Continental Chicago

now in its one-hundred-and-eightieth year

What You Saw of the Summit

Freeze frame of channel 7 coverage of police standoff with protesters at Michigan and Cermak, May 20th (author photo)

A friend called me in Michigan Sunday night and said, “Turn on your TV.”  It was live coverage of a standoff between a crowd of protesters and the Chicago police near the site of the NATO summit.  I watched for about an hour as police sought to move and break up the crowd, which had persisted after the end of a permitted rally.

Channel 7 coverage of a NATO protest, May 20th, with cameramen in the midst of the crowd (author photo)

It was a heavily mediated event, to put it mildly.  Not only were there many TV cameramen in the crowd, but many of the protesters were essentially documentarians, using their cameras and phones the whole time.

NATO protesters using their cameras and phones, May 20th (author screenshot of Channel 7 coverage)

Over it all were the rooftop TV crews, supplying the coverage that I was watching.  This second layer of coverage cast the behavior of the protesters in a different light than the images they themselves were recording.  In their eagerness to document the police’s activities, they seemed oddly cut off from what was happening.

A NATO protester on the phone, Chicago, May 20th (author screenshot of Channel 7 coverage)

There are times when being on the phone detracts from the urgency and immediacy of the moment; perhaps this was one.

Now that the summit’s over, it’s interesting to think what will happen to its vestiges, to all the images and impressions that it produced.  They will be circulated and used in myriad different ways, just as I’ve used a fleeting remote glimpse of the summit to write this post.

What did you see of the summit?  Tell us, please.

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2 comments on “What You Saw of the Summit

  1. Robert LaLonde
    May 22, 2012

    Susan,
    I thought the coverage was awful. Provincial may be the word for it: 60 world leaders were in town, including from Poland (Chicago is, after all, still the 2nd or 3rd largest Polish city in the world). Moreover the newly elected President of France was here—who promises (I think for the better) to take France and Europe in a different direction. Angela Merkel was here too—the leader of the austerity (no growth) group. One would have thought the local media would have been interested in covering these folks and talking to them. Certainly the media setup at McCormick Place afforded opportunities for this. Instead the media, even WTTW, spent hours focused on these standoffs between the police and these SMALL groups of silly people. I am not saying that silly people don’t have the right to protest, but the media does not have an obligation to give their actions—or even their ideas—24/7 coverage!

    • Susan Barsy
      May 22, 2012

      Bob,
      This is very well put. I agree with you absolutely. Chicago journalists often choose to embrace a “one-down” vision of themselves and the city, which has devastating consequences for the news we receive. Often we get the coverage of events that journalists find most comfortable, which affects what aspects of events and subjects they focus on and what questions they ask. Meanwhile, there are many opportunities for distinction that they bypass.

      Thanks for writing in again!
      SB

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This entry was posted on May 22, 2012 by in Political Musings and tagged , , , , , , , .

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