Extra! May/June 2006

    Study Finds First Drop in Think Tank Cites

    FAIR’s annual survey of think tank citations in the mainstream media focuses attention on the groups that media turn to for “expert” sources. Rarely described politically when they are quoted (Extra!, 5-6/98), think tank sources often appear as neutral observers of the news, in contrast to partisan politicians and representatives of advocacy groups. If the media have a “liberal” bias, as conservatives have long claimed, then one would expect news outlets to seek out progressive think tanks as sources. However, in the history of this study, begun in 1996, we have instead found a consistent preference for conservative think tanks ...


    Stossel's 'Stupid' Schools

    If there were a John Stossel School of Journalism, reporters-intraining would be taught a simple template for any story: Free markets are good. Unions are bad. When consumers get to “choose,” everyone wins; if governments try to regulate, everyone loses. No matter what the assignment, a Stossel-trained reporter would be instructed to merely plug in a few relevant factoids to back up the propositions and—perhaps more importantly—to exclude any that undermine the predetermined conclusion. As subtle as its title, Stossel’s January 13 report on public schools, “Stupid in America,” hewed completely to that template. The one-hour special served up everything ...


    Bush-Hating Nation

    Appearing on MSNBC’s Situation with Tucker Carlson (2/14/06), conservative talkshow host and film critic Michael Medved linked an Oscar nomination he disapproved of to a mental illness he called “Bush hatred”: This Bush hatred is a disease, and it’s completely obsessive. And it’s reached the extent that if you take a look at movies that are nominated for the Oscar this year, one of the frontrunners, in fact the frontrunner for best foreign language film, is a film made in the Palestinian Authority. “Bush-hater” has been a favorite epithet of Republican partisans since 2003. A Nexis search shows the term ...


    'Wall Street Does Not Like Newspapers'

    In the latest media concentration story, the McClatchy newspaper chain, which currently owns 12 dailies, is buying out the larger Knight Ridder chain and its 32 newspapers. McClatchy has announced that it will immediately resell 12 of the Knight Ridder dailies, including such venerated newspapers as the Philadelphia Inquirer and the San Jose Mercury News. For a look at what the McClatchy/Knight Ridder story means for journalism and the media business, CounterSpin turned to Ben Bagdikian, dean emeritus of the UC Berkeley School of Journalism and author of the landmark book The Media Monopoly, now in its seventh edition. CounterSpin: ...


    Update

    [Note: This piece is a sidebar to ‘Wall Street Does Not Like Newspapers’.] Since CounterSpin’s interview with Ben Bagdikian, McClatchy has announced a pending deal that will turn over four of the former Knight Ridder papers—the St. Paul Pioneer Press, San Jose Mercury News, Contra Costa Times and Monterey County Herald—to the Denver-based MediaNews Group. With the addition of the three Northern California dailies, MediaNews, which already owns the Oakland Tribune, San Mateo Times and Marin Independent Journal, among other local publications, is poised to become a powerful regional media force. The San Jose Newspaper Guild, a union representing workers ...


    Fair Use It or Lose It

    Tom Forsythe is an artist with a mission. In 1997, he created “Food Chain Barbie,” photographs depicting the iconic doll interacting with various kitchen appliances. The results—“Malted Barbie” and “Barbie Enchiladas,” among others—were intended, Forsythe said, “to critique the objectification of women associated with Barbie.” Barbie’s manufacturer, Mattel, sued Forsythe for copyright and trademark infringement. Eventually, a federal court ruled for the artist, finding that “Food Chain Barbie” was protected as a “fair use” under both copyright and trademark law. The court explained that there are great public benefits to allowing critique of cultural icons. Letting Forsythe use Barbie’s image ...


    Sidebar: Defining the Think Tanks

    [Note: this piece is a sidebar to Study Finds First Drop in Think Tank Cites] Our primary criteria for labeling the political orientation of a think tank are 1) its self-identification, 2) its stated policy positions and 3) how it is used in the media. The third criteria was applied, for example, to the Cato Institute, which gets far more media exposure for its conservative libertarian positions, such as privatizing Social Security, than it does for its more progressive libertarian positions, like decriminalizing drug possession or slashing corporate welfare. Some think tank political orientations, like those of the conservative Heritage ...


