Reporters Bemoan Loss of Court's Liberal Activist
THE BRENNAN FAN CLUB
Out came the Kleenex at the networks when
word arrived that Supreme Court Justice William Brennan had resigned. In
the midst of their tributes, reporters failed to consult one
conservative on how Brennan achieved through the courts what liberals
couldn't secure at the polls: the legalization of abortion, the erosion
of property rights, the preference for criminals' rights over victims'
rights, and the removal of religion from public life.
On July 21, the day after Brennan
resigned, CNN's Candy Crowley warned "in civil rights circles,
there is fear that a Supreme Court, with a philosophical scale weighted
to the right, will no longer be a force for social change."
Equating liberal judicial activism with "individual rights,"
Crowley worried: "Also seen at risk in a court without Brennan, the
limits of individual freedom." Similarly, on ABC's World News
Saturday, Tim O'Brien consulted liberals Ralph Neas, Robert Drinan,
and Floyd Abrams, who agreed with O'Brien's assertion that
"affirmative action programs which Brennan supported may now be
doomed," as are "freedom of speech and press."
"He loved the flag clearly, and the
Constitution, too," oozed reporter Bruce Morton in a sappy CBS
Evening News tribute, quoting a Yeats poem about an old woman who
walked like a young queen. "William Brennan loved and served two
young girls who walked like queens -- his country and its highest
When President Bush nominated David
Souter three days later, most reporters refrained from instant analysis.
There were exceptions. CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather
asked: "Senator Simon, is there any doubt in your mind that [Souter's]
views pretty well parallel those of John Sununu's, which means he's
anti-abortion or anti-women's rights, whichever way you want to put
With little more than 90 minutes to
evaluate Bush's nominee, NBC's Carl Stern jumped to his own conclusions:
"Judge Souter's given high marks for intellect, but marks that are
not so high for a rather narrow view of constitutional rights.... there
are a number of cases that some groups will regard as troubling, in the
church-state area, in the women's rights area, in the age discrimination
area -- a certain insensitivity will certainly be explored at length in
the Senate hearings."
The next morning on Today, Stern
picked up where he left off: "As a bachelor, he showed spare
concern for women's rights, taking a sometimes dim view of rape
complaints....Souter seems just as bright as the other justices. The
question seems to be his commitment to individual rights."
Gannett's Big Gun.
Syndicated columnist Carl Rowan joined the Board of Directors of the
Gannett Company, owner of USA Today and several major TV
stations, in late June. In the 1960s Rowan served Kennedy and John-son
as Ambassador to Finland and Director of the U.S. Information Agency.
Ted Turner has picked Tom Johnson, a close aide to President Lyndon
Johnson, to replace Burt Reinhardt as President of the Cable News
Network. Currently Vice Chairman of the Times Mirror Company, publisher
of the Los Angeles Times, Baltimore Sun and Newsday,
Johnson reported to Atlanta in early August. Johnson began his White
House career in 1966 as an Assistant Press Secretary under Bill Moyers.
He was promoted to Deputy Press Secretary in 1967 and then to Special
Assistant to the President in 1968. When the President left office in
1969, Johnson followed him to Texas as his Executive Assistant. Johnson
soon left politics for journalism, becoming Executive Editor and
subsequently Publisher of the Dallas Times Herald. Starting in
1977 he held various Times Mirror executive posts, most notably,
Publisher of the Times from 1981 to 1989.
Capitol Hill to Capital Cities.
A couple of months ago former Nixon aide Eugene Cowan retired from his
post as Vice President in Washington for ABC/Capital Cities. Mark
MacCarthy, his deputy and a former communications policy aide to liberal
Democratic Congressman John Dingell, filled the open slot. Now ABC has
hired a replacement for MacCarthy. Charlene Vanlier, general counsel to
the Republican leader of the U.S. House since 1988, is ABC's new
Washington counsel. Roll Call reported she previously held
minority counsel positions with the Senate Judiciary Committee and House
Energy and Commerce Committee.
