Extra! October 2011

    SoundBites

    Don’t Cry for Me, S&P 500 Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen (8/9/11) recalled a story about President Franklin D. Roosevelt crying when he was told about children in migrant worker camps who lacked Christmas toys. Cohen wondered, “Can anyone imagine Barack Obama doing anything similar?” The answer—at least my answer—is no. And this is quite amazing when you think about it. FDR was a Hudson River squire—down to his cigarette holder and cape. Nonetheless, he could connect to the less fortunate. Obama, in contrast, was raised in the great American muddle, not rich and not poor. Yet when the stock ...


    Trade, Jobs and Sales Jobs

    Corporate media have spent the last few years portraying the federal budget deficit, not jobs, as the public’s consuming worry, despite poll after poll revealing people unsurprisingly more interested in getting or holding onto a paycheck (FAIR Media Advisory, 8/1/11). Only now that official Washington turns its sights to the issue have media “discovered” the unemployment crisis—George Stephanopoulos now refers matter-of-factly to “the country’s top issue, jobs” (Good Morning America, 8/16/11)—but the same skewed priorities are on display. Bad enough the glib nature of their attentions, reflected in New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof’s ingenuous “feeling” (8/27/11), based on visiting ...


    Ignoring Non-Islamic Culprits in Somalia Famine

    As Somalia sank deeper into famine in late summer, with 63 percent of southern Somalia’s population at risk of starvation, U.S. media coverage focused on stories of misery and resilience. Measuring children’s emaciated arms and describing the scraps of dignity people struggled to maintain in refugee camps substituted for investigation of causes, or discussion of remedies beyond appeals for donations. A typical report came from CBS Evening News (8/8/11): “The faces dusted with the desert and...the eyes that have seen too much,” with an interview with a woman “who had fought to save her children in an unforgiving land.” The ...


    Remote-Controlled Reporting on Remote-Controlled War

    The New York Times (12/4/09) calls the American drone program “one of Washington’s worst-kept secrets.” This is particularly true for people in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in Pakistan that border Afghanistan, where the low humming sound which gives them their local name—machay, meaning wasps—is very familiar. Since the drone program in Pakistan began in 2004, between 1,650 and 2,880 people have been killed in as many as 295 drone attacks (New America Foundation, 8/11/11; Bureau of Investigative Journalism, 8/10/11)—with the number increasing drastically in 2009, after President Obama took office. In his first year in office alone, there ...


    Samuelson vs. The Elderly

    Nationally syndicated Washington Post columnist Robert Samuelson began a book event in 2009 (1/13/09) with a comment that could be interpreted as either self-deprecating humor or defensiveness: I am not an economist. I’m a journalist. And so that anything I say that seems contradictory to what a freshman in college would learn in your basic Principles of Economics course, I should be absolved of any sin for that, because as I say I am not a card-carrying member of the fraternity. Despite having a name that’s fortuitously easy to confuse with prominent economic textbook writer Paul Samuelson, and despite his ...


    Media Monopoly Revisited

    The introduction of the original 1983 edition of The Media Monopoly, Ben Bagdikian’s classic investigation of media consolidation, concluded: “When 50 men and women, chiefs of their corporations, control more than half the information and ideas that reach 220 million Americans, it is time for Americans to examine the institutions from which they receive their daily picture of the world.” When the second edition was released in 1987, the number of people controlling half the media was down to 26. By 1993, as the last edition went to print, the number had fallen to 20. To arrive at these alarming ...


    Closer to Home, 'Digital Democracy' Loses Appeal

    When Bay Area Rapid Transit authorities shut off cell phone service to deter protests against police violence, the backlash went viral. And despite the stifling of social media in San Francisco-area stations and trains, dissenters may have gotten the last word with old-fashioned ink scrawled on a handmade sign: “Mu-BART-Ak?” The quip highlighted the double-speak behind the political establishment’s attitude toward subversive applications of social media. A few months earlier, the “Twitter Revolution” was all the rage in Washington; establishment figures like Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (BusinessWeek, 1/27/11) and New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman (6/5/11) praised the uprising ...