PBS Producers Recall Korea Through Northern Sights
NOT EXACTLY SEOUL BROTHERS
It took PBS 12 hours to rewrite the
history of the Vietnam War, but the Korean War took only six. Korea:
The Unknown War, aired in 3 two-hour segments beginning November
12, provided a strange mix of fact and fantasy with a pronounced
anti-American slant. Jon Halliday wrote the series with the help of
Bruce Cumings, the program's principal historical consultant.
Halliday praised North Korea's Stalinist
leaders for rebuilding "the North's powerful industries. They
improved the position of education and women." How did the USSR and
U.S. become involved in Korea? "In early August the Russians fought
their way into northern Korea as liberators. The U.S. decided it should
occupy part of Korea." Why did China enter the Korean War?
"Facing what they perceived as a threat to their security, the
Chinese crossed the Yalu River and attacked the two U.N. armies divided
To place blame for 102 children who were
killed by grenades, the program put on a North Korean, who declared:
"I renew my resolution to get revenge on the Americans, a hundred
and a thousand fold." For Cumings the incident illustrated how the
U.S. was no less guilty than the communists: "In the West we tend
to think that it was the North Koreans who were the most atrocious and
the South Koreans who were bad and the Americans didn't do anything, but
in fact all three parties committed unforgivable atrocities." A
U.S. Sergeant served as an expert on the North's treatment of U.N.
POW's. Not until the last show were viewers told he was one of 22
prisoners who moved to China after the war.
That's no surprise considering the views
of Cumings and Halliday. Cumings boosted North Korea in a 1981 New
York Times op-ed: "North Koreans are proud of their 'workers
paradise' and its economic accomplishments....North Korea is a
proletarian country pursuing self-reliant development, yet Mercedes
sedans abound in the city...Kim Il Sug provides 11 years of compulsory,
free education. The virtues that are inculcated are hard work, self-
reliance, diligent study -- all familiar to Americans." Cumings
wrote in a 1986 Nation article: "U.S. leaders are by no
means Nazis. Nonetheless, when all the extenuating circumstances and
special pleading are over and done with, a few generations hence, it
will be seen that Americans visited mass slaughter on the Korean and
Halliday wrote for "Britain's
radical New Left Review and was spokesman for the United
Kingdom's Korea Committee, which wanted the West to withdraw its support
of South Korea's 'repressive' regime," Washington Times
reviewer Don Kowet reported. Among Halliday's historical efforts:
editing the memoirs of the late Albanian dictator Enver Hoxha.
In December, 1989 members of the militant AIDS Coalition to Unleash
Power (ACT-UP) threw condoms and screamed obscenities at parishioners in
order to disrupt Sunday Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York
City. Among those facing charges: Ann Northrop, a former Good
Morning America, CBS Morning News and 60 Minutes producer
who is now active with ACT-UP, a group which uses radical tactics to
demand massive government spending on AIDS. Northrop, who departed CBS
in 1988, "trains fellow activists to deliver pithy soundbites,"
the Los Angeles Times reported last year.
Moving On. David
Shapiro, an off-air national security reporter for the MacNeil-Lehrer
NewsHour from 1983 to 1988, has left his position as Press
Secretary to Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN). Shapiro has set up Media
Strategy Associates, a firm that works with non-profit groups.....Kristin
Clark Taylor, Director of Media Relations at the White House
since George Bush moved in, has quit to fill the same spot in
BellSouth's Washington office. Between 1982 and 1988 she was a USA
Today reporter and editorial writer....Scott Richardson,
Manager of News Information at ABC News, has become Vice President of
corporate communications for the Arts & Entertainment (A&E)
cable network. For most of the 1980s Richardson was Deputy Press
Secretary to Republican Senator Bob Dole.
