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From the April 1990 MediaWatch

NBC Refuses to Learn From Nicaragua

Page One


In February, NBC News correspondent Ed Rabel confidently predicted the U.S. invasion of Panama would insure a Sandinista victory. Even before Nicaraguans could count the vote he insisted "the topic of the day is: how will a freely elected Sandinista government be treated by the United States?" Rabel's misreporting must not have disturbed his NBC bosses too much. A month later, when the Bush Administration cranked up TV Marti, Rabel was on the scene in Cuba to champion Castro's popularity.

"Fidel Castro's Cuba is not about to go the way of Eastern Europe, according to Cuba experts in the United States" Rabel began March 30, during the first of two NBC Nightly News stories. "Cubans devoted to Castro far outnumber opponents," Rabel continued. Just one Cuban Rabel talked to said anything negative about Castro. Rabel noted that "many young people freely complain about deficiencies," such as "the lack of consumer goods," but Rabel dismissed the development. "Youthful discontent, diplomats in Cuba say, must not be confused with the dissatisfaction that led to popular change in Eastern Europe. There, they say, socialism was imposed by the Russians. Here, Cubans adopted socialism for themselves." Rabel concluded that Castro "remains Cuba's number one hero: A man who still can challenge the United States and get away with it."

Rabel continued focusing on Cuba's young people on April 1, asserting "they are the healthiest and most educated people in Cuba's history. For that, many of them say they have Castro and his socialist revolution to thank." Again, Rabel insisted: "If they are bored with Castro's rigid Marxist-Leninist doctrine, or if they long for the sweeping changes occurring in Eastern Europe, they are not saying so publicly...There is no movement here for change, they say, because the revolution in Cuba is too strong." A young Cuban declared: "We have the best leader in the world, Fidel Castro. We love him, that's all...Socialism or death, that's our future."

When asked by anchor Garrick Utley whether the revolution could survive after Castro, Rabel replied, "The revolution is 31 years old. It is institutionalized. It can survive Castro." Rabel refuses to learn the lesson of Nicaragua: that despite what they may say in fear to a camera crew, people don't hesitate to oust a communist regime when given a chance. "On a sunny day in the park in the city of Havana, it is difficult to see anything that is sinister," Rabel wistfully reported in 1988. Two more years of repression and the dramatic changes in Eastern Europe still haven't led Rabel to see the light.


Revolving Door

New Investigators. CNN has set up a new investigative unit. Ken Bode, a former Morris Udall aide and Chief Political Correspondent for NBC News, has signed on as a contributing correspondent. Bode will remain Director of the Center for Contemporary Media at DePauw University while covering the White House for CNN. Wall Street Journal Washington reporter Brooks Jackson also leaves the print world for the CNN unit. Replacing Jackson on the Journal's lawyer and lobbying beat: Timothy Noah, a Newsweek reporter until last year who was Issues Director in Democrat Kathleen Kennedy Townsend's unsuccessful 1986 campaign for Congress.

Archive Removal. Scott Armstrong, a Washington Post reporter from 1977 to 1984, set up the National Security Archive in 1986 as a depository for classified government documents he managed to obtain through Freedom of Information Act requests. After four years Armstrong has moved into academia as a visiting scholar at American University's Washington Center for International Journalism. Armstrong once worked as an investigator for the Senate Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Practices, better known as the Watergate committee.

From Observer to Participant. Two Charlotte Observer veterans have jumped into activist politics on the side of Democrats. Susan Jetton spent most of the 1970's reporting for the Observer. Now she's Press Secretary to former Charlotte Mayor Harvey Gantt, the leading Democratic candidate in the race to oppose Senator Jesse Helms this fall. For the past four years Jetton's held the same title in the office of Willie Brown, Speaker of the House in California, a job she took after working from 1979 to 1986 as a San Diego Union political reporter.

