Sep
09
2005

Covering Katrina

Has a More Critical Press Corps Emerged?

One of the most noted trends in the media coverage of Hurricane Katrina has been the aggressive and critical tone some journalists have adopted towards the White House and Bush administration officials. A headline at the online magazine Slate read, "The Rebellion of the Talking Heads" (9/2/05). "Katrina Rekindles Adversarial Media" is how USA Today put it (9/6/05)--implying, of course, that an "adversarial" press really existed in the first place. Of course, this new attitude was not universal. After George W. Bush told ABC's Diane Sawyer, "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees" (9/1/05), many outlets questioned […]

Jun
01
2005

World's Worst Disasters Overlooked

Survey identifies biggest “forgotten” crises

Congo is the site of the world’s worst humanitarian emergency, according to U.N. emergency relief coordinator Jan Egeland, the organization Doctors Without Borders and most relief professionals. But English-language media have given the crisis minimal attention, according to a study of humanitarian disaster coverage released on March 10. The study was commissioned by web-based Reuters AlertNet, an eight-year-old U.K.-based humanitarian news network. It found that the tsunami that ravaged Indian Ocean coastal regions on December 26, 2004 garnered more English-language media coverage in the first two months after it struck than 10 other “forgotten” emergencies—six of them in Africa—have received […]

Feb
24
2005

Ex-Presidents as Pitchmen

Touting Good Deeds

An Associated Press dispatch from a Thai fishing village summed up the media spin a few days ago: "Former President Bill Clinton’s voice trembled with emotion as he and George H.W. Bush put aside their once-bitter political rivalry..." Ever since his initial checked-out responses to the catastrophic tsunami two months ago drew worldwide derision, the current president has largely relied on two predecessors to do the image-repair chores. In effect, an ad hoc PR outfit -- Bush, Bush & Clinton -- has the three partners laboring to make themselves look good as compassionate great nephews of Uncle Sam. But there […]

Jan
01
1997

Media Bomb on TWA Crash

Despite Oklahoma City, Journalists Still Played Guessing Game

TWA 800 reconstructed

Two days after the crash of TWA Flight 800, the New York Times (7/19/96) ran a story headlined “Newspapers Were Wary This Time, and Didn’t Jump to Conclusions." The Times argued that the memory of how much of the media rushed to blame Arabs after the Oklahoma City bombing (Extra!, 7-8/95) prevented any jumping to conclusions in the TWA case. That same issue of the New York Times featured a column by its former Mideast correspondent, Clyde Haberman, which led: This may seem to be jumping the gun.... But it is probably time for Americans to accept terrorism as a […]

Mar
01
1990

Unreliable Sources: Slick Coverage of the Exxon Valdez Spill

In the aftermath of Exxon's 11-million-gallon oil in March 1989, U.S. news media described an Alaskan coast with countless dead animals, decimated plant life, and a massive black blanket covering nearly 1,100 miles of shoreline. But within a few months, a different story gained currency, as reports out of Prince William Sound took on a friendly and forgiving tone. National media began to focus on the damage not done by Exxon's blunder, heralding Big Oil's efforts to preserve Alaska's environment. Out of the jaws of catastrophe, Exxon snatched a news spin increasingly to its liking. During one week in September […]