Dec 1 2005

Media Lick the Hand That Feeds Them

Does Wal-Mart’s money buy more than ads?

In January 2005, readers across the country all saw the same thing in their morning paper: an ad for Wal-Mart. That in itself is no surprise—Wal-Mart is, after all, the largest corporation in the world—but this particular ad, which ran in more than a hundred papers, was different: it consisted of a rebuttal of arguments lodged by the retail behemoth’s critics. Subject to condemnation for business practices ranging from low pay and stingy healthcare benefits to exporting jobs and destroying small businesses, Wal-Mart is also the subject of litigation, including a class action discrimination suit representing 1.6 million current and […]

Dec 1 2005

Judgment Reserved to Judgment Reversed

Swift Boat, NARAL ads show media double standard

Advocacy organizations typically receive little time or space to express their opinions in mainstream media discussions, so it’s not surprising that they turn to political advertisements as an alternative means of getting their message out to the public. A paid publicity campaign may legitimize the activists’ efforts as a coverage-worthy “controversy” in the eyes of corporate media, so advocacy groups can sometimes parlay small ad buys into big news stories—particularly if their commercials make hard-hitting and dramatic charges. This process is ripe for exploitation, of course. Front groups launched to do dirty work for a candidate or political party can […]

Dec 1 2005

Sidebar: Superstore Censorship

[Note: this piece is a sidebar to Media Lick the Hand That Feeds Them] In media products no less than other retail items, Wal-Mart’s market share is considerable. By one estimate (Business Week, 10/6/03), its stores account for 15 to 20 percent of all CD, DVD and video sales, as well as 15 percent of all single-copy magazine sales. Those figures could be higher; one analyst put Wal-Mart’s share of total music sales in the U.S. at 35 percent (New York Times, 12/29/03). But there’s a price to be paid for getting shelf space at Wal-Mart, as the chain often […]

Dec 1 2005

Failing at Its ‘No. 1 Goal’

Lack of balance at C-SPAN’s Washington Journal

Since 1979, C-SPAN has provided an invaluable service to viewers with its no-frills coverage of congressional hearings, press briefings, demonstrations, book readings and other political events. By presenting public affairs with a minimal intrusion by hosts or reporters, C-SPAN has gained a reputation as a frictionless conveyer of raw political information to the public. In 2005, C-SPAN celebrated the 25th anniversary of the first-ever nationally televised viewer call-in shows, a format that it introduced in October 1980. By January 1995, it launched Washington Journal, a political talkshow that C-SPAN now describes as its “flagship viewer call-in program.” Airing seven mornings […]

Nov 20 2005

Letters to the Editor

Forget NPR, Save Public Radio I agree that NPR needs to get funding from other sources than the CPB. Today I listened to programs on my NPR station in Philly, WHYY-FM. The first show, Day to Day, in a discussion about the Harriet Miers nomination, had a guest from the National Review. I kept waiting for a progressive or liberal guest–it never happened. The next show, Talk of the Nation, presented a guest representing a conservative women’s org. Again, this was not balanced by anyone on the left. One commentator kept saying how W is missing a real opportunity to […]

Nov 1 2005

The Op-Ed Assassination of Hugo Chávez

Commentary on Venezuela parrots U.S. propaganda themes

After televangelist Pat Robertson publicly called for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez Frias (700 Club, 8/22/05), the editors of several major newspapers were quick to denounce his outrageous incitement to violence. However, in criticizing the conservative televangelist, the prestige press overlooked its own highly antagonistic treatment of Venezuela’s president, which surely contributed to the heated political climate in which Robertson made his threat. Even so-called “moderate” columnists have contributed to the deterioration of U.S.-Venezuela relations by distorting the Venezuelan government’s domestic and foreign policy record. Robertson may indeed be “just a garden-variety crackpot with friends in high places,” […]

Nov 1 2005


[Note: This piece is a sidebar to “Failing At Its No. 1 Goal.”] Although occasionally Washington Journal will have on two or more guests at one time, debates between guests are a rarity. In the first years of its decade-long run, however, the show hosted more such debates—and FAIR routinely criticized C-SPAN for the show’s habit of pitting right-wing guests against centrists or mainstream reporters. An April 26, 1996 letter to C-SPAN from FAIR’s Jeff Cohen explained the problem: It’s fine to pair an advocacy journalist of the left with a journalist of the right (e.g., Joe Conason vs. National […]

Nov 1 2005

‘Saying What They’ve Been Thinking’

Racial stereotypes in Katrina commentary

As columnist Dawn Turner Trice remarked (Chicago Tribune, 9/12/05), Hurricane Katrina “shed a light” on the often unspoken racist assumptions of many Americans. In particular, she noted, many of the elite have, through their comments about the tragedy, “unwittingly reveal[ed] themselves” and their fundamental prejudices. Of course, many pundits attacked the idea that racism had anything to do with Katrina at all. To suggest race affected the response to the hurricane, Reason magazine’s Cathy Young (Boston Globe, 9/12/05) charged, was “irresponsible.” Jeff Jacoby decried in the Boston Globe (9/14/05) the invocation after Katrina of the “America-as-lethally-racist theme” that “is as […]