AP, NYT Inflate Perception of Non-Madison Saturday Pro-Union Crowds

February 27th, 2011 11:13 AM

Yesterday was supposed to be a day of massive pro-union demonstrations nationwide designed to give Wisconsin public-sector employee moral support from hordes of their union and non-union "brothers" and "sisters" around the country.

Uh, that's not exactly what transpired.

The establishment press's fallback position in matters such as these when the protesters involved have their sympathies is to cite decent numbers where available, while otherwise referring to "large crowds," leaving it to the imaginations of readers, listeners, and viewers what that really means. Call it "creative crowd reporting." With some slip-ups, the New York Times and the Associated Press each employed this tactic yesterday.

Unfortunately for them, many local reporters did estimate crowd sizes in cities other than Wisconsin's capital of Madison, and they aren't particularly impressive (while still being suspect, as will be seen later). William Jacobsen at Legal Insurrection (HT Instapundit) compiled press reports from other cities as follows:

In Washington, D.C., only about 500 people showed up (go to link for good photos of crazy signs). (Note, WaPo says 1000.)
In Columbus, OH, where you would expect a big crowd given a similar controversy, only "several thousand" people protested.

Other head counts, based on news reports, include: Boston (1000), Portsmouth, N.H. (few hundred), Augusta, ME (small crowd), New York City ("several thousand"), Chicago (1000), Miami (100), Austin (several hundred), Chicago (1000); Lansing, MI (2000), Nashville (hundreds), Los Angeles (2000), Richmond, VA (300), Denver (1000); Frankfort, KY (several hundred), Jefferson City, MO (several hundred), Harrisburg, PA (several hundred).


While I don't have a complete count, based on these numbers from some major cities and labor states, total protesters nationwide (excluding Madison) likely totaled under 100,000 combined.

Given that there were events in some cities other than those cited by Jacobsen (including Denver and Minneapolis, as seen below), the nationwide turnout may have conceivably have broken six figures -- but if so, not by much.

The Associated Press's Patrick Condon and Todd Richmond followed the aforementioned template:

Chanting pro-union slogans and carrying signs declaring "We are all Wisconsin," protesters turned out in cities nationwide to support thousands of public workers who've set up camp at the Wisconsin Capitol to fight Republican-backed legislation aimed at weakening unions.
Union supporters organized rallies from New York to Los Angeles in a show of solidarity Saturday as the demonstration in Madison entered its 12th straight day and attracted its largest crowd yet: more than 70,000 people. Hundreds banged on drums and screamed into bullhorns inside the Capitol as others braved frigid weather and snow during the massive rally that flooded into nearby streets.

... "Wisconsin is opening up people's eyes a little bit," said Jay Van Loenen, a teacher who attended a rally in Denver that attracted about 1,000 people. [1] "So I think that the move is to try to get people more involved in their unions and create a stronger front so that if something happens here, we are prepared." [2]


Several thousand people gathered for a rally in Columbus, Ohio, where lawmakers are considering a similar bill. Indiana Democrats successfully blocked a Republican bill last week that would have prohibited union membership from being a condition of employment.


Large crowds of teachers, firefighters and public workers also gathered for rallies — holding American flags, wearing pro-union clothing and holding signs — in other capital cities including Topeka, Kan.; Harrisburg, Pa.; and Olympia, Wash.


In Los Angeles, public sector workers and others [3] held signs that read "We are all Wisconsin" during a rally. Some wore foam "cheeseheads," the familiar hats worn by Green Bay Packers fans.


Covered in layers of coats, scarves, hats and gloves, about 1,000 rally goers outside the Minnesota Capitol chanted "Workers' rights are human rights" and waved signs, some reading "United we bargain, divided we beg."

Other notes:

  • [1] -- The Denver Post copped out, merely saying that "Organizers estimated the crowd at more than 3,000 people." The crowd as shown at this YouTube video doesn't even look like 1,000.
  • [2] -- Mr. Van Loenen didn't just "attend" the rally. In that same YouTube vid, one sees that he spoke at the rally for about 5 minutes, sounding an awful lot like a teachers' union official and hardline union activist, complete with Koch Brothers and anti-Tea Party references. I'm guessing that's because Jay Van Loenen is a teachers' union official and/or a hardline union activist. If so, nice lack of disclosure, AP.
  • [3] -- "Public sector workers and others"? Would that be spouses, boyfriends, girlfriends, their kids, and a few opportunistic politicians? This seems to be an admission that if the goal was to get sympathy from non-union members, or even private-sector union members, that the goal was not achieved in LA.

At the New York Times ("Rallies for Labor, in Wisconsin and Beyond"), Richard A. Oppel and Timothy Williams slipped and made one reference to a pathically-sized gathering in Miami, but otherwise stuck to the script:

With booming chants of “This will not stand!” at least 70,000 demonstrators flooded the square around the Wisconsin Capitol on Saturday in what the authorities here called the largest protest yet in nearly two weeks of demonstrations.


It was a call heard in sympathy protests that drew thousands of demonstrators to state capitals and other cities from Albany to the West Coast.


... Mr. Walker’s plan is far from the only proposal to curb union power, and crowds of teachers, firefighters and other public workers held rallies Saturday in cities from Albany and Miami to Olympia, Wash.


“This is a national issue,” Jim Goodnow, who attended the demonstration in Miami, where about 150 people rallied at Bayfront Park. Many of them said they were concerned that Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, might try to strip away the few protections that unions have in Florida. A bill in the Legislature would block union dues from being automatically deducted from paychecks.

Note that the Times's Miami estimate of 150 is 50% higher than the estimate of Jacobsen's cited source at Reuters. That wire service's Michelle Nichols writes that the Columbus, Ohio crowd was "Up to 1,000." The "several thousand" Columbus description cited by Jacobsen came from the Dayton Daily News, which is hopelessly biased to the left and largely unreliable in matters such as these.

The bottom line, per Jacobsen:

Since NYT and AP stories are run at thousands of local newspapers around the country who cannot create their own content, it is likely that most people in this country never will hear about the dismal turnout for these protests. This is your biased MSM in action.


Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.