Sep 1 2001

When a Media Mogul Runs the State

U.S. press unconcerned about fascist ties of Italy's Berlusconi

It’s no great wonder that much of the Italian media did not report critically on the electoral campaign of multi-billionaire Silvio Berlusconi. After all, he owns Italy’s three main private TV networks and other major media outlets. But what excuse does the U.S. press have for its flaccid coverage of Berlusconi, Italy’s richest man, who is now prime minister of that country’s 59th government since World War II? U.S. journalists repeatedly refer to the Italian TV tycoon as a “self-made” success story. George Will called the Italian TV tycoon a “gaudy self-creation” (Newsweek, 5/21/01) and a Scripps Howard editorial (5/15/01) […]

Sep 1 2001

Will British Libel Laws Rule Cyberspace?

Bush-backing mining co. muzzle's reporter's website

British libel law is called that, you’d think, because it applies in Britain. When it comes to libel, the U.K. is about the most plain­tiff-friendly country in the world. British citizens enjoy no guaranteed freedom to write, to speak, let alone to publish. It’s a free speech-free zone. But U.S. citizens escaped all that when they hammered out the First Amendment, right? It may be time to think again. A Canadian firm has managed to use British law to shut down part of a U.S.-based website. The suit, which pit­ted Barrick Gold and Goldstrike Mines against Guardian Newspapers UK, was […]

Sep 1 2001

Scandal? What Scandal?

Bush's Iran-Contra appointees are barely a story

Elliott Abrams (cc photo: Gage Skidmore)

News stories about George W. Bush’s appointment of numerous Iran-Contra veterans to key posts have largely relied on past reporting and he-said, she-said soundbites rather than in-depth investigations into their complicity in one of the bloodiest scandals of the past 20 years.

Sep 1 2001

Controversy, Not Credibility

A study of 'gay change' with the results media were looking for

Thousands of scientific studies are conducted every year, but only a fraction of these ever see newsprint. Even fewer dominate the news cycle for weeks, transform researchers into culture war commentators and move the public debate. At the American Psychiatric Association’s annual meeting on May 9, two unpublished, non-peer-reviewed studies offered opposing reports about the effectiveness and potential safety risks of “reparative therapy” to “convert” lesbians and gay men to heterosexuality, a practice long-denounced as unethical and futile by the APA and most mental health professionals. For one presentation, titled “200 Subjects Who Claim to Have Changed Their Sexual Orientation […]

Sep 1 2001

The New Crack

Which will it be--pot or Ecstasy?

In two remarkably similar front-page pieces earlier this year, both USA Today and the New York Times went in search of the new crack. In a May 19 article headlined “Violent Crimes Undercut Marijuana’s Mellow Image,” the Times nominated marijuana to be the next drug to be associated in the public mind with scary street crime; USA Today’s May 16 lead story, on the other hand, was “Ecstasy Drug Trade Turns Violent: The Rave Culture’s ‘Peace and Love’ Pill Bloodies the Suburbs as Dealers Battle for Turf and Profits.” Both stories started by linking the crack trade to their new […]

Sep 1 2001

What’s _Not_ Talked About on Sunday Morning?

Issues of corporate power are not on the agenda

On June 28, 1995, FBI agents swarmed the headquarters of Archer Daniels Midland, “Supermarket to the World,” in Decatur, Illinois. So began the sensational unraveling of the biggest price-fixing scandal ever, involving a secret FBI informant, a suicide attempt, top ADM officials being sentenced to prison and the largest criminal anti-trust fine in history. Throughout 1995 and 1996, the ADM scandal was repeatedly front-page news for major papers across the country. “The drama at Archer Daniels Midland, already a high-stakes tale of money and power, informants and intrigue, betrayal and corruption, keeps getting more lurid,” wrote Ronald Henkoff in Fortune […]

Sep 1 2001

Their Man in Washington

Big media have an ally in new FCC chair Michael Powell

When a regulator’s appointment is hosannaed by the corporations he is supposed to be regulating, the public should be concerned. When the person charged with defending the public interest in telecommunications acknowledges that he has “no idea” (Columbia Journalism Review, 7-8/01) what the public interest is, telegraphs his willingness to eliminate virtually every remaining check on media concentration, and “jokes” that the digital divide is the misguided complaint of whining have-nots, we ought to be worried indeed. Such a man is Michael Powell, since January the chair of the Federal Communications Commission, the federal agency that regulates telecommunication. Powell’s salient […]