Feb
01
2004

Dobbs' Choice

CNN host picks immigration as his ax to grind

With all the attention paid to the near-overt partisanship of the Fox News Channel, it's important to remember that skewed reporting wasn't invented by Rupert Murdoch's cable operation. In the last few months of 2003, CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight devoted abundant broadcast time to what anchor Dobbs described as an influx of "illegal aliens who not only threaten our economy and security, but also our health and well-being. Millions of aliens crossing our borders." The selection of topics, the slanted sourcing and the occasionally inaccurate or incomplete information conveyed on the program all seemed calculated to convince the viewer that […]

Jan
01
2004

A Little Help From Media Friends

While conservative pundits frequently charged that the L.A. Times' expose was motivated by partisanship, the LA Weekly's Hollywood reporter, Nikki Finke (9/12/03), was one of the few to draw attention to the fact that right-wing radio was explicitly campaigning to recall incumbent Democrat Gray Davis. The websites of Disney's KABC-AM in L.A. and its KSFO-AM in San Francisco both had "countdown clocks" ticking out the projected end to "California's Gray Days." Salem communications' Sacramento AM promoted itself as "the Home of the Recall," reported Finke. Claiming that they feared an avalanche of ads from all 135 candidates in the race, […]

Jan
01
2004

With Friends Like These

Black youth stereotyped by progressive columnist Bob Herbert

Black Americans are "insane," "predators," "running wild," "killing each other," perpetrating "self-destructive sexual behavior and drug use," and in need of "thundering" condemnations from leaders to halt their culture-driven recklessness. A vicious attack by far-right, race-baiting commentators like Michael Savage or Ann Coulter? No, these are routine disparagements by the New York Times' well-respected, progressive African-American columnist Bob Herbert, selectively criticizing "young black men and women." For example, Herbert (6/12/03) blamed Los Angeles' recent murder epidemic on "kids who are running wild and frequently killing one another". He declared (10/17/03) that the "Ghettopoly" game, a Monopoly parody widely deplored as […]

Jan
01
2004

Saddam and Osama's Shotgun Wedding

Weekly Standard beats a long-dead horse

The funny thing about the Weekly Standard's "exposé" purporting to offer proof of a longstanding Iraq/al-Qaeda alliance (11/24/03) is the aura of tight-lipped secrecy the magazine tries to impute to the Bush administration's case against Saddam Hussein. As everyone knows, hardline officials have spent the last two years leaking stories, writing op-eds, holding private briefings and making public insinuations, all intended to convince the country that Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda worked hand in hand. This has been endlessly discussed and hashed out in the press, even made the subject of a PBS documentary (Frontline, 2/20/03). The general verdict, up until […]

Jan
01
2004

Gaga for Galileo

Press corps cheerleads for space probe till the end

CNN's Frank Buckley (9/21/03) could hardly contain himself. "Dr. Johnson, we admire the heck out of you!" Buckley exclaimed on-air as he finished interviewing Dr. Torrance Johnson, project scientist for NASA's Galileo space probe mission, minutes after it plunged into the atmosphere of Jupiter after an eight-year voyage through the solar system. Buckley's excitement was characteristic of the media treatment of Galileo's finale: a chorus of cheerleading. "The Battered but Undefeatable Space Explorer," was the front-page headline of the Christian Science Monitor (9/23/03). "Goodbye to Gallant Galileo," editorialized the New York Times (9/24/03). Alexandra Witze of the Knight Ridder/Tribune news […]

Jan
01
2004

Networks Didn't Follow the Money in Medicare Story

"Campaign contributions" a forbidden term

The nightly network newscasts devoted significant broadcast time to the debate over the restructuring of Medicare. But while some reports described the corporate interests that stood to gain under the plan to offer a prescription drug benefit, few addressed the question of why Congress would pass a law so beneficial to the healthcare industries. In short, network news failed to heed the old advice: Follow the money. A CBS Evening News report--aired on November 25, after the bill had passed--mentioned that the "biggest corporate winner by far is the drug industry itself, mostly because under the new law Medicare is […]

Jan
01
2004

Saddam's 'Bluff'

Failure to find WMDs leads to interesting theories

Once the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq produced nothing but a few false alarms in the media, a new theory was being advanced by some outlets: The idea that Iraq had such weapons was really a well-orchestrated bluff by Saddam Hussein, telling the world false tales about his imaginary weapons. The Los Angeles Times was one outlet that floated this theory. According to its August 28, 2003 report, U.S. officials who relayed false information from defectors about Iraqi weapons may have been “victims of bogus Iraqi defectors who planted disinformation to mislead the West before the war.” […]

Jan
01
2004

Covering for a Predator?

Dismissive coverage of Schwarzenegger assault charges

In 1992, many suspected that Clarence Thomas would not have become a Supreme Court justice if U.S. media had taken women more seriously. A decade later, it's hard not to feel the same way about Arnold Schwarzenegger. Given different media coverage, Californians might still have elected him governor on October 7, but Schwarzenegger would surely have had a rockier ride to the statehouse--and women's rights might have suffered less of a drubbing. A former Mr. Universe turned actor whose blustery youth was caught on videotape, an Austrian immigrant whose father volunteered to serve with Adolph Hitler's stormtroopers, Arnold Schwarzenegger was […]