Hocus pocus

There is little that is more fun for journalists on deadline than to discuss agendas on the part of other media outlets. It’s the exact position most news media consumers are in all of the time: We really have no idea what is happening in newsrooms across the country, but the more aware of us—are you calling us “paranoid”?—see things we find suspicious.

For example, one editor here believes the Occupy Wall Street movement and its permutations around the world has been under-covered. “I disagree,” responded another. “If you search on Google News, you’ll see there are 6,632 articles logged there right now, and that’s the way it’s been the entire time.”

True that. And at this moment, there are 10,500 stories about Lady Gaga on the Google News site.

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.

But that same editor raises another good point, “It’s not that they’re not covering it; if someone occupies lower Manhattan, there are going to be stories about it. What you have to watch is how it’s being covered.”

And this is purely anecdotal, just perception on the part of a fellow traveler, but doesn’t it seem as though the coverage of the Occupy movement across the country has been a bit dismissive? Emphasis on violence in an extremely non-violent movement? Easily dismissible claims that members of the movement don’t have defined aims? Outsider observations that protests against Wall Street are impotent when the real criminals are on East Capitol Street? Maybe it’s photographically covered like a social event or an evening at the nightclub or Burning Man?

This morning, Bank of America posted third-quarter profits of $6.2 billion. At this moment, there are 860 results for “$6.2 billion” on Google News. The phrase, “in light of this increase over last year’s profits, BofA has elected not to charge its customers $5 a month to use their ATM cards” does not appear to be in any of the news articles.

The phrase “The Occupy Movement’s Common Thread Is Anger” does appear at the top of some stories, on the other hand. Be afraid of those violent anarchists!

Why, oh why, would media be hesitant to offer objective coverage of such a massive, worldwide movement? It’s not like journalists aren’t members of the 99 percent. Could there be something obscured behind the smoke and mirrors?

According to Business Insider, in 2010 Bank of America spent $1.9 billion on advertising. Citigroup spent $1.6 billion and JP Morgan Chase spent $2.4 billion.

It’s hard to imagine that such charitable, socially conscious institutions as banks and investment companies might bring pressure to bear to color news coverage. But reporters for news entities that enjoy financial institution advertising learn to censor themselves.

It’s easy to find financial institution ads in the New York Times—where that “anger” headline appeared—and just as easy to see them on any of the cable news networks.

But, as illustrated by our cover story, with under-reported news, often the bottom line is that there is no bottom line, only conjecture on the part of the audience.

Nothing up my sleeve. … Presto!