Make "Killer" SUVs "Kindler & Gentler;" Gore Charity Shortchanged
1) CBS and NBC skipped
the scandals but CNN and ABC highlighted Bush's letter. Only FNC
mentioned Jim Guy Tucker or McCurry's dodging. ABC looked at the upside
of Microsoft's dominance.
2) A report suggested making
cars heavier and safer but ABC and CBS preferred to focus on
"deadly," "killer," "destructive,"
"dangerous" and "monster crushing" SUVs. CBS urged
development of a George Bush edition: a "kindler, gentler" SUV.
3) Media feeding frenzy over
the Gore's paltry charitable giving? Hardly. It has yet to generate a
story on ABC or CBS.
4) Peter Jennings asked
whether the U.S. "might have done more to stop" Pol Pot's
genocide, but a study found that the mass murder got less than one minute
a year on ABC while it was happening.
the CBS Evening News or NBC Nightly News touched on any Clinton scandal
Tuesday night, but CNN's The World Today devoted a full story to the
maneuvering over Secret Service testimony and how George Bush urged they
not be made to tell what they saw. ABC's Peter Jennings took a few
seconds to explain that Justice Department papers filed in a court motion
"included a letter from former President George Bush warning that if
Secret Service officials are compelled to testify Presidents would feel
uncomfortable having them nearby."
On FNC's 7pm ET Fox Report David Shuster
uniquely noted that Jim Guy Tucker testified again before the Little Rock
grand jury about Hillary and Castle Grande, how David Hale failed in his
effort to get the Supreme Court to block his state prosecution though he
was assured of immunity for cooperating with the federal probe, and how on
the Secret Service matter White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry
"dodged questions asking if those agency decisions are being made by
(A month ago, Peter Jennings recalled on
the April 21 World News Tonight, ABC took "A Closer Look" at
Microsoft and "whether consumers should be afraid of Bill
Gates." Last night ABC devoted it's A Closer Look segment to:
"Should we be grateful to Microsoft?" ABC explored the
advantages of a single system, such as lower software prices allowed by
standardization. But ABC also caught up with the other network and ran
video from Monday of Windows 98 crashing on Bill Gates during a demo.)
networks have discovered something more dangerous than Ken Starr: SUVs.
Both ABC and CBS Tuesday night showcased the "deadly,"
"killer," "destructive," and "dangerous"
sport utility vehicles.
A front page story in the April 21 USA
Today reported that National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
officials had concluded that making SUVs smaller "would lead to more
deaths in those vehicles." But instead of drawing the obvious
conclusion that the answer to reducing deaths in cars hit by SUVs is to
make cars heavier so they are safer, ABC and CBS last night treated that
as a wacky view and concentrated on how to make SUVs less dangerous since
the public insists on buying the "killer" machines. Both stories
were prompted by a meeting in DC among safety experts to discuss the SUV
versus car problem. (Since I can't highlight is an ASCII e-mail message
I've put in ALL CAPS the loaded terms used by the networks.)
Peter Jennings opened the April 21 World
"Good evening. Tonight we begin at
the crossroads of physics and safety and government responsibility. In
Washington today government is grappling with what to do about the
THREAT that sport utility vehicles represent to lesser vehicles in
accidents. It's an obvious concern now. Sport utility vehicles have
become the latest driver's passion and because they are bigger and
heavier they have the potential to do UNUSUAL DAMAGE."
John Cochran began: "The government is
having difficulty coming to grips with the DANGER from sport utility
vehicles, partly because they make the people in them feel safer."
After a soundbite of a woman praising their
safety, Cochran continued: "So what to do about evidence that SUVs
are DANGEROUS to smaller passenger cars? One suggestion is that the
government require SUVs be made lighter and less DESTRUCTIVE, but that
would also mean less protection for those inside and a lot of Americans
like their SUVS just as they are: big."
Cochran showed another soundbite from a
woman and then noted that the NHTSA report suggested making cars bigger, a
notion that pleased a spokesman for the Coalition for Vehicle Choice.
Then Cochran moved to the other side,
giving anti-SUV arguments more time: "But environmentalists and the
Clinton Administration want smaller, fuel efficient cars, not bigger
Clarence Ditlow, Center for Auto Safety:
"We don't want to go back to the land cruisers and gas guzzlers of
the 1960s that weighed 5,000 pounds."
Cochran's piece concluded by putting the
burden on SUVs: "So if it is environmentally incorrect to make
heavier cars and if it is unfair to SUV buyers to make them lighter,
what's the solution? Mercedes has come up with one: lowering its SUV
bumpers so they are below window height of cars. Mercedes and others have
also worked on making front ends more flexible, less rigid so they are
less DEADLY to others. That's all well and good, but SUV dealers don't
seem to mind horror stories. As one dealer said, there's nothing better
for sales than a fresh story about a MONSTER SUV CRUSHING a defenseless
Over on the CBS Evening News, immediately
after a story on the Justice-Microsoft battle, Dan Rather intoned:
"There were high-level talks today
about knocking a very different giant down to size: the sport utility
vehicle. SUVs. Extremely popular with some but considered a KILLER on
the road to others..."
Reporter Sharyl Attkisson opened with a SUV
dealer who said they sell themselves. Attkisson distressingly noted:
"Ironically, he says, buyers are attracted by all the recent research
showing sport utility vehicles can be KILLERS ON THE ROAD."
Explaining how auto engineers are meeting
to lessen deaths in cars hit by SUVs, Attkisson also put the burden on the
"Some safety experts say it's no
big mystery how to make a kindler, gentler SUV. They point to the new
Mercedes, which is lighter, lower to the ground and absorbs more of the
force in a crash than other sport utility vehicles. But other major
automakers who make up to $14,000 on every SUV are loath to tinker with
the success of their big boys. SUV proponents even suggest the problem
is the car, not the truck."
