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For aging baby boomers nostalgic for the 1960s Seattle was the place to be this week From the chants of protest to the whiffs of tear gas and most importantly the whirring of cameras the organized chaos that delayed the opening of the World Trade Organization WTO meeting was a reminder of how political activists savvy in the ways of journalism can hijack the news agenda from the politicians and bureaucrats On the surface the upcoming WTO meeting looked like a snooze for news junkies with its closed-door sessions of faceless bureaucrats debating esoteric topics lacking in immediate and direct impact on ordinary people So in order to draw attention to their objections the protesters applied some longstanding principles of news-making that would leave the assembled journalists with no choice but to put their views in the spotlight The media love sound and fury regardless of who is telling the tale So the protest organizers plotted a show that journalists couldnt resist They crafted a narrative that would pit populist Davids against multinational corporate Goliaths They put out press releases to alert the audience to the coming extravaganza Then they put on a spectacle replete with the color and conflict that stirs the blood and leads the evening news In short they handed journalists a story that was more interesting and exciting than the one they were there to cover The result The performers took the stage the journalists took the bait and the rest is the first rough draft of history The protests started on Monday Since then the big three network evening newscasts have aired 29 stories on the conference all but six of which focused either heavily or exclusively on the protests Meanwhile The New York Times The Washington Post and USA Today have collectively run 13 front-page stories on the events in Seattle every one either covered the protests exclusively or used the protests to frame discussion of the WTO
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