Sep 1 2002

Scuttling a Debate With Scandal

Harmful to Minors controversy a missed opportunity

Judith Levine is a Brooklyn-based journalist with a long history of writing about sexu­ality and gender. When her most recent book came out this year, she hoped, as all authors hope, that her work might provoke some useful debate. Harmful to Minors: The Perils of Protecting Children From Sex (Minnesota University Press) is a scholarly text, full of footnoted research into the history and con­temporary effect of U.S. laws and attitudes relating to sexuality. Age of consent laws, Levine notes, originat­ed to protect patriarchal property–a daughter’s virginity; ghastly things keep happening to kids whose sexu­al curiosity is cast as pathological; […]

Sep 1 2002

White Noise

Voices of color scarce on urban public radio

“[Public broadcasting] should provide a voice for groups in the community that may otherwise be unheard…[and] help us see America whole in all its diversity.”– 1967 Carnegie Commission Report, which served as the basis for the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967 An Extra! survey finds that the dominant voices on the leading public radio stations in seven U.S. urban markets are overwhelmingly white and predominantly male. The survey, which looked at the ethnicity and gender of the stations’ daytime hosts and news anchors, found that 73 out of 83 were non-Latino whites (88 percent). Fifty-seven of the daytime hosts and […]

Sep 1 2002

The Washington Post’s Gas Attack

Today's outrage was yesterday's no big deal

Victims of chemical weapons in Halabja (Sayeed Janbozorgi/

In the midst of the 1998 standoff over Iraqi weapons inspections, an almost frantic editorial ran in the Washington Post (8/28/98). Brimming with urgency, the editorialists declared that 22 days have now passed without United Nations inspections of Saddam Hussein’s weapons-making capabilities. That is 22 days during which he could work unimpeded to develop chemical, biological and nuclear arms. This is a dictator who has used chemical weapons, on his own people and on his enemies, and who would use them again. It wasn’t the first reminder from the Post that Iraq has used gas. From time to time the […]

Sep 1 2002

Hype in Health Reporting

"Checkbook science" buys distortion of medical news

You’ve heard of junk science–a term coined by corporations to describe research they don’t like–but the real danger to public health might be called “checkbook science”: research intended not to expand knowledge or to benefit humanity, but instead to sell products. Every day it seems there’s a story touting a “promising” new medical product or treatment. Unfortunately, many of those news stories are based on public relations spin machines going into overdrive on behalf of the company that sells the product–whether it’s a pharmaceutical company, a chain of diet clinics or a plastic surgery practice selling a new technique. Do […]