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Don’t Look to NYT  to ‘Litigate’ the Facts Margaret Sullivan, the new New York Times public editor (9/16/12), used the topic of “voter fraud” to illustrate the concept of “false balance”―when two sides are treated as equivalent even when one side has reality on its side. Despite Republican efforts to pass laws to prevent voting by the ineligible, research finds next to no examples of this problem―but coverage often treats the absence of fraudulent voting as a partisan assertion...
PlayStop pop out X Download MP3 This week on CounterSpin: This week marks the two-year anniversary of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Media will be checking in on the Gulf to mark the anniversary—but what will their reporting on this ongoing environmental catastrophe look like? We’ll talk to journalist Antonia Juhasz about her new report in the Nation, “Two Years Later: BP’s Toxic Legacy.” Also on the show: Comments CNN contributor Hilary Rosen about Mitt Romney’s wife induced...
PlayStop pop out X Download MP3 This week on CounterSpin: Following a federal court ruling in Virginia finding the individual mandate provision of the 2010 healthcare act unconstitutional, there was some solid coverage of the Constitutional issues involved in a policy that will, if ultimately upheld, require every American to purchase private insurance. But what about coverage before the bill was passed? We’ll talk with the Colombia Journalism Review’s Trudy Lieberman about media coverage of the mandate, before and...
PlayStop pop out X Download MP3 This week on CounterSpin: Paid-for pundits. If you’ve ever wondered who the so-called experts pontificating on cable news channels really are, a new investigation published in the Nation magazine gives you some answers. Reporter Sebastian Jones will join us to talk about the secret corporate PR spinners and lobbyists who pose as pundits—without viewers knowing who they’re actually working for. Also on CounterSpin today: Did a local Nashville TV newscast, featuring anti-Muslim propaganda...

Network Nukes Boosters

On February 16, ABC World News and NBC Nightly News aired incomplete and unbalanced reports following Barack Obama’s announcement of $8 billion in new loan guarantees for a nuclear power plant in Georgia. ABC reporter Jake Tapper announced that “for years leading Democrats and liberals opposed nuclear energy. No new nukes was the cry. So some may have been surprised to hear President Obama say today, essentially, yes, new nukes.” But after that nod, nuclear opponents mostly disappeared from...
The Washington Post‘s publication of a “news” article written by an organization created to advance an ideological agenda is a troubling reminder of the declining ethical standards at one of the nation’s most influential newspapers. The article, headlined “Support Grows for Tackling Nation’s Debt” (12/31/09), was a product of the Fiscal Times, described in an accompanying note as “an independent digital news publication reporting on fiscal, budgetary, healthcare and international economics issues.” More accurately, it’s a propaganda outlet created...
Where has the investigative reporting been on the organizing behind attacks on healthcare reform at the “town halls” members of Congress have been holding? Wendell Potter sees private health insurance industry as involved in the situation—and he should know. Until last year, Potter was head of corporate communications at CIGNA, one of the nation’s largest for-profit health insurance companies. Before that, he headed communications at Humana, another huge for-profit health insurer. Potter started as a reporter for the Memphis...
Noticing that Democratic strategist Mark Penn “is the Wall Street Journal‘s ‘Microtrend’-spotting columnist” and “also CEO of PR giant Burson-Marsteller,” Gawker blogger Hamilton Nolan (8/26/09) posits that “only a scumbag would abuse the former to drum up business for the latter.” Alas, “Scumbag spotted!” is Nolan’s cry when writing that Penn’s latest (old, and none too insightful) “Microtrend” column is about “glamping“–glamorous camping. It ran last weekend. By Monday, according to an internal email obtained by Gawker, Burson was...
Longtime health insurance company bigwig and former holder of “the ultimate PR job,” Wendell Potter recently told PBS‘ Bill Moyers (Bill Moyers Journal, 7/10/09) how he had been “involved in the campaign by the industry to discredit Michael Moore and his film Sicko,” and now sees that “the industry is resorting to the same tactics they’ve used… back in the early ’90s, when they were leading the effort to kill the Clinton plan” for national healthcare reform. Potter told...
Two weeks after a New York Times story (4/20/08) revealed a Pentagon propaganda campaign that had been feeding talking points to TV military analysts, many of whom also had ties to military contractors, the cable and broadcast networks that employed these analysts have almost entirely failed to report this crucial news story. Fox has even continued to feature commentary by two Pentagon-affiliated ex-generals without disclosing their conflicts of interest. In the wake of the New York Times story and...
PlayStop pop out X Download MP3 This week on CounterSpin: An April 20th New York Times investigation reveals a secret Pentagon propaganda program providing military pundits with talking points to repeat in media– in some cases even when “they suspected the information was false or inflated.” But could the Pentagon pull off such a program without a willing media? We’ll talk to “War Made Easy” author and FAIR associate Norman Solomon. Also on CounterSpin today: Much of the media’s...

