Home Page
  30-Day Archive
  Notable Quotables
  Media Reality Check
  Press Releases
Media Bias Videos
  Free Market Project
  About the MRC
  MRC in the News
  Support the MRC
  Planned Giving
  What Others Say
  Site Search
  Media Addresses
Contact the MRC
MRC Bookstore
Job Openings

Support the MRC



From the September 1990 MediaWatch

PBS "Balances" Castro Documentary with Landau Lovefest

Page One


Americans rarely get the full picture when the media spotlight turns to Cuba. Few have heard the testimony of Alcides Martinez, Castro's prisoner for eight years, who explains his suffering well: "There were five to eight in one cell. We had to take turns lying down. And there were no sanitary facilities. In a few days, we were on a scum of maggots and excrement...the world was unaware or didn't want to know. It was 1967." Viewers finally got to see Martinez in the searing documentary Nobody Listened, by Jorge Ulla and Nestor Almendros, the Academy Award-winning cinematographer, on PBS August 8.

Despite worldwide critical acclaim, PBS refused to air the film for two years. Marc Weiss, producer of P.O.V., a series dedicated to films with a point of view, rejected the film twice for "presenting point of view as fact." Frontline was no better. According to Washington Times critic Don Kowet, one producer told Almendros that "Frontline does not co-produce anti-communist programs."

PBS finally allowed Nobody Listened on the air when Minneapolis affiliate KTCA "balanced" it with The Uncompromising Revolution, a film by Saul Landau, Senior Fellow at the radical Institute for Policy Studies. Landau made no bones about the source of his inspiration: "There is no doubt who is directing this revolution, or this film." Landau followed Castro around the countryside, describing how the "force of nature" gave Cuba "action-packed decades of experiments in collective survival and socialist living." Landau tingled his way through the hour like an overaged groupie: "Fidel touched this young machine adjuster and the man enjoyed a mild ecstasy. I know the feeling."

At the end of the back-to-back broadcasts, Landau told an interviewer "if the United States would practice self- determination in its sphere of influence as the Soviet Union did in Eastern Europe, Cuba could open up and experience glasnost, perestroika, and God knows what else." As if Castro was a U.S. puppet, Landau complained this would not happen "as long as the United States continues its control, or its desire to impose its control, on Cuba."

The program's segues supported Castro. National Public Radio anchor Scott Simon began by insisting "If you make the trip from Mexico, you might notice first the well-fed, well-cared-for children, and the absence of beggars and shanty towns in contrast to so much of the rest of Latin America." He ended with a call for normalizing relations: "Perhaps as the Cold War closes down, more Americans may feel it is time to open up to Cuba."


Revolving Door

Passing Away. Hedley Donovan, Editor-in-Chief of all Time Inc. magazines from 1964 until he joined the Carter White House as a Senior Adviser in 1979, died in early August at age 76. Time's August 27 remembrance noted that Donovan had taken over from Henry Luce, whose "Republican prejudices had poisoned Time's political coverage. Then came his pledge: 'The vote of Time Inc. should never be considered to be in the pocket of any particular political leader or party.' With that declaration Time came of age." That pledge passed away long before Donovan.

Off to the Gulf We Go. The August 27 "From the Publisher" column in Time proudly reported that Washington bureau reporter Jay Peterzell represented magazines in the Pentagon's Desert Shield pool. "The assignment was a welcome one for Peterzell, a specialist in military and intelligence affairs," wrote publisher Louis Weil in a cursory reference to Peterzell's past. Weil failed to tell readers Peterzell became a "specialist" by working for a left-wing foundation. Before joining Time in 1987 he was a lawyer and Research Associate for the Center for National Security Studies (CNSS), a project of the American Civil Liberties Union and the Fund for Peace.

While at CNSS he contributed articles to The Nation, such as "Unleashing the Dogs of McCarthyism," and wrote Reagan's Secret Wars, a book in which he argued "that a fascination with covert action had led the administration to initiate programs that have often been aimless or counterproductive or that threaten to lead the United States into war" in such places as Afghanistan, Cambodia, Libya and Nicaragua. He also represented CNSS in its successful effort to win a court order forcing the CIA to release documents about "covert" activities in Central America.

