Reporters Hound Clinton on Political Missteps, But...
Media Applaud Clinton Policies
Washington Post media writer
Howard Kurtz sounded the anti-bias charge on January 31: "What
happened to the liberal media that supposedly gave Bill Clinton every
break during the campaign? In the blink of a news cycle, the new
President has gone from Time's Man of the Year to punching bag
of the week."
Indisputably, from Zoe Baird to gays in
the military, Clinton drew poor reviews for the failure of his often
glorified political skills, as the press corps detailed the bungling.
But unlike most reporting during the last 12 years, so far reporters
have either avoided judgments on liberal policy goals, or endorsed them.
reviewed every evening news story on gays in the military from January
21 to 30, and discovered talking heads favoring gays in the military
outnumbered opponents by 70 to 42 on the three broadcast networks. ABC
(27-14) and CBS (32-17) both gave nearly twice as much attention to the
liberal argument. NBC (11-11) split its head count down the middle, but
also aired a special promoting the gay viewpoint.
The January 26 First Person with
Maria Shriver featured 42 sound- bites of gays (and one of Clinton)
to seven anti-gay soundbites. Shriver explained opposition to the gay
rights agenda: "In the end, it all comes down to fear."
Reporters "educated" the public
about how they misunderstand gays -- from the gay perspective. On the
Jan. 29 World News Tonight, ABC reporter Beth Nissen explained:
"They say they see in all of the switchboards lit with anti-gay
calls the crossed wires lit with intolerance and bigotry. Yet many gays
are hopeful that laws and attitudes will change, that there will be less
On other policies, the pattern remained
the same. A few days later, ABC suggested the President will try to do
"the right thing," but may be blocked. On Feb. 3, Ned Potter
explained: "Look at what has happened on the environmental
front...He promises to make Detroit improve on the fuel efficiency of
its automobiles. But the Big Three car companies have already come to
lobby against it. He wants to stop the build-up of industrial gases that
threaten global warming, but he already faces powerful opposition from
coal and oil lobbyists."
Without airing any critics, he concluded:
"Clinton's top staffers talk so much about energy taxes, which they
say would have several benefits; reducing the debt, reducing air
pollution, discouraging oil imports. The problem, they say, is when the
idea comes up, it is likely to be carved up by special interests."
That's nothing like the ideological hostility of the last 12 years.
President Clinton has nominated Strobe
Talbott, Time Editor-at- Large since stepping down as
Washington Bureau Chief in 1989, as an Ambassador-at-Large to the
nations of the former Soviet Union.
An Oxford roommate of Clinton's, Talbott
devoted an April 6 Time column to his own "full
disclosure," asserting Clinton did not know whether he'd be drafted
in 1969 and 1970. "How real was Clinton's concern that he might be
drafted? The surmise that Clinton had nothing to worry about is based on
more than 20 years' hindsight. It's a perfect example of how a partial
recitation of the facts can lie."
Indeed. After the magazine came out,
Cliff Jackson, a Friend of Bill in the '60s, produced a letter showing
that Clinton had received a draft induction notice in April 1969. In
October he wrote Time Managing Editor Henry Muller, asking for
space to challenge Talbott's memory. Jackson claimed that Talbott not
only knew about Clinton's draft dodging, but helped Clinton: "I
know that Strobe was one of the chief architects of Bill Clinton's
scheme to void his draft notice, avoid reporting on his scheduled
(postponed) July 28 induction date and to secure a 1-D deferment, yet
nowhere in his personal testimony does Strobe mention his
Jackson continued: "I have a crystal
clear recollection of Strobe and Bill standing in my office door at
Republican State headquarters in the summer of 1969 and discussing the
plan, devised by Bill with the able assistance of friends, to kill his
draft notice and secure a deferment." Muller refused to publish the
letter, but in the February 1 Time, he praised Talbott:
"Our loss will be the country's gain."
