Extra! August 2012

    Congress’s Missing Coverage

    A well-informed electorate is perhaps the most essential ingredient for a functioning democratic system. Since the House of Representatives is intended to be the United States’ most democratic federal institution, citizens particularly need thorough coverage from local media outlets of their potential representatives to make an informed decision about who will best serve their interests. It’s unfortunate, then, that quality news on congressional elections is so hard to come by. Dan Shadoan wrote a piece for Extra! (1–2/95) demonstrating that leading papers based in three major cities—the New York Times, Chicago Tribune and L.A. Times—failed to provide substantial coverage of ...


    Putting Consumers Back in Their Place

    Corporate news media paid what looked like sympathetic attention to consumer activism that, within weeks, saw the ingredient known as “pink slime” removed from ground beef sold in major supermarkets and fast food chains and provided to public schoolchildren in their lunch. Reporters seemed as compelled and repelled as many consumers by the realization that trimmings “made from cattle parts once considered too contaminated for human consumption” (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 3/20/12) can now be found in some 70 percent of beef sold in the U.S.—that is, after “slow cooking, a trip through a centrifuge and an ammonia hydroxide spray to kill ...


    SoundBites

    Strange Problems in Distant Lands Some shows have given an unchallenged platform to extremists.... Conservative clerics have used the airwaves to reinforce prejudice and even urge violence against minorities. Editorial independence is sometimes curtailed by the businessmen who own the stations and unashamedly use them to peddle their interests. Controversy also surrounds the anchors, some of whom view themselves as players on the national stage rather than impartial observers of its machinations. —New York Times (6/18/12) on how “the television revolution has...in some respects been bad news for Pakistan” A Stacked Deck for Obamacare Discussion After the Supreme Court mostly ...


    Gender Focus: Put Women at the Presidential Debate Podium

    It’s been 20 years since a female journalist has been chosen to moderate a presidential debate. Yes, women have held the post for vice presidential debates, but that’s hardly the real deal. ABC News’ Carole Simpson was the last woman to lob questions at presidential candidates, back in 1992. What is going on? Well, I guess I get it. After all, imagine what would happen if a woman was tasked to broker a conversation between the two most important people in U.S. politics. Why, she just might ask for the candidates’ favorite pie recipes, or not know about the economic ...


    Fox and Furious

    Though Fast and Furious was basically born on network television, cable’s Fox News Channel took up the cause with vigor, often hyping the more conspiratorial angles. Near the beginning, right-wing pundit Michelle Malkin (6/22/11) told Sean Hannity that it might make sense to see the story through another popular right-wing lens: “You have government malfeasance at the worst level possible.... Tens of millions of dollars in stimulus money have gone to expand ‘Fast and Furious.’” But the real scandal, for people like Malkin, lay in the possibility that the Obama White House, while overtly doing next to nothing to promote ...


    Not So Fast on Fast and Furious

    When it comes to ginning up scandals, the Obama administration has been a disappointment for the right-wing media, which had much more luck in the Clinton era. But they’ve found some red meat with “Fast and Furious”—thanks in large part to CBS Evening News, the story’s most prominent platform. Like most Clinton scandals (Extra!, 9–10/95, 11–12/96, 1–2/97), however, the story looks far less scandalous when you learn the details left out of most media accounts. The “Fast and Furious” story, as peddled by the right, tells us that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF)—a perennial target of pro-gun ...


    Prioritizing Politics Over Paycheck Fairness

    When the Paycheck Fairness Act failed in the Senate on June 5, journalists reported the story. But instead of focusing on the consequences of the act’s defeat, and how this could impact women’s lives, most major news outlets treated that as secondary to the political question of why it failed—even if those reasons had nothing to do with the bill itself. The act would build on the Lilly Ledbetter Act passed in 2009, which extended women’s time limits for filing lawsuits over paycheck discrimination; the new act would include measures to make filing those lawsuits more feasible for women, by ...


    Islamophobia, Antisemitism and the Demonized 'Other'

    Republican hopeful Mitt Romney is portrayed by online bigots as a Manchurian Candidate for a secretive cabal of Mormon elites—echoing anti-Catholic conspiracy theories about John F. Kennedy being a wind-up toy for the Vatican. Meanwhile, a chain letter currently being circulated warns that the “American Government is under the command and control of…the Freemasons and Leadership of the Catholic Church.” There are right-wing websites and blogs warning that if President Barack Obama is re-elected, hordes of scheming fanatic Muslims plan to impose Sharia law and turn America into a totalitarian socialist/Nazi theocratic state. Other websites and blogs warn that Obama ...