During his now famous January 25
interview of Vice President George Bush, CBS Evening News
anchor Dan Rather crossed the line of tough and fair questioning by
assuming the role of a rude prosecutor pursuing his own agenda. Dropping
any pretense of objectivity, the opinionated anchorman declared at one
point: "You've made us hypocrites in the face of the world."
Outrage was swift, especially after
Rather abruptly ended the interview by interrupting the Vice President
in mid-sentence. Calls flooded CBS. Rather even angered CBS affiliates.
Paul Raymon, of WAGA in Atlanta spoke for many, calling the
confrontation "an embarrassment." Prominent media figures also
took Rather to task. As CNN political director Christine Dolan told USA
Today: "You don't ask the Vice President a question and not
give him a chance to answer...Rather looked like an aging journalist
having a mid-life crisis on national TV."
Even a CBS News colleague, Mike Wallace,
leveled criticism: "The style was wrong. Dan lost his cool."
The ultimate indictment, however, came from ABC's Sam Donaldson, a man
who symbolizes media arrogance, who stated: "Rather went too
far....I don't think we can get to a situation where we make -- on our
own authority -- accusations."
Bush claims Rather's sole focus on the
Iran-Contra affair took him by surprise. Indeed, in a letter to Bush,
CBS News politics producer Richard Cohen promised a "candidate
profile." But the "profile" aired before the interview
was actually just a lengthy re-hash of Bush's Iran policy involvement.
The next night Rather refused to
apologize, declaring "to be persistent about answers is part of a
reporter's job." His inability to comprehend the public outrage
over his obnoxious behavior just proves how far out of touch with his
viewers the $2.5 million a year anchorman really is. For the American
people, the exchange represented an abuse of power by a media elite that
considers itself more important than the second highest elected official
in the United States.
most recently Senior Adviser to the short-lived Joe Biden
presidential campaign, joins the CBS News team. Donilon told The
Washington Times that CBS producers "consult regularly"
with him "on a variety of political matters." One of the
first: Dan Rather asked Donilon's advice in preparing for the Bush
Donilon previously served as Deputy
Manager of the Mondale-Ferraro campaign in 1984 after
working as Chief of Staff on the '84 Mondale campaign
plane. In 1980 he was chief delegate counter for Carter-Mondale.
The January 18 Newsweek reported
that CBS "tried John Sasso," campaign manager for Dukakis
before the controversy over Sasso's role in Biden tape affair erupted,
and then settled on Donilon even "before Biden withdrew."
Some, Newsweek added, "say Dan Rather sees him as a
counter to NBC News VP Tim Russert, ex-aide to New
York's Mario Cuomo." Now that's
Donilon should feel comfortable working
with CBS News Political Editor Dotty Lynch.
She toiled as Deputy Pollster for the 1972 McGovern
campaign, a pollster for Ted Kennedy's 1980 effort and
Chief Pollster for Gary Hart in 1984 before providing
her services to the Mondale-Ferraro effort.
George Mair, named Chief
Press Officer to House Speaker Jim Wright in December.
But, after mid-January furor over tone of angry letters sent to editors
protesting what he considered unfair articles on the Speaker, Mair
resigned. In the 1960's Mair spent 10 years as a reporter for CBS News
and later wrote a column for the LA Times syndicate.
Information Director of the House Democratic Steering Committee
controlled by Wright, remains a spokesman for the
Speaker. Morris worked as a Washington Post reporter from 1972
A new book by Boston-based researcher S.
Steven Powell reveals the close relationship between a far-left
think-tank and some reporters for leading newspapers. In Covert
Cadre: Inside the Institute for Policy Studies, (Green Hill
Publishers) Powell uncovers numerous ties between the Institute
(IPS) and the media, including:
John Dinges, a part-time
assistant editor at The Washington Post, was simultaneously an IPS
Associate Fellow. In the early 1980's and late 1970's he regularly
contributed news articles from Central and South America. Dinges is now
a foreign desk editor for National Public Radio.
Sidney Blumenthal, a Post
"Style" writer, "served as the Boston correspondent for In
These Times, the socialist newspaper published by IPS" in the
Elizabeth Becker, a Post
reporter who covered Asia, left the paper in early 1980's to become a
visiting fellow at IPS.