Clinton's CBS Team
Two past members of the CBS News team
worked this campaign season to elect Bill Clinton. Tom Donilon,
debate coach for Bill Clinton last fall and a consultant to CBS News
during the 1988 primaries, has been nominated Asst. Secretary of State
for public affairs. A veteran of the 1984 Mondale effort Donilon joined
CBS News in January 1988 after Senator Joe Biden's campaign collapsed,
just in time to prep Dan Rather for his confrontation with George Bush
Samuel Popkin, a member
of Clinton pollster Stanley Greenberg's team from June through election
day, spent 1983 to 1990 as a consultant to the CBS News Election and
Survey Unit. A political science professor at the University of
California at San Diego, Popkin played Ronald Reagan in mock 1980
debates with Jimmy Carter.
Carter Retreads on the Move
In the January 25 issue, Time
Publisher Elizabeth Valk announced the magazine's Deputy Washington
Bureau Chief Margaret Carlson would move to the White
House beat: "Carlson started her career at Legal Times,
where she made use of her law degree from George Washington University,
before moving to Esquire and The New Republic."
Valk skipped one entry in Carlson's resume: Special Assistant to the
Chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission during the Carter
Senior Writer Walter Shapiro
has left Time to fill a new slot as Esquire's White
House correspondent. Shapiro wrote speeches for Jimmy Carter after
handling press for Labor Secretary Ray Marshall. White House Helpers.
The Clinton White House is providing positions for at least a few media
veterans. Anne Edwards, Director of the White House Television Office
for Jimmy Carter, is back in the press office. Since her last trip
through the White House gate she spent four years as a CBS News
Washington bureau assignment editor, followed by a stint with the
Mondale-Ferraro campaign. Mondale's loss sent her back to the media as a
Senior Producer with National Public Radio. Last year she headed the
Clinton-Gore press advance operation....
Signing on as a Deputy Press Secretary,
Arthur Jones, a long-time Boston Globe reporter who spent the 1980s as
Press Secretary to Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis and Bosto
Mayor Ray Flynn.
The Post Pre-Judges
Inside-the-Beltway journalists were truly
puzzled by the avalanche of calls to Congress opposing the admission of
openly gay soldiers into the military. While reporters admitted the
outrage over Zoe Baird was genuine, most suggested the 100-to-1 uproar
against gays in the military was a small, organized effort whipped up by
Midway through a February 1 front-page Washington
Post story on that theory, reporter Michael Weisskopf explained:
"Corporations pay public relations firms millions of dollars to
contrive the kind of grass-roots response that Falwell or Pat Robertson
can galvanize in a televised sermon. Their followers are largely poor,
uneducated and easy to command."
The next day's Post
"Corrections" box included the following: "An article
yesterday characterized followers of television evangelists Jerry
Falwell and Pat Robertson as `largely poor, uneducated and easy to
command.' There is no factual basis for that statement."
In a February 6 Howard Kurtz story on
reader protests, Weisskopf dug himself deeper. Weisskopf called it
"an honest mistake, not born of any prejudice or malice for the
religious right," but then said he should have said that
evangelicals were "relatively" poor and uneducated. According
to Kurtz, "Weisskopf said he based the description on interviews
with several experts, but didn't attribute it to anyone because `I try
not to have to attribute every point in the story if it appears to be
universally accepted. You don't have to say, it's hot out today,
according to the weatherman.'"
In a letter to the editor published the
same day in the Post, Timothy Crater of the National
Association of Evangelicals argued: "If such generalizations had
been made of blacks, Jews, or any other favored minority, one can easily
imagine the journalistic hell into which Weisskopf's career would
In the February 7 Post,
Ombudsman Joann Byrd wrote: "The most embarrassing mistakes in
newspapers are invariably the ones the paper had abundant opportunity to
catch. And this was one of those. As the story moved through the editing
process, several able editors read it, and still the sentence, sitting
out there with no support, did not jump out."
