May
01
2012

Soundbites

When Kids Die, War Is the Real Victim When a U.S. staff sergeant was accused of killing 16 civilians in an Afghan village, nine of them children, corporate media treated it as a crisis—for the war and those waging it. The massacre was “a public relations headache” (AP, 3/12/12) and “a public relations disaster” (Reuters, 3/12/12). “Killings Threaten Afghan Mission” (3/12/12) was a USA Today headline; the NPR website labeled its reports “Killings a Blow to U.S. Strategy in Afghanistan” (3/13/12) and “Afghan Shootings Could Complicate U.S. Mission” (3/12/12). The New York Times (3/12/12) talked about “a feeling of siege […]

May
01
2012

Scrutinizing the Victim in Florida Shooting

Before his killer, Trayvon Martin put on trial

Trayvon Martin--Photo Credit: Colorlines

“One can prove or refute anything at all with words,” wrote Anton Chekhov in the short story “Lights.” “Soon people will perfect language technology to such an extent that they’ll be proving with mathematical precision that twice two is seven.” In the shooting of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black youth killed by an overzealous neighborhood vigilante, the “language technology” being employed to portray the victim as the aggressor builds on words like “hoodie” and “marijuana”—and the most malleable linguistic alloy of all, silence. The hoodie Martin wore on the rainy night of his murder earned the ire of his stalker, […]

May
01
2012

New Conflict of Interest at NYT Jerusalem Bureau

Isabel Kershner’s family tie to pro-government think tank

Photo Credit: New York Times

After the news broke that New York Times Jerusalem bureau chief Ethan Bronner had a son who enlisted in the Israeli army (Extra!, 4/10), Times public editor Clark Hoyt noted (2/6/10) that it was problematic for Bronner to continue reporting on “one of the world’s most intense” conflicts while his son took up arms for one side. Hoyt spoke to a former Times Jerusalem bureau chief, David Shipler, who stressed the importance of disclosing this relationship to readers. Bronner is now close to the end of his tenure in Jerusalem. But two years after that controversy, the New York Times […]

May
01
2012

With a la Carte Cable, Pay for What You Watch

Maybe you don’t want to send Murdoch money every month

Cables (cc photo: Pulpolux)

Why can’t I just pay for the channels I actually want? That idea—usually called a la carte pricing—has been mentioned for years as an easy answer to runaway costs. And given how people tend to consume media, it holds a certain appeal.

May
01
2012

Military Intervention in Africa

Emira Woods on Kony 2012

KONY 2012 flickr chris waldeck

The viral video Kony 2012, a call by the U.S.-based group Invisible Children to “make famous” the brutal African warlord Joseph Kony and capture him through military action, has been seen by an unprecedented 87 million people, according to YouTube. The video has come under fire for inaccuracy and for what many see as a white savior mentality. This is an important discussion shining a light on a lingering Western neocolonial and paternalist sensibility. But what might be Kony 2012’s real impact on the troubled region? That’s a point left out of most corporate media coverage of the controversy. Emira […]

May
01
2012

Discounting Expertise

How journalism embraces right-wing anti-intellectualism

James Inhofe--Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons/Ars Skeptica

From the Scopes trial’s crackdown on Darwinism to William F. Buckley’s famous preference for government by the first 2,000 names in the Boston phone book over the 2,000 members of the Harvard faculty, from columnists George Will (Washington Post, 11/28/10) and Jonah Goldberg (L.A. Times, 8/30/11) lashing out at the “cult of expertise” to Rick Santorum’s rants against universities as “indoctrination centers for the left” (AP, 2/28/12), the American right regularly expresses contempt for expertise, education and other manifestations of “book learnin’.” As if that’s not damaging enough to public discourse, corporate media outlets often seem to embrace the same […]

May
01
2012

Bored With Occupy—and Inequality

Class issues fade along with protest coverage

OccupiedWallStreetJournal

Occupy Wall Street is rightly credited with helping to shift the economic debate in America from a fixation on deficits to issues of income inequality, corporate greed and the centralization of wealth among the richest 1 percent. The movement has chalked up other victories as well, from altering New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s tax plan (New York Times, 12/5/11) to re-energizing activists and unions, but bringing some discussion of class into the mainstream dialogue has been one of its crowning achievements. As Occupy slowed down for the winter, though, would corporate media continue to talk about our increasingly stratified society […]

May
01
2012

Daisey's Dishonesty

Editor's Note

Photo Credit: This American Life/Flickr Creative Commons/Photo Giddy

In the December 2011 issue of Extra!, an article on Steve Jobs cited playwright Mike Daisey’s account of his investigation into conditions for workers making Apple products at China’s Foxconn plant. Daisey’s investigation was also cited in a March 2012 piece on Apple’s labor practices. Thanks to the public radio show Marketplace (3/16/12), we now know that Daisey fabricated parts of his story, though it was presented as fact on the January 6, 2012, edition of public radio’s This American Life (which promptly offered a retraction—3/16/12) and in a New York Times op-ed (10/6/11—subsequently re-edited to remove a dubious paragraph). […]