Ken Friedlein, Executive National Editor, has been named Press Secretary to North Carolina's junior Senator, Terry Sanford. Friedlein also served as political editor, metro editor and assistant business editor since joining the Observer in 1979. Previously he worked for the Winston-Salem Journal, Raleigh Times and Durham Morning News.

Getting Educated. Andy Plattner, a U.S. News & World Report Associate Editor since 1985 who most recently covered Congress, has opted for a career in the executive branch. Plattner's gained an appropriately bureaucratic title: Special Adviser to the Assistant Secretary of Education for educational research and improvement.

Surfacing for Politics. As a Navy Times reporter in 1983, Tom Burgess, according to Roll Call, "was the first reviewer to pan Tom Clancy's Hunt for Red October." Seven years later Burgess has joined the staff of U.S. Representative Jim Bates as Administrative Assistant and Press Secretary for the liberal San Diego Democrat. In between he spent four years covering the military for the San Diego Union, a subject he knows something about: Burgess was a nuclear submarine weapons officer from 1979 to 1981.


Janet Cooke Award


The Harry Smith/CBS This Morning Civics Quiz

1. The best phrase(s) to sum up the decade of the '80s:

(a) the decade of greed

(b) the junk bond and national debt era

(c) dirty air and the homeless

(d) the age of opportunity and prosperity

2. Apartheid is a system of racial prejudice practiced in:

(a) South Africa (b) the United States

3. States that rule by the barrel of the gun include:

(a) the United States

(b) South Africa

(c) the Soviet Union

4. The recent "Second Coming" refers to:

(a) the victory of Violeta Chamorro in Nicaragua

(b) the reappearance of Christ

(c) Jesse Helms' decision to run for re-election to the Senate

(d) the release of Nelson Mandela from prison in South Africa


1. -- all but (d)

2. -- both (a) and (b)

3. -- all but (c)

4. -- (d) only

Even before CBS dumped Kathleen Sullivan from CBS This Morning, co-host Harry Smith was being groomed for the limelight with the introduction of his weekly series titled "The Record Of Who We Are." Smith has consistently used the Friday analysis to promote liberal themes and solutions. For that, Smith receives the April Janet Cooke Award.

The Eighties. Since the series' inception on December 22, three reports evaluated the '80s -- and all focused on greed. On December 29, Smith told us that 1989 was a year in which "we saw the icons of American politics bow down to the almighty dollar. And we threw one last party to celebrate the end of the decade of greed. Yet we continue to dirty our planet like there was no tomorrow."

On February 23, he was still preoccupied by the past decade: "The '80s are almost the good old days. It's too bad there won't be much to remember them by....The greedy, gaudy '80s are fading fast. In a few years, when we look back, we shouldn't be surprised to find nothing there."

Bush's State of the Union. On Feb. 2, Smith sounded much like Bush's 1988 challenger: "We would like to believe the State of the Union address is the time when the President tells the American people the way it is. But no one really wants to hear that, so the President keeps reality down to a minimum. The President was remarkably upbeat for a man who runs a country with a monstrous national debt, huge balance of trade problems, a crumbling infrastructure, dirty air, countless homeless people, a coast-to-coast drug epidemic, and a faltering self-image. The country's that is, not his." Over audio of "Don't Worry Be Happy," he intoned: "Just remember George Bush's unofficial campaign theme song."

Smith revisited the state of the nation theme on March 16, recalling John Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath. "Booms and busts move folks from the Rustbelt to the Sunbelt and back again...Mostly we chose not to hear or see the suffering of the dispossessed. It helps us sleep better at night. What's happened to them must be their fault. What's happened to them can't be our responsibility."

Black America. On March 2, Smith argued that "Twenty-three percent of the young black men in America are behind bars, on probation, or on parole. As surely as an assembly line, America turns thousands of innocent black children into cast-offs. It's one of the accomplishments of America's system of apartheid."

