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[casi] Times, NPR Change Their Take on DC Protests

ACTIVISM UPDATE: Times, NPR Change Their Take on DC Protests

October 30, 2002

Three days after its first report on the D.C. antiwar protests, readers of the New York Times were 
treated to a much different account of the same event.  On October 30, the Times reported that the 
October 26 protests "drew 100,000 by police estimates and 200,000 by organizers', forming a 
two-mile wall of marchers around the White House. The turnout startled even organizers, who had 
taken out permits for 20,000 marchers."

This directly contradicted the Times' October 27 report, which noted that the "thousands" of 
demonstrators were "fewer people... than organizers had said they hoped for."  The October 30 Times 
report also included much more information about similar protests around the country, and featured 
quotes from various antiwar activists.

The second Times story may have been a reaction to the overwhelming response to FAIR's October 28 
Action Alert critical of the paper's downplaying of the protest.  FAIR has received more than 1,100 
copies of individual letters sent to the Times or to NPR, whose coverage was also cited in the 
action alert-- one of the largest volumes of mail ever generated by a FAIR action alert.  The 
newspaper trade magazine Editor and Publisher (10/30/02) suggested that the October 30 piece was a 
"make-up article" that may have been written "in response to many organized protest letters sent to 
the Times since the paper's weak, and inaccurate, initial article about the march on Sunday."

The paper has not yet issued an editor's note or correction explaining the different reports, 
though senior editor Bill Borders sent an apologetic message to many of the people who wrote to the 

"I am sorry we disappointed you," he said. "Accurately measuring the size of a crowd of 
demonstrators is nearly impossible and often, as in this case, there are no reliable objective 
estimates."  Borders defended the Times' overall coverage of the Iraq debate, and thanked activists 
for contacting the paper: "We appreciate your writing us and welcome your careful scrutiny. It 
helps us to do a better job."

National Public Radio, another target of FAIR's action alert, has also offered a correction of its 
misleading coverage of the D.C. protest.  The following message is now posted on NPR's website:

On Saturday, October 26, in a story on the protest in Washington, D.C. against a U.S. war with 
Iraq, we erroneously reported on All Things Considered that the size of the crowd was "fewer than 
10,000." While Park Service employees gave no official estimate, it is clear that the crowd was 
substantially larger than that. On Sunday, October 27, we reported on Weekend Edition that the 
crowd estimated by protest organizers was 100,000. We apologize for the error.

FAIR thanks all of the activists who wrote to the New York Times and NPR about their coverage of 
the D.C. protests.  Those who did write or call might consider sending a follow-up note to the 
outlets to encourage serious, ongoing coverage of the growing antiwar movement.

To read the New York Times' new report on the protests, go to: (Registration required)

To read the initial NPR story with the correction, go to:

To read FAIR's October 28 action alert on protest coverage, go to:

~ Anai Rhoads

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