Changing Houses. ABC News has a new Director of News Information: Sherrie Rollins, Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs under HUD Secretary Jack Kemp since early last year. Rollins replaces Alise Adde, a former Assistant Press Secretary to Sen. Bennett Johnston (D-LA). Reporting to Rollins at ABC: Scott Richardson, Manager of News Information and a former Deputy Press Secretary to Bob Dole; and World News Tonight Press Representative Arnot Walker, who has worked for Vice President Mondale and New Jersey's Jim Florio. Rollins handled state press for the 1984 Reagan-Bush campaign and TV network support for the 1988 Republican National Convention.

Jackson's Journalists. The Jesse Jackson Show has added another network veteran to its ranks. Ken Walker, who covered Jackson's 1984 presidential campaign for ABC News, has signed on as Senior Producer of the weekly Time-Warner program set to begin in late September. He'll be working under Co-Executive Producer Van Gordon Sauter, President of CBS News from 1981 to 1983 and again from 1985 to 1986. Walker will continue as a panelist on Fox's Off the Record discussion show. Walker joined ABC from The Washington Star in 1981, working as a White House correspondent from 1986 until moving to Gannett's ill-fated USA Today: The Television Show two years.


Page Three

Time's New "Nation" Editor


In July, Time named Jack White Senior Editor in charge of the "Nation" section. Publisher Louis Weil noted that White, a Time staffer since 1972, "was convinced by the civil rights movement in the 1960s that journalism could play a part in making America's ideals a reality." White's work reflects more than the noble cause of eliminating racism; it also reflects liberal political views.

White's biases were evident in his questions during 1984's vice presidential debate. White blasted Geraldine Ferraro from the left for supporting tuition tax credits and a ban on forced busing, views "opposed not only by your running mate but by just about every educational and civil rights organization in the country."

White's questions for George Bush continued the same theme: "Many critics of your administration say that it is the most hostile to minorities in recent memory." White declared that "many recent studies have indicated that the poor and the minorities have not really shared in the new prosperity generated by the current economic recovery. Was it right for your administration to pursue policies, economic policies, that required those at the bottom of the economic ladder to wait for prosperity to trickle down from people who are much better off than they?" How much more liberal Time's "Nation" section can become is anyone's guess.




BOYCOTT BIAS. Time's August 27 "Grapevine" section asked the question "Who's Boycotting Whom?" Noting that "the shop-till- you-drop tendencies of America's consumer society have lately been checked by an activist counterimpulse," Time's list included left-wing boycotts only: the National Organization for Women's campaign against Esquire magazine; "peace groups" boycotting Folgers for importing coffee from El Salvador and thereby "fortifying the right-wing regime;" black groups' refusal to hold conventions in Miami to protest the city's failure to honor Nelson Mandela; gay groups' ban on Philip Morris-owned Miller beer, since the company contributed to Jesse Helms' re-election campaign; and Jesse Jackson's Operation PUSH trying to pressure Nike into hiring more minorities. Newsweek gave the Nike story two pages the same week.

Notably excluded by both magazines: The Christian Action Council's successful boycott of AT&T, and its current boycott of American Express and 41 other companies (including the New York Times Company) which fund the abortion lobbyists at Planned Parenthood. The council did, however, spur debates at both Today and CBS This Morning.

JUDD SLINGING. Political candidates are all style and no substance, reporters commonly complain. But on Prime Time Live, ABC's Judd Rose was not interested in substance when he looked at the Texas gubernatorial race. His August 16 story, "Texas Crude," repeatedly mocked the style of Republican candidate Clayton Williams, portraying him as a southern buffoon.

Diane Sawyer's lead set the tone for the piece: "The man now swaggering down Main Street is running first and foremost as a cowboy and making a lot of Texans ponder that old Will Rogers saying, 'Things aren't like they used to be, and probably never were.'"

