And now the kiss-in at Chick-fil-A

Let's do another quick recap on media coverage of the Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day. Yesterday we discussed the decision of Mark Krzos, a Fort Myers News-Press reporter, to publicly disparage the people he was covering for his local paper. We already updated the post to show that his editor responded to the controversy but you can also see his public statement denouncing the reporter's comments at Romenesko.

I asked readers for examples of good and bad coverage and I think it's worth looking at the links to good coverage. Some were great. But one of the things I find interesting is that many small and mid-size papers seemed to do better than the big hitters.

Over at The Weekly Standard, Michael Warren wrote an interesting post about the long lines and traffic jams that Chick-fil-A outlets across the country experienced. The rumors that Chick-fil-A set a sales record yesterday were confirmed by the Associated Press. The links below might not take you to the August 2 papers anymore, but I clicked on them yesterday and Warren accurately characterized the papers:

But you wouldn't know anything about the national phenomenon by reading the front pages of most of the country's leading newspapers. There's no mention of Chick-fil-A on the front pages of the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, and the Boston Globe. The front pages of USA Today, the Dallas Morning News, and the Houston Chronicle have small headlines about the restaurant, while Chick-fil-A's hometown paper, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, fits in a story below the fold under the heading, "Chick-fil-A Controversy." And the front pages of major news websites are quiet in their coverage as well.

He goes on to look at the scant coverage inside the papers, too. I still am surprised that the Washington Post only ran a photograph, sans story, of the event. It's just weird news sense. Warren also pointed out that "the Newseum's collection of the top ten newspaper covers from around the country seems to recognize the biggest national news story of the day. The papers covering the story aren't just located in the South, Chick-fil-A's regional base; smaller papers from Colorado, Ohio, New York, and California were all over the story." And they really were some good covers. And some bad covers, but they got that the issue was of interest to readers. Again, this is not rocket science. At the very least, a photo of the lines snaking out Chick-fil-A doors or filling up parking lots and drive-thrus is a good idea for a front pager.

Whether a story gets prominent coverage, snuck-in-the-back-section coverage or no coverage helps readers identify its importance or significance. That so many prominent papers left the story uncovered or meekly covered tells us that they didn't view it as important.

Part of that could be related to confusion about what the "appreciation day" meant. I can think of no better example of that than the video embedded above. It's shaky but it's some dude walking around and then trying to help the CBS affiliate in Atlanta find parking. But, they explain, they don't need help because they're leaving. They thought it was going to be a protest but it's only "appreciation day" so they're leaving. You have to defecate on some cop cars to get good coverage, I guess. Just kidding.

Reader Martha writes:

If I understand correctly, there is going to be a same-sex kiss-in protest at Chick-fil-A restaurants - I don’t know if this is national or at selected ones.

What will be instructive is to compare the coverage of this and the ‘day of eating chicken sandwiches’ yesterday. Will the national media decide this is newsworthy? What will the relative numbers look like? If twenty people show up for tomorrow, will that garner as much or more, or more prominent/more detailed, coverage than Chick-fil-A restaurant running out of chicken due to the increased demand?

Yes. I'm unsure if the lead-up to this event has been covered well. I did see notice about it in many stories I read about the "appreciation day" but I haven't had time to dig through the coverage. Let us know if there are good or bad stories on this protest. I did see this Los Angeles Times story that is, of course, currently on the front-page of its web site. It tells us that "GLAAD" (it doesn't spell out the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, for some reason) is backing a variety of protests against the company, including a same-sex kiss-in at Chick-fil-A outlets. The reporter uses the  Southern Poverty Law Center as its basis for calling various conservative groups "anti-gay." Reporters should not use that outlet as an arbiter of such things.

The SPLC likes to go after groups with political views it opposes by designating them as "hate groups." You might be more familiar with the term “hate group” when it’s used to refer to groups that incite violence. The group’s most recent hate group report was met with guffaws for the overwrought categorization of some “Patriot” groups and including pick-up artists on its list. A friend on Twitter said that the working definition of an SPLC hate group is nothing more than a group that SPLC hates. In coverage on hot button issues such as this, the media are pretty good at not uncritically repeating claims from sources on one end of the culture battles but not as good when the target of criticism is different.

Anyway, the story tries to include some different perspectives, such as gay and lesbian supporters who question the planned protest. Except that should have been done better, I think. If you thought buying a chicken sandwich was a weird way to protest, this one might also arch some eyebrows:

"We are encouraging those of us who support LGBT rights and LGBT equality to show up at their local Chick-fil-A tomorrow and kiss someone of the same sex," said Carly McGehee, a New York-based political activist who started the idea for the kiss-in.

The campaigns follow Wednesday's stunning turnout for Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day, a day on which Americans were urged to support the company. The company did not release sales figures but said it was a "record-setting day."

Nationwide, at least 15,000 people have agreed to participate in the kiss-in, McGehee said. But even among LGBT supporters, some wonder whether such an in-your-face act might be too provocative, or amount to taunting.

Unfortunately, the only comments from people questioning the protest come from anonymous people on the web site page urging participation. It would be nice to have some names attached to the people characterizing the protest as "hate-filled," "aggressive," "provocative" and "inciting anger." Anonymous critiques aren't fair to proponents of such activity.

The piece ends with a statement from the company:

"We understand from news reports that Friday may present yet another opportunity for us to serve with genuine hospitality, superior service and great food."

Not bad. It might be nice to have a few other perspectives, too. I'm sure we'll those included in subsequent coverage. Let us know if you see anything particularly good or bad.

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