Oct
01
2006

Are You on the NewsHour's Guestlist?

PBS flagship news show fails public mission

In 2005, Kenneth Tomlinson, chair of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting—and thus the person in charge of disbursing federal public broadcasting funds—sparked controversy with his aggressive push to move PBS and NPR to the right. In a series of public statements, Tomlinson, armed with a dubious study of PBS shows he commissioned from a right-wing ideologue, charged public broadcasting programming with harboring a liberal bias (Extra!, 9-10/05). The study—which, among other things, classified conservative Republicans Sen. Chuck Hagel and former Rep. Bob Barr as “liberals” (Washington Post, 7/1/05)—was primarily an attack on the program Now, formerly hosted by Bill Moyers, […]

Oct
01
2006

The Power of Conservative Spinning

How the right outguns the left in the PR wars

In addition to being a journalism professor (whose courses have included Politics of Media), I’m the host of a nationally aired TV program, Enviro Close-Up. My producer, Joan Flynn, and I get many e-mails proposing subjects and guests for the show—the overwhelming majority from conservative public relations companies promoting conservative guests. In terms of volume and intensity, there’s nothing comparable from the progressive world. Speaking of the politics of media, it’s a clear and daily demonstration to me of how the right, far more than the left, realizes the importance of communication. “Special Guests” The most active PR operation that […]

Oct
01
2006

Memory Unerased

Deep Dish documents the unseen Iraq War

In the days before the 2003 invasion of Iraq, as the U.S. military planned a massive aerial bombing campaign on the densely populated city of Baghdad, the Pentagon phrase “Shock and Awe” was repeated with enthusiasm on television, part of the celebration of the power of modern warfare. At the same time, Deep Dish TV was setting in motion a plan to record, illuminate, document and bear witness to what would be left out of the commercial media war frame. They would title the 13-part series of 28-minute programs Shocking and Awful, and the group of independent artists and media […]

Oct
01
2006

More Dangerous Than Anyone Thought

Driving data latest attack on ‘teen brains’

Earlier this year, I asked my undergraduate students at the University of California, Santa Cruz, to evaluate a barrage of news stories declaring that “teen drivers are more dangerous than anyone thought” (Paula Zahn Now, 1/18/06) in response to an American Automobile Association study warning that crashes involving 15- to 17-year-old drivers killed 31,000 people over the last decade. Within minutes, the students, ages 19-21, formulated three obvious questions reporters should have asked about the study: (1) Did the teen drivers “involved in” the crashes in the AAA study cause the crashes? (2) Why are teen drivers singled out, when […]

Oct
01
2006

Star Power Trumps History in AIDS Coverage

A love letter to the 'two Bills'

A number of activists at the 16th International AIDS Conference complained that the Toronto gathering foregrounded the rich and famous—most prominently Microsoft chair Bill Gates and former President Bill Clinton—at the expense of front-line workers and people living with AIDS (e.g., “Activists Blast Focus on Celebrity,” Calgary Herald, 8/17/06). “They can’t have it both ways,” responded Conference co-chair Mark Wainberg (AP Worldstream, 8/17/06). Advocates who want the increased public attention that comes with media coverage, Wainberg suggested, should know the deal. “They should understand, as we all do, that we would not have 3,000 journalists at this conference if not […]

Oct
01
2006

Lives in the Balance

Media 'vexed' by civilian deaths in Lebanon

On August 14, the New York Times addressed one of the significant worries for U.S. media outlets covering the Israeli bombing and invasion of Lebanon: Civilians in Lebanon were the primary victims, dying in far greater numbers than Israeli military personnel and civilians combined. (Amnesty International estimated that the fighting killed about 1,000 civilians in Lebanon and about 40 in Israel—8/23/06.) The problem for U.S. media was how to obscure that fact. As the Times put it, “Particularly vexing for many American news organizations is the struggle to determine how and in what proportion images of civilian dead and injured […]

Oct
01
2006

Applying the Knowledge

The Leadership Institute

[Note: This piece is a sidebar to "The Power of Conservative Spinning."] There was “a significant increase of understanding by conservatives on how to deal with media” with the rise of Ronald Reagan, explains Morton C. Blackwell, founder and president of the conservative Leadership Institute. “There was very little to distinguish Barry Goldwater from Ronald Reagan in terms of policy,” he said. But there “was an enormous difference in their approach to communications.” Blackwell, who prides himself on having been the youngest Goldwater delegate at the 1964 Republican National Convention, said that Goldwater “really enjoyed needling people who disagreed with […]

Oct
01
2006

Newsworthy and Unnewsworthy Deaths

[Note: This piece is a sidebar to "Lives in the Balance."] On August 8, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof wrote, “Arabs have often argued that Americans have a double standard in the Middle East: We are more solicitous of casualties in Israel than in Gaza or Lebanon. I think they’re right, for a variety of reasons.” Indeed, in the New York Times, some of the deadliest attacks in Lebanon were mentioned in passing, or filed under headlines that would seem to diminish their importance. On August 2, Human Rights Watch released a report that documented Israeli attacks on civilians. […]