphony fund raising

Gas gouging

Ban on teen phone use while driving

Road work

Contact:

WOOD TV 8

News Director: Patti McGettigan

Phone #: 771-9366

E-mail: patti.mcgettigan@woodtv.com

WXMI FOX 17

News Director: Tim Dye

Phone #: (616) 364-1717

E-mail: tdye@wxmi.com

WZZM 13

News Director: Tim Geraghty

Phone #: (616) 785-1313

E-mail: tgeraght@wzzm.gannett.com

Grand Rapids Press

Editor: Mike Lloyd

Phone #: (616) 222-5455

Local Media Continue to Selectively “Balance” Anti-war Voices

In our studies on local media coverage of the Iraq war, we have noted that the local TV stations relied almost exclusively on official sources, government or military, for war reporting. These news outlets acted primarily as a conduit for official sources, rarely questioning or providing other perspectives, whether they are national or local. And yet, in the limited instances where the local media do report on a local event or action opposed to the war, great efforts are made to provide “balance” by including pro-war voices.

The coverage of yesterday’s national vigil to show support for Cindy Sheehan was no exception. While all three TV stations and the Grand Rapids Press covered the event, the coverage was superficial and lacked context. The Grand Rapids Press article on this event, while quoting several participants, gave the most print space to a seventeen year old counter-protestor who though the event was “ridiculous.” WXMI FOX 17 did a story that was almost three minutes long. In this piece they interviewed a local woman opposed to the war who has a son in Iraq. This was followed by an interview with another local soldier’s mother, a woman who was not at the vigil and supported the war. WZZM 13 also ran a fairly lengthy piece in which they gave brief quotes from some of the organizers and participants of the vigil. After the piece ended, the newsreader stated: “Now that you’ve heard from the people who think that US forces should pull out of Iraq, we’d like to hear from those of you in support of the war. So you can call our talkback line at that number right there, 559-1302 and tell us why you think American military should stay in Iraq, we’ll listen to some of your responses at the end of tonight’s newscasts.” Some of these call-in responses were then played at the end of the broadcast. WOOD TV 8 reported in a short story that the vigil had taken place, but did not give any details or interview anyone.

Providing more than one perspective on an issue is one of the requirements of good journalism. And yet, it seems that the local media seem to hold to this standard only when reporting on voices or events that are critical of the war in Iraq, and not vice-versa. Stories and articles reporting on local soldiers and families, which make up a large percentage of the local news coverage of the Iraq war, almost never contain any perspectives critical of US government policy. In stories about unfolding events in Iraq, the voices presented are almost always governmental or military, and if an opposing voice is heard, it quite often is still coming from a “official” source, that is, an opposition voice within the government. Grass roots and citizen groups opposed to the war, while representing the concerns and opinions of large percentages of the American populace, are usually excluded, or if included, are juxtaposed with opposing voices.

For people who feel that the local media have, by selectively “balancing” stories only when reporting anti-war perspectives, failed to fulfill their obligation to serve the public interest, we would suggest contacting the news directors at the three local TV Stations as well as the editorial staff at the Grand Rapids Press and demand that they provide better coverage of these crucial news topics.

Links to Articles:

WOOD TV 8 article

WZZM 13 article

WXMI FOX article

Grand Rapids Press article

Contact:

WOOD TV 8

News Director: Patti McGettigan

Phone #: 771-9366

E-mail: patti.mcgettigan@woodtv.com

WXMI FOX 17

News Director: Tim Dye

Phone #: (616) 364-1717

E-mail: tdye@wxmi.com

WZZM 13

News Director: Tim Geraghty

Phone #: (616) 785-1313

E-mail: tgeraght@wzzm.gannett.com

Grand Rapids Press

Editor: Mike Lloyd

Phone #: (616) 222-5455

Celebrating Bombers

“His Job is a Blast” read the headline of an August 5 Grand Rapids Press article. At first you think this a piece about a guy who sets off fireworks for holiday celebrations. With further investigation we discover that the headline celebrates a guy who flies B-52 bombers for the US Air Force. In what has become common journalistic practice since 9-11, this article canonizes US soldiers in unquestioning fashion.

