Update below: When Occupy Denver members mark the group's six-month anniversary next week, they'll focus on accomplishments. One example: Protesters recently interrupted and shut down a live Fox 31 broadcast with complaints of subpar previous coverage. From there, as you'll see in the video below, the F-bombs fly, with reporter Eli Stokols cursing at protesters and arguing that such actions are "not a good way to get anybody to respect your point of view." And the protesters curse back.
Although the video's YouTube title suggests otherwise by referencing Fox News, Fox 31 is locally run and not a part of the larger national network. But whatever the case, Stokols rebuffs allegations of coverage shortfalls by pointing out that he and his coworkers have reported about a visit by Michael Moore, meetings with the police and "regular people on the street."
"I'm in the middle of a live shot, so this is not the time to debate with you guys," Stokols says. "If you want to act like grownups, then we can have a conversation. When I'm live on fucking television -- and you can film this -- you don't come up and fuck us up."
Here's the video:
So far, none of Westword's requests to speak to Stokols have been returned; we'll keep you updated if that changes. But while protesters lauded the interruption's success online, Stokols took to Twitter, calling the protesters "morons" on his professional account and urging them to "#stayclassy."
"Do you want to be taken seriously?" he asks on camera, pointing out that the live shot has been ruined thanks in part to a sign that says "F the police." He adds, "You want the media to respect your point of view? Then respect us."
Led by protester Caryn Sodaro, seen verbally battling Stokols on camera, the group alleges false information in previous stories before leaving the area as Stokols and a cameraman pack up.
"Oh, yeah," Sodaro says as the protesters walk away. "We're making change."
Update, 1:24 p.m.: This afternoon, we managed to reach Stokols to ask a few questions about the incident and the relationship between the media and the occupation. Here's the transcript of that conversation.
Page down to read our Q&A with Eli Stokols. Westword: How did the interruption begin? What happened before the video started?
Eli Stokols: We were in Veteran's Park, and they crossed Broadway. They noticed our truck, and right around 5:02 they crossed the street, lingered behind our van on the sidewalk, and as soon as it looked like I was about to do the live shot around 5, they walked up behind me with their signs. My photographer had to hold the camera steady and focus on me finishing the broadcast, so he was unable to run any kind of interference. And that's how signs that say "fuck the police" end up on live television. I'm guessing there were only a few seconds that actually made it on air before those watching said, "Cut it off, take the tape," but it was on air, and it's online somewhere.
WW: During your previous coverage of Occupy Denver, has this happened to you before?
ES: When this first started, when the first showdowns were imminent, we were down there all the time, and this is not uncommon. I've done live shots with signs behind me saying "Fox News is the devil," and that's not a problem. I don't even tell them to get out of the way, because they're the reason why we're there and they can say what they want. But saying something like "fuck the police" on a live broadcast is different. Before, we've sat down afterward and had conversations about the mainstream media, giving them a shot, and I think they understand that we're not slandering them and we're not slanting them or making them look worse than they said. Aside from the perception they might have of Fox News, and Fox31 being an entirely different entity, we understand the undercurrent and we try to be fair and give a voice to do what they have to say.
WW: How much of this backlash is a result of the misconception that Fox News and Fox31 are one and the same?
ES: It's a common misconception. The idea that our local station, because it's Fox31, has to do with Fox, and that Rupert Murdoch signs my paycheck and tells me what to say, it cuts both ways. A lot of people don't watch us because of that, and a lot of people do watch us because of that. That's not something we're ever going to be able to overcome. The Fox brand is so huge, and we try to make sure that the people who watch us know that we're transparent and accurate and report the facts and are fair and -- wink, wink -- balanced.
WW: What effect do you think events like this have on the public's perception of Occupy Denver?
ES: In terms of what our audience saw that night, I don't see much. On live TV, stuff happens. It's not the first time I've been yelled at during a shot. It didn't bother me during the shot, but I got a little upset afterward.
I think what I would say, and one of the reasons I was annoyed, to put it mildly, is this: Maybe I was foolish to think that I could have a rational conversation with those protesters. Those that are down there every day are tired and irrational and kind of angry -- and irrelevant, I would say. They only way they can gain any sort of relevance is by antagonizing people and using anger to make a scene in something that is not even related to them. I recognize that making a scene might be a way to get attention, but as someone who has tried to cover this protest for many months, it's frustrating when you're trying to give voice to the root of the protest, this idea of income inequality and the disparity in classes and finances and where we go from all of this when the only time you're down there is when protesters are throwing things at police or lighting things on fire or in this case, with you writing about it, antagonizing a news crew. We haven't just covered the skirmishes, as I think they would contend, but they don't make it easier on us. It's hard to talk about income inequality when the people who are upset about that aren't talking about that and instead are setting things on fire and assaulting police officers and getting arrested and changing the tide of conversation to angry events like this and calling me a preppy TV reporter. (Laughs.)
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Those words sting. When I get called a preppy, it hurts. And it's not helpful. It doesn't help anyone to divert the issue and say those things, and it certainly doesn't help me at all when I'm recorded reacting by yelling cuss words at them. But that's what happened, and it is what it is. I wish I could have toned it down a little or not gotten as mad, especially because it didn't make any difference.
WW: Do you think you made any impression on the protesters?
ES: No. I don't think anything makes much of an impression on those protesters, those who are in the news all the time for getting arrested and who are there all the time overnight now. They're not the entire occupation, clearly, but they're unwilling to communicate intelligently. For the tweet that I sent out, when I referred to them as morons, I got some flack. Obviously the word "morons" is not meant to reflect on all of them, but it's moronic to behave like that on live television, and I don't disagree with anything I said. I'm not going back on anything I said to them or about them, but it would have been nice if I had walked away. It gave them more attention in getting their sign on TV.
More from our Occupy Denver archive: "Occupy Denver: Two protesters assaulted by provocateurs during Fox31 interview."