CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
| August 18, 1997 (Vol. Two; No. 130) |
Public Couldn't Follow Hearings; Coverage Boosts Teamsters
the media's priorities, a new poll discovered that few have
heard anything about Clinton and fundraising and most did not
follow the hearings.
- Actor Mel
Gibson says he'll stop smoking in movies as soon as the
Clintons "stop telling fibs."
- A new MRC
study on the UPS strike found that the networks mis- reported
the part-time work dispute and ignored the pension issue.
couple of interesting findings in the latest monthly poll from the
Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. Released Friday,
the poll of 1,213 adults showed that lack of television focus on
the fundraising hearings is reflected in how much the public knows
and follows the subject.
"Can you recall anything you have heard about Bill
Clinton in the news?" just three percent said
"campaign finance," down from seven percent in the
February Pew survey. "Whitewater" also plummeted
from 18 percent in February to five percent this month. (To
put this in some perspective, 41 percent could not recall
hearing anything about Clinton in the news.)
the chicken and the egg question, the topics the networks most
focused upon were also the subjects most closely followed by
- "More than one in
five Americans (24%) followed Versace's death and the search for
suspect Andrew Cunanan very closely, and another 33% fairly
closely. Similarly, 22% followed news about the exploration of
Mars very closely and 36% fairly closely...
- "As the Senate
Governmental Affairs Committee began its first round of hears on
improper foreign campaign contributions, public interest in the
topic fell to its lowest point in eight months. Only one in ten
Americans followed the hearings closely, more than one third (35%)
paid almost no attention at all."
- A total of 72 percent
either "very closely" or "fairly closely"
followed the Iran-Contra hearings, Pew's September 1987 poll
determined. Of course, those hearings got a bit more attention
from the television networks.
- As any
regular CyberAlert reader knows, a recurring theme from the
pundits is that the public doesn't care about who did what in
fundraising, just that the hearings lead to "campaign
finance reform." Not so, Pew discovered. Asked "What
should Congress and Clinton focus on next?" 15 times as
many answered "education" as "campaign
finance." Here's the rundown:
Social Security: 29%
Race relations: 4%
Campaign finance: 2%
- To read the MRC's special
fax report study on lack of network attention to the hearings, go
to: http://www.mediaresearch.org Or, directly to: http://www.mediaresearch.org/archive/realitycheck/archive1997.asp
least one Hollywood star has realized that the Clintons are not
always truthful. A few weeks ago in her syndicated newspaper
column, First Lady Hillary Clinton criticized Julia Roberts for
smoking in her movie, My Best Friend's Wedding. Mrs. Clinton wrote
that the Roberts character "smokes when she's upset. She
smokes when she's tired. She smokes when she's happy. In fact she
seems to smoke throughout the movie....Movie stars who puff away
on the screen equate smoking with status, power, confidence, and
- MRC research associate
Kristina Sewell caught this reaction from actor Mel Gibson as
aired on the August 5 edition of the syndicated Access Hollywood
- "But you know so
what. I mean hey, haven't they got something else to worry about?
And you know okay, I'll stop smoking when they stop telling fibs
Network coverage of the UPS strike matched the spin of Teamster
head Ron Carey and liberals out to make part-time work the issue,
a new study from the MRC's Free Market Project discovered. While
the plight of small businesses got plenty of attention, the
networks ignored the pension issue as well as the fact that almost
half the part-timers at UPS are college students.
- You can contact study
author Tim Lamer, Director of the Free Market Project, at:
- From the upcoming August
issue of MediaNomics, the Issue Analysis:
Against United Parcel Service
Striking Out on UPS Coverage
- Not many business stories
get the amount of news coverage given to the Teamsters' union
strike against the United Parcel Service (UPS). Network reporters
could have seized this opportunity to go into depth about the
issues involved in the strike.
- Did they? Media Research
Center analysts reviewed every story about the strike on ABC's
World News Tonight, CBS Evening News, and NBC Nightly News between
August 3 and August 12. There were a total of 43 stories during
this study period. For the most part, reporters frittered away the
chance to look in-depth at the strike, rarely going below the
surface. For example, two of the main issues of the strike were
either misreported or ignored by almost all reporters:
- -- Part-time workers. The
networks made much of the plight of part-time workers at UPS.
Twelve of the 43 stories focused on the union complaint that UPS
relied too much on part-time help instead of full-time employees.
The Teamsters "want more full-time jobs and a limit on
subcontractors," reported NBC's Andrea McCarren on the August
3 Nightly News. "Part-timers now make up more than half of
the UPS work force." Several of these reports included
profiles of part-time workers who want to work full time.
- But no story during the
study period pointed out, as did the August 7 Investor's Business
Daily, that many people want to work only part time, such as those
"who have other commitments like kids to raise or a full load
of classes." Specifically, none pointed out, as IBD did, that
42 percent of UPS part-timers are college students.
- CBS Economics
Correspondent Ray Brady twice used the UPS strike as an
opportunity to rail against the economy in general for creating
too many part-time jobs. On the August 4 CBS Evening News, he
reported that "across America the number of part-time workers
is skyrocketing." Brady focused on workers who "have no
choice" but to work part time. Then, in an August 7 "Eye
on America" report, he saw "signs of a backlash"
against this trend. But as MSNBC Opinion Editor Phillip Harper
points out, "According to the Labor Department, a full 80
percent of [part-time workers] aren't interested in full-time
work. These are students, retirees and housewives who are quite
content to put in a few hours at a service provider like UPS and
then spend the rest of the day in some other pursuit." This
number didn't make it into network stories about part-time work.
- -- Pension benefits. Only
two network stories during the study period focused on the
company's desire to take over the workers' pension fund and the
union's resistance to this proposal. (One was by ABC's Jackie
Judd, the other was by Brady.)
- No World News Tonight
reporter even mentioned the word "pension" until Judd's
August 10 story, a week into the strike. Brady's story didn't air
until August 12. NBC Nightly News didn't air a full story about
the pension issue during the study period. For the first full week
of the strike, viewers didn't hear the argument that by funding
the Teamsters' pension operation, UPS is forced to subsidize the
pensions of non-UPS workers, many of whom work for far less
profitable competing companies.
- "As UPS has been
trying to explain to its Teamster employees," the August 7
Wall Street Journal editorialized, "the company could boost
their pension payments 50 percent if they didn't have to subsidize
the pensions of other Teamsters."
- This is not to say that
there weren't any informative network stories or that all of the
reporting was pro-Teamster and anti-UPS. Nineteen stories profiled
companies that relied on fast shipping and thus were being
crippled by the strike.
- NBC's Jim Avila, on the
August 5 Nightly News, used the strike to explain the emergence in
many businesses of "just-in-time inventory," and how
this efficient business practice depends on fast, reliable
shipping. And some reports mentioned that many workers wanted a
chance to vote on the UPS proposal, but weren't allowed to by
- But by neglecting some
important details about part-time workers and union-dominated
pensions, the networks missed an opportunity to tell viewers the
The networks finally picked
up on the pension issue over the weekend, but they gave the union a
free ride for almost two weeks.
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