The second Mountain Moral Monday was exhausting and energizing. We estimate a crowd of about 8,000, although the newspaper here estimated less than half that amount.
I see it as an effort to minimize the effect the Moral Movement is having across the state. Police estimated 5,000. Last year we had 10,000; the police estimated 8,000; the paper kept saying “more than 6,000.”
For a year they used that low-ball estimate of “more than 6,000″ — until yesterday, when they gave last year’s estimate as 10,000 and said the crowd was only 3,500 this year.
I wrote a letter to the editor to complain about the coverage:
“To the editor:
“I find it interesting that the paper used the “police estimate” of 3,500 for this year’s crowd, and then used others’ estimates of last year’s crowds of 10,000 for this year’s story.
“For the past year, the paper has used its estimate of 6,000. Apparently, when you can make the movement look smaller and less important, it’s OK to use everyone else’s estimate.
“The crowd was slightly smaller than last year, but well over 6,000, and no less enthusiastic. As Rev. Barber said, it isn’t about the numbers, but about the Movement.
Also offensive was the word ‘feisty’ when referring to Lindsay Kosmala Furst’s speech. You would never never have used that word to describe a man’s speech. The word to describe her speech is ‘impassioned.’”
I would only ask the paper to make sure its coverage is accurate and that someone read the copy looking for words that might be sexist, racist or otherwise offensive.
Had I been assigned the story, I would have made a call to the police at the end of the rally and asked for a crowd estimate. Then I would have called the organizers for their estimate and printed both.
In my nearly three decades as a reporter, I found police usually under-estimated the size of the crowd and organizers generally over-estimated. Rarely did they agree. I printed both numbers or I printed a number halfway between the two if the estimates were close.
Also, if you get an estimate at the beginning of the event, it will be low, since people continue to stream in for at least a half hour.
These are very simple reporting rules if you believe accuracy is your main goal. However, if your goal is to discredit a movement, you go ahead and use tricks like those used in this morning’s paper.
So, let’s giver the paper the benefit of the doubt and say this us unintentional. That would make it something less than competent journalism, and that is most disappointing.