Putting Up Their Dues for Duke.
The Newspaper Guild, a union representing 25,000 reporters across the
country, has endorsed Michael Dukakis for President. The Wire Services
Guild, the local made up of AP and UPI reporters, however, abstained
from the endorsement. The Newspaper Guild has a history of supporting
liberal Democrats. In 1972 the union backed George McGovern and in 1984
it supported Walter Mondale. The question is, if reporters are trying to
appear impartial, why do they continue to pay dues to such a politically
Gender Gap Gap. All
summer long viewers of TV network news repeatedly heard about Bush's
"gender gap," the preference women showed for Dukakis over the
Vice President in polls. For instance, back on June 8 CBS reporter Bob
Schieffer devoted an entire story to how women are "a big problem
for George Bush because" they "don't seem to like him
much." Schieffer cited a CBS News/New York Times poll
which found "women favor Dukakis overwhelmingly, 53 to 35
percentage points, what some call a 'gender gulch.'"
But when the Bush gender gap started
disappearing, so did the issue from TV screens. A September 13 CBS News
poll determined Bush led among women 43 to 41 percent.
Men preferred Bush by 53 to 37, nearly
the identical margin Dukakis held with women in June. How did the CBS
Evening News cover the Dukakis gender gap among men? Correspondent
Lesley Stahl summarized the poll but didn't consider the Dukakis problem
worthy of mention.
"George Bush dismissed as 'irrelevant' unemployment figures
released by the Labor Department today" which found the rate rose
0.2 percent to 5.6 percent in August, NBC anchor Connie Chung stated on Nightly
News. What did Bush really say about the September 2 development?
ABC and CNN aired his comment in context: "More people are at work
than at anytime in history, a greater percentage." Then plane noise
drowned out some of his reaction, but quieted in time for viewers to
hear, "statistically, almost irrelevant."
Taking Sides. Michael
Dukakis wants to convince voters the Reagan Administration has created
"low wage service jobs" at the expense of higher paying
positions. In his quest he has at least one ally in the media: CBS
economics correspondent Ray Brady. Since both are "twisting
statistics," on the September 5 Evening News Brady
reviewed the economic views of the two candidates: "Economists
think both Bush and Dukakis are partially right. There have been
millions of new jobs created since 1982, but many are in low paying
service jobs." He then added: "One study found the number of
$32,000 a year manufacturing jobs has been dropping."
In trying to boost the Dukakis view Brady
did just what he accused the candidates of doing: "twisting
statistics." As the usually liberal Robert Samulson explained in
the September 19 Newsweek, "the job gap is
fictitious." Federal figures show the number of jobs in the highest
paying category has jumped 34 percent since 1982 while low paying jobs
had fallen by six percent.
Bush War. In August
questions were raised about the past mental health of Michael Dukakis. CBS
Evening News anchor Dan Rather complained about a "nastier
campaign getting nastier" as his colleagues debated the ethics of
repeating the unsubstantiated allegations. But less than two weeks
later, Rather had no qualms about legitimizing a charge George Bush lied
about his war experience. On August 12 the anchor announced:
"A squadron mate of George Bush
during World War II spoke out today. He pointed out Bush has told
different stories about the time his plane was shot down. Some newspaper
accounts quote him as saying that Bush could have saved the lives of the
crew members had he not decided to bail out. That's not exactly what he
told CBS News."
The source for the story? An article in
the New York Post, not an authority on which CBS often relies.
Reporter Richard Schlesinger explained how charges made by Chester
Mierzejewski that the Bush plane was not on fire when it went down
contradict the effort to erase Bush's "wimp" image. Near the
end of his piece Schlesinger noted "official Navy records back up
Bush's version of events." Mierzejewski "denies any political
motivation," Schlesinger assured viewers, "and says he doesn't
know yet who he'll vote for." In contrast, CNN's Carl Rochelle
questioned the allegations, while ABC and NBC refused to play a part in
the story which just happened to break the Friday before the Republican
One Shipyard, Three Spins.
On September 6 George Bush was repeatedly booed and heckled by a crowd
of Oregon shipyard workers. That's about all stories filed by ABC, CBS
and NBC reporters that night agreed upon. On NBC Nightly News reporter
Lisa Myers portrayed the confrontation as symbolic, concluding:
"Bush has been having problems winning over blue collar Democrats
who voted for Ronald Reagan. If today's reception is any
indication," she warned, "that task may be even more difficult
than he thought."
ABC's Brit Hume came to the opposite
determination: "Part of Bush's challenge has been to hold on to the
votes of working people who voted for Ronald Reagan. He appeared to make
few of any converts here today, but few of those here today said they'd
ever voted for Reagan, or any other Republican." Hume also
interviewed a worker who thought that by shouting back at taunters Bush
"stuck up for himself." So, Hume concluded, the worker reacted
just "as Bush strategists no doubt hope a nation seeing the TV
Not so, according to Bob Schieffer of CBS
who saw the day as a disaster for the Vice President. Schieffer
declared: "At the Bush headquarters tonight an exasperated official
said only, 'we are trying to figure out how this got on the
schedule.'" It just shows how easy it is for reporters to use the
same basic facts to support their preferred angle.
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