What caused this? "A racism ripened by a society that has changed its public policies but not its private feelings. Whites and blacks are still separate in this country, economically if not legally. The chasm that separates whites and poor blacks in our country is as significant as any wall of barbed wire or bricks."

Death Penalty. Smith admitted Americans overwhelmingly support the death penalty, but he disparaged the idea. On March 23, he asked sarcastically, "Now there are two political litmus tests: abortion and the death penalty. Does it confuse anyone when a candidate is both pro-death and pro-life at the same time?" Smith concluded: "America is about the only developed country that still kills criminals."

The Soviet Union. Smith's foreign policy analysis didn't sway much from liberal rhetoric either. On December 22, he characterized Mikhail Gorbachev as "this Christmas' star in the East [who] ironically enough is an atheist." The Soviet leader, Smith told us, made it clear that "ruling by the barrel of a gun is no longer the rule of the day."

On February 9, Smith questioned the rush for freedom in the Soviet Union: "Yes, somehow, Soviet citizens are freer these days, freer to kill one another, freer to hate Jews, freer to express themselves....Doing away with totalitarianism and adding a dash of democracy seems an unlikely cure for all that ails the Soviet Union."

Nelson Mandela. The release of African National Congress (ANC) leader Nelson Mandela in South Africa allowed Smith to become truly poetic: "Nelson Mandela walked out of prison this week, and suddenly the world wondered out loud if South Africa could be born again....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."

MediaWatch had a lot to tell Harry Smith about The "Real" Record Of Who We Are and requested an interview through CBS This Morning publicist Terry Everett. Neither Everett nor Smith ever replied to our request.

MediaWatch wanted to tell Smith we are fast approaching our 90th straight month of economic growth. That unemployment rests at a low 5.2 percent. That apartheid does not exist in the U.S. That Census Bureau statistics show that the '80s were a boom time for the vast majority of black Americans. That the number of upwardly mobile black families has grown by more than a third, with unemployment down by 25 percent. That ABC's John Martin, reporting on the results of a poll last year, told us: "America is a more integrated and more tolerant place today than just eight years ago."

That if it's confusing to be pro-life and pro-death penalty, it is more confusing to be pro-abortion and anti-death penalty. That the Soviets are indeed "ruling by the barrel of a gun" as Soviet tanks roll through the streets of Vilnius. That while Nelson Mandela lives under racist rule, he leads a communist, terrorist organization. On Feb. 2, Smith stated that "President Bush delivered his State of the Union address this week and chances are that it had even worse ratings than, fill in the blank, C-SPAN, maybe, not that bad certainly." Has Smith checked his ratings -- last place -- recently? Chances are, until Harry Meets Reality, they'll stay that way.



ALL FOR ADVOCACY. Anyone who thinks TV reporters do not allow personal passions to decide what becomes news must not have watched NBC's April 1 Sunday Today. Left-wing activism was the theme that day. Consecutive stories were aired about a priest fighting to end U.S. aid to El Salvador and liberal consumer advocate Ralph Nader. As the show ended, host Garrick Utley noted, "We're talking a lot about activism, getting involved... everybody should do it." Reporter Katherine Couric responded "Sometimes I think the best way for us to get involved is to do stories that we want to draw attention to." Utley replied: "That's right."

ISSUE ONE: WHERE'S THE LEFT? Heaven forbid any talk show not provide a forum for far-left views. That's the opinion expressed by Eric Alterman in his piece on The McLaughlin Group. He writes regularly in Mother Jones, but this article appeared as the March 18 Washington Post Magazine cover story.

In the midst of bashing host John McLaughlin, Alterman also ripped into the show's conservatives. While demeaning Pat Buchanan and Robert Novak as stock characters -- "the tough Irish cop" and "Joe Six-Pack, a beer-bellied tough guy" -- "centrist" Jack Germond "was by far the most attractive character of the lot." Ignoring the likes of Germond, Kenneth Walker, and Newsweek's Eleanor Clift, the article complained "by keeping true liberals off the show, McLaughlin helped to delegitimize liberal solutions to national problems...Ronald Reagan's brand of genial reactionary politics was made to appear downright reasonable. Centrist solutions became 'liberal' by virtue of the show's political landscape." The program's current lineup, to Alterman, "has done little to moderate the show's jingoist orientation... America is good, foreigners are bad."

