Extra! May/June 1995

    Milking a Story

    Like a sick cow, the mainstream press has lain down and closed its eyes to growing criticism of the drug rBGH since it reached the U.S. market lastyear, including the failure to report on the European Union's December decision to extend its ban on rBGH use until the year 2000. Extra! May/June 1995


    Iraqgate: Confession and Cover-Up

    While the O.J. Simpson trial gobbled up endless TV hours and countless news pages, a concurrent criminal trial in Miami went almost unnoticed by the national media, even though it called into question the judgment of three U.S. presidents. President Clinton's Justice Department had put on trial Teledyne Industries, a major military contractor, and two of its mid-level employees, on charges of selling cluster-bomb parts to a Chilean arms manufacturer, Carlos Cardoen. Cardoen, in turn, allegedly shipped finished bombs to Iraq. Defense attorneys for the Teledyne employees argued that the CIA, as part of a secret operation that has come ...


    The Mexican 'Miracle'

    On May 22, 1993, soldiers from the Mexican army accidentally ran across a guerrilla training camp in the jungles of the southern Mexican state of Chiapas. One army officer and one civilian were killed in the clashes that followed, according to the military. The incident was given prominent coverage in La Jornada, a popular, moderately leftist Mexico City daily. The reports of a skirmish were greeted with some skepticism in Mexico, but Gen. Rigoberto Castillejos Adriano, a sub-commander in the National Defense Secretariat, indignantly defended the army's account in a letter featured on the front page of the July 11 ...


    Readers for Sale!

    Examines how newspapers sell their readership to advertisers. Reveals how bottom-line demands of corporate owners have resulted in papers putting the selling of "quality" audiences above quantities of papers to readers. How the Wall Street Journal views its readers. Extra! May/June 1995


    Crying Over Spilled Coffee

    The Republicans' "Contract With America" proposed to drastically alter the U.S. legal system to curtail a flood of "frivolous lawsuits and outlandish damage rewards [that] make a mockery of our civil justice system." What "frivolous lawsuit" problem is the Contract talking about? Rep. Michael Oxley (R-Ohio), Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, provided a clue (KPFK, 2/22/95): "Whenever the public reads about a woman who spills coffee in her lap and gets $3 million, most people say this doesn't make a whole lot of sense." You've probably heard about this case. From Jay Leno to your local radio ...


    Public Enemy Number One?

    In a bizarre column blaming TV talkshows, in part, for the "sexually irresponsible culture of poverty," Newsweek's Joe Klein (2/6/95) provided telling insight into how some in mainstream media see their relationship to poor people: "Television is the only sustained communication our society has with the underclass," Klein wrote. "It is the most powerful message we send." Recent mainstream news reporting on welfare and its "reform" has been full of messages about "us" and "them," with reporters leaving little doubt about who "we" and "they" are. In a vivid example, ABC PrimeTime Live's Diane Sawyer (annual salary: an estimated $7 ...


    Limbaugh Out to Lunch in Budget Debate

    "Today, my friends, we're going to do everything the media accuses us of doing, that we never have done, but we're going to do it," Rush Limbaugh announced on his March 10 radio show. "Yes, ladies and gentlemen, today we're going to give you marching orders, and today we will ask you to follow us in lock-step." Actually, Limbaugh urges his followers to take political action with some regularity (Extra!, 9-10/94). But what issue was so important that it would make Limbaugh claim that he was breaking his rule? The school lunch program. "My friends," Limbaugh declared, for the last ...


    Five Media Myths About Welfare

    1. Poor women have more children because of the "financial incentives" of welfare benefits. Repeated studies show no correlation between benefit levels and women's choice to have children. (See, for example, Urban Institute Policy and Research Report, Fall/93.) States providing relatively higher benefits do not show higher birth rates among recipients. In any case, welfare allowances are far too low to serve as any kind of "incentive": A mother on welfare can expect about $90 in additional AFDC (Aid to Families with Dependent Children) benefits if she has another child. Furthermore, the real value of AFDC benefits, which do not ...


    Seeing the Bright Side at the New York Times

    For those fearing inflation, analysts said, one of the most reassuring elements of today's report [of rising employment] was that average hourly earnings declined by 2 cents, after an October surge of 7 cents. --New York Times, Dec. 3, 1994 A common complaint is that the media favor bad news, but that isn't fair. Given that news, as Voltaire says of history, is "indeed little more than the register of the crimes, follies and misfortunes of mankind," it's hard for mainstream reporters to be upbeat, but they do try. One way is by euphemism, like calling the military budget "defense ...


    Angry Rewrite Man

    Tells the story of one unemployed lab technician widely cited in media reports as an example of the "angry white male" who ushered in the Republican victory last November. When Hirshman followed up on the story for EXTRA!she discovered that Sidney Tracy voted Democrat not Republican and actually blamed corporate downsizing -- not women and people of color -- for the loss of his job. Extra! May/June 1995


    SoundBites

    Over Newt's Dead Body The Corporation for Public Broadcasting will get no more money from the federal government, Newt Gingrich declared in February (Washington Post,2/17/95). "They still don't realize that the appropriation is gone, that the game is over," the House speaker told fellow Republicans. "The power of the speaker is the power of recognition, and I will not recognize any proposal that will appropriate money for the CPB." Did Gingrich's resolve have anything to do with the fact that Gingrich's close friend, Vin Weber, had just been fired as a lobbyist for CPB? "He wasn't fired because it looked ...


    Desperately Seeking Difference:

    With the February 1 ABC News special, Boys and Girls Are Different: Men, Women and the Sex Difference, reported by correspondent John Stossel, hormonally induced haircut prices joined gay brains and race-based IQ as the politically charged science of the media moment. The show asked the eternal question, "Are men and women supposed to be the same, or are we different creatures right from birth?" Stossel argues that any remnants of sexism in today's egalitarian society can't explain noticeable sex differences in our behavior ("men are obsessed with sports, women have more friends"), nor account for women's failure to reach ...


    The Right Has a Dream

    In the last years of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s life, many mainstream journalists and conservative politicians treated him with fear and derision. In 1967, Life magazine (4/21/67) dubbed King's prophetic anti-war address "demagogic slander" and "a script for Radio Hanoi." Even years later, Ronald Reagan described King as a near-Communist. Today, however, a miracle is taking place: Suddenly, King is a conservative. By virtue of a snippit from one 1963 address--a single phrase about "the content of our character"--King is the most oft-quoted opponent of affirmative action in America today. "Martin Luther King, in my view, was a conservative," right-wing ...


    Your Life Is Brought to You By...

    It's been estimated that a typical American TV viewer sees 100 commercials a day. That's 36,500 a year, or perhaps 2.5 million over the course of the viewer's lifetime. Just about every one of those commercials is carefully crafted to convey the message: If you buy our product, you will be complete. Part reviewer, part consumer reporter, Village Voicecolumnist Leslie Savan examines commercial role in shaping our lives and selves. Extra! May/June 1995


    Are Disabled Children Ripping You Off--Or Did PrimeTime Live Tell a Big Fib?

    Few targets of the "welfare reform" campaign are more vulnerable than disabled children. Yet funds for those children, in the form of the Supplemental Security Income program, were under attack on PrimeTime Live's Oct. 13, 1994 broadcast. "It's a program designed to help disabled children, but parents are helping themselves," ABC's Diane Sawyer announced. "Chief correspondent Chris Wallace discovers all you need is a child willing to tell a big fib." Co-anchor Sam Donaldson echoed her: "Chief correspondent Chris Wallace discovered just how easy it is to get on the receiving end of what some are calling 'crazy checks.'" Wallace ...