Time Calls for Gas Tax
Increase At Least 24 Times in Four Years
Fill Your Tank, Empty Your Wallet
Time declared Earth the "Planet of
the Year" in 1989, and boldly included a laundry list of statist
recommendations to save the Earth, including: "Raising the federal
gasoline tax by 50 cents per gallon, from 9 cents to 59 cents, over the
next five years could renew drivers' interest in fuel
Since then, Time's desire for a
bigger gas tax has become a crusade: the magazine has called for higher
gas taxes at least 24 times in the last four years. For its one-sided
campaign in its "news" pages for higher gas taxes, Time
earns the February Janet Cooke Award.
Time has already called for a
gas tax hike four times in the first seven issues of 1993. In the
January 25 edition, columnist Andrew Tobias wrote: "As for gasoline
-- which costs about $3.75 per gal. throughout Europe -- Ross Perot was
right. Phase in a 50-cent tax over five years, and you raise $50 billion
In the same issue, Chief Political
Correspondent Michael Kramer applauded Clinton's campaign duplicity:
"Clinton is right to back off his plan for a middle-class tax cut
and right again to `revisit' the proposal to increase gasoline taxes,
regressive levies he routinely dismissed as unfair during the
The February 1 issue included Senior
Writer Eugene Linden's idea that the U.S. "might follow [Norway's]
example and implement a carbon tax, which encourages efficiency and the
use of cleaner fuels." In the February 15 issue, John Greenwald
called the gas tax "an ideal target" that makes "good
economic and ecological sense." In order, here are the other tax
May 22, 1989: Reporter
Dick Thompson asserted Bush's "refusal even to consider an increase
in the gasoline tax have raised concern that he is not the kind of
forceful, decisive leader the country needs to deal with the growing
September 19, 1989:
Associate Editor Michael D. Lemonick recommended "an increase in
federal gasoline taxes to bring U.S. fuel prices closer to those in
Brazil and the rest of the world."
October 9, 1989: Andrew
Tobias proposed a budget plan. "Too costly? Any shortfall in this
package could easily be met by adding a few pennies to the gasoline
December 18, 1989:
Eugene Linden suggested "The federal gasoline tax should be
increased substantially -- to at least 60 cents per gal., from the
current 9 cents per gal., over the next four years."
April 17, 1990: Michael
D. Lemonick wrote "The time has come to get tough on conservation.
The first step should be an immediate increase in the federal gasoline
August 8, 1990: Reporter
S.C. Gwynne urged "A stiff gasoline tax of $1 per gal. would
encourage consumers to choose more economical autos."
August 20, 1990:
Reporter Richard Hornik preached "Americans pay too little for
energy generally and for gasoline in particular. A 50 cent per gal.
gasoline tax phased in over five years would encourage conservation and
raise $50 billion in revenues."
October 29, 1990:
Essayist Dominique Moisi stated "Americans have no constitutional
right, for example, to cheap gasoline. In Europe we pay the same price
for a liter of gas as Americans pay for a gallon -- or four times as
November 5, 1990:
Richard Lacayo reported: "In no area did Congress show less courage
than on gasoline levies. The new deal will raise the present 9
cent-per-gal. tax by a nickel, costing the average driver a mere $34 a
year. The plan rejected four weeks ago by the House had proposed a
10-cent hike. Even that was only half the amount economists say is
needed to encourage fuel conservation."
December 24, 1990:
Eugene Linden felt "If a person wants to drive a gas guzzler, it
makes sense for him to pay higher gas and sales taxes."
February 18, 1991:
Richard Lacayo complained a program "is expected to shun the two
most effective means to put the brakes on fuel consumption: a hike in
the gas tax and a higher federal fuel-efficiency standard for U.S.
December 9, 1991: White
House reporter Dan Goodgame explained "A good start would be an
increase of 25 cents per gal. -- less than the amount by which prices
rose during the Gulf War -- with further increases of five cents a
March 23, 1992: Time
suggested "Tsongas' higher gasoline tax would help curb America's
energy use and would provide funds for mass transit and rebuilding roads
and bridges and would reduce the budget deficit." On March 30,
1992, Bush's environmental "inaction" included: "Refused
to consider higher energy taxes."
