Feb
01
2006

20 Stories That Made a Difference

For better or worse

FAIR was founded on the belief that journalism matters—that getting out the truth can improve the world, while news that distorts or denies reality can have terrible consequences. To illustrate this conviction, we've compiled a list of 20 news stories published since FAIR's 1986 debut that had a major impact on society—for good or for ill. The list is not meant to be a comprehensive collection of the most momentous stories of the past 20 years, but rather to be illustrative of the power of media. Stories that should have led to serious changes, but were underplayed by corporate media, […]

Nov
01
2005

Spinning the Libby Indictment

Pundits attack Wilson, downplay perjury

The indictment of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby in the CIA leak investigation was major news. Libby--who promptly resigned from his position as Dick Cheney's chief of staff--is portrayed in the indictment as repeatedly, and deceptively, claiming he learned about Valerie Plame Wilson's classified status at the CIA from reporters. This explains why special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald was so adamant about getting reporters to testify. After Friday's announcement of the indictments (10/28/05), however, some journalists seemed to think that the story was not so newsworthy. On ABC's Nightline, Ted Koppel devoted only a few minutes to the indictment before beginning a […]

Nov
01
2005

Demonizing the Victims of Katrina

Coverage painted hurricane survivors as looters, snipers and rapists

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 […]

Oct
14
2005

Earl Ofari Hutchinson on Katrina and racism, Ward Harkavy on the Bush Beat

Download MP3 This week on CounterSpin: Most of the tales of murder and rape that came out of the Katrina catastrophe in New Orleans never happened. But that didn't keep news media from conveying endless accounts of mayhem supposedly perpetrated by black thugs and gangs. Our guest says portrayals equating crime with African-Americans reflect a timeworn pattern, even when the stories are false. We'll talk to author and political analyst Earl Ofari Hutchinson about Race, Lies and New Orleans. Also on the show: The Judith Miller saga is just one of the stories that raises questions about the relationship between […]

Aug
01
2001

Questions for Kissinger Go Unasked

Journalists show 'sensitivity' to war-crime suspect’s feelings

While visiting Paris in May, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger received a summons to appear at the French Palace of Justice to answer questions about murders and disappearances in Chile in the 1970s. While the story was carried by major European news outlets, it has received relatively little coverage in U.S. media. The French wanted to ask Kissinger what he knew about Operation Condor, a consortium of Latin American governments that assassinated dissidents in each other’s countries. Evidence that the U.S. government supported Operation Condor has been available for years (Nation, 8/9-16/99; New York Times, 3/6/01). The French magistrate […]

May
01
2001

Mindless and Deadly

Media hype on mental illness and violence

Buried deep in a New York Times story (1/30/01) about the brutal murder of Dartmouth professors Susanne and Half Zantop, resides a common prejudice linking violence with mental illness. Speculating on the reason for the attack, the paper noted that Half Zantop "had once tried to help a mentally ill young man." When two local youth were arrested--neither suffering from overt psychosis--the knee-jerk response seemed groundless. Yet the initial impression associating the crime with mental illness had already been molded. When a Manhattan woman was assaulted with a brick by an unknown assailant, the New York Daily News (11/19/99) ran […]

May
01
2001

Unpardonable Disparities

When it's a Bush, not a Clinton, clemency is no scandal

A blizzard of coverage gave the impression that Bill Clinton's final pardons raised unprecedented ethical issues about pardons being given in return for favors or to questionable recipients. But are the issues really unprecedented--or have media simply failed to raise these questions with previous administrations? A look back at the elder George Bush's pardons shows that there was plenty of fodder for scandal that the media just weren't that interested in. One of the main complaints about Clinton's pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich was that Rich's ex-wife, Denise Rich, had given some $450,000 to Clinton's presidential library fund. But […]

May
01
2000

Statistical Bias

Journalists find 'comfort' after the Diallo killing

When New Yorkers went into shock over the 41 bullets fired at Amadou Diallo, journalist Elizabeth Kolbert found “comfort”--her word--by recalling the sodomizing of Abner Louima. The business with the broomstick, she explained in the New Yorker (3/29/99), was not what we hire the police to do, whereas we do pay them to accost characters who fit a certain pattern. That fusillade, she said, “may not be racism at all but something new, a form of racial bias that is statistically driven and officially sanctioned.” She meant, of course, profiling, and it’s hardly new. Nor was there anything new in […]