TIME PAYS? Noting the unpopularity among readers of Time's decision to make Mikhail Gorbachev "Man of the Decade," the weekly trade publication Media Industry Newsletter recently reported that Time's 1988 decision to slant the news may be cutting into its subscriptions. The newsletter speculated that given Time's outspoken editorial stances, "the decline in its circulation and rate base in two bites of 300,000 each in the past 12 months (while the competition grew) makes one wonder."

ON THE ROAD WITH CBS. Dan Rather's network took immediate offense on March 8 when the Bush Administration released its plan to shift some transportation costs to state and local governments. Jerry Bowen's report included no one in favor of the President's federalist plan, but quoted three local officials and a lobbyist upset that local governments might actually have to pay for roads. Bowen described traffic jams as "ghostly reminders of a system straining to make it. And Mr. Bush's new transportation policy, say critics, doesn't seem likely to." Bowen insisted "it's argued that more, not less, federal money is required."

MARIAN'S MINIONS. U.S. News & World Report falls into the trap of liberal advocacy less often than its competitors. But it fell hard in its March 26 lead story on Marian Wright Edelman, the founder of the Children's Defense Fund (CDF). Described as "a leading liberal voice against Reagan Administration budget cut proposals for the poor," Edelman has adamantly refused to abandon her far-left views in order to compromise with liberal Congressmen George Miller and Tom Downey. Nonetheless, reporter Joseph Shapiro made Edelman's case: "If to some critics that means she is stuck in the 1960s, so be it. As Edelman sees it, she is simply laying the groundwork for getting real help to all the children in pain."

To U.S. News, Edelman has been "a vital source for lawmakers dealing with children's issues and journalists writing about them. She bent entire government agencies, it seemed." And her organization "has become indispensable in helping America understand the disturbing facts about its children." Ignoring the many conservatives against federal regulation of babysitters, Shapiro asserted: "There is hardly a soul in Washington now who doesn't believe that the federal government must help families secure decent child care. The dispute is over how best to do it."

NO NEWT IS GOOD NEWT. When the House ethics committee announced March 8 that it could find "no adequate basis" for investigating Minority Whip Newt Gingrich's finances, the networks, which found plenty of time to air the allegations, were conspicuously quiet. Gingrich was reprimanded for two minor rules violations, neither of which was the focus of an expensive investigation requested by Rep. Bill Alexander (D-Arkansas).

The March 9 Boston Globe reported that Alexander was admonished by the committee for "assertions [of] pure speculation." ABC and CBS ignored Gingrich's vindication. A brief piece on NBC Nightly News hardly cleared Gingrich's name, and omitted criticism of Alexander. Tom Brokaw noted Gingrich "led attacks that forced Speaker Jim Wright, a Democrat, to resign," and called the committee's decision a "vindication for Gingrich, of a sort. The House ethics committee said it is dropping its investigation of Gingrich, but it criticized him for abusing his free mailing privileges and for failing to report a real estate deal."

MUM ON MITCHELL. When Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell condemned President Bush for sending his aides to China shortly after the Tienanmen Square massacre, The Washington Post and the rest of the media gave it up-front attention. But when Post reporter Charles Babcock uncovered the Majority Leader's hypocrisy -- Mitchell had sent his aide Sarah Sewall to China during the same period on the Chinese government's tab -- the Post ran the story in its first two suburban editions on February 23, then spiked it in later editions. The spiked story, brought to light by Bangor Daily News Washington bureau reporter John S. Day, was pulled for a story on AIDS in Islamic countries and Eastern Europe. Post national editor Robert Kaiser told Day he found the story itself and the comparison between Bush and Mitchell "marginal." So did the rest of the media: none of the news magazines or networks bothered to report it.

