BROOKE GLADSTONE: We're back with On the Media. I'm Brooke Gladstone, broadcasting from New York City --media central. Conveniently enough for the news networks, the week's big media event took place in their own back yard, but for most locals, the goings-on inside Madison Square Garden were less important than what was happening outside, and for that story, New Yorkers had to rely on the local news.
FEMALE REPORTER: Just blocks from the garden, more arrests tonight, during a day in which tensions between police and protesters reached their boiling point.
MALE REPORTER: There were thousands of protesters in Herald Square today, and most were loud, and they were assertive, but ultimately, most were peaceful.
FEMALE REPORTER: This was billed as a day of civil disobedience. It certainly lived up to its name. Late word from the Police Department is that more than 550 people have been arrested...
FEMALE REPORTER: We have some pictures we can show you now of an exchange earlier at Madison Square Park where a couple dozen people were arrested in a bloody clash with police...
BROOKE GLADSTONE: If it bled, it led. A perennial truth. Also a prominent item on at least one protester's list of grievances.
MAN: We're here for the issues, not for the conflict. You're here for the conflict. We're here for the issues.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: There was national coverage of the protests, but rarely was it more than a sidebar. Sundays's massive demonstration garnered some coverage, and when street action swept Manhattan a couple of days later, some cable anchors were talking. We heard man on the street interviews with activists, particularly of the "freaky" sort, and there was the footage, aired repeatedly on Fox News of a violent incident the day before. [SHOUTING, HUBBUB]
MALE ANCHOR: So there you go: your nice protesters. A plainclothes New York City detective is in the hospital after being kicked unconscious by a protester. More than 500 people have been arrested since late last week for going beyond their right to "free speech." Thousands more are speaking their mind peacefully.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Of course, it turns out there were two sides to the story of the beat-up cop. Protesters who witnessed the melee insist that it was, in fact, the undercover cop who instigated the violence.
MAN: I got some damn good pictures. And film.
MAN: It's all over. Wait till the lawsuits roll in. Everybody has videos of this. Everybody's taking pictures. Everyone saw.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Every street action included a contingent of documentarians carrying cell phone cameras, still cameras and video cameras. The police were armed with flip-screen digicams - not to mention all the invisible eyes already in place across Manhattan.
HARRY WHEEDON: We have cameras throughout the city. There's over 200 of them that we use.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Deputy Police Chief Harry Wheedon.
HARRY WHEEDON: People aren't breaking the law -- they have nothing to fear. Makes New York City much safer, having this equipment.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: This week, on the street, it was lens versus lens versus lens. Here's Bruce Bentley of the National Lawyers Guild, which recruited thousands of volunteers to bear witness during the protests.
BRUCE BENTLEY: Our legal observers and people who are out on the street with video cameras and still cameras are photographing the police as they're acting in what we feel is inappropriate ways -- in some instances, unlawful.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: We have come a long way from a few historic frames filmed during a Texas motorcade. Now, as we roll and click, it hardly matters if there's any film in the cameras. This week, at least, they were less tools for documentation and more weapons of intimidation, so perhaps it follows that the smallest segment of the camera-wielding population in the city was the media. But just because it follows doesn't mean it's inevitable. Experienced protesters know that if they want to have an impact, they must break out of the media's preferred story line of protester versus police.