Sep 1 1998

Marvin Kalb’s Unreliable Sources

A thirty-year veteran of network news at NBC and CBS, Marvin Kalb’s current position as Harvard’s leading press critic has made him one of the go-to guys when the question turns–as it often has this summer–to journalistic ethics. Whether appearing on PBS‘s NewsHour with Jim Lehrer or CNN‘s Reliable Sources (anchored by his brother Bernard), or opining in a Los Angeles Times op-ed in a somber tone, Kalb lays down the conventional wisdom when it comes to current news-media foibles. So last July, when CNN retracted its “Valley of Death” broadcast charging that U.S. special forces targeted U.S. defectors and […]

Sep 1 1998

Good and Bad Genocide

Double standards in coverage of Suharto and Pol Pot

Coverage of the fall of Suharto reveals with startling clarity the ideological biases and propaganda role of the mainstream media. Suharto was a ruthless dictator, a grand larcenist and a mass killer with as many victims as Cambodia’s Pol Pot. But he served U.S. economic and geopolitical interests, was helped into power by Washington, and his dictatorial rule was warmly supported for 32 years by the U.S. economic and political establishment. The U.S. was still training the most repressive elements of Indonesia’s security forces as Suharto’s rule was collapsing in 1998, and the Clinton administration had established especially close relations […]

Sep 1 1998

Media Blackface

'Racial Profiling' in News Reporting

Racial profiling–the discriminatory practice by police of treating blackness (or brownness) as an indication of possible criminality–has lately been the focus of frequent legal or legislative action, resulting in a significant amount of coverage in the mainstream news media (e.g. New York Times, 5/8/98, 5/10/98; Nightline, 5/31/98; Time, 6/15/98). The coverage of police racial profiling has been fairly accurate and balanced. Yet while the mainstream media continues to cover police racial profiling, they have generally failed to acknowledge their own practice of media racial profiling. And when it has, the result has been more cover-up than coverage. Issues in Blackface […]

Sep 1 1998

Heritage Clones in the Heartland

Local think tanks' "research" comes pre-digested

Conservative think tanks patterned after the highly successful Washington, D.C.-based American Enterprise Institute (1996 revenues: $16.5 million) and Heritage Foundation (1996 revenues: $28.7 million) opened up around the United States during the 1980s and early 1990s almost as quickly as Scholotzky’s Delis. Like Scholotzky’s, they have now reached saturation. Most states have one, some have several. For example, Colorado has the Center for the New West and the Independence Institute; Illinois has the Rockford Institute and the Heartland Institute; and New York has the Manhattan Institute and the Empire Foundation for Policy Research. Similar think tanks can be found in […]

Sep 1 1998

Road to Ruin

Sports Utility Vehicles and the Greening of Environmental Destruction

The Toyota 4 runner sits off-road in the middle of a fern-laden forest. The ad copy proclaims: THE ANSWERING MACHINE FOR THE CALL OF THE WILD From a rugged mountain vista to deep in the plush forest, nature calls out for us. And the 1997 Toyota 4-wheel drive is one of the only machines capable of answering that challenge. With a powerful 183-hp V6 engine and the highest ground clearance in its class, you’ll be able to handle almost anything nature may throw at you. And with 4Runner’s roomy interior and available leather seats, civilization is never really far away. […]

Sep 1 1998

The Myth of the ‘Crack Baby’

Despite Research, Media Won't Give Up Idea Of 'Bio-Underclass'

There have been numerous instances when media have seized on a supposed medical “phenomenon” and hyped it beyond recognition, distorting facts irresponsibly or simply getting them wrong. But few media fabrications have been as invidious, persistent or politically devastating as that of the so-called “crack baby.” Mid-1980s case studies suggested a possible link between women’s cocaine use during pregnancy and a range of damaging effects on babies. Already obsessed with the use of the cocaine derivative crack among the urban poor, mainstream media used these limited, qualified findings as grounds for an astonishing spree of sloppy, alarmist reporting and racial […]