May 1 1998

‘No Way to Sell a War’

Press critiques CNN's attempted rally on Iraq

“A PR debacle.” “A very difficult sell.” “A fiasco.” Those were among the terms used to describe the Ohio State “town meeting” on Iraq broadcast on CNN February 18—used not by the Clinton administration, but by the news media. In the days following the raucous event, at which audience members pep­pered three administration officials with pointed questions about U.S. poli­cy and anti-war chants, reporters across the country tended to focus not on whether military action was warranted or whether it would be supported by the public, but on a more important topic: how the government failed to sell war to […]

May 1 1998

Shams and Triumphs

The New York Times follows the official line on international elections

In an editorial on “Election Risks in Cambodia” (11/28/97), the New York Times warned that “flawed elections are worse than none,” and that “the international community must proceed cautiously, lest a rigged election give Mr. Hun Sen a veneer of legitimacy.” Similarly, in writing on “Kenya’s Flawed Election” (12/31/97), the Times‘ editors noted that “holding elections is not enough to assure demo­cratic government,” pointing specifical­ly to the need for “an independent elec­toral commission less bound to political parties” and “independent broadcast media, allowing opposition voices to be heard outside election periods.” These are very good points, but regrettably the New […]

May 1 1998

‘Spinning the Press’

Even after the California and Houston ballot initiatives demonstrated how language makes a difference in characterizing affirmative action, and despite ample proof in polls of the prejudicial effect that calling affirmative action “preferences” has on the American public (especially whites), the mainstream media continues to equate “preference” with affirmative action and to use the two terms interchangeably. A survey of recent headlines even after the Houston vote exemplifies the persistence of the problem. From the New York Times (11/7/1997): “Panel Holds Up House Measure on Preferences.” Time magazine (11/10/97): “The Next Great Battle Over Affirmative Action: A Lawsuit against the […]

May 1 1998

Oprah’s Free–Are We?

In 13 states, no First Amendment for food critics

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) must be breathing a sigh of relief. Their six weeks of courtroom combat with TV star Oprah Winfrey may have officially failed to silence her concerns about food safety, but in practice it came pretty damn close. Despite Winfrey’s legal victory, the bottom-line lesson for the rest of us is grim: In 13 states, the First Amendment no longer applies on food-related subjects. Investigating, speaking or writing about issues from mad cow disease to pesticides to food additives can cost you years of legal hell and a lifetime of debt hiring lawyers and experts […]

May 1 1998

Media Preferences

The Myth of Popular Opposition in the Affirmative Action Debate

“Houston Slows the Tidal Wave.” So said a recent headline in the U.S. News and World Report (11/17/97). But the notion that there is a popular, tidal wave-like movement in the United States, moving inexorably to erase affirmative action for women and racial minorities from the landscape of American life and law, is a myth. And at the heart of this myth is an image of outraged citizens expressing their disapproval of affirmative action through opinion polls, the ballot box and their legislators. The real impetus for the attempt to roll-back affirmative action policy comes from a federal judiciary still […]

May 1 1998

What’s in a Label?

Right-wing think tanks are often quoted, rarely labeled

For the third year in a row, conservative or right-leaning think tanks in 1997 provided more than half of major media’s think tank citations, according to FAIR’s third annual survey of major newspaper and broadcast media citations in the Nexis computer database. Think tanks of the right provided 53 percent of citations, while progressive or left-leaning think tanks received just 16 percent of total citations. Half of the ten most-cited think tanks are conservative or right-leaning, including three of the top four. The centrist Brookings Institution held the top spot as the most widely cited think tank for the second […]