USA TODAY AND THE NEA. USA Today Inquiry Editor Barbara Reynolds' unchecked liberalism is regularly displayed in her From the Heart column. It also came through in her March 28 Debate feature questions on the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).

Reynolds saved her toughest questions for Phyllis Schlafly, representing the case against subsidized obscenity: "Isn't it possible, though, that artists with great potential might never get the training or the backing to develop successfully?...You've mentioned communist countries which impose censorship. What makes your proposals any different from what they are doing?"

But when talking to NEA Chairman John Frohnmayer, USA Today tossed up softball after softball, including: "Isn't it similar to what happened through history -- some of what we consider classics caused great outrage when they were introduced?...You say that the attacks are almost totally without merit. How does that make you feel?"

JOHN CHANCELLOR RIGHT. In March, NBC commentator John Chancellor offered some views rarely heard on a network newscast. On March 22 he put aside Gorbymania: "The Soviets have been modernizing their submarine fleet for the last ten years, and [it] has continued under Gorbachev...more than 900 missiles are on Soviet subs. Each missile contains several warheads, which means that thousands of nuclear weapons are aimed at American cities right now...The Soviets have kept the world's largest submarine fleet in place within striking distance of American targets."

Chancellor was equally surprising on Central America, where the networks often samba past the misdeeds of the left. He blasted Ortega March 9 as a "crook...[whom] Al Capone would have cheered" when the Sandinistas voted themselves houses, TV stations and immunity from future prosecution. Chancellor conclued, "Anyone who thought that Daniel Ortega was a patriot fighting for independence now must think again."

CHANCELLOR LEFT. Then again, vintage Chancellor was on display March 8, yelping for more government. For Chancellor the postage rate hike wasn't enough: "Thirty cents is a bargain when you compare it to what other countries charge....It is a little like the price of gasoline, which is cheaper here than almost anywhere." Chancellor's recommendation: "A bigger federal tax on gasoline would bring down the deficit, but our leaders say it is politically impossible to raise the taxes."

Returning to the same theme on March 20, Chancellor argued: "The federal government desperately needs more revenue, but the Republican President has been saying no new taxes, and the Democrats have been going along," Chancellor complained. "West Germany and Japan have higher tax rates, and they're in better shape than the United States. What is striking about this is that some of the smartest, toughest people in the country say taxes ought to be raised." Some of his smart people: Felix Rohatyn, Dan Rostenkowski and Jimmy Carter.

RANDALL SCANDAL. Fresh from its February tribute to Jimmy Carter, The Washington Post's "Style" section celebrated Randall Robinson, Executive Director of the radical group TransAfrica, on March 13. Post reporter Donna Britt described how "Robinson's voice laps over you like a warm wave...It's a voice particularly suited to taking the edge off things, to making uncomfortable messages more palatable."

Among Robinson's more uncomfortable messages: that Fidel Castro's Cuban occupation force "provided a tremendous service to Angola," and his warm welcome of the dearly departed communist dictator of Grenada, Maurice Bishop, as his guest at TransAfrica's annual dinner in June 1983.

Britt explained that "Some of his enemies have questioned Robinson's patriotism and have implied that he is as Marxist as some of the governments with whose leaders he communicates. (Actually, Robinson describes himself as nonpartisan)." The same day, the Post reported on page A13 that Robinson was urging Secretary of State Baker to fund the Marxist African National Congress (ANC) "in the same way we funded the Solidarity movement [in Poland] and opposition parties in Nicaragua."

