Journalists are practically giddy in anticipation of this weekend's Jon Stewart rally on the National Mall. The Rally's staff has recieved more than 1,000 requests for press credentials for the event. Only 400 were given out.
Those statistics underscore just how much the media loves Stewart's leftist message (and it is a leftist message). For some perspective, consider that the September 12, 2010 Tea Party on the Mall received roughly 150 requests for press credentials, according to FreedomWorks, which sponsored the event.
Glenn Beck's "Restoring Honor" rally granted 450 such credentials to journalists, but in the brief contact NewsBusters had with Beck's staff there was no indication that any reporter who had requested credentials had been turned down.
On Thursday, David Carr reported:
More than 1,000 individuals applied for press credentials to the “Rally To Restore Sanity” on Saturday in Washington, and various broadcast news networks applied for as many as 40 press passes.
In the end, the list was whittled down to 400 credentials.
There will be a riser for television crews and a media center for print and digital reporters filing on deadline. [Rally producer Craig] Minassian said that Comedy Central will be providing a live feed for both domestic and international outlets, and that the broadcast television network would be using the same pool approach to coverage that they use for other large events in Washington...
“I can’t think of a lot of events that have generated this kind of interest,” said Mr. Minassian, who has also produced events for HBO in Washington.
In short, media interest in the Stewart event absolutely dwarfs its interest in either the 9/12 Tea Party event or the "Restoring Honor" rally.
Coverage at the respective events will be a dramatic indicator of a double standard in media coverage of political rallies. But even the coverage leading up to the rallies has demonstrated that double standard.
According to a Nexis search ("jon stewart" "rally to restore sanity"), this weekend's rally has received 277 mentions in newspapers, and 37 mentions in radio or TV transcripts over the past month. In the month preceding the Glenn Beck rally, according to a Nexis search ("glenn beck" "restoring honor"), the event got 112 mentions in newspapers and 18 in transcripts (excluding Beck's own show).
In other words, there has been considerably more buzz around the Stewart event in the past month than there was around the Beck event the month before it took place. And that is before even considering whether those stories were positive or negative (do we really need a detailed analysis to confidently claim that coverage has been more friendly to Stewart than Beck?).
How to account for the discrepancy? Stewart and Beck get comparable ratings levels - roughly 1.9 million viewers for their live programs, on average (in fact, Beck reaches a much larger audience when his radio listenership is included). No honest and accurate assessment could confidently claim turnout this weekend will be any better than it was for Beck's rally (which drew an estimated 300,000 attendees).
Clearly the double standard is a product of the media's love for Stewart's brand of pop-culture leftism. Baltimore Sun media critic David Zurawik wrote Thursday in discussing Stewart's interview with the President:
Maybe I was deluding myself because I like the intelligence of Stewart's humor, but I really believed he had a more balanced and centrist take on American life. If the White House was looking for the court jester and mouthpiece of the folks senior White House officials described as the "professional left," they found him. He was sitting across from the president Wednesday night prodding him with all the White House had not done.
To the extent that Stewart is television's embodiment of the so-called "professional left," Beck can fairly be presented as cable TV's Tea Party anchor. So in that sense Stewart is the diametric opposite of Beck.
And indeed, that is how the "Rally to Restore Sanity" was billed: as a counter-punch to Beck's "Restoring Honor" rally (hence the emphasis on restoration). These are the two camps of political punditry. The mainstream media has clearly picked sides.