Camelot and the Court.
Fred Graham covered legal affairs for The New York Times from
1965 until he jumped to CBS News in 1972. During the next decade and a
half his distinctive Southern accent became a fixture on the CBS
Evening News. In his new book, Happy Talk: Confessions of a TV
Newsman, Graham revealed what he did before taking up journalism.
He spent two years simultaneously writing speeches for two liberal
Democrats: Secretary of Labor Willard Wirtz, a man Graham described as
"a Harvard liberal," and in "an unusual, if not unique
relationship," drafted addresses for Kennedy-nominated Supreme
Court Justice Arthur Goldberg.
Newsletters to Newspapers.
<F255P255>Patrick McGuigan, Editor of the Free Congress
Foundation's Family, Law, and Democracy Report,
in addition to Initiative & Referendum Report and Judicial
Notices, which merged in 1988, is returning home to the Sooner
state this summer as Chief Editorial Writer for the Daily Oklahoman.
For several years he's been the unofficial conservative point man on
judicial appointments. This Spring he co-authored Ninth Justice, the
Fight for Bork...Joseph Farah, Editor of between
the lines (btl), a conservative media watchdog, just named Sacramento
Union Editor. Farah, Executive News Editor of the Los Angeles
Herald Examiner in the mid-1980s, still runs btl.
WOMEN IN WAR
When the Arts & Entertainment
(A&E) cable network premiered Women in War in February and
March of this year, host Pat Mitchell declared the reports on Northern
Ireland, Israel, El Salvador and urban America would highlight women's
"uncommon courage and commitment to make their voices heard from
the front lines." A&E, owned by ABC, NBC and Hearst, was so
pleased with the shows it rebroadcast them in July.
In the case of El Salvador, Mitchell
found "courage and commitment" in the women fighting for the
communist FMLN. The half-hour segment heaped praise on the rebels and
attacked the democratically elected government of Alfredo Cristiani,
earning Mitchell and A&E the August Janet Cooke Award.
Attacks on the Government.
Mitchell, a former Today correspondent who now appears on CBS
Sunday Morning, gave this overview of the origins of the
revolution: "The landowners, or oligarchy, also control the
government and military, who suppressed any signs of unrest among the
peasants. The violence of the suppression is usually attributed to
paramilitary groups known as death squads. In retaliation, the rebels
armed themselves and began an offensive against the government."
Mitchell continued: "The apparent impunity of the government and
the military leaves little room for moderate responses, especially from
those who would change the social and economic fabric of El
Mitchell denounced the 1989 elections:
"With Alfredo Cristiani as President, and with the backing of the
oligarchy, this election was seen as a widening of the chasm between the
political extremes that perpetuate the war." The war is rooted
"in an economic system that benefits a small elite at the expense
of the poor majority." She noted that ARENA, Cristiani's party,
"won the elections in '89 by 30 percent of the electorate."
Actually, the elections reflected an
outpouring of support for Cristiani from people of all walks of life. Of
1.8 million voting-age people, 1.3 million were registered and 900,000
cast ballots, a higher turnout than in recent U.S. elections. ARENA
garnered 55 percent. More would have voted if the FMLN had not carried
out sabotage and deadly intimidation to disrupt the balloting. Mitchell
ignored these death squads.
Praise for Communists.
Mitchell conceded the FMLN is backed by "Cuba, Nicaragua and the
Soviet Union," but she never called them communist. It didn't
matter what the rebels fought for, as long as they were women. Mitchell
hailed FMLN Comandante Ana Guadalupe Martinez for her motherly nature:
"Ana is a mother and that has strengthened her resolve to continue
the fight." Martinez agreed, declaring "the combination of
love for my children and the love for the people, is what obliges me to
Mitchell's adulation for the FMLN's front
groups was unbounded: "COMADRES, the Committee of Mothers of
Political Prisoners, the Disappeared and Assassinated....[was] the first
group on the streets protesting the repression of the Salvadoran
government and military." Mitchell raved, "Still they march
for peace with social justice. Recently, when some of the wounded rebel
fighters, in need of further medical care, were evacuated to the
metropolitan cathedral, COMADRES fed and cared for them."
