Saturday, July 10, 2010

A "strike marked by several violent incidents"

First, let's all give a round of applause to the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 791, the Shaw's distribution workers who just successfully ended their 17 week strike by negotiating a favorable contract. It's important these workers are well compensated for their hard and important work, as we wouldn't eat or drink without them (at least when it comes to perishable goods, like meat and milk). Most people don't think about all the effort it takes to get our food to the grocery store; it doesn't just magically appear there.

However, the article covering their impressive victory was horrendously prejudiced and misleading, making it sound as if the strikers were violent criminals. Don't take my word for it; here's the first sentence of the article.
A four-month strike marked by several violent incidents and arrests ended peacefully yesterday when workers at the Shaw's distribution center ratified a new contract.
Unfortunately, the Eagle Tribune doesn't follow up on the "violent incidents" written in that lead until the end of the article, with two of its final three paragraphs on the strike:
Methuen police maintained a 24-hour detail to keep the peace at the picket line outside the warehouse. The officers directed traffic for delivery trucks and workers who crossed the picket line.

Police arrested a truck driver who waved his middle finger at yelling strikers and then drove his truck at a police sergeant on March 30. A month later, police arrested another trucker who spat at a striker.
Why is it that the mainstream media, even the local variety, almost always portrays activists engaging in non-violent civil disobedience as violent criminals, if it covers them at all?

Given that almost no one reads until the end of a newspaper article, the lead in this story was completely irresponsible. If the Eagle Tribune wasn't going to clarify exactly what it meant by a strike "marked by several violent incidents" right at the beginning of its article, it shouldn't have included that sensationalist introduction at all.

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