After years of paying scant attention to Somalia, U.S. media suddenly rediscovered the war-torn African nation in 2006 when a coalition of Islamic courts and their affiliated militias imposed peace on feuding warlords and began enforcing religious law. A U.S.-backed Ethiopian invasion soon loomed, and the Bush administration made the preferred story line clear. "The Council of Islamic Courts is now controlled by Al-Qaeda cell individuals, East Africa Al-Qaeda cell individuals," announced Jendayi Frazer, U.S. assistant secretary of state for African affairs (Voice of America News, 12/14/06). "The top layer of the courts are extremist to the core. They are […]
Good news fails to slow anti-Iran campaign
For a moment it looked like the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) finding that Iran had halted its alleged nuclear weapons program might put a crimp in the White House’s campaign to portray Iran as a menace to the U.S. and its Mideast neighbors. The Washington Post (12/4/07) summarized the NIE’s impact: The new intelligence report released yesterday not only undercut the administration’s alarming rhetoric over Iran’s nuclear ambitions, but could also throttle Bush’s effort to ratchet up international sanctions and take off the table the possibility of preemptive military action before the end of his presidency. CBS News’ Bob […]
'Front-runner' spent millions in states he 'skipped'
Many political reporters and pundits would probably like to forget the months they spent talking about how Republican presidential candidate Rudolph Giuliani was a strong front-runner amidst a relatively weak field. Giuliani enjoyed remarkably upbeat coverage for much of his campaign (Extra!, 5=6/07, 11=12/07), and even as he exited the race media continued their mythologizing, with many excusing his remarkably weak performance as just part of his strategy. On the eve of the Florida primaries, the new line on the Giuliani campaign coming from many pundits and reporters was that the candidate never really tried to win the early Republican […]
Strait of Hormuz incident's uncritical coverage
Given that one of the stated goals of George W. Bush's January 8-16 Mideast trip was to "remind" allies in the Persian Gulf that "Iran is a threat'' (New York Times, 1/9/08), it should have at least struck journalists as a strange coincidence when a January 6 encounter between the U.S. Navy and five small Iranian speedboats in the Strait of Hormuz, the entrance to the Persian Gulf, was characterized by the Pentagon as "evidence that Iran is unpredictable and remains a threat" (CNN, 1/7/08). Yet several news media outlets swallowed the White House's alarmist account of the incident hook, […]
Most “fear and favor” shown by media outlets takes the form of slanted or incomplete news coverage. But media companies’ zeal to please the advertisers, who are, after all, their main client, goes beyond covering news to making it. In 2007, congressional debate on a big Food and Drug Administration bill touched on pharmaceutical ads, a fast-growing source of media revenue. As recommended by the National Academy of Sciences, an early draft of the bill would have given the FDA the power to impose a moratorium on consumer advertising for a drug that had serious safety concerns. That provision was […]