The issue with putting #BlackLivesMatter protest in the Metro Section

On Thursday Jan. 15, many commuters saw their morning drive severely disrupted by a highway protest in the Boston area. #BlackLivesMatter activists aimed to maximize disruption by chaining themselves to cement barrels and forming a barricade on Interstate 93, causing massive traffic jams with delays of over two hours. The protest was done as a part of the greater #BlackLivesMatter movement and was timed to coincide with Martin Luther King Jr. Day. However, coverage of the event, and other similar demonstrations, has been largely focused on the disruptions faced by commuters rather than on publicizing and exploring the actual issues being protested and the reasons behind them. The issue of the validity of the protest’s strategy is definitely an argument to be had; however, as media, it is our job to cover events in the most fair and balanced way possible, exploring all sides of a story and providing the facts for the reader to make informed opinions.

The Boston Globe, the area’s largest and most popular local newspaper, focused their coverage of the protest mainly on the statements of the commuters and law enforcement officials. For example, the main article’s subtitle included the phrase “commuters fume as highways are blocked” and the beginning of the article uses negative language in its descriptions of the protesters’ arrests and scolding statements from police and ambulance drivers. Furthermore, coverage of the event was located in the Metro Section of The Globe rather than the more widely read News section, framing this breaking news in a local and commuter-focused light.

Other news sources such as Reuters and The Boston Herald focused their coverage primarily on the fact that an ambulance had to be diverted to a smaller hospital and CBS Boston began its on air coverage with the tagline “a nightmare on 93.” The CBS broadcast also concentrated on describing the extent of the delays and how people’s lives were endangered. Altogether, this reporting clearly presents some bias against the protesters, framing the #BlackLivesMatter movement in a negative light and leaving little room to empathize with and understand the goals of the movement.

Furthermore, although The Boston Globe did include videos and statements from protesters, there was little to no in-depth analysis or explanation of the #BlackLivesMatter movement or why activists were amplifying the level of disruption. This disappointing angle also characterized coverage in early December 2014, when Tufts students led a march from the Medford campus to downtown Boston; much of the immediate coverage was focused on traffic delays and which roads were open.

Admittedly, the bias of such media coverage of the #BlackLivesMatter movement raises questions relating to the effectiveness of disruptive protesting on actually bringing awareness to the issues at hand and creating more allies. The fact that reporting is painting a negative picture of protesters by focusing on the damage they create could indicate that disruptive protests alienate potential allies to the movement, emphasizing the fact that protests such as these interrupt flow of daily life. But whether or not the #BlackLivesMatter activists used effective protest tactics, the media’s framing of the Jan. 15 event clearly had an impact on the way it will be perceived by the public — something News organizations should clearly seek to avoid.

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4 Responses

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  1. Steve
    Jan 20, 2015 - 05:42 PM

    This article makes my blood boil. The Globe, as well as every other news outlet that covered this story, focused on the traffic disruptions only… BECAUSE THESE PROTESTERS WERE NOT PROTESTING. Look up every single one of these protestors. They all have past offenses and run ins with the law for disturbing the peace and protesting just about anything. They don’t care about black lives anymore than the average non-protestor commuter on I-93. They simply want attention and blame every misfortune in the world on everyone else but themselves. The fact that several ambulances didn’t arrive at hospitals in timely manners is more of a news story than any crazy protesting issue these nut-jobs had. A cancer patient missed chemo therapy because of these idiots. Thousands of normal innocent people were hours late to work (key word is “work” – these commenters HAVE JOBS and contribute to society, unlike these idiots in the road). Obviously, I don’t think anyone is against equality for all people (it’s pathetic I even have to qualify what I’m saying in this comment), but the manner in which these protestors went about trying to raise awareness was despicable.

    • Jordan
      Jan 20, 2015 - 05:44 PM

      Well said Steve. It’s also laughable that this article is pinning the blame on the news outlets for putting a bad light on the protests as opposed to frowning upon these “protestors” themselves for their horrible and unhelpful actions.

  2. Cindy
    Jan 20, 2015 - 06:00 PM

    The Globe shouldn’t have covered the insanely enormous traffic jam on the busiest highway in New England in the middle of rush hour? Are you kidding me? Aren’t you guys a NEWSpaper? Regardless of the cause, reason, legitimacy, or illegitimacy of these so-called “protests,” news agencies cover news. Complaining in an article that a news outlet covered the horrible effects of a protest simply because it doesn’t follow the Daily’s agenda is unprofessional and lazy.

    Also, is this article implying that every time there’s a news story, news outlets need to cover the reasons for the news? So 9/11 coverage should have focused on the beliefs of terrorists? Murder stories in newspapers should attempt to rationalize the murder and empathize with the murderer? Give me a break.

  3. Ge Ka
    Jan 22, 2015 - 11:46 AM

    Such mature, sophisticated, unparalleled intellectual depth and insight! The actual consequences
    of one’s actions pale in significance compared to one’s *claimed* goals and
    motivation. It’s about time.

    Our vacuous, superficial media habitually provide negative coverage of cross-burnings
    and other Klan type conduct while “leaving little room to empathize with and
    understand the goals of the movement.” This must end. Similarly, even peaceful blockades and harmless threats to abortion doctors are reported with
    little sympathy, “rather than … publicizing and exploring the actual issues
    being protested and the reasons behind them.” There was “little to no in-depth
    analysis or explanation of the … movement or why activists were amplifying the
    level of disruption.” A travesty!

    Timothy McVeigh’s *issues* received little empathy or analysis, hardly any
    effort to understand goals. Rather, “much of the immediate
    [superficial] coverage was [curiously] focused on” purely incidental mass deaths
    and destruction. Surely James Earl Ray and Byron De La Beckwith knew their
    ends justified their means (justified any means), but has media ever analyzed
    their issues, left ANY “room to empathize with and understand the goals of the
    movement”? No, the media failed again.

    “But whether or not the [cross-burners, the Klan, et al] activists used
    effective protest tactics, the media’s framing of [their] event[s] clearly had
    an impact on the way [they] will be perceived by the public — something News
    organizations should clearly seek to avoid.”

    Hear, hear!!! 🙂

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