Dec
01
2001

When the Victims Are Far Away

A very different media response to Moscow bombings

Russian soldiers in Chechnya with downed helicopter. (photo: Mikhail Evstafiev)

It would be easy, and to some tempting, to say that it is America’s turn—that after years of American gloating over Islam’s attacks on Russia, that after the CIA’s goading of proxies like the Pakistanis to arm Islamic terrorists, that after the brutal destruction of Iraq in the war 10 years ago, it is well past time that America had her own Islamic extremist problem. It also might be true. This month’s attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon seem most of all the harvest of an American-sown whirlwind. Repellent words—no doubt written by some perverse leftist with a […]

Dec
01
2001

Anthrax Attacks: Journalists as Targets

Whoever sent the letters contaminated with anthrax spores seems to have a particular interest in media outlets—with NBC, ABC and CBS, the New York Times and New York Post being apparent targets, as well as the Sun supermarket tabloid in Florida, where the first case was identified. Beyond the horror of disease being used as a weapon, the apparent targeting of news personnel is a troubling sign of the erosion of the protected status of journalists—a protection that is vital to any credible flow of information during a crisis. The idea that journalists can be targets has been promoted not […]

Nov
01
2001

Patriotism & Censorship

Some journalists are silenced, while others seem happy to silence themselves

War fever in the wake of the September 11 attacks has led to a wave of self-censorship as well as government pressure on the media. With American flags adorning networks' on-screen logos, journalists are feeling rising pressure to exercise "patriotic" news judgment, while even mild criticism of the military, George W. Bush and U.S. foreign policy are coming to seem taboo. On September 17, Bill Maher, host of ABC’s Politically Incorrect, took issue with Bush's characterization of the hijackers as "cowards," saying that the label could more plausibly be applied to the U.S. military’s long-range cruise missile attacks than to […]

Nov
01
2001

Network of Insiders

TV news relies mainly on officials to discuss policy

The crisis of September 11 touched on issues from Middle Eastern politics to skyscraper architecture, Islamic theology to the threat of unconventional weapons. It was a story, in other words, that most ordinary Americans could not easily interpret without help. FAIR has conducted a study to find out which experts the three major television news outlets--NBC, ABC and CBS--sought out to help explain these and other issues in the days following the September 11 attacks. A total of 189 expert guests were invited by the networks to appear in on-camera interview segments during the period from September 12 to September […]

Nov
01
2001

Study of NPR's Coverage of Deaths in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

FAIR's study examined the January through June 2001 transcripts of NPR's four main news programs—Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition and Weekend All Things Considered—as found on the Nexis news database. To identify references to fatal Israeli and Palestinian attacks, FAIR searched for transcripts containing keywords such as death, died, killed, fatal, etc., as well as the words Israel, Israeli, Palestinian or Palestine. In examining transcripts containing these keywords, FAIR eliminated false positives (e.g., "the death of the Middle East peace process"), identifying only those scripts containing at least one report of a specific fatal attack against Israelis or […]

Nov
01
2001

Patriotic Shopping

Media define citizenship as consumerism

A number of pundits and politicians offered Americans a simple solution to the helplessness and anxiety they were feeling in the wake of the September 11 attacks: Go shopping! Vice President Dick Cheney (L.A. Times, 9/17/01) described it as a way for ordinary citizens to "stick their thumbs in the eye of the terrorists and say that they've got great confidence in the country." Some outlets broadcast such calls virtually unquestioned. "Americans need to go out and spend. That's the message," said NBC's Tom Brokaw (9/24/01), introducing a report from Anne Thompson that concluded, "American companies waving the red, white […]

Nov
01
2001

Covering the 'Fifth Column'

Media present pro-war distortions of peace movement's views

"These seem to be lonely days for the Birkenstock-and-beads set," reported Newsweek magazine (10/1/01). It's certainly true that anti-war activists, the apparent target of Newsweek's disdain, might have felt lonely--if they were counting on visits from mainstream news reporters. In place of consistent coverage of the peace movement, some pundits and columnists sounded the alarm about the threat to America from within. New Republic editor Peter Beinart (9/24/01) thought critics of administration plans should either keep quiet or explain their loyalties: "Domestic political dissent is immoral without a prior statement of national solidarity, a choosing of sides." New Republic columnist […]

Nov
01
2001

Even Fewer Voices?

During crisis, FCC moves to accelerate media concentration

Just two days after the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the FCC moved to eliminate some of the last remaining restraints on media concentration. With all eyes elsewhere, the FCC voted unanimously to "review" regulations that limit the percentage of the national audience that a single cable company can reach, and that prohibit the same company from owning both a newspaper and a TV station in the same broadcasting market. FCC chair Michael Powell has made no secret of his desire to abandon any substantive public interest restrictions on the growth and dominance of […]