Mar
03
2007

Inexplicable Tongue-Lashing

[Note: This piece is a sidebar to Back to the Future in Nicaragua.] A New York Times “Week in Review” piece by Warren Hoge (9/24/06), in the wake of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez’s criticisms of George W. Bush at the United Nations, recalled other U.N. speeches critical of Washington, including a 1987 speech by Nicaragua’s then-President Daniel Ortega “denouncing Mr. Reagan’s decision to continue financing Contras fighting his Sandinista regime” and saying “Rambo only exists in the movies.” Hoge was compelled to ask, “Why has the United States come in for such tongue lashings?” Among his answers: Reagan-era U.N. Ambassador […]

Mar
03
2007

Self-Inflicted Wounds?

[Note: This piece is a sidebar to The Trials of Air America.] In addition to the significant political and commercial obstacles facing progressive talk radio, Air America has been plagued by financial troubles from its birth. Just a month after its founding, it had to dismiss top executives for exaggerating the company’s assets, nearly leading to the network’s collapse. Payrolls were not met, and bounced checks resulted in the loss of Los Angeles and Chicago affiliates. There have also been questions about the ambitious way Air America was set up. Chicago Sun-Times media columnist Robert Feder (12/21/04) described Air America […]

Mar
03
2007

Rough Road to Liberal Talk Success

A short history of radio bias

When Air America declared bankruptcy on October 13, conservatives who’d been predicting its failure since it launched 30 months earlier were afforded a new chance to gloat and scoff at the notion that liberal radio hosts could ever compete with what they see as the stunningly talented conservatives who dominate the medium (O’Reilly Factor, 10/13/06; AP, 10/14/06). It may be too early to count Air America out—the network is still on the air and syndicating programming to other radio stations—but it’s fair to say that it hasn’t given liberal talk radio advocates a clear rebuttal to the conservative argument that […]

Mar
01
2007

Back to the Future in Nicaragua

Can U.S. media forgive Ortega for Washington’s attacks on him?

Imagine that the United States government was under attack from a foreign power that organized a guerrilla army to attack ordinary civilians, killing tens of thousands. And suppose that opposition politicians and media outlets in the U.S. were obviously and in some cases openly receiving support from that same foreign power. Now imagine, difficult as it may be, that during the attacks the U.S. government allowed those media outlets to remain open. And the politicians who were cooperating with the foreign enemy weren’t jailed—instead, the administration allowed them to continue to run for office and serve as opposition legislators. The […]

Mar
01
2007

The Trials of Air America

The unlearned lessons of right-wing radio

Shortly before the launch of the liberal talk radio network Air America in March 2004, Jon Sinton, an executive with the network’s corporate parent, Progress Media, explained to the New Republic (2/10/04) why talk radio was dominated by conservative hosts. It was all about Rush Limbaugh’s success, said Sinton: “If Limbaugh had been a flaming liberal, then today there’d be a bunch of conservatives complaining about all the liberals who are on the radio.” Sinton suggested that Limbaugh’s conservative politics were immaterial to his initial success: “Limbaugh being a conservative was almost beside the point. . . . He was […]

Mar
01
2007

Perilous Reporting

The risks of writing about child porn laws

When journalist Debbie Nathan accidentally viewed child porn last May, it set off a chain of events that ensnarled her, New York Times reporter Kurt Eichenwald, and Salon.com into a messy tangle of child porn law and accusations of libel and censorship. Nathan, a freelancer, did some of the first reporting on people falsely convicted of child molestation in the 1980s (Village Voice, 9/29/87). Last May, while doing online research for a young adult book on pornography as a social issue, Nathan stumbled across “child porn-y looking stuff”; she immediately left the site. Nathan then documented the experience with her […]

Mar
01
2007

Media on Medicare

Don’t mess with success—or corporate profits

With the new Democratic Congress promising to let the Medicare prescription drug program negotiate lower prices from drug companies, those companies have gotten their friends in the media to find some reason—any reason—why this would be a bad idea. The Washington Post, happy to defend corporate profits, declared in the lead paragraph of a front-page November 26 article that Democrats were in danger of “wrecking a program that has proven cheaper and more popular than anyone imagined.” “Anyone” clearly doesn’t include Congress, which barely passed the program in 2003 based on the White House’s 10-year cost projection of less than […]

Jan
01
2007

Victorious Dems Lectured by Media Establishment

Morning-after pundits take winners to task

Right after Democrats won back control of Congress in the 2006 midterm elections, pundits from major news outlets had, as one would expect, substantial amounts of political criticism for the party that faced major losses. What was most remarkable was the amount of tactical criticism and caution directed at the party that won major gains. The center wins Expanding upon a preferred theme of their pre-election coverage (Extra! Update, 12/06), political commentators providing the initial analyses of the election for the nation’s most influential news outlets downplayed the progressive aspects of the victory, characterizing the large new crop of Democrats […]