James Greenfield, Editor of The New York Times Magazine since
1987, has retired. Greenfield served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of
State for public affairs under President Kennedy, moving up to Assistant
Secretary of State during President Johnson's years. A Times
Assistant Managing Editor since 1977, Greenfield was foreign editor from
1969 to 1977... Leslie Gelb, Deputy Editorial Page Editor for the past
two years, has replaced just retired Flora Lewis as foreign affairs
columnist. Deputy Secretary of State for Politico-Military Affairs in
the Carter Administration, Gelb covered national security issues until
1986 for the Times.
Jacking Up Jackson.
Jesse Jackson, the weekly public affairs talk show produced by Quincy
Jones Entertainment, is quickly becoming a haven for broadcast
journalists from every network but NBC. After an early November
housecleaning swept out four producers from Fox's America Most
Wanted, Adam Clayton Powell III took over the Executive Producer
slot. From 1987 until February, 1990 Powell served as Vice President for
news programming at National Public Radio. Joining Powell as
Co-Executive Producer: Randy Douthit, Executive Producer of CNN's Crossfire
since its 1982 creation, and Senior Producer of CNN's Larry King
Live since 1985.
Supervising Producer Heidi Berenson has
held various producer positions with CNN's Crossfire, CBS News Nightwatch
and ABC's Good Morning America. Former ABC News White House
reporter Kenneth Walker holds the title of Senior Producer. Guest
Producer Florence Squassi did the same for Good Morning America
as segment producer and then editorial producer between 1988 and early
Post Reporters Love
Cuomo & Jackson, Dislike Dukakis
THROW THE BOOK AT THEM
The sympathies of Washington Post
political reporters came through loud and clear in two recent books on
the 1988 campaign. In See How They Run, Post political reporter
Paul Taylor explained how his personal feelings for Mario Cuomo kept him
from letting go of his "Mario Scenario": "I figured the
voters wanted someone who filled a room just by entering it; someone who
knew the lift and lilt of a metaphor; someone whose notions of mutual
obligation and shared sacrifice would be a balm for two decades of me,
me, me...His refusal to take the plunge only made him more tantalizing.
How many politicians of the first rank escape the clutches of their
ambition long enough to ponder their worthiness?"
Taylor was also smitten by Jesse Jackson.
"My guess is that no reporter -- no matter how disciplined or
dispassionate -- who traveled with Jackson in 1988 will ever forget his
campaign, and many of us will continue to have trouble keeping it in
perspective. 'These are the sorts of things you want to save for your
grandchildren,' David Rogers, The Wall Street Journal's
congressional correspondent, mused to me once as we sat together on a
Jackson bus. He was removing a cassette of that afternoon's Jackson
speech from his tape recorder."
In Pledging Allegiance: The Last
Campaign of the Cold War, former Post political writer
Sidney Blumenthal criticized Dukakis for not being liberal enough on
defense and foreign policy. "Dukakis' campaign was delighted with
the effort to keep dangerous new thinking to a minimum....His
conventionality led him to accept the deeply ingrained shibboleths that
had kept the Democrats on the defensive for decades. He wound up
operating on the premise that the Cold War was not over and he had to
demonstrate his bona fides as a cold warrior."
Janet Cooke Award
Horror-movie scenarios of environmental
destruction might have ratings appeal, but why does PBS, which prides
itself on being above commercial influence, feel the need to stoop to
hype in its documentaries? The ten-part PBS series Race to Save The
Planet, which aired from October 7-11 and is continuing to air in
reruns, urged viewers to support an "environmental revolution"
of drastic government measures or face "enormous calamities in a
very short time." For its one-sided campaign for government
controls, Race to Save the Planet earns the December Janet
1) The Problem: Man-kind.
Based on the Worldwatch Institute's State of the World reports,
a standard text for liberal activists, the series questioned the entire
Western political and industrial system. The series' narrator, actor Roy
Scheider, began by attacking the Industrial Revolution: "This new
way of life brought the world many things: industrial diseases, the
drudgery of factory work -- but above all, growth -- growth in wealth
and in population, which nearly doubled in the 19th century, crowding
into huge new industrial cities. This new urban and industrial world was
a powerful threat to the natural world."