Last Nov. 15, The Washington Post's
Douglas Farah gave a different picture of these women. During the FMLN
offensive, he noted: "Heavily armed women who have worked in the
offices of various human rights offices long accused by the government
of being front groups for the rebels appeared and greeted their
acquaintances. 'We are no longer front groups,' said a woman. 'Now we
are the FMLN.'"
The leftist labor union's head also
captivated Mitchell: "Elizabeth Velasquez...chose the labor
movement as her part of the struggle. As a young factory worker she
emerged quickly as a leading voice for reform. She's now one of the
directors of FENASTRAS, the coalition of labor unions in El
Salvador....The socialist restructuring of the economy that the union
proposes meets expected resistance from the government and there are
violent confrontations between police and FENASTRAS marchers."
Mitchell concluded by noting a November bombing killed Velasquez,
"one of the most powerful voices on the frontlines, silenced
The U.S. Department of Labor, however,
reported FENASTRAS is allied with the FMLN and the communist World
Federation of Trade Unions: "It distributes disinformation critical
of the government of El Salvador and supportive of the FMLN
In a letter to MediaWatch,
the Charge d'Affaires of the Salvadoran Embassy, Jose Luis Trigueros,
complained: "By failing to point out that the FMLN is a
self-declared Marxist-Leninist guerrilla group that is trying to
violently overthrow a democratically elected government, A&E is
betraying the public's trust."
In a conversation with MediaWatch,
Mitchell denied there was any political agenda behind Women in War:
"I didn't go there with a political agenda. I don't have one now. I
am in the business of making documentaries for women and minorities.
We're just trying to give a voice to those people who are not heard in
the mainstream....I don't have a political opinion about any of these
Mitchell featured only one ARENA party
legislator because "We went to ARENA, to the national
legislature....We got absolutely no cooperation from them. We made a
conscious effort to hear from as many different voices. What we found
were women from what you would call the left and which are clearly to
the left politically. They are the ones who came forward and talked with
But didn't Mitchell believe these women
were members of communist front groups and didn't she have an obligation
to say so? "It's totally immaterial what I believe. I didn't go
there to prove my beliefs or even state my beliefs. We pointed out the
direct way in which they are servicing the poor, the needy, the
disenfranchised." A&E officials refused to discuss the show. So
little concern for accuracy is a sad indictment of a network dedicated
to presenting historical and contemporary documentaries.
Once again, the myth of runaway, uncontrolled defense spending has hit
the airwaves. On the July 13 Good Morning America, newsman Mike
Schneider reported at 7:30 that the Senate Armed Services Committee
voted to cut "one billion dollars from the previously untouchable
Space [sic] Defense Initiative program, also known as Star Wars."
At 8:30, he reported that the committee "worked throughout the
night to lop...a billion dollars from the previously untouchable Star
But this untouchable program has never
been fully funded once: the administration's budget has been slashed at
least 18 percent by the Congress every year. Since 1985, SDI has
received 18.3 billion dollars, only 74 percent of the amount requested.
So much for untouchable.
A JUNGLE OUT THERE. When
hundreds of Albanian refugees rolled into a small military camp in
Brindisi, Italy, they found it a "paradise" compared to life
back home in Europe's "poorest, most politically backward
country," ABC's World News Tonight reported July 14.
But if these refugees think Albania was
bad, wait till they meet the free-enterprise system as portrayed by
reporter Mike Lee. First, Lee showed how enthusiastic the refugees were
about their new-found freedoms, how they enjoyed uncensored newspapers,
fresh pasta, John Wayne movies, and modern medical care at the refugee
Then Lee pointed out the
"realities" of a capitalist system. "These refugees have
been told little about the realities of life in the West, including the
fact that some people sleep on the street," said Lee ominously, to
which one young Albanian woman sensibly wondered, "Why? Don't they
work?" Undaunted, Lee continued his forecast of doom: "They
will soon learn that jobs are hard to find, consumer goods expensive,
relatives in Albania will be missed. Many refugees, according to
experts, will suffer from depression and in some cases drug abuse."
