Networks Ignore Mandela's Unpleasant Past
SPREADING THE MANDELA MYTH
After years of hyping Nelson Mandela as
the poster child of the South African sanctions lobby, it's not
surprising the press paid so much attention to his release from prison.
But while coverage had plenty of volume, it had little depth. As Washington
Post TV critic Tom Shales realized, "Instead of hard facts or
insights, reporters competed to see who could heap the most praise on
Mandela, as if to establish their credentials as right-thinking
The media described Mandela as a
"political prisoner," even as "the world's most famous
political prisoner" (CBS, CNN). But the hardly conservative Amnesty
International declared in 1985 that "Mandela had participated in
planning acts of sabotage and inciting violence, so that he could no
longer fulfill the criteria for the classification of political
The media also failed to take a look at
Mandela's leftist ideology. Instead, reporters spoke of his commitment
to "one-man, one-vote." Dan Rather said, "I'd classify
him moderate." A MediaWatch review of
evening news coverage during the first three weeks of February found
that no network labeled him a communist and only CNN referred to
Mandela as a terrorist. Sam Donaldson dismissed the link between the ANC
and the South African Communist Party (SACP) during the February 4 This
Week with David Brinkley: "Well, they call [the ANC]
communist, but, in fact, it's nationalist. It's not communist."
Look at Mandela's own words. After his
release, Mandela praised SACP General Secretary Joe Slovo as "one
of our finest patriots ...The alliance between ourselves and the party
remains as strong as it always was." In How to be a Good
Communist, Mandela wrote, "Under a Communist Party government,
South Africa will become a land of milk and honey." In 1953,
Mandela addressed the need "to fight against the war policies of
America and her satellites."
Reporters didn't just ignore Mandela's
past, they declared he looked "like a chief of state"
(Bob Simon, CBS) and "a kind of philosopher king" (Tom
Brokaw). Others used religious terms. He was "an almost god-like
father figure" (Carole Simpson, ABC), his name "has an almost
mystical quality" (Dan Rather). ABC's Jim Hickey noted he walked
"in the manner of Pope John Paul II when he visits stadiums." CBS
This Morning's Harry Smith raved, "It was indeed the second
coming. Pilgrims came from across the countryside to see and hear the
man the South African government had all but crucified."
Why are the media selling a revolutionary
as a "moderate"? Apartheid must end, but the media is failing
to do its job by ignoring Mandela's full agenda.
New Racket for Brackett.
"I decided if I couldn't win in politics, I was going to try a new
line of work. I was interested in social change," MacNeil-Lehrer
NewsHour correspondent Elizabeth Brackett told the Chicago
Tribune on February 11, "so I decided to switch careers and
try journalism." Brackett's resume shows the type of change she
desires. Back in 1972 she ran for delegate to the Democratic National
Convention. Then in 1975 after working in the unsuccessful Chicago
mayoral campaign of a Democratic Alderman, she ran and lost a bid to
become 43rd Ward Democratic Committeeman.
The third defeat prompted her career
change. In 1977 WBBM-TV, Chicago's CBS-owned station, made her a
researcher. Brackett soon moved up to an on-air reporting job with WGN-TV
and in 1983 went to ABC-owned WLS-TV where she remained until shortly
after talking into her umbrella handle, instead of the microphone,
during a live shot one night. She's been a regular contributor to MacNeil-Lehrer
since early 1984.
The ABC's of Politics.
If you haven't worked in politics, don't bother applying for a public
relations job with ABC News. Just look at the background of some ABC
flacks on the move. Alise Adde, Director of News
Information since 1988 has moved down to Washington as Vice President of
industry communications for the National Cable Television Association.
Adde was Assistant Press Secretary to Senator J. Bennett Johnston, a
Louisiana Democrat, before beginning her ABC career in 1983 as News
Information Coordinator in D.C. When she moved up to New York as press
representative for World News Tonight in 1985, Joyce
Kravitz, a press aide at the Democratic National Committee and
in the Carter White House, took her D.C. job.
Filling Adde's ABC slot is Joanne Berg,
Manager of News Information. Scott Richardson, Deputy
Press Secretary to Senator Bob Dole until he became press representative
for World News Tonight in 1988, moves into Berg's old position.
