Extra! November/December 2005

    Failing at Its 'No. 1 Goal'

    Since 1979, C-SPAN has provided an invaluable service to viewers with its no-frills coverage of congressional hearings, press briefings, demonstrations, book readings and other political events. By presenting public affairs with a minimal intrusion by hosts or reporters, C-SPAN has gained a reputation as a frictionless conveyer of raw political information to the public. In 2005, C-SPAN celebrated the 25th anniversary of the first-ever nationally televised viewer call-in shows, a format that it introduced in October 1980. By January 1995, it launched Washington Journal, a political talkshow that C-SPAN now describes as its “flagship viewer call-in program.” Airing seven mornings ...


    Judgment Reserved to Judgment Reversed

    Advocacy organizations typically receive little time or space to express their opinions in mainstream media discussions, so it’s not surprising that they turn to political advertisements as an alternative means of getting their message out to the public. A paid publicity campaign may legitimize the activists’ efforts as a coverage-worthy “controversy” in the eyes of corporate media, so advocacy groups can sometimes parlay small ad buys into big news stories—particularly if their commercials make hard-hitting and dramatic charges. This process is ripe for exploitation, of course. Front groups launched to do dirty work for a candidate or political party can ...


    Sidebar: Superstore Censorship

    [Note: this piece is a sidebar to Media Lick the Hand That Feeds Them] In media products no less than other retail items, Wal-Mart’s market share is considerable. By one estimate (Business Week, 10/6/03), its stores account for 15 to 20 percent of all CD, DVD and video sales, as well as 15 percent of all single-copy magazine sales. Those figures could be higher; one analyst put Wal-Mart’s share of total music sales in the U.S. at 35 percent (New York Times, 12/29/03). But there’s a price to be paid for getting shelf space at Wal-Mart, as the chain often ...


    Media Lick the Hand That Feeds Them

    In January 2005, readers across the country all saw the same thing in their morning paper: an ad for Wal-Mart. That in itself is no surprise—Wal-Mart is, after all, the largest corporation in the world—but this particular ad, which ran in more than a hundred papers, was different: it consisted of a rebuttal of arguments lodged by the retail behemoth’s critics. Subject to condemnation for business practices ranging from low pay and stingy healthcare benefits to exporting jobs and destroying small businesses, Wal-Mart is also the subject of litigation, including a class action discrimination suit representing 1.6 million current and ...


    Letters to the Editor

    Forget NPR, Save Public Radio I agree that NPR needs to get funding from other sources than the CPB. Today I listened to programs on my NPR station in Philly, WHYY-FM. The first show, Day to Day, in a discussion about the Harriet Miers nomination, had a guest from the National Review. I kept waiting for a progressive or liberal guest--it never happened. The next show, Talk of the Nation, presented a guest representing a conservative women's org. Again, this was not balanced by anyone on the left. One commentator kept saying how W is missing a real opportunity to ...


    Deducing the Definition of 'Demonizing'

    When people claim to find a liberal bias in corporate media, one has to wonder: Are they getting some kind of special news, unavailable to regular people? Or have they so internalized the liberal media canard that they simply presume the existence of a liberal slant? The Note, ABC News’ daily email news digest, often accuses the mainstream media, of which ABC News is a major part, of having a leftward slant—as in this item (9/19/05): The press and the Democrats are still demonizing Karl Rove’s involvement in anything and everything, expressing shock and horror that a deputy White House ...


    The Op-Ed Assassination of Hugo Chávez

    After televangelist Pat Robertson publicly called for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez Frias (700 Club, 8/22/05), the editors of several major newspapers were quick to denounce his outrageous incitement to violence. However, in criticizing the conservative televangelist, the prestige press overlooked its own highly antagonistic treatment of Venezuela’s president, which surely contributed to the heated political climate in which Robertson made his threat. Even so-called “moderate” columnists have contributed to the deterioration of U.S.-Venezuela relations by distorting the Venezuelan government’s domestic and foreign policy record. Robertson may indeed be “just a garden-variety crackpot with friends in high places,” ...


    Face-Off

    [Note: This piece is a sidebar to "Failing At Its No. 1 Goal."] Although occasionally Washington Journal will have on two or more guests at one time, debates between guests are a rarity. In the first years of its decade-long run, however, the show hosted more such debates—and FAIR routinely criticized C-SPAN for the show’s habit of pitting right-wing guests against centrists or mainstream reporters. An April 26, 1996 letter to C-SPAN from FAIR’s Jeff Cohen explained the problem: It’s fine to pair an advocacy journalist of the left with a journalist of the right (e.g., Joe Conason vs. National ...


    'Saying What They've Been Thinking'

    As columnist Dawn Turner Trice remarked (Chicago Tribune, 9/12/05), Hurricane Katrina “shed a light” on the often unspoken racist assumptions of many Americans. In particular, she noted, many of the elite have, through their comments about the tragedy, “unwittingly reveal[ed] themselves” and their fundamental prejudices. Of course, many pundits attacked the idea that racism had anything to do with Katrina at all. To suggest race affected the response to the hurricane, Reason magazine’s Cathy Young (Boston Globe, 9/12/05) charged, was “irresponsible.” Jeff Jacoby decried in the Boston Globe (9/14/05) the invocation after Katrina of the “America-as-lethally-racist theme” that “is as ...


    Spinning the Libby Indictment

    The October 28 indictment of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby in the CIA leak investigation was major news. Libby--who promptly resigned from his position as Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff--is portrayed in the indictment as repeatedly and deceptively claiming he learned from reporters about Valerie Plame Wilson's classified status at the CIA. Wilson's CIA role was exposed in apparent retaliation for her husband, Ambassador Joseph Wilson, writing an op-ed for the New York Times (7/6/03) critical of the Bush administration's claims that Iraq was pursuing nuclear weapons. Some journalists, however, seemed to think that the story was not so ...


    SoundBites

    A Republican Problem After Republican Majority Leader Tom DeLay was charged on September 28 with illegally funneling corporate money to Texas Republicans, CBS’s Face the Nation (10/2/05) covered the indictment by convening a panel of three Republican congressmembers: David Dreier of California, John Shadegg of Arizona and Jim Leach of Iowa. Why the curious booking decision? Host Bob Schieffer explained midway through the interview: “Let me just point out, I didn’t invite any Democrats to be on this morning because I thought this was a Republican problem and wanted to give you a chance to talk about it.” Funny, you’d ...


    Suspect Sources

    With a dearth of reliable information coming out of flood-ravaged New Orleans, many unsubstantiated accounts of violence and mayhem surged through mainstream media outlets in the first days of the crisis. As the waters receded, some of the sources for these stories seemed as slippery as the post-flood slime that covered the city. Peggy Hoffman, executive director of the assisted-living facility Bethany Home, for example, claimed in an Associated Press article (8/31/05) that the facility’s evacuation vehicle had been hijacked and its food and water stores looted in the first days of the disaster. Hoffman stated that “we had enough ...


    Demonizing the Victims of Katrina

    By September 1, residents of flood-ravaged New Orleans had been trapped for nearly 72 hours in a city with little shelter, food, drinkable water or dry clothing. As much as 80 percent of the city was under water as the Federal Emergency Management Agency seemed unable to respond to the situation. Police and first-responders abandoned their posts, while the National Guard’s efforts were sapped by forces and equipment deployed to Iraq. CNN’s Wolf Blitzer summed up the crisis in the opener to his daily news show, The Situation Room: It’s just after 3 p.m. in New Orleans, where thousands of ...