“Alternative facts”: 1 in 5 American newspapers ignored the Women’s March

Women’s March protestors move down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC.
Women’s March protestors move down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC.
Image: Reuters Photo/Bryan Woolston
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On Jan. 21, an estimated 3.2 million Americans took to the streets for Women’s March protests. Given the sheer scale of the protests, it would be reasonable to assume they led headlines across the US. In reality, a significant number of American newspapers chose not to feature the story on their Sunday front pages—a striking illustration of how ”alternative facts” reach far beyond White House press briefings.

A Quartz analysis of almost 450 newspapers archived by the Newseum found that more than 22% didn’t even even mention the protests on their Sunday front pages. Another 27% mentioned the protests, but did not make them their lead story.

Newspapers in all of the nation’s largest cities led with the story, as did many papers abroad, including La Nacion in Buenos Aires and the Toronto Star.

Yet hundreds of smaller US newspapers demoted the story or skipped it entirely. Here’s a selection of stories that were prioritized over the march:

  • The Griffin Daily News (Griffin, Georgia; population 23,000) led with a story about a robbery at a local Waffle House.
  • The Decatur Daily (Decatur, Alabama; population 56,000) ran a feature about a model railroad under construction at the local railroad museum.
  • The Tyler Morning Telegraph (Tyler, Texas; population 103,000) reported on efforts to revitalize their downtown.
  • The Green Bay Press Gazette (Green Bay, Wisconsin; population 105,000) ran a spread about a teen’s battle with mental health issues.
  • The Peoria Journal Star (Peoria, Illinois; population 119,000) led with a story about a Cubs baseball player returning to his hometown. Update 10:55am: As a reader pointed out, the largest photo on the front page was of the women’s march, and an accompanying story ran down the lefthand column, but the Cubs player got the bigger headline and central placement on the page.

Both the Green Bay Press Gazette and Peoria Journal Star had marches right in their hometowns.

There has never been any reason to believe media polarization is limited to television and the internet, but that is where the conversation is typically focused. It affects print, too—all the more so as competition from other media has prompted editors at many smaller papers to steer coverage and resources toward hyperlocal stories. And while fewer and fewer Americans get their news from print newspapers, those who still do tend to be olderwhiter, and more rural. Those are all demographic factors that favored Trump on Nov. 8.