Skillfully skirting the issues, Rose attacked Williams for being out of touch. "Williams' critics worry that he hankers a little too much for the old ways, that his mistakes reveal a disturbingly narrow view of the modern world. For instance, in an age when candidates routinely court the gay vote, Williams has no use for gays, and no apologies."

"It's a dirty campaign and getting dirtier all the time," Rose reported. Among his examples: Williams criticized Richards for accepting money from gays and Jane Fonda. "Why not?," Rose asked sarcastically, "It works. In 1988 the Bush campaign linked Michael Dukakis with Willie Horton...The rest is history. And as it happens, the White House is keeping an active hand in this campaign."

DOVE DRIVEL. Time Editor-at-Large Strobe Talbott continues to attribute the collapse of communism to the forces of appeasement and disarmament. In a July 30 article, Talbott declared: "It would do [German Chancellor Helmut] Kohl no harm to acknowledge a debt to a courageous and controversial predecessor. In 1969 Willy Brandt launched his Ostpolitik of reconciliation and rapprochement with the East. It was the first major sustained breakthrough of the cold war in Europe. Brandt went a long way toward allaying Soviet fears by signing a renunciation-of-force treaty with Moscow." No doubt the Soviets quaked in fear of a German invasion before then. To Talbott, Brandt's "most important" decision came when he "formally recognized the German Democratic Republic."

Staff Writer Lisa Beyer tried to polish Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher's record on the same issue. "Genscher's renegade view of the Soviets, once derided by his allies as being 'soft' on communism, has proven visionary." Thankfully, the Germans have a better understanding of the Cold War's end than Time does.

GOOD SAMARITAN REPORTING. The political motives of an American group in El Salvador escaped New York Times reporter Lindsey Gruson in his August 15 article, "Suspicion Keeps a Hospital From Salvadorans." Gruson detailed the efforts of Medical Aid for El Salvador to get hospital equipment into the country. The only background on the group's sympathies came from Medical Aid associate director Jody Williams, who asserted, "We favor neutrality and we're in favor of a negotiated settlement to the war. We don't support the guerrillas."

Funny how Gruson never mentioned group founder Bill Zimmerman's explanation of the group's goals: "Medical Aid for El Salvador has two purposes. One is to deliver medical assistance for the alleviation of the suffering in El Salvador, and two, to protest the involvement of our government in the struggle, because that involvement is creating more victims in need of medical care." Zimmerman was also the founder of Medical Aid for Indochina, which sent aid to the Vietcong, North Vietnamese, Pathet Lao and Khmer Rouge during the Vietnam War.

TAXACHUSETTS TAXERS. The Massachusetts Miracle toted by Governor Michael Dukakis during his 1988 presidential campaign is well over. But liberal Democrats whose tax-and-spend policies culminated in July with a huge $1.2 billion hike in gasoline, sales and income taxes were not to blame. In fact, according to a July 28 NBC Nightly News story, Dukakis and his political allies are the state's saviors.

Reporter Stephen Frazier blamed the downturn on cutbacks in defense spending, before asking "the Governor and some economists [to] put the changes in perspective." Dukakis claimed "that kind of white-hot economic growth couldn't be sustained indefinitely." A local economist insisted: "This state, contrary to popular opinion, is not a particularly high-tax state."

That settled, Frazier showed video of people rallying for a tax repeal referendum which would return taxes to their 1988 level. Turning again to a Democrat, Frazier warned: "That would throw the state budget way out of balance, the Speaker of the Massachusetts House said today." Frazier concluded: "He hopes the referendum fails, and, he said, when people realize it could mean even deeper cuts in programs for the elderly and safeguards for the environment and in education, they'll stick with the budget that was passed today." What about those opposed to more taxes? Frazier didn't talk to any of them.

SDI SKEPTICS. Much of the media have jumped to the conclusion that an impenetrable shield against incoming missiles is a scientific impossibility, though the scientific community is far less conclusive. Time reporter Bruce Van Voorst dismissed any progress in the SDI program in his August 13 article bemoaning investment in SDI: "After seven years of research, it is clear that no antimissile system can provide the impenetrable shield against incoming missiles that Ronald Reagan envisioned in 1983."