Several Post reporters and
editors have taught courses or lectured at the IPS
policy seminar "Washington School," including:
"Outlook" section editor Robert Kaiser;
reporter Joanne Omang; and former senior foreign editor
and now London correspondent Karen DeYoung. During a
1980 class DeYoung told her students: "Most journalists now, most
Western journalists at least, are very eager to seek out guerrilla
groups, leftist groups, because you assume they must be the good
Brian Ross and Jim
Polk of NBC News taught courses on investigative journalism.
Fred Kaplan, defense
reporter for The Boston Globe authored "Dubious
Specter," a 1980 IPS published book that took a
skeptical look at the Soviet military build-up. MediaWatch
has learned that before joining the Globe, Kaplan worked as a
defense policy adviser to U.S. Rep. Les Aspin,
a Wisconsin Democrat.
Raymond Bonner, who
reported from El Salvador for The New York Times in the early
80's, left position as "Director of the Consumers Union, a
left-wing group founded by Ralph Nader" to join
One connection Powell missed: U.S.
News & World Report Associate Editor Robert Shapiro
was a 1972-73 fellow with IPS. Shapiro later became
Legislative Director for Senator Patrick Moynihan
(D-NY) before joining the news magazine in 1985.
Janet Cooke Award
Susan Spencer: CBS
As the number of homeless seems to
increase, their plight has become the latest media cause-celebre. On
January 24, the Sunday edition of the CBS Evening News devoted
three consecutive reports to exploring homelessness. The February Janet
Cooke Award goes to Susan Spencer, anchor and narrator of the first
piece, a look at the growing determination by the homeless "to
fight back." Unfortunately, instead of taking the opportunity to
explain the numerous causes of homelessness or to explore a variety of
different solutions that have been offered, Spencer's story looked at
the situation as defined by liberal politicians. Not once did she give
time to any competing views offered by more conservative experts.
First, she misleadingly claimed estimates
on the number of homeless "go as high as 3 million." In fact,
thorough studies in the past year conducted by the Dept. of Agriculture
and the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development place the actual number
at 250,000 to 350,000. After making the problem seem more massive than
it really is, Spencer focused on Philadelphia mayor Wilson Goode, who
said, "you can't cut affordable housing, you can't cut job training
programs and expect there to be anything other than homelessness."
Spencer failed to point out that just
last year Congress passed an emergency bill allocating over $350 million
dollars for homeless aid programs. Spencer had decided not to tell
viewers about people who see the government as more the problem than the
solution. As they point out, the homeless hype began during the same
years the number of federal housing units peaked, 1982-85. But she did
legitimize a specific policy pushed by militant homeless leaders,
telling viewers: "But even with more affordable housing, the
militants say that homelessness will not be solved without action on
another front: the minimum wage. It stands at three dollars and
thirty-five cents an hour, right where it stood since 1981, while
inflation has pushed prices up nearly 34 percent."
informed Rand Morrison, producer of the story, that the District of
Columbia's minimum wage ranges from $3.90 to $4.85 an hour depending on
job classification and yet still has a growing homeless population. He
refused to acknowledge it might have been proper for a news story to
give such counter arguments.
told him many experts believe rent control is a large cause of
homelessness, Morrison became confused, responding: "I don't
understand your point." So MediaWatch
explained that a study published in National Review last
September found low vacancy rates and almost no apartment construction
in cities with rent control, but just the opposite situation in cities
without it. Since basic supply and demand shows high demand for limited
housing drives up apartment costs beyond the means of poorer residents,
it's no surprise the study determined that "the presence of rent
control is associated with an increase in homelessness of 250
percent." But Morrison still failed to understand, saying "I'd
really have to think about it." When MediaWatch
expressed surprise he had not come across this widely held view of
conservative economists when researching his story, Morrison suddenly
decided: "I've really got to go."
Asked why "only one point of view
was aired," Spencer told MediaWatch:
"It was not a comprehensive look at the homeless problem."
"Do you have any plans to review other causes and solutions?"
Spencer: "Not at the moment."
Why not, given she only found time to air
the views of liberal activists? Spencer saw nothing wrong with that:
"It was a focused piece on militancy. Understand?" And then
she hung up. To air just one side of the story without once mentioning
or intending to ever broadcast the other is highly irresponsible and
shows viewers cannot rely on CBS News for even-handed coverage of
CBS: Contra Bashing System?
