My Thoughts on Protest Coverage


Brian Butko on Flickr

I’ve been deep in news for years now, running what accidentally became a news start-up called A Great Big City. One of AGBC’s biggest times of growth was my coverage of Occupy Wall Street. I was out daily, documenting the good and the bad, walking alongside meandering protest marches, getting paid nothing to do it, and not enjoying much of it. When considering writing a post about the tonight’s Ferguson protest march in NYC, I had flashbacks to those months of work, dragging myself home in the dark, after all other news orgs had posted their stories, and trying to focus long enough to write an already-outdated summary of how this happened then this happened then this.

I can’t bring myself to do it again. Starting a news site from scratch has been a crash course in journalism, but this is a lesson that took far too long to learn: Protests are better left to live news coverage. Getting swept up in the minutiae of a never-ending protest benefits no one, and trying to come home and chop up hours of the day’s events into something newsworthy was frustrating and tiring. I ended up doing my best coverage of Occupy Wall Street from my couch, weaving together the story in real time on Twitter and updating the website simultaneously. For better or worse, protests fit well with 24-hour news, since they eat up blocks of time and by nature contain a tinge of the sensational. For online news, it’s honestly probably best left to a slideshow posted the next day of whatever relevant AP and Getty photos have bubbled to the top.

For comparison’s sake, here’s an article about tonight’s protest march from MyFoxNY, which isn’t bad, but is very newspaper-of-record / Local Event Occurs. Is it necessary?

Is there a middle road? Most attempts at online streaming news have come up short, and none have reached the mixture that I had brainstormed as a live video aspect of AGBC. I still think it’s an idea worth pursuing, but it would require the difficult combination of capital invested with the flexibility to experiment daily and fail quickly.

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