Replacing Richardson: Arnot Walker, press aide since
1985 to New York University President and one-time Democratic
Congressman John Brademas. Arnott's political career highlights include
advance work for Vice President Mondale, Democrat Jim Florio's 1981 New
Jersey gubernatorial campaign and the 1984 Ferraro vice presidential
effort. In addition, he handled scheduling for Frank Lautenberg's 1982
Senate campaign and was Deputy Press Secretary in John Glenn's 1984
Nickles' News Director.
As head of the Radio-Television News Directors Association since 1981,
Ernie Shultz was a leader of the successful battle to repeal the
Fairness Doctrine. A couple of months ago Republican Senator Don Nickles
of Oklahoma hired Shultz as his new Director of Communications. Shultz
has plenty of experience communicating with Nickles' constituents: Roll
Call reported that between 1955 and 1980 he served as a reporter,
producer, anchorman and finally News Director at KTVY-TV, the NBC
affiliate in Oklahoma City.
All The Time
SUNUNU'S NO NEWS. Whatever
environmentalists want done, the networks consider it beyond debate. The
latest example occurred when White House Chief of Staff John Sununu
dared to tone down a February 5 presidential address on global warming.
"Almost immediately environmentalists attacked it, saying it
proposed too little," announced CBS anchor Bob Schieffer. White
House correspondent Wyatt Andrews asserted "a call for more
research on global warming is not exactly the aggressive approach George
Bush seemed to promise when he ran for office." Andrews concluded
that "gambling with the ecology, then, rather than with the
economy, is largely the work of Chief of Staff John Sununu."
When Bush created an Alaskan loophole in
federal wetlands policy the same week, CBS reporter Deborah Potter spent
a whole story explaining why "to environmentalist groups, it's a
symbol of what they call the broken promises of the Bush
Administration." Potter goaded Rep. Claudine Schneider, asking
"So he [Sununu] is a road-block?" Potter's wrap up: "As
for the administration's claim that things are much better now than in
the Reagan years, one environmentalist sniffed 'let's face it, there was
nowhere to go but up.'" Neither CBS report gave Sununu time to
SOLID SOURCES ON SUNUNU.
New York Times reporter Maureen Dowd wrote an impressively
flimsy February 15 front-page story describing the rift between Sununu
and EPA chief William Reilly. In 30 column inches, she relied almost
entirely on unnamed sources, including "people familiar with the
relationship" between Reilly and Sununu, "officials,"
"those close to Reilly," "Mr. Reilly's aides,"
"Mr. Reilly's long-term supporters," "one environmental
lobbyist," "an EPA official," "administration
supporters," "White House officials," "some
environmentalists," "some party analysts," "some in
the Bush inner circle," and "one Bush insider." If
records for sloppy journalism were kept, this one would top the list.
SUNUNU'S VIEWS. Wall
Street Journal reporter Gerald Seib was one of the few who actually
described Sununu's reservations about environmentalist demands. In a
March 2 feature, Seib gave Sununu equal time, reporting that Sununu
believed "other government officials don't demand sufficient
scientific proof that environmental proposals are feasible before
agreeing to them." Sununu told Seib: "If you're going to make
a trillion-dollar decision, if you're going to make a decision that's
going to affect a million jobs, you ought to make it on the basis of
what you know and not on the basis of what your emotions may lead you to
When someone makes a mistake he should be
willing to admit it. That's especially true for those in the news media,
on whom Americans rely for an understanding of world events. But look at
the media's coverage of the recent Nicaraguan election. Reporters misled
readers and viewers in the days before and after the Nicaraguan
election, and have yet to apologize. Case in point: the recipient of
this month's Janet Cooke Award, NBC's Ed Rabel, for his reports before
the February 25 vote.
The Nicaraguan people overcame what was
an unfair and often brutal electoral environment to elect National
Opposition (UNO) candidate Violeta Chamorro as President. The stunning
victory was a clear mandate for democratization and free enterprise in
the be-leaguered country. But if Nicaraguans had been listening to NBC
News throughout the historic campaign, the outcome may have been quite
NBC News largely dismissed Sandinista
fraud and mass intimidation. Instead, the network told Americans that
the election would be free and fair, that the Sandinistas were sure
winners, and -- amazingly -- that American policies turned Sandinista
leader Daniel Ortega into a popular hero.
