Stelter Promotes More Wall St. Protest Coverage; His Tea Party Reports Were Distrustful

Media reporter Brian Stelter was in St. Petersburg, Fla., but that didn't stop him from marking his media colleague's burgeoning coverage of the Occupy Wall Street movement for Thursday's 'A News Story Is Growing With 'Occupy' Protests.' Stelter hyped the increasing media coverage that the lefty aggregation 'Occupy Wall Street' has been granted as it spreads to other cities, including in Florida. But Stelter wasn't nearly so accomodating to the conservative Tea Party when it first broke through in early 2009.

Splashed across the front page of the local newspaper here on Tuesday was the story of a 24-year-old Occupy protester named Keith Cuesta. He was not in New York, where some have been living in a park near Wall Street for nearly four weeks, but about 1,000 miles away in Tampa, where a small group of self-described '99 percenters' have decided to camp out in solidarity.

Mr. Cuesta told the newspaper, The St. Petersburg Times, that he had never participated in a protest before. The reporter, John Barry, said he was drawn to Mr. Cuesta because the young man had 'finally found something he cared enough about to sleep on a sidewalk.'

As the Occupy Wall Street message of representing 99 percent of Americans has spread across the country, news media coverage of the Occupy movement has spread, too, to the front pages of newspapers and the tops of television newscasts. Coverage of the movement last week was, for the first time, quantitatively equivalent to early coverage of the Tea Party movement in early 2009, according to data released Wednesday by the Pew Research Center.

Actually, a new study from the Media Research Center shows how the Tea Party movement was initially ignored by the media, before hostile coverage began after the nationwide rallies on Tax Day 2009.

Stelter saw momentum for the movement, which he refused to characterize as liberal or left-wing.

The spike in news media coverage is significant because, among other reasons, it may lend legitimacy to the movement and spur more people to seek out protest information on Facebook and other Web sites.

On those sites, organizers are sharing information about a swarm of protests that will take place on Saturday in cities across the country. In central Florida, for instance, hundreds of people have electronically signed up on Facebook for weekend events in St. Petersburg, Tampa, Sarasota, Orlando, and other locales.

So how did Stelter react at the birth of another protest movement, the conservative Tea Party?

'CNBC Replays Its Reporter's Tirade' was the headline over Stelter's February 23, 2009 report on CNBC reporter Rick Santelli's famous outburst against the government paying off mortgages and calling for a 'Tea Party' protest in Chicago, a moment many trace as the beginning of the national outcry against excessive government spending and unfair bailouts. Stelter called it a 'rant.'

Stetler put CNBC reporter Rick Santelli on the defensive in a follow-up story on March 3, 'Reporter Says His Outburst Was Spontaneous.'

Rick Santelli, the CNBC reporter whose on-air suggestion of a 'Chicago Tea Party' to protest President Obama's housing plan sparked an Internet sensation and a smattering of actual protests across the country, found himself on the defensive Monday. Mr. Santelli published a long blog post on CNBC's Web site Monday evening denying any affiliation with the 'tea party movements that have popped up' since his comments were broadcast. A number of blogs had questioned whether Mr. Santelli had coordinated his on-camera commentary with right-wing groups.