Jul
01
2002

Recasting the Web

Information commons to cash cow

If the Bush administration lets large media conglomerates and local telephone companies have their way, the Internet as we know it—that free-flowing, democratic, uncensored information superhighway—could soon be a thing of the past. The Internet itself is not going away. Rather, technological advances, changes to the rules governing its use and the continued consolidation of media empires are combining to turn it into a conduit of commerce, booby-trapped with barriers and incentives designed to keep users where dollars can be wrung from them. As a result, a lot of freely accessible information and websites may become difficult or impossible to […]

Jul
01
2002

Spotlighting (Some) Venezuela Killings

Deaths during pro-Chavez protests don't interest New York Times

If you followed mainstream U.S. news coverage of the recent coup in Venezuela, you probably know that people were killed during the April 11 demonstrations against President Hugo Chavez. You also heard those killings cited as a justification for removing Chavez from office. But if you relied on the New York Times for news, you might have missed the fact that even more people were killed on the coup regime's watch—during the pro-Chavez protests that led to Chavez's April 14 return to power. The Associated Press (4/14/02) reported 40 confirmed deaths over the course of the coup, with 16 of […]

Jul
01
2002

Abandoned Children

Networks passing the buck on educational responsibilities

Television networks are abandoning their responsibility to provide educational children’s programming—one of a dwindling few public interest obligations that remain for commercial broadcasters. One after another, major networks have said they are unhappy with the profit they’re making on kids TV, so they’re quitting. As outlined in the 1990 Children’s Television Act, and detailed in the 1996 Telecommunications Act, broadcast TV networks are required to provide three hours a week of educational or informative programming for children 16 and under. But in the last few years, networks have declared that competition from cable channels makes producing kids TV insufficiently enriching […]

Jul
01
2002

On the Verge in Vermont

Media reform movement nears critical mass

"Good evening, I'm Congressman Bernie Sanders and I want to welcome you to what I believe is the first Congressional Town Meeting ever organized to address the issue of corporate control of the media." Thus began the first of two public town meetings in late April 2002, where U.S. Rep. Bernie Sanders (Vt.-Ind.) did what perhaps no member of Congress has done before--suggested that media can be a political issue in America. Extra! July/August 2002

Jul
01
2002

Celebrating as the Rich Get Richer

Stock market coverage treats gains for the few as good news for all

It is routine to present the stock market's performance as a measure of the economy's health: When it goes up, this is routinely reported as good news, whereas a drop is presumed to be grounds for concern about the strength of the economy. "Here at home some good news from Wall Street today," Tom Brokaw reported on NBC Nightly News (10/10/01). "The markets rallied." ABC's Charles Gibson was similarly upbeat, telling Good Morning America's audience (11/20/01), "We're going to begin with the good news from Wall Street: the market up 109 points yesterday." When Robert Rubin resigned as President Clinton's […]

Jul
01
2002

The Myth of the Generous Offer

Distorting the Camp David negotiations

The seemingly endless volleys of attack and retaliation in the Middle East leave many people wondering why the two sides can't reach an agreement. The answer is simple, according to numerous commentators: At the Camp David meeting in July 2000, Israel "offered extraordinary concessions" (Michael Kelly, Washington Post, 3/13/02), "far-reaching concessions" (Boston Globe, 12/30/01), "unprecedented concessions" (E.J. Dionne, Washington Post, 12/4/01). Israel’s "generous peace terms" (L.A. Times editorial, 3/15/02) constituted "the most far-reaching offer ever" (Chicago Tribune editorial, 6/6/01) to create a Palestinian state. In short, Camp David was "an unprecedented concession" to the Palestinians (Time, 12/25/00). But due to […]

Jul
01
2002

The Thrill of a Good Conspiracy

Iraq and the Oklahoma bombing case

Few episodes in American history attracted more conspiracy theories than the Oklahoma bombing case. The idea that Iraq was actually involved with the 1995 bombing in Oklahoma City is a theory long ago dismissed--for good reasons. Sadly, after the attacks of 9-11, it reemerged with a vengeance. "A few top Defense officials think Oklahoma City bomber Tim McVeigh was an Iraqi agent," U.S. News & World Report's Paul Bedard wrote in his "Washington Whispers" column (10/29/01). "The theory stems from a never-before-reported allegation that McVeigh had allegedly collected Iraqi telephone numbers." Insight magazine writer Kenneth Timmerman (4/15/02) took this a […]

Jul
01
2002

The Railroading of Amtrak

Trains, planes and automobiles held to different standards

Coverage of Amtrak contains two surprises: the details reported about the 31-year-old railroad, and the details that aren’t reported about its competition. Despite the introduction of successful high-speed trains in the Northeast, as well as increased ridership both before and after September 11’s airborne attacks, coverage of Amtrak is surprisingly negative. "You don’t read much in the way of good news," says Ross Capon, executive director of the National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP). Instead, typical reporting singles out Amtrak for criticism and glosses over the advantages enjoyed by rail's competitors. Most coverage focuses on the rail network's financial situation. […]