At least one CBS News employee is helping the network earn the label. In
a January American Spectator article, Insight magazine
reporter David Brock described his trip to Managua. While there he
talked to CBS News producer Lucy Spiegel who did not hesitate to tell
him: "Personally, I think the Contras are worthless."
Roeing for Abortion.
Friday, January 22 marked the fifteenth anniversary of Roe v. Wade,
the Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion on demand. That evening,
ABC's World News Tonight anchor Peter Jennings claimed,
"virtually every poll in the country finds at least a majority of
Americans in favor of a woman's right to choose abortion."
In fact, polls consistently prove the
opposite. A typical 1985 Gallup poll found only 22 percent of Americans
believe abortion should be legal under all circumstances, with 57
percent willing only to allow abortion in extreme circumstances, such as
when the mother's life is threatened. The rest want abortion completely
Sam Donaldson's story on the 50,000
pro-life demonstrators who marched that day failed to give any of them
airtime. Instead, he featured a "family planning" group
spokesman criticizing the "bad medical practice" of curtailing
federal funds for abortion clinics.
Reporter Ned Potter interviewed two women
who had abortions, one of whom now regrets her decision and told Potter:
"each person should treasure life." Still, he concluded with
this one-sided summary of the debate: "Abortion is one of those
issues on which many people will never agree, but from two women at
least there is the same message: let us make up our own minds."
Sensing Censorship? On
January 11, The Washington Times front page lead headline read:
"10,000 Jeer Sandinistas in Managua." The AP story by Bryna
Brennan told of the largest anti-government demonstration since the
Sandinistas came to power eight years ago. But The New York Times
buried the event in an article on page six. The Washington Post
mentioned it in the last sentence of an unrelated article on page 20.
What about coverage from ABC, CBS, CNN, or NBC? Absolutely nothing.
Three weeks later, on February 2, The
Washington Times reported news that reflected badly on the
Sandinistas. The Nicaraguan Association for Human Rights, funded and
set-up by the U.S. Congress to monitor Contra violations of human
rights, reported that there were over 1,000 documented incidents of
torture, murder, disappearances, and mutilations by the Sandinistas.
Once again, it went totally unreported by the major newspapers and
The Post Biased? No Way!
It's hard to imagine why anyone thinks The Washington Post is
biased against conservative policies. Just take a look at the January 10
Washington Post Magazine cover story on a Reagan Assistant
Attorney General. The highly objective and factual headline read:
"William Bradford Reynolds: Point Man for the Reagan
Administration's Assault on Civil Rights Enforcement."
Inside, the article which used quotes
from Reynold's ex-wife to demonstrate his insensitivity, carried the
headline, "In His Mind, But Not His Heart," followed by this
summation from writer Juan Williams about the man who dared defy liberal
wisdom: "For many people in this country, civil rights is the most
emotional issue of their lives," but for Reynolds, "it's an
interesting intellectual puzzle." And people say the Post
Dan, Dan, the Rock 'N' Roll Man.
First, Dan Rather signed-off the CBS Evening News by saying
"courage." Then he announced that "courage" and
"meadow" are his "favorite words." Now, he's been
heard repeating another meaningless phrase.
Working in a CBS sound truck, Rather had
the radio tuned to WNEW, an album-oriented, hard-rock station. He
overheard the disc-jockey complimenting his Bush interview performance.
So, he phoned the DJ. "We called to tell you we heard you and we
really appreciate it," Rather said before unveiling his new
sign-off: "Rock 'n' roll forever. Thanks a lot."
Defender. "The overall aim has been to tear down any
favorable image of the Sandinistas while making Americans feel
threatened by Nicaragua, an impoverished, under-developed nation of 3
million people that has been attacked repeatedly by U.S. troops over the
past century." That's how Newsweek national security
correspondent Robert Parry sees it. Parry's January 30 article in the
far-left Nation argued that given the U.S. "propaganda
apparatus hid the layer of lies told in the name of the Contra
cause," the media should have been "more skeptical when the
State Department unveiled a high-level Sandinista defector," Major
Roger Miranda. Parry complained about the media's "breathless
headlines" on Miranda's "stage-managed unveiling."
The long-time AP reporter, who joined Newsweek
last year, had an answer for all of Miranda's revelations. Parry
explained away Sandinista plans to double the size of its military
force, claiming the 600,000 man army will serve only a "defensive
purpose." As for plans to acquire Soviet MiG jets and anti-aircraft
weaponry, he thinks those offensive weapons are justified by U.S.
weapons supplied to Honduras and the Contras.
