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 […]

Sep
01
2006

Sidebar: Brooks and Shields

[Note: This piece is a sidebar to "Are You on the NewsHour’s Guestlist?"] The NewsHour features a weekly Friday debate which purports to pit a commentator from the right against one from the left. As a regular segment featuring NewsHour employees rather than outside sources, the segment was not included in the study, but it deserves mention, as it reinforces the NewsHour’s preference for right and center opinions over those from the left. Just as he praised the NewsHour for its supposed balance, CPB ombud Ken Bode (CPB.org, 9/1/05) has singled out the weekly debate as a notable part of […]

Sep
01
2006

Never Apologize

[Note: this piece is a sidebar to Star Power Trumps History in AIDS Coverage] A study published in August in the Journal of the American Medical Association (8/9/06) found that sub-Saharan Africans are better at following drug regimens than North Americans. The authors hoped the findings would lay to rest the myth that Africans are incapable of adhering to complicated antiretroviral drug treatment programs, which had been used as an excuse to restrict the region’s access to life-saving drugs. In a related story, the New York Times (8/14/06) reported, “Only a few years ago, there was widespread skepticism that AIDS […]

Sep
01
2006

SoundBites

No “Happy” Talk Asked at a press conference (8/21/06) if he was “frustrated” about the situation in Iraq, George W. Bush responded: “Frustrated? Sometimes I’m frustrated. Rarely surprised. Sometimes I’m happy. This is—but war is not a time of joy. These aren’t joyous times. These are challenging times, and they’re difficult times, and they’re straining the psyche of our country. I understand that.” Some outlets apparently found this reference to the president’s occasional happiness too jarring to be reported. The Washington Post (8/22/06), for example, had Bush saying, with no ellipses: “Sometimes I’m frustrated, rarely surprised. War is not a […]

Sep
01
2006

Letters to the Editor

Ageism and Katrina Neil deMause’s piece is excellent (“Katrina’s Vanishing Victims,” 7-8/06), especially in showing that the media’s memory for race and class lasted just about a month. But what of age? That is still the most underreported story of all. The “vast majority” of the people who died in New Orleans were old, Martin Smith reported on Frontline’s special on “The Storm” (11/22/06). Katrina was “one of the worst medical catastrophes for the aged in recent U.S. history,” reporter Roma Khanna concluded in the Houston Chronicle (1/28/05). As early as late November, the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals […]

Sep
01
2006

Live vs. Taped Sources

[Note: This piece is a sidebar to "Are You on the NewsHour’s Guestlist?"] When FAIR published its 1990 study, the NewsHour criticized it for not including taped sources; then-executive producer Lester Crystal argued (Broadcasting, 5/28/90) that taped segments “are a significant part of the program and have included much of the diversity [FAIR] refers to”—suggesting that including taped appearances would show the program to be more diverse than our study of the live segments indicated. It’s worth noting that taped sources are frequently short soundbites, whereas live sources often get an extended opportunity to make various points and develop an […]

Sep
01
2006

The Party Line on Plame Wilson

The naming of Richard Armitage as the first Bush administration official to out covert CIA officer Valerie Plame Wilson was treated by the Washington Post editorial page (9/1/06) as proof that there was nothing to the controversy after all. Armitage, according to the Post, only "reluctantly" supported the invasion of Iraq and was "a political rival" of the officials accused by Plame Wilson's wife, Joseph Wilson, of twisting intelligence about Iraq. Citing a Post news story (8/29/06), the editorial claimed that Armitage told columnist Robert Novak about the leak "in an offhand manner, virtually as gossip." Therefore, the Post concluded, […]