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March 19th, 2003 Anne Laufe | News Stories
 

What's in a Number

     
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IMAGE: thomas cobb
We now know that a picture is not only worth 1,000 words, it wipes out 10,000 protesters.

On Sunday, The Oregonian reported that there were between 20,000 and 25,000 people at Saturday's peace march. On Monday, after analyzing a series of high-resolution aerial photographs, the editors revised their count to 14,200.

Activists have long blasted The Oregonian for low-balling the number of protesters in rallies (see "Making Peace Count," WW, March 12, 2003). The new procedure didn't exact placate the critics.

Longtime activist Joe Keating says he was on the Morrison Bridge at about 2:30 pm, a half-hour after the posted starting time of the pre-march rally. From his aerial viewpoint, he counted a circle of 50 people, then applied that circle to the entire, stationary crowd. According to Keating, there were about 28,450 people at Waterfront Park. "I think it's pretty darn accurate," Keating says, "because I did it twice. I would challenge anyone to get closer to what was going on there."

Dan Hortsch, public editor at The Oregonian, says the paper ran the photos to show how difficult it is to get an accurate count. "The story was not an attempt to needle the organizers [of the march]," Hortsch says, "but to say, 'This is hard.' No one wants to touch it. The police don't want to do it."

 
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