May
01
2002

'Retaliation' Is Reserved for One Side

A loaded term in the Mideast conflict

Even before the bloody events of April, more than 300 Israelis and 1,200 Palestinians had been killed since the current Intifada began in September 2000 (Boston Globe, 3/31/02). Thousands more people have been injured. U.S. media coverage of the conflict was intense as Palestinian militants car­ried out several major suicide bombings and the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) mounted a large-scale invasion of the West Bank. Amnesty International (4/3/02) condemned the targeting of civilians by both sides, voicing concern over "flagrant human rights abuses" by the IDF, including looting, mass deten­tions, the targeting of medical person­nel and possible extrajudicial execu­tions. Israel tried […]

May
01
2002

Declaring Victory in the Welfare Debate

'Reform' is working, say media--but what does that mean?

Ever since President Bill Clinton's 1997 declaration that "we know now that welfare reform works," media coverage of the issue has been haunted by the question of just what "working" means. Passed amid rhetoric of saving poor families from poverty, but with a preamble explicitly pushing a Gingrichian agenda of mar­riage and abstinence, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act's "success" depends entirely on just what one assumes it was supposed to do. Unfortunately, most news outlets have largely ignored the actual effects of the law on such areas as female poverty, instead accepting the sunnier outlook put forward by […]

May
01
2002

From Bozo to Churchill

Book Excerpt

Countless leaders have been deified by national emergency, but few have been remade as quickly and completely as George W. Bush. In many cases, those who had misread him as a simple tool, braying automatically at his most trivial mistakes, now automatically revered him. Such converts suddenly agreed with those who had seen Bush’s flaws as signs of latent greatness--thitherto the notion only of a large plurality, but now the common wisdom. And so, before you knew it, the seeming bozo was our savior. Not only were his famous foibles magically erased, but Bush’s entire political pre-history also slipped right […]

May
01
2002

Reparations and the Media

A slanted arena for discussions of slavery recompense

Speaking in defense of reparations for slavery on Fox News Channel’s Hannity & Colmes (4/25/01), attorney Alexander Pires explained that if advocates for reparations could "tell the story" of slavery and its consequences, the public would "respond to it." "So what you’re saying is you really want a debate," Alan Colmes replied, "and...that’s exactly what we’re doing here. We’re discussing it. We’re debating it." There have certainly been numerous radio and television programs on the issue. Yet have the media really featured fair debates, providing a level playing field for advocates and opponents of reparations to voice their concerns and […]

May
01
2002

Canada's Media Monopoly

One perspective is enough, says CanWest

Canwest logo

A dispute between Canada’s largest media company and its journalists has put media concentration on the political agenda as seldom before. In January, organizations representing journalists across Canada called for a parliamentary inquiry into media concentration, especially at CanWest Global Communications. The Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ) and the Quebec Federation of Professional Journalists (QFPJ) denounced actions of the media giant as "a disturbing pattern of censorship and repression of dissenting views." CAJ vice president Paul Schneidereit said the federal government needs to examine the issue of media ownership concentration. "We feel it’s time for the elected officials of this […]

May
01
2002

Power Sources

On party, gender, race and class, TV news looks to the most powerful groups

On an average weeknight, ABC World News Tonight, CBS Evening News and NBC Nightly News are tuned in by approximately one-quarter of television-viewing homes in the U.S. (Nielsen Media Research, 2001)-- about two-thirds of the U.S. public that claims to follow current events regularly (Pew Research Center, 2000). In 22 minutes the newscasts deliver snapshots of national and international news that not only frame current events for the public, but influence story selection at local affiliate stations, at radio outlets and in print media. In addition to putting topics on the nation’s agenda, the networks help set the range of […]

May
01
2002

Report from Porto Alegre

Is another media world possible?

Attending the World Social Forum at Porto Alegre, in the southern Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul, was like seeing the world upside down—or perhaps right-side up. From portrayals in U.S. mainstream media, it’s easy to see those who protest corporate globalization and “free trade” dogma as a small minority, as uninformed, as elitists. These notions were challenged by a forum that brought together some 50,000 participants from 150 countries, including people who represent millions of workers, peasants and the poor across the globe—united in criticism of global economic and environmental rules imposed by agencies such as the World […]

May
01
2002

The 'Oh Really?' Factor

Bill O'Reilly spins facts and statistics

If it's "spin" to back up your arguments with bogus facts and statistics, and to dismiss numbers that don't fit in with your preconceptions, then Bill O'Reilly's Fox News Channel show isn't, as he repeatedly claims, a "no-spin zone"-- it's Spin City. During an interview with National Organization for Women president Kim Gandy (O'Reilly Factor, 2/5/02), O'Reilly claimed that "58 percent of single-mom homes are on welfare." When Gandy questioned that figure, O'Reilly held firm: "You can't say no, Miss Gandy. That's the stat. You can't just dismiss it. . . . It’s 58 percent. That's what it is from […]