U.S. Policies Translate Into A
Ed Rabel made that ridiculous charge on NBC
Nightly News four days before the election. "This is the man,
pollsters say," Rabel began as the camera panned Ortega, "who
will be elected overwhelmingly this weekend....The man President Reagan
promised would cry uncle. The United States spent hundreds of millions
of dollars on the Contras, the so-called freedom fighters, to do the
job. They failed."
Putting the blame decisively on the U.S.,
Rabel continued: "The election observers say the Bush
Administration may have itself to blame for Daniel Ortega's rise in
popularity among the voters. The reason, they say, is the U.S. military
invasion of Panama. That was a move that was widely denounced here in
Nicaragua. It was a close race until the U.S. invaded."
Rabel energetically cited the mostly
partisan pro-Sandinista polls that put Ortega far ahead in the race, but
ignored a number of Latin American polling organizations which predicted
the actual outcome. A poll released on January 27 by the Costa Rican
polling firm of Borge and Associates gave Chamorro the lead, 37 to 33
percent. At about the same time, the Institute of Public Opinion in
Venezuela (Doxsa) released similar numbers: 41 percent for Chamorro
versus 33 percent for Ortega.
Ortega As Popular Hero.
Rabel concentrated much of his effort on
presenting Ortega as a crusading, youthful figure. His Feb. 23 NBC
Nightly News report read like an FSLN promo: "Daniel Ortega
has undergone a dramatic transformation, taking on a fresh persona just
as his government enters a brand new political era. Daniel Ortega on the
campaign trail. Ortega the marathon runner. Ortega in designer jeans and
wildly patterned shirts."
A Free And Fair Election.
Rabel thought so. On the February 23 Today,
he noted that "behind the scenes, opponents say, there are
Sandinista threats and intimidation. People being warned quietly, that
they will lose their jobs or even their lives for voting against Daniel
But Rabel dismissed the intimidation,
assuring viewers that international observers guaranteed a free
election: "Opponents of the government take to the streets. The
Organization of American States has its team in place. Jan.
28th...former President Jimmy Carter, a key international election
observer, concentrates his steely blue eyes on the excitable crowd....No
rally escapes surveillance. No election ever has been so thoroughly
watched." The Sandinistas, Rabel claimed, "have had the
international observers looking over their shoulders the whole
time." Rabel gave time to Carter aide Jennifer McCoy, who
concluded: "We have seen a real commitment on both sides to carry
out these elections."
In fact, most observer groups were
sparsely staffed before the final days of the election. For most of the
campaign, only McCoy was on the ground for Carter in Nicaragua and was
not present at a December 10 rally at Masatepe where one person died and
scores were injured. In his Today segment, Rabel noted
"observers who saw it all produced no evidence implicating
Sandinista or opposition leaders." Untrue. A bi-partisan Center for
Democracy delegation (which included Democrats Peter Kelly and Robert
Beckel) witnessed the event and unanimously concluded it was inspired by
Sandinista mobs. At a press conference after the incident, the
delegation gave footage documenting the Sandinista violence to media
outlets, including NBC News.
Rabel mentioned that "the
Sandinistas, by their own account, did spend millions more on their
campaign than the opposition. And they had more resources at their
command than their opponents." But he obviously failed to read
observer reports, including Carter's, which documented the Sandinista
monopoly of television, illegal use of state resources, harassment of
UNO rallies, and Sandinista tactics to hold up U.S. money bound for the
opposition until just before the election. Rabel's upbeat reporting led
Tom Brokaw to conclude: "Now it appears that Ortega could win the
Nicaraguan presidency in a fair and square election."
Rabel just couldn't believe the
Nicaraguan people might think as little of the Sandinistas as Ronald
Reagan or George Bush did. Indeed, by election day, it was a fait
accompli for Rabel: "Polls won't close here for another thirty
minutes, but the widespread belief that the Sandinistas will prevail has
shifted thinking far beyond the ballot box." Even before the
Sandinistas won (or lost), Rabel was telling us: "The topic of the
day is: how will a freely elected Sandinista government be treated by
the United States?"
