Extra! November/December 2001

    When the Victims Are Far Away

    A very different media response to Moscow bombings

    A very different media response to Moscow bombingsIt would be easy, and to some tempting, to say that it is America’s turn—that after years of American gloating over Islam’s attacks on Russia, that after the CIA’s goading of proxies like the Pakistanis to arm Islamic terrorists, that after the brutal destruction of Iraq in the war 10 years ago, it is well past time that America had her own Islamic extremist problem. It also might be true. This month’s attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon seem most of all the harvest of an American-sown whirlwind. Repellent words—no doubt …

    Anthrax Attacks: Journalists as Targets

    Whoever sent the letters contaminated with anthrax spores seems to have a particular interest in media outlets—with NBC, ABC and CBS, the New York Times and New York Post being apparent targets, as well as the Sun supermarket tabloid in Florida, where the first case was identified. Beyond the horror of disease being used as a weapon, the apparent targeting of news personnel is a troubling sign of the erosion of the protected status of journalists—a protection that is vital to any credible flow of information during a crisis. The idea that journalists can be targets has been promoted not …

    Study of NPR’s Coverage of Deaths in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

    FAIR’s study examined the January through June 2001 transcripts of NPR‘s four main news programs—Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition and Weekend All Things Considered—as found on the Nexis news database. To identify references to fatal Israeli and Palestinian attacks, FAIR searched for transcripts containing keywords such as death, died, killed, fatal, etc., as well as the words Israel, Israeli, Palestinian or Palestine. In examining transcripts containing these keywords, FAIR eliminated false positives (e.g., “the death of the Middle East peace process”), identifying only those scripts containing at least one report of a specific fatal attack against Israelis or …

    Covering the ‘Fifth Column’

    Media present pro-war distortions of peace movement's views

    Media present pro-war distortions of peace movement’s views

    As If Reality Wasn’t Bad Enough

    Dan Rather spread alarmist rumors on September 11

    Dan Rather spread alarmist rumors on September 11In a national emergency like the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the first thing required from the news media is accurate information. Unfortunately, TV journalists too often delivered misinformation instead. One who did so repeatedly was CBS News‘ Dan Rather. “Let me pause and say that a car bomb has exploded outside the State Department in Washington,” Rather told his audience on September 11. He repeated: “Now a car bomb has exploded outside the State Department in Washington. No further details available on that.” He reported this car bomb …

    The Op-Ed Echo Chamber

    Little or no space for dissent from the military line

    Little or no space for dissent from the military line“When op-ed pages first became the rage some 25 years ago, they were supposed to be places for nontraditional voices to be heard.” — Allan Wolper, Editor & Publisher ethics columnist (5/29/99) Whether the mainstream daily op-ed page was ever a true forum for debate or for “nontraditional voices” is questionable. But during the weeks following September’s terrorist attacks, two leading dailies mostly used these pages as an echo chamber for the government’s official policy of military response, while mostly ignoring dissenters and policy critics. A FAIR survey of the New …

    Are You a Terrorist?

    Media passivity enables rollback of civil liberties

    Mainstream news outlets did cover the progress of the proposed anti-terror bills through the House and Senate, but did relatively little to alert the public to how fundamental and far-reaching the proposed expansions of law enforcement’s powers were, and provided little information about the nuts and bolts of the legislation.

    ‘We Think the Price Is Worth It’

    Media uncurious about Iraq policy's effects--there or here

    Media uncurious about Iraq policy’s effects–there or hereLesley Stahl on U.S. sanctions against Iraq: We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it? Secretary of State Madeleine Albright: I think this is a very hard choice, but the price–we think the price is worth it. —60 Minutes (5/12/96) Then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s quote, calmly asserting that U.S. policy objectives were worth the sacrifice of half a million Arab children, has been much quoted in the Arabic press. It’s also been cited …

    ‘This Isn’t Discrimination, This Is Necessary’

