Apr
01
2009

Speaking Up

Note: This article is a sidebar to "Fear & Favor 2008." From time to time we get a peek behind the corporate media curtain, thanks to anecdotes shared by those in a position to know how the news business works. Some are remarkably candid, if lacking in specifics—as when former CBS anchor Dan Rather declared (New York Daily News, 2/27/08), “It is a fact that corporate overlords working in secret collusion with the powers in Washington are intruding far too often in far too many newsrooms.” More often the pressures are described as being subtle. Writing about NBC correspondent Richard […]

Apr
01
2009

SoundBites

The Secret Suspension of the First Amendment “First Amendment speech and press rights may also be subordinated to the overriding need to wage war successfully.” —The official position of the U.S. government, as outlined in a secret memo from the Office of Legal Counsel, from October 23, 2001 until October 6, 2008 A Wide Range of Right-Wing Views Bill O’Reilly (O’Reilly Factor, 2/27/09) described the diversity of viewpoints available on the network his conservative-slanted show appears on: “The Fox News Channel features a variety of opinions. We parade in scores of guests each week with all kinds of views. Glenn […]

Apr
01
2009

Letters to the Editor

Cancer and the Environment I think Extra! is doing great work and am gratified to receive it. In a recent round-up of how the media treats breast cancer (“Overlooking Evidence,” 2/09), there was no mention made of Devra Davis, whose recent book The Secret History of the War on Cancer I have been reading. She is a very powerful mainstream voice whose confessions of governmental pressure and professional travails are highly illustrative, and I wonder why the writer omitted her voice. Martin White Salem, N.Y. I read Candice O’Grady’s article on BPA and the press (2/09) with great interest. Most […]

Mar
01
2009

Tom Ricks' Gamble

Justifying a kinder, gentler Iraq occupation

Photo Credit: Thomas Ricks/Penguin Books

Reporter Thomas Ricks’ new book The Gamble: General David Petraeus and the American Military Adventure in Iraq, 2006-2008, documents the military changes that took place in Iraq after the controversial troop “surge,” which is commonly credited with having greatly reduced violence in the country (Extra!, 11-12/07, 9-10/08). A Pentagon correspondent for the Washington Post, Ricks is also a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security and writes the Best Defense blog at Foreign Policy.com. Ricks has been deeply embedded with the leadership of the “surge” and, as the book boasts, had “extraordinary privileged access” to Petraeus and […]

Mar
01
2009

Fear & Favor 2008

Financial woes accelerate corporate pressure in the newsroom

The broad downturn in the U.S. economy has hit the media industry especially hard, as corporate owners who gambled on debt-financed expansions have seen their business models head south on the back of shrinking subscription and advertising revenue. In any economic climate, there are pressures on working journalists, but the current problems in the industry seem likely to exacerbate those unfortunate trends. Services that obliterate the line between journalism and advertising might see a brighter future; as John Reinan reported in the online news site MinnPost (8/18/08), “The dark cloud over the traditional media business looks like a silver lining” […]

Mar
01
2009

Act Now, Think Later in Afghanistan

Media support for 'surge' comes without a real plan

“Afghanistan cannot be saved from the Taliban by military means alone” (Boston Globe, 1/5/09), goes a common corporate media line. “Force alone will not defeat the militants,” editorialized the New York Times (11/21/08). “Troops alone won’t do that job,” wrote Time’s Mark Thompson (3/2/09). With U.S. or allied forces responsible for 39 percent of the 2,118 civilians killed in 2008 (a 40 percent increase in civilians killed from 2007), according to U.N. human rights monitors in Afghanistan (UNAMA, 1/09), it’s a rather obvious conclusion at this point—more than seven years into the war—that killing innocents at an escalating pace won’t […]

Mar
01
2009

Stimulus as Pork

There’s been a corporate media trope lately that the stimulus bill, despite Barack Obama’s assurances, contained “pork.” CNN’s Lou Dobbs (2/12/09) even offered a detailed statistical breakdown: Tonight we have our own preliminary analysis of just how much of this bill is pork and how much is stimulus.... Of the $800 billion piece of legislation, about $330 billion is spending. You can interpret that as stimulative or not. There is $270 billion of tax cuts and credits. And then there’s about $200 billion of the legislation that is potentially pork projects; that could potentially increase. The number could easily increase […]

Mar
01
2009

The Online Predator Scare

Profiting from the panic

There is money to be made from fear—and business has been good for those hawking the online child predator threat. Exploiters of the scare range from the Internet-policing groups who ferret out suspects and share information with authorities (and sometimes, for a fee, with journalists) to vendors of software intended to help parents monitor and restrict web use. Some of the biggest beneficiaries are TV companies that feature salacious segments on how predators stalk the web in hopes of arranging live liaisons with their young prey. Of course, it’s all in the spirit of public service and protecting the children, […]