Oct 1 1996

Journalists as Gamblers

Tumbling dice (cc photo: Josh Kenzer)

Long Island (N.Y.) Newsday (8/2/96) ran an article about press coverage of Richard Jewell, whom news outlets widely named as a suspect in the Atlanta Olympic bombing despite the absence of any charges or publicly disclosed evidence. The piece included a quote from Jim Naughton, former managing editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer, who said: “If it turns out that this guy is totally innocent, then it will be another chink in the armor of the press, whose credibility will suffer.” But why should the credibility of the press depend on whether Jewell is innocent or not? Journalists are not psychics, […]

Oct 1 1996

Koppel Copped Out at Convention

Nightline‘s Ted Koppel left the Republican convention in San Diego early, complaining that no news was happening. It’s certainly true that little journalism was being practiced. “This convention is more of an infomercial than a news event,” Koppel pronounced (Nightline, 8/13/96), explaining his decision to go back to Washington after two days of on-site convention coverage. “Nothing surprising has happened; nothing surprising is anticipated.” Yes, the convention was choreographed and scripted, with any hint of a difference of opinion among the delegates carefully papered over. (Ironically, this homogeneity results in part from journalists’ eagerness to label any sign of democratic […]

Oct 1 1996

Terrorism ‘Experts’ Strike Again

Among the elite of media pundits are the “terrorism experts,” whose authoritative pronouncements are almost never challenged by the news outlets that rely on them. Many of them (including Richard Haass of Brookings and Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies) were featured in a Sept. 1, 1996 New York Times piece by Steven Erlanger–a good example of the illogic that “terrorism experts” can dispense. Here’s an excerpt: …Some suggest that America’s threat to retaliate lacks credibility. Richard Perle, a former assistant secretary of defense under President Reagan, finds it absurd that Washington merely demands that Libya […]

Oct 1 1996

Exposed: The Contra/Crack Connection

Gary Webb

The wave of crack addiction that crippled inner-city neighborhoods across the country in the ’80s had its roots in the CIA’s efforts to fund the secret Contra war against Nicaragua, according to an investigative report by the San Jose Mercury News‘ Gary Webb (8/18-20/96). The story of the year? Not according to the New York Times, which has so far ignored the Mercury News‘ well-documented revelations. The major TV networks gave it no coverage. A few dailies prominently reprinted Webb’s work (like the Seattle Times, 8/22/96), or ran an Associated Press account summarizing his findings (e.g., Chicago Tribune, 8/21/96). But […]