When Hurricane Katrina devastated poor communities in New Orleans two years ago today, the media pledged to pay attention to the plight of the poor. Can you guess how newsworthy the major TV networks thought poverty was the year Katrina hit, compared to, say, the legal ordeals of millionaire pop star Michael Jackson? Or which of the major three networks aired the most stories on poverty, and which ran the least? Click here to record your guess
Poverty or Pop Star: What's More Newsworthy?
Download MP3 This week on CounterSpin: the six coal miners buried in Crandall Canyon in Utah are presumed dead. With three additional miners killed in the rescue attempt, the question now is whether media will call the story a tragedy and move on, or track responsibility for the disaster, no matter how high it goes. We’ll speak with Arianna Huffington of the blog the Huffington Post about media’s record on the story so far. Also on the show: a potential new payola scandal involving talk radio hosts receiving perks from General Motors, including free use of cars, in exchange for […]
Download MP3 This week on CounterSpin: while media watchers and right-wing bloggers went on the attack over a New Republic columnist’s writings about the behavior of U.S. troops in Iraq, an exposé in the Nation magazine has gone relatively unnoticed. The magazine spoke to 50 combat vets about things they had seen—and done—in Iraq; we’ll speak to Laila al-Arian, co-author of the Nation report “The Other War: Iraq Vets Bear Witness.” Also on CounterSpin today: “I must have done ten stories in a day about Britney Spears shaving her head.” That’s just one of the complaints voiced by broadcast journalists […]
Covering Africa Through Celebrities
“Africa is sexy and people need to know that,” declared U2 singer Bono (New York Times, 3/5/07), promoting his new (RED) line of products that propose to save Africa one iPod at a time. Celebrity interest in Africa is not particularly new, but today more stars than ever seem to be converging upon the continent, with television crews seldom far behind. But, as Bono clearly understands, what media tend to find sexy about Africa is not Africa itself, but the stars like himself who have taken up causes in the region. In television news in particular, with its typically cursory […]
To NYT, ‘arms spending’ doesn't mean spending on arms
A report in the New York Times on Venezuela’s international arms purchases (“Venezuela Spending on Arms Soars to World’s Top Ranks,” 2/25/07) used selective information and an alarmist tone to suggest that Venezuela’s military spending was a potential threat to regional stability. Reporter Simon Romero’s story began: Venezuela’s arms spending has climbed to more than $4 billion in the past two years, transforming the nation into Latin America’s largest weapons buyer and placing it ahead of other major purchasers in international arms markets like Pakistan and Iran. By putting Venezuela in the company of Pakistan and Iran—whose military programs have […]
Host Glenn Beck threatens Muslims with concentration camps
The New York Times (12/4/06), profiling new CNN Headline News host Glenn Beck, called him “brash” and “opinionated,” with an “unfiltered approach.” The conservative talk-radio host-turned-cable news announcer, the paper reported, “take[s] credit for saying what others are feeling but are afraid to say.” The Times mentioned one of the things Beck has said recently, to newly elected U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), a Muslim: “Sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies.” But as press critic Eric Alterman pointed out (Altercation, 12/4/06), as offensive as that question is, it doesn’t begin to suggest the poisonousness […]
A love letter to the 'two Bills'
A number of activists at the 16th International AIDS Conference complained that the Toronto gathering foregrounded the rich and famous—most prominently Microsoft chair Bill Gates and former President Bill Clinton—at the expense of front-line workers and people living with AIDS (e.g., “Activists Blast Focus on Celebrity,” Calgary Herald, 8/17/06). “They can’t have it both ways,” responded Conference co-chair Mark Wainberg (AP Worldstream, 8/17/06). Advocates who want the increased public attention that comes with media coverage, Wainberg suggested, should know the deal. “They should understand, as we all do, that we would not have 3,000 journalists at this conference if not […]
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 […]