For expertise, the series relied on the
usual cast of panic prophets, including Worldwatch Institute chief
Lester Brown, Stanford biologist Paul Ehrlich, climatologist Steven
Schneider and alternative-energy guru Amory Lovins. In Florida,
Biologist Larry Harris predicted that "the sea will come up about
one foot within the next 25 to 40 years. That means that the edge of the
sea we're standing on today will occur ten miles north of here by about
the year 2010." Actress Meryl Streep declared: "By the year
2000 -- that's less than 10 years away -- the earth's climate will be
warmer than it's been in over 100,000 years. If we don't do something,
there'll be enormous calamities in a very short time." No scientist
appeared to challenge these experts or to point out they predicted
an ice age by the late 1970s.
The series dated the genesis of the
environmental revolution to Earth Day 1970, which Scheider claimed
"appealed to everyone," an allegation the writers backed up
with footage of children singing "Oil drops are falling on their
heads/And that surely means that soon they will all be dead." What
was Earth Day's lesson? Organizer Denis Hayes explained: "We began
to recognize our finiteness, and ultimately our vulnerability, that this
was really something we as a species could adversely affect in a way
that could in fact bring about planetary death."
The producers saw only an either/or
relationship between industry and the environment. For example, Scheider
stated: "The seals died for this: the luxurious lifestyle which
consumes the endless products of modern industry -- the lifestyle of
affluence...The consumer lifestyle stretches around the world, but
wherever it's found, the environment always pays the price."
The series indicted the entire human
race. Streep mourned "plants and animals which have been forced to
retreat into ever smaller patches of wilderness in the face of our
relentless march across the globe." Scheider agreed: "Now just
one of these species -- humans -- is putting the clock back...Where
human beings once coexisted with nature, now we have come to master and
Larry Harris only saw humans as an
impediment when the floods cover Florida: "Animal species, of
course, would normally be able to move up the peninsula, if there
weren't human habitation and human blockage. But with all the interstate
highways and the chain-link fences and barking dogs and golf courses,
the wildlife will be caught between the devil and the deep blue
The series ignored all of the good things
man has gained from technology. One series expert, Paul Papenek, even
queried: "Do we have to have chrome, or petrochemicals, or benzene,
or other chemicals in the environment? Instead of just saying 'Well, do
more filters on the smokestack do the job for us? we really can take a
step backward and day, 'Well in the first place, why are we making these
things?...We're way beyond science at that point, we're into public
policy." Scheider praised "A growing movement [which] has
begun to demonstrate for better environmental enforcement and
abandonment of destructive development projects -- dams, highways, and
Scheider ended the first hour with a love
letter to the caveman: "The environmental revolution had arrived, a
revolution as powerful as the one which had transformed our
hunting-gathering ancestors, who lived so lightly on the earth, into
settled farmers, who used the earth more heavily, who began to find
environmental limits, and whose numbers grew and grew until the
industrial revolution; more growth, more people, the earth used more
heavily still." He warned of the end of the world, declaring
"Only the environmental revolution can save the planet from this
2) The Solution: Government
Controls. The series regularly advocated statist solutions,
including the environmentalist's favorite: energy taxes. "Today,
the prices of coal, oil, and gas are misleadingly low, because they
don't include the potential cost of damage from global warming,"
Scheider declared, "But adding in this cost through a tax on fossil
fuels would encourage conservation, and also give an economic advantage
to alternative fuels which don't harm the atmosphere." Scheider
advocated subsidized alternative fuels and compulsory car-pooling.
The series praised tired socialist models
such as Sweden ("Life in Sweden may be the best that the modern
world has to offer") and Zimbabwe. Streep pushed the
"suggestion that money spent on defense could in the future go to
help the environment....Maybe it's possible for us to think of national
security in a new way, as no longer a question of military security but
instead, of the security of a healthy environment."
