Mar
01
1990

Unreliable Sources: Slick Coverage of the Exxon Valdez Spill

In the aftermath of Exxon's 11-million-gallon oil in March 1989, U.S. news media described an Alaskan coast with countless dead animals, decimated plant life, and a massive black blanket covering nearly 1,100 miles of shoreline. But within a few months, a different story gained currency, as reports out of Prince William Sound took on a friendly and forgiving tone. National media began to focus on the damage not done by Exxon's blunder, heralding Big Oil's efforts to preserve Alaska's environment. Out of the jaws of catastrophe, Exxon snatched a news spin increasingly to its liking. During one week in September […]

Mar
01
1989

U.S. Media on a Terrorist Tirade

No sooner was it established that Pan Am Flight 103 had been destroyed by a bomb than the U.S. media went into its predictable ritual. Journalists prepared President Reagan and President-elect Bush with all the usual questions: How can we bring terrorists to justice? Will we retaliate against any country harboring those responsible for bombing passenger planes? Reagan and Bush responded with the expected tough-sounding rhetoric, Reagan: "We're going to make every effort to find out who was guilty of this savage thing and bring them to justice." Bush pledged to "seek hard and punish firmly, decisively, those who did […]

Aug
01
1987

Media Put Reagan Spin on Arias Plan

The signing of the Central America peace accord in Guatemala City set off a U.S. media reaction that showed once again the extent to which White House assumptions are shared by the national press corps. While some reporters have questioned whether President Reagan sincerely supports the Arias plan, virtually all mainstream media accept the administration's contention that its goal is to bring about "a democratic outcome in Nicaragua." Over the years journalists have at times challenged the tactics of the contra policy (mining harbors, assassination manuals, lying to Congress), but they never doubt its objective: to promote "democracy." It is […]