1980: The Washington Post's front-page profile (9/28/80) of "Jimmy," a black eight-year-old junkie, ignited pandemonium. Mayor Marion Barry ordered police and teachers to inspect children's arms for needle holes. Despite a $10,000 reward and intensive searches, neither Jimmy nor any other child addict was found. "Jimmy" did not exist, Post reporter Janet Cooke later confessed. 1996: Trainspotting panic erupted. In a story that would shame the National Enquirer, USA Today (7/19/96) declared "smoking or snorting smack is as commonplace as beer for the younger generation." Rolling Stone (5/30/96) branded Seattle "junkie town." Citing anecdotes, the article blamed Seattle's tripling in […]
Once again, White House Drug Czar Gen. Barry McCaffrey is using federal funding to bribe corporations to surreptitiously insert government-approved messages into media content. Salon.com (1/13/00) first broke the story that McCaffrey was giving TV networks a financial incentive to put messages about drugs into entertainment programming. Congress authorized McCaffrey's Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) to place millions of dollars' worth of anti-drug commercials, but with the condition that the TV industry donate time for similar public service announcements. McCaffrey, however, has allowed the networks to avoid giving up valuable ad space to public service announcements by giving […]
Media are leading the U.S. into a civil war in the name of the
After the crash of a U.S. Army reconnaissance plane in July 1999 that killed seven people (including five U.S. military personnel), the question of U.S. involvement in Colombia re-emerged on the media radar screen. Journalists wondered whether "the U.S. could wind up in a fight it doesn’t want" (NBC Nightly News, 1/16/00), with many reporters acknowledging a certain inattention to the story: "It may not be widely known, but the United States is already engaged in the Colombian civil war," NPR reported (7/26/99). Early in 2000, Congressional debate has centered on a two-year, $1.7 billion aid package for the Latin […]
Affordable Medicine for Africans Is Dangerous
On July 8, ABC's World News Tonight aired two stories on the subject of treating AIDS in African countries. ABC's conclusion: It's better for poor Africans to die than to have access to cheap AIDS drugs. The South African government is currently in a trade dispute with the United States over this issue: South Africa, which is in the midst of an AIDS epidemic, claims the right to license local pharmaceutical manufacturers to produce cheap generic versions of AIDS drugs that would otherwise be unaffordable for poor South Africans. The U.S. has taken the side of American pharmaceutical companies, who […]
Are editors following Contra tradition?
Time magazine's May 17 issue ran a feature on the funding of the Kosovo Liberation Army, titled "A Fighting Chance," suggesting that the KLA is sustained by donations from ethnic Albanians outside of Kosovo. The article reports that the Republic of Kosova Fund holds "more than $33 million" in a bank in Albania, yet in a graphic titled "How the KLA Gets Its Money," Time cheerfully reports that the KLA gets its money from "fund raisers, mailings and other sources." What "other sources"? Bake sales? Time doesn't say. Fortunately, there has been some investigation into the question. The London Times […]
Abuse of women in prison doesn't "set off" media
When the Supreme Court upheld a judge's decision to cut by more than half the suggested prison sentences of the police officers who beat Rodney King (to 30 months), there was no media outcry calling the justices, or the public, "soft" on cops who commit crimes. Yet when a Cambridge judge decided to let Louise Woodward go free on time served, the same media that had blanketed the nation with emotive reporting on the British au pear lashed back at the public. "There's just something about a woman behind bars that sets people off," suggested Laura Mansnerus in a front-page […]
In August, 1996, the San Jose Mercury News published its "Dark Alliance" series by reporter Gary Webb, revealing the links between the CIA-backed Nicaraguan contras and crack cocaine trafficking in the U.S. The series became a national controversy after wide transmission on the Internet and in independent and black-oriented news media--followed by a savage backlash against the series by national dailies like the New York Times and Washington Post that had spent years downplaying or distorting evidence of the contra-cocaine link (See "Snow Job," Extra!, 1-2/97). On May 11, 1997, as if displaying the white flag of surrender, Mercury News […]
Why Are Media Enlisting in the Government's Crusade Against Marijuana?
As America’s officially ignored death toll from overdoses of heroin, cocaine, prescription drugs and alcohol mixed with dope took another huge jump in 1995 (taking 10,000 lives, up 65 percent since 1992), America’s media raged with the threat to the republic posed by . . . sick people smoking marijuana to relieve pain. And ABC News teamed up in March with the private Partnership for a Drug-Free America to push a month-long "March Against Drugs," including hourly ads, numerous specials, and "Straight Talk About Drugs" appended to its evening news with a heavy focus on teenage marijuana use. Newsweek (11/25/96) […]