Aug
01
2005

When 'Old News' Has Never Been Told

U.S. media produce excuses, not stories, on Downing Street Memo

Journalists typically condemn attempts to force their colleagues to disclose anonymous sources, saying that subpoenaing reporters will discourage efforts to expose government wrongdoing. But such warnings seem like self-puffery after one watches contemporary journalism in action: When clear evidence of wrongdoing emerges, with no anonymous sources required, major news outlets can still virtually ignore it. A leaked British government document that first appeared in a London newspaper (Sunday Times, 5/1/05) bluntly stated that U.S. intelligence on Iraq was shaped to support the drive for war. Though the information rocked British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s re-election campaign when it was exposed, […]

Jul
01
2005

The Downing Street Shuffle

Editor's Note

The Downing Street Memo seems like one of the stranger episodes in media history—with major media virtually ignoring dramatic new evidence in a major story, and then inventing peculiar excuses for why they hadn’t covered it. But in context, media behavior makes perfect sense. When George W. Bush claimed, throughout 2002 and 2003, that he saw war with Iraq as a last resort, journalists knew that was a lie. But as the New York Times Elisabeth Bumiller declared (Extra!, 1-2/05), “You can’t just say the president is lying.” Not only did they not say what they knew to be the […]

Jun
21
2005

Post Explains "Wing Nuts" Label

Washington Post ombudsman Michael Getler used his June 19 column to respond to FAIR's June 14 Action Alert regarding Post reporter Dana Milbank's use of the term "wing nuts" to describe activists pressing the media to take the Downing Street memos more seriously. The relevant portion of Getler's column is below, followed by FAIR's response. ***************** The Washington Post June 19, 2005 Sunday HEADLINE: Memos, 'Wing Nuts' and 'Hit Lists' BYLINE: Michael Getler BODY: The bulk of the mail last week, by far, was focused once again on the "Downing Street Memo." This is the memo produced by a national […]

Jun
17
2005

Justifying the Silence on Downing Street Memos

One of the features of the newfound media interest in the Downing Street Memo is a profound defensiveness, as reporters scramble to explain why it received so little attention in the U.S. press. But the most familiar line--the memo wasn't news because it contained no "new" information--only raises troubling questions about what journalists were doing when they should have been reporting on the gulf between official White House pronouncements and actual White House intentions. There are two important points in the Downing Street Memo, and media apologists have marshaled slightly different--though equally unconvincing--arguments as to why each did not deserve […]

Jun
14
2005

Downing Street Memo Activists "Wing Nuts," "Paranoid"

After over a month of scant media attention, mainstream U.S. outlets have begun to report more seriously about the "Downing Street Memo," the minutes of a July 2002 meeting of British government officials that indicate the White House had already made up its mind to invade Iraq at that early date, and that "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy" of invading rather than seeking a peaceful solution. A June 7 White House press conference with George W. Bush and Tony Blair offered the first public response from Bush to the memo, and with that came an […]

Jun
10
2005

David Swanson on Downing Street Memo, Betsy Leondar-Wright on Class Reporting

Download MP3 This week on CounterSpin: The Downing Street memo, minutes from a 2002 British intelligence briefing that indicate that the Bush administration was intent on invading Iraq despite its claims to the contrary, is being called a smoking gun--compelling, new evidence that Bush and Blair lied to get us into war. So why does the U.S. press corps so far seem as uninterested in the memo as, well, as the White House would obviously like them to be? We'll hear from David Swanson, co-founder of the new coalition AfterDowningStreet.org. Also on the show: Some big media outlets--including the New […]

May
20
2005

Network Viewers Still in the Dark on "Smoking Gun Memo"

Print media continue to downplay story

Following FAIR's call for more mainstream coverage of the "smoking gun memo"—the secret British document containing new evidence that the Bush administration manipulated intelligence to justify its plan to invade Iraq—a steady trickle of news reports have appeared. But that coverage has been downplayed in general and is still completely absent from the nightly news. The Los Angeles Times published a page 3 story on the memo on May 12, and the Washington Post ran a page 18 story the following day. More than two weeks after the story broke in the Sunday Times of London (5/1/05), it finally made […]

May
13
2005

Karen Hansen-Kuhn on CAFTA, Ray McGovern on 'Smoking Gun Memo'

Download MP3 This week on CounterSpin: international trade is on the agenda in Washington, with the White House pushing for Congress to vote on the Central American Free Trade Agreement, or CAFTA. The trade pact is getting next to no mainstream media attention, even though the political fight over it is heating up. We'll talk to Karen Hansen-Kuhn of the Alliance for Responsible Trade about that. Also this week: On May 1, the London Times reported on the secret British intelligence memo that seems to confirm suspicions that the Bush White House manipulated intelligence to make the case for war. […]