Newsweek Says Black Families Have Only One Savior
Government: The Only Solution
The black family in America may be
suffering, but Newsweek's August 30 "Endangered
Family" cover story suggested it's nothing that government -- and
only government -- can't fix.
Newsweek General Editor Michelle
Ingrassia wrote: "Emboldened by a sea change during the Reagan-Bush
era, conservatives scolded, 'it's all your fault.' Dismissively this
camp insisted that what blacks need are mainstream American values --
read white values. Go to school, get a job, get married, they exhorted,
and the family will be just fine."
Newsweek argued "the
breakdown of the African-American family resulted from rising
unemployment, not falling values." In asking why black fathers are
absent, Newsweek made excuses: "The biggest culprit is an
economy that has locked them out of the mainstream through a pattern of
bias and a history of glass ceilings." As the drug ulture grew,
Ingrassia argued black men joined "as the legitimate marketplace
cast them aside."
What economy is Newsweek talking
about? The economy didn't swell in the Bush years, but blacks made
tremendous gains in the 1980s. The liberal Joint Center for Political
Studies estimated the black middle class grew by one-third from 1980 to
1988, from 3.6 million to 4.8 million.
In addition, black employment from 1982
to 1987 grew twice as fast (up 24.9 percent) as white employment. Real
black median family income rose 12.7 percent from 1981 to 1987, 46
percent faster than whites. In other words, the '80s weren't a time of
"rising unemployment" that "locked" black men
"out of the mainstream" or where a "legitimate
marketplace cast them aside."
In the same issue, Newsweek
contributing editor Ellis Cose echoed Ingrassia: "Conservatives
argue that government programs, by giving people something for nothing,
eliminated the incentive to work in inner cities and created an amoral
`culture of dependency.' That argument, I believe, is largely
nonsense." Cose approvingly quoted a new study from the Joint
Center for Political and Economic Studies claiming: "Blacks cannot
`create jobs on the scale needed; nor can we restore the economy to
include more jobs of moderate skill and decent pay...This is
pre-eminently the work of government.'" Cose concluded: "No
other entity exists to deal with so many of the problems that the United
Newsweek's poll on "what
black adults think" showed blacks disagreed. The poll asked
"Which one can do most to improve the situation for black families
today?" The answer: 41 percent said "black families
themselves," 26 percent said "churches," and 14 percent
said "community organizations." Only 14 percent said
When it came time for the National Public
Radio (NPR) board to choose a new President, they stuck with tradition.
They chose a Democratic operative: Delano Lewis, long
time associate of former District of Columbia Mayor Mar-ion Barry. Lewis
replaces Carter official Douglas Bennet, who has joined the Clinton
Administration as an Assistant Secretary of State. Bennet had taken over
in 1983 for Frank Mankiewicz, a veteran of George McGovern's
Lewis, President of the C&P Telephone
Co., had chaired Barry's 1978 transition committee and served as
Co-Chairman of the finance committee for Barry's 1982 re-election.
According to Washington Post stories, Lewis participated in
strategy sessions after Barry's 1990 arrest for cocaine possession and
contributed money to Barry's subsequent campaign for a City Council
seat. In the early 1970s, Lewis was D.C. Delegate Walter Fauntroy's
first Administrative Assistant, a position he assumed after serving as a
Legislative Assistant to liberal GOP Senator Edward Brooke of
Three West Coast Democrats have tapped
media veterans to fill Press Secretary slots in their Capitol Hill
offices, Roll Call reported. Oregon's Peter DeFazio chose Susan
Lindauer, a reporter for U.S. News & World Report
in 1990-91....California's Robert Matsui decided upon Carri
Ziegler, a former Los Angeles Times reporter. Ziegler
told MediaWatch that she's been out of
journalism for a few years, but was with UPI briefly in 1985 following a
couple of years at the Times....Norman Mineta, also from
California, signed-up Emil Guillermo, weekend co-host
of National Public Radio's All Things Considered from 1989 to
1991. Guillermo spent six years in the '80s as a reporter for KRON-TV,
San Francisco's NBC affiliate.
Clinton's Healthy USA Today
A year ago, USA Today
"Money" section reporter and assistant editor Kevin
Anderson left the paper to run external relations for the
Alliance for Health Reform, a group chaired by Senator Jay Rockefeller
(D- W. Va.). In August he jumped again, this time to the White House
communications office. The ten-year veteran of USA Today will
serve as spokesman for the Clintons' health care reform proposal.
Last month MediaWatch
noted the Defense Department appointment of ABC News reporter Kathleen
deLaski as its chief public affairs officer. As it turns out,
she'll be surrounded by media veterans. Miranda Spivack
will work under her as a public affairs specialist. Spivack will help
spin stories on which she had reported just a few months ago. Part of
the Hartford Courant Washington bureau since the early 1980s,
as late as June she covered decisions on the Groton-built Seawolf
submarine.... deLaski replaced Vernon Guidry, now a
policy assistant to Secretary Les Aspin. Starting in 1980, Guidry
covered defense for the Baltimore Sun. In 1987 Aspin hired him
to handle press relations for the House Armed Services Committee where
he rose to staff director ....Holding the title of Special Assistant to
the Principal Deputy Undersecretary for policy, is Jonathan
Spalter, a MacNeil-Lehrer NewsHour reporter before
becoming Maryland Press Secretary for the Clinton-Gore campaign.
