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 […]

Nov
01
2007

Miseducation

The media and the Supreme Court on race and public education

The June 2007 Supreme Court decision sharply limiting the use of race in public school admissions was viewed with dismay by many educators, civil rights activists and others who support diversity in our nation’s public schools. As Ted Shaw, the director of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, explained, “In the context of segregated public schools in this country, our experience, almost without exception, is that segregation has always been a prelude to other forms of deprivation, educational and otherwise, for black [people]” (Black Enterprise, 9/07). While segregated public schools mean unequal resources and opportunities, education researchers and social […]

Nov
01
2007

Vietnam's Lessons?

The disastrous end to the Vietnam War served as a historical reference point for many pundits urging Democrats to forget pulling out of Iraq. But the history lesson was shaky. Presenting the congressional fight over war funding as indicative of “what will likely become post-Iraq politics in America,” ABC World News (4/26/07) reported that Republicans were standing tough with an unpopular White House, while Democrats were more or less following majority opinion against the war. This, the report noted, was a problem—for Democrats. “Democrats know they must be careful,” explained reporter Terry Moran. “The shadow of the Vietnam War looms […]

Nov
01
2007

Turning 'Won't' Into 'Can't'

In addition to explaining why the U.S. shouldn’t end the war in Iraq, corporate media frequently tell Democrats that they can’t end the war—citing the Republicans’ ability to filibuster in the Senate and George W. Bush’s power to veto any anti-war legislation (FAIR Media Advisory, 6/1/07, 9/13/07). “As long as [Bush] can keep most of the Republicans in the Senate, in the House with him, there’s no way to overturn the policy because of the way the Constitution reads,” Newsweek’s Howard Fineman told the Chris Matthews Show (NBC, 9/2/07). “I hate to keep coming back to the Constitution. Sixty votes […]

Nov
01
2007

No Way Out

Withdrawing from withdrawal from Iraq

Historians analyzing the phases of the Iraq War might find one period particularly striking. The midterm elections of 2006 removed the Republican Party's grip on Congress, and exit polls and political analysts agreed that the Iraq War was the principal cause for their defeat. And yet the public's dissatisfaction produced, oddly enough, an escalation of the war in Iraq. While much blamed can be pinned on compliant Democrats, the mainstream media played its role by reframing the discussion of the war to exclude the possibility of ending it by withdrawing U.S. forces. Whatever the White House might be able to […]

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 […]