ZERO FOR ZULU. For anyone relying on the TV networks for South Africa coverage, this will be the first you've heard of a visit to the U.S. by the leader of the largest black organization in South Africa. Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi, head of the 1.5 million member Inkatha movement and leader of South Africa's largest tribe, the Zulus, visited President Bush on February 28 to discuss prospects for peace in South Africa. Despite the importance of this visit, the story was ignored not only by ABC, CBS, and NBC, but also by The Washington Post. The New York Times excerpted 71 words from an AP story on the visit.

Buthelezi has long opposed sanctions, an issue he raised with Bush. As Buthelezi told AP, U.S. sanctions policy "minimizes economic growth and maximizes black misery." Instead of covering Buthelezi, ABC, CBS and NBC were busy covering Mandela's visit to Zambia. Ironically, Tom Brokaw reported on March 1, the day after ignoring the Buthelezi-Bush meeting, that Mandela had met with a delegation of U.S. Congressmen and told them "that the United States must continue its economic sanctions against South Africa, despite recent reforms. He called the sanctions a tremendous achievement."

DR. DENTZER'S DECLARATION. To U.S. News & World Report Senior Writer Susan Dentzer, the Declaration of Independence, written in resistance to the heavy hand of government and the burden of overtaxation, would today become a manifesto for national health insurance.

In an article on "America's scandalous health care" in the magazine's March 12 edition, Dentzer declared "If the Founding Fathers were engaged in statecraft today, would they add the phrase health care to their stirring list of unalienable rights? Americans squeezed out of the U.S. health care system face a tyranny nearly as great as the one the founders overthrew...A nation that leaves so many citizens unprotected from the ravages of illness is clearly depriving them of the pursuit of happiness -- and at times, even of life itself."

Dentzer then detailed how today, the founding fathers would see the need for creeping medical socialism. "Government could clearly devote several billion dollars a year -- not the millions spent now -- to research aimed at determining the effectiveness of medical services." The government should "expand Medicaid to finance care for far more children and low-income families... next, the nation could construct a broader safety net for the rest of the uninsured." To pay for it all, Dentzer advocated hefty payroll tax hikes, not to mention hikes in estate taxes, corporate taxes, and income taxes, placing herself on the wrong side of 1776.


Page Five

Networks Miss Another Election

Standing By Socialism. Nicaragua was not the only political shift to the right missed by the media. Two days before the March 18 East German elections, as thousands were fleeing to the West, ABC's Jerry King described the leftist Social Democrats as "descendants of the communists [who] strike a responsive cord when they claim to be the new social conscience of the left." And why might they be popular? "East Germans are afraid unification with West Germany will spell the end of their generous social security programs."

NBC's Mike Boettcher saw the same nonexistent trend on March 16: "The communists, pronounced dead only a few months ago, have been resuscitated by fears that capitalists might eliminate the benefits of East German socialism." Bob Simon of CBS finished the triad, whining about the demise of "the whole East German system which covered everyone in a security blanket from day care to health care, from housing to education," bizarrely adding: "Some people are beginning to express, if ever so slightly, nostalgia for the Berlin Wall."

These reporters somehow managed to miss the overwhelming sentiment for quick reunification that helped the conservatives win. The day before the vote, Boettcher attributed the wish for quick elections to worries that "East Germans might rethink their support for democratic principles if they had more time to think about the consequences of reunification." ABC's King cited polls showing the conservative party "running a close second, partly because it's pushing for a quick unification."

U.S. News & World Report's Michael Barone explained the media have exaggerated the strength of the left: "The voters are saying, in the slogan of the East German winners, 'No more socialist experiments.'...History is not, it seems, an endless move to the left." Mr. Simon, Mr. Boettcher, and Mr. King, take note.


Page FiveB

State Department Attacks

If you've noticed a distinct bias in CNN's reporting from Central America, you're not alone. Late last year, during the FMLN communist offensive in El Salvador, the State Dept. called CNN's coverage "the least objective as well as the most consistently wrong in points of fact." An early December cable obtained by MediaWatch confirms that U.S. officials in El Salvador contacted CNN about reporter Ronnie Lovler.