April 20, 1992: Dan
Goodgame proposed we "Increase excise taxes on gasoline, alcohol,
Almost every issue last June included a
gas tax plug. On June 1 came a list of "What They Should Do But
Won't" at the U.N. Earth Summit: "Put an international tax on
emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases." June 8's
"The Week" section complained: "One thing the [energy]
bill avoided was any strong action to deal with the nation's excessive
appetite for oil," including a gas tax hike and increase fuel
On June 15, Science Editor Charles
Alexander insisted: "Other nations are taking the
lead....Scandinavian countries have imposed stiff taxes to discourage
energy consumption." On June 22, Washington Bureau Chief Stanley
Cloud declared: "A 12-cent additional tax on gasoline would yield
$54.8 billion in five years."
In the January 29 Washington Times,
economist Bruce Bartlett reported everything Time has not:
"the energy industry and energy in general are among the most
heavily taxed things in the United States today." He demonstrated
that U.S. oil companies pay greater corporate taxes than non-oil
companies, and that state taxes and the "windfall profits" tax
add another 10 to 20 percent to their effective tax rates. Bartlett also
cited a 1983 Data Resources Inc. report predicting "a 10 percent
energy tax would reduce real GNP growth by about half a percentage point
per year and initially raise the Consumer Price Index by almost a full
Now that the Clinton administration is
looking at energy taxes, can Time report effectively on both
sides of the debate? Calls to Time Science Editor Charles
Alexander, the magazine's environmental point man, went unreturned.
Going Nowhere Fast.
If the President is serious about spending cuts, he'll have trouble with
The Washington Post. On January 21, reporter William Claiborne
described how a citizen jury produced its own budget: "The jurors
voted 18 to 6 for a relatively radical federal budget that would slash
$26 billion out of fiscal 1997 expenditures of $1.745 trillion projected
by the Congressional Budget Office....The jurors' somewhat draconian
budget would leave a $194 billion deficit in 1997."
Radical? Slashing? Draconian? The jury's
plan would reduce the still-growing budget (including CBO's projected
increases in mandatory spending) by only 1.5 percent.
Scandals Skipped. Few
"appearances of impropriety" by the executive branch went
unnoticed by the Washington media during the last 12 years. But that
changed on January 20. Two examples: President Clinton's Director of
Communications, George Stephanopoulos, may have violated the Ethics in
Government Act. As National Review reported, "The law
prohibits senior congressional staff from dealing with former employers
for one year after their departure. Mr. Stephanopoulos was a senior aide
to Rep. Gephardt in 1991 and spent 1992 with the Clinton campaign, on at
least one occasion acting as a liaison with congressional Democratic
leaders." Sam Donaldson asked Stephanopoulos to respond to the
charge on the January 24 This Week, but the issue never made an
evening or morning TV news show.
Add to that Hillary Clinton's violation
of the Federal Advisory Committee Act, or the "sunshine" law.
On January 29 The Washington Times reported that the
President's task force on health care met in secret, violating the law
which the Times said "requires that any presidentially
appointed advisory task force that includes nongovernmental employees or
outside advisers must keep all events and meetings public." The
task force includes non-employees Tipper Gore and Mrs. Clinton. The
media reaction? No coverage, not even after Rep. Bill Clinger, the
ranking Republican on the House Government Operations Committee,
demanded the closed meetings stop.
Hillary Hair Update.
Reporters continue to treat the First Lady like a bimbo whose hair is
more important than what's inside the head it grows on. From January 11
to 13, The Washington Post ran a long three-part series on
"The Education of Hillary Clinton." Post reporter
Martha Sherrill devoted only one paragraph to the First Lady's career at
the Rose Law Firm and two to her legal writings, but twelve paragraphs
to changes in her hair and wardrobe. Sherrill did not touch on Mrs.
Clinton's tenure as chairman of the federal Legal Services Corporation
But Sherrill still attacked Hillary's
critics: "At one extreme you had Pat Buchanan, in the Houston
Astrodome, spitting out the words 'lawyer spouse'. On the other side,
she's provoked a certain amount of weeping. Old girlfriends....[think]
the world has so grossly misunderstood their warm, funny, smart, tough,
Scotty's Secret. PBS
welcomed the new year with James Reston: The Man Millions Read,
another forum for cliched liberal attacks on conservative politicians.
