Recently, there was an article
published in the New York Times that presented the point of view of Wall Street on the Occupy Wall Street movement. Not surprisingly, the opinions of Wall Street bankers was dismissive and condescending. Here is a quote from a hedge fund manager that is typical of the overall reaction: “Most people view it as a ragtag group looking for sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll.”
To be fair to the New York Times, not all coverage of the protest has been disparaging. A striking example was an editorial
on Oct. 9 that was not only sympathetic to the protests but also supportive. The editorial noted that:
"income inequality is grinding down that middle class, increasing the ranks of the poor, and threatening to create a permanent underclass of able, willing but jobless people. On one level, the protesters, most of them young, are giving voice to a generation of lost opportunity."
It also took "the chattering classes" to task for "complaining that the marchers lack a clear message and specific policy prescriptions."
The above editorial is not the only example; opinion pieces by Paul Krugman have also been supportive of the protests. Even Nicholas Kristof in his articles has highlighted the problem of inequality in the US.
Stepping back, how do we understand the coverage in the New York Times? Is the interview of Wall Street bankers merely a way of providing "balance" in reporting?
In order to answer the question, we follow the well-established method of studying the need for balance when the news coverage pertains to official enemies. We choose the so-called Green Movement in Iran. The Green Movement started after the Iranian elections in 2009 with the goal of removing Ahmadinejad from office. We issued the search query "Iran green movement" to the New York Times archive. In order to keep the study manageable, we restrict ourselves to articles between June and December of 2009. There are 38 articles that match the search criteria including news reports and opinion pieces.
If the "newspaper of record" were truly interested in "balance", it ought to have presented the point of view of the Iranian government on the Iranian protests, just as it feels the need to present the point of view of the Wall St. bankers on the Occupy Wall St. movement. We investigate how "balanced" the coverage of the Iranian protests was.
We find that only one of the 38 articles focused on the government's point of view. The article
"President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stoutly defended his legitimacy here on Wednesday, declaring in a speech that the Iranian “people entrusted me once more with a large majority” in a ballot he described as “glorious and fully democratic.”"
However, the above sentence is immediately followed by a denunciation of Ahmadinejad: "In a 35-minute address, Mr. Ahmadinejad leveled familiar attacks against the United States and delivered an oblique rant against Jews, saying it was unacceptable for a “small minority” to dominate the politics and economy of much of the world through “private networks.”"
As usual when discussing Ahmadinejad, his position on the Holocaust was brought up even though he did not mention it in his speech:
"But he did not raise the Holocaust, the subject of another anti-Semitic theme he has used in speeches."
Furthermore, the same article quotes a couple of critics of Ahmadinejad:
"Hadi Ghaemi, the director of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, who helped organize the protest, said Iranian expatriates wanted to send a strong message to Mr. Ahmadinejad that the world was “aware of the crimes that took place” since his re-election.
Nima Momeni, 25, an information technology consultant who traveled from Los Angeles for the rally, said he “could not bear the idea that Mr. Ahmadinejad could just come and address the General Assembly after the crimes that took place in Iran.”"
It is worth noting that the above article covering the Wall St. bankers' point of view of Occupy Wall Street does not discuss the reaction of any protester.