Nov 1 1996

Compassion Rationed

Scapegoated Women Disappear From Coverage

For the past four years, the de­bate about “welfare” has target­ed women. Politicians fingered poor women as the main source of the nation’s problems, and reporters followed, creating vivid, misleading im­ages of lazy mothers-of-dozens draining to the dregs the nation’s coffers. The pictures skewed the facts, inflating the proportion of AFDC receivers who are African-American, immigrant, urban and young. But the scapegoating worked. By the time the Senate passed the 1996 welfare bill, it was so acceptable to starve and impoverish women that even those edi­torial writers who opposed the presi­dent’s signing of the bill generally did so on other […]

Nov 1 1996

The Stossel Beat


John Stossel, the evangelist for laissez faire economics at ABC News, gave a revealing talk in September to the Federalist Society, a group of conservative lawyers (reported in Corporate Crime Reporter, 9/23/96). Stossel told the audience why he quit doing consumer reporting: “I got sick of it. I also now make so much money I just lost interest in saving a buck on a can of peas.” Stossel also gave the crowd an indication of how his beloved free market really works in media: “I certainly would encourage any of you who knows somebody who buys advertising on television to […]

Nov 1 1996

The Ascendancy of Conrad Black

Cost-cutting and conservatism are trademarks of Canada's media mogul

There’s a new player among the global media moguls, and his name is Conrad Black. His company, Hollinger Inc., is now the third largest newspaper chain in the Western world, after Gannett and Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation (New York Times, 6/24/96), with a combined circulation exceeding 10 million (James Winter, Democracy’s Oxygen). Black owns 650 dailies and weeklies around the world, including the Jerusalem Post, the London Daily Telegraph, the Sydney Morning Herald, and the Chicago Sun-Times. He began this media empire by buying up small papers in his native Canada. He now controls 42 percent of Canada’s daily circulation […]

Nov 1 1996

The Online Threat to Independent Journalism

On the Web, Where Does News End and Ads Begin?

Journalists pushing their newspapers and broadcast companies to move into online publishing say the Internet promises an exciting new type of media—interactive, democratic, instantaneous, multi-modal and many-layered. Yet there is new evidence that the very qualities that make online publishing so intriguing to journalists are spawning subtle new approaches to advertising that may threaten the fragile journalistic tradition of independence from advertiser influence. In this new digital environment, advertisers—who have always itched to have a say in the content of news coverage—are finding fertile ground for blending marketing and news. Some journalists are beginning to fear that on the World […]

Nov 1 1996

Sweatshops Are the Workers’ Friend

And Labor Activists Their Enemy—According to the New York Times

If the Robin Hood story were set in today’s new global economy, would Robin be portrayed as an enemy of the poor because his activities discouraged investment in Sherwood Forest? And would the Sheriff of Nottingham be praised by the media for a tough-love approach to economic development that is gradually winning the appreciation of the low-paid serfs grateful for the work he provides? If one believes recent New York Times news articles about global economic controversies, Robin and the sheriff have indeed reversed their traditional roles. In several recent Times news stories, transnational corporations are depicted as doing their […]

Nov 1 1996

The Nasty Book

The New York Times Objects to a Whitewater Skeptic

Phil Gailey was shocked by the thesis of the book he had been assigned to review: “To charge that reporters have got just about everything wrong is astounding,” he wrote in the New York Times Book Review (8/4/96). Gailey, a former New York Times reporter who now writes editorials for the St. Petersburg Times, was reviewing Fools for Scandal: How the Media Invented Whitewater, by Gene Lyons, a columnist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette: “Fools for Scandal asks readers to believe that some of the nation’s most respected news organizations . . . are out to smear, if not destroy, the […]