With the Stewart/Colbert rallies just days away, news coverage of the event has spiked. But among this coverage of the event itself are the attempts of news organizations to delineate the “proper” boundaries in covering – and having their reporters attend – the rallies. The Washington Post and NPR, for example, have both banned their reporters from “participating” in the event, although it remains unclear what this means. For Washington Post reporters, they can “observe” the event but not show support, whereas NPR is trying to discourage attendance altogether.
I find the stances taken by these news organizations troubling and irrational, to say the least. Although I can understand that they are trying to maintain perceptions of objectivity, encouraging their reporters to skip an event of this magnitude won’t help their reporting at all. Good journalism requires context and understanding, so being a part of society should come with the territory. Furthermore, if the rallies are as large as suggested by Facebook attendance – 220,000+ attending the Rally to Restore Sanity and another 90,000 attending the March to Keep Fear alive – a few extra reporters probably won’t stand out. Having a policy that discourages them from headlining the event is one thing, keeping them out of the crowd is another. The Washington City Paper has it right in their memo, which makes fun of these ridiculous restrictions that are impossible to understand or follow.
Well, I’ll be able to experience the event firsthand – and keep my eyes open for any covert “serious” journalists who are “observing” rather than “participating” in the event. I myself plan on using a “participant-observation” model for the experience – or in other words, having a great time soaking up the experience. I’ll be relying heavily on social media – much like the event itself – and hope to blog about my experiences there, as well as use Twitter to post updates on my journey half-way across the country. So stay tuned for updates!