Pentagon Pundits

A lengthy April 20 New York Times investigation of the Pentagon’s program of feeding talking points to military pundits featured on TV newscasts raised disturbing questions about the media’s role as a conduit for Pentagon propaganda. According to the Times, the Pentagon recruited over 75 retired generals to act as “message force multipliers” in support of the Iraq War, receiving special Pentagon briefings and talking points that the analysts would often parrot on national television “even when they suspected...

Is Undercover Over?

This past February, the famed lobbying firm APCO was approached by a man named Kenneth Case. Case said he represented the Maldon Group, an obscure firm that wished to improve the public image of Turkmenistan, where it had some investments. It was nothing out of the ordinary — private firms often lobby on behalf of foreign countries, either because they think it will increase the value of their investments or because they are acting as a front for the...

Fear & Favor 2007

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...
PlayStop pop out X Download MP3 This week on CounterSpin: Reports that the surge in Iraq “is working” are commonplace, but they rarely confront the question, “Working for whom?” In his latest piece, “Reality Is Totally Different: Iraqis on ‘Success’ and ‘Progress’ in Their Country,” available at TomDispatch.com, independent journalist Dahr Jamail goes beyond the official Washington view and asks Iraqis how the surge is working for them. We’ll talk to Dahr Jamail. Also on the show: It was...
PlayStop pop out X Download MP3 This week on CounterSpin: the Census Bureau report on income and poverty came out last week, generating a fair amount of big media attention. This year, it seems, the news was good—or not so good. Depending on which outlet you saw and sometimes, how far into the story you read. We’ll help sort through what the numbers mean with Heather Boushey, senior economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research. Also on...
An August 15 NPR Morning Edition segment touted the benefits of nuclear power, suggesting it was gaining popularity with many environmentalists who once opposed it. The segment was an interview with Fortune magazine editor David Whitford, who has written a series of articles about the debate over nuclear power. The piece was introduced by NPR anchor John Ydstie, who asserted that “with fossil fuel carbon emissions in the environmental bull’s-eye, nuclear power is starting to shake off its bad...
PlayStop pop out X Download MP3 This week on CounterSpin: the political debate over the Iraq War is heating up in Washington again, as the White House attempts to shore up support for continuing the occupation and some Democrats are vowing to press harder to end the war. Absent from much of the media coverage, though, is an understanding of Iraqi politics. We’ll talk to journalist Robert Dreyfuss about the question the press isn’t asking about Iraq. Also on...
PlayStop pop out X Download MP3 This week on CounterSpin: Michael Moore’s new film SiCKO is premiering around the country, delivering a blunt message: the U.S. health care system is broken. But Moore doesn’t just want to fill movie theaters; he wants to spur a debate about health care policy—namely, getting rid of the private health care system in favor of a public, government-financed one. That’ll be a tough sell to the mainstream media; we’ll talk to Don McCanne...
[Note: This piece is a sidebar to Bono, I Presume?] Even when it’s not an entertainment celebrity that brings the cameras to Africa, nearly as many TV news Africa stories are about Americans or other Westerners “making a difference” in Africa. Whether it’s a high-profile figure like Bill Gates fighting malaria (ABC, 10/31/05), a 12-year-old American boy raising money for AIDS orphans in Africa (NBC, 12/8/06) or the wife and daughter of an NFL football coach missing his big...
PlayStop pop out X Download MP3 This week on CounterSpin: The growing media popularity of nuclear power as a solution to global warming and energy woes is not about the environment, says Diane Farsetta of the Center for Media and Democracy, but the result of a well-funded and stealthy corporate campaign to promote the flagging US nuclear energy industry. We’ll talk to her about her new report, “Moore Spin: Or, How Reporters Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Nuclear...