Raving for Ratner. In
late January, Margaret Ratner, a leader of the pro-Sandinista Center for
Constitutional Rights, released evidence she obtained from the U.S.
government exposing an early 1980's FBI investigation into the possible
criminal activities of left-wing groups, like the Committee in
Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES). For her effort, ABC
named Ratner its Person of the Week on January 29. Praising her, anchor
Peter Jennings declared: "There's no doubt in our mind that what
she and her colleagues accomplished is good for all Americans."
Contacted by MediaWatch,
Justice Dept. spokesman Pat Korten characterized the piece "as a
nauseating tribute to one of the most radical left-wing groups."
Korten added: "Jennings simply repeated a year-old story, not so
coincidentally just before a Contra aid vote." Indeed, Jennings
characterized the investigation as politically motivated by a
conservative administration against innocent left-wing groups. He never
addressed the reasons for the probe, the possible involvement of CISPES
in terrorist activities.
Had ABC viewers been told a few key
facts, they might have realized where the political advocacy really
lies. In 1984, CISPES officially declared one of their major goals to be
to "provide political and military support to the FMLN-FDR,"
the communist guerrillas in El Salvador. At the time of the FBI probe,
former informant Frank Varelli maintained that CISPES was involved in a
plot to assassinate President Reagan. One other interesting footnote.
Korten informed MediaWatch that the FBI
conducted a similar investigation of possible Neutrality Act violations
by Civilian Military Assistance and the U.S. Council for World Freedom,
two conservative groups. Somehow, ABC missed that.
Which Way Is It? On
December 28 NBC Nightly News and CBS Evening News
aired reports on the effect of the falling dollar. NBC's Mike Jensen
showed video of a Florida boat factory while telling viewers: "For
American manufacturers, who sell things like these boats overseas, the
declining dollar has helped." After a comment from a Wellcraft
Marine executive, Jensen continued:
"Most experts say the falling dollar
is helping this country more than it's hurting. That the higher price of
imported products is increasing the rate of competitiveness of American
manufacturers in overseas markets will help reduce the nation's
horrendous trade deficit."
On the same day CBS correspondent Ray
Brady brought his usual doom and gloom view to the topic:
"Now, some say, the plunging dollar
is creating a more serious problem. Of the total U.S. debt of $2.4
trillion dollars, hundreds of billions are owed to foreign investors,
most of them Japanese....If the foreigners sell off those holdings, the
U.S. would have to raise interest rates to attract more funds into this
country. But, that would also raise mortgage and other interest rates
here and possibly bring on that recession."
Economists can debate who is right, but
it just shows how reliable TV news really is when it comes to economic
Error Free News? A
recent study confirms what any regular television news viewer already
knows: the TV networks demonstrate little concern for correcting their
mistakes. Reported in the Dec. 5 TV Guide, the study conducted
by the News Study Group (NSG) at New York University found that when it
comes to retracting errors, "the policies of the big three
networks" fall "far short" of newspaper standards. Unlike
most major papers which set aside a spot everyday for corrections,
outside the very brief letters portion of shows like 60 Minutes,
the networks provide no regular time to clear up errors.
Sadly, the analysis found that "the
key to on-air corrections too often was whether anyone, inside or
outside the news organization, was willing to protest vigorously
enough." So most false stories never get corrected. One example
offered by the article is that on the January 30, 1987 CBS Evening
News, correspondent Ray Brady tried to illustrate the uncompetitive
state of the economy by asserting that wastepaper is the "number
one export sent out of this port [New York City] to foreign
nations." Brady picked up the charge from House Speaker Jim
Wright's Democratic response to the State of the Union address three
days earlier. The problem with this "fact" is that it is
false. Trash is the leading export only in weight, not by value, the
proper measure of trade. But now over a year later, CBS has yet to set
the record straight.