Producer John Siceloff defended NBC's
coverage: "In the whole body of our reporting, you will find the
subjects of threats and use of government resources." He noted that
a story filed in January discussed the holdup of funding bound for UNO.
Siceloff claimed NBC owed no apology for calling the election wrong:
"A large measure of our wrong call was admittedly due to the polls.
It's not a question of an apology. We reported on polls and when polls
were wrong we reported on why they were wrong." But twenty seconds
in a February 27 report in no way made up for weeks of misreporting.
Washington Post Ombudsman
Richard Harwood said it best on March 4: "When Ed Rabel of NBC
relied on 'widespread belief' to support his election analysis, he might
have been asked what is 'belief'?" Could Rabel's 'belief' have been
his wishful thinking? As for an apology, Harwood wrote: "NBC will
pay no price for that blunder...Do not expect Deborah Norville and Ed
Rabel to don dunce hats and stand in the corner during tonight's
production of NBC News." Too bad.
FREE ENTERPRISE? OH NO!
No matter how good the news for freedom around the world, some reporter
will always find the dark side. Poland has enthusiastically launched a
massive restructuring of its economy toward a productive free market.
But on the February 24 CBS Evening News, reporter Bert Quint
managed to unearth some people hurt by the switch: deaf-mutes and
mentally retarded girls. To anchor Bob Schieffer, layoffs of these
workers from an inefficient textile factory reflected "a painful
lesson in the reality of capitalism." Quint described it as
"the new Polish capitalism, replacing the old communist system
where people couldn't lose their jobs."
Quint concluded: "Poland is learning
what survival of the fittest means, and there are those who begin to
wonder if capitalism is really better than what they had."
HUNTING DOWN RED OCTOBER.
"Will there be any reviews aside from this one that don't begin or
end with the observation that the Cold War is over and that therefore
this movie is anachronistic?" asked Wall Street Journal
film reviewer David Brooks. The answer is no as far as The
Washington Post is concerned. In the March 2 "Style"
section Hal Hinson wrote: "The Hunt for Red October, the
new Sean Connery movie based on the Tom Clancy novel, is a leviathan
relic of an age that no longer exists....And that it lurches into view
as a Cold War anachronism is, in fact, the picture's most fascinating
feature. It makes it irrelevant in an astoundingly up-to-date way."
"If you're miffed because the Cold
War's over, Ceaucescu's dead, the Sandinistas lost the election in
Nicaragua and it seems like there's no one around to hate any more, then
maybe The Hunt for Red October is just the thing," Desson
Howe began sarcastically in the "Weekend" section. Howe added:
"This is a Reagan youth's wet dream of underwater ballistics and
East-West conflict." Funny, we don't recall the Post
calling Born on the Fourth of July anachonistic.
YOU LISTEN TO WHAT YOU ARE.
A year ago National Public Radio (NPR) asked Gallup to poll Morning
Edition listeners. The results, which MediaWatch
recently obtained, are not too surprising. Nearly 70 percent of
listeners who also contribute money to NPR stations and 58 percent of
"randomly selected listeners" considered themselves liberal.
Virtually no NPR listeners (3 percent) believed Morning Edition
was "presented from a conservative perspective" and 66 percent
called it pretty balanced. The remaining 30 percent called it liberal.
Those 30 percent were asked whether "this is good or bad."
Good, said 55 percent. Bad, said 17 percent.
GRIPE OVER PIPES. Newsweek
used a stable of Soviet experts for its February 19 focus on "Life
Without Lenin," but only the conservative needed an ideological
description. The magazine quoted "Jerry Hough, a Duke University
Kremlinologist," "Alexander Motyl, an expert on Soviet
nationalities at Columbia University," and "British Soviet
specialist George Walden." But Harvard historian Richard Pipes, the
magazine warned, is "a longtime anti-Soviet hardliner."
EASY ON JESSE. The TV
network news decisionmakers don't think all scandals are created equal.
When President Bush's son, Neil, was implicated in the savings and loan
mess on January 26, ABC, CBS, CNN, and NBC each featured the story on
their nightly newscasts. But when Jesse Jackson's connection with the
HUD scandal (lobbying on behalf of a builder under investigation) was
revealed on the front pages of The New York Times, Washington Post,
and Los Angeles Times on February 3, the networks were silent.
