Sep 1 2001

The New Crack

Which will it be--pot or Ecstasy?

In two remarkably similar front-page pieces earlier this year, both USA Today and the New York Times went in search of the new crack. In a May 19 article headlined “Violent Crimes Undercut Marijuana’s Mellow Image,” the Times nominated marijuana to be the next drug to be associated in the public mind with scary street crime; USA Today’s May 16 lead story, on the other hand, was “Ecstasy Drug Trade Turns Violent: The Rave Culture’s ‘Peace and Love’ Pill Bloodies the Suburbs as Dealers Battle for Turf and Profits.” Both stories started by linking the crack trade to their new […]

Mar 8 2001

ABC Gives Drug Industry View on AIDS Drugs Dispute

On its March 7 broadcast, ABC‘s World News Tonight tried to give its viewers some background on the legal battle over pharmaceutical patents and AIDS drugs in Africa. But viewers only heard from one side in the debate: the drug companies and their supporters. The report, by ABC‘s Deborah Amos, relied on three sources: a spokesperson from the South African Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association, the executive vice president of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) and an analyst from the Cato Institute, a conservative-libertarian think tank. All three promoted the same theme: Drug companies should not be blamed for […]

Nov 1 2000

Raving Junk

Few outlets dissent from the latest teen-drug hysterias

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 […]

Jul 31 2000

Drug Czar Continues Assault on First Amendment

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 […]

May 1 2000

Colombia’s Cocaine Shell Game

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 […]

Jul 16 1999

ABC Agrees With Drug Industry

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 […]

May 17 1999

Time Magazine Ignores KLA Drug Charges

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 […]

Jan 1 1998

Forgotten Behind Bars

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 […]