Extra! May 2011

    Letters to the Editor

    The Bigger Picture on West Bank Death Alex Kane’s analysis of American media coverage of Jawaher Abu Rahmah’s killing by Israeli forces (Extra!, 4/11) was excellent, and I thank him for it. However, Mr. Kane did not point out a major logical flaw in the coverage: Even assuming IDF claims about a pre-existing illness were true, the IDF is still responsible for killing Ms. Abu Rahmah. The point is obvious enough, but just to illustrate: Suppose I assault a man on the street so that I can steal his wallet, and in the course of that crime hit him over ...


    The Unrenewed Debate Over Renewable Energy

    When the March 11 earthquake and tsunami shut down cooling systems at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, U.S. government and nuclear industry spin control kicked in, asserting that a similar disaster couldn’t happen here, and that atomic power is here to stay. Corporate news outlets typically got caught up in this spin, relaying distorted and/or incomplete information about our energy options from a recycled cohort of pro-nuclear sources. An option hardly mentioned: renewable energy, such as wind, solar and geothermal power.* The topic of energy efficiency and conservation—sure-fire ways to reduce demand for energy in the first place—didn’t even surface. ...


    Idahomophobia

    Media coverage of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues has come a long way since the days when the New York Times referred to gay people as “perverts” (12/16/50) or the New York Post (10/17/90) published an op-ed claiming that “our promiscuous homosexuals appear literally hellbent on Satanism and suicide.” Though stereotyping and sensationalism remain a problem, particularly for coverage of transgender people (see Extra!, 11-12/07), hard work by activists has succeeded in gradually shifting national media coverage to largely embrace a much more fair and respectful approach to LGBT stories and people. In some local media markets, however, ...


    Media Grade Obama's Bombing

    Whether it’s called a war or a humanitarian “kinetic military action,” there are certain patterns in corporate media coverage when the U.S. is engaged in military action, and the bombing of Libya is no exception—from a parade of officials to a narrow range of debate to an emphasis on the infallible precision of U.S. weapons. Once they abandoned their early position against intervention in favor of a robust UN resolution, the administration had plenty of room to make its case. Immediately after the U.S./NATO airstrikes against Libya were launched on March 19, U.S. Joint Chiefs chair Mike Mullen appeared on ...


    Narrow Afghan Debate on Cable's 'Liberal' Channel

    Of the cable news channels, MSNBC has the most progressive image, based largely on the persona of now-fired anchor Keith Olbermann, but also reflecting the presence of hosts like Rachel Maddow, Ed Schultz and Olbermann’s replacement Lawrence O’Donnell. To test how much this left-leaning reputation actually reflects the content of MSNBC’s news, Extra! looked at the network’s coverage of the Afghan War on four primetime shows—Schultz’s Ed Show, Olbermann’s Countdown, the Rachel Maddow Show and O’Donnell’s Last Word—from July 2010 through December 2010. Extra! counted all sources interviewed by MSNBC about Afghanistan, excluding taped soundbites pulled from other sources. Commentary ...


    On Libya, Opinion Pages a No-Debate Zone?

    In the month before the UN Security Council approved international military action against Libya, U.S. media frequently discussed the possibility of military intervention, usually in the form of a no-fly zone over the country to stop Moammar Gadhafi’s attacks from the air. But rather than hosting a robust debate, the country’s most influential newspapers gave readers a very lopsided perspective. On the opinion pages of the New York Times and Washington Post from February 18 through March 17, the day the UN resolution was passed, pieces urging military intervention outnumbered those opposed or questioning by nearly 4 to 1. Such ...


    After Fukushima, Media Still Buying Nuclear Spin

    Ever since the start of nuclear technology, those behind it have made heavy use of deception, obfuscation and denial—with the complicity of most of the media. New York Times reporter William Laurence, working at the same time with the Manhattan Project, wrote a widely published press release covering up the first nuclear test in New Mexico in 1945, claiming it was nothing more than an ammunition dump explosion. The Times and Laurence went on to boost nuclear power for years to come (Beverly Deepe Keever, News Zero: The New York Times and The Bomb). A central concern of nuclear promoters, ...


    More Terror, Less Coverage

    On the morning of January 17 in Spokane, Washington, city workers found a backpack with a bomb that was set to go off along the route of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade. An FBI official (Spokane Spokesman Review, 1/19/11) called the bomb “a viable device that was very lethal and had the potential to inflict multiple casualties.” Another official told the Associated Press (1/19/11), “They haven’t seen anything like this in this country.... This was the worst device, and most intentional device, I’ve ever seen.” On March 9, Kevin Harpham, a white supremacist with past links to the ...


    Soundbites

    NBC’s Dodgy Coverage of GE’s $0 Tax Bill When General Electric paid no taxes to the U.S. government in 2010 on worldwide profits of $14 billion (New York Times, 3/25/11), the news was at first ignored by NBC, the network that GE owns 49 percent of. On cable’s MSNBC, also co-owned by GE, host Lawrence O’Donnell (3/25/11) did criticize his employer’s tax avoidance—but the much larger audience for NBC’s broadcast news was left in the dark, though Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb on the Today show (3/24/11) found time to mention that GE was offering a special Prince William/Kate ...