Connie Hammond, a principal organizer for the Columbus march against war in Iraq last Saturday, estimated that 800 people attended the rally.

Perhaps like me, you watched the evening TV news to see what kind of coverage the protest got. It was dismal. Channels 4, 6 and 10 ran five to ten minutes of stories about snow, followed by about two minutes on the international protests. The local march got about 10 seconds max. Aside from the brevity of the coverage, the message of the protesters was trivialized by focussing on arrests at demos. Perhaps it was just me, but the anchors seemed to editorialize on "what the protesters believe" in such a way as to indicate that the viewer was expected to believe otherwise.

The Dispatch was not much better. Okay, so the Sunday edition had a front page piece "Millions make Case for Peace", which included a whole column-inch telling us where the three central Ohio demos were, but they also ran two pieces to incite war: one on the Iraqi war plan, and one on US proposals to "prove" Iraq is in violation of UNSCR 1441.

I note that, in general, attendance at US rallies was far lower than those in European cities of comparable size. For example, Glasgow is slightly smaller than Columbus and got a turnout of about 90,000. The reasons for these differences are undoubtedly complex, but I think the media has something to do with it. In fact, this view was partially articulated by Paul Krugman [1] in today's NY Times op-ed columns.

The popular media are failing to frame the issues well enough to allow expressions of dissent to appear anything but unpatriotic in the minds of the American public. And the situation is particularly acute in Columbus.

Personally I am disgusted with Columbus' popular media. I wonder why local reporters are not thoroughly embarrassed at the state of their profession. My question: What ever happened to journalistic integrity?

Protest does work. Look at the European Union statement [2] yesterday. "We want to achieve [Iraqi disarmament] peacefully. It is clear that this is what the people of Europe want."

So I'd like to invite you to send an email to Chuck Nelson, president of the Central Ohio chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, explaining how you feel about Central Ohio journalists being delinquent in their responsibilities to the public, and asking him to help improve the situation.

Here are his contact details.

Central Ohio Pro Chapter
President: Chuck Nelson
Business copy editor
The Columbus Dispatch
34 S. Third St.
Columbus, OH 43215
Phone: 614-461-8513
Fax: 614-461-5107

This is an open invitation. Feel free to circulate it.

Finally, on a lighter note, see

to find out what else 800 people can do to publicise the cause. (PARENTAL ADVISORY: contains nudity.)

References [1]