May
01
2013

North Korea Rattles Sabers While U.S. Drops Fake Nukes

For reporters, 'threats' seem to come from one side

Stealth bombers pretended to drop nuclear bombs along North Korea's borders.

Seemingly out of nowhere, North Korea became the top news story at the beginning of April. Tensions between the United States and North Korea were on the rise after new supreme leader Kim Jong Un conducted several missile and weapons tests, beginning at the end of 2012. The threats, bluster and provocations that followed led to some rather alarming—and alarmist—coverage in the U.S., particularly on television. For most reporters, the threats were going in one direction. As ABC World News reporter Martha Raddatz put it (3/31/13): “The threats have been coming almost every day, and each day become more menacing, […]

Apr
01
2013

In Death as in Life, Chavez Target of Media Scorn

His independence, help for Venezuela's poor will not be forgiven

Venezuela’s left-wing populist President Hugo Chávez died on Tuesday, March 5, after a two-year battle with cancer. If world leaders were judged by the sheer volume of corporate media vitriol and misinformation about their policies, Chávez would be in a class of his own. Shortly after Chávez won his first election in 1998, the U.S. government deemed him a threat to U.S. interests—an image U.S. media eagerly played up. When a coup engineered by Venezuelan business and media elites removed Chávez from power, many leading U.S outlets praised the move (Extra!, 6/02). The New York Times (4/13/02), calling it a […]

Apr
01
2013

Keeping the Government's Secrets

Official/press collusion to keep public uninformed

Secrets and censorship, a redacted CIA document--Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Withholding important news over supposed national security concerns is nothing new. And in many cases, no official request is even needed—the decision-makers seem to have internalized the notion that keeping the government’s secrets is part of their job.

Apr
01
2013

It's Only the Future of the Planet

Keystone coverage treats climate change as at best a side issue

Tar Sands--Photo Credit: Jiri Rezac/Greenpeace

Issues like oil spills, land use rights, groundwater pollution etc. are all complaints made by critics of the Keystone XL pipeline. And looming over all of them is the way that tapping the tar sands will exacerbate climate change. But the media doesn't seem to care.

Feb
01
2013

FAIR REPORT: 13th Annual Fear & Favor Review

Revealing the hidden influence behind the news

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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 […]

Feb
01
2013

A Familiar Script on Syrian WMDs

Official claims once more treated as facts

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Anonymous government sources speaking to the New York Times, along with intelligence based on satellite imagery, tell a frightening story: The brutal leader of an unfriendly Arab country is preparing to unleash chemical weapons. Sound familiar? There are significant differences between the allegations about Syria’s WMDs today and Iraq’s nonexistent weapons in 2003. But the similarities are notable for what they reveal—not about U.S. foreign policy plans, but about the corporate media’s ability to churn out a stream of alarmist coverage based on the thinnest of evidence. Now, as then, the New York Times drove the initial storyline. On December […]

Dec
01
2012

Democracy & Double Standards

U.S. coverage of Venezuelan and Georgian elections

"President Mikheil Saakashvili at a rally on Friday in Tbilisi. Parliamentary elections are Monday"

Amnesty International (10/1/12) describes it as a nation where ruling party officials have “abused public institutions and administrative re-sources to restrict the freedom of assembly, expression and association of opposition supporters,” many of whom have been “fined, fired, harassed or detained.” Free speech advocates condemned its president for shuttering an opposition TV station for alleged complicity in a coup plot, right before its 2008 elections. The region’s leading election monitor found those elections plagued by violence, intimidation and ballot box-stuffing. Its president has been criticized for changing the law to sidestep term limits and remain in power. Venezuela? No—U.S. ally […]

Oct
01
2012

Greatly Diminished Expectations

Foreign policy differences no longer seem ‘profound’

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons/Cristian Ramirez

“Hyperbole is the currency of presidential campaigns, but this year the nation’s future truly hangs in the balance,” warned the New York Times editorial board in October 2008 (10/23/08). In endorsing presidential candidate Barack Obama over John McCain, the Times stressed that the differences between the two candidates were “profound.” On issues related to the Constitution and the rule of law, the Times editorial decried Bush-era transgressions, like “the power to imprison men without charges,” the executive branch’s “unfettered authority to spy on Americans” and the creation of “secret prisons” around the world where torture was outsourced. Although the newspaper […]