Nov 1 1999

Has ABC News Given Up on Accuracy?

Stossel special filled with Limbaughesque distortions

In a one-hour ABC News special titled “Is America #1?,” 20/20 corre­spondent John Stossel compared the economies of Hong Kong, the United States and India in an attempt to show that laissez-faire economic pol­icy is “what makes a country work well for its people.” The program was filled with so many factual inaccuracies, Limbaughesque distortions and unsub­stantiated claims that it calls into ques­tion whether ABC News applied any sort of journalistic standards to the broadcast. The following is just a sampling of some of Stossel’s erroneous claims: ■ One of Stossel’s main sources on Hong Kong claims that Hong Kong […]

Nov 1 1999

Was East Timor Really ‘Out of Control’?

Media downplayed evidence of planned atrocities

A front-page New York Times arti­cle (9/12/99) about the precari­ous situation in East Timor in September began by reporting that Gen. Wiranto, Indonesia’s top mil­itary commander, “conceded Saturday that he had lost control of elements of his military” that were operating on the island. The article’s headline, “Jakarta Concedes a Loss of Control,” echoed this view. The assertion that Wiranto was unable to control the violence in East Timor went unquestioned in the first two-thirds of the article. Then, in the article’s 29th paragraph, an unnamed official travelling with the visiting U.N. delegation in East Timor flatly contest­ed this idea: […]

Nov 1 1999

Throwing the Game

Conflicts of interest prevent tough coverage of sports issues

In the 1930s, legendary hockey owner Conn Smythe was displeased by newspaper coverage of his Toronto Maple Leafs. Smythe’s solution: He approached Toronto Star publisher Joe Atkinson with a promise to take out $20,000 in advertising annually. In exchange, Atkinson would raise his hockey writers’ salaries by $20,000 — as a reward for more “honest” reporting. If owners of pro sports teams no longer engage in outright bribery, it’s only because they no longer need to. No single topic — not even presidential campaigns or wars — receives the kind of day-in, day-out coverage that is devoted to sports by […]

Nov 1 1999

Brill’s Content: Sweet on Sugar

Media magazine can't admit flaws in its attack on Time

About once an issue, Brill’s Content–Steven Brill’s for-profit, advertiser-supported magazine of media criticism–has an article about a corporation that Content says was mistreated by the media. In its July/August 1999 issue, the magazine came to the rescue of the Flo-Sun sugar company, which Time magazine’s Don Bartlett and Jim Steele (11/23/98) had cited as a prime example in their special series on corporate welfare. Bartlett and Steele–best known for their books based on their Philadelphia Inquirer reporting, America: What Went Wrong? and America: Who Stole the Dream?–are considered one of the nation’s premier investigative reporting teams. But Content found that […]

Nov 1 1999

Not All Domestic Violence Studies Are Created Equal

Researchers are "advocates" or "pioneers"--depending on what they find

Recent media responses to a Department of Justice (DOJ) study on domestic violence raise an interesting question: What makes some DOJ studies less “scientific” than others? How can the same agency at times be a bastion of impartial science, and at others be a purveyor of questionable, ideology-driven data? The answer can be found not in the sponsors or the methodology of the studies themselves, but in their results. It isn’t hard to decipher the code: Researchers whose findings show that domestic violence is predominately perpetrated by men to exercise control over their female partners are often “feminist theorists” orchestrating […]

Nov 1 1999

Have Media Warmed Up to Climate Change?

Despite growing coverage, solutions still aren't on agenda

The reality of global warming and climate change are setting in, but major U.S. media outlets have thus far failed to examine the implications of what will be perhaps the most important issue of coming decades. It is not that no coverage occurs. But it is fragmented and confusing. Media cite bits and pieces of the growing array of evidence demonstrating climate change is occurring. Right alongside, they may print the opinions of scientists on the payroll of fossil fuel interests who debunk the idea of climate change, asserting that global warming is not occurring or even that it is […]

Nov 1 1999

After the ‘Humanitarian’ War

TV learns to accept ethnic cleansing in Kosovo

After the bombing of Yugoslavia, the U.S. media held up the safe return of Albanian refugees as proof of the success–and righteousness–of NATO’s war. How the bombing had affected the region’s chances for long-term stability was rarely discussed. The important thing, according to most mainstream pundits, was that the “Western world” had shown it wouldn’t stand for “crimes against humanity,” with columnist William Safire (New York Times, 6/7/99) summing up the prevailing sentiment: “Civilization is more civilized for having intervened to do the right thing.” But by the end of August, about ten weeks after NATO stopped bombing Yugoslavia and […]

Nov 1 1999

The Fumento Mythology

Hudson Institute fellow twists science to minimize AIDS

A decade after writing The Myth of Heterosexual AIDS, Michael Fumento of the Hudson Institute continues to minimize and skew the AIDS crisis. Fumento is a virtual poster child for what right-wing institutions can foster: Prior to joining Hudson, he’s had stints at the American Enterprise Institute and the Competitive Enterprise Institute. He was legal writer at the Unification Church-owned Washington Times and science writer at Reason magazine. Prior to that, he was a staffer with the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights under Reagan. In an op-ed in the Washington Times (6/8/99), Fumento was happy to proclaim that the Centers […]