Extra! January/February 1996

    Beware: P.R. Implants in News Coverage

    In 1985, Charlotte Mahlum received silicone breast implants manufactured by Dow Corning. One ruptured, leaking silicone into her breast, body and skin. Ten years later, the 46-year-old former coffee-shop waitress wears diapers. She has been diagnosed with incontinence, hand tremors, atrophy in one foot and brain lesions. She can no longer work; her husband has to clean up after her. And on October 28, eight men and women voted unanimously in a Reno courtroom that Dow Chemical was at least partly responsible for her rapidly declining health. For five weeks, the Nevada jurors listened to testimony showing that Dow Corning's ...


    Moribund Militants

    The AFL-CIO's first contested presidential election in 40 years gave the labor movement a brief moment in the media spotlight in October. Although TV news largely ignored the story (on the night of the election, ABC's Nightline was devoted to the new baseball season), daily newspapers that rarely focus on labor ran front-page articles on the "new dawn" for U.S. unions. Though more serious and sympathetic than the attention the mainstream press usually gives to unions, much of the election coverage still drew heavily on corporate-owned media's stock images of organized labor as disruptive yet marginal, both aggressive and moribund. ...


    Powell Media Mania

    After months of intense media hype about Colin Powell, pundit Joe Klein carried the prevalent spin to its dizzying conclusion. "The key to the race" for the presidency in 1996, Klein wrote (Newsweek, 11/13/95), is that "ideas are not important. Stature is everything." He added: "But if ideas don't matter, what does? Civility does." Mesmerized by Colin Powell's "stature" and "civility," and showing a remarkable disdain for "ideas," the news media pumped up Powellmania. As early as 1994, Newsweek (10/10/94) was asking the question "Can Colin Powell Save America?" and declaring him "the most respected figure in American public life." ...