In the second paragraph it states that the plane of Officer Eric Johnson “recently delivered the lethal contents of its belly to sites in Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom,” and later on that he “was chosen to fly one of the first planes to bomb Taliban sites in Afghanistan.” The pilot, Eric Johnson, is even quoted as saying “we helped blunt the advance of the enemy troops.” What enemy advance? The Taliban and Al Qaeda forces were in constant retreat from the onslaught of the US ariel bombing. We could not find any reports that claimed the Al Qaeda.

One striking omission in the article was whether civilians were killed from the bombing of “Taliban sites.” Most of us are familiar with the Afghan wedding party that was recently hit by US bombers (http://web.amnesty.org/ai.nsf/Index/ASA110132002?OpenDocument&of=COUNTRIESAFGHANISTAN), but there has been scant media coverage of the numerous and well documented instances of US bombs destroying UN mine inspection warehouses, residential neighborhoods, Mosques and fleeing civilians. Human Rights Watch has documented the consequences us dropping cluster bombs (http://www.hrw.org/press/2001/11/CBAfgh1116.htm), and the Los Angeles Times after sending reporters to Afghanistan (July 2002) wrote that “witnesses said U.S. warplanes killed and maimed civilians because of unreliable intelligence, stray ordnance and faulty targeting, or because enemy fighters mingled with civilians.” http://www.globalexchange.org/september11/20020603_112.html. The most thorough of civilian casualties from US bombing has been the report by Prof. Marc Herold. His report can be found at http://www.zmag.org/herold.htm.

We encourage you to contact the GR Press and tell them to stop sanitizing the coverage of US military operations since October of 2001 in Afghanistan. Demand reporting that questions and challenges the US bombing raids. Also, ask whether or not the military campaign in Afghanistan is preventing terrorism or creating a climate for further acts of terror against the US.

Contact:

Chris Sebastian wrote the article – his direct line is 222-5596

Editorial Dept.: 222-5508

Fax: 222-5409

Local News Desk : 222-5455

Public Pulse:

mail to 155 Michigan St. NW, GR 49503 or e-mail to pulse@grpress.com

Channel 13 makes light of crime story in Florida.

While it is true that local TV news tends to inundate viewers with crime coverage, crime coverage should never be trivialized. This is exactly what happened on the 11pm newscast for Friday, July 22nd on WZZM 13. Channel 13 reported that a man in Florida breaks into the homes of elderly woman and touches them wearing no clothes. Now the story says he touches their toes, which would not qualify as Criminal Sexual Conduct (CSC), but clearly there are crimes being committed, both Breaking & Entering and Indecent Exposure. Also downplayed was the fact that this was a man breaking into the homes of women. Considering how often sexual assault occurs in this country, this story diminishes the seriousness of those crimes as well. What is also disturbing about how this story was reported is that both news readers laughed during the story and used voice inflections that made light of these crimes. Imagine being asleep and having a strange person with no clothes on in your bedroom. Do you think it would be funny?

Contact:

Please contact WZZM 13’s news director to express your concerns about the lack of professional behavior demonstrated by their news team of Juliet Dragos and Lee VanAmeyde.

WZZM 13

News Director: Tim Geraghty

Phone #: (616) 785-1313

E-mail: tgeraght@wzzm.gannett.com

Local Broadcasters Fail to Provide Information about Local Elections and Candidates

With less than two weeks until the August 2nd primary vote, the local TV stations have yet to give viewers any substantive information about any of the local candidates. GRIID currently is conducting a study of local TV news coverage of the thirty days preceding the August 2nd primary. Thus far in our monitoring, we have noted a total of five election stories, three of which where about the millage vote in Kalamazoo and two about Grand Rapids city commission races. Of these two stories about the Grand Rapids City commission races, both were on WZZM 13. The first piece was only eighteen seconds and mentioned only that there were several city commission elections but did not mention any of the candidates.