Reston, the long-time Washington Bureau Chief of The New York Times,
sized up Carter and Reagan: "Jimmy was the greatest ex-President we
ever had. He not only talked his principles, but what did he do? He
didn't, like Reagan, go and make a couple of million bucks for two
20-minute speeches. He went out on the construction sites and built
houses for the poor." On Quayle: "I don't think that there's
any doubt whatsoever that if somebody has raised the question of putting
up Dan Quayle, that the elders of the party would have said, Well,
George, that bird won't fly."
The program lionized Reston and his role
as a Washington power broker, and featured only Reston and a few of his Times
colleagues. Why? Because the show was produced and funded by The New
York Times. Dr. Laurence Jarvik of the Center for Study of Popular
Culture noted that PBS violated its own underwriting guidelines, which
forbid underwriters "having a direct and immediate interest in the
content of a program." Jarvik also noted the Times failed
to note its conflict of interest when it editorialized in favor of PBS
last April, when its Reston show was still in production. Liberal
corruption at PBS continues.
Fuel Fraud. On the
December 30 CBS Evening News, John Roberts reported from
Boston: "As winter sets in, parents must choose between paying for
heat and paying for food." Roberts explained: "Across the
country, millions of people rely on the federal government for help with
their heating bills, through LIHEAP, the Low-Income Home Energy
Assistance Program. But in recent years, that program has been cut 25
percent, while at the same time, the number of people needing assistance
has increased." He also interviewed two mothers with hungry
children, one of whom complained that she was running out of fuel.
But where is the evidence for the
so-called "heat-or-eat syndrome"? Heritage Foundation analyst
Carl Horowitz called this a "false choice," citing the 26.3
million Americans who receive food stamps, not to mention Medicaid,
AFDC, and housing subsidies. The Department of Health and Human
Services, which administers LIHEAP, does not track the number of people
needing assistance, and though spending on LIHEAP declined somewhat from
1991 to 1993 (less than the 25 percent Roberts claimed), spending
steadily increased for the program from 1988 to 1991. But Roberts only
had time for the liberal line: "Those lobbying for maintaining fuel
funds say for every cut in the program, there is an added social
Standing by Their Smear.
Whatever became of the practice of offering a retraction when a media
outlet is wrong? ABC's Nightline has adopted the policy of
clamming up and hoping that people will forget about it. On June 20,
1991, Nightline devoted a hour-long special to promoting the
"October Surprise" allegations of two dubious Iranian arms
dealers, Cyrus and Jamshid Hashemi. Their reporting played a major part
in spurring a congressional investigation that kept the story alive
On January 13, 1993, the bipartisan House
"October Surprise" task force fully exonerated the Reagan-Bush
campaign. Would Nightline devote an evening to the task force
report? ABC spokesman Laura Wessner told MediaWatch
the answer was no: "What would we say? We're not World News
Tonight. That is not a broadcast for Nightline. That is a
headline. That is not a half hour show."
When asked if Nightline would report on
the findings of the task force, or even offer a retraction and an
apology, Wessner said: "We stand by our story. We understand that
Mrs. Casey asked a number of people to apologize -- Frontline,
Nightline -- you know, to apologize. We absolutely sympathize with
her and her dedication to her husband's memory and reputation, but we
think that the congressional committee report did not contradict what we
reported on the subject."
Christopher's October Surprise.
For years the media have dug up and reported every scrap of information
-- no matter how dubious -- that would link Republicans to a 1980
arms-for-hostages deal with Iran. Now that the evidence points to the
Democrats, the story has been spiked. "A bipartisan House task
force revealed yesterday that Warren Christopher had proposed a
previously unknown `quid pro quo' of guns and money for the release of
52 Americans held hostages in Iran in 1980," reported the January
14 Washington Times. The Washington Post included only a brief
mention of Christopher's offer of $150 million in military spare parts
and $80 million in cash for he hostages. The New York Times
story on the task force failed to mention anything about Christopher's
Instead, some gave Christopher credit for
negotiating the release of American hostages. A USA Today
caption stated Christopher "negotiated release of American hostages
in Iran." Newsweek's special post-inauguration issue
proclaimed: "Ironically, it was Warren Christopher who negotiated
the hostages' freedom just as Carter was leaving office -- which cleared
the decks for Ronald Reagan's domestic agenda." Didn't Reagan's
resolve have something to do with the hostages coming home?