"Extremists" on Right
Farris Fear, Rush Gush
The Washington Post
characterized conservative Christians as "poor, uneducated, and
easy to command" in a February news story. A recent
"Style" section profile of Republican candidate Michael Farris
showed the Post still holds conservative Christians in
Under the August 5 headline, "Does
He Have a Prayer of Becoming Virginia's Lieutenant Governor? Yes -- and
Some Say That's the Problem," the Post examined Farris,
head of the Home School Legal Defense Association and a Baptist
minister. Reporter Jason Vest explained: "Given the way Farris has
spent most of his public life, it's not hard to understand why some view
him as an extremist...There's rhetoric from his past that might send
shivers up some voters' spines. He's a candidate who looks like Bobby
Kennedy but sounds more like Bob Roberts."
Vest emphasized the ideological
definitions of Farris' critics. "I haven't ever experienced such
radical beliefs as I have from Farris," one said. Others worried
about "an extreme religious view" and described Farris as
"somewhere beyond Pluto."
Compare that to the May 3 profile of Rep.
Bobby Rush (D-Ill.). Staff writer Mary Ann French fawned over the Black
Panthers' former Minister of Defense turned Congressman. In the '60s and
'70s, the Panthers murdered people, robbed banks and sold drugs to
finance themselves. Rush went to prison on weapons charges. But the
critics quoted by French mostly charged him with not being radical
enough, for selling out or being absent when Panther leader Fred Hampton
was killed in a shootout.
French gushed that Rush represented
"just a clumsy siren call for social conscience. And a steady
paddling toward his vision of justice. A gentle spirit shining through
sad eyes...An unlikely folk hero."
She also lauded Rush as a "man who
usually is careful to be cosmopolitan in his causes, multiracial in his
motivations, and modulated in his tone." French didn't delve into
Rush's past criminality, only briefly noting that during his 1992
campaign, "The race turned nasty when, as often happens, someone
reached back into Rush's past." The Post saved its nasty
look into the past for Farris.
CBS Sunday Morning's
Jerry Bowen Portrays Church, Pope As Out of Touch
Catholics: All Dissent and No
Pope John Paul II's visit to Denver drew
largely respectful treatment from the media, the kind of respect
accorded to religious giants like Billy Graham or Mother Teresa. But for
many journalists, the papal visit sparked stories of a Church out of
touch with a majority of Catholics, decrying the Church's
"theological rigidity." As a result, the public saw defenders
of Church tradition dramatically outnumbered by dissenters. For
delivering the most slanted story and the biggest insult during the
visit, CBS reporter Jerry Bowen earned the September Janet Cooke Award.
On the August 8 Sunday Morning,
Bowen explained the Pope might celebrate Mass at the Mother Cabrini
Shrine, where a vision of Mary was said to have appeared: "Some say
the real miracle is the American Catholic Church itself: still intact,
yet still at odds with the man from Vatican City." Bowen lined up
13 soundbites from dissenters to two from Denver Archbishop J. Francis
Stafford. On the other side, Bowen salted the story with dissenting
quotes. Church policies were questioned, but not explained.
Out of the hundreds of thousands of young
Catholics in Denver to celebrate the Pope's message, Bowen found only
dissenters: "I feel you do what you want to do. You can't, don't
let anybody else tell you what to do. And I would, I want to take birth
control, and I do." Another teen remarked: "You know, it's
hard to understand what we're going through unless you're living it, and
you know, there's so much pressure. So, and he keeps saying, you know,
the, you know, all the rules of the Catholic Church, no birth control,
no premarital sex, but it's so hard." Bowen asserted: "It may
not sound like it, but sixteen-year-old Natalie, and her friends Julie
and Aaron, are among the Pope's most devoted followers."
Bowen added a dissenting nun:
"Sister Mary Luke [Tobin], a nun for 62 years, says the Vatican is
out of step. The issue for her is the Church's refusal to let women
become priests." Sister Mary Luke said the Church "won't be
its best until it gets rid of this kind of patriarchy."
Other talking heads included divorced
mother Leanna Day ("The compassion's not there. There's no room for
deviation anywhere. It's real strict and real rigid, and we can't, we
don't live a real strict and rigid life"); Day's liberal priest,
Father John Burton ("The Church either changes with the world, or
it's left as a museum piece"); and Jim Beeten, a former seminarian
who stopped studying for the priesthood because he refused to remain
celibate. On all these issues -- premarital sex, women as priests,
divorce, and celibacy -- Bowen presented only the dissenters.
analysis of network morning and evening news stories on internal
theological debates demonstrated Bowen may have been the most slanted,
but he was not alone. In 14 stories from August 8 to August 15, 57
soundbites challenged the theology of the church, while only 27 defended
Bowen cited polls showing a majority of
Catholics in revolt: "Ninety percent of Catholics polled disagree
with the Church ban on artificial birth control. And since John Paul was
ordained 15 years ago, there's been a reversal on the issue of
premarital sex, from 55 percent opposition to 55 percent approval."
