May
01
1994

Ruling Shows Corporate Veto Over Reporters

A California appeals court has ruled that public utilities cannot discriminate against reporters—in a case that revealed how much power corporations have in determining who will cover them. The Dec. 27, 1993 decision by the Court of Appeal rein­stated a lawsuit brought by journalist J.A. Savage, who charged that Pacific Gas & Electric Co. got her fired from two publications for writing critical articles about the utility While a lower court had dismissed her suit on the grounds that PG&E was a private company, the appeals court found that PG&E acted improperly in "effectively blacklisting" Savage. "In the case of […]

May
01
1994

Look for the Corporate Label

When citing the Economic Policy Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, mainstream journalists often affix the label "union-backed" or "labor-supported" (e.g. New York Times, 3/13/94). By contrast, these reporters rarely if ever refer to the American Enterprise Institute as "corporate-backed" or "business-supported." (A search on the Nexis database turned up 73 instances where major papers use such labels with EPI, whereas similar terms were used with AEI--which is cited far more frequently--only 4 times.) As it happens, only about a quarter of EPI's money comes from labor, whereas more than half of AEI's funding comes from corporations and corporate foundations. […]

May
01
1994

Locked-Up Women Locked Out of Coverage

There is no shortage of reasons why women end up in jail. Women earn less, are responsible for more and are among the least well-protected people in the country. A recent article in Harper's magazine (4/94) pointed out that a single mother is almost required to resort to illegal activity if she is to feed and clothe two children on the roughly $300 to $400 cash grant she gets per month from AFDC. Yet some reporters still drag out the old tired feminist villain to explain the rise in female offenders. "Female Crime Rate Alarming, Law Officials Say; Drugs, Women's […]

May
01
1994

Whitewater Under the Bridge

How the Press Missed the Story

Supporters of the Clintons suggest that Whitewater, a failed real estate venture from Bill and Hillary's Little Rock days, is old news. The election campaign is over, the argument goes, and the voters chose Clinton. But Whitewater never really became a campaign issue in 1992. Most media gave a great deal of space to allegations of Clinton's sexual affairs and accounts of his draft maneuverings, but shied away from a story about corporate collusion with politicians--perhaps because the story wasn't pushed by an establishment party or politician. Today, leading Republicans seem to want to talk about nothing but Whitewater and […]

May
01
1994

Scouts Without Compasses

An NPR Reporter on the 'Disinformation Trap' in Former Yugoslavia

Covering the disintegration of Yugoslavia has often forced reporters to act as scouts without compasses in a completely unknown terrain. Reporters have had to wade through the complex cultural, historical and political geography of these conflicts. And very few had the necessary instruments. With the end of the Cold War, a whole set of principles of analysis had become useless, and reporters had to confront new problems that most of them had never explored before, such as ethnic self-assertion, tribalism, religious conflicts and the rights and limits to self-determination. The Cold War had accustomed generations of reporters to analyze world […]

May
01
1994

How America's Leading Paper Covered a Massacre

In the wake of an atrocity, news reports usually have a major focus on the victims of the crime. Reporters talk to the families of the dead, sympathizing with their mourning and asking them for details about the lives of those who were lost. Photographs of those who have died and the bereaved put a human face on the tragedy. This kind of humanizing coverage, which helps readers understand emotionally what loss of life means, was absent from most news accounts of the massacre of 48 Palestinians at the Hebron mosque. To document this absence, FAIR analyzed coverage of the […]

May
01
1994

Hearing What They Want to Hear

Media interpret Jackson as blaming blacks for crime

Rev. Jesse Jackson's recent comments about how blacks can take action against crime in their communities received an unusually favorable response from mainstream media outlets that are usually cool, if not hostile, toward the civil rights leader. But the selective emphasis of many press accounts distorted the content and context of Jackson's remarks, revealing more about media priorities than about Jackson's ideas, Of particular fascination to reporters was the comment Jackson made to an Operation PUSH group in Chicago last November that he has sometimes felt "relieved" to find that the footsteps following him on a dark street are those […]

May
01
1994

Crime Contradictions

U.S. News Illustrates Flaws in Crime Coverage

"A scary orgy of violent crime is fueling another public call to action." That's how U.S. News & World Report opened its Jan. 17 cover story on "Violence in America." It also encapsulates the tone of much of the overheated and overhyped reporting on crime over the past year. Despite the impression one would get from news coverage, the incidence of crime has not risen dramatically in the past year. The most reliable research suggests, in fact, that there is no more violent crime today than there was 20 years ago. What there is more of--much more--is crime coverage. According […]