Marshall Memories. The
tributes to former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall began the
evening of his January 24 death. No one would dispute that his early
efforts to end segregation deserved praise, but the media glossed over
criticism of his Supreme Court career.
On ABC's World News Sunday,
Cokie Roberts recalled: "Thurgood Marshall carried the cause of
racial equality, first as a lawyer arguing civil rights cases, then as a
Justice deciding them." On the same day's CBS Evening News,
Rita Braver remarked that when elevated to the Supreme Court,
"Marshall became a strong voice for individual rights, for
minorities, for women, for the poor...Marshall never stopped pushing for
equality for all Americans."
But Marshall moved away from racial
equality with his support of affirmative action programs. As syndicated
columnist Paul Greenberg of the Arkansas Democrat Gazette recently
wrote: "In the end, Mr. Justice Marshall was unable to imagine any
way out of discrimination against the minority except discrimination
against the majority...The game of racial advantage remained the dismal
Pompous Powers Returns. Boston
Globe Magazine writer John Powers' January 17 memo "To: The
Republican Party, Re: Rising from your ashes," was the second
strategy memo to a political party. Powers, who once told MediaWatch
the Globe doesn't employ conservatives because it cannot
"find a conservative who can put a complete sentence
together," critiqued the Democratic Party in 1991 from the left.
This time, he did the same to the Republicans.
Powers wrote, "It took a while, but
the electorate finally figured out that the Republicans are stuck back
in the '70s, if not the '50s. When you think of women, you think of
Martha Stewart, not Murphy Brown. That's the biggest reason you lost the
White House. You lost the women...Your policies and your platform rapped
them on the head at every turn. No abortions, no child care, no
maternity leave, no equal pay for equal work. Then you had the brass to
preach to them about Family Values."
Powers advised: "You can start by
tossing aside a couple of albatrosses. Forget supply-side, trickle-down,
and the rest of the voodoo remedies. All they did was mail a whopping
bill to your grandchildren. And shelve the Ozzie Nelson stuff. If
Americans want family values, they can go to K Mart, which is about all
they can afford these days."
Time's Queer Numbers.
The January 11 Time magazine published letters from outraged
readers about its December 14 article on the new gay
"tolerance" curriculum in schools. "Our readers did not
take lightly the report on schools' efforts to instruct children about
homosexuality," a noticeably downbeat Time wrote. "Of
the 40 letters we received responding to our story, 75 percent rejected
the idea of teaching kids about sexual orientation and gay family
relationships." But the Time box excerpted only one letter
critical of the curriculum, and two that supported it.
Reporting isn't going to get any less biased if Des Moines Register
Editor Geneva Overholser has her way. As reported in the November 28 Editor
& Publisher, Overholser told a conference: "All too often,
a story free of any taint of personal opinion is a story with all the
juice sucked out. A big piece of why so much news copy today is boring
as hell is this objectivity god. Keeping opinion out of the story too
often means being a fancy stenographer."
Group Headed by
Hillary, Shalala Rarely Called Liberal Or Asked Tough Questions
Loving the Children's Defense
The Children's Defense Fund (CDF) is
gaining new prominence as the Clinton era begins. The CDF board was
headed for many years by the First Lady, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and
then last year by Donna Shalala, the new Secretary of Health and Human
But the group has enjoyed popularity with
the Washington press corps for years. Media foundations (such as The New
York Times Company Foundation) are contributors, and media celebrities
like Jane Pauley attend their fundraisers. The only remaining secret to
the public at large: the group is extremely liberal.
