Extra! January 2010

    SoundBites

    Hard to Imagine The New York Times (11/21/09) on Japan’s elite “press clubs”: a century-old, cartel-like arrangement in which reporters from major news media outlets are stationed inside government offices and enjoy close, constant access to officials. The system has long been criticized as anti-democratic by both foreign and Japanese analysts, who charge that it has produced a relatively spineless press that feels more accountable to its official sources than to the public. In their apparent reluctance to criticize the government, the critics say, the news media fail to serve as an effective check on authority. Parade’s Little Middle Claiming ...


    Newsweek's Name-Calling Neoliberal

    Outside of an anti-Obama “tea party” demonstration, it’d be unusual to see a president being compared to Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin all at once. Crack open the November 2 issue of Newsweek magazine, though, and you’ll find these insults hurled at Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez. Who would say such a thing? The magazine’s frequent Latin American correspondent, Mac Margolis, whose work regularly maligns the region’s left-wing presidents. Margolis views these leftist leaders (Newsweek International, 7/27/09) as a single, mostly detestable bloc—what he calls the Axis of Hugo, the constellation of nine states in the Andes, Central America and the Caribbean ...


    The (In)dispensable Public

    "Asked to choose between a larger influx of troops to fight Al-Qaeda and the Taliban and train the Afghan military, and a smaller number of new U.S. forces more narrowly focused on training, Americans divide 46 percent for the bigger number, 45 percent for the lower one." —Washington Post (11/18/09), “Poll Finds Guarded Optimism on Obama’s Afghanistan Plan” Opinion poll reporting can be misleading, in this case by presenting a narrow range of options that sidesteps what evidence suggests is the majority view—that U.S. troops should withdraw from Afghanistan. But reporting of opinion polls is misleading in a more fundamental ...


    Hasta la Vista, Lou Dobbs

    On November 11, Lou Dobbs abruptly quit his CNN program, bringing a sudden end to a television program most notable for its remarkably one-sided presentation of immigration issues. Since 2003, Dobbs regularly used his CNN platform to issue misleading and alarmist warnings about the threats posed by unauthorized immigrants. Dobbs has spoken of an “army of invaders” scheming to reannex parts of the southwestern U.S. to Mexico (3/31/06), claimed that “illegal alien smugglers and drug traffickers are on the verge of ruining some of our national treasures” (11/19/03) and declared that “the invasion of illegal aliens is threatening the health ...


    Freedom Forum CEO Tied to For-Profit Prisons

    Charles Overby has a foot planted firmly in two very different worlds. In one, he is a champion of the free press. In the other, he is part of a group at the helm of a corporation that has worked hard to limit freedom of information and the ability of the press to inform the public. In one world, Overby is chief executive officer of the Freedom Forum, a foundation created by former USA Today publisher Al Neuharth, and its Newseum—located on Pennsylvania Avenue, blocks from the Smithsonian and the Capitol, and which literally has the First Amendment etched onto ...


    Media Blackout on Agent Orange

    In mid-October, hundreds of thousands of Vietnam-era veterans got some good if grim news: The Veterans Administration announced it was adding three more diseases to the 11 others it automatically presumes to have been caused by exposure to Agent Orange, the dioxin-laced herbicide spread by the U.S. military across much of South Vietnam to deny crops and cover to North Vietnamese and Viet Cong fighters during the war. Newspapers and radio and TV news programs across America ran stories announcing that veterans of the jungle war who now suffer or may eventually suffer from Parkinson’s Disease, ischemic heart disease or ...


    NYT's Double Standard on Nuclear Proliferation

    The New York Times’ treatment of Iranian and Israeli nuclear programs in recent months is a clear example of the systematic double standard the “paper of record” displays in international coverage (Extra!, 8/09). The Times has devoted tremendous space and resources to covering Iran’s nuclear program. Even though, as the Times itself explained (9/26/09), there is “no evidence” that Iran is building a bomb, and despite Iran’s cooperation with international inspectors, the paper has continued to wave the specter of the “Iranian threat”—calling to mind the paper’s warmongering coverage leading up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003 (Extra!, 12/09). ...


    That Giant Sucking Sound Is a Hoover

    Much of the media response to the worst economic contraction since the Great Depression resembles nothing so much as President Herbert Hoover’s response to the original Great Depression. Faced with an economic crisis, Hoover tried to balance the budget by cutting government spending—disastrously reducing demand at a time when the economy had an oversupply of goods. The psychology behind this impulse was nicely illustrated in a New Republic blog post (11/30/09) by one-time Bill Clinton adviser William Galston: What’s happening to us is not just a concatenation of policy problems; it’s a test of our moral fiber and our capacity ...