Occupy Denver: Mainstream media outlets aren't always taking the movement seriously

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Occupy Denver protests present a challenge for mainstream media outlets. The local version of the Occupy Wall Street movement can't compare in size to the largest assemblies in the U.S. or internationally -- at least not yet. But it's still one of the biggest ongoing stories in these parts over recent years. How to strike the proper balance? Local TV outlets are trying, but they fumbled a chance Saturday night.

Saturday marked Occupy Denver's largest gathering yet, with as many as 3,000 people estimated to have taken part in a downtown march. Afterward, the most dedicated members of the movement set up food tents across from the State Capitol -- an action that police forces interpreted as defying the edict against establishing a permanent settlement.

The tension created by this standoff bubbled over just before 7 p.m., with a line of riot-gear-clad officers holding their batons in front of them and moving in unison toward protesters in a manner weirdly reminiscent of Janet Jackson's "Rhythm Nation" video. In response, Corey Donahue, a longtime activist recently profiled by Westword, extended a piece of food to the advancing cops, echoing Sixties-era protests in which demonstrators placed flowers in gun barrels.

It was a vivid image, but only one local TV station -- CBS4 -- captured it live. In contrast, 9News, Fox31 and 7News, stuck with regular entertainment programming. In Channel 7's case, that meant a NASCAR race.

Granted, CBS4 kept its eye on the bottom line, too. At the very moment when the officers were first making contact with Occupy Denver's main resisters, news anchors cut away, signed off and threw to a block of commercials.

As for the Denver Post, it gave front-page coverage to the previous day's activities in its physical edition on Sunday -- but along the right border of the page, under a modest-size headline sans a photograph. Page one was otherwise dominated by a profile of Jesse Martin, a paralyzed DU hockey player. The article represented the first of a three-part series -- implying that the piece had been previously scheduled, and editors decided the Occupy Denver events weren't large enough to displace it.

In Facebook exchanges after Occupy Denver's tent city was dismantled last week, some commenters argued that protesters should shun the mainstream media. Clearly, that hasn't taken place -- but the coverage to date probably won't squelch such suggestions.

Look below to see Occupy Denver's 10 p.m. Saturday report on Occupy Denver.

Click here to follow and like the Michael Roberts/Westword Facebook page.

More from our Occupy Denver archive: "Occupy Denver photo gallery captures the night (and morning) the tent city came down."

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