Jan 12 2008

Issues Have Gone Missing in Presidential Race

In recent decades, the news media have shown increasing attraction to style over substance. Under the cover of journalism, endless discussions have pumped up the public discourse with evaluations of candidates as theatrical performers rather than policy advocates. But the current presidential race has brought us to a new journalistic low. The media fascination with story angles seems to be inversely proportional to their substance. For instance, the attentive news consumer knows far more about Hillary Clinton’s quest to seem likable than about her position on nuclear weapons. We hear far more astute punditry about whether she projects an image […]

Dec 28 2007

Channeling Suze Orman

I was near the deadline for a column when I glanced at a TV screen. “The Suze Orman Show,” airing on CNBC at prime time, exerted a powerful force in my hotel room. And the fate of this column was sealed. Orman made a big splash many years ago on public television — the incubating environment for her as a national phenom. With articulate calls for intelligent self-determination of one’s own financial future, she is a master of the long form. Humor and dramatic cadences punch up the impacts of her performances. Seeing her the other night, within a matter […]

Dec 22 2007

Announcing the P.U.-litzer Prizes for 2007

Many journalists qualified for the sixteenth annual P.U.-litzer Prizes, but only a few were able to win recognition for turning in one of the truly stinkiest media performances of the year. As the judges for this un-coveted award, we have done our best to confer this honor on the most deserving. And now, the winners of the P.U.-litzers for 2007: SPINNING FOR ANOTHER WAR AWARD — Michael Gordon of The New York Times Continuing where he left off before the Iraq invasion, when he used unnamed official sources to produce wildly inaccurate page-one articles on Iraq’s alleged weapons threat, Gordon […]

Dec 19 2007

The Mad Corporate World of Glenn Beck

When I picked up a ringing phone one morning in mid-December, the next thing I knew a producer was inviting me to appear on Glenn Beck’s TV show. Beck has become a national phenom with his nightly hour of polemics on CNN Headline News — urging war on Iran, denouncing “political correctness” at home, trashing immigrants who don’t speak English, mocking environmentalists as repressive zealots, and generally trying to denigrate progressive outlooks. Our segment, the producer said, would focus on a recent NBC news report praising the virtues of energy-efficient LED light bulbs without acknowledging that the network’s parent company, […]

Dec 13 2007

The USA’s Human Rights Daze

The chances are slim that you saw much news coverage of Human Rights Day when it blew past the media radar — as usual — on Dec. 10. Human rights may be touted as a treasured principle in the United States, but the assessed value in medialand is apt to fluctuate widely on the basis of double standards and narrow definitions. Every political system, no matter how repressive or democratic, is able to amp up public outrage over real or imagined violations of human rights. News media can easily fixate on stories of faraway injustice and cruelty. But the lofty […]

Nov 24 2007

The Media and Class Warfare

A few decades ago, upwards of one-third of the American workforce was unionized. Now the figure is down around 10 percent. And news media are central to the downward spiral. As unions wither, the journalistic establishment has a rationale for giving them less ink and air time. As the media coverage diminishes, fewer Americans find much reason to believe that unions are relevant to their working lives. But the media problem for labor goes far beyond the fading of unions from newsprint, television and radio. Media outlets aren’t just giving short shrift to organized labor. The avoidance extends to unorganized […]

Nov 23 2007

Good News for Americans–Your Wages Are Flat!

The economic coverage was fairly typical on a recent broadcast of the radio program Day to Day, airing nationwide from NPR News. “There’s actually some good news out today about the American economy,” host Madeleine Brand announced. Then she introduced a reporter from the widely heard Marketplace show, Jill Barshay, who proceeded to offer the type of explanation that’s all too common in media accounts of economic trends. “Well, just to be clear, we’re talking about worker productivity, which is how much stuff we make every hour,” Barshay replied. “And the Labor Department reported this morning that the hourly output […]

Oct 18 2007

The United States of Violence

We keep hearing that Iraq is not Vietnam. And surely any competent geographer would agree. But the United States is the United States — still a country run by leaders who brandish, celebrate and use the massive violent capabilities of the Pentagon as a matter of course. ******************** Almost fifty years ago, during the same autumn JFK won the presidency, John Hersey came out with “The Child Buyer,” a novel written in the form of a hearing before a state senate committee. “Excuse me, Mrs., but I wonder if you know what’s at stake in this situation,” a senator says […]