When asked why PBS based a series on
Worldwatch Institute reports, Senior Producer Linda Harrar explained to MediaWatch
"When I was looking for an idea for Nova back in '84, I
read the book State of the World. It did give me a view of the
world which I had not had before and that was really the springboard for
the proposal and indeed was the title of the series...for some
Why not air scientists who have
challenged drastic environmental scenarios? Harrar claimed "We made
no efforts to avoid particular points of view," but when MediaWatch
suggested the series didn't include them at all, Harrar conceded:
"I think that could come through...You could quarrel, certainly,
with...what we chose to focus on." But Harrar defended the
exclusion of balancing voices: "There are ways of confusing the
public in putting ping-pong matches onto television which we did not
particularly think was useful." Harrar repeated the point later:
"I'm not sure it's useful to include every single point of view
simply in order to cover every base because you can come up with a
program that's virtually impossible for the audience to sort out."
So: PBS thinks the public isn't smart enough to consider conflicting
arguments in a policy debate which could change their entire way of
life. Maybe during the next pledge drive, local PBS stations could use
the slogan "PBS: You pay, we tell you what to think."
CLOSING THE BOOK.
Book reviewers for major newspapers greeted An American Life,
Ronald Reagan's autobiography, with near-uniform hostility. The
Washington Post's Jonathan Yardley concluded Reagan led the public
"into the conviction that there is a free lunch and we are entitled
to it; the price we will end up paying for that little lesson in
self-indulgence is only now beginning to come clear, as is the
understanding that we will be paying it for generations, if not until
Maureen Dowd, a Time Washington
reporter in the early 1980s who now covers the White House for The
New York Times, also took a whack at it. "Reading the former
President's memoir, I found it impossible to escape the thought that a
better title would be The Mannequin Speaks," Dowd wrote in
her November 18 Times review. Reagan gave "gauzy treatment
of the role his administration played in encouraging a decade of greed
and narcissism" which created "an embarrassing discrepancy
between rich and poor."
QUOTA QUEENS. NBC's Lisa
Myers and Newsweek's Eleanor Clift were horrified by the GOP
refusal to roll over on the issue of hiring quotas. Writing for the
December 3 Newsweek, Clift theorized that by resisting quotas,
"Republicans may have found the sequel to Willie Horton...When jobs
are threatened, tolerance takes a holiday." Making use of the quota
issue, Clift declared, "will reveal how desperate the party is for
Myers' December 1 Nightly News
report was even more strident. She insisted that "The story of
Republicans and blacks is a story of contradictions. The party elects
the first black Republican Congressman in 55 years at the same time some
party leaders seem eager to exploit racial divisions." Myers
denounced Jesse Helms for "appeals to racial prejudice to defeat
his black opponent." Alarmed that many young people are opposed to
the reverse racism of quotas, Myers proclaimed they were "too
young" to understand the complexities of civil rights: "Many
of them don't understand the magnitude of past injustices that these
programs are designed to remedy." In other words, the right kind of
discrimination is acceptable.
HERE'S TO YOU, MRS. ROBINSON.
Leave it to ABC's Peter Jennings to herald a left-wing feminist as
Person of the Week. "It is true that the Irish presidency is
largely symbolic," conceded Jennings during the November 16 World
News Tonight, "but with social reformer Mary Robinson, the day
of the figurehead President in Ireland may be drawing to an end."
What did Jennings find so remarkable in
Robinson? "In a country that is 90 percent Catholic, Robinson,
herself a Catholic, has fought vigorously for a woman's right to have an
abortion, although she herself is personally opposed." Jennings
also cited her role as "a feminist in the political world of male
cronyism, radical in a conservative society."
BERKELEY BARB. Barbara
Ehrenreich is on a roll. Time made her an essayist, which led
to appearances on the CBS late-night show America Tonight and Donahue.