These Albanians have no idea what they're
LEAVE OPPONENTS LEFT OUT.
When President Bush vetoed a family- leave bill June 29, several
reporters didn't quote anyone opposed to the bill as unfair to small
businesses or harmful to job growth. On that night's CBS Evening
News, Wyatt Andrews simply showed "victims" of the veto,
employees laid off for taking extended leave. Andrews mysteriously ended
by portraying the veto as a sop to the rich: "The veto will help
frame election-year questions of wealth and privilege. Mr. Bush, who
vetoed the bill just before taking a long weekend off, defends the veto
as an act to protect jobs. Democrats ask what happened to kinder and
The next day, The Boston Globe's
Renee Graham devoted an entire article to proponents of the bill.
"President Bush's veto of the family leave bill resulted from his
failure to recognize the changing face of the American work force and
could cause the nation to regress into a 'third world country' in terms
of business acumen, opponents of the veto said yesterday." In 22
column inches, Graham allowed no Bush official or Republican opponent of
the bill to respond. USA Today's June 29 piece quoted only Ted
Kennedy, Chris Dodd, and Rep. Marge Roukema, a Republican sponsor of the
MORE PHILLIPS FAWNING.
Add the name of Robert Raskin, a Washington-based economics reporter for
Knight-Ridder Newspapers, to the list of reporters endorsing Kevin
Phillips' thesis that Reagan widened the income gap. Reviewing Phillips'
book for The Philadelphia Inquirer on July 22, Raskin declared
that "countless lesser studies by liberal analysts over the last
five years have documented time and again how Reaganomics delivered a
feast to the greedheads and starvation to the poor," but
"never before has the case been laid out so accessibly...and built
into such a sweeping indictment of Reaganomics and all it wrought."
Phillips saw parallels between the 1980s
and the Gilded Age of the late 1800s and the Roaring '20s. Raskin
concurred: "Both eras were marked by the same kinds of excesses as
the 1980s -- gross concentrations of wealth in the hands of a tiny
privileged elite, achieved primarily by deliberate Republican policies
that left most Americans behind while debt, greed and conspicuous
consumption roared out of control." The other two eras ended in
crashes that "triggered populist political uprisings." Raskin
hoped for a repetition: "All that's needed, [Phillips] suggests, is
the fertilizing rain of a new economic crisis."
NED'S NEW TAXES. ABC's
Ned Potter continues to push for a better planet through higher taxes.
Introducing a July 10 World News Tonight story following the
economic summit, Ted Koppel announced "Six of the seven nations
already are working to reduce the pollutants they emit in such vast
quantities, pollutants that many scientists say are warming the
planet...the one nation out of step is the United States."
Potter admitted that "from
atmospheric research to tree planting, the White House says it is doing
plenty," but insisted that "scientists say that is much less
than what Germany and Holland are doing, and they are already twice as
energy efficient as America." Potter never mentioned that the
European environment requires drastic steps just to catch up to where
the U.S. is now.
What are the Europeans doing? "Most
dramatically, putting tremendous taxes, as much as ten times American
levels, on anything that burns oil or coal. Those taxes sound crippling,
but they may have an economic benefit: they have already pushed business
to seek alternatives." Without such bludgeoning of the free market,
Potter feared, "America may find itself alone with the temperature
Homelessness has been a favorite media vehicle to denigrate the
Reagan-era economic boom. The death by suicide of activist Mitch Snyder
in early June brought on another round of calls for massive federal
On July 7, ABC World News Saturday
anchor Carole Simpson lamented: "Snyder's death could not have come
at a worse time for the nation's homeless. It comes when public
attitudes toward the homeless have been changing, and for the
worse." In what way? "Declining sympathy for the
homeless," which Simpson saw as synonymous with a poll which found
fewer people "would pay more taxes to provide shelter for the
That same night, NBC cited similar
polling data that prompted a comment from anchor Garrick Utley:
"The antagonism against the homeless is growing, isn't it?"
