Apr 1 1992

U.S. Environmental Reporting: The Big Fizzle

Another Year of the “environmental decade” is upon us: Acid rain and ozone depletion are household words; nature calendars, dolphin-safe tuna and neighborhood recycling programs are a part of everyday life; and the “environmental president” is running for reelection. Surely, since Time magazine named the Earth “Planet of the Year” in 1989, the environment has been a premier media issue avidly pursued by journalists. Or has it? Quill, the magazine of the Society of Professional Journalists, suggests too much so. In a Jan/Feb 1991 cover story, conservative syndicated columnist Warren Brookes asserted that the “news media have been taken in […]

Apr 1 1992

On the Campaign Trail

Public logic vs. press logic

The relatively low national stature of the “major” Democratic candidates might logically have led people to pay attention to alternative candidates. But when I spoke to journalists, many immediately adopted the perspective of their sources in the Democratic Party Leadership, which they told me was more concerned than ever about not giving the impression of putting forward “a field of unknowns.” Thus, the journalists seemed even more concerned about giving “undue” coverage to “fringe” candidates. (While journalists seemed very sensitive to the possibility that giving Larry Agran coverage might unduly boost his campaign, they were hesitant to admit that not […]

Apr 1 1992

A Short Walk on the Wilder Side

The pundits had a dream—the Virginia Gov. Douglas Wilder would drive Jesse Jackson from the public stage. Doug Wilder, a self-described fiscal conservative who advocated budget cuts, supported capital punishment and bragged of his state’s “right to work” (anti-union) laws, was a moderate black who would, in the words of the 1992 Almanac of American Politics, “undercut Jesse Jackson, whose radical policies and angry demeanor have hurt Democrats so much with American voters.” Most of this wishful thinking came out after Wilder’s 1989 gubernatorial victory. “Democratic strategists are already calculating that Mr. Wilder’s victory is…bad news for Jesse Jackson,” reported […]

Apr 1 1992

Innocent Americans, Predatory Asians

Reporting on Japan Will Live in Infamy

The complex relationship between the United States and Japan lends itself to mutual distrust. For Japan, the scars left by 1853 (when U.S. gunships forced Japan to allow U.S. trade access), the turn-of-the century “yellow peril” bigotry, and the 1945 atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are deep and enduring. For the U.S., where memories of Pearl Harbor are still painful, the relationship has recently become more difficult, as the U.S. recession deepens and Japanese politicians disparage the United States. The situation is only worsened when U.S. media substitute facile xenophobic notions for clear-eyed analysis. The recent 50th anniversary of […]