How liberal? The CDF's own
"Nonpartisan Voting Index" routinely grades liberals such as
Sen. Ted Kennedy as 100 percent politically correct. CDF founder Marian
Wright Edelman regularly scolds the government for not copying Europe's
socialist programs. On NBC, she pronounced: "We need to talk about
the poverty of values of a country that let its children die because we
don't provide [national] health insurance." In 1990, Edelman even
attacked liberal Reps. Tom Downey and George Miller for being too
conservative on child care spending, saying they were "willing to
rob millions of children."
To determine the tone of news stories
featuring CDF, MediaWatch analyzed both print
and broadcast news stories. Two years ago, analysts used Nexis to survey
every news story mentioning CDF in the Los Angeles Times, The New
York Times, and The Washington Post for the years 1988,
1989, and 1990. In 228 news stories, CDF was described as
"liberal" three times (1.3 percent).
analysts returned to the Nexis files to research every news story in the
same newspapers in 1991 and 1992, and added USA Today to the
sample. Descriptions of CDF as "liberal" increased marginally,
to 19 labels in 343 news stories (5.5 percent). Analysts added USA
Today stories from 1989 and 1990 and found an additional 29
unlabeled news mentions. Adding all five years of major newspaper
stories together, CDF received 22 "liberal" labels in 600 news
stories (3.6 percent). This still lags far behind the labeling of
conservative child advocacy groups like the Family Research Council (FRC),
whose labeling percentage also grew from 1988-90 (15 of 50, or 30
percent) to 1991-92 (43 of 92, or 47 percent). Put another way,
reporters were almost 12 times more likely to label the conservative FRC
than the liberal CDF.
Perhaps most interesting is the pattern
of labeling: of the 19 labels used to describe CDF in 1991-92, 17 were
used in 1992, and ten of them came after the November 3 election. All
seven labels in the Los Angeles Times and the only label in USA
Today appeared in the post-election period.
analysts also monitored TV coverage, watching every 1990, 1991 and 1992
profile or interview with Edelman on the three broadcast networks. Of 38
questions directed to Edelman, 27 percent were neutral (soliciting
information without expressing a viewpoint). Nine came from a liberal
agenda, and two from a conservative agenda.
On the March 30, 1991 Face the Nation
(the only CBS interview in the sample), then-host Lesley Stahl asked
four questions, all from a liberal viewpoint: "Be an analyst for
us. You've been working on behalf of children for years and years. What
happened in our country where we can watch children going hungry,
pregnant women not getting the proper care, and we don't seem to care as
a society. How did we get here?"
Only two questions challenged Edelman
from the right, assuming the devil's advocate role the media often
claim. Both came from ABC Good Morning America co-host Charles
Gibson. On December 17, 1992, Gibson inquired: "You say in [your]
report `Every American, led by our new President and Congress,
must give children back their hope.' Why led by government? Why is
this...primarily, firstly, a government problem?"
Even though the neutral questions were
the most common, most were softballs. Some were simple: "Run down
the report for me," began Gibson's December 17 interview. Some were
tributes -- on the March 20, 1992 Brokaw Report Tom Brokaw
concluded: "You've been working in this vineyard a long time,
Marian Wright Edelman. You grew out of the activism of the '60s. How do
you create a movement around the children of the '90s?"
In the only Edelman interview in which
she was joined by a conservative, a May 21, 1992 Today segment
with black Senate candidate Alan Keyes, co-host Katie Couric took on
Keyes: "The administration is against abortion, against single
mothers. Is Dan Quayle being unrealistic?" NBC did the worst of the
three networks, airing five interviews with Edelman without a tough
The two profiles, an ABC "Person of
the Week" segment on March 29, 1991, and a CBS Sunday Morning piece
on December 6, 1992, boldly praised Edelman and ignored critics. Between
them, the two stories aired 17 soundbites of Edelman, six soundbites of
her supporters, and one critic. ABC allowed Heritage Foundation analyst
Kate Walsh O'Beirne to say "I don't think the problem is the
messenger. I think the problem is her message is old and tired and
largely discredited." Jennings quickly countered: "She is
anything but discredited in Congress as a whole....The children are
fortunate to have such an advocate." The CBS story, by reporter
Terence Smith, was a ten-minute, critic-free tribute.