Reporter Jamie Gangel then gave a typical Snyderesque diatribe: "A
third are families who have lost their homes either because housing is
too expensive or because of federal cuts in housing
assistance...families and children are the fastest growing group and
they say that the other groups are much smaller...advocates say what's
really needed is a federal master plan starting with more housing. The
truth is that on the federal level, except for rhetoric, the homeless
are way down the list of priorities."
TAX HIKE HEROES. Jodie
Allen's comments on the July 29 broadcast of Money Politics
will resolve any doubts about how much journalists want new taxes. While
most of New Jersey is outraged with Governor Jim Florio for substantial
hikes in the state income tax, the editor of the Washington Post
"Outlook" section hailed him as a hero: "It takes a tough
man to do a dirty job, but there is a dirty job to be done here. We've
been living for ten years borrowing and spending."
Allen compared Florio's future place in
history to Thomas Jefferson's: "The problem for Florio is that, as
history has shown, when you step up and are a leader, people often don't
like you. And it can take a long time, even centuries, for history to
look back and say that was a good guy. They didn't start liking Thomas
Jefferson until this century." In "the history books,"
Allen predicted, "Florio will go down as the first, I hope not the
last, brave man of the '80s and '90s." Maybe if those histories are
written by reporters.
OH NO, DOW HITS HIGH.
"A record setting day on Wall Street. Today, the Dow Jones average
reached an all-time high," announced reporter Mark Phillips on the
July 12 CBS Evening News. Even though the market responded
positively to Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan's decision
to lower interest rates, Phillips turned to dependably dour economist
Gary Shilling, who disagreed with the market's reaction to Greenspan:
"It's very bad news for the economy, in that the Fed is finally
admitting what some of us have thought for some time, and that is that
the economy is already in a recession."
Phillips told viewers that "economic
signs are not good. Consumer spending has been down for three months in
a row, the first time that's happened since the recession of the early
'80s." What led to all of this? Phillips concluded: "The
excesses of the '80s -- the S&L crisis, bad debts to the Third
World, junk bonds, empires built on credit, like Donald Trump's -- these
are all coming home to roost. If, as the saying goes, greed was good for
the '80s, its cost, Dan, has been a credit squeeze that threatens the
prosperity of the '90s."
READER BEWARE. A recent
study by Professor Adrienne Lehrer of the University of Arizona should
put some holes in consumer confidence in the "news" industry.
Lehrer's study, published in Journalism Quarterly and
highlighted in the Washington Journalism Review, measured the
percentage of quoted remarks in 24 articles that turned out, when
checked against tape recordings to be verbatim. The results: in news
stories by professional journalists, 10 percent; in interview stories by
professional journalists, 3 percent; in articles by student journalists,
OLLIE'S ALLIES. Dan
Rather hinted at conspiracy July 20 in explaining why a federal appeals
court overrode one conviction against Oliver North, and asked for
further review of the other two convictions.
"Believed to be the lead, or guiding
judge in this particular case: Laurence Silberman, named to the court by
Ronald Reagan. Siding with Silberman for North, David Sentelle. Sentelle
also named to the appeals court by Ronald Reagan. Sentelle is a long-
time supporter of Jesse Helms, and it reportedly was Helms who got
Reagan to appoint Sentelle to the appeals court." The three- judge
panel's dissenting voice was appointed by Jimmy Carter, but Rather
didn't presume any political motives in her decision.
SOUTH AFRICA? GATSHA COVERED
Given the choice between a moderate black
who believes in democracy and capitalism, or a terrorist who doesn't,
which one do the media portray as the best hope for South Africa? When
NBC finally introduced viewers to moderate Zulu Chief Gatsha Buthelezi
July 14, reporter Robin Lloyd blamed him and not Nelson Mandela for
violent clashes in Natal between Mandela's African National Congress
(ANC) and Inkatha, Buthelezi's Zulu organization.