NBC Nightly News reporter Henry Champ concurred in his August 4 piece on Star Wars cutbacks: "Senators today finally turned their backs on a dream of the Reagan era: that somehow a space-age security blanket could hover above the world, an impenetrable network of American lasers and missiles." Champ pretended SDI funding has never been cut by Congress, noting "It was the first time Star Wars suffered cutbacks since its inception and followed months of severe attack from various government agencies and the scientific community."

SPIES LIKE US. Introducing her August 2 Prime Time Live interview with KGB chief Vladimir Kryuchkov, Diane Sawyer wanted to clear up any misconceptions about the Soviet secret police. "It's most difficult for most Americans to understand a government organization that monitors everything, that has tentacles reaching into all aspects of Soviet life. But keep in mind the KGB is like a combination of the CIA, the FBI, of the National Security Agency, the Secret Service, and the Coast Guard, too."

"From Lenin to Stalin to Gorbachev, it's members have been a proud corps of the national elite, intelligent, talented, and fully in control," Sawyer swooned. As to whether their talents lie more with torture or terrorism, Sawyer did not specify, but she did give them credit for their political enlightenment: "The officers of the KGB, in fact, decided reform was necessary long before Gorbachev came to power."

MUTING MANDELA'S MARXISM. Since most reporters have ignored the symbiosis of the South African Communist Party (SACP) and the African National Congress (ANC), they faced an interesting problem when Nelson Mandela addressed the first SACP rally in 40 years on July 29.

The ANC magazine Sechaba declared in 1985 that "the ANC and the SACP are two hands in the same body...they are two pillars in our revolution." In How to be a Good Communist, Mandela explained: "The aim is to change the present world into a communist world where there will be no exploiters and exploited, no oppressor and oppressed, no rich and poor." ABC's Richard Sergay ignored all the evidence, declaring: "While Mandela made it clear today the ANC is not a communist movement, he said for decades they have shared an important goal, a negotiated settlement."

NBC reporter Charles McLean took a similar line on Sunday Today: "Although not a communist himself, Mandela will address today's rally and speak in support of his allies in the Communist Party." Andrea Mitchell continued the trend on the Nightly News." [Mandela] said his African National Congress is not communist, but would fight for the party's right to exist," Mitchell announced as the camera showed Mandela singing the communist anthem, the "Internationale," as he stood next to SACP leader Joe Slovo.

CALIFORNIA DREAMING. Project Censored, Sonoma (CA) State University's yearly list of the top ten "undercovered" stories of the year, has just released their 15th annual report. The 15- judge panel, which included three major media representatives, took a decidedly loony leftish line on what was "censored."

The top ten included critiques of U.S. foreign policy ("The Holocaust In Mozambique" and "Guatemalan Blood on U.S. Hands") and the depredations of American capitalism ("The Chicken Industry and the National Salmonella Epidemic"). Even juicer topics were selected for the 15 runner-up stories, such as "The U.S. Is Poisoning the Rest of the World With Banned Pesticides"; "The U.S. Presence Is Destroying the Environment in Central America"; "Faulty Computers Can Trigger World War III"; "U.S. Congress Ignored Soviet Plea for Nuclear Test Ban"; "The Oppression and Exploitation of Native Americans," and our favorite, "Media Reliance on Conservative Sources Debunks Myth of Liberal Bias." But none this year matched a 1987 winner: "Oliver North's Secret Plan to Declare Martial Law."

The project's panel of judges included Newsweek Senior Writer Jonathan Alter, PBS omnipresence Bill Moyers and former Washington Post editor Ben Bagdikian, as well as left-wing media gurus Noam Chomsky, George Gerbner, Frances Moore Lappe, and Herbert Schiller.

