Jun
01
2008

Failing to Use the 1st Amendment to Defend the Bill of Rights

Media don’t probe candidates on civil liberties

The striking new midtown Manhattan tower of the New York Times seats all of the writers and editors together in one giant dual-story open plan. But this, it seems, is not enough to forge story conversations between neighboring desks when it comes to the central issues of Americans’ civil liberties and the presidential campaign. In a March 6 editorial, “What We’d Like to Hear,” the Times editorial writers spoke poignantly about the need for serious candidate discussion of topics that go to the heart of our democracy. “After eight damaging and divisive years, there is certainly a lot that needs […]

Jun
01
2008

Fair Study: TV's Low-Cal Campaign Coverage

How 385 stories can tell you next to nothing about whom to vote for

The second-tier candidates, they get angry. They think that the press doesn’t focus on them, spends too much time talking about the front-runners in the debates, in the coverage day by day. But we say to them, "Well, make your mark. Start showing some growth. Start showing some resonance with the populace and you’ll get the same kind of coverage." They’ll say: "Wait a minute. How do we get resonance if we’re not covered?" It's an important issue that we have to keep examining, our own behavior.—Tim Russert (NBC Nightly News, 1/3/08) Coverage in the early phase of a presidential […]

Jun
01
2008

Media Miss Bigger Picture in Healthcare Debate

Ignoring ‘mandate’ plans’ record of failure

In the 2008 Democratic primary campaign between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, each is offering a slightly different variant of individual mandate-based healthcare plans relying on the private insurance industry. Media coverage has magnified the slight variations while almost entirely ignoring the big picture: Both health plans are based on a model that has consistently failed to get off the ground in numerous states. Most media analysis has focused on the political advantage provided by each proposal, rather than on the evidence that either plan would actually deliver quality, affordable care to all Americans. Obama proposes that parents be mandated […]

Jun
01
2008

Misogyny's Greatest Hits

Sexism in Hillary Clinton coverage

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons/rachel_bunting

It may have been the first time an audience heckler yelled “Iron my shirt!” at a United States senator (AP, 1/7/08), as well as the first time a presidential candidate has had a pair of nutcrackers fashioned in her likeness (New York Post, 9/7/07). Sen. Hillary Clinton’s run for the Democratic nomination has been fraught with sexism, exposing an ugly streak within the American press. There were several repeat offenders—MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, the New York Times’ Bill Kristol—but degrading, misogynist and ageist attacks on Clinton spanned from print to radio, from the Web to television. The level to which media […]

Jun
01
2008

From Water Torture to 'Waterboarding'

Media rehabilitate torture as aquatic sport

On May 13, 2004, a novel euphemism was delivered into the public lexicon by anonymous “counterintelligence official” sources cited in a New York Times article. The piece reported the CIA had been using “a technique known as ‘water boarding,’ in which a prisoner is strapped down, forcibly pushed under water and made to believe he might drown.” The technique was described by the Times as one of several “methods [that] simulate torture.” Before long, Alan Dershowitz (Boston Globe, 5/15/04)—the Harvard law professor who advocates for a system of “torture warrants" (San Francisco Chonicle, 1/22/04)--had coined a brand new catchphrase by […]

Jun
01
2008

The Press Corps' Unshakeable Crush on McCain

Some straight talk about the media’s favorite ‘maverick’

If you pay even passing attention to national politics, you know that presumptive GOP presidential candidate John McCain is a maverick who bucks his own party’s line and never wavers in his political beliefs. At least, that’s what the corporate media say—reality tells a very different story. A candidate could only get away with such an elaborate and long-running con with the media as willing accomplices. “The press loves McCain,” explained NBC host Chris Matthews (9/10/06). “We’re his base.” For much of the press, the early stages of the 2008 presidential campaign were a chance to fall in love all […]

Jun
01
2008

'Tribal' Label Distorts African Conflicts

Ethnic framing may obscure political contexts

Raila Odinga--Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons/DEMOSH

When post-election violence erupted in Kenya at the end of December, U.S. media quickly settled into a familiar story: African tribes were savagely tearing each other apart. Journalists described the events as “savage tribal killings” (L.A. Times, 1/2/08), “gruesome ethnic killings” (Washington Post, 1/6/08) and “tribal riots” (Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, 1/3/08). “This is a tribal situation,” explained CBS (Early Show, 1/2/08). “And what is terrifying is that the veneer of this country is so thin, that there’s so much tension and hatred that’s been here all along.” The crisis began after Kenyans voted in the country’s December 27 presidential […]

Jun
01
2008

Reprivatizing Elvis

E.U. may take a half-century of music out of the public domain

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons/Royce S

There aren’t many places where social activists and conservative economists agree, but copyright is one of them. Milton Friedman famously announced that he wouldn’t sign an amicus brief in the Eldred case, which challenged the extension of U.S. copyrights by 20 years, unless it included the term “no-brainer.” It didn’t, but he and 16 other economists signed anyway. The economists and activists lost that one, but their alliance showed how large and complex the battle over copyright has gotten. The latest battle is over the European Union extending the copyright for recorded performances from 50 to 95 years. It’s not […]