Lloyd declared: "Buthelezi's power
and the ruthlessness of those who claim to be his followers is more
apparent than ever in the three-year-old civil war in the province of
Natal. Ever since Mandela's release in February, armed members of
Buthelezi's militia have invaded neighborhoods loyal to Mandela and
sharply escalated the fighting. Buthelezi claims his men aren't
initiating the violence. Although there's no evidence that he personally
ordered the attacks, many believe he's allowing them to continue."
Lloyd ignored Buthelezi's repeated pleas with Mandela for a meeting to
end the violence, which Mandela has refused.
Lloyd questioned Buthelezi's political
motives: "Anti-apartheid militants consider Buthelezi a sellout....Buthelezi
denies that he is planning an alliance with conservative whites, but he
has held several meetings with President F.W. de Klerk and been
outspoken in his opposition to blacks pulling together into one
party." Mandela has met with de Klerk, and is closely allied with
white Communist Party leader Joe Slovo, yet Lloyd didn't question his
CBS, which ignored Mandela's violent past
during his U.S. tour, finally brought up the subject of South African
violence June 30, only to make Mandela's case. Reporter Harold Dow
focused on the death of a black youth shot by police: "This is what
Mandela says the struggle is all about. He's been telling audiences
across the U.S. that the ANC cannot renounce its struggle against South
Africa long as government forces remain violent." Dow made no
mention of ANC-inspired violence, specifically black-on-black violence.
He concluded: "Nelson Mandela leaves the U.S. with his goals
achieved -- sanctions against South Africa remain in place, and millions
of dollars have been raised so that the ANC can continue its struggle
DETAILED BY L.A. TIMES
How the political beliefs of editors and
reporters influence news coverage is seldom a concern raised by the
national news media. That's what made Los Angeles Times media
reporter David Shaw's July 1-4 four-part front-page series on abortion
bias so extraordinary.
Shaw noted that abortion opponents
believe "media bias manifests itself, in print and on the air,
almost daily." Shaw confirmed that belief: "A comprehensive Times
study of major newspaper, television, and newsmagazine coverage over the
last 18 months, including more than 100 interviews with journalists and
with activists on both sides of the abortion debate, confirms that this
[pro-abortion] bias often exists."
A number of major reporters whose primary
beat is abortion agreed with Shaw's conclusion. "I think that when
abortion opponents complain about a bias in newsrooms against their
cause, they're absolutely right," Boston Globe legal
reporter Ethan Bronner told Shaw. (See additional admissions in box on
When Bronner wrote a story explaining how
an abortionist would be "destroying" the fetus by
"crushing forming skulls and bones," Bronner recalled an
editor told him "As far as I'm concerned, until that thing is born,
it is really no different from a kidney; it is part of the woman's
body." To talk about "destroying" it or about
"forming bones," the editor said, is "really to distort
Indeed, reporters' personal views
favoring abortion have an impact upon what the American people learn
about the debate. Reporters have ignored stories that would cast doubt
on the fundamental case upon which "abortion rights" are
based. Bob Woodward, The Washington Post's star investigator of
Republican wrongdoing, discovered the media's reflexes a few years ago
when he revealed a 1973 memo between liberal justices admitting they
were "legislating policy and exceeding [the court's] authority as
the interpreter, not the maker of law" in deciding Roe v. Wade.
No one picked up the story. Woodward told Shaw: "There are more
people in the news media than not who agree with the [Roe]
abortion decision and don't want to look at how the sausage was
made." Shaw also learned:
"The media's language consistently
embraces the rights of the woman (the primary focus of abortion-rights
advocates), not the fetus (the primary focus of abortion
opponents)." When the Louisiana legislature passed an anti-abortion
bill, it was the nation's "harshest," and most
"restrictive," not, as abortion opponents believe, the
kindest, to the unborn child, or the most protective. Reporters
"have referred to those who oppose abortion 'even in cases of rape
or incest' (circumstances under which most people approve of abortion).
