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.
Later in the day, ABC, Fox News, CTV, Euro News, RT, Democracy Now, and others got in on the coverage. Best yet, plenty of local TV stations covered the Washington, DC rally along with local solidarity events taking place in their city. Coverage flowed in from CBS News in San Francisco and Albuquerque; Fox News got the story in Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Atlanta, and Omaha; NBC covered events in Buffalo, Madison, and Providence; while ABC covered rallies in Waco, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. And those are just the clips we were able to find online — I heard from an ally in Texas that he saw Forward on Climate coverage on Fox News in Austin, Texas and that it was entirely positive!
Now, let’s get to some of the newspapers — this is a doozy, so stick with me. The New York Times got into the story with an article looking at the political challenges around Keystone XL. USA Today wrote up a great piece that topped the website all Sunday and then ran on Page A4 of the print edition on Monday (and was picked up by dozens of outlets across the country). The Washington Post wrote up an article on the rally, as well as running a front page Style section profile of billionaire philanthropist and climate activist Tom Steyer, who spoke at Forward on Climate. Meanwhile, more articles streamed in from (ready?): NPR, CNN, Huffington Post (front page), Reuters, Bloomberg, New York Magazine, Yahoo News, Al Jazeera, Politico (at least 3 articles), the Hill, the Guardian, the Christian Science Monitor, Salon, Christian Science Monitor, Voice of America, Think Progress, Grist, Truthout, Inside Climate News, Triple Pundit, National Catholic Reporter, and more.
The story even went global, with press hits coming in from BBC Arabic, news outlets in Turkey, Brazil, Portugal, and Spain. France’s Le Monde ran a story on the front page of the newsprint (a friend from Paris sent a photo of the paper, which featured a big color photo of the rally). Spanish language coverage got picked up in Panama, Venezuela, Chile, Peru, Honduras, Cuba, and elsewhere. I’m sure there is plenty more that we just haven’t tracked down.
Naturally, we also got some big press coverage in Canada, home of the tar sands. The Globe and Mail ran with the headline “Sunday rally could tip balance against Keystone XL.” CBC News ran a series of pieces on the rally, talking with participants and other commentators. CTV News said the Keystone XL pipeline “could be central to Obama’s legacy.” A PostMedia news story ran in outlets across the country, like the Vancouver Sun. Other outlets like Rabble, Canada.com, and the New Toronto also picked up the beat.
Our local Forward on Climate rallies also rocked the house in terms of media coverage. The San Francisco Chronicle covered “thousands” marching to protest Keystone XL. More California coverage covering rallies in LA, San Diego, and elsewhere came in from outlets like SF Bay, Santa Cruz Sentinel, Voices of OC, OB Rag, East County Magazine, City Watch, and more. The Philadelphia Inquirer ran a big piece on the national rally and another on actions in Philly. Indian Country Today Media Network covered the tribal luminarees speaking at the DC rally. The Missouri University Maneater and St. Louis Public Radio covered a group of Missouri students who drove over 15 hours to come to DC for the protest. A group from Maine got coverage in the Associated Press, Seacoast Online, and Portland Daily Sun. Not be out done, New Jersey covered its crew of activists with articles in the Asbury Park Press, the Daily Record, and NJ Today, who ran with the headline “Hundreds of NJ Residents Head to DC for Climate Rally.” As usual, the Nebraska crew got its fare share of media, with two articles in the Daily Nebraskan and a great political piece in the Omaha World Herald with the headline “Keystone XL foes say they’re gaining momentum.” Meanwhile, more local media hits poured in from outlets like Southern Maryland News, Bozeman Daily Chronicle, Daily Inter Lake in Michigan, Central Michigan Life, Wisconsin Gazette, Cornell Daily Sun, the Providence Journal, the Charlottesville Newsplex, and many, many more.
All this coverage has firmly thrust Keystone XL and climate change back in the spotlight. I just did a quick check on Google News and there are over 10 pages of press hits from just the last 24 hours. Opeds are flying back and forth around the country. Big news outlets like the Washington Post, USA Today, and the Wall Street Journal are getting back in on the coverage. Environmental blogs like Grist are debating movement strategy and prognosticating about the road ahead. Even the celebrity news keeps on cranking: Twitter is still aflur about Miranda Kerr and Orlando Bloom showing up to a Forward on Climate Rally in LA, while the Examiner is running a story about celebrities teaching their kids about civil disobedience.
The massive amounts of coverage make it all the more ironic that TransCanada, the company attempting to build Keystone XL, supposedly told reporters at a roundtable this morning that they felt like the temperature was going down on Keystone XL and the rally didn’t get as much coverage as it would have a year ago. Meanwhile, the Canadian Ambassador to Washington is now publicly whining to the press that they’re spending too much time covering the movement to oppose Keystone XL — you know, the tens of thousands of Americans marching in the streets — rather than recycling his tired old talking points.
Media coverage is just one way to measure the impact of an event (the most important thing is the organizing that comes after it), but judging by the press coverage over the last few days, I’d say that the climate movement has some new wind in its sails. Let’s keep making some news.