What neither the TV programs, which labeled her a "Time
columnist," nor Time find worth telling the public is that
Ehrenreich has also been co-chair of Democratic Socialists of America, a
fervent backer of Jesse Jackson's presidential campaigns, a resident
fellow at the far-left Institute for Policy Studies, and a regular
contributor to Ms., Mother Jones, and Zeta.
But maybe Time readers can guess
Ehrenreich's persuasion when they read essay passages like this:
"Today, with the health-care situation moving rapidly beyond crisis
to near catastrophe, the age-old and obvious solution had the tone of a
desperate whine: Why can't we have national health insurance -- like
just about everybody else in the civilized world, please?"
The Washington Post's "Health" section often promotes
liberal medical activists and ideas. The latest example: a November 27
cover story entitled "Should the U.S. Copy Canada?" Reporter
Constance Matthiessen profiled Steffie Woolhandler and David Himmelstein,
two Harvard hippies who founded Physicians for a National Health
Program. "When [Woolhandler] begins to speak, the aspiring doctors
are suddenly quiet -- struck not just by her powerful voice, which is
softened by a rich Louisiana accent, but by her devastating critique of
the health care system they are about to enter." Matthiessen ended:
"[One] medical student is insistent: 'Do you really think someone
on welfare should have the same health care as someone who has money?'
Before Woolhandler can answer, other soon-to-be doctors in the
auditorium turn and answer with an emphatic 'Yes!'"
Why such favorable treatment? Matthiessen
works for the Center for Investigative Reporting, a left-wing group that
has also provided stories for Mother Jones, 60 Minutes and 20/20.
Co- founder David Weir told Newsweek in 1982: "We don't
consider investigative reporting to be something that includes
investigating welfare mothers." Although she mentioned the Heritage
Foundation as part of a "consensus that the system is badly in need
of reform," Matthiessen didn't devote one sentence to conservative
health reform proposals.
TRUTH OUT IN THE COLD.
Reporting on liberals upset about the plight of housing for the poor on
November 3, NBC's Ed Rabel portrayed Ronald Reagan's alleged budget cuts
as the cause of all the despair. Weekend Nightly News anchor
Garrick Utley got things rolling: "In the 1980s, the Reagan years,
the amount of government money spent to build low-income housing was cut
drastically. Then the homeless began to appear on streets and in
doorsteps and housing became a visible, human problem." Rabel then
presented the evidence of '80s neglect toward the poor: "During the
Reagan years, according to the Congressional Budget Office, housing
programs for the poor were slashed by billions of dollars: an 80 percent
cut over eight years."
Rabel's fraudulent conclusion was based
on congressional accounting tricks. They can produce "an appearance
of budget cutting while the total amount available to spend has been
maintained or even increased," according to an article in the
November/December issue of American Enterprise by John F. Cogan
and Timothy J. Muris. The authors pointed out: "While budget
authority for subsidized housing programs declined by nearly 77 percent
(from 1981-1989), the number of subsidized units and the number of
families living in those units increased by one-third." Let's hope
somebody increases NBC's housing budget. Then they can make room for all
NEVER ENOUGH. To some in
the media, the child care debate centers solely on how much the federal
government should pay, not whether the government should pay at all.
During an October 29 NBC Today report on a new, more expensive
child care bill, co-host Deborah Norville portrayed the U.S. as behind
the times: "One often hears that the United States and South Africa
stand alone as the only two industrialized nations in the world not to
have a national child care policy. Does this constitute a child care
Interviewing Dana Friedman of the
Families and Work Institute, Norville's questions revealed her
dissatisfaction with current child care spending levels: "Is there
the possibility that because the feds have stepped in and done this that
it'll go beyond that? That it could be expanded, or is this all
[recipients are] gonna get for the moment?...This sounds like it's a
drop in the bucket." Norville concluded: "Well, twelve million
kids need some sort of child care. 750,000 will get it as a result of
this. As you said, Dana Friedman, it's a start."
