May 1 2004

A ‘Glitch’ in Democracy

Coverage of computer voting problems too little, too late?

If mainstream media outlets had devoted as much ink and airtime to electronic voting machines as they had to O.J. Simpson, Monicagate or even Janet Jackson’s breast, the outcome of our next presidential election might not depend on machines that can be programmed to favor one candidate over another without anyone ever knowing. As it is, nearly one-third of the American electorate will cast their votes on one of the more than 150,000 electronic voting machines whose integrity is in doubt. The manufacturers of touch-screen computerized voting machines—specifically, direct recording electronic (DRE) voting machines—claim to be able to “do the […]

May 1 2004

Special Report: Think Tank Coverage

More attention, but not more balance

Even as media reliance on think tanks increased in 2003, the slant in coverage toward conservative groups and away from progressives held steady. While mainstream media citations of the top 25 think tanks increased 13 percent from 2002 to 2003, right-leaning institutions received 47 percent of last year’s citations, with centrists getting 39 percent and 13 percent going to groups that leaned to the left. The centrist Brookings Institution was once again the most widely quoted think tank, garnering almost one-sixth of total citations. Another centrist group, the Council on Foreign Relations, maintained the second spot. The Heritage Foundation, in […]

May 1 2004

NAFTA’s Hung Jury

After ten years, an honest verdict is hard to find

A decade ago, major U.S. media joined corporate and political elites in steamrolling the public’s overwhelming 64 percent opposition to the North American Free Trade Agreement (Gallup, 8/8/93), and NAFTA was signed into law by President Bill Clinton. Major U.S. media almost uniformly dismissed NAFTA’s opponents as backward-looking “protectionists.” Mean-while, editorial writers and pundits almost unanimously predicted substantial economic and social gains in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Even news articles reflected this heavy-handed bias; one study found the New York Times and Washington Post quoted more than three times as many pro-NAFTA sources as critics (Extra! Update, 10/93). Ironically, […]

May 1 2004

How Public Is Public Radio?

A study of NPR’s guest list

When National Public Radio was launched in 1971, it promised to be an alternative to commercial media that would “promote personal growth rather than corporate gain” and “speak with many voices, many dialects.” In 1993, when FAIR published a study of NPR’s guestlist that challenged the network’s alternative credentials (Extra!, 4-5/93), incoming NPR president Delano Lewis was still boasting about being a place where the unheard get heard (Humanist, 9/93): “Our job is to be a public radio station. So therefore the alternative points of view, the various viewpoints, should be aired.” Today, current NPR president Kevin Klose insists that […]

May 1 2004

Beltway Humor

Media applaud, then excuse Bush's WMD

When presidents appear at the annual Radio and Television Correspondents Dinner, it’s traditional for them to tell a few jokes. But when George W. Bush appeared at this year’s dinner (3/24/04), he made a series of “jokes” about the failure to find the banned weapons that had been the central justification of his invasion of Iraq. “Those weapons of mass destruction must be somewhere,” Bush cracked while showing slides of administration officials searching the White House. The routine elicited laughter from the audience of politicians and media figures. Most of the next day’s press accounts did not raise questions about […]

May 1 2004

From Speculation to History

'Saddam's bluff' becomes conventional wisdom--with no evidence presented

Late last January, chief U.S. weapons-hunter David Kay left his post, saying that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction and that most likely none would ever be found. For pro-war pundits and editorialists who had spent months issuing periodic reminders that Kay still had not yet finished his work, and that we should all wait for his final judgment, Kay’s final judgment, when it came, was uncomfortably final: “It turns out we were all wrong,” he mournfully told a Senate committee (CNN, 1/28/04). But for many pundits, embarrassed by their confident assumptions that Iraq was one big chemical weapons […]

May 1 2004

Fear & Favor 2003 — The Fourth Annual Report

More examples of media's vulnerability to power

Introduction It’s no secret that advertisers, media owners and powerful political figures pressure journalists to ignore critical stories or sing the praises of a corporate pet project. With diminished journalistic resources available due to corporate cost-cutting in the media industry, news outlets often put commercial or political priorities ahead of journalistic ones. Each year, FAIR puts together a collection of specific incidents of interference, in order to provide real-world illustration of the pressures on working journalists, and to encourage the exposure of such efforts to muzzle journalists and shape media coverage. This report is nowhere near an exhaustive recounting of […]