BYE-BYE LIBERTIES. Here's another helping of stories from the William Brennan Fan Club. On July 23, USA Today reporter Tony Mauro claimed: "Brennan was the engine who, more than any other individual, drove the court in the last 30 years to declare new rights, to protect new minorities, to bring more of the dis-favored into the safe harbor of the U.S. Constitution." In the August 2 Christian Science Monitor, Managing Editor Curtis J. Sitomer hailed Brennan as a hero for his "philosophy of individual rights and fundamental choice which government cannot, and should not take away or abridge," which was "the hallmark of Justice Brennan's more than three decades on the Supreme Court." Sitomer warmly recalled: "In his early years on the bench, Justice Brennan's liberal voice blended with those of former Chief Justice Earl Warren and Associate Justices Hugo Black, William Douglas, Abe Fortas, Arthur Goldberg, and [Thurgood] Marshall as keepers of the flame of individual rights."

RECOMMENDED EDUCATION. Last month's MediaWatch included highlights of David Shaw's Los Angeles Times series on the pro- abortion agenda of the major media. Shaw revealed that Jack Rosenthal, editorial page editor of The New York Times and Meg Greenfield, who fills the same slot at The Washington Post, were unaware of the police brutality suffered by Operation Rescue protesters. To them and other journalists cocooned from reality, we recommend some good reading.

In the August 23 U.S. News & World Report, Senior Writer John Leo gave first-hand accounts from members of Operation Rescue who suffered at the hands of police. Though some still feel physical pain a year later, Leo noted their story is rarely given media attention since "journalists, who are generally unsympathetic in the first place, tend to assume that cries about brutal treatment are just part of the show." After an account by an elderly woman bloodied by police assault, Leo concluded: "There are many such horror stories...[Operation Rescue's] occupation is very much like that of a civil-rights sit-in. Would we want pain holds used on Martin Luther King, or would we shout about on-the-spot torture doled out to stop an unpopular political movement?" Hopefully, the media can help answer that question.


Page Four


The American media are usually quick to criticize U.S. military actions around the world, but coverage of the Persian Gulf crisis offered a pleasant surprise. Because of the fast-paced, daily escalation of events, the media have had little time for "analysis" stories to interject opinion. Indeed, coverage has for the most part been straightforward.

But when reporters did have some time for "analysis," the media's conventional wisdom was again liberal. Reporters had three lessons to teach America about the Iraq crisis: (1) The Reagan- Bush free market energy policy failed, so we need government intervention; (2) Reagan's defense build-up was misspent; and (3) Arab support for Saddam Hussein is perfectly rational.

Lesson #1: We Need A National Energy Policy.

The media lesson here: involvement in the Persian Gulf could have been averted if, during the 1980s, the U.S. had continued to follow Jimmy Carter's national energy policy.

NBC's Lisa Myers: On the August 15 Nightly News, Myers asserted: "The problem is that slow and steady progress on energy conservation came to a screeching halt in the mid-1980s, which is a big reason Iraq has us over a barrel today. What derailed the conservation effort? Two things: a sharp drop in oil prices and the Reagan Administration....In some cases, Reagan actually turned back the clock, relaxing auto efficiency requirements, delaying appliance efficiency standards, scrapping research on new energy technologies."

Who were Myers' sources? Two liberal energy experts. The Alliance to Save Energy's James Wolf reiterated: "They were a disaster! President Reagan's Administration fought on the wrong side of the energy efficiency wars. They opposed every initiative to improve energy efficiency."

Myers asked: "What can the U.S. do in the short-term to significantly reduce oil consumption?" She turned to Philip Verleger of the Institute for International Economics, who told viewers: "The single most effective way would be the most painful way which is to boost gasoline prices. The price probably has to go to $1.60 a gallon." Myers concluded: "And that would just be the beginning. In the end, real energy conservation means much higher prices, smaller cars, and driving less. And history tells us it may be easier to get the Iraqis out of Kuwait than to get Americans to give up their love affair with the automobile."

On August 23, Myers' target was George Bush: "Almost daily, the President is out on a gas guzzling cigarette boat which gets one and one half miles to the gallon. Saving energy is not something he even likes to talk about." Myers claimed: "Energy analysts call the lack of action irresponsible. George Bush does not have a strong record on energy policy. When he became Vice President, the United States imported 34 percent of its oil. Today it's 45 percent."

