Thursday, March 23, 2006

More Belarus, Bad Journalism

It seems the NY Times and the BBC, the two places where I've been getting most of my news on the situation in Belarus, had scheduled a revolution into their editorial calendar, and so they're going to provide one to their readers no matter what. I don't agree with the front-page coverage the Times is giving the ongoing protest in Minsk, which currently boasts about 300 people in the main public square. It's coverage that describes people expecting something to happen, not events actually happening. It is a forecast, not news. And it's appearing every day on the front page.

In today's dispatch, you'll find is this paragraph, which the reporter, C.J. Chivers, apparently believes isn't third-rate journalism:

Since a rigged presidential election on March 19, the capital of Belarus has seen a protest like none in 12 years of President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko's autocratic grip.

"Rigged" is not defined in the story, and a support of the word "autocratic" must be gleaned from the threat of bloodshed that has not yet come.

At any moment, the demonstrators said, they expected the police to rush forward, beat them with clubs and drag them off to the detention cells. And then their protest would end in blood.

Chivers tries to further justify the relevance for this news story with a quote from Aleksandr Milinkevich, the opposition leader:

To the extent that this is a revolution, Mr. Milinkevich often says, it is a revolution not on the streets but in the mind.

So this is a story about bloodshed that's about to happen, and a revolution that's located in the mind. "The nation of Belarus revolted against their autocratic leader today, though because it was a revolution of the mind, everyone stayed home and telepathically protested from there."

Something tells me the editors of the New York Times, that grand old lady of print, that tired woman in need of the rest home, wouldn't allow a news story about 300 American protestors to be inflated into an imminent White House crack-down and a revolution of the mind. Nor would they allow "rigged" and "autocrat" to be so easily bandied around if they referred to American politics, though certainly some word argue that those words could just as easily be applied to current political events.

He stood in the darkness, shifting his weight from one cold foot to the other, waiting for whatever comes next.

I'll be waiting for the news too. Until then, I'll be reading something else in my paper.


Leopolis said...

Since the Western press has not filled in the gaps, I invite you to read from different sources.

Please, don't bring Iraq into conversation about Belarus: it is not fair for Belarussians. Same thing with tommorow's parliamentary election. The western press will flap gums about the "pro-Russia" parties and the "pro-western" parties while taking power away from the views of Ukrainians.

WittyName32 said...

I welcome the other source of news, but not the boundaries. It's unfair to assume that all news about Belarus is for Belarussians. Americans have a hard time looking at themselves in the same way they do others. Revolution is one thing abroad, and another thing at home. You cannot make this point without making comparisons to other cultures and foreign-based news events. And before Saturday's mass arrests in Minsk, there had been similar, if not greater signs, of unrest in NYC, San Francisco, DC, and never had the word revolution been uttered by the press. I think it's more than a little important to question why.