POST TOASTS JIMMY.
"Down the winding mountain road came Jimmy Carter's caravan of
conscience," began a highly sympathetic February 22 Washington
Post "Style" section profile, "Citizen Carter: In
Nicaragua and Beyond, the Peacemaker's Moral Mission." Post
reporter Art Harris described Carter's ex-presidential role as "diplo-evangelist
and counselor to the world," heaping praise on the ex-President:
"When Carter speaks, Latin America listens," and "In a
sense, fair play at the polls -- and the importance of Carter's verdict
-- is a measure of Citizen Carter's moral clout in the world."
Attempting the impossible (saving
Carter's historical reputation), the Post explained that
Carter's tenure of foreign humiliation and domestic disaster made him a
"victim of history." Harris wrote: "In retrospect,
however, Jimmy Carter has become a moral presence, running harder than
ever to recast his legacy with good deeds and making an impact in a way
historians say few ex-Presidents have even tried...Now, a decade out of
office, he appears to be on a popularity roll."
The Post ended by quoting a
college student from Cameroon: "As President, he was so far ahead
of what the American people think, but he was restrained by the system.
If he could have won another term, he could have been like Gorbachev.
But he was too revolutionary for the people."
CONSUMERISM, CBS STYLE.
The major media have latched onto the cause of what the Left calls
"ethical consumerism," buying products with a political or
social goal in mind. For example, on the February 6 CBS This Morning,
correspondent Erin Moriarty focused on the leftist Council on Economic
Priorities (CEP), described only as "nonprofit." Their recent
book, Shopping For A Better World, "rates companies
according to their corporate policies." Which policies? Well, CBS
paraded on air the negative ratings given to the makers of Advil, Dole
pineapple juice, and Pine Sol for their failure in "promoting
minorities" and "advancing women," (i.e. affirmative
action) and for investing in South Africa.
On CBS' Nightwatch on February
23, CEP's Alice Tepper Marlin added another way to be ethical: staying
away from firms dealing in national defense or nuclear energy products.
She hoped consumers were supporting "companies with a better social
record and staying away from the companies with a bad social
record." What CBS (and Time, U.S. News and USA Today
before it) are promoting is not consumer advocacy -- it's political
LESLEY'S PRIORITIES. "I
hope I'm not coming off as a defense expert," CBS' Lesley Stahl
demurred while interviewing Dick Cheney on the February 4 Face the
Nation. She needn't have worried: her comments spoke volumes. The
White House reporter repeatedly demanded that Cheney respond to an Atlantic
Monthly study which urged eliminating the B-2, the Trident missile,
and the Midgetman while halving money for SDI to increase federal
spending on health insurance, education, and foreign aid. Her
"expert" proposal for U.S. troop levels in Europe: "What
about 50,000? That's a presence." Meanwhile she lambasted the Bush
plan as "enormous...all we're doing is creating enormous resentment
from the people there...and we're going to be a target and they're going
to hate us."
Stahl's shrillness resurfaced three weeks
later. Moderating a debate between Reagan official Martin Anderson and
1980s-bashing economist Gary Shilling, Stahl unloaded a barrage:
"...the Reagan economic planning. Was it too free-wheeling? Was it,
there was too much laissez-faire economics involved?...Why can't we
afford anything? ...Are you ready to say we need some more regulation
after all?" Reaching new lows, she also claimed that federal
spending under Reagan "was all on military...It was all military
...it was huge...it was military and debt."
WAR NO MORE. "The
Soviets are in a hurry to disarm, by themselves and through
negotiations. They need the money saved for their failed civilian
economy. Also, President Gorbachev believes modern weapons make war too
dangerous to fight." Thus began a glowing February 1 review of
Mikhail Gorbachev's groundbreaking efforts for peace by NBC Moscow
correspondent Bob Abernethy.