This time, Myers did mention energy sources that have become controversial, such as nuclear power and domestic oil drilling, and allowed an energy analyst to charge: "I find it intolerable that politicians put the mating habits of the caribou ahead of human life in the gulf." But instead of attacking environmental extremists who hold energy policy hostage, Myers concluded conservation through government intervention was still the best policy: "Eighty-seven percent of Americans favor tough conservation measures. But two-thirds oppose the most effective way to force conservation, which is to raise oil and gas prices a lot."

CBS and Time: New taxes are needed to protect us "from being hostage to the whims of faraway nations," Time's Richard Hornik insisted in a August 20 article. He concluded: "Americans pay too little for energy generally and for gasoline in particular. A 50 cent per gallon gasoline tax phased in over five years would encourage conservation and raise $50 billion in revenues."

It took CBS until August 26 to call for new taxes. James Hattori summed up his Evening News story: "Experts say the one thing which will guarantee conservation and accelerated research into more efficient cars is perhaps the least likely course of action -- a tax making gasoline in the U.S. as costly as in many other countries, $2 to $3 a gallon."

Lesson #2: Reagan Undermined Our Defense.

Reporters spent much of the past decade berating Ronald Reagan's defense buildup, so NBC's Andrea Mitchell couldn't concede it worked. Without bothering to explore the impact of congressional cuts, she blamed Reagan on August 16 for all the problems associated with the Gulf deployment: "We've been training to fight a desert war for years, while buying weapons to fight the Cold War in Europe. Instead of building fast ships to move troops and equipment to the Persian Gulf, the Navy spent billions on Trident submarines and warships. As a result, the Pentagon can move only one division at a time to the Middle East....It's the legacy of Ronald Reagan's trillion dollar defense buildup. Critics say the Pentagon was thinking richer, not smarter."

Lesson #3: Support For Saddam Hussein Is Perfectly Rational.

The swift condemnation of Hussein by Egypt, the Gulf States and the Arab League dispelled much of the talk of Saddam Hussein's popularity among Arabs. But some reporters bought Hussein's "Haves vs. Have Nots" theory. On the August 7 CBS Evening News, reporter Bob Simon told viewers of sentiment among migrant workers in Jordan: "The Kuwaitis, they say, have billions of dollars invested abroad, while there's hunger here and in many parts of the Arab world....The Kuwaitis built a wall around their perfume garden, only let other Arabs in to keep it green. When Saddam Hussein broke it down he acted out the secret dream of every Arab who'd ever worked there. And the Arab world is now rising in anger against the United States."

Questioning Arab support for American involvement, he concluded: "While Americans say they're moving tonight in defense of little nations, that's not how it will be perceived or described over here. From the poor people in these little nations, Americans will hear these old phrases, old accusations: gun boat diplomacy, imperialism, the arrogance of power."

On the August 11 NBC Nightly News, Dennis Murphy echoed Simon: "Young Moslems made their choice for Saddam Hussein and a holy war against the Westerners. The chants, the emotions, the religious fervor to save Arab pride are running hot through the desert valleys here and in Amman. Westerners are seeing the people pull behind the Iraqis across all classes of society. Saddam Hussein is winning over the masses."

Four days later, NBC's Garrick Utley reinforced the theme: "Saddam Hussein is seen less and less in the eyes of most Arabs as a villain for having invaded Kuwait and more and more as the champion of an Arab cause for standing up to the West, standing up to the United States. So, as time goes by, as more American troops come into Saudi Arabia, his image of champion only grows." Interesting. On August 25, Utley warned: "If Saddam Hussein decides to become his own television salesman, he will have better personal tools of communication than the more faceless emirs and kings of the oil states we are defending. How are we to react to that? Every time he appears on our television screens we are going to have to make an extra effort to look behind the face and the words." Too bad Utley didn't tell the public and his colleagues that earlier.


