Jun 1 2006

Fair Use It or Lose It

Copyright owners’ threats erode free expression

Tom Forsythe is an artist with a mission. In 1997, he created “Food Chain Barbie,” photographs depicting the iconic doll interacting with various kitchen appliances. The results—“Malted Barbie” and “Barbie Enchiladas,” among others—were intended, Forsythe said, “to critique the objectification of women associated with Barbie.” Barbie’s manufacturer, Mattel, sued Forsythe for copyright and trademark infringement. Eventually, a federal court ruled for the artist, finding that “Food Chain Barbie” was protected as a “fair use” under both copyright and trademark law. The court explained that there are great public benefits to allowing critique of cultural icons. Letting Forsythe use Barbie’s image […]

Jun 1 2006

Study Finds First Drop in Think Tank Cites

Progressive groups see biggest decline

FAIR’s annual survey of think tank citations in the mainstream media focuses attention on the groups that media turn to for “expert” sources. Rarely described politically when they are quoted (Extra!, 5-6/98), think tank sources often appear as neutral observers of the news, in contrast to partisan politicians and representatives of advocacy groups. If the media have a “liberal” bias, as conservatives have long claimed, then one would expect news outlets to seek out progressive think tanks as sources. However, in the history of this study, begun in 1996, we have instead found a consistent preference for conservative think tanks […]

Jun 1 2006

Sidebar: Defining the Think Tanks

[Note: this piece is a sidebar to Study Finds First Drop in Think Tank Cites] Our primary criteria for labeling the political orientation of a think tank are 1) its self-identification, 2) its stated policy positions and 3) how it is used in the media. The third criteria was applied, for example, to the Cato Institute, which gets far more media exposure for its conservative libertarian positions, such as privatizing Social Security, than it does for its more progressive libertarian positions, like decriminalizing drug possession or slashing corporate welfare. Some think tank political orientations, like those of the conservative Heritage […]

Jun 1 2006

The False Debate Over ‘Broken Borders’

When pro-business passes as pro-immigrant

Since 2005, much of the mainstream media has been rife with coverage of what has been called “immigration reform”—a policy debate over what kind of immigration legislation would be passed among a narrow range of options. One pole of the legislative debate was the McCain-Kennedy proposal, which would have created a temporary or “guest” worker program, followed by conditional and heavily delayed legalization of workers. The other was the Sensenbrenner Bill, passed by the House in December 2005, which would, among other harsh provisions, turn undocumented immigrants into felons and massively increase detentions and deportations. Either measure by itself would […]

Jun 1 2006

Stossel’s ‘Stupid’ Schools

A beginner’s course in deceptive reporting

If there were a John Stossel School of Journalism, reporters-intraining would be taught a simple template for any story: Free markets are good. Unions are bad. When consumers get to “choose,” everyone wins; if governments try to regulate, everyone loses. No matter what the assignment, a Stossel-trained reporter would be instructed to merely plug in a few relevant factoids to back up the propositions and—perhaps more importantly—to exclude any that undermine the predetermined conclusion. As subtle as its title, Stossel’s January 13 report on public schools, “Stupid in America,” hewed completely to that template. The one-hour special served up everything […]

Jun 1 2006

Bush-Hating Nation

Anatomy of an epithet

Appearing on MSNBC’s Situation with Tucker Carlson (2/14/06), conservative talkshow host and film critic Michael Medved linked an Oscar nomination he disapproved of to a mental illness he called “Bush hatred”: This Bush hatred is a disease, and it’s completely obsessive. And it’s reached the extent that if you take a look at movies that are nominated for the Oscar this year, one of the frontrunners, in fact the frontrunner for best foreign language film, is a film made in the Palestinian Authority. “Bush-hater” has been a favorite epithet of Republican partisans since 2003. A Nexis search shows the term […]

Jun 1 2006

‘Wall Street Does Not Like Newspapers’

CounterSpin Interview with Ben Bagdikian

In the latest media concentration story, the McClatchy newspaper chain, which currently owns 12 dailies, is buying out the larger Knight Ridder chain and its 32 newspapers. McClatchy has announced that it will immediately resell 12 of the Knight Ridder dailies, including such venerated newspapers as the Philadelphia Inquirer and the San Jose Mercury News. For a look at what the McClatchy/Knight Ridder story means for journalism and the media business, CounterSpin turned to Ben Bagdikian, dean emeritus of the UC Berkeley School of Journalism and author of the landmark book The Media Monopoly, now in its seventh edition. CounterSpin: […]

Jun 1 2006


[Note: This piece is a sidebar to ‘Wall Street Does Not Like Newspapers’.] Since CounterSpin’s interview with Ben Bagdikian, McClatchy has announced a pending deal that will turn over four of the former Knight Ridder papers—the St. Paul Pioneer Press, San Jose Mercury News, Contra Costa Times and Monterey County Herald—to the Denver-based MediaNews Group. With the addition of the three Northern California dailies, MediaNews, which already owns the Oakland Tribune, San Mateo Times and Marin Independent Journal, among other local publications, is poised to become a powerful regional media force. The San Jose Newspaper Guild, a union representing workers […]