The second WZZM 13 piece was a minute long segment focusing on Mayor Heartwell’s endorsement of 2nd ward city commission candidate Rosalynn Bliss. None of Mayor Heartwell’s reasons for endorsing Bliss are given, nor was he or candidate Rosalynn Bliss interviewed. Nor did the news segment tell the viewer any information about the city commission candidate’s history, backers, issue positions and platform. In the story, the newsreader does list the names of the other candidates for the second ward, but not the candidates for the first and third wards. Rather, the newsreader notes that since these races involve an incumbent, they may not be “hotly contested.” This piece ends with the newsreader noting that if viewers want to learn more about the candidates, to visit the links provided on http://www.wzzm.org. In the online version of this story, a link is provided that goes to a Kent County page that lists the candidates name. This page provides no other information about the candidates, nor is any information provided on WZZM’s website. GRIID has not seen any mention of the city commission races on news casts from WOOD TV8 or WXMI FOX 17.

Over the last seven years GRIID has monitored the local TV media and this lack of coverage of local races is by no means unique to this particular election. All three local TV stations have a long and consistent history of failing to give viewers the information necessary to make informed decisions on election day. These TV stations are allowed to generate profits using the public airwaves free of charge in exchange for promises to serve “the public interest.” That they ignore or barely cover local elections, while reporting a steady stream of crime and disaster, celebrity gossip and commercials disguised as news, illustrates that their commitment to serving the public interest has been overridden by their desire for ratings and profit.

For people who feel that the local media have, by not covering local elections, have failed to fulfill their obligation to serve the public interest, we would suggest contacting the news directors at the three local TV Stations as well as the editorial staff at the Grand Rapids Press and demand that they provide better coverage of these crucial news topics. Also, people can participate in GRIID’s campaign to challenge the FFC license renewals of the local TV stations. Information about this campaign, including data on election coverage, proposed election coverage standards, and form letters that people can fill out and send to the FCC, are available at http://www.griid.org/fcc_license_renewal.shtml.

Contact:

WOOD TV 8

News Director: Patti McGettigan

Phone #: 771-9366

E-mail: patti.mcgettigan@woodtv.com

WXMI FOX 1

News Director: Tim Dye

Phone #: (616) 364-1717

E-mail: tdye@wxmi.com

WZZM 13

News Director: Tim Geraghty

Phone #: (616) 785-1313

E-mail: tgeraght@wzzm.gannett.com

Local Media Ignores Stop CAFTA Campaign

On Monday, March 28 a coalition consisting of eighteen local labor, environmental and human rights groups held a press conference to announce the launch of the Stop CAFTA Campaign. CAFTA, the Central American Free Trade Agreement, is a proposed trade agreement between the United States and six Central American countries that mirrors in many ways NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement. Like NAFTA, CAFTA has been crafted with little regard to workers rights, environmental sustainability or public input. West Michigan has lost thousands of jobs from factory flight to Mexico and Canada in recent years as a direct result of NAFTA. CAFTA would very likely lead to similar results as the language of the treaty is very similar.

Despite the impact CAFTA could have on the economy, both nationally and locally, the Grand Rapids Press and the three local TV stations, WZZM, WOOD, and WXMI did not bother to cover the Stop CAFTA Campaign press conference. Ironically, the lead story on all three TV news broadcasts that evening were the layoffs in Grand Rapids of several hundred jobs at Steelcase, including 30 of which are being sent to Mexico. This trend by the local media of reporting regularly on job layoffs but seldom reporting on the reasons for why these layoffs are happening has been documented by GRIID for some time now.

So what else did the local TV stations report on aside from the Steelcase layoffs? WOOD 8 aired five crime stories, two disaster stories and a piece about Terry Schiavo. WZZM 13 reported, among other things, 10 crime stories, an Oregon woman who drove her SUV off a bridge, a new breakfast sandwich at Burger King, and that Britney Spears may be pregnant. WXMI 17 also reported on the new Burger King “breakfast omelet” sandwich as well as seven crime stories and that a condominium burned down in Georgia.