Most disturbing, NSG Director Edwin
Diamond discovered "the networks sometimes act as if the problem
exists solely in their critics' minds." He quotes ABC News
Vice-President for news policy Robert Seigenthaler as arrogantly
claiming: "We make very few errors and are requested to make very
TIME and TIME
Again. "Virtually everything about his country and its
place in world affairs seems less ponderous, less opaque than it did
before." With that statement, Time magazine chose Mikhail
Gorbachev as its Man of the Year for 1987. Time says the
recipient is based on who most influenced world affairs and is not an
endorsement of any person or policy. But Time clearly analyzed
Gorbachev and his communist regime positively, with only vague passing
references to a "one party dictatorship," human rights
violations, and an inflexible and aggressive foreign policy. Senior
writer George Church's cover story painted Gorbachev as a man committed
to reform and battling to change his system.
CNN's half hour special on the Man of the
Year took a far more skeptical look at Gorbachev, though Time
Managing Editor Henry Miller did describe Gorbachev's "impact"
on the Soviet Union as "remarkable." But CNN let viewers know
about some of the brutal realities of the Soviet system that Time
failed to mention. Co-host Mary Alice Williams referred to the
"nine year old war in Afghanistan, a failing fight for communist
Other lengthy segments focused on the
"long standing policy that restricts Jews from emigrating,"
brutal suppression of demonstrations, and stories on labor camps with
starvation rations and isolation cells. Too bad Time didn't
provide a similar balanced look at Soviet society under Gorbachev.
Cheerleading for a Recession.
A survey of how Big Media outlets have treated economic news recently
demonstrates that if the development can be twisted to show the U.S. is
headed for a recession, it's sure to be highlighted. But if its good
economic news, you'll be lucky to learn about it.
On December 30 the Commerce Department
announced that the leading economic indicators fell 1.7 percent in
November. That led the ABC, NBC and CBS newscasts. CBS Evening News
anchor Bob Schieffer told viewers "one private analyst said that
confirms, quote 'we are on our way into a recession.'" Ray Brady
then referred to "many experts" who he ominously warned,
"predict that what hit Wall Street could soon hit Main
Street." To drive home his point about what's coming for everybody,
Brady focused on a laid off financial document printer now working as a
When the Federal Reserve Board reported
factories operated at their highest capacity (82.1 percent) since 1980,
ABC, NBC and CNN PrimeNews ignored the January 19 news. Dan
Rather gave it a negative slant, saying "analysts expressed concern
over an apparent reluctance by U.S. industry to build new
factories." The New York Times put the item on page D2.
The next day the Commerce Dept. revealed that housing starts in December
registered the largest monthly decline in three years. The Times
made it the lead front page story. ABC and CNN considered it and
inflation news to be the top stories of the day.
On January 26, figures released showed
factory orders for durable goods recorded the biggest jump in 15 months.
All four networks overlooked the development and the Times
buried the news on page D11. The next day Rather called the announcement
of a 4.2 percent fourth quarter GNP rate "surprising," and
quickly added that "analysts said an inventory increase and the
drop in consumer spending could point to a recession." While The
Washington Times headline took a positive angle, "Stock Crash
Fails to Dent GNP," The Washington Post lead page one
headline could not have capsulized the prevailing media attitude any
better: "Economic Surge Raises Concerns."
Finishing up the month, Dan Rather
reported the Commerce Dept. said personal income rose "just 1.2
percent" in 1987. On CNN PrimeNews David French called the
increase "the worst performance since the 1982 recession" and
a new sign "the economy may be headed for a recession." With
an economy sensitive to consumer attitudes, if reporters keep seeing
economic news through a doom and gloom prism, a recession may become a
TIMES On A Roll for Out
of Control. Last year Peter Davis wrote "Where Is
Nicaragua?" a book that argued against supporting the Nicaraguan
Freedom Fighters. So, The New York Times Book Review found him
a natural choice to critique a diatribe by former CBS News producer
Leslie Cockburn that mocks the Contra cause. In her tome, "Out of
Control: The Story of the Reagan Administration's Secret War in
Nicaragua, the Illegal Arms Pipeline, and the Contra Drug
Connection," Cockburn charged that the "Contra war is a crude
and seedy operation that nonetheless wrecked lives, killed people, laid
The January 3 review by Davis called the
book an "excellent report," concluding: "If you can read
this book and still believe Oliver North, you can believe that the Met
will soon ask Dolly Parton to sing 'La Boheme.' And the buck, of course,
never stopped with Oliver North."
PBS and Sheen Blame America.
