Nov
01
2007

Terror Talk Crowds Out Thoughtful Discussion

Wiretapping Americans for foreign intelligence

A potential attack by Al-Qaeda, accompanied by red and orange shockwaves of terror, provided an urgent lead for Fox Special Report on July 26, 2007. The news? A claimed glitch in the program of electronic surveillance established for collecting foreign intelligence. The law needed an immediate "fix," host Brit Hume said. "The nation's intelligence chief urgently pleads with Congress to fix the laws which he says are roadblocks to listening in on two-way communications between foreign terror suspects overseas," said Hume. "And he points to the recent National Intelligence Estimate about al Qaeda's rebuilding as part of his argument." "Terrorists" […]

Nov
01
2007

Rudy Giuliani, Teflon Candidate

Scandals are non-stories for 'America's Mayor'

Does Republican presidential hopeful Rudolph Giuliani have some dirt on the press corps? How else to explain the free pass journalists have repeatedly granted him on stories that would threaten to sink less-favored candidates, particularly of the Democratic variety? (See sidebar.) If Ronald Reagan was the “Teflon president” to whom no bad news would stick, then Giuliani would seem to be the Teflon candidate. Consider Giuliani’s campaign in South Carolina, perhaps the most important primary in the GOP schedule, and the state on which Giuliani has pinned his hopes for the nomination. In June, Giuliani state campaign chair and South […]

Nov
01
2007

SoundBites

Demonstrators Not Our Kind On NBC Nightly News (9/15/07), reporter Patty Culhane dismissed the September 15 anti-war protests, saying, "Some say demonstrations like this will have little effect." "Some" turns out to be pollster Stuart Rothenberg, who said, "The kind of people who have impact are middle-class Americans, many of whom are inclined to support the president." Rothenberg doesn’t specify whether protesters have too much money to matter or not enough. But what polls is he reading that find "many" Americans of whatever economic class supporting Bush or his Iraq policy? We know that the middle class is shrinking, but […]

Nov
01
2007

Letters to the Editor

The DDT Debate The quality of the science in Aaron Swartz’s article on DDT (Extra!, 9-10/07) is exceptionally poor. It suggests a lack of understanding of the issue. The inaccuracies are numerous; in fact, virtually every statement is at best slanted. For instance, “there is no global ban on DDT” is at best deliberately misleading. It is banned in all U.S. programs, which means programs funded by the U.S., and until September 14, 2006, it was also banned in U.N. programs. In other words, virtually all programs that could possibly impact Third World malaria rates had to be done without […]

Nov
01
2007

Democrats, Double Standards and the 'Anti-Giuliani'

Imagine how the press corps would react if an important member of Hillary Clinton’s campaign team were indicted for selling crack. If the story were true, it would be bannered by major papers and network newscasts. If merely a rumor, it would likely begin life as a garish headline on, say, the Drudge Report before filtering up through cable news to major newspaper pages and network newscasts. That’s largely what happened in the 2004 campaign, when false rumors of a John Kerry affair made a minor media splash in February, and again with the Swift Boat Veterans fraud which dominated […]

Nov
01
2007

Journalists 'Humbled' but Unrepentant

Despite Iraq disaster, questioning authority still taboo

George W. Bush's success in manipulating information would not have been possible without the collaboration and/or incompetence of the major U.S. news media. However, that cozy relationship began to shift in spring 2006 as the bloody war in Iraq dragged on and the U.S. public grew restless over the steady rise in the death toll. Even some of the Iraq War's early cheerleaders, like Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen, admitted to second thoughts. "Those of us who once advocated this war are humbled," Cohen wrote (4/4/06). "It's not just that we grossly underestimated the enemy. We vastly overestimated the Bush […]

Nov
01
2007

Transforming Coverage

Transgender issues get greater respect—but anatomy remains destiny

Transgender is hardly a new concept, but until recently it’s been considered by the media to be a topic for tabloid talkshows, not serious news programs. The tide is turning, though; as more and more public figures are coming out as having a gender identity different from their birth-assigned sex, and transgender characters are finding their way into more mainstream entertainment media (on TV shows like All My Children and movies like Transamerica), transgender stories are likewise moving from Jerry Springer to CNN at a remarkable pace. As of this writing, the major network and cable news programs had nearly […]

Nov
01
2007

Enabling False Convictions

Exoneration coverage overlooks media role

"The science of DNA on Monday cleared the 200th person wrongfully convicted of a crime in the United States, a record that demands that the criminal justice system fix its serious flaws," editorialized the Philadelphia Inquirer (4/25/07), after Jerry Miller of Illinois became an American exoneration milestone. As milestones often do, Miller's exoneration gave the press an easy “news peg” to report on DNA testing and the troubled U.S. criminal justice system. And report they did. Most major news organizations filed at least one piece on Miller's exoneration, with some editorializing for significant reform and others raising specific questions about […]