The dramatic aftermath of Hurricane Rita moved the latest “antiwar” rally to page 12 on Sunday's New York Times (although the front page accidentally sent readers to page 14). But the warp and woof of the reporting was the same. Reporter/publicist Michael Janofsky’s report followed all the traditional rules.
1. Highlight the massive turnout. “Vast numbers of protesters from around the country poured onto the lawns behind the White House on Saturday to demonstrate their opposition to the war in Iraq, pointedly directing their anger at President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.” Give Janofsky credit for noticing the rally’s central focus: anti-Bush anger.
2. Channel protest-organizer claims that this wasn’t another scattershot rally attacking every problem from a different radical direction. “[B]ut unlike the more varied themes of recent protests against administration policies, antiwar sentiment on Saturday was consistent throughout.” This certainly does not match conservative reporter Byron York at National Review : “For a demonstration that was ostensibly about the war, there was a lot of talk about other things. Especially Katrina.”
3. Try to avoid quoting actual speeches from the podium. Janofsky arrives at the Cindy Sheehan angle this way: “Ms. Sheehan has become the face of the movement because of her efforts over the summer, camping near Mr. Bush's ranch in Crawford, Tex. Her appearance and brief remarks drew a thunderous response.” There is no quote from them, although Christopher Fotos at PostWatch noted she said: “We'll be the check and balance on this out of control criminal government." Janofsky interviewed her afterward for more modest personal reflections: "I really haven't had a chance to digest all this," she said in an interview after her speech, referring to the attention she has received. "I hope I'm a catalyst for change, but I don't want to be the focus of change."
4. Don’t label anyone left-wing even, or even liberal. Instead, Janofsky reported “the crowd also heard from old lions of the antiwar movement, like the Rev. Jesse Jackson, the actress Jessica Lange, Ralph Nader and former Attorney General Ramsey Clark, who has endorsed impeaching Mr. Bush.” You’re a venerated old lion even when you make radical arguments about impeachment. (Here Janofsky did allow one solitary stable-sounding sentence from Jesse Jackson at the rally: “Mr. Jackson reminded the crowd that the war proceeded without proof that Iraq had unconventional weapons or a connection to Al Qaeda, saying, ‘We deserve another way and better leadership.' ”
5. Whitewash any bizarrely radical connection the protest organizers have. Janofsky described the protest groups this way: “The protests here and elsewhere were largely sponsored by two groups, the Answer Coalition, which embodies a wide range of progressive political objectives, and United for Peace and Justice, which has a more narrow, antiwar focus.”
Earlier this year, Brent Bozell also whacked at Janofsky the Publicist: "The morning after the inauguration, New York Times reporter Michael Janofsky issued a very kind article about demonstrators 'reveling' in the protests, reporting on Clark as merely an 'antiwar figure' who was merely LBJ’s Attorney General -- not a tyrant’s best legal friend."