Aug 10 2007

Aziz Huq on Protect America Act, Laura MacCleery on White House for Sale


Download MP3 This week on CounterSpin: Congress caved in on a White House push to expand its surveillance powers under the out-Orwelling-Orwell “Protect America Act.” Some major newspapers wrote blistering editorials against the Act, but the news pages and TV coverage often made the dispute nearly impossible to follow. Aziz Huq of NYU’s Brennan Center will join us to try and explain what happened. Also on the show: Hillary Clinton says she will take money from lobbyists, Obama and Edwards say they won’t—but everyone’s getting money from somewhere, and tracking it is Journalism 101 in an election year, or should […]

Jun 29 2007

USA Today’s ‘Sicko’ Debate

Is Michael Moore wrong...or very wrong?

On June 28, USA Today‘s editorial page offered a “debate” on Michael Moore’s new film Sicko. But the paper “balanced” its own take critical of Moore with a piece written by a representative of the private health insurance industry. Under the title “Today’s Debate: Healthcare,” readers saw the paper’s view under the headline “Flawed ‘Sicko’ Sparks Debate.” The paper wrote that Sicko “plays on emotions with anecdotes, stories and facts that aren’t always in context, up-to-date or accurate. So it has to be taken for what it is: a provocateur’s exposé of the worst of the American system, coupled with […]

Feb 1 2007

NYT Pushing Drug Company Line

The “Plan D” Medicare drug benefit came with so much confusion about deadlines, costs and gaps in coverage that one critical article (Nation, 1/30/06) was headlined “Plan D From Outer Space.” Perhaps critics’ biggest question: Why is the government forbidden to negotiate with the drug industry for lower prices? That idea makes so much sense that drug companies have been mounting a major effort to derail it, especially now that it’s been taken up by some congressional Democrats. A January 7 New York Times article—“Democrats’ Drug Plan Has Pitfalls, Critics Say,” by Robert Pear—seemed to be one success of this […]

Oct 4 2006

Study Finds Lack of Balance, Diversity, Public at PBS NewsHour

Public TV's flagship news program offers standard corporate fare

(NOTE: Please see the Activism Update regarding this alert.) The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, PBS‘s flagship news program, touts its “signature style—low-key, evenhanded, inclusive of all perspectives”; Corporation for Public Broadcasting ombud Ken Bode called it “the mother ship of balance.” But a new FAIR study finds that the NewsHour fails to provide either balance or diversity of perspectives—or a true public-minded alternative to its corporate competition. To evaluate the NewsHour‘s evenhandedness and commitment to the public interest, Extra! studied its guestlist during the six-month period spanning October 2005 through March 2006. Among the most prominent findings: Public interest groups […]

Oct 1 2006

Are You on the NewsHour’s Guestlist?

PBS flagship news show fails public mission

In 2005, Kenneth Tomlinson, chair of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting—and thus the person in charge of disbursing federal public broadcasting funds—sparked controversy with his aggressive push to move PBS and NPR to the right. In a series of public statements, Tomlinson, armed with a dubious study of PBS shows he commissioned from a right-wing ideologue, charged public broadcasting programming with harboring a liberal bias (Extra!, 9-10/05). The study—which, among other things, classified conservative Republicans Sen. Chuck Hagel and former Rep. Bob Barr as “liberals” (Washington Post, 7/1/05)—was primarily an attack on the program Now, formerly hosted by Bill Moyers, […]

Oct 1 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 […]

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 […]

Mar 1 2006

Sidebar: Strictly Personal

[Note: this piece is a sidebar to “Fear & Favor 2005—FAIR’s Sixth Annual Report.”] Sometimes the conflict of interest isn’t with advertisers or owners, but with reporters themselves. It isn’t that journalists aren’t allowed to have private lives. But readers and viewers do have to wonder, in some cases, whether someone with fewer entanglements couldn’t have been found to report certain stories—and in other cases, whether some folks are just plain overentangled. In describing the qualities you’d want in a reputable news reporter and anchor, “has taken money to promote powerful interests” would not be high on the list. But […]