Narrated by liberal activist and actor Martin Sheen, the PBS documentary
"The Politics of Food" proposed to investigate the reasons for
hunger worldwide. But instead of taking a balanced look at the problem,
the show placed all the blame on America for supposedly preventing the
development of self-sufficient food production. The program targeted the
U.S. controlled and financed World Bank for encouraging only cash crops
like cotton, not staple foods such as rice and grain. Sheen blamed
Western capitalist policies for hunger in Africa, but not once did he
mention the role of failed Marxist economic policies in Ethiopia,
Mozambique, or Angola.
Why? The answer became obvious when
examining sources for the program. Representatives of the Institute for
Policy Studies (IPS) or those associated with the far-left think tank
appeared no less than ten times during the December 29th show. So it's
no wonder the "doctrinaire Stalinist" programs of
collectivization carried on by many African Marxist nations, as Time
described in its December 21 cover story on world famine, didn't get
condemned by Sheen.
Sam States His State of the Union.
The day before President Reagan delivered his State of the Union
address, ABC's Sam Donaldson, appearing on This Week with David
Brinkley, charged that Americans will "have to take it on the
chin" because of the "deficits that this President set in
place that are going to attack everyone." According to the White
House reporter, since 1981:
"The rich have gotten richer, the
poor have gotten poorer. And for the middle class, yes, they have more
money in their pockets, and they have jobs, the jobs they have
unfortunately are service industry jobs more and more, rather than smoke
stack industry jobs."
Maybe someday Donaldson will check the
facts before he spouts his ritual liberal economic gibberish. If he did,
he'd learn IRS figures show that because of the 1981-83 tax cuts, the
poor now pay less and the rich more in taxes each year. Refuting what
Donaldson implied, economics columnist Warren Brookes last year reported
on a 1987 Department of Labor study which concluded that 59 percent of
"all new jobs" created are high paying "managerial and
Kennedy Drowns Another Voice.
In late December, Sen. Ernest Hollings of South Carolina inserted, on
behalf of Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) a last minute provision into a huge
emergency appropriations bill that threatens the most basic right of
freedom of the press. His amendment bars the Federal Communications
Commission (FCC) from further extending waivers to allow one person to
own both a TV station and a newspaper in the same media market.
Kennedy's move was obviously aimed at
News America Corporation, owner of both a TV station and newspaper in
Boston and New York, and was a blatant attempt to force News America
Chairman Rupert Murdoch to sell both the New York Post and Boston
Herald, papers that are often critical of Kennedy's liberal views
and voting record. Since buying the Herald in 1982, Murdoch has
turned the money losing tabloid into a barely profitable operation, but
the Post still loses millions of dollars a year. Murdoch has
vowed to keep the Herald, but he cannot afford to lose his
flagship New York TV outlet. It's hard to imagine anyone assuming the Post's
continual losses, so Kennedy's provision will inevitably lead to the
death of a major daily newspaper. Kennedy's midnight maneuver outraged
many in Congress who did not learn of the move until much later. New
York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan called Kennedy's secret action
"clearly contrary to the spirit of the Constitution." New York
City Mayor Ed Koch, also a Democrat, was outraged, blasting Kennedy for
his "sneak attack on the First Amendment." Many in Congress
vowed to overturn the provision, but failed to do so in a losing 60-30
vote in the Senate on January 27.
is often critical of news media reporting, we just as firmly believe the
right of free speech in the U.S. must always be protected, regardless of
political viewpoint. There is nothing wrong with taking a critical look
at a newspaper's editorial policies, but there is something very
dangerous about letting politicians close down papers they don't like.
Sadly, most media outlets have let the
issue die, maybe because they have little regard for Murdoch's flashy
and politically conservative papers. Due to the threatening precedent
Kennedy could set, the Media Research Center, publisher of MediaWatch,
has sent letters to over 40 editors and top broadcast executives asking
them to sign the following petition and use it as the basis for an
"The Kennedy-Hollings amendment
barring the FCC from extending further cross-ownership waivers poses a
serious threat to the freedom of the press guaranteed newspapers and
other media outlets, and must be condemned. The provision is a blatant
attempt to punish a publisher critical of the Senator's political views.
I believe that freedom of speech is a basic right in our democracy which
must be protected, regardless of the political viewpoints
Freudian Slip? A January
18 Newsweek article on how Senator Kennedy pulled a fast one in
order to close down a Rupert Murdoch paper critical of him described
Murdoch's publications this way: "Murdoch runs a few dignified
papers, such as The Times of London, but specializes in the
sort of tabloids that offer lurid headlines, pinup photography and
Fear, Frustration and Whining.
