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2002-10-30

Who Do You Believe the New York Times Or the New York Times?: As the Nation’s Paper of Record Changes Its Story On This Weekend’s Anti-War Protests, We Look at How the Times and National

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Covering this past weekend’s anti-war rally in Washington D.C. the nation’s paper of record reported that "thousands of protesters marched through Washington’s streets" and that "fewer people attended than organizers had said they hoped for." That was on Sunday.

Today, three days later, the paper reports: "The demonstration on Saturday in Washington 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. They expected 30 buses, and were surprised by about 650, coming from as far as Nebraska and Florida."

Two reports. Two different stories.

The same was true at National Public Radio. On Saturday an NPR reporter at the Washington protest announced: "It was not as large as the organizers of the protest had predicted. They had said there would be 100,000 people here. I’d say there are fewer than 10,000."

Within the past 24 hours, NPR issued a correction for the misinformation. "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." NPR has since reported that at least 100,000 did in fact attend the rally.

Guests:

  • Jeffrey Dvorkin, National Public Radio ombudsman.
  • Sara Flounders, member of the ANSWER coalition steering committee.
  • Peter Hart, media analyst at Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR).
  • Liz Mason-Deese, freshman at the University North Carolina who attended Saturday’s protest and was quoted in the New York Times.
  • Nancy Kanwisher, M.I.T. professor of cognitive neuroscience. She too was quoted ­ inaccurately ­ in the Times.

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