Hopefully, tougher media scrutiny of CDF
will match their influence in the White House and at HHS. Whether
criticism of CDF gets any attention, or is buried under more tributes,
will be an important test for reporters who claim they're still the
adversaries of those in power.
the Bright Side
Cheers to Sam & Diane
During the Reagan years, as attempts were
made to cut the size of government, the networks focused on the need for
more spending. Now, ABC's Prime Time Live has bucked that
trend. ABC devoted the January 21 program to showcasing the bloated
bureaucracy, wasteful spending and perks of Washington. Consider co-host
Diane Sawyer's introduction: "Welcome to the land where the
bureaucracy that keeps growing out of control, where bills are so
confusing, sometimes lawmakers don't know what they're voting on. We'll
show you how your federal tax dollars are spent on local pet projects
and how nobody even knows how much it really costs to run the White
Donaldson highlighted the Rural
Electrification Administration and the Agriculture Department:
"Your tax dollars support a two and a half billion dollar agency
that was supposed to be out of business long ago [and] the government
actually forces citrus growers to dump billions of dollars of perfectly
good fruit and let it rot, even threatening them with jail if they dare
give it away."
Sawyer then explained: "Now, no one
disputes that the Agriculture Department runs a lot of important
programs...but critics contend it wastes more than $10 billion on an
outdated hodgepodge of subsidies and regulations." She singled out
quotas on American orange growers: "Economists say [they] cost
consumers $100 million each year...Taxpayers have also paid Sunkist $70
million to help them advertise overseas the oranges we're not allowed to
buy." She also pointed out how three-quarters of farm subsidies go
to major corporations instead of family farmers, and that by the year
2040, the USDA bureaucracy will have grown so much that there will be
one bureaucrat for every American farmer.
Prime Time also displayed the
lavish vacations and lobbyist- provided gifts afforded to Congressmen
and Senators, to show, Donaldson said, "how the people you elect
have access to all kinds of privileges and extras that you don't [and]
how your tax dollars are spent on local pet projects." Donaldson
highlighted the $2 billion Red River project in Louisiana. The Reagan
Administration recognized it as pork and tried to have it removed.
Donaldson reported that the Louisiana congressional delegation overrode
the White House and kept it in the budget.
Sawyer concluded by promising:
"We're going to come back to you six months from now with a
progress report, and six months after that, and after that, as long as
it takes." Too bad Prime Time Live wasn't around when the
country had a President interested in cutting spending.
Two years ago The Washington Post
was lambasted by its own Ombudsman for unequal coverage between the
April 1990 pro- abortion rally and a pro-life rally held a few weeks
later. The pro-abortion rally dominated the front page, with extensive
coverage and multiple stories that day. The pro-life rally received two
stories in the "Metro" section. Ombudsman Richard Harwood
charged the disparity in coverage "left a blot on the paper's
This year, the January 23 edition covered
the annual pro-life march in depth. The Post managed to place the
pro-life story above the fold on page one, complete with interviews of
participants and organizers.
"The major media's alleged neglect
of scandals during the Reagan and Bush Administrations" topped
Project Censored's 1992 list of underreported or "censored"
stories, reported Editor & Publisher. Specifically, the 14
judges claimed the media "undercovered such scandals as the saving
and loan debacle, the Iran-Contra affair, massacres in El Salvador, and
drug dealing by the U.S.-backed Contras in Nicaragua." Judges
included former Wall Street Journal reporter Susan Faludi and 20/20
co-host Hugh Downs.
Other top ten finishers: 2)
"Corporate Crime Dwarfs Street Crime." 3) "Censored
Election Year Issues," such as "homelessness and the death of
Iraqi children after the Gulf War." 4) "World's Leading
Merchant of Death," calling the U.S. the "world's unchallenged
weapons producer and supplier." 7) "Thrashing Federal
Regulations for Profit," claiming that after Bush's 210-day
moratorium on regulations, "big business reciprocated with campaign
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