Another great outcome from this weekend’s “Forward on Climate” rally in Washington, DC, was the tremendous amount of media attention it generated.
Civil Disobedience at the White House
The action started last Wednesday, when 48 movement leaders were arrested during a sit-in at the White House. The “papers of record” like the Washington Post and New York Times picked up the story, quoting participants like Sierra Club President Michael Brune and civil rights leader Julian Bond. Reuters, Politico, Fortune, NPR, the Associated Press, the Hill, the Examiner, and others also covered the rally.
At the same time, highly-trafficked gossip sites like Perezhilton.com, E Online, and People gasped at the sight of teenage heart-throb (and Taylor Swift ex-boyfriend) Conor Kennedy getting arrested at the action.
"We aren't sure how Conor came to be involved," gushed Perez, "But we bet his great-uncle John F. Kennedy — a legendary American who once lived in the residence where the protest was staged — would be proud as peach pie to see a descendant risk his reputation for a cause he deemed worthy."
Local papers picked up the story. In Nebraska, the Journal Star profiled the farmers and ranchers who got arrested. The Philadelphia Inquirer ran a big story on a Philly mom of two who took part in the action. More papers in KansasCalifornia, New York, British Columbia, and elsewhere covered the action.
The sit-in even broke through onto network TV. Fox News couldn't get enough of the event: Fox Business News interviewed Sierra Club Executive Director Mike Brune, Sean Hannity brought on Daryl Hannah and told her he'd pay for her bail next time (and then agreed with her that everyone wants clean air and clean water). Univision, CBS, ABC, CNN, CBC News, Democracy Now, Al Jazeera and others also covered the news on TV.
Action on the Hill
On Thursday morning, fresh from their arrests the day before, the Sierra Club's Mike Brune and 350.org's Bill McKibben headed to Capitol Hill to join Senator Barbara Boxer and Senator Bernie Sanders in introducing a new climate bill and then rally with progressive leaders in Congress who oppose Keystone XL.
The events got good coverage in the DC political press, with stories in Politico and the Hill. The Wall Street Journal wrote that the "climate change battle" was heating up again while Rolling Stone asked, "Is Congress finally moving on climate change?" Gannet and Reuters stories got picked up all across the country, from outlets like the Chicago Tribune to USA Today.
The Big Day: "Forward on Climate"
The real deluge of press came from the big day itself: February 17th's massive "Forward on Climate" rally. The press coverage from Forward on Climate blew away any press coverage from August 2011's sit-ins that first helped turn Keystone XL into a national campaign or the November 2011 rally to circle the White House.
TV was the real coup of the day. Between 2009 and 2011, network nightly news coverage of climate change went down 72% and it hasn't improved much since, according to Media Matters for America. But for "Forward on Climate," nearly all the networks came out. CBS News covered the "thousands marching in DC to protest Keystone XL" while NBC Nightly News ran with a headline "Rally urges action from Obama on climate change." CSPAN and MSNBC broadcasted live from the event, with Up With Chris Hayes interviewing 350.org founder Bill McKibben and Chief Jackie Thomas from the Saik'uz First Nation in Canada. The Weather Channel did some great coverage that is already up on YouTube. Univision and Telemundo also covered the rally in Spanish.