Mar 1 2000

As Europe’s Far Right Surged, U.S. Press Shrugged

Playing down the fascist ties of Austria's Haider

The electoral breakthrough of the extreme-right Austrian Freedom Party—which came in a close sec­ond with more than a quarter of the vote in that country’s national elec­tions last October—generated front-page coverage in most European news­papers. Editorial commentary empha­sized the importance of keeping the Freedom Party, led by Jörg Haider, from joining a new governing coalition. (Despite threats of siplomatic sanc­tions, the Freedom Party did form a governing coalition with the Austrian People’s Party in February.) The Times of London (10/4/99) warned that “Haider’s result has thrown [Austrian] politics into turmoil, frightened investors and brought closer to power the largest and […]

Mar 1 2000

New York Times on Iraq Sanctions

A case of journalistic malpractice

In a 1998 article (4/23/98), New York Times United Nations correspondent Barbara Crossette critiqued the film Genocide by Sanctions, a documentary produced by a coalition of activist groups opposed to the U.N. sanctions on Iraq. Using footage of dying Iraqi children, the film sought to dramatize Iraq’s desperate humanitarian conditions under the U.N. embargo; more than 1.25 million Iraqis have reportedly died from the massive escalation in the mortality rate since sanctions were imposed in 1990 (Reuters, 12/29/99). After noting that the coalition “produced a graphic videotape of dying children in Iraq, asserting that they were killed by sanctions,” Crossette […]

Mar 1 2000

The Titanic Sails On

Why the Internet won't sink the media giants

The January announcement of the proposed merger of AOL and Time Warner–the largest deal in history–crystallizes one trend, and may trigger another, more ominous one. It can be seen as yet another of the colossal media deals that has dotted the past decade, such that only a handful of conglomerates now own almost all the film studios, TV networks, music studios, cable TV channels and much, much, more. But more than that, the deal represents what may be the first great move toward convergence, where the handful of giants who dominate computer software, the Internet and media begin to formally […]

Mar 1 2000

Digital Divide Provides Opportunities for Corporate Spin

How to Win Puff Coverage by Donating Computers

Articles on corporate donations of computers to schools are commonplace these days. Indeed, if you work for a corporation and you’re looking for positive publicity, or the sort of thing that PR spindoctors call “corporate goodwill,” donating a handful of computers to a local school is a pretty sure bet. You’ll pick an impoverished one, of course: The schools in wealthy neighborhoods already have computers; many have a few in every classroom. And it has to be computers. True, lots of impoverished schools don’t have enough textbooks, or enough teachers, or even enough money for pencils, chalk and toilet paper. […]

Mar 1 2000

Pepper Spray Gets in Their Eyes

Media missed militarization of police work in Seattle

Seattle police spray protesters (Steve Kaiser/Wikimedia)

The WTO protests in Seattle may be remembered as the time when the words “pepper spray” first entered the vocabulary of the American public. From November 30 through December 3, as police took on demonstrators outside the World Trade Organization meeting at the Seattle Convention Center, you couldn’t turn on a TV or open a newspaper without hearing how officers were using “tear gas, rubber bullets and pepper spray” to disperse crowds of protesters. And unless you scoured the news media, that’s all you heard. While comparisons to the “turbulent 1960s” abounded, the media imposed a near-total blackout on a […]

Mar 1 2000

Castro Wants the Kid Back

Favorite themes of 'Cuban Boy' coverage

Cute Kid! Cruel Communists! Martyred Mom! A Thanksgiving Miracle! Any one of these elements can make for the kind of sensational story the U.S. press craves, but the case of Elián González–the 6-year-old boy rescued at sea on November 25, after his mother and 10 others drowned en route from Cuba–has all these ingredients for overwrought journalism. The result? In the months since the kid with the tragic story and made-for-TV smile first became news, the saga has been a source of often astonishing press coverage. Everyone from politicians to baseball players has rushed to use Elián as a photo […]

Mar 1 2000

Partial Truth Abortion Coverage

Media adopt rhetoric of 'fetal rights'

Coverage of restrictive abortion legislation demonstrates that “balanced” reporting is not necessarily synonymous with accurate reporting. Even while seeming to present impartial facts, media often simultaneously participate in the subtle rhetorical shift toward elevating the fetus to a legal standing separate and equal to a woman’s. The “rights of the unborn” is the most recent gambit for the movement to curb reproductive choice–illustrated by Arkansas’ Fetal Protection Act, which punishes attackers separately for crimes against a fetus; Missouri’s extremist Infant Protection Act (currently under a judicial restraining order), which threatens women and doctors with sentences of up to life in […]