Extra! November 2012

    Global Disaster? Not on the Agenda

    Even as the devastation resulting from humanity’s ongoing alteration of the Earth’s atmosphere became more and more obvious, coverage of the 2012 presidential election campaign seemed completely impervious to the effects of climate change.


    Videogame Bigotry and the Illusion of Freedom

    The definitive element of a videogame is the player’s agency within the game’s world. Instead of “viewers,” games have “players," and the player makes dozens of choices every minute that directly shape the experience: Will Mario sneak around the turtle monster, or will he jump on it until it dies? That sense of control over the protagonist can give the narrative of a videogame much greater impact than that of any conventional form of storytelling.But with that agency comes an illusion of freedom--which is dangerous. The player is not really “free,” since their actions are limited to the options created ...


    SoundBites

    Don’t Look to NYT  to ‘Litigate’ the Facts Margaret Sullivan, the new New York Times public editor (9/16/12), used the topic of “voter fraud” to illustrate the concept of “false balance”―when two sides are treated as equivalent even when one side has reality on its side. Despite Republican efforts to pass laws to prevent voting by the ineligible, research finds next to no examples of this problem―but coverage often treats the absence of fraudulent voting as a partisan assertion (Extra!, 10/12). While Sullivan rightly observed that “journalists need to make every effort to get beyond the spin and help readers ...


    The Need to Decode GOP's Coded Messages

    Lamenting the state of political writing, George Orwell once observed that “the great enemy of clear language is insincerity”: When there is “a gap between one’s real and declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink.” In modern politics, of course, limited media time and attention spans make no allowance for florid language, so thinly veiled appeals to racism have become the “ink” of choice. Amid the national elections, the GOP machine has been one very busy cuttlefish indeed. Most infamous is Mitt Romney’s off-the-cuff remark to millionaire ...


    Not for Teacher

    Among corporate media pundits, hostility towards teachers’ unions spans the ideological spectrum (Extra!, 9/10). And in supposedly straight news reporting, the policy goals of corporate “reformers”―support for charter schools and teacher ratings based on standardized test statistical models―are treated as common sense instead of contested and controversial. So when the Chicago Teachers Union went out on strike this September, it was never in doubt which side the corporate media would take. The story of Chicago, as they framed it, was that well-paid teachers in an underperforming, cash-strapped school system wanted more money, and opposed any attempt to hold them accountable ...


    'Inspiration' or Invisible

    U.S. media had a soft spot for the 2012 Paralympic Games, featuring some 4,000 athletes with disabilities from around the world. Not that they thought people wanted to see much of them―NBC only aired a few hours’ worth, and no live coverage (AP, 8/23/12)―but the events “proved once again that whatever your obstacles, you really can accomplish almost anything with hard work and dedication” (Sacramento Bee, 9/14/12). Seeing people with, as NPR’s Melissa Block (8/28/12) put it, “all sorts of impairments” competing in events from archery to swimming was “inspiring a lot of people” (NBC, 9/4/12); these were “performances that ...


    Why Do They Hate Us Back?

    U.S. coverage of Islam and Muslim-majority nations is such a carnival of distortion, double standards and bigotry that it’s sometimes hard to believe that journalists inhabit the same planet as the rest of us. This has been especially true as anti-American violence and demonstrations in Libya and other countries have put media fantasies of the U.S. as a benign force for democracy and peace in the Muslim world on full display. Immediately after the September 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi, Libya, which left U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others dead, U.S. media came alive with ...


    One City, Two Languages

    “Faces and Places,” says a link on the website of the El Paso Times, a venerable daily newspaper on the U.S./Mexico border. Click and you’re transported to photos of the community’s apple-pie-and-motherhood social events. In one picture, a fair-skinned little girl straddles a horse as a Stetson-hatted man guides her on a trail ride. In another, a middle-aged woman holds a fluffy dog who’s poised to jump in a pool—it’s canine swim day at an El Paso recreation center. These photos, and others just as wholesome, grace the paper’s English-language website. But over in another section, called “Fotogalerías,” the images ...