Sep
01
1992

Not Much To Learn From Television News

Publisher's Note

There's an old grade-school joke that about homework that went something like this: The more you study, the more you know. The more you know, the more you forget. The more you forget, the less you know. So why study? Substitute "watch TV news" for study, and it still sounds like a joke, but it's not: The more you watch, the less you know. That about sums up the findings of a survey of pre-election knowledge in the U.S. of various domestic and foreign policy issues. Conducted by Justin Lewis and a team of researchers at the University of Massachusetts […]

Sep
01
1992

Developers Have a Friend at Newsday

Newsday's reputation as a promoter of de­velopment on Long Island, N.Y., is be­ing reinforced by publisher Robert M. Johnson—to the discomfort of many of the daily's reporters and other Long Island media. Johnson was the principal speaker at an April 7 meeting of top Long Island developers, leaders of business groups and construction unions, who were strategizing on how to over­come a court decision halting construction in the pine bar­rens of eastern Long Island. The environmentally sensitive barrens are considered crucial in protecting the island's under­ground water supply. Johnson, according to a source at the meeting at the Huntington Hilton, […]

Sep
01
1992

The Great Abortion 'Compromise'

If there is one image that has come to epitomize the abortion debate, it is pro-choice and anti-abortion demonstra­tors shouting at each other, brandishing placards. Main­stream media specializes in "extremists of both ends" cov­erage, bemoaning the "angry rhetoric" of both sides. The search for "compro­mise" has long been a staple of abortion reporting, and in recent months, with the Sup­reme Court's decision on the fate of Roe v. Wade imminent, the media seemed to have stepped up their efforts. In February and March, several outlets ran positive profiles of the "common-ground move­ment," founded in St. Louis to promote dialogue between […]

Sep
01
1992

Women Candidates in '92 Election Coverage

The year 1988, the press reported, would be a breakthrough year for women in politics. But in the end, only two additional women were elected to the House of Representatives, none to the Senate. In 1990, we were again told we were seeing the "Year of the Woman." But although 70 women won major party nominations that year, the numbers in Congress did not change. This time, the experts say, they're serious: 1992 is really and truly the "Year of the Woman" in American politics. The repeated recourse to the "Year of the Woman" tag is some indication of the […]

Sep
01
1992

Clinton's Willie Horton?

Bill Clinton's remarks about rapper Sister Souljah were part of a clear, if some what peculiar, political strategy: identify those voting blocs most likely to support you, and alienate them. This strategy was outlined in a David Broder/Thomas Edsall Washington Post piece (6/12/92) just before the Rainbow Coalition conference: “Some top advisers to Clinton argue that...he must become involved in highly publicized confrontations with one or more Democratic constituencies.” According to the Post, key aides wanted Clinton to “confront [Jackson] and his followers." Regardless of what one thinks of Sister Souljah, Clinton's focus on her was clearly one of those […]

Sep
01
1992

Hunger in Africa -- A Story Still Untold

Question: When does a drought that threatens millions of human lives become news that fits the front page of the New York Times? Answer: When animals die. That's the rule New York Times editors apparently followed in the week of July 5-12, 1992, when they published five substantial stories in eight days on countries ravaged by drought and hunger in east and southern Africa. Times editors seem determined to re-prove the point Extra! made a year ago (cover story, 7-8/91): that the U.S. press gives "more attention to thelives of animals -- featuring safari stories on elephants, rhinos and other […]

Sep
01
1992

The Anti-Democratic Convention

Corporations, the real "special interests," get little play

It was fashionable to bemoan the networks' lack of gavel-to-gavel coverage of the Democratic conventions. ABC's Peter Jennings (Washington Post, 7/12/92) said it was "a little sad" that the networks were passing up "a chance to present the democratic process in the purest sense." Of course, modern stage-managed conventions are anything but a democratic process--and the media bear a lot of the blame. Anything that resembles democracy--a debate over a contested issue, a resolution that isn't pre-approved--is denounced as "mischief" from "special interests." There was to be none of that this year: "Certainly the portents are brighter than they were […]

Sep
01
1992

Don't Forget the Hype

Media, Drugs, and Public Opinion

Solid lines: number of stories per month in New York Times index on drug abuse, addiction, and traffickingDiamonds, dashed lines: percentage of U.S. public saying drugs are "the most important problem facing this country today"Circles, dotted lines: percentage of high school seniors who say they have used any illicit drugs in the past 12 months The New York Times/CBS News poll records two periods during the last decade when public concern about drugs suddenly skyrocketed. In spring 1986, when the media "discovered" crack, the percentage of the public identifying" drugs" as "the No. 1 problem facing the nation" climbed from […]