These TV stations are allowed to generate profits using the public airwaves free of charge in exchange for promises to serve “the public interest.” That they ignore topics such as the “Stop CAFTA Campaign”, a citizens initiative to protect jobs, worker’s rights and environmental protections, while reporting a steady stream of crime and disaster, celebrity gossip and commercials disguised as news, illustrates that their commitment to serving the public interest has been overridden by their desire for ratings and profit.

For people who feel that the local media have, by not covering the Stop CAFTA Campaign, failed to fulfill their obligation to serve the public interest, we would suggest contacting the news directors at the three local TV Stations as well as the editorial staff at the Grand Rapids Press and demand that they provide better coverage of these crucial news topics.

Contact:

WOOD TV 8

News Director: Patti McGettigan

Phone #: 771-9366

E-mail: patti.mcgettigan@woodtv.com

WXMI FOX 17

News Director: Tim Dye

Phone #: (616) 364-1717

E-mail: tdye@wxmi.com

WZZM 13

News Director: Tim Geraghty

Phone #: (616) 785-1313

E-mail: tgeraght@wzzm.gannett.com

Grand Rapids Press

Editor: Mike Lloyd

Phone #: (616) 222-5455

Over 1,000 Demonstrate against War in Grand Rapids, 10 Arrests are the Story

Between 1 – 2,000 people from all over Michigan came to Grand Rapids on Wednesday, January 29 to send a strong no-war message to Bush. People from all walks of life, young, old, student, business owners, clergy, environmentalists, workers, educators and parents came to greet Bush as he spoke at Spectrum hospital and to a GOP crowd in DeVos Hall.

Security was tight and law enforcement kept those demonstrating behind police line on both Michigan St. and Monroe Ave. After Bush’s motorcade passed over 500 demonstrators on Michigan the police allowed them to walk down to DeVos Hall. When people got to Lyon Street a police car jumped the sidewalk and prevented people from walking down to Monroe. The crowd was told that there was a “designated” protest area on Monroe, but that they had to go back to Michigan and enter Monroe north of DeVos Hall. This created tensions, especially since Bush supporters were walking about freely on Lyon and Monroe, even those carrying signs.

The crowd eventually turned around and went to Monroe Ave. on the north end of DeVos Hall. At about 1:30 a smaller crowd left Monroe and began marching around downtown GR, some in the streets. Witnesses say that the Police arrested 10 people, some while walking on the sidewalk. This then became the news – that a few people were arrested.

We taped and logged the news from Fox 17 (10pm), WZZM 13 (5:30, 6 & 11pm) and WOOD TV 8 (5:30, 6 & 11pm). We also logged the GR Press coverage. What follows is a summary of each of these news outlets and actions we are encouraging people to take.

FOX 17 – 10pm – They began their newscast with Bush’s speech, comments from Bush supporters. Next feedback on his visit to Spectrum Hospital and then a short interview with a woman who was at the airport and in awe from seeing Airforce One. About 6 minutes into the newscast we finally hear about the 1,000 plus who were demonstrating against a possible war with Iraq. Fox newscasters said “hundreds,” showed video footage of small groups of people and then short comments from 3 opposed to war (an older woman & man and a young woman). Next they reported that people were arrested, some for attempting to overturn a vehicle. GR Police chief Dolan then spoke briefly about the arrests. The very next story was about a Creston High teacher who was called up by the Army Reserves.

WZZM 13 – 5:30pm – They began with a summary of Bush’s visit where Lee Van Ameyde said “police had to struggle to keep protestors in line.” Kim Covington was standing in front of Spectrum Hospital covering the health care message and said, “a photographer and I ran into about 100 angry war protestors who tried to get closer to the president. It wasn’t a pretty scene.” Next they mentioned that there were arrests with GR Police Chief Dolan saying, “these were very orderly protests today.” Comments from three anti-war folks were aired (young man, young woman and a female student). Then they showed footage of where the police had blocked off Lyon St., with a shot of a man yelling at the police. They also mentioned that a woman who was protesting passed out on Ottawa. Back to Kim Covington who began here health care piece by saying “before the president saw some of the angry protestors…” Then it was on to Peter Ross who was at the airport beaming with delight about the president’s visit. Lastly, an update about the arrests, no footage, but they listed the charges.