Embassy officials told Lovler they were disturbed with her "notable lack of balance." The cable added that in more than two weeks of coverage, Lovler "never once tried to check personally with us to get our views or input." Lovler claimed "she did not believe she was biased" and that she did not attend several press conferences "because of her lack of crew resources."

Citing glaring errors in her Nov. 30 report, embassy officials complained to International Editor Ethan Jordan. The cable ended: "Perhaps coincidentally, perhaps not, Ms. Lovler returned to Managua over this past weekend and Charles Jaco was brought into San Salvador to handle CNN coverage."

CNN spokesman Steve Haworth told MediaWatch: "There's no significance to when she has gone in or out of El Salvador." But privately, staffers say that Lovler was pulled out. A State source contends her bias stems from her husband: "Mario Tapia is a member of the Sandinista party and continues to be a militant."

The cable added this anecdote: "When a bus with American dependents left the U.S. AID compound Nov. 30, on its way to the airport, it passed Ms. Lovler and a CNN crew filming their departure. The Americans, who have been seeing the CNN coverage at home via local cable systems, broke out in loud and spontaneous booing."




Coverage of the environment provides a dramatic example of how the media's mindset prevents a balanced discussion of both sides of an issue. Reporting on left-wing environmental groups promotes their save-the-planet intentions as non-controversial, indeed beyond dispute. Reporters ignore their underlying liberal anti-industrial agenda: the same combination of crippling regulations, prohibitive taxes, and government boondoggles that stunted the economy and killed job opportunities in the late 1970's.

The media's pattern of environmental bias is vividly illustrated by a three-year study of ideological labeling of environmental groups. MediaWatch analysts used the Nexis news data retrieval system to review every story on ten environmental groups in the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, and The Washington Post in 1987, 1988 and 1989. Out of 2,903 news stories, we found 29 ideological labels, or less than one percent. Of those, 22 were applied to Earth First!, five were given to Greenpeace, and the other two went to the Natural Resources Defense Council. The rest were label-free.

Not only did newspaper reporters fail to identify their liberal tilt, but they usually failed to refer to them as partisan political activists in Washington. Reporters used the words "activist," "advocacy," "lobbying," "militant" or variations thereof, only 155 times (5.3 percent). The newspaper reporters also committed bias by omission -- four of the most active conservative environmental groups were mentioned only 60 times (an average of 15 mentions apiece). By contrast, the ten liberal groups merited about 290 stories each. That's almost 20 times more attention than the conservative groups received. Among the liberal organizations receiving special treatment:

Wildlife Groups. Cloaked in a nonpartisan public image, the "defenders of wildlife" are uncompromising liberals who have blocked a number of Reagan and Bush Administration appointments. A memo from the editor of Audubon Society magazine revealed in The Washington Post last May 31 described the environment as "being royally [expletive] by our Environmental President (gag!). Maybe with a two-pronged attack (from sportsmen and conservation groups) we can shorten Manny Luhan's [sic] tenure at Interior." Still, the National Audubon Society suffered no harsher reference to activism than "arch-advocates of bird conservation," and no ideological labels in 457 stories.

The World Wildlife Fund, once run by Bush EPA Administrator William Reilly, was referred to as "mainstream" three times in 260 stories, even though they gave a medal to doomsday ecologist Paul Ehrlich. The Wilderness Society, counseled by Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson and once home to Earth First! founder Dave Foreman, also went unlabeled.

Self-Described Activist Groups. The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) received no liberal labels in 355 stories and only 20 references to activism, 16 of them in The New York Times. The Washington Post referred to EDF's activism only three times and the Los Angeles Times just once, using a Post account that described EDF as "strong clean-air advocates." Environmental Action, a group that grew directly out of Earth Day 1970 and pre-dated Earth First! "ecotage" by teaching conscientious types how to sprinkle nails on freeway interchanges in the 1970's, received no labels and only six references to activism in 51 stories.