Page Five

NBC's Iraq "Expert"


NBC's desperate search for Arab "experts" in the wake of its shutout from Iraq led to some mysterious interviews. On the August 12 Nightly News, Garrick Utley interviewed Safynez Kazem, a Muslim theater critic from Cairo. When asked her opinion of Saddam Hussein, Kazem told Utley: "I consider him an American agent or Zionist agent because he is fulfilling for America and fulfilling for Israel all their dreams. America wanted to control the area, control our region."

Unfazed, even impressed, by Kazem's goofy statements, Utley brought her back for a long profile on Sunday Today August 19 and burnished her credentials as an "expert." "Many people said they wanted to learn more about her and her life. Well, she lived for six years in the United States and because of her background, she is able to speak to us in the West about the differences and the tensions between her world and ours."

Kazem's years in America left her less than impressed. "I do not belong to the Western civilization. I was acting like a monkey." After returning to Egypt, she was imprisoned over what she called her "love of principles...we are opposing all measures against democracy." She then went on to applaud the assassination of elected Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1981. "So we were very happy inside the prison and we felt that act -- it's not a personal act -- but this actually answered the public appeal that this man should go." "It must have seemed very personal to Sadat," Utley replied.




Reporting on the economic effects of the Iraq invasion August 14, CBS News business correspondent Ray Brady announced "more and more economists are saying the outlook will get gloomier...All this means that a major change is hitting the American economy, one that could make any recession longer and deeper." How seriously should CBS viewers take this prediction? A MediaWatch Study has discovered that whenever economic news is bad, Brady will report that it's bad. And when economic news is good, Brady will also report that it's bad.

To quantify the spin CBS is giving viewers about the economy, MediaWatch analysts reviewed every Evening News story from August 1, 1988 to July 31, 1990 in which Brady reported on economic indicators. That included movements of the Dow Jones index as well as conventional government statistics on topics from unemployment to inflation. Of the 41 stories aired between August 1, 1988 and July 31, 1990, 73 percent were negative, 20 percent left an ambiguous impression, and only 7 percent contained a positive message. In 1989 Brady offered 16 negative stories to one positive piece. This year all nine of his indicator reports have been negative.

Of the 74 soundbites from private economists Brady used, 75 percent of the comments on the economy's condition or future prospects were negative. By contrast, 14 percent of their statements were ambiguous and only 11 percent were positive.

Brady's stories were designated negative, positive, or ambiguous based on the information Brady selected to report, the tilt of the sources interviewed, the predictions made, and the conclusions Brady reached. If most sources made positive statements or if Brady explained how the day's news had positive effects on the economy, the story was classified as positive. If Brady balanced positive and negative sources (as he did in a few stories during the 1988 campaign), the story was called ambiguous. In most cases, Brady selected information that reflected badly on the economy, selected sources that predicted recession or expressed fear of the future, and concluded with a negative statement.

The economic boom that began in 1982 has continued throughout the past two years, as unemployment has remained low and GNP growth has posted uninterrupted gains. Brady reflected this reality in just three positive stories. Back on August 5, 1988 he reported a record number of Americans were working in the previous month, as wages continued to increase in the midst of a labor shortage. Brady concluded "labor experts say this is the best time to be looking for work in 25 years."

Brady's usual operating procedure: Pick out the negative sliver in the face of good news. On December 20, 1988, Brady's story on the Christmas shopping season ended: "Retailers' woes might not be over: if they have a good Christmas, many stores could find themselves short of goods in the new year." On March 10, 1989, anchor Charles Kuralt announced: "Ray Brady reports the high employment rate is causing problems." Brady concluded: "With 289,000 new jobs created last month alone, many employers are having trouble finding workers....Rising wages for scarce workers could add fuel to an inflation rate that's already heating up." (It didn't.)

The Dow rose 19 points to 2158, its highest point since Black Monday on October 18, 1989. Brady's spin: 15,000 Wall Street personnel were still out of work, "no one's buying stock," and "prices probably will drop lower in months to come." The next day the Dow fell, prompting Brady to end his story by standing in a cemetery: "There's an old saying in the financial community that Wall Street runs from the river to the graveyard, this graveyard. And that about sums up Wall Street's feeling." (The Dow flirted with a record 3000 before tumbling after the Iraqi invasion.)

