Extra! January/February 2001

    A Dire Shortage of Pre-Inaugural Schlock

    The agony of not knowing which boots to lick

    The agony of not knowing which boots to lickMany pundits are worried about the delay in finding out who will become the next occupant of the Oval Office. “That’s probably the most crippling blow I’ve ever seen to a new president,” David Gergen lamented on national television (CNN, 11/25/00); whoever the next chief executive turns out to be, he has “been denied or robbed of the romance that we have that we associate with the selection of a new president, the crowning of a new president.” For decades, Gergen has spun through the revolving door between government and media elites, …

    Populist Rhetoric Unpopular with the Pundits

    Press finds Gore's 'obsolete jargon' hard to swallow

    Press finds Gore’s ‘obsolete jargon’ hard to swallowThis year, the normal rhythms of post-election punditry were disrupted by all the talk of dimpled chads and canvassing boards. But echoing the pre-election refrain, one message did emerge from the muffled Monday-morning quarterbacking: Al Gore’s campaign ran too far to the left. It’s a familiar charge, one that’s repeated every time a Democrat loses the presidential race. (See Extra!, 9/92.) Joe Klein, who writes about politics for The New Yorker, posited just before election day (11/6/00) that Gore’s poll numbers were suffering from “the populist rhetoric that has marked his campaign.” Klein …

    ABC’s Military Analyst Calls for “Excessive Force”

    CSIS's Cordesman advocates brutality against Palestinians

    CSIS’s Cordesman advocates brutality against Palestinians“Excessive force” should be used against Palestinian civilians, including “interrogation methods that border on psychological and/or physical torture.” These are extreme proposals–but it is their author, Anthony Cordesman, to whom ABC News regularly turns to in wartime to provide military analysis. Cordesman made these recommendations in an October 2000 report released by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), an influential Washington think tank where Cordesman holds a chair in international security. The report urged the Israeli government and the Palestinian National Authority to use security methods that violate human rights in order to …

    For Love or Money?

    Economics takes a backseat in network reports about working mothers

    Economics takes a backseat in network reports about working mothersMothers work because they’re selfish. That’s the conclusion viewers might have drawn after watching ABC and NBC news broadcasts about a recently released Census Bureau report (“Fertility of American Women,” 9/00) that showed that more mothers, especially mothers of infants, were in the work force in 1998 than ever before (73 percent and 59 percent, respectively). The labor force participation of mothers has risen steadily since the Census Bureau began collecting data on the topic in 1976, so it is not particularly surprising that more women with infants are on the …

    Nader the Nightmare

    Media come to the aid of the two-party system

    Media come to the aid of the two-party systemThe pain establishment media felt over Ralph Nader’s challenge to the two-party system was evident in CBS‘s election night coverage. When reporter Ed Bradley commented that Ralph Nader might approach the 5 percent threshold for receiving federal matching funds, Dan Rather interrupted: “About $12 million, $13 million of your money and mine.” As Bradley pointed out that Nader was “hurting” Al Gore in several states. Rather added: “And every taxpayer.” After a prolonged period of media indifference, the campaign by Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader began to receive sustained media attention …

    Media Passed by Jesse Jackson

    . . . And passed up a great story

    . . . And passed up a great storyThe media’s denial about potential disenfranchisement in Florida is cloaked in the denigration of Jesse Jackson. In lockstep media commentary, Jackson was depicted as a crazed black man on the corner, so nuts that cab drivers, the editors steering the news, had every justification to pass him up. On CNN (11/9/00), Jackson was “fomenting turbulence” with his “rent-a-riot.’’ In the Providence Journal (11/17/00), Jackson was one of the “exhibitionist demagogues.’’ A Washington Post column (William Raspberry, 11/18/00) asked, “Why didn’t someone prevail upon Jesse Jackson, as much in the dark as the …

    Election Night Meltdown

    Media monopoly contributed to exit-poll errors

    Media monopoly contributed to exit-poll errorsNo sign of journalistic caution attended the pulsating graphic Fox News flashed across screens late on Election Night 2000: George Walker Bush, 43rd President of the United States Tom Brokaw was no more circumspect in interrupting NBC’s broadcast to announce, “George Herbert—George Walker Bush wins!” And CBS’s Dan Rather left no doubt when he announced: “Sip it, savor it, cup it, photostat it, underline it in red, press it in a book, put it in an album, hang it on the wall. George W. Bush is the next president of the United States.” Rather had …

    Media See the Poor as Aggressors in ‘Class War’

    Survey finds bottom-up references overwhelm top-down

    Survey finds bottom-up references overwhelm top-down“In a time of peace and prosperity, Al Gore is betting that Americans want to go to war.” That was the lead of a Los Angeles Times article by political reporter Ronald Brownstein (8/18/00) the day after Al Gore’s speech to the Democratic Convention in August. Brownstein was referring to Gore’s pledge to take the side of working families against “powerful forces and powerful interests.” By using the word “war,” Brownstein was echoing the Bush campaign’s denunciation of the Gore speech as “class warfare.” According to the Nexis media database, in the months since the …

    Serial Exaggerators

    Media's double standard on political lying

    Media’s double standard on political lyingThroughout the presidential elections, mainstream media outlets were quick to charge Democratic candidate Al Gore with exaggerations: Whether he was talking about inventing the Internet, inspiring Love Story or discovering Love Canal, you just couldn’t trust what Gore was saying. If you looked into these incidents, you found that in each case the media’s exaggerations were worse than Gore’s: It’s largely true that he “took the initiative in creating the Internet” while in Congress, as he said (he never said he “invented” it); according to Love Story author Erich Segal, he did help inspire the …

    Uprising Without Explanation

    “The Palestinians began the latest protests with old-style demonstrations. Then they started shooting at Israeli towns. Now they are attacking settlements. It’s not at all clear what the next step will be, but every step seems to get bloodier.” — “Into the War Zone,” Time (12/4/00) In war–especially the kind of war that has now broken out between Israel and the Palestinians–each side has its reasons. Not all reasons are equally valid, but in journalism both sides must be told, context and balance provided, and ultimately the audience should decide. When Israel is asked to explain the 300 Palestinians (compared …

Articles in the print edition

ABC Military Analyst Calls for “Excessive Force”


Mystery Milk, Journalistic Debacle