Media coverage of the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) protests started out exactly as one might expect. There was little coverage at first (FAIR Action Alert, 9/23/11), and as it expanded, much of it consisted of snide dismissals of demonstrators'' ignorance, hygiene and so on.
But then something happened. Following incidents of police abuse, including the unprovoked pepper-spraying of several demonstrators on September 24, media coverage began to pick up (FAIR Activism Update, 9/29/11).NPR executive editor Dick Meyer explained that the protests were not covered early on because they "did not involve large numbers of people, prominent people, a great disruption or an especially clear objective." But within a day or so, NPR was covering the protests, as was the rest of the media.
Soon the actions were being treated as front-page, top-of-the-newscast material. Consider this Brian Williams introduction at the top of the October 5 NBC Nightly News:
We begin tonight with what has become by any measure a pretty massive protest movement. While it goes by the official name Occupy Wall Street, it has spread steadily and far beyond Wall Street, and it could well turn out to be the protest of this current era. The lyric from 45 years ago in the Buffalo Springfield song "For What It's Worth" could also describe this current movement right now. Once again, there is something happening here. What it is ain't exactly clear, but it encompasses a lot of things: anger, frustration, disenfranchisement, income disparity, unaccountability and general upheaval and dissatisfaction.