Just before the Christmas holiday travel crush, NBC News took a look at
the state of passenger airline service eight years after deregulation.
At the end of the hour-long, prime-time December 22 special, "Fear,
Frustration and Flying," correspondent Lucky Severson asserted:
"An increasing number of Americans wonder if we haven't taken
deregulation too far." Yearning for a return to more federal
intrusion, Severson complained that "there is no government agency
that stands up for passengers, like the CAB, the Civil Aeronautics
Board, that was abolished three years ago."
According to Severson, "the real
losers have been the airline employees themselves," since
"it's been a time of turmoil, anger; they've lost benefits, jobs
and pay." Severson moaned about "what deregulation has cost
some rural areas," specifically, reduced access to large carriers
so that flights "often leave half full, because people don't like
flying on small planes."
Before launching his attack on
deregulation, it's too bad Severson didn't take time to read Gregg
Easterbrook's November 30 New Republic article, "The Myth
on an Airline Crisis." Easterbrook pointed out "that increased
demand for air travel has created 92,000 new airline jobs since
1978" and, "across the board airline wages have approximately
doubled since deregulation." As for small towns being hurt,
Easterbrook found "about 680 small towns had air service in 1978.
More than 800 have it today" as the number of rural passengers
carried yearly has more than doubled.
Campaign '88: CBS'
The TV networks, citing cost concerns,
are covering the 1988 presidential race differently than previous
campaigns. No longer are reporters assigned to follow each candidate.
Instead, a few correspondents are stationed in key states to cover all
the hopefuls as they pass through. Unable to cover every event, network
officials told The Washington Post in January that campaign
stories promise to become more "analytical" and
"interpretive," a development confirmed by a MediaWatch
Study of recent candidate profile stories.
As Richard Cohen, top political producer
for CBS News admitted in the same article, "I think we're going to
try and impose our agenda on the coverage by dealing with issues and
subjects that we choose to deal with instead of parroting the
candidates." (Cohen is the man who arranged the Rather-Bush
The study determined that CBS, the only
network so far to air a series of candidate profiles, is using them to
promote a decidedly liberal agenda. MediaWatch
analyzed "Campaign '88" presidential candidate profiles aired
by CBS Evening News and discovered the network went out of its
way to include criticisms of policies espoused by conservative
Republicans, but rarely ever mentioned anything negative about ideas
endorsed by liberal Democrats. Since the series skipped Dole and
Jackson, and the Bush profile focused exclusively on Iran/Contra,
announcement day stories for them were used instead.
researchers analyzed each story for positive, negative, and neutral/
factual statements, from the reporter, candidate, political analysts, or
people in crowds, in the following three areas: 1) Style. A candidate's
speaking ability, charisma, or character traits. 2) Policy. Anything
about the candidate's political stands. 3) The horserace, or "who's
ahead" feature of each story including not only polling data but
also comments about a candidate's strategy.
In the Policy category, CBS failed to air
even one positive statement about the political views of five of six
Republicans, but issued positive judgments on policies of all but one
Democrat, Michael Dukakis. Reporter Bruce Morton delivered three
uncritical, straightforward summaries of his ideas. Assessments followed
a similar pattern in the Style category. Covering the Republicans, CBS
issued nearly four times as many negative judgments as positive ones,
while the Democrats got praised more often than not. Even when analyzing
horserace positions CBS found more bad things than good to say about
five of the six Republicans, but came up with few reasons to believe a
Democrat might not win the nomination, issuing more upbeat than negative
comments on their chances.
Since horserace positions are constantly
changing, combining Policy and Style assessments gives the best measure
of the slant of each story. Doing that, every Democrat but Gore, who
promotes himself as a conservative on defense, received more positive
than negative comments. Every Republican but Dole, whom CBS portrayed as
an experienced Washington insider, received more negative than positive
Pete duPont ended up with the most
damaging profile with seven negative remarks on his conservative
policies. Reporter Bob Faw introduced duPont's three central campaign
themes: reduced farm subsidies, drug testing, and alternative Social
Security programs and then countered each suggestion with a negative
reaction from someone who claimed they would be hurt by the proposal. In
contrast, stories on liberals Paul Simon and Mike Dukakis did not
include any criticisms of their proposals to cut defense spending or
raise taxes "as a last resort."
