Oct 1 2012

Economy Is the Issue That Isn’t

Misidentifying problems, marginalizing solutions

If there’s one thing the media seem certain about this election season, it’s that the choice between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney will come down to one thing: the economy.The “rhetorical debate question” from Ronald Reagan’s debate with Jimmy Carter, USA Today (8/21/12) reported on its front page , “has become an iconic one for voters. Are you better off than you were four years ago?” The paper cited polls showing that 55 percent of Americans say they are not. Considering that, you’d expect that the summer would have seen a barrage of stories on the state of the economy, on the trials […]

Oct 1 2012

Skepticism Essential in Syria Reporting

Real atrocities, dubious sources

Syria's Flag--Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons/Freedom House

As I.F. Stone taught us, all governments are liars, and the Syrian government is a particularly good example, refusing to acknowledge the legitimacy of a homegrown opposition and denying the overwhelming evidence (CBS News, 2/4/12) that it has shelled civilian neighborhoods (Human Rights Watch, 2/9/12).By nearly all accounts, the Syrian government is responsible for a lion’s share of the killing in that nation’s civil war. It has also been accused of purposely killing journalists (Reporters Without Borders, 5/7/12). Because the Syrian government allows journalists almost no independent access, and perhaps in part because of the pro-opposition sympathies of much of […]

Oct 1 2012

Actual Suppression vs. Imaginary Fraud

Media won't ID voter ID myths

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons/Madison Guy

As usual, comedian Jon Stewart explained reality on a fake news show better than most “real” news outlets. On the August 16 broadcast of Comedy Central’s Daily Show, Stewart imagined a world where peanut butter was treated with “huge amounts of hydrochloric acid to dissolve any potential dragon bones.” Sure, people die from the acid–but the dragon bone problem is solved once and for all. That absurd metaphor was used to illustrate the wave of “voter ID” laws in states like Pennsylvania–where, as Stewart put it, the possible disenfranchisement of over 700,000 legal Pennsylvania voters is “the price you pay to prevent something that doesn’t […]

Oct 1 2012


Extra! October 2012 Volume 25, Number 10

Deep Throat Not What He Used to Be The Washington Post’s Dan Balz (8/14/12) somehow convinced a “senior Romney advisor” to reveal a stunning secret that could only be disclosed “on the condition of anonymity”—that Mitt Romney felt good about his vice presidential pick: “He was very confident in himself, in Paul Ryan, in the campaign and in the direction of the campaign he wanted to take.” Believe it or not, the Post’s Felicia Sonmez (8/17/12) topped this scoop by talking to “a senior Republican adviser”—no doubt in a deserted parking garage—who admitted anonymously that Ryan likes Romney too: “He […]

Oct 1 2012

The Year of the Woman?

Olympics coverage undercuts event advances

2012 Olympics Women's 200m Individual Medley--Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons/RS Deakin

When Chinese swimmer Ye Shiwen won gold medals in the 200- and 400-meter individual medleys in London, she knocked a second off the world record, and five seconds off her personal best. But rather than applaud and admire her accomplishments, the media threw doubt and suspicion on Shiwen’s wins, leveling evidence-free accusations of drug use (New York Times, 7/31/12). The media coverage rang with sexism and racism; how could a Chinese woman pull this off? CNN (8/1/12) was incredulous that Shiwen swam faster than a (white) man—American gold medalist Ryan Lochte. The UK’s Daily Mail explicitly questioned Shiwen’s gender (7/30/12): […]

Oct 1 2012

Greatly Diminished Expectations

Foreign policy differences no longer seem ‘profound’

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons/Cristian Ramirez

“Hyperbole is the currency of presidential campaigns, but this year the nation’s future truly hangs in the balance,” warned the New York Times editorial board in October 2008 (10/23/08). In endorsing presidential candidate Barack Obama over John McCain, the Times stressed that the differences between the two candidates were “profound.” On issues related to the Constitution and the rule of law, the Times editorial decried Bush-era transgressions, like “the power to imprison men without charges,” the executive branch’s “unfettered authority to spy on Americans” and the creation of “secret prisons” around the world where torture was outsourced. Although the newspaper […]

Oct 1 2012

Guide to Election Coverage 2012

Tropes, tricks and tics of campaign journalism

Every four years, U.S. media spend untold time and energy covering the presidential campaign. And every election cycle there are certain media themes that keep coming back. Extra! has compiled a guide to the most popular recurring tropes, as well as some new additions to keep an eye on in 2012. Candidate Caricatures In 2008, journalists gave us McCain the maverick vs. Obama the snob (Extra!, 5–6/08, 7–8/08): easily digestible caricatures that the candidates’ every action could be forced into. It didn’t matter that McCain toed the party line more than your average Republican, or that Obama’s middle-class, community activist […]