    Amid pleas for tolerance, some call for profiling--and worse

    Amid pleas for tolerance, some call for profiling–and worseSince September 11, there have been at least three bias-related murders and reports from around the country of assaults and harassment targeting Arab- and Muslim-Americans. Homes, businesses, mosques and Muslim schools have been vandalized, children tormented, and students harassed on college campuses. Media have reported many of these assaults (e.g., USA Today, 9/20/01; San Francisco Chronicle, 10/4/01) and denounced them as what Tom Brokaw (NBC Nightly News, 9/20/01) called “one of the ugliest legacies of this crisis.” “It’s insanity to burden an entire people with the label terrorist,” the New York Times …

    The Illusion of Balance

    NPR's coverage of Mideast deaths doesn't match reality

    NPR’s coverage of Mideast deaths doesn’t match realityNational Public Radio‘s coverage of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict has been the target of criticism from all sides, especially since the start of the Palestinian uprising in September 2000. One common complaint from both pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian critics is that NPR and other outlets downplay or ignore acts of violence by the “other side.” For example, a press release (8/12/01) from CAMERA, a conservative pro-Israel media watch group, accused NPR of skimming over the killing of a Jewish settler in a news report that focused on the funeral of a Palestinian Hamas activist killed …

    The New Blacklist

    The nation's largest radio network's list of 'questionable' songs

    The nation’s largest radio network’s list of ‘questionable’ songsAs rescue workers tirelessly searched the rubble of the Pentagon and World Trade Center, one casualty went unnoticed: a nation’s freedom of speech. In later years, September 11 may also come to be seen as the day the music died. In the wake of the tragedy, the doorway is open for opponents of free speech to trample dissident voices and narrow the parameters of what can be discussed in art and music. In the days following the terrorist attack, the media monopoly that is Clear Channel walked through this doorway. Clear Channel …

    Patriotism & Censorship

    Some journalists are silenced, while others seem happy to silence themselves

    Some journalists are silenced, while others seem happy to silence themselvesWar fever in the wake of the September 11 attacks has led to a wave of self-censorship as well as government pressure on the media. With American flags adorning networks’ on-screen logos, journalists are feeling rising pressure to exercise “patriotic” news judgment, while even mild criticism of the military, George W. Bush and U.S. foreign policy are coming to seem taboo. On September 17, Bill Maher, host of ABC’s Politically Incorrect, took issue with Bush’s characterization of the hijackers as “cowards,” saying that the label could more plausibly be applied …

    Network of Insiders

    TV news relies mainly on officials to discuss policy

    TV news relies mainly on officials to discuss policyThe crisis of September 11 touched on issues from Middle Eastern politics to skyscraper architecture, Islamic theology to the threat of unconventional weapons. It was a story, in other words, that most ordinary Americans could not easily interpret without help. FAIR has conducted a study to find out which experts the three major television news outlets–NBC, ABC and CBS–sought out to help explain these and other issues in the days following the September 11 attacks. A total of 189 expert guests were invited by the networks to appear in on-camera interview segments …

    Patriotic Shopping

    Media define citizenship as consumerism

    Media define citizenship as consumerismA number of pundits and politicians offered Americans a simple solution to the helplessness and anxiety they were feeling in the wake of the September 11 attacks: Go shopping! Vice President Dick Cheney (L.A. Times, 9/17/01) described it as a way for ordinary citizens to “stick their thumbs in the eye of the terrorists and say that they’ve got great confidence in the country.” Some outlets broadcast such calls virtually unquestioned. “Americans need to go out and spend. That’s the message,” said NBC‘s Tom Brokaw (9/24/01), introducing a report from Anne Thompson that concluded, “American companies …

    Even Fewer Voices?

    During crisis, FCC moves to accelerate media concentration

    During crisis, FCC moves to accelerate media concentrationJust two days after the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the FCC moved to eliminate some of the last remaining restraints on media concentration. With all eyes elsewhere, the FCC voted unanimously to “review” regulations that limit the percentage of the national audience that a single cable company can reach, and that prohibit the same company from owning both a newspaper and a TV station in the same broadcasting market. FCC chair Michael Powell has made no secret of his desire to abandon any substantive public interest …

Articles in the print edition


A Missing Voice at the Washington Post