CBS Error, But Not Bias

Baltimore Sun

NEW YORK - Judging from the amount of coverage it has received, it would seem as if the CBS investigation into its flawed report on President Bush's Air National Guard service was the most important media issue facing the country. Shortly after the report about Mr. Bush's Guard service aired on 60 Minutes Wednesday in September, right-wing commentators and internet bloggers claimed that the documents supporting the CBS report were fraudulent and predictably pointed to the episode as evidence of "liberal media" bias. That the segment was presented by CBS anchor Dan Rather added fuel to the fire, since Mr. […]


Presidential Debates Are Duopoly by Design

"We have no intention of becoming an accessory to the hoodwinking of the American people," proclaimed the League of Women Voters in abandoning sponsorship of a scheduled 1988 presidential debate. The League withdrew to expose the Democrats' and Republicans' attempt to dictate every detail-- down to camera placement-- of the "debates" that today deserve to be called infomercials. The LWV has not participated since, but was replaced by an entity with no such reservations about duopoly control-- or subjecting viewers to events that make watching professional bowling a more engaging alternative. To America's disgrace, a private corporation has since directed […]


In Iraq Crisis, Networks Are Megaphones for Official Views

Network newscasts, dominated by current and former U.S. officials, largely exclude Americans who are skeptical of or opposed to an invasion of Iraq, a new study by FAIR has found. Looking at two weeks of coverage (1/30/03-2/12/03), FAIR examined the 393 on-camera sources who appeared in nightly news stories about Iraq on ABC World News Tonight, CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly News and PBS's NewsHour With Jim Lehrer. The study began one week before and ended one week after Secretary of State Colin Powell's February 5 presentation at the U.N., a time that saw particularly intense debate about the idea […]


Money Makes Headlines in Today's News Coverage

"A Creeping Indifference and a Silent Hollowing Out"

American journalism has devoted massive attention to reporting on business in recent years. Overall news outlets are enthralled with efforts in our society to maximize corporate profits and personal wealth. Top executives and shrewd investors are good bets to emerge as media heroes, unless or until they appear to be headed for prison. Insatiable avarice -- always pushing for more, more, more -- is unlikely to cause bad press. In fact, journalists are apt to cite enthusiasm for boosting "net worth" as evidence of sturdy character. Half a century ago, sociologist C. Wright Mills warned of "a creeping indifference and […]


"Bias" Isn't Supported—Because It's Not True

Proving that irony is alive and well post-Sept. 11, a book deriding the national press corps for its flagrant liberal bias has been the subject of enormous attention in the same mainstream media that, the book argues, suppress conservative views. Bias, by former CBS newsman Bernard Goldberg, is long on name-calling and vitriol, but short on substance. "Delusional," "hypocrites," "Lilliputians"-- these are just a few of the words Goldberg uses to describe journalists in general, and his old CBS colleagues in particular. He quips that if CBS News were a prison, many of its employees would be Dan Rather's "bitches." […]


Burying the Lead

Democracy Denied

In journalism, it's called "burying the lead": A story starts off with what everyone already knows, while the real news-- the most surprising, significant or never-been-told-before information-- gets pushed down where people are less likely to see it. That's what happened to the findings of the media study of the uncounted votes from last year's Florida presidential vote. A consortium of news outlets-- including The New York Times, The Washington Post, Tribune Co. (Newsday's parent company), The Wall Street Journal, Associated Press and CNN-- spent nearly a year and $900,000 reexamining every disputed ballot. The consortium determined that if the […]


"The Agency" on CBS

Right Time but Wrong Show

It's hard to remember a time in U.S. history when public attention was more sharply focused on issues of domestic security, civil liberties and the role of U.S. intelligence agencies. A prime-time dramatic series on the CIA could contribute mightily to public understanding -- if rigorously independent and unencumbered. Unfortunately, that's not the approach CBS is taking with "The Agency," its new series about the CIA, made with the support of the CIA. CBS is running reverential promos for the show: "Now, more than ever, America needs the unsung heroes of 'The Agency.'" One wonders if CBS executives remember "The […]


Rule of Law Vs. Rule of War

Are media missing the lesson of Oklahoma City?

Many media voices are enlisting in the push toward war. CBS anchor Dan Rather seemed more soldier than reporter on Monday's Letterman show when he endorsed the war drive and added: "George Bush is the President.... Wherever he wants me to line up, just tell me where." It's worth remembering that a similar push followed the last dreadful act of terrorism against America on our soil, Oklahoma City. Many in the mass media immediately began goading us toward retaliation against a presumed Arab, Islamic enemy. Columnist Mike Royko called for the overseas bombing of civilian infrastructures: "If it happens to […]