The League of Conservation Voters (LCV) was often described as "the political arm of the environmental movement," but the print media refused to identify the League's political slant. The LCV has endorsed Michael Dukakis for President, New Jersey Gov. James Florio, Sen. Frank Lautenberg, Sen. Joseph Lieberman, and California gubernatorial candidate Leo McCarthy, to name just a few. They gave President Bush a "D" report card in 1988. In 111 stories, the League was never given a liberal label. But they were described twice as "nonpartisan."

Direct Action Groups. Greenpeace, famous for disrupting Trident missile tests, had five political labels in 426 stories. Four were "radical" and one was "liberal-leaning." Despite Greenpeace's militant tactics, reporters used activist references only 41 times, or less than 10 percent of the time. Earth First!, the self-proclaimed "ecological saboteurs" renowned for advocating "tree-spiking," which has severely injured several loggers, received the harshest treatment of the lot. In 83 news stories (70 in the Los Angeles Times), Earth First! was labeled 22 times, or about 26 percent of the time. The New York Times called the group "radical" once, but also referred to it as "conventional." The Los Angeles Times employed "radical" or variants like "sometimes radical" 20 times.

Consumer Environmentalists. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the anti-pesticide activist group responsible for last year's apple panic, was the most mentioned environmental group of those studied. Yet in 691 stories, they were labeled only two times. One of those came in Andrew Rosenthal's May 25, 1989 New York Times article headlined "When Left of Center Finds Itself in Mainstream." The Los Angeles Times once called the NRDC "generally liberal," but it also described them as "a group dedicated to saving the planet from pollutants."

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a Ralph Nader spinoff also active in promoting regulation of the food supply, never received a liberal label. The group's Naderite origins were never disclosed in 254 stories. They did have the highest number of activist references (64), but most were positive-sounding, such as "consumer advocacy" and "health advocacy."

On the other hand, the American Council on Science and Health, a prominent opponent of NRDC and CSPI headed by Elizabeth Whelan, received much more suspicious treatment. In 23 stories, reporters called them conservative only once, but referred to them with adjectives like "industry-supported" or listed their corporate donors seven times. Not one story in 2,90 mentioned the industry funding of the liberal environmental groups.

Free-market environmentalists were not only skeptically treated, they were comparatively ignored. The Competitive Enterprise Institute, headed by former EPA official Fred Smith, was mentioned only eleven times, and not once on an environmental issue. The Reason Foundation, a California-based free-market think tank, was mentioned 12 times in the Los Angeles Times. Of its three mentions between the news sections of The New York Times and The Washington Post, two were in obituaries. The Political Economy Resource Center, an up-and-coming free-market environmental research foundation based in Bozeman, Montana, merited only one mention. The New York Times labeled it a "tiny, hard-core, market-incentives think tank."

As environmental issues become more prominent on the American political scene, the public would be better served if reporters spent some time investigating the liberal, anti-business agenda of most environmental groups, and provided more than token attention to organizations that suggest market-based solutions.


Page Seven

Earth Day Evangelists. Even the individual gurus who inspired Earth Day avoided the liberal label, getting tagged only once in 211 stories. It came in one of 123 stories mentioning Jeremy Rifkin's Foundation on Economic Trends. Barry Commoner, the 1980 standard-bearer of the far-left Citizens Party, received no ideological labels in 39 stories, but was referred to as "one of the nation's foremost environmental consciences" by the Los Angeles Times.

Lester Brown and the Worldwatch Institute appeared unlabeled in 34 stories, but the Los Angeles Times did call Worldwatch "respected" and "widely quoted," and referred to Brown as "one of the world's most influential thinkers." Paul Ehrlich, NBC's favorite doomsayer, went unlabeled in 15 print accounts. But Julian Simon, author of the free-market standard The Ultimate Resource, was not once consulted for news stories in the three papers.


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