BALANCE ABORTED. Yet
another Time reporter has revealed that her work has little to
do with objective journalism. According to a University of Michigan Law
School newspaper article sent to MediaWatch, Time
reporter and Michigan Law alumnus Andrea Sachs revealed her views on a
subject she has covered for Time: abortion.
In the article, Sachs is quoted as
admitting to marching "in a pro-choice demonstration a year and a
half ago, but after a reporter from The New York Times was
criticized for doing the same thing, Sachs 'reluctantly decided...that I
have to relinquish the right to participate [in abortion marches] and
debate, since I'm writing when we cover abortion issues.'" Asked
"whether her decision was based on a need to remain objective or to
be perceived as objective, Sachs responded that it was the latter."
In the December 5, 1988 Time,
Sachs called abortion "a right that in the course of just 15 years
many Americans have come to regard as no less inalienable than freedom
of religion or expression." Other articles to be "perceived as
objective": "Here Come the Pregnancy Police," and
"To Hell with Choice; A Cardinal turns excommunication into a
REVERSE SEXISM. Time
wasn't shy about making policy judgments in its Fall special issue,
"Women: The Road Ahead." What's the answer to the child care
problem? "Sweden, for instance, provides parents 90% salary
reimbursement for the first nine months after birth...What's to be done?
Subsidized child care and tax credits would ease the pressure on parents
to leave home before they want to." Never mind that Sweden is
moving away from its inefficient system.
In another article, Margaret Carlson
boasted: "At last, not being one of the boys looks like an
advantage. It's the boys, after all, who are responsible for the federal
deficit, nuclear waste dumps and the savings and loan debacle, to name
but a few of the disasters proliferating in the national In
basket." Which political women were held up as role models? Three
Democrats: Dianne Feinstein, Pat Schroeder, and Geraldine Ferraro.
Carlson quoted psychologist Carol
Gilligan, who declared, "women have greater moral strength, a
stronger ethic of car and over-riding concern for making and maintaining
relationships -- all qualities of a good politician." Clearly if
Carlson and Gilligan's sexist statements were reversed to favor men they
would generate protest. Will Time readers do any less in this
GOTTA LOVE THE LEFT. NBC
News field producer Susan Farkas loved Unreliable Sources, the
new book from the left-wingers at Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting
(FAIR). They think Sen. Chris Dodd doesn't represent the liberal point
of view. "You gotta love these guys," Farkas began her review
in the December Washington Journalism Review (WJR).
She found the book "is at its best describing the successful
Republican manipulation of the media in the 1980s. The fawning over
Ronald Reagan was unseemly... Reagan's regressive tax program was
mislabeled 'tax reform' and his 'misstatements' were frequently reported
without challenge on the front page while corrections ran on inside
Farkas praised FAIR, which "has
provided a valuable counterweight to the ultra-right, ill-named Accuracy
in Media and has documented the conservative bias of ABC's Nightline
and PBS talk shows." WJR has yet to review Profiles of
Deception, a book from the "ultra-right, ill-named"
group. FAIR's charges that corporations like General Electric, NBC's
owner, are manipulating the news in a conservative direction look a
little silly when NBC producers are swooning over ill-named, ultra-left
ROWAN MISSES AGAIN.
"Our country is wallowing in a miasma of political and class
conflict, of greed and special interest, with regard to budget deficits,
inflation and rising unemployment, the threats of both a bloody war and
a devastating recession," syndicated columnist Carl Rowan charged
when accepting the Allen H. Neuharth Award for Excellence in Journalism
from the University of South Dakota. Neuharth, the former chairman of
Gannett, is a USD alumnus, and Rowan serves on the Gannett board of
directors. "How did we get into this mess?" Rowan asked in the
address printed by Editor & Publisher. "Because the
press, during the 1980s committed one of the greatest crimes of the 20th
century. The media took a dive, caved in, and did not tell the American
people the price they would eventually pay for Reaganomics."
Claiming the media were too soft of Reagan: That's the kind of analysis
the journalistic community honors.