    The False Debate Over 'Broken Borders'

    Since 2005, much of the mainstream media has been rife with coverage of what has been called “immigration reform”—a policy debate over what kind of immigration legislation would be passed among a narrow range of options. One pole of the legislative debate was the McCain-Kennedy proposal, which would have created a temporary or “guest” worker program, followed by conditional and heavily delayed legalization of workers. The other was the Sensenbrenner Bill, passed by the House in December 2005, which would, among other harsh provisions, turn undocumented immigrants into felons and massively increase detentions and deportations. Either measure by itself would ...


    SoundBites

    News From Nobody On ABC’s This Week (3/19/06), host George Stephanopoulos asked Washington Post reporter Jackie Spinner how long Iraqis would tolerate the American occupation. The aptly named Spinner’s response: “Well, you know . . . I find when I come back to the United States the discussion of troop withdrawal to be a curious one, because nobody is talking about that in Iraq.” Her definition of “nobody” must be pretty expansive: Eighty-seven percent of Iraqis, according to a poll recently published by the Brookings Institution (New York Times, 3/19/06), want to see a timetable for the withdrawal of American ...


    CNN's Immigration Problem

    CNN anchor Lou Dobbs has been a high-profile voice in the immigration debate, using his show to rail against the country’s “broken borders” virtually every evening on Lou Dobbs Tonight. His openly crusading advocacy journalism has raised eyebrows and put CNN president Jonathan Klein on the defensive; as Klein told the New York Times (3/29/06): “Lou’s show is not a harbinger of things to come at CNN. He is sui generis, one of a kind.” But a closer look at CNN programming indicates that Dobbs’ slanted journalism is not as unusual at the network as Klein suggests. As FAIR has ...


    U.S. media to French youth:

    Given the mainstream media’s general antipathy towards France and nearly unanimous endorsement of neoliberal corporate globalization, it’s no surprise that reporters covering the massive student protests in France would be unimpressed with pleas to protect workers’ rights. The policy under fierce debate would allow many French employers more “flexibility” to hire and fire young workers without cause—something that, unsurprisingly, students and workers oppose. But they get little sympathy from U.S. pundits and journalists, who endorse the changes as the proper medicine for an ailing French economy. In a March 21 editorial, the Los Angeles Times advised that the protesting students ...


    Intelligence Manipulation at the Washington Post

    Newspaper editorial pages are entitled to their own opinions—but not to their own facts. That seems to be a distinction that the Washington Post has a hard time making these days. The paper’s April 9 editorial, “A Good Leak,” defended the White House’s actions amid new revelations in the investigation of the leaking of an undercover CIA employee’s name to reporters. CIA analyst Valerie Plame Wilson was outed by administration sources in July 2003 after her husband, former diplomat Joseph Wilson, publicly challenged a key White House argument for war—that Iraq was attempting to procure uranium from Africa. Special prosecutor ...


    Letters to the Editor

    In Defense of MEF I see that the March/April 2006 issue of Extra! has a letter to the editor from Mike Males in response to my piece on FAIR and media reform published in the January/February 2006 Extra!. Males’ letter has nothing to do with my article, and tees off on a passing reference I made to the Media Education Foundation in which I praised the quality of MEF’s work. As Males acknowledges, MEF does tremendous work. It is one of the truly great progressive institutions in our society, much like FAIR. But Males uses my passing reference to make ...


    Globalization vs. Growth

    The April 10 New York Times devoted half its op-ed space to an elaborate attempt to demonstrate the benefits of globalization, with charts showing that “more globalized” nations do better than “less globalized” on measures ranging from average inflation to the rule of law. But one obvious measure of economic health, the economic growth rate, was conspicuously absent—perhaps because those statistics would have directly contradicted the op-ed’s point. “Globalizing Good Government,” written by Richard W. Fisher and W. Michael Cox of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, chided opponents of a (subsequently scuttled) French law making it easier to fire ...


    Birth of a Factoid

    [Note: This piece is a sidebar to "The False Debate Over 'Broken Borders'."] Coverage of a recent study by Jeffrey Passel of the Pew Hispanic Center on undocumented immigrants in the United States (3/7/06) illustrates how facts are constructed in the immigration debate. The organization’s website states that the report provides “an estimate of 11.5 to 12 million [unauthorized migrants] as of March 2006,” based on a comparison of Census and Department of Homeland Security data combined with statistical projections. The three-page executive summary of the report—available on the web—prominently states that “some migrants in this estimate have legal authorization ...