Jan 1 1999

The Ever-Present Yet Nonexistent Poor

For Heritage's Poverty Expert, Numbers Mean What He Says They Mean

As a poverty specialist for the conservative Heritage Foundation, Robert Rector is one of the right-wing media machine’s most prolific pundits. In 1996, the year of the welfare reform debate, he was cited in media outlets an average of more than 15 times a month. Rector also feeds a vast network of right-wing talkshow hosts and syndicated columnists who pick up and broadcast his findings. Yet for all his influence, Rector’s work is a mess of misleading statistics and specious arguments all contrived to accomplish a single goal: to cut spending on the poor. In 1995, Rector testified before Congress […]

Jan 1 1999

Scholarly Publications Hold Universities Hostage

Monopoly on journals causes prices to soar

Concerned about the high cost of college? Many people are, but your hard-earned dollars are hardly lining the pockets of history department faculty. What your tuition dollars are doing is fueling the profits of a few multinational media conglomerates that publish journals like Brain Research or Tetrahedron. Brain Research, a publication from Elsevier Science (owned by Reed Elsevier), costs a staggering $15,428 per year. Reed Elsevier also owns Pergamon, which publishes Tetrahedron; this journal of organic chemistry comes in at $10,320 per year. Considering that many libraries subscribe to thousands of journals, it’s easy to see how the buying power […]

Jan 1 1999

FCC’s Interference Argument Grounded

Commercial Radio, Not Micropower, Is More Frequent Hazard for Aviation

“FCC Closes Down Unlicensed Radio Operation That Threatened Air Safety at Sacramento Airport; Fourth Report of Interference Incident in Five Months.” So reads the Federal Communications Commission’s March 20, 1998 press release applauding its own shutdown of unlicensed broadcasters who the agency claims have caused interference to air/ground communications this year in Miami and West Palm Beach, Florida; Sacramento, California; and San Juan, Puerto Rico. With as many as 1000 unlicensed low-power broadcasters in the U.S., it seemed worthwhile to determine what their impact on flight safety really is. We filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the […]

Jan 1 1999

Steven Emerson’s Crusade

Why is a journalist pushing questionable stories from behind the scenes?

Did self-styled anti-terrorism expert Steven Emerson help push the world toward nuclear war? On Sunday, June 28, a sensational story appeared in the British newspaper the Observer: “Pakistan was planning nuclear first strike on India.” The stunning revelation that South Asia was on the brink of thermonuclear war was credited to an unnamed “senior Pakistani weapons scientist who has defected.” The next day, papers on the Indian subcontinent were full of the news. Shock spread and distrust mounted. “The scenario is frightening,” stated the Times of India (6/29/98). On Wednesday, July 1, a USA Today report by Barbara Slavin named […]

Jan 1 1999

Murder in Java

Psychological warfare and the New York Times

In late 1998, the world watched with concern a sinister wave of killings against moderate Muslim clerics in East Java, Indonesia. The killings had the marks of a psychological terror campaign, much like that waged in 1965 by the Indonesian Army. By its use of “psywar,” the Army was able to kill off its Communist political opposition and at the same time reinforce a desire for rule by a strongman regime. In that Army campaign at least 500,000 civilians were killed. The analogies between 1965 and 1998 are many: the distribution of death lists to terrify the public, the arrival […]

Jan 1 1999

Affirmative Action Coverage Ignores Women–and Discrimination

A six-month study of media coverage

Mainstream news media are shortchanging the public–especially women–in their coverage of affirmative action. Consideration of affirmative action’s impact and meaning for women of all colors is largely missing from news stories, and women are severely underrepresented on opinion pages. Worse–with a few exceptions, major media are reporting the debate on affirmative action without reference to the continued existence of racist and sexist practices. Severed from the context of the discrimination to which it is a response, affirmative action is presented as a confusing, “hot-button” issue, about which few facts can be known. The persistent use of the problematic terms “preferences” […]

Jan 1 1999

Drive-By Journalism

Rolling Stone's glam-crime reports misrepresent young people--and America's violence problem

Other than ultra-quotable crime experts such as Princeton’s John (“adolescent superpredator”) DiIulio and Northeastern University’s James Alan (“teenage crime storm”) Fox, few individuals have contributed more to the inflammatory and systematic misportrayal of teenage crime in American than Rolling Stone magazine’s contributing editor Randall Sullivan. Sullivan’s fact-lite, anecdote-laden style specialized in blowing up extremely rare, bizarre murders by a few upscale kids into an unwarranted image of modern teenagers as “the most damaged and disturbed generation the country has ever produced” (Rolling Stone, 10/1/98). His language was panicked (“how truly and terribly lost we are”–9/17/98), his evidence lacking, his perspective […]

Jan 1 1999

No News Is Bad News

Political ads overwhelm election news on local TV

Another election cycle is completed, and once again the local television news industry has let the voting public down, offering newscasts Filled with political advertising but little meaningful election news. Rocky Mountain Media Watch`s national network of volunteers taped their local evening newscasts on three consecutive nights (10/20-22/98) two weeks before election day and examined the taped programs for all news stories and advertisements dealing with the mid-term elections. With an infusion of volunteers recruited from FAlR’s e-mail list, more than 100 activists, academics, journalists and ordinary citizens participated in the project. To date we have received the analyses of […]