Monday's Washington Post gave the badly-attended Earth Day rally on Sunday a whitewash on the front page of the Metro section. "Earth Day stands up to the rain," was the headline, as reporter Tara Bahrampour said rain "didn't stop the die-hards." Online, the headline was funnier: "Rains don't water down Earth Day enthusiasm." The Post offered no attempts at a numerical estimate.
But at Examiner.com, 'DC Green Business Examiner" Douglas Canter was more straightforward: "Earth Day Networks, which sponsored the event, expected tens of thousands of people. By midafternoon, about 40 people, including [Frisbee-throwers] Nick, Antonio, and a CNN crew, hovered near the stage awaiting the remainder of a long list of scheduled speakers and bands, including the Reverend Jesse Jackson and R&B singer Ledisi."
He added: "About 50 yards away, several hundred people walked on the muddy grass and stopped under about 20 partially covered exhibits. Many were operated by companies that promoted their products."
So let's review: Earth Day organizers expected "tens of thousands" and drew 40. It received a large color photo (mother with child, avoid the "crowd" shot) and a front-page Metro story. In January, the March for Life turned out tens of thousands and it received two large color photos (one of an opponent) -- one of and a front-page Metro story (and avoided a crowd shot). Post ombudsman Patrick Pexton nudged this quote from Post local editor Vernon Loeb: “In retrospect I wish we had given readers a better sense of the overall magnitude of the march. . .it was far larger than 17,000.”
The Post reporter's complete submission to the Earth Day publicists was apparent:
It was one of countless gatherings across the world held to mark Earth Day, which began in 1970 as an environmental teach-in after an oil spill in California.
The day is observed by about a billion people around the world, according to organizers. Communities typically participate through activities such as cleaning polluted rivers, participating in rallies or planting gardens.
On Sunday, the organization announced it had reached its two-year-long goal of getting 1 billion “acts of green” pledged from individuals, businesses, civic organizations and governments around the world. These included the provincial government of Iraqi Kurdestan, promising to plant a million trees, and one man — location unknown — who e-mailed to say he had broken up with his girlfriend because she wouldn’t recycle.
From the actual attendance in D.C., one might call these statements "faith-based," and not based on the actual science of counting attendees.
Let's compare the protest events in photographs. Again, the Earth Day rally yesterday [photo lifted via Google from Andrew at the Freetaste blog]:
....And the March for Life in January: