Feb 1 2013

FAIR REPORT: 13th Annual Fear & Favor Review

Revealing the hidden influence behind the news


It’s a fair indication of the current state of play in U.S. media that, in 2012, TV newscasts were acknowledged to be “increasingly seeded with corporate advertising masquerading as news” (Washington Post, 1/3/12)—and the regulatory response was to call, not for an end to the practice of deceiving audiences, but for broadcasters to make note of such arrangements in an online file. While we work on creating the sort of unfettered news media that democracy requires, calling out compromised reporting as we do each year in Fear & Favor is just another way to note where and why the current […]

Apr 1 2012

12th Annual Fear & Favor Review

Power and profit continue to twist the news

At a mandatory-attendance office party celebrating his first year as publisher, the Daytona Beach News Journal’s Michael Redding announced a new idea over marble cake and fruit: The paper’s newsroom staff, including reporters and editors, should also start selling advertising and subscriptions (Flagler Live, 3/31/11). Redding offered incentives to staffers who haven’t had a raise in four years: a $25 bonus for selling a three-month subscription, $50 for selling $100 worth of ads. This bold contempt for the idea that journalists should be insulated against the explicitly profit-motivated side of media is every day more prevalent. For every journalist who […]

May 1 2010

Fear & Favor 10th Annual Report

Hidden interference in the newsroom

By now, the structural deficiencies in a corporate media system heavily dependent on commercial advertising and controlled by sprawling conglomerates should be obvious. Dramatic reductions in advertising and subscription revenue in recent years mean news outlets are even less likely to push back against commercial intrusions in the functioning of the newsroom. Journalists trying to hold on to their jobs in a shrinking newsroom are less likely to speak up about interference from owners or other powerful interests. The examples of non-journalistic interference in the newsroom—which FAIR has been compiling for the past decade—are emblematic of a media system trying […]

Apr 1 2009

Speaking Up

Note: This article is a sidebar to “Fear & Favor 2008.” From time to time we get a peek behind the corporate media curtain, thanks to anecdotes shared by those in a position to know how the news business works. Some are remarkably candid, if lacking in specifics—as when former CBS anchor Dan Rather declared (New York Daily News, 2/27/08), “It is a fact that corporate overlords working in secret collusion with the powers in Washington are intruding far too often in far too many newsrooms.” More often the pressures are described as being subtle. Writing about NBC correspondent Richard […]

Mar 1 2009

Fear & Favor 2008

Financial woes accelerate corporate pressure in the newsroom

The broad downturn in the U.S. economy has hit the media industry especially hard, as corporate owners who gambled on debt-financed expansions have seen their business models head south on the back of shrinking subscription and advertising revenue. In any economic climate, there are pressures on working journalists, but the current problems in the industry seem likely to exacerbate those unfortunate trends. Services that obliterate the line between journalism and advertising might see a brighter future; as John Reinan reported in the online news site MinnPost (8/18/08), “The dark cloud over the traditional media business looks like a silver lining” […]

Mar 1 2008

Fear & Favor 2007

How power still shapes the news

U.S. journalists seeking to fulfill the profession’s traditional goal of telling the truth and “letting the chips fall where they may” have powerful forces to contend with, starting with the corporate owners who employ them, and the corporate advertisers who fuel the enterprise, both of whom have an investment in maintaining a political conversation and climate favorable to their profitability. There are also legislators who maintain the pro-corporate policy media owners rely on to thrive, local political players with axes to grind, and well-funded PR campaigns from all corners. Each year these renew and refine their efforts to shape news […]

Mar 1 2007

Fear & Favor 2006 — The Seventh Annual Report

Encroachment without apology

“Fear and favor” describes the various pushes and pulls on journalists to use something other than journalistic values in producing the news. The intense corporatization of media makes the precise contours of such compromise difficult to trace. Pressure to cut costs and please financially powerful players is, as it were, “in the air” in corporate America; who can say how far into the journalistic process such budgetary concerns intrude? Ad salespeople drumming up sponsors for an upcoming story in the Ft. Myers, Fla., News-Press will be accompanied on sales calls by the reporter, reports the Washington Post (12/4/06): “The logic: […]

Apr 1 2006

Fear & Favor 2005 — The Sixth Annual Report

Outside (and inside) influence on the news

In 1896, New York Times publisher Adolph Ochs laid out standards by which journalism is still judged today, declaring that his paper would “give the news, all the news . . . impartially, without fear or favor, regardless of party, sect or interest involved.” Unfortunately, mainstream media often fail to live up to that goal; demands from advertisers, government, media owners and other powerful people frequently manage to blur or breach the wall between the editorial and business ends of the newsroom. In survey after survey, journalists report that they feel outside—or inside—pressures to avoid, slant or promote certain stories […]