Extra! March/April 2007

    From Self-Censorship to Official Censorship

    This photo of mortally wounded Sgt. Hector Leija, taken by Robert Nickelsberg, was pulled from the New York Times website after being called “offensive” and contrary to new censorship regulations by a U.S. military official. A letter in February to the New York Times (2/3/07) from the commander of the Multinational Corps in Iraq revealed new censorship regulations prohibiting portrayals of U.S. casualties in the media. The tightened rules have been in effect since May 2006, but no media outlet with embedded photographers reported on or objected to the censorship of images. In his letter, Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno ...


    Sidebar: Hannity Finds the Hate

    [Note: This piece is a sidebar to Can You Hear Us NOW?] The most mean-spirited portrayal of the protest as a Vietnam echo came from Fox’s Sean Hannity. “I see you brought Jane Fonda back for this one,” Hannity said to protester Anne Roesler, asking if she were proud of Fonda, whose picture was taken in Vietnam sitting on “the very equipment used to kill our troops.” When Roesler started to answer that she was a member of Military Families Speak Out with a son serving in the war, Hannity cut her off, saying, “I’m not interested in that.” He ...


    Can You Hear Us NOW?

    The stage had been set up in front of the reflecting pool below Capitol Hill, facing the length of the Mall and the Washington Monument. Just behind the stage, in a space set aside for media interviews, huddles of reporters moved scrum-like from the Rev. Jesse Jackson to actress Susan Sarandon to Rep. John Conyers before each took their turn addressing the January 27 antiwar rally and march in Washington D.C. Out in front of the stage, two multi-step risers held a phalanx of TV cameras and their operators. Still photographers and reporters edged in for a few inches of ...


    Editor's Note

    America lost one of its most incisive political writers—and FAIR one of the supporters we were most proud to have—when Molly Ivins died from breast cancer on January 31 at the age of 62. Molly got her start in journalism at the complaints department of the Houston Chronicle—which must have been an education—and was editor of the estimable Texas Observer in the 1970s, before being hired away by the New York Times as part of an ill-fated effort to spice up its stodgy writing. (She was famously called on the carpet in 1980 for calling a chicken-killing contest a “gang ...


    Letters to the Editor

    PBS: A Guide to the Perplexed I write to provide a personal testimony to that portion of your study (Extra!, 9-10/06) on the lack of black experts invited to appear on PBS. I appeared on the MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour once about 12-14 years ago. For several years now, I have been frequently contacted by bookers at the NewsHour and interviewed preliminary to appearing on the show. However, for some reason, they always cancelled. This has happened so frequently that I concluded either my views were too progressive for the stories being presented, or that they had some sort of racial quota ...


    The Real 'Masters of Space'

    As a graphic proclaiming “Red Storm” flashed on the screen, CNN anchor Lou Dobbs intoned: “Communist 5China tonight refusing to explain its motives for conducting its first-ever anti-satellite missile test. That test, the latest in a series of dangerous new challenges by the Chinese military to this country’s interest.” He threw it to correspondent Christine Romans, who declared, “Defense experts see a pattern of behavior that highlights China’s strategy to exploit American weakness.” Romans went to John Tkacik of the Heritage Foundation, who, she reported, “says that American policymakers refuse to recognize China’s hostile intentions toward this country.” The segment ...


    Obamamania

    The day after he formally announced he was a candidate for the 2008 presidential race, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) took a shot at the media. Alluding to the perception that he avoids taking strong positions on important political issues, Obama told reporters (Washington Post, 2/12/07): “The problem is that that’s not what you guys have been reporting on. You’ve been reporting on how I look in a swimsuit.” It’s not often that politicians complain that they get coverage they deem too “soft,” but Obama could make the charge with a straight face. In a sense, Obama’s complaint and the press ...


    Fear & Favor 2006 -- The Seventh Annual Report

    “Fear and favor” describes the various pushes and pulls on journalists to use something other than journalistic values in producing the news. The intense corporatization of media makes the precise contours of such compromise difficult to trace. Pressure to cut costs and please financially powerful players is, as it were, “in the air” in corporate America; who can say how far into the journalistic process such budgetary concerns intrude? Ad salespeople drumming up sponsors for an upcoming story in the Ft. Myers, Fla., News-Press will be accompanied on sales calls by the reporter, reports the Washington Post (12/4/06): “The logic: ...


    Here We Go Again

    In the wake of its disastrous pre-war reporting on Iraq, the New York Times announced new rules governing its use of unnamed sources. Its lead story on February 10, promoting Bush administration charges against Iran, violated those rules. In the report, “Deadliest Bomb in Iraq Is Made by Iran, U.S. Says,” Times reporter Michael R. Gordon cited a one-sided array of anonymous sources charging the Iranian government with providing a particularly deadly variety of roadside bomb to Shia militias in Iraq: “The most lethal weapon directed against American troops in Iraq is an explosive-packed cylinder that United States intelligence asserts ...


    SoundBites

    Broder and ‘His President’ In “Bush Regains His Footing” (2/16/07), Washington Post columnist David Broder told readers that, “perverse” as it may seem, Bush may actually be “poised for a political comeback.” He “shows signs of renewed energy and is regaining the initiative on several fronts.” And, “more important, he is demonstrating political smarts that even his critics have to acknowledge.” Challenged in an online discussion (WashingtonPost.com, 2/16/07) about whether he was perhaps too “deeply invested” in the Bush White House, Broder bristled, writing, “The notion that I am invested in him is bizarre—unless it is meant to suggest that ...


    Think Tank Sources Fall, but Left Gains Slightly

    FAIR’s annual survey of think tank sources produced a surprising result for 2006: While total think tank citations decreased for the second year in a row (before then, think tank citations went up every single year), progressive think tanks bucked the trend. Overall, the 27,877 citations that the 25 most-quoted think tanks garnered was a 4 percent decline from 2005. But progressive and left-leaning think tanks increased their exposure, up by 11 percent, having for the first time two think tanks in the top 10. Nevertheless, the media landscape remains dominated by centrist and conservative think tanks. Centrists led the ...


    Wall Street's Panic, Democracy's Trouble

    I don't so much mind that newspapers are dying—it's watching them commit suicide that pisses me off. Let's use this as a handy exercise in journalism. What is the unexamined assumption here? That the newspaper business is dying. Is it? In 2005, publicly traded U.S. newspaper publishers reported operating profit margins of 19.2 percent, down from 21 percent in 2004, according to the Wall Street Journal. That ain't chopped liver, friends—it's more than double the average operating profit margin of the Fortune 500. So who thinks newspapers are dying? Newspaper analysts on Wall Street. In fact, the fine folks on ...


    Net Neutrality and the Supermedia Monopolies

    The leaders of the nation’s largest cable and telephone companies are telling lawmakers something familiar: New national policies are required to connect everyone to what they call a “superbroadband” Internet highway. If Washington supports their political agenda, the companies vow that the nation will benefit from advances in healthcare, improvements in the quality of life for senior citizens, and major boosts for jobs and the economy. But, say corporate executives, we are stymied by rules, regulations and local and state policies. Congress, the FCC and the White House must get government out of the way. They claim that the emergence ...