The torrid Occupy Oakland protests, which saw an estimated 5,000-7,000 protestors shut down the city's port Nov. 2, appear have turned the Bay Area into the news-value epicenter for the Occupy Wall Street movement that kicked off in New York Sept. 17.
Thousands gathered around Oakland's City Hall Nov. 2, and some 80 people were arrested when the protest got violent the next morning -- boosting Occupy Oakland to the top of the local, and national, newscast. New York, meanwhile, was digging out from a freak Oct. 29 snowstorm, and resultant power outages, which bumped the Zuccotti Park activities well out of the lead story spots.
"Oakland has become, for good or bad, the epicenter of Occupy," says KTVU Oakland News Director Ed Chapuis. "Somehow the focus has shifted to us."
The station sites representing the Bay Area and New York bear this out. KNTV San Francisco's site has a story on Oakland mayor Jean Quan wrestling with how to free up the plaza in front of City Hall while still allowing protestors to assemble and speak out. KTVU's site has a story about protestors cleaning up the debris-strewn plaza, and fingering a "rogue band of troublemakers" for the violence. KGO's lead story is about the Oakland government apologizing to local businesses that have been hit with Occupy-related vandalism.
Back in New York, Occupy Wall Street has mostly been bumped off the front page, with the Oakland protests getting about as much cyber-ink as the protests in Manhattan.
"The attention is on Oakland because of the violence," says one veteran New York reporter. "We haven't seen that at Zuccotti Park -- there hasn't been that riot aspect."
WNBC New York's site gives the November 5 marathon, former New Jersey governor and Goldman Sachs CEO Jon Corzine's legal woes and various other local news stories billing over the actions at Zuccotti Park. Over at CBSNewYork.com, Occupy Wall Street does not make the home page. Far down on the WABC home page is a story on Mayor Bloomberg saying he won't tolerate the kind of violence seen in Oakland. The site also featured a story on 16 protestors' arrests at Goldman Sachs headquarters in Manhattan.
On the WNYW site, Zuccotti is a lead story, but it's mostly the morning anchors discussing a November 4 cover story on News Corp. sibling New York Post, about a seemingly deranged man who was knocked to the ground after he went around attempting to disrupt down tents in the park. ("Zoo-cotti," said the Post headline.)
"That's disturbing, but so far we don't have anything like what happened in Oakland or Atlanta," said anchor Greg Kelly.
New York 1's site also mentions Mayor Bloomberg's thoughts on violence at OWS, amidst stories on a BB gun at a public school and the pleas for a pair of boys charged with dropping a shopping cart on a woman.
Back in the Bay Area, the weather is getting colder and wetter, which may cool down the protests a bit. In New York, sentiment may be shifting in favor of clearing out the protestors, say local reporters, which would likely result in a bloody clash and zoom New York back to the epicenter of the movement, at least from a news perspective.
KTVU's Chapuis is hoping for a peaceful weekend in Oakland, while also dedicating news resources to major local stories such as Groupon's IPO and the start of the Bay Area's crab season.
"There's other stuff going on in the world," Chapuis says. "We try to keep [Occupy Oakland] in perspective."
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