ABORTION MADE SAFE. The
decreasing number of doctors performing abortions pleases pro-life
advocates, but distresses pro-abortion forces. ABC's November 29
American Agenda took the pro-abortion point of view. Peter Jennings
asked: "Because of political pressure, are there enough doctors
still willing to perform abortions on women who want them?"
Dr. Tim Johnson provided a sob story on
the only doctor in South Dakota who performs abortions: "Often lost
in this picture is the harassment endured by the doctor who performs the
procedure...Dr. Williams is one of a diminishing number of older
physicians who say they are haunted by memories of the days when women
had only the choice of an illegal procedure or worse." The real
problem, as Johnson saw it, was that more doctors aren't coerced into
abortion training. "Only one quarter of all OB-GYN residency
programs require abortion training," he complained, "and
openings at abortion clinics are increasingly difficult to fill."
Suggesting a solution, Johnson lauded a
Vermont clinic where abortions are performed, "not by doctors, but
by physicians' assistants." He concluded: "The rest of the
country may have to follow Vermont's example, if abortions are going to
continue to be not only available, but safe."
WORLD OF KURTZ. The
Washington Post's new reporter on the news media, Howard Kurtz,
demonstrated his media reporting technique in an article in the May Columbia
Journalism Review. Kurtz worried over reporters' failure to
emphasize the corporate backing of the American Council on Science and
Health (ACSH),one of the few organizations to question the science
behind the panic over pesticides. Kurtz noted the ACSH was one of
several corporate-supported groups to use "neutral-sounding names
to peddle an ideological message." Earlier on the same page, Kurtz
quoted Michael Jacobson of the Center for Science in the Public Interest
without the slightest bit of irony. He failed to identify its leftist
ideology or its driving force: Ralph Nader.
More Hot Air from PBS
PBS added to the panic on November 21 by
airing another special on the greenhouse effect, After the Warming,
a co-production of Maryland Public Television and Film Australia.
British author James Burke reported from 2050, looking back at all we
The show began with a mock newscast:
"By 2005, forty million are dead of starvation....epidemics rage in
New York; toxic waste spills throughout Europe; evacuation is ordered
from New Orleans; greater temperatures are still to come."
Burke told viewers: "It's a
video-tape from 1990, and that was how they thought we'd turn out. Funny
how they would miss some of the changes that we would really care about.
I mean, do you remember hamburgers, traffic jams, log fires in winter, a
place called Miami, a time when the Japanese weren't running
everything?" Burke told The Washington Post: "None of
this program is fantasy. It is all a result of serious studies."
Meanwhile, PBS refuses to air The
Greenhouse Conspiracy, a devastating critique of the science of
global warming theory. PBS officials have dismissed the acclaimed
British documentary as "too one-sided."
But unlike Race to Save the Planet
or After the Warming, which completely ignored opposing points
of view, The Greenhouse Conspiracy devoted time to a number of
greenhouse advocates, including Stephen Schneider of the National Center
for Atmospheric Research. After a series of challenging questions,
Schneider conceded in the film: "I don't put very much stock in
looking at the direct evidence." Putting greenhouse theories to the
test in a two-sided debate isn't "too one-sided" for PBS, it's
not one-sided enough.
Perhaps no public figure in the last
twenty years has been less subject to journalistic scrutiny than Ralph
Nader. Despite a career of "public interest" lobbying for full
public disclosure and strict government regulation, Nader has never been
pressed by the news media to disclose even his street address.
Not only do the media publicize Nader
studies and lawsuits with a minimum of investigation or criticism, they
describe his liberal groups the way they want to be described. In fact,
some of the organizations from which Nader has tried to disassociate
himself are almost never identified as Naderite.
To document these trends, MediaWatch
analysts used the Nexis news data retrieval system to locate every 1987,
1988 and 1989 story on some of the most well-known Nader groups (Center
for Study of Responsive Law, Public Citizen, the Public Interest
Research Groups, and the Center for Science in the Public Interest).