Conveniently overlooking ongoing Soviet
policy toward Angola, Nicaragua, Afghanistan and all of its satellite
nations, Abernethy presented Gorbachev's vision as if his sincerity were
beyond doubt, saying, "Gorbachev's objectives in negotiations are
...an eventual ban on all nuclear weapons...all chemical weapons and
nuclear weapons tests. And Gorbachev argues all forces should be
defensive only. No country should have troops on the territory of
FINDERS KEEPERS. The
notion of Lithuania escaping from its Soviet occupiers has few critics,
but CBS' Barry Petersen is a rare naysayer. "Talk is cheap, but
independence could be very expensive," Petersen began his February
6 Evening News report. Because of "Lithuania's dependence
on Moscow...Electric lines and generating plants, Moscow owns them. The
trains that bring in virtually all of Lithuania's raw materials are
state-owned, too." To the Moscow correspondent, "Lithuania is
learning that even in independence, the country it most hates is the
country it will most need." Petersen didn't consider that Moscow
has no right to "own" anything since it stole Lithuania's
entire economy when it annexed the country during World War II.
BACKING UP BORK. Did
Robert Bork get the short end of the media stick during the circus over
his 1987 nomination to the Supreme Court? Yes, says ABC legal
correspondent Tim O'Brien in a March 1988 letter to Bork published in
the forthcoming book Ninth Justice: The Fight for Bork, by
Patrick McGuigan and Dawn Weyrich. "[A] good deal of our reporting
was sloppy and simply inaccurate," O'Brien admitted.
"Sometimes we journalists take great joy and pride in challenging
(or attempting to challenge) the statements of high government
officials. I feel it is quite clear that we failed to challenge many of
those who made statements regarding your nomination."
Conceding the shortcomings of television
news reporting, O'Brien added that "writing a story for a network
news broadcast is somewhat akin to writing a majority opinion. We have
half a dozen editors who feel they have not earned their salaries unless
their two cents worth of editorial wisdom appears in every story. Most
of what we write is often written in haste. And, as with occasional
opinions at the court, sometimes the finished report produces neither
heat nor light, only smoke."
Other Networks on
Ortega's Big Win. In
addition to NBC's Ed Rabel, ABC also tried to sell viewers a Sandinista
victory. "For the Bush Administration and the Reagan Administration
before it," Peter Jennings intoned, the ABC-Washington Post
poll "hints at a simple truth: after years of trying to get rid of
the Sandinistas, there is not much to show for their efforts."
During a February 23 Nightline
devoted exclusively to how the U.S. would normalize relations with the
victorious Sandinistas, Ted Koppel predicted: "Almost certainly,
the Sandinistas will still win." Reporter Forrest Sawyer claimed
"Every independent poll shows him far ahead," although almost
half of the polls taken in the months before the election had Chamorro
in the lead.
Daniel The Great. CNN's
Lucia Newman burnished Ortega's reputation, reporting on February 23:
"The last time he went on the campaign trail, he looked like the
serious and shy revolutionary that, according to friends, he's always
been." Newman found an old neighbor who told her how "the
Ortega boys had their father's patriotism in their blood." Newman
continued: "No one has ever called Ortega charismatic, but his
unquestionable dedication to his revolutionary principles, and enviable
work capacity, has won him admiration of his friends and even some of
CNN's Ronnie Lovler remained impressed
after he lost. "One observer commented that Ortega will look back
on this day as a turning point in his life, when he demonstrated to the
world that the one-time guerrilla had truly become a statesman and a
leader of his people."
To CBS reporter Juan Vasquez, Ortega was
"part populist, part Bruce Springsteen, selling an image, and for
this do-or-die campaign, the Sandinista leader has not only changed his
appearance, he even claims to have renounced communism. 'I never said
the Sandinistas were a Marxist party,' he told CBS News. 'We're
nationalists with a universal ideology.'" Right.
Goldberg Scolds Media
"There are too many reporters out
there who work the 'Victims America' beat. They specialize in uncritical
stories about the 'downtrodden.' They act more like social workers than
journalists," CBS 48 Hours correspondent Bernard Goldberg
observed in a Feb. 2 New York Times op-ed.
"So what if many of the homeless are
truly drug addicts or alcoholics or simply lazy?" Goldberg asked.
"When the Victims America correspondent gets on the case, the
plight of the homeless turns out to be society's fault....If only they
hadn't cut the budget in Washington. If only the educational system
hadn't discriminated against them. If only, if only. Journalism by
sentiment means always having to say you're sorry."