WZZM 13 – 6pm – Newscast begins with the president’s visit with Lee Van Ameyde saying, “there were protest today with several arrests.” The story began saying that “more than 500” protestors were there to send a message to president Bush, followed by a short interview with a man in his 30’s. Next was more on the arrests, list of charges, emphasizing “failing to obey police,” and that they attempted to overturn a truck. The rest of the newscast had comments from Bush supporters and Peter Ross at the airport saying it was a great day for a visit.

WZZM 13 – 11pm – The newscast began with a story of a murder on the southeast side of GR, then Bush’s visit. First, Bush’s comments on the economy – with studio feedback from an accountant. Next Bush on war – his comments and then the reporter said there “were almost 600 protesting war,” and that “overall the crowd was orderly.” Then they showed video footage of confrontation with the police, mention of arrests and comments from Police Chief Dolan. Next is was Bush on Health Care and finally, we are taken inside the home of a woman who shook Bush’s hand at DeVos Hall who told him that she prays for him every day.

WOOD TV 8 – 5:30pm – Begins with Bush visit, his speech at DeVos Hall, comments from a senior citizen, someone from Spectrum Health and lengthy comments from Rep. Ehlers. Nothing at 5:30 about those with anti-war messages.

WOOD TV 8 – 6pm – Summary of Bush visit with the comment that there were protestors, “some of whom got arrested.” The story began with Bush’s speech at DeVos Hall, comments from supporters, Rep. Hoekstra and Michigan Attorney General Cox. Then they said that between 500-600 protestors were there and that police made some arrests. Police Chief Dolan was interviewed and there was video footage of the police grabbing a young man with a Mohawk and putting him up against the police car. This was the only footage of “protestors.” Next, they interviewed Stabbenow and Ehlers (again) on health care issues. Finally, they also did a story about the Creston teacher who was called up to the Army Reserves.

WOOD TV 8 – 11pm – They began with Bush’s visit and his Iraq message at DeVos Hall. Next, they spoke with a pollster about why Bush came to GR, followed by comments from Hoekstra and Ehlers. Next, the focus was Health Care, with comments from a senior citizen and a Spectrum representative. They then spoke with more senior citizens that live at a senior housing complex, followed by a story at the Auto Show and their response to the hydrogen fueled car concept. Again we hear from Ehlers, a Toyota representative and a GM worker. Lastly, a brief mention about protestors, a 6 second comments from an East GR High student, followed by the newscaster saying there were arrests, with the same footage of the police grabbing the kid with the Mohawk. The newscaster finished by saying “no one was hurt and no property was damaged.”

Grand Rapids Press – Front page adulation for Bush and his supporter, with photo of Bush – also a photo of a few anti-war protestors. Page A-7 headline reads “Peace & Unrest” subtitled “Protestors, police debate facts after 10 are arrested.” The article right away mentions the arrests and the police response, not that 1,000 people came to send Bush a message without incident. Almost halfway through the article is when we find out how many people were there and later it says there was a “mixture” of people. The Press’s notice of mixture was limited. They said nothing about the faith community, professionals, parents, educators and organizers. Never does it say who organized this, nor were the organizers ever spoken to by the Press, despite all the media releases sent out. Several students were interviewed, as were an older man that was anti-war, but the Press also gave significant space to pro-war voices, despite there only being a hand full.

Clearly, much of the reporting was biased and limited. How the demonstration was framed gave wrong impressions, but the biggest problem in all the coverage was the focus on the 10 that were arrested.

We urge people to contact all 4 news outlets and challenge them on their coverage.

Contact:

Contact Local News Departments:

GR Press – 222-5455 Reporter Ted Roelofs 222-5497 or troelofs@grpress.com

WOODTV8 – News Dir. 456-8888 patti.mcgettigan@lintv.com

WZZM 13 – News Dir. 559-1315 cgrant@wzzm.gannett.com

WXMI FOX 17 – News Dir. 364-1717 tdye@wxmi.com