Nov
01
1994

'Workplace' Coverage No Substitute for Real Labor Reporting

Labor Media Watch

As corporate concentration of media ownership has increased, the labor beat has all but disappeared in the U.S. press. Very few media outlets have a reporter dedicated to regularly covering workers' issues, unions and the labor movement. When working people do find their way into mainstream news, it's often in the form of "workplace" coverage -- a brand of soft, nonpolitical reporting that describes the problems workers face as lifestyle issues, not as economic disputes. Many people, grateful to see workers mentioned at all, think workplace stories are better than nothing. But this style of coverage has serious drawbacks. Take, […]

Nov
01
1994

The 'Hush Rush' Hoax

Limbaugh on the Fairness Doctrine

"I, Rush Limbaugh, the poster boy of free speech, am being gang muzzled." The broadcaster was crying censorship (Limbaugh Letter, 10/93) over congressional efforts in 1993 to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine -- which he labeled "The Hush Rush Bill," "The Get Limbaugh Act" and "The Rush Elimination Act of 1993." Limbaugh's daily on-air crusade generated thousands of calls to Washington, and helped derail congressional action. As usual, Limbaugh's followers were mobilized through misinformation and deception. The Fairness Doctrine--in operation from 1949 until abolished in 1987 by Ronald Reagan's deregulation-oriented Federal Communications Commission--calls on broadcasters, as a condition of getting their […]

Nov
01
1994

Back-Talk Radio

Aiming to Empower

From Rush Limbaugh to G. Gordon Liddy, commercial radio has long been a megaphone for right-wing talk-show hosts. And even NPR mostly mirrors mainstream news (Extra!, 4-5/93). But now some left/populist static for Limbaugh and his ilk is as close as your AM dial. We the People with Jerry Brown airs the renegade former California governor and three-time presidential candidate live from Oakland, Monday through Friday, 6-8 p.m. Pacific time. Syndicated by Talk America, it's now heard on 26 stations nationwide following its January debut. Hightower Radio, hosted in Austin by feisty former Texas Agriculture Commissioner Jim Hightower, premiered May […]

Nov
01
1994

David Broder and the Limits of Mainstream Liberalism

Several years ago, a Central America activist asked the editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer: Who on his opinion page was the leftist who offset his regular offerings of George Will and Charles Krauthammer? David Broder, the editor replied. Broder himself would quite properly deny this designation of "leftist." But it is true that in the spectrum of opinion of leading syndicated columnists he is on the left. In Sound and Fury: The Washington Punditocracy and the Collapse of American Politics, Eric Alterman points out that "Broder is the only non-right-wing pundit who begins to challenge the circulation numbers of the […]

Nov
01
1994

A Question of Fairness: Will FCC Let Both Sides Be Heard on Smoking Initiative?

The Bork-Scalia Decision

As this issue of Extra! reaches subscribers, Californians will be going to the polls, voting not only for political candidates but on a variety of ballot initiatives. One of these initiatives, Proposition 188, was placed on the ballot by a group with the healthy-sounding name of "Californians for Statewide Smoking Restrictions." But don't let the name fool you: These "anti-smoking" Californians are a front for the Philip Morris Company -- displaying the same flair for packaging that it shows when it markets the Marlboro Man. Philip Morris' initiative would eliminate local smoking ordinances, replacing them with a watered-down statewide standard. […]

Nov
01
1994

SoundBites

Fund-Raising Tall Tales "If you enjoyed Tales of the City and you'd like to see more programming like that, please become a member," host Rafael PiRoman declared during a fund drive for New York PBS affiliate WNET (9/13/94). PiRoman didn't mention that PBS, in the face of right-wing attacks, has refused to fund the sequel to Tales of the City, the popular drama about San Francisco life -- gay and straight -- in the '70s. Nor did he say that Tales fans might be better off saving their money to pay for cable: The show's producers had just announced (Boston […]

Nov
01
1994

A PBS Quiz

Both are nationally recognized. Both have written best sellers. Both are articulate and at the top of their fields. Which woman did PBS choose to host a show? Charlayne Hunter-Gault or Peggy Noonan One has 16 years of PBS experience. The other has no PBS experience. One is an award-winning journalist. The other is a partisan political flak. One has been identified with universal human rights. The other has been identified with narrow Republican politics. One came to national attention as a civil rights hero. The other came to national attention as a Reagan-Bush speech writer. One has a show, […]

Nov
01
1994

Editor's Note

Who's to blame for the failure of healthcare reform? Robin Toner, who wrote a post mortem on the debate for the New York Times (9/25/94), likened the situation to Murder on the Orient Express, where every suspect had a hand on the knife: "a divided Democratic Party on Capitol Hill, an overreaching Clinton administration, a fiercely partisan class of Republicans, an insatiable collection of interest groups." While naming candidates who do deserve their share of blame, Toner overlooks one of the likeliest suspects: the opinion-shaping media, led by the New York Times. Before Bill Clinton was even elected, a New […]