Study: How Massive (And Tilted) Was Washington Post Alien-Rally Coverage?

April 14th, 2006 9:56 AM

The Washington Post coverage of Monday's pro-illegal-immigration rally was so massive and positive, it took time to study it all. To get a sense of how massive, let’s begin by paying attention to the resources deployed for the Tuesday paper:

Number of Post reporters with immigration-rally by-lines: 19.

Number of other Post staff writers credited for contributions from across America: 20.

Number of Post staff photographers listed in photo credits: 7.

Number of stories (including the "Rally Voices" feature): 13.

Number of Post pages devoted to the rally, added together, visual estimate: 8.

Of those, number of full advertising-free Post pages devoted to the rally: 4 (3 in A section, one in Metro).

Number of photos: 26 (unless you count 11 head shots of the "Rally Voices" profiles and two standard news head shots of Congressmen, and then you’d say 39).

Then to see how positive the coverage was, let’s look some of the classic techniques of liberal media bias in protest coverage in this avalanche of information:

Number of the usages of the term "liberal" to describe the rally, the organizers, the marchers, or the speakers: zero.

Number of the usages of the term "amnesty" to describe pending legislation or the agenda of the rally: zero.

The word simply did not appear anywhere in the 13 stories, despite common black-and-yellow "Amnistia!" signs at rallies. (Of the 26 pictures, only one on A-10 captures an incomplete fraction of an "Amnistia!" poster.) Euphemisms were common: In the second paragraph of the main story by Dan Balz and Darryl Fears, they said the rally was for "legal protection for illegal immigrants."

Number of readable signs appearing in photos: 6.

– "We Are All Americans!" (A- 1)

– "Stop Scapegoating Immigrants" (A-8)

– "We Are Americans" (A-10 and A-12 and B-8)

– "Stop Racist Legislation Now!" (C-3)

Number of color pictures prominently featuring American flags, American flag T-shirts, headgear, or red-white-and-blue color schemes, all excluding foreign flags: 13.

That's half of the 26. It would be fair to guess that the Post doesn’t show the flag in photos this aggressively in Fourth of July coverage.

Number of speakers quoted by name from the podiums of rallies, from Hillary Clinton in New York to Ted Kennedy in D.C. to the many Spanish-speaking activists: zero.

Media outlets classically omit podium speakers at leftist rallies and focus instead on sympathetic profiles of individual protesters.

Number of mentions of the hard-left protest-organizing group International ANSWER: Zero.

Number of mentions of anti-illegal immigration protesters or critics of the rally: Six, some of them very brief.

On the front page, Balz and Fears found the rallies "drew only a smattering of anti-immigration protesters." In the story from Phoenix, a brief mention that "few voices of discord could be heard in Phoenix." On A-10, two paragraphs described "a handful" of protesters with signs reading "Protect Our Border," "Back You Go To Mexico," and "Keep walking – just 1,800 miles till you’re home." The holder of the last sign, 22-year-old Erin Carrington, told the Post she was concerned about the taxes she pays for government benefits for immigrants.

Out of 19 little profiles in "Rally Voices" on A-10 and A-11, two of them were opponents of illegal immigration, number 13 and 19 on their list. One of them, Kevin Lancaster of Frederick, Maryland, was pictured holding a sign that read "Free Housing at Ted Kennedy’s Hillary Clinton John McCain’s House!" (You could argue that makes the number of readable signs seven, but it's pretty tiny.)

There were no critics of illegal immigration in Metro, and one in Style from reporter David Montgomery: the Latin American country flags was "giving critics of the movement something extra to challenge." He also noted the American flag was used after 9/11 as a defense mechanism for immigrants, "just in case the terror-inspired dark angel of xenophobia stalked the neighborhood."

It should be noted that some rebuttal of the rally organizers emerged in the Jonathan Weisman article on A-12 headlined "Pressure, Frustration Mount." This of course, was directed at Bush, the rallies "raising Republicans’ frustration with President Bush for what they see as a muddled stand on the issue." Five Republican legislators are quoted in the article, and no Democrats – and unsurprisingly – the word "conservative" emerges, even as "liberal" was never used.

Here’s one label: "The House, reflecting the anger of conservative districts contending with a flood of illegal immigrants" passed the Sensenbrenner bill in December. Here’s another, with the classic conservatives vs. "Democrat" Ted Kennedy line: "Some conservatives believe Bush betrayed them by launching the debate, then letting Democrats such as Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (Mass.) and maverick Republicans such as Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) take control of it." Finally, Weisman called Rep. Tom Tancredo "the firebrand leader of the movement to crack down on illegal immigration." There were no "firebrands" on the left to match him in Tuesday’s immigration coverage in the Post.