Then Goldberg asked: "How many
stories have you seen on TV -- in your entire life -- that attempt to
find out how many...laid off workers took school seriously?...How many,
in short, brought about their own economic mess by not preparing for
life in the real world?"
Goldberg's questions could have been
triggered by the January 18 48 Hours on New York's homeless. No
one asked a seven-year "resident" of a public park why he
wasn't working. Dan Rather was too busy asking a burglarized
businessman, "what happened to the idea that I am my brother's
keeper?" Rather ended by citing a survey that found
homelessness was no longer one of the subjects that interest Americans
most. Maybe viewers are tired of journalism by sentiment. As Goldberg
concluded, "there's so much to gain by being compassionate. And
only our credibility to lose."
MORE MEDIA MONEY
Last year, MediaWatch
brought to light for the first time a new measure of the media's
political tilt: the well-worn trail of media money directed toward
liberal activist groups. Through a number of philanthropic arrangements,
mainly company foundations and private foundations funded by past
publishing profits, media companies and their executives have funneled
millions of dollars to their favorite political causes. Out of the $1.75
million in political grants that we identified last year, more than 90
percent ($1.579 million) went to liberal groups.
To underline the results of last year's
study, MediaWatch once again examined annual
reports and foundation records at the Foundation Center in Washington.
This time, we looked at the foundations of national newspaper chains
(Gannett, Knight-Ridder, and Hearst), and two large metropolitan
newspapers with a national reputation (The Boston Globe and the
Chicago Tribune). Once again, out of the $2.2 million in grants
we identified, 90 percent ($1.978 million) went to liberal groups. This
imbalance not only disproves the myth of corporate conservatism among
media companies, it raises serious questions about media impartiality.
GANNETT FOUNDATION: The
company foundation of the publishers of USA Today and more than
85 other daily newspapers (including the Des Moines Register,
Detroit News, and Louisville Courier- Journal), the
Gannett Foundation followed a predictable path in the years 1982-89,
donating heavily to minority activists who lobbied for liberal policies
like affirmative action and increased welfare spending. Do the readers
of Gannett's family newspapers know their subscription dollars supported
the Canadian group Prostitutes and Other Women for Equal Rights?
Liberal: $903,718 (98.0%)
$ 6,000 Center for Law and Social Policy
$ 7,300 Central American Refugee Center
$ 5,000 Delaware Lesbian and Gay Health
$ 6,000 International Institute for
Environment and Development
$ 15,000 King Center for Nonviolent
$ 25,600 LULAC
$ 5,000 Mexican American Legal Defense
and Education Fund
$ 200,000 National AIDS Network
$ 16,000 National Council of LaRaza
$ 5,000 National Council of Negro Women
$ 7,500 National Puerto Rican Foundation
$ 15,000 National Women's Political
$ 45,000 NAACP
$ 10,500 NAACP Legal Defense and
$ 325,000 Planned Parenthood
$ 6,000 Project on Military Procurement
$ 7,618 Prostitutes and Other Women for
Equal Rights (POWER)
$ 12,500 Puerto Rican Legal Defense and
$ 5,000 Southwest Voter Registration and
$ 117,200 Urban League
$ 55,000 Urban Institute
$ 5,000 Wilderness Society
$ 1,500 Women's Equity Action League
Conservative: $18,500 (2.0%)
$ 8,500 Manhattan Institute
$ 5,000 Media Institute
$ 5,000 Rockford Institute
Endowed in 1950 by profits from the Knight- Ridder chain (which
currently includes the Miami Herald, Seattle Times, and Philadelphia
Inquirer), the Knight Foundation declined to fund conservative
groups from 1982-89. In a letter to MediaWatch,
Foundation President Creed C. Black insisted the foundation "is
wholly separate from and independent of Knight- Ridder, Inc."
Technically yes, but Knight-Ridder Chairman Alvah Chapman and CEO James
K. Batten both serve on its board of trustees, and the foundation tries
to make grants only in cities where Knight-Ridder newspapers are
published. Black also said "we make no grants in support of any
candidates or partisan organizations." Again, for tax purposes, he
is technically correct; but tax-exempt lobbies like the Urban League and
Planned Parenthood were heavy hitters in the fight against the Supreme
Court nomination of Judge Robert Bork.