On October 26, 1989 when Dan Rather reported that GNP growth had "breezed along" at 2.5 percent, Brady described "a slowing economy." Brady put on Commerce Undersecretary Michael Darby, who called it good news, but then noted that "private economists take another view of today's report." Irwin Kellner explained away the positive figures (they were pumped up by advance auto sales), and Nancy Lazar actually called the report "very discouraging." Independent economists Kellner, Lazar, David Jones, Don Ratazcjak and Gary Shilling represented over a third of Brady's sound-bites of economists. They had something in common: with one exception, they offered only negative assessments.

On December 13, 1989, Dan Rather began the night's economic report with the words "America's staggering debt," and then reported the trade deficit was down 29 percent to its lowest level in five years. To shed bad light on the good news, Rather intoned: "Ray Brady reports European officials hope to cut back this country's most successful long-run export." (Brady then explained how the officials are trying to ban American TV programs.)

The 1989 annual inflation rate was up only slightly from 1988, but on December 27 Dan Rather worried the figures didn't reflect the fact "a product every family uses is climbing with no end in sight...Ray Brady explains why that's worrisome." (The product with a price out of control? Milk.)

Anchor introductions often demonstrated te tenor of Brady's reports: On May 12, 1989, when the Dow climbed 56 points, Connie Chung announced "not everyone was thrilled, as Ray Brady reports." On July 25, car sales were down for the year, but up for the month. Rather's introduction? "Ray Brady reports on the downside of the nation's auto picture."

Of course economic news is often good for some while bad for others. Brady almost always manages to emphasize the losers. On October 12, 1989, home prices were down. That's great news for the buyers, but not for the sellers, so Brady focused on the sellers: "In the past, the American dream of owning your own home always had a sequel -- live in it, then sell it as a huge profit ...So another dream has faded." On March 16, 1990, home prices were rising, so the conclusion switched to the buyers: "So they keep looking. Thousands of young couples like the Wares, looking for that first house, looking for what used to be called the American Dream."

About the only thing Brady's reporting proves is that if you keep reporting the same bad news over and over again, eventually you'll be right. As the saying goes, even a broken clock is correct twice a day. But a broken clock is usually harmless. Misleading economic reporting is not.


Page Seven


Ray Brady not only selected economists who would reflect his own pessimism, but followed the same pattern in choosing non-experts. Of 41 soundbites from such "man on the street" interviews, 74 percent were negative, 8 percent were positive, and 18 percent were ambiguous. Not one of the non-experts aired in 1989 or 1990 said something positive.

Finding people to utter sufficiently gloomy remarks has been helpful to Brady, especially when the government figures were insufficiently gloomy. One memorable non-expert was shopper Frances Kessler, who Brady followed around a supermarket for a January 18, 1990 story. Kessler held up a box of cornflakes and exclaimed "$1.99. I think the last time I bought this, it was $1.59. That's a big increase. It's ridiculous." Kessler told Brady "Prices never come down. Once they're up, they're up. The up escalator works. The down escalator is always out of service."

In another inflation story on February 21 this year, a woman complained: "I don't know how the average, normal, moderate- living-income family is going to be able to make it."

In a July 18, 1990 piece on state economies, a woman told Brady: "We eat at coffee shops, the few that are left. Most of them have gone out of business."

Sometimes the soundbites created a sense of desperation. On August 23, 1988, an elderly woman worried about increasing food prices after the summer drought: "I'm 88 years old. How can I afford to go on at the rate it's going?"

Brady's "average" people weren't very representative. If they were, Michael Dukakis would be President.


Tell a friend about this site




Home | News Division | Bozell Columns | CyberAlerts 
Media Reality Check | Notable Quotables | Contact the MRC | Subscribe

Founded in 1987, the MRC is a 501(c) (3) non-profit research and education foundation
 that does not support or oppose any political party or candidate for office.

Privacy Statement

Media Research Center
325 S. Patrick Street
Alexandria, VA 22314