But the media almost never refer to those who favor abortion rights
'even in the final weeks of pregnancy' (circumstances under which most
people oppose abortion)."
"Abortion opponents are often
described as 'conservatives'; abortion-rights supporters are rarely
labeled as 'liberals.' Abortion opponents are sometimes identified as
Catholics (or fundamentalist Christians), even when their religion is
not demonstrably relevant to a given story; abortion-rights advocates
are rarely identified by religion. Abortion opponents are often
described as 'militant' or 'strident'; such characterizations are seldom
used to describe abortion-rights advocates, many of whom can also be
militant or strident -- or both."
"Cynthia Gorney, who covers abortion
for The Washington Post, says she's troubled by the media's
tendency to portray the anti- abortion movement as 'dominated by
religious crazies' and to 'ignore what I think are the very
understandable and reasonable arguments that are put forth by the
pro-life side.' Susan Okie, medical reporter for the Post, says
she herself 'had sort of a mental image of the anti-abortion groups as
all being extremists' before she began writing much about them."
"Like most newspapers, the [Milwakee]
Journal had long used 'pro-choice,' without any complaint from
the staff that it was unfair. But when Sig Gissler, editor of the Journal,
wrote in a column that the paper would also begin using 'pro-life,' more
than 80 reporters and editors petitioned him in protest before the
column was even published."
"The media rarely illustrate stories
on abortion with photographs of aborted fetuses -- or even, generally,
of developed fetuses -- claiming that to do so would be in bad taste and
might offend readers. But no such concern inhibits the media from
showing photos of starving, tragically bloated children in
Pro-abortion bias on the campaign trail:
"There were races in which the media said an
abortion-rights advocate's victory showed the political strength of that
movement when, in fact, most of the votes in the race actually went to
anti-abortion candidates. That was the case in Republican Tricia
Hunter's narrow victory in a special Assembly primary in San Diego last
summer....But Hunter actually received only 30% of the vote; the other
70% was divided among five anti-abortion candidates, one of whom
finished fewer that 200 votes behind her, with only 20% of the
registered voters going to the polls. The Washington Post was
one of the few major news organizations to note all these mitigating
Noting the difference between coverage of
Planned Parenthood President Faye Wattleton and Operation Rescue leader
Randall Terry: "Time magazine headlined its profile of
Wattleton last December 'Nothing Less Than Perfect' and said she was
'self- possessed, imperturbable, smoothly articulate,' 'imperially slim
and sleekly dressed...a stunning refutation of the cliche of the dowdy
"....But Terry is almost always
described as 'a former used car salesman'; the Associated Press, New
York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, and Newsweek,
among many others, have all referred to him that way."
Boston Globe reporter Eileen
McNamara, who admitted using the phrase to describe Terry, said
"most reporters 'try to be fair,' but most support abortion rights,
and 'I think we were delighted to find out that he sold used
In some cases, editors aren't even
keeping up on the anti- abortion side. Witness the ignorance of two
major newspaper editors on special "pain-compliance"
techniques that police have used against pro-life activists, a story the
national media have mostly ignored. Shaw found that "Coverage of
abortion protesters' problems has been so slight" that Jack
Rosenthal, editorial page editor of The New York Times, and Meg
Greenfield, editorial page editor of The Washington Post,
"said they had never heard of the 'pain-compliance' practices and
resultant charges of police brutality."
When it came to the questionable
indictment of pro-lifers on supposed violations of the
Racketeer-Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, Rosenthal
said "he didn't even know RICO was being used against abortion
protesters until told of it in the course of an interview for this
These admissions cut to the very core of
complaints about media bias. Today, editors are not simply favoring the
side they prefer, they're failing to report the activities and concerns
of the side they oppose. In other words, they're not doing their job.