Liberal: $394,000 (100%)
$ 50,000 Center for Environmental
$ 10,000 Izaak Walton League
$ 5,000 NAACP
$ 65,000 Planned Parenthood
$ 15,000 Urban Coalition
$ 249,000 Urban League
HEARST FOUNDATIONS: Also
endowed by the personal profits of newspaper chain chieftains, the
Hearst Foundation and the William Randolph Hearst Foundation grant lists
strike more of a balance. Although Hearst has sold some of its major
newspapers, its diversified holdings (Cosmopolitan, King
Features Syndicate, Boston ABC affiliate WCVB-TV) insure substantial
influence. Like the other foundations, the Hearst Foundations took a
liking to minority advocacy groups active in the fight against Bork, but
they also funded conservative think tanks like the Hoover Institution,
and corrected some of their funding of the judicial left by supporting
newly formed conservative legal foundations in the years 1982-89.
Liberal: $541,400 (72.6%)
$ 10,000 Audubon Society
$ 10,000 Brookings Institution
$ 5,000 Child Care Action Now
$ 15,000 Children's Defense Fund
$ 10,000 Coalition for the Homeless
$ 15,000 Educators for Social
$ 15,000 Foreign Policy Association
$ 20,000 Mexican American Legal Defense
and Education Fund
$ 15,000 National Council of LaRaza
$ 75,000 National Puerto Rican Coalition
$ 70,000 NAACP
$ 91,400 NAACP Legal Defense and
$ 85,000 National Urban Coalition
$ 25,000 Native American Rights Fund
$ 40,000 Urban League
$ 15,000 Women's Action Alliance
$ 25,000 Women's Legal Defense Fund
Conservative: $205,000 (27.4%)
$ 10,000 American Enterprise Institute
$ 70,000 Hoover Institution
$ 40,000 Institute for Contemporary
$ 10,000 Institute for Educational
$ 5,000 National Legal Center for the
$ 20,000 Mid-American Legal Foundation
$ 5,000 Pacific Institute for Public
$ 45,000 Pacific Legal Foundation
BOSTON GLOBE FOUNDATION:
While it's heavily involved in local charitable and arts programs, when
the Globe's foundation gave to political groups from 1982-88,
it gave decisively to the Left. Globe grant recipients included the
Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the group behind the Alar
apple scare, and the Grey Panthers, the senior citizen champions of
left-wing causes. For grants targeted toward "public
policy/advocacy," the Globe gave to the Children's Defense Fund (CDF),
which advocated the diversion of defense spending to social programs
long before talk of a "peace dividend." Its 1988 Children's
Defense Budget reported that on CDF positions, Ted Kennedy scored a
Liberal: $110,350 (100%)
$ 3,000 American Friends Service
$ 3,000 Children's Defense Fund
$ 1,500 Grey Panthers
$ 3,000 Lawyers Committee for Civil
Rights Under Law
$ 15,000 Massachusetts Audubon Society
$ 27,500 NAACP
$ 17,500 NAACP Legal Defense and
$ 10,000 National Public Radio
$ 1,500 Natural Resources Defense Council
$ 26,000 Oxfam America
$ 350 Physicians for Social
$ 2,000 Women's Equity Action League
CHICAGO TRIBUNE FOUNDATIN: Although
it's involved in community affairs like the Globe Foundation, the
Tribune Foundation also contributed to liberal groups like the Brookings
Institution, which has received at least $149,500 from media
foundations. In looking at its 1985 and 1986 giving, they also funded
the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, which has fought
successfully to increase funding of the Left through the federal
government and corporate giving programs.
Liberal: $29,125 (93.6%)
$ 5,000 Brookings Institution
$ 4,500 Council on Foreign Relations
$ 3,000 National Committee for Responsive
$ 3,125 Northeast-Midwest Institute
$ 13,500 Urban League
Conservative: $2,000 (6.4%)
$ 2,000 Media Institute
Home | News Division
| Bozell Columns | CyberAlerts
Media Reality Check | Notable Quotables | Contact
the MRC | Subscribe