Rallies in Madison, Wisconsin this week brought up some interesting questions regarding the newsworthiness of certain groups or public figures. Of course, the Cap Times, one of the leading newspapers in Madison has provided thorough coverage of the protests, the protestors and their messages. However, I wonder if the Tea Party, Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck have a place in this discussion. Is their commentary worth reporting on?
At one time, the Tea Party was largely written off in the political debate and videos like the one of a Tea Party activist stomping on a woman’s head were not necessarily surprising. However, the Cap Times has published two articles specifically detailing the actions of the Tea Party protestors in tracking down the Democratic senators and voicing their concerns over the protests.
So when did the actions of the Tea Party become so legitimate that the press devotes entire articles to their point of view? Is it just that they represent the main “opposition” to the tens of thousands of anti-bill protestors or do their views merit coverage simply because the public is interested in conflict? Or, do they have a point? In these circumstances, the Tea Party definitely has a place in the local news because their actions – such as trying to recall the Democratic senators – may have some sway. It is also important to represent their views because they are the main opposition. It would be wholly one-sided to report only the actions of the protestors and would leave out a very important piece of information. As it is the media’s job to inform the public, the Cap Times must report on the Tea Party.
However, although the Tea Party may have a place in local news, an article mentioning the commentary of those like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck usually does not. Although this article focuses primarily on video of a Tea Party activist asking two Democratic state senators why they did not come to work that day, it also uses Limbaugh as an example of the national media platform this video has received. I would be surprised if no other stations picked up the video as well. As such, it is a bit disheartening that the writer did not include any other outlets but the one that is known for carrying (and supporting) this type of video.
That being said, it is important that the writer noted that Limbaugh played the video as he is a major figure in this country. Although his commentary may not always merit reporting, in this case it provides context for readers. It is important to note that he supports the creators of this video because a significant segment of the American population is listening to his commentary and taking it to heart. If only because he carries weight with so many people, his commentary should be noted in this case.
My only qualm with that article is that I would have like to have seen commentary from those outside the conservative media, someone who could actually give some insight into what how the protestor found the senators, etc.
Overall, however, the Cap Times has done a pretty accurate and fair job of covering the protests. In fact, another article was more telling than the piece about the video. In the new article, titled “‘Chaos in the streets’ of Madison? Hardly.” Jessica Vanegeren, the reporter, focused on inaccuracies in the conservative media’s portrayal of the event. She also sought to demonstrate how peaceful the protests actually were, which is important also in providing context for the story.
Interestingly, she also mentioned the words of Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, who she writes described the event as “a powder keg.” Creating this link between the conservative media and the conservative politicians is vital for this story, because it again provides context. Now readers know that it not just media commentators, but also some legislators, whose portrayal of the event may not be as accurate as they originally appear.
Overall, though neither the Tea Party nor the conservative media necessarily deserve a lot of coverage of their positions and commentary in everyday articles, in this case, it was necessary in order to give readers a complete understanding of events at the capitol.