Mar 1 2002

The Journalist From Mars

How the 'war on terror' should be reported


The proper topic for an occasion like this, I suppose, is pretty obvious: It would be the question of how the media have handled the major story of the past months, the issue of the “war on terrorism,” so-called, specifically in the Islamic world. Incidentally, by media here I intend the term to be understood pretty broadly, including journals of commentary, analysis and opinion; in fact, the intellectual culture generally. It’s a really important topic. It’s been reviewed regularly by FAIR, among others. However, it isn’t really an appropriate topic for a talk, and the reason is that it requires […]

Mar 1 2002

Take No Prisoners

U.S. reporters failed to probe Pentagon's 'unlawful combatants' label

Though disapproval at home was muted, the Bush administration’s defiant refusal to grant prisoner-of-war (POW) status to Afghan battlefield captives set off a storm of criticism overseas in January. Beset by foreign media and officials, human rights and international law organizations, the administration opened a media counter-offensive on January 27. “They are not POWs. They will not be determined to be POWs,” Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told reporters traveling with him to the U.S. military base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, where the U.S. is holding captured Taliban and Al Qaeda combatants (Associated Press, 1/27/02). Rumsfeld led the White House and […]

Mar 1 2002

Minimizing the Enron Fallout

It's an apolitical, bipartisan scandal that no one understands

The rapid demise of energy giant Enron is being called the largest corporate bankruptcy in modern American history. Stories of workers losing their life savings while executives struck it rich have certainly been big news–often overshadowing the war in Afghanistan–but conservative pundits and mainstream journalists alike have tried to minimize the story’s political impact. One early tactic was to spin the story as a business failure rather than a political scandal. White House press secretary Ari Fleischer took credit for this gambit during the NBC News special The Bush White House: Inside the Real West Wing (1/23/02), boasting: “Look what […]

Mar 1 2002

Journalists Gaga for ‘Rock Star’ Rumsfeld

“Everyone is genuflecting before the Pentagon powerhouse,” noted Washington Post media reporter Howard Kurtz (12/13/01). Since the war in Afghanistan started, Kurtz observed, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was “getting better press than Rudy Giuliani.” Rumsfeld, Kurtz wrote, was “America’s new rock star.” Why do so many journalists revere Rumsfeld? His “rough-hewn charm and no-nonsense demeanor” are part of it, says Kurtz. And dozens of other journalists concur, often citing his “candor” and describing him as “plain-spoken” and a “straight-shooter.” Journalists’ comments about Rumsfeld range from the flattering to the obsequious to the downright bizarre. “Sixty-nine years old, and you’re America’s […]

Mar 1 2002

Bias Short on Substance

Former CBS reporter claims TV has "leftward" slant

Proving that irony is alive and well post-September 11, a book deriding the national press corps for its suppression of conservative views has received enormous attention in that same “liberal” media. Bernard Goldberg’s Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News is long on name-calling and vitriol, but short on substance. “Delusional,” “hypocrites,” “Lilliputians”–these are just a few of the words Goldberg uses to describe journalists in general, and his former CBS colleagues in particular. He quips that if CBS News were a prison, many of its employees would be Dan Rather’s “bitches.” Goldberg left CBS four […]

Mar 1 2002

Fear & Favor 2001 — The Second Annual Report

How Power Shapes the News

Introduction Fear & Favor is FAIR’s annual review of incidents that reflect the range of pressures on reporters to use something other than journalistic judgment in deciding what goes in the news and what gets left out. The year 2001 presented special challenges in this regard. The horrific September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and the ensuing declaration by the Bush administration of an open-ended “war on terrorism,” meant incredible pressure on the press corps to present U.S. actions and policy in the best light; incidents of outright censorship occurred, and even more self-censorship, as […]

Mar 1 2002

Think Tanks in a Time of Crisis

FAIR's 2001 survey of the media's institutional experts

In 2001, during a time of crisis, the mainstream media rounded up the usual think-tank suspects. Once again, media used think tanks quite often during the year, with over 25,823 citations for the 25 leading think tanks. (FAIR’s annual survey looks at mentions of think tanks in the Nexis database files for major papers and broadcast transcripts.) Thirty-four percent of these citations occurred on or after September 11–a time period that represents roughly 30 percent of the year–suggesting that media were slightly more reliant on these news-shapers in uncertain times. Once again, the centrist Brookings Institution topped the list, garnering […]