In discrediting this idea as one only
someone with a profit motive would advocate Attkisson didn't bother to
note that's what the NHTSA concluded.
Ron DeFore of the Coalition for Vehicle
Choice asserted: "If we are to do anything at all, the greatest
safety gain would be by allowing cars to get larger."
Attkisson concluded: "With all the
debate over how to make sport utility vehicles safer, consumers are
sending a loud message: the bigger the better. And the newest models
coming off the assembly lines are bigger than ever."
AEI's Irwin Stelzer proposed another way
of looking at the problem. In a March 16 Weekly Standard piece critical of
an earlier NHTSA study characterizing SUVs, called LTV's by the feds, as
"'fundamentally incompatible with cars in highway crashes'
because they 'are heavier, of more rugged construction, and have higher
ground clearance than the passenger cars with which they share the
road,'" Stelzer offered another "equally accurate way of
stating the problem." Stelzer suggested: "The study might be
entitled 'The Vulnerability of Small Cars in Traffic Crashes.' These
'vulnerable' cars, it might be said, 'are lighter, of flimsier
construction, and have lower ground clearance' than LTVs, and are
therefore 'fundamentally incompatible with the larger, safer vehicles
with which they share the road.'"
Seltzer reported that while in crashes in
1996 between LTVs and cars "81 percent, or 4,260 fatalities, occurred
in the cars," that "doesn't make LTVs the villains of the
piece." That's because "fatal crashes between two cars caused
4,013 deaths, while LTV-LTV crashes resulted in far fewer fatalities:
only a matter of time. Soon on some panel shown by C-SPAN someone who
doesn't actually watch television news will complain about the
"media frenzy" over Al and Tipper Gore's paltry charitable
giving. While it did generate some comment on the little-watched weekend
talk and interview shows, the Gore's giving has not garnered widespread
attention on the network morning and evening news shows.
Here are the facts gathered from my
observation and the ongoing analysis of the MRC's Geoffrey Dickens, Gene
Eliasen, Clay Waters and Eric Darbe:
-- Through Tuesday night, only three
stories have appeared on CNN, the broadcast network weekday morning shows
or broadcast network evening shows on any day. NBC's Today aired a piece
on April 16. On Friday, April 17 both the NBC Nightly News and CNN's The
World Today featured stories on how the Gore's donated just $353 in all
-- That means two of the three broadcast
networks have yet to do a story on the subject, specifically, not one
syllable yet on ABC's World News Tonight on any night or weekday
editions of Good Morning America nor anything on the CBS Evening News or
CBS's This Morning.
Thursday night (April 16) after a World News Tonight story on the death of
Pol Pot and the genocide he directed in Cambodia, Peter Jennings
ruminated: "There will always be a debate about whether the United
States might have done more to stop it."
That reminded me of a study which proved
the television networks, especially ABC, didn't treat the ongoing murder
as an important issue for Americans to know about while it was happening
in the late 1970s. The MRC's 1990 book titled And That's the Way It
Isn't: A Reference Guide to Media Bias reprinted an excerpt from
"The Unnewsworthy Holocaust: TV News and Terror in Cambodia," a
study by William C. Adams and Michael Joblove which originally appeared in
a book titled Television Coverage of International Affairs.
Below are the overview and key findings as
presented in And That's the Way It Isn't. -- Brent Baker
reign of terror by the Marxist Khmer Rouge from April 1975 to January 1979
in Cambodia was as brutal as that of any in history. Up to three million
Cambodians died of starvation, torture or execution. But despite what
George Washington University professor William Adams and research
associate Michael Joblove called "the barbarism and the magnitude of
the tragedy," major media outlets in the U.S. paid little attention
to the tragic events.
To find out what
the American public was told about the despotic reign of Pol Pot, Adams
and Joblove, with the help of the Vanderbilt News Archive, studied ABC,
CBS, and NBC weeknight news coverage from April 1975 through December
1978. They limited their focus to reports about "Cambodian refugees,
genocide, general Khmer Rouge policies, and the reconstruction of
society." They excluded reports about border clashes with neighbors,
simple civil war occurrences, and the Mayaguez incident. Their statistics
show that Americans who watched network news never saw the carnage and
chaos that consumed Cambodia during those four years.
about the 'new society' and death in Cambodia were so sporadic that even
the most constant viewers could not be expected to grasp the gravity of
the Cambodian crisis." Over the four-year period of the Khmer Rouge
rule, the three networks devoted less than sixty minutes on weeknights to
the human rights situation in Cambodia. That averaged out to less than
thirty seconds per month per network.
discussion of genocide was heard on ABC for less than one minute and on
CBS and NBC less than four minutes each during the four-year period.
-- To show what
little mention there was of death in Cambodia, the authors compared the
coverage to time given the Jonestown murders and suicides. In the first
week alone, three hours of network news detailed the cult deaths, although
the death toll was at least a thousand times less than in Cambodia.
-- Adams and
Joblove dismissed the old network line that without pictures there is no
story: "Poignant and striking footage was available without end in
refugee camps all across eastern Thailand....The fact that television
ignored the upheaval in Cambodia simply cannot be attributed to a dull
story with poor pictures."
-- The authors
blamed the print media as well. "Television caricatures the front
page of the prestige press" and "assignment editors rely heavily
on The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the wire services to set
the network agenda." So it was no surprise when the networks didn't
"veer far from the pack" and "provide extensive coverage of
a topic given little attention in print." Until mid-1978, little
print space was given the events in Cambodia. Only when it picked up did
television follow. -- Brent Baker
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