Media on Medicare

With the new Democratic Congress promising to let the Medicare prescription drug program negotiate lower prices from drug companies, those companies have gotten their friends in the media to find some reason—any reason—why this would be a bad idea. The Washington Post, happy to defend corporate profits, declared in the lead paragraph of a front-page November 26 article that Democrats were in danger of “wrecking a program that has proven cheaper and more popular than anyone imagined.” “Anyone” clearly...

Best of CounterSpin 2006

PlayStop pop out X Download MP3 On this special Best of CounterSpin, program we look back over some of what was news for the mainstream media in 2006—and some of what wasn’t news, but should’ve been. Our guests this year included a range of activists, researchers and journalists—all of whom had an angle on events that we thought worth hearing and, more often than not, one you weren’t hearing many other places. Whether the issue was medicare or immigration,...
PlayStop pop out X Download MP3 This week on CounterSpin: Four academic studies about the effects of media concentration on media content have been published by the Benton Foundation and the Social Science Research Council. Appropriately, the studies come as the FCC is holding hearings about consolidation and whether broadcast corporations should be able to have even more broadcast licenses. We’ll talk with Benton Foundation president and former FCC commissioner Gloria Tristani. Also on the show: Research earlier this...
PlayStop pop out X Download MP3 This week on CounterSpin: Veteran reporter Bob Woodward has spent much of the last two weeks on television touting his new book State of Denial, which faults the Bush White House for lying and incompetence over the Iraq War. But our guest faults Woodward for being late-to-the-party and says his new book is just an attempt to salvage his reputation. We’ll talk to Arianna Huffington of Huffingtonpost.com. Also on the show: It isn’t...
In addition to being a journalism professor (whose courses have included Politics of Media), I’m the host of a nationally aired TV program, Enviro Close-Up. My producer, Joan Flynn, and I get many e-mails proposing subjects and guests for the show—the overwhelming majority from conservative public relations companies promoting conservative guests. In terms of volume and intensity, there’s nothing comparable from the progressive world. Speaking of the politics of media, it’s a clear and daily demonstration to me of...

Applying the Knowledge

[Note: This piece is a sidebar to “The Power of Conservative Spinning.”] There was “a significant increase of understanding by conservatives on how to deal with media” with the rise of Ronald Reagan, explains Morton C. Blackwell, founder and president of the conservative Leadership Institute. “There was very little to distinguish Barry Goldwater from Ronald Reagan in terms of policy,” he said. But there “was an enormous difference in their approach to communications.” Blackwell, who prides himself on having...
PlayStop pop out X Download MP3 This week on CounterSpin: Do those who called the outing of covert CIA official Valerie Plame Wilson a scandal owe the White House an apology for suggesting it outed her as revenge against her husband Joe Wilson? In light of recent revelations about former State Department official Richard Armitage, some commentators seem to think so. We’ll be joined by journalist Robert Parry for the latest on the coverage of the Plame Wilson affair....

Cutting Wal-Mart a Break

An August 17 article about Democratic politicians criticizing the labor practices of Wal-Mart allowed some of the company’s PR to go unchallenged, while expressing concern that “some Democrats” were worried that the criticisms were going too far. After noting the critical comments by some high-profile Democrats, the Times reported: “Some Democrats expressed concern about the direction the party was heading, saying it could turn back efforts by such party leaders as former President Bill Clinton to erase the image...

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