Faw also took time to critique the
supposedly dull speeches of Jack Kemp, but Bruce Morton went out of his
way to portray Simon's "plainness" as an asset. In the most
dubious opinionated assertion by a reporter, Faw claimed Kemp's biggest
problem is his "message, he's conservative at a time when the polls
show the country is moving toward the center." No CBS reporter ever
blamed liberal policies for hurting any Democrat in a conservative state
like New Hampshire.
With four positive policy assessments and
just one negative comment on his campaign style, (he lacks
"razzle-dazzle"), Bruce Babbitt received the most glowing
profile. Infatuated with his plans to raise taxes, Faw repeatedly
praised Babbitt for "confronting issues which others fudge and
sometimes offering the political equivalent of castor oil," with a
platform of "common sense and sacrifice." The typical
double-standard occurred between Jesse Jackson and Pat Robertson. Lesley
Stahl's piece on Jackson ignored his religious background and dismissed
his past praise for Castro, claiming "Jackson has shed his radical
image." But in his piece on Robertson, Bruce Morton brought on a
"political analyst" to explain why Robertson's "mixing of
politics and religion" will hurt him.
Below is a sampling of how CBS analyzed
each candidate. The listing includes examples of how virtually every
report ended with an opinionated concluding spin, labeled (C).
"DuPont's ideas are new,
provocative, and not always what his listeners want to hear....duPont's
call for a private alternative to Social Security makes a lot of senior
(C): "He keeps raising his lance to
joust with the others, even though they're convinced all Pete duPont is
doing is tilting at windmills." -- Bob Faw, 12/1
"Is the only candidate to say how he
would pay the bills, with a five percent national sales tax....talking
straight while others seem to be blowing smoke."
(C)): "[Iowa] will determine if
Bruce Babbitt gets into the political fast track or whether he's just
been taken for a ride." -- Faw, 12/17
"Ideas? Dukakis has plenty. Like the
other candidates, he stresses education." -- Bruce Morton, 12/9
"Like the President, supply-sider
Kemp is against abortion, against higher taxes...Still, some who listen
leave unconvinced, like Michigan stock broker Marty Gotkin, who doubts
that Kemp would do enough to reduce deficits." Gotkin: "I
think we're gonna, the government's gonna have to resort to some tax
"Part of the problem is the
candidate. Better on the stump than he was six months ago, Kemp still
quotes Hegel and Maimonides, still fails to excite crowds."
(c): "The Republican candidate who's
run the longest and hardest will try to persuade skeptics he's not just
running in place." -- Faw, 10/27
"Simon is a plain man. No high flown
eloquence, no glitz. Plain speech. That plainness finds an echo here. A
lot of Iowans are plain people too."
(C): "The new fashion may be the old
fashioned, old Democrat, warts, ideals and all. He may be an improbable
dreamer, but he has some followers here [in Iowa]." -- Morton,
"On the issues, Haig is outspoken,
sometimes outrageous... Many now wonder, 'can an old cold warrior lead
this country into the 90's?'" -- Richard Schlesinger, 1/8
"Dole is also trying to soften his
hatchet-man image." -- Bob Schieffer, 11/9
"Say one thing for Gephardt, he
looks the part and his family is campaign poster classic right down to
the loyal dog."
(C): "In the meantime, you have to
ride a lot of planes like this [small] one before they let you ride Air
Force One." --Schieffer, 10/22
"(He is) stressing his theme that
he's the Democrat who's strong on defense....The candidate is widely
respected for his expertise on the environment and arms control."
(C): "The biggest question for Gore
is whether a hidden block of conservative Democrats will show up at the
polls, something they haven't done in more than a decade." --
Lesley Stahl, 11/27
"At 46, he is one of the most famous
men in America, often treated like a rock star. In his second run for
the presidency, Jesse Jackson is turning 'em on in White America."
"[Jackson is] getting what he always
wanted: respect. This time Jackson wants to represent all victims, black
and white." -- Stahl, 10/9
"There is a downside too...because
of course he was a preacher and no ordinary one, he was a charismatic
Christian, a television evangelist who believed prayer could and did
heal... Robertson has resigned the ministry, but that identification may
hurt him." -- Morton, 11/4
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