Reporters Agree on Pro-Abortion
Bias. A few more quotes Shaw
gathered: "I do believe that some of the stories I have read or
seen have almost seemed like cheerleading for the pro-choice side."
-- NBC News reporter Lisa Myers.
"Opposing abortion, in the opinion
of most journalists...is not a legitimate, civilized position in our
society." -- Boston Globe legal reporter Ethan Bronner.
"There have been times when I have
felt that pro-choice organizations have easier access, that their...spin
gets somewhat greater credibility than the spin from the pro-life
community and that it sometimes does affect the sensibilities of
coverage." -- Washington Post political reporter Dan Balz.
"The problem [with abortion
coverage], pure and simple, is that the media's loaded with women who
are strongly pro-choice." -- A "longtime network news
executive" who asked not to be identified.
Earth First, Journalism Second.
Preaching the gospel of liberal environmentalism is still taking
precedence over journalistic standards of balance. From Minneapolis
comes amazing testimony from a May 17-20 teach-in sponsored by the Utne
Reader, the counterculture's Reader's Digest. American
Spectator roving editor Micah Morrison first covered the
conference, prompting MediaWatch to review a
tape of a panel on "The Challenges and Limits of Advocacy
The panelists agreed there should be no
limits. Barbara Pyle, Turner Broadcasting's Vice President for
Environmental Policy and Environmental Editor for CNN, told the
gathering she "met a lot of resistance and was considered to be a
real fringe lunatic for many, many years," but she continued
undaunted. "I feel that I'm here on this planet to work in
television, to be the little subversive person in television. I've
chosen television as my form of activism. I felt that I was to
infiltrate anything, I'd do best to infiltrate television."
Dianne Dumanoski, an environmental
reporter for The Boston Globe, described how little her job had
changed since her days at the left-wing alternative weekly The
Boston Phoenix: "I've become probably even more crafty about
finding the voices to say the things that I think are true rather than
maybe putting some of that in my own voice. But essentially it's the
same thing. I'm getting the same ideas into print and to a larger
audience. That's sort of what I see my subversive mission as."
Dumanoski fondly recalled retired Globe
Editor Thomas Winship, who "would stop by my desk and say 'what's
that Watt guy up to now?' I'd sort of launch into a very long, involved
answer about Watt's latest foolishness...and then he'd say 'okay, give
him hell, give him hell.'" But she complained about the lack of
reader outrage over her most radical pieces, including an Earth Day
story on how the "global market economy" is causing the
"slow chronic death" of the planet. She received only
supportive mail, like "a card from somebody at Greenpeace saying
'I'm constantly amazed about all the subversive ideas that you can get
in the mainstream press with no balancing idiotic other side.'"
Alexander's Encore. The panel
also included Charles Alexander, who boasted at a Smithsonian
Institution environmental seminar last year: "As the science editor
at Time, I would freely admit that on this issue we have
crossed the boundary from news reporting to advocacy."
This time, Alexander theorized "It
would be undesirable and probably impossible to write perfectly balanced
articles...We don't have to keep our conclusions out of our writing. We
probably couldn't if we tried....A lot of our stories adopt points of
view...Is this improper for a news magazine? I say no. After all, what
is the mission of a newsmagazine or a newspaper merely to report events
and what other people say about those events? Are we simply stenography
services? Of course not." Alexander even suggested Time's
readers wouldn't be able to figure out the news without
reporter-inserted opinion: "Our readers depend on us to bring some
expertise to our reporting, and to provide analysis and interpretation.
If we don't, we will merely leave our readers confused."
Faced with an audience openly hostile to
"irrational" capitalism, Alexander had to defend Time's
failure to call for an end to the free market: "I don't think
you'll be reading in Time that the market is the problem and
that we must replace the market. If we did that, then half of our
readers would think we've gone nuts ...What you'll see us doing is
proposing specific market interventions to correct the failures of the
market rather than just coming out and saying we've got to ditch the
market economy. I don't think that that would influence many of our
readers. We're trying to be a little more subtle."
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