On July 9, parts of a leaked chat created a government scandal for Puerto Rico. Then on July 13, Puerto Rico’s Center for Investigative Journalism published 889 leaked pages of the governor’s chats with his aides. This spurred over ten days of protest on the island, calling for Gov. Ricky Roselló to resign. On July 17, thousands of people gathered outside of the Capitol building and marched toward the governor’s mansion, La Fortaleza. The next day as I was scrolling through Twitter, I saw this tweet:
If 100,000 people stormed a governors mansion on the mainland it would be front page if 100,000 people stormed right up to a governors mansion on the mainland it would be front-page news everywhere. And the top story.
— David Begnaud (@DavidBegnaud) July 18, 2019
David Begnaud has been reporting on Puerto Rico for CBS News since Hurricane María and he verbalized something I’ve often felt about the U.S. media: they ignore what’s happening in Puerto Rico until it becomes “big enough” to cover. As a journalist, I know we value proximity and what our public will care about, but the point he makes is that problems in Puerto Rico are covered differently than how they would, were Puerto Rico a state. So let’s test that hypothesis.
In his tweet, Begnaud is referring to the July 17th protest, so I focused on news between July 18 and 19. In the July 19 newspaper, The New York Times included this article about the protests in their New York edition front page. Fox News covered the protests on July 18 at around 3:30 p.m. with this report. Other national outlets that covered the protest included CBS News (Begnaud was their correspondent and did several segments as well as live coverage on his Instagram and Twitter), The Washington Post and USA Today, but this is not an exhaustive list. So it seems to have been covered by some big media players, but sometimes not in the most prominent spot.
It’s important, though, to not only look at what was covered, but how it was covered. Several outlets led with the violence at the end of the protest and later said that thousands protested peacefully before it got to that point. If people stop reading, or watching they might get only that side of the story in this case.