Sources included three magazines (Time, Newsweek, and U.S.
News & World Report) and three newspapers (Los Angeles
Times, The New York Times, and The Washington Post). In
1,267 news stories, the groups were labeled liberal five times
(0.3 percent), and were identified as Nader groups in only 246 stories,
or 19 percent.
Nader readily identifies himself with the
Center for Study of Responsive Law (CSRL), the central core of his many
enterprises, which usually stays out of the limelight. In every one of
its 17 mentions, the Center was identified with Nader, though it was
never tagged with a liberal label.
But the more Nader tries to distance
himself from one of his organizations, the less reporters identify them
with him. In 1989, he told The Washington Post he "no
longer has a formal link" to Public Citizen, his flagship lobbying
group. In 621 stories, Public Citizen's array of subsidiary groups
received three liberal labels (0.5 percent) and 211 Nader
identifications (34 percent). Public Citizen, when listed by itself, was
identified as a Nader group in just 46 percent of stories. Print
reporters identified Public Citizen's subgroups with Nader even less.
Congress Watch, Nader's "good-government" group, was linked to
Nader in 32 percent of its mentions and the Litigation Group, active in
the fight against the Bork nomination, was identified in 30 percent of
its mentions. The Health Research Group (21 percent) scored even lower.
Reporters often replaced what should have
been a liberal label with a Nader reference. "Some of the 'friends
of the court' in this case would not be friends anywhere else, like
Ralph Nader's Public Citizen and the conservative Washington Legal
Foundation," declared The New York Times on December 15,
1989. The newspapers repeated that formulation on stories covering the
Nader- Washington Legal Foundation alliance five times.
The Public Interest Research Groups, or
PIRGs, were rarely described as Naderite. Created in 1970 with funds
from Nader's personal income, according to Dan Burt's expose Abuse
of Trust, PIRGs operate both nationally (with the Washington-based
U.S. PIRG) and locally through groups that were organized in the 1970s
by a National PIRG Clearinghouse. But since at least the early '80s,
Nader spokesmen have claimed there are "no common projects or
informational connections" between Nader and the PIRG chapters.
Since Nader withdrew from association with PIRGs, so did reporters'
descriptions. In 375 stories, reporters employed only two liberal labels
(0.5 percent) and 18 Nader identifications (5 percent).
All this disassociation has a tendency to
get out of hand. An April 13 story in the Los Angeles Times
reported: "The overall goal of the campaign is being supported by a
wide-ranging coalition that includes Public Interest Research Groups,
Public Citizen, and Clean Water Action." This "wide-ranging
coalition" was really three Naderite groups. (According to Nader
spokesmen quoted by Burt, Clean Water Action began as a Nader "task
force"). The Times easily misled the public.
The Center for Science in the Public
Interest (CSPI) was incorporated in 1971 by former employees of Nader's
Center for Study of Responsive Law, including Michael Jacobson, who
still serves as CSPI President. An April, 1990 MediaWatch
study found CSPI was never labeled liberal and its Naderite origins were
never disclosed in 254 stories.
That April study also measured the
frequency that reporters used terms denoting advocacy
("lobbying," "activist," and so on). Despite the
very activist nature of all of Nader's organizations, the groups studied
were described by advocacy terms in only 219 of 1,267 stories, or 17
percent. CSPI led with 25 percent, but Public Citizen only received
activist labels 13 percent of the time, and CSRL stories never used the
terminology. Even when they did use advocacy terms, reporters sometimes
called Nader groups "pro-environment,"
"good-government" or "health" advocates, or in a
triumph of having it both ways, The New York Times called PIRG
Coverage of Ralph Nader is only one of
the more glaring examples of the national media's habit of handing
liberal groups all the subtle privileges of media favoritism. While the
corporations Nader attacks are assailed for their undeserved influence
and lack of public disclosure, Nader can rest confident in the glow of
knowing he'll probably never be challenged by the media on his own
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