Aug
01
2007

Framing the Abortion Ruling

Religious right’s terms leave women out of issue

After the Supreme Court’s Gonzales v. Carhart decision upheld federal legislation that restricted abortion procedures without providing an exception for the woman’s health, CNN correspondent Candy Crowley (4/23/07) voiced a popular media refrain: “What’s interesting is whoever frames this issue the best is who is going to benefit from it politically.” Crowley was correct in the sense that the way an issue is presented critically impacts how people understand that issue. Therefore, presentation affects how we vote and what sort of demands we make of our political representatives; it’s something political operatives have long understood and tried to exploit. But […]

Aug
01
2007

Media and Impeachment

Not for discussion, only for derision

Ocean Beach in San Francisco was abuzz with 1,500 people who showed up to spell out a giant “Impeach Now” with their bodies on April 28, all in the home district of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Pelosi made a splash prior to the November 2006 election by saying that a Bush impeachment was “off the table” (Washington Post, 5/12/06). Several scandals later—the Libby conviction, failing Iraq “surge,” U.S. Attorneys’ purge and missing White House e-mails—people across the nation served up their own impeachment proposals. But “impeach” is barely in the lexicon of major national media; on the rare occasion […]

Aug
01
2007

Clear the Stage

Media have little time, tolerance for ‘second-tier’ candidates

With the public still many months away from choosing major-party presidential candidates, robust public debates with a wide sampling from across the political spectrum would seem to be an empowering democratic exercise. And for a press corps so often complaining about the scripted and stilted tedium of day-to-day political campaigning, wide-open debates and a freewheeling exchange of ideas might make for good TV. But many journalists seem not to agree. In the coverage of the early candidate debates, the media have fallen into a familiar pattern of trying to “weed out” candidates who do not meet the press corps’ ideological […]

Jul
01
2007

The Climate Change Gap

U.S. media fiddle while Earth burns

If 2006 was the year that the issue of global climate change broke through into greater public consciousness—thanks in large part to Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, plus books like Elizabeth Kolbert’s Field Notes from a Catastrophe—2007 could be the year that it becomes old news. Between February and May of this year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a joint project of the United Nations and the World Meteorological Organization, issued a series of three comprehensive reports designed to present the scientific evidence for climate change, as well as the likely consequences and how the most catastrophic effects can […]

Jul
01
2007

Disposable People

The ‘upside’ to natural and unnatural disasters

As Hurricane Katrina tore off roofs and exposed the destroyed interiors of homes, it also peeled back the genteel veneer on elite media opinion about New Orleans—revealing that some pundits and reporters viewed the majority of its residents to be essentially irrelevant, if not an outright impediment, to the restructuring of the city’s devastated economy. Whether urban social devastation results from corporate decisions to relocate jobs or a nature-triggered catastrophe, major U.S. media seem to view cities as first and foremost engines of economic growth and profit, with the local population’s needs and culture viewed as barely worthy of mention […]

Jul
01
2007

No

Editor's Note

No, no, no, no, no. ABCNews.com (6/18/07) described Hillary Clinton speaking at the Take Back America conference “shortly after she reversed course and voted to cut off funding for the troops as a means of ending the war.” No—the supplemental funding bill doesn’t fund the troops, it funds the war. The troops are paid for out of the regular Pentagon budget. No soldier would have been kicked out of the Army or lost a paycheck if the bill had not passed. Describing the California governor’s likely opposition to a single-payer healthcare bill, CNN’s Brooke Anderson declared (6/13/07) “Schwarzenegger clearly opposed […]

Jul
01
2007

Al Gore, Smartypants

New book full of big words, pundits complain

Reading the coverage of Al Gore’s new book, The Assault on Reason, the line elite media have developed was impossible to miss: Gore’s a smartypants! His ideas may be good or bad, but the point is, he’s a laughingstock. Even those inclined to dislike Gore might be put off by the kind of condescension expressed by, for example, the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank, whose May 30 article was headlined, "Is It Wise to Be So Smart?" Milbank offered the sort of hypothetical that’s meant to be damning: Imagine the Iowa hog farmer cracking open Assault on Reason, and meeting Abraham […]

Jul
01
2007

The Poisoned Chalice

Media and double standards

U.S. Justice Robert Jackson, the chief of counsel for the prosecution at the Nuremberg Tribunal, addressed the Tribunal on the principle of universality, which is the foundation of any moral code that can be taken seriously. It’s the principle that we apply to ourselves the same standards that we apply to others, if not more stringent ones. Justice Jackson admonished the Tribunal that this elementary principle must be its guide, or else its proceedings would be nothing but legal farce, an act of vengeance, victor’s justice. To quote Jackson’s memorable words: If certain acts of violation of treaties are crimes, […]