Dec 1 1992

Activists Put the Public in Public TV

Faced with attacks from right-wingers like Sen. Jesse Helms who accuse public television of having a left-wing agenda, PBS and its affiliates have tended to either cave in to the conservatives or else argue that public TV is balanced and doesn’t need changing. But some PBS viewers are refusing to accept that limited spectrum of debate. These viewers reject the right’s premise that a handful of progressive documentaries outweighs hundreds of hours of regular conservative or business-oriented programming. Concerned that the right-wing attacks have only encouraged the growing corporate influence on PBS, they have begun to organize themselves around their […]

Dec 1 1992

Issues, Images & Impact

A FAIR survey of voters' knowledge

While there was no shortage of polls published during the election campaigns, most opinion surveys offered little more than a snapshot of attitudes or voting intentions. FAIR’s survey of the U.S. electorate during the 1992 presidential election campaign, by contrast, was concerned not only with what people thought, but with the knowledge that lay behind those attitudes, and where that information came from. Democracy in the U.S. depends increasingly upon the news media. Surveys show that for most citizens, the media are the principal source of information about politics and candidates. Of the many news outlets available, the most important […]

Dec 1 1992

Family Leave Debate Leaves Families Out

News reports in September on the Senate’s vote to override George Bush’s veto of the Family Leave Bill focused primarily on one question: Did this help or hurt the president? “Congress Bruises Bush,” reported the Minneapolis Star Tribune (9/25/92), concluding that the legislative attempt to mandate unpaid maternity and family emergency leave was a setback for the president. On the other hand, the Atlanta Journal and Constitution (9/25/92) suggested that while the veto might touch off accusations that Bush has “betrayed his family values,” the President could use a House failure to override “to show he can still flex his […]

Dec 1 1992

Unfair to Bush? Unfair to Clinton?

Campaign coverage was unfair to voters

The question is not whether the media were unfair to George Bush, or whether the media were unfair to Bill Clinton. The question the media have to ask themselves is whether they were fair to the American people. After 1988, an election year dominated by non-issues, deceptive attacks, substanceless one-liners and photo opportunities, the media promised they would do better this time. Just how little has changed was illustrated by an anecdote reported by the Washington Post (10/23/92)—buried in a chronology of a day on the campaign trail. The Bush campaign had staged an event at a restaurant called the […]

Dec 1 1992

Voters Fail Pundits’ Test on Entitlements

Back last summer, when the editors of the Atlantic put Bill Clinton through an oral exam, they awarded him an over-all pass, but flunked him on one subject: entitlements. “Every ‘A’ student who has thought about the federal budget knows that if you don’t find some way to limit Social Security and Medicare, you will never, ever reduce the budget deficit,” they wrote. On the same subject, a true “A” student would have to give the Atlantic an “F” (if not a “Z,” for publisher Mortimer Zuckerman, the real estate tycoon). Unlike Atlantic editors and most mainstream journalists, “A” students […]