Wednesday, 18 April 2012

UC Davis, the Pepper Spray and the Occupy Protestors

Currently doing the rounds of Facebook is an enlightening blog post on the recent release of the Reynoso Report into the infamous pepper-spraying of passive student protestors at the University of California in Davis, America.

The blog criticises the frequent communications breakdowns and misunderstandings by University authorities and security services, as well as alledging some worrying oversights in terms of what campus police officers are permitted to do. It makes for interesting reading, but as with all independant bloggers, it bears considering with an open mind and the necessity of evidence.

Of greater interest to myself as a journalism student, is the response to the release of the report through the international media. I did some digging to see how various news outlets covered it, at least online.

Firstly, I turned to possibly the most recognisable voice in the Western media, the British Broadcasting Corporation. Their coverage of the UC Davis report? Nothing since the incident, back in November 2011. Even trying additional combinations, such as 'Reynoso' or 'California Pepper Spray' either return nothing or unrelated stories. A similar search at Channel Four News also returns nothing since November, whilst the ITN website oddly offers no search function.

Examining the print press websites, staunchly left-wing, liberal-attitude British broadsheet The Guardian ran an article on the same day as the report was released, available here.
Crossing the floor, I searched through the website of The Times, a flagship title of both the UK and Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation. Whilst their website is barred to non-subscribers, it is possible to search their article history at least. A search on 'UC Davis' or 'California Pepper Spray' both turn up the same results - no articles on the incident since November last year, when it occurred.
The same goes for the other NewsCorp title in the UK - The Sun, which published an article on the 21st November, and since then hasn't come back to the topic.

Trailing behind The Sun, which is the British newspaper with the highest circulation is the Daily Mail, who published a surprisingly sympathetic article - given the Mail's usual conservative, right-wing and pro-authority stance. Even more surprisingly, they followed this up with another article looking into Lieutenant Pike - the officer at the heart of the incident - and his history with campus police, as well as reporting on the response from notorious internet-based activists, 'Anonymous'.
However, since November of last year they have not returned to cover the topic, or discuss the release of the report.

I decided to cross the ocean and see how the American national media was covering the latest development in one of the famous stories to emerge from the Occupy movement. To my surprise, I found that Fox News, a foundation stone in News Corporation and infamous for its severely conservative viewpoint actually returned to the story in February 2012. They produced a short video story on how several of the students sprayed and arrested in November lodged a lawsuit demanding damages for violation of their civil rights. Of less surprise was that since that story, a search for related articles on both date and relevance turns up nothing new.
In contrast, Cable News Network ran a lengthy article on April 11th this year, the same day as the report was released. It appears that CNN is also famous for its 'liberal bias' - the wikipedia article is sourced here as a directory to the various articles and claims made on this basis, rather than evidence.

Running through the American print titles, the New York Post had nothing new, whereas sister paper in the News Corp Empire - the Wall Street Journal - did indeed carry an article that isn't available to non-subscribers. A search using Google turns up a vast array of American regional titles carrying their own stories on the report, and that is where my own article began.

I found the initial blogpost, and decided to see how it was being reported in the wider media. That's how I discovered the surprising silence emanating from some of the biggest news reporters in the West. Quite why this story is being buried is another question that deserves consideration by all of us together.

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