Jan 1 2005

‘You Can’t Just Say the President Is Lying’

The limits of honesty in the mainstream press

George W. Bush (photo: White House/Eric Draper)

Audience Member: I was wondering if you felt there was a difference between balanced reporting and objective reporting? And the thing that kind of sticks in my mind frequently is when President Bush on the stump would frequently pull out the “global test” that John Kerry mentioned in the debate, but he would completely twist the meaning of the whole phrase around. . . . Essentially, what I feel like was a lie that the president just stated . . . was never objectively reported on. . . . Elisabeth Bumiller (New York Times): Yeah, this was an issue we […]

Jan 1 2005

Suppressing the Vote, Suppressing the News

Stories on pre-election manipulation took false balance to absurd lengths

In the run-up to the pivotal 2004 presidential election, reports of an unprecedented flood of new voter registrations (especially in electoral vote-rich swing states like Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania) filled papers and newscasts in local media and the national mainstream press. But looming over this exercise in democracy was the shadow of the disputed 2000 election. Irregularities were alleged among some of the new registrations—such as multiple forms bearing the same name, or monikers like “Jive Turkey”—prompting pledges to purge the rolls and even challenge specific voters at the polls on November 2. There were also reports of flyers and […]

Jan 1 2005

With Respect to Mary Cheney

Pundits use Kerry’s lesbian “gaffe” to rewrite debate

Media have a funny way of rewriting the history of presidential debates. After the first debate in 2000, all five network polls that night showed most viewers agreeing that Vice President Al Gore had beaten George W. Bush (Daily Howler, 8/19/04). But as the debate worked its way through the media echo chamber, the outcome quickly morphed into the story of Gore’s exasperated sighs and unlikeability, and an event that initially seemed like a victory for Gore had suddenly become a serious liability. Fast-forward to 2004. On October 13, after the third and final presidential debate, all the immediate polls […]

Jan 1 2005

Letters to the Editor

An Apparent Inconsistency I know in these dangerous times it’s best to keep one’s head down and not pay too much attention, and better still to keep quiet if by chance one should happen to notice anything interesting or unusual. Most important of all, of course, no matter what one might observe, is not to think about it. Still, reading Extra! (11=12/04), I could not fail to notice the interesting juxtaposition of two articles, “Journalistic Balance As Global Warming Bias,” and “Oil Calms Troubled Reporting.” Worse, I could not stop myself from thinking about it. What struck me was that […]

Jan 1 2005

The Emperor’s New Hump

The New York Times killed a story that could have changed the election—because it could have changed the election

In the weeks leading up to the November 2 election, the New York Times was abuzz with excitement. Besides the election itself, the paper’s reporters were hard at work on two hot investigative projects, each of which could have a major impact on the outcome of the tight presidential race. One week before Election Day, the Times (10/25/04) ran a hard-hitting and controversial exposé of the Al-Qaqaa ammunition dump—identified by U.N. inspectors before the war as containing 400 tons of special high-density explosives useful for aircraft bombings and as triggers for nuclear devices, but left unguarded and available to insurgents […]

Jan 1 2005


The Tolerance Controversy At first it sounded like a bad joke, but it turned out to be true: CBS and NBC both rejected an ad from the United Church of Christ because they deemed the ad’s message of tolerance “too controversial.” The ad emphasized that the church welcomes everyone, regardless of ability, age, race, economic circumstance or sexual orientation. According to a statement from CBS, the network regarded that as unacceptable because it “touches on the exclusion of gay couples and other minority groups by other individuals and organizations.” If that makes you scratch your head, another reason cited by […]

Jan 1 2005

Selling the Social Security Scare

A "fix" that won’t solve a "crisis" that doesn’t exist

George W. Bush has announced that Social Security privatization will be one of the top priorities in his second term. Luckily for him, much of the media have already bought into the key premise on which his policy is based: the erroneous notion that Social Security is about to go bust. Scaring the public about the solvency of Social Security has been a major goal of Wall Street financial services companies and their conservative think-tank allies, both of whom favor privatizing the system. A few years ago, William Shipman, a privatization advocate at State Street Global Advisors—one of the leading […]

Jan 1 2005

The Fairness Doctrine

How we lost it, and why we need it back

A license permits broadcasting, but the licensee has no constitutional right to be the one who holds the license or to monopolize a…frequency to the exclusion of his fellow citizens. There is nothing in the First Amendment which prevents the Government from requiring a licensee to share his frequency with others…. It is the right of the viewers and listeners, not the right of the broadcasters, which is paramount. — U.S. Supreme Court, upholding the constitutionality of the Fairness Doctrine in Red Lion Broadcasting Co. v. FCC, 1969. — When the Sinclair Broadcast Group retreated from pre-election plans to force […]