Sunday, October 02, 2005

CROWD ESTIMATES: Washington Post's Howard Kurtz says its hard

Protests and the Press: "Protests and the Press
By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 27, 2005; 1:57 PM
When I covered the Peter Jennings memorial last week, I tried to estimate how many people were packed inside Carnegie Hall, scanning the audience row by row, section by section. I came up with about 700 or 800.
The actual number, ABC told me later, was around 2,200.

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My point is that doing crowd estimates isn't easy, and is far harder at a big, sprawling street demonstration spread over a large area. Since organizers almost always inflate their estimates, the only semi-reliable ones come from police who study aerial photographs.
I bring this up, as you've probably guessed, because of the back-and-forth over the antiwar and pro-war demos in D.C. over the weekend. At Saturday's antiwar protest, the organizers said 200,000; the cops said 150,000; other observers doubted 100,000 people showed up.
A typical post from the conservative side is on Little Green Footballs : 'The only crowd shot I've seen so far is at Yahoo, where it looks like the turnout was much less than 100,000 people. The biggest crowd seems to have been at the free concert.'
The pro-war rally Sunday was described by The Post as 'tiny,' with no numbers provided; supporters had expected thousands.
What was striking to me, in an online chat yesterday, is how quick some folks are to attribute such estimates--flawed as they might be--to ideological bias. A reader in Excelsior Springs, Mo. said: 'CNN aired"

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