After looking at the polls, Bowen
referred to "heated disagreement over the relevancy of the Church
which commands a substantial following on Sundays, but then is seemingly
ignored the rest of the week when it comes to the most volatile social
issues of the day."
But do the polls accurately represent the
Church debate? As Newsweek religion reporter Kenneth Woodward
explained on the August 12 Nightline: "These polls,
including our own, tend to include about a third of Roman Catholics who
are not practicing at all. If you include only people who have been to
church at least once in the last month, they're far more open and
receptive to what the church teaches."
The Newsweek poll, compiled by
the Princeton Survey, shows that Church dissenters are often in the
minority. While other media polls (like Gallup's for CNN and USA
Today) did not divide respondents' answers by church attendance,
the Newsweek poll found that among practicing Catholics (those
who attend weekly), 62 percent have no problem with the Church's
position on sexuality; 62 percent are satisfied with the Church's
position on abortion; 57 percent support the Church's position on women
in society. Add those who think the Church is already "too
liberal" on these issues and the figures become 66 percent, 69
percent, and 61 percent. Where is the anti-Pope majority?
asked Bowen why his story slanted 13-2 against traditional Church
teaching, wondering if perhaps the network's dissent-heavy stories on
theological debates were meant to balance stories about the Pope's
celebrations in Denver. Bowen didn't see the story as one-sided: "I
think you need to go back and watch the story again. It was a very
thoughtful story. It had not one side, it had a number of views of very
devout Catholics, people who love their Church and love their Pope. It's
not an anti-Pope story....I don't think there's any question it was
representative of the debate within the Church."
suggested it was one-sided since no one explained what official Church
teaching is or why it's desirable, Bowen replied: "That's your
observation and I'm not going to debate it with you. What you're trying
to get me to say is that we have a master plan to say things against the
Pope, and that's simply not true."
In case anyone wasn't fully convinced the
Pope was out of touch with "modern life," Bowen returned to Sunday
Morning on August 15 to tell host Charles Kuralt: "There are
some who say that he would have been more comfortable in the 5th
century, but some theologians say that really, some of the fifth century
Popes were more progressive than John Paul II."
Could this be an observation based on 5th
century Church history? That perhaps Rome wasn't as influential or
insistent on church teaching at that time? Bowen said no, it was a joke:
"These are comments made in less of a scholarly vein...I think it's
a light- hearted observation. I didn't think of it as being anti-John
Paul or anti-Pope."
Reporters would like to pretend their
lack of faith doesn't slant their reporting (one poll found 50 percent
have no religious affiliation, only 14 percent attend services), but
their coverage puts a heavy thumb on the scale against traditional
religion, glorifying and enlarging the influence of dissenters in
America's churches. The networks need full-time religion reporters, not
uninformed, "less scholarly" general assignment reporters, if
they wish to present an accurate picture of religion in America today.
The media have descended on Texas to cover the upcoming execution of
convicted murderer (and current cause celebre of the left) Gary
Graham. Vicki Mabrey's August 15 CBS This Morning report
included a soundbite from Ashanti Chimurenga of the anti-death penalty
group Amnesty International. Chimurenga claimed: "In some cases,
Texas executes two to three people, at least two people per week. That
rate of execution really precludes attorneys and other individuals from
doing all that they should do to provide representation."
Thirty-two weeks have passed and at the
rate of three executions per week, 96 people would have had their death
sentence carried out in Texas this year. But in reality, Texas has
executed only 68 people since the Supreme Court allowed executions to
resume in 1976, 17 years ago. No one in the report disputed the
ridiculous Amnesty claim, nor did Mabrey correct the obvious
Lunden's Hunger Blunder.
ABC has added to the growing list of reports that dramatically overstate
the extent of hunger in American children. On Good Morning America
August 18, co-host Joan Lunden asserted: "The Census Department's [sic]
estimates are just as astonishing. More than eighteen percent of
America's children -- that's twelve million youngsters -- go to bed
hungry at night." There's just one problem: the Census Bureau has
no such hunger studies, and no such number.
Asked where ABC found its Census
"Department" estimate, GMA spokesperson Kathy Rehl
quoted from a June 10 press release from the Tufts University Center on
Hunger, Poverty, and Nutrition Policy. Rehl told MediaWatch
that the inaccuracy of Lunden's statement wasn't ABC's problem: "We
didn't do the analysis. You should take it up with [Tufts]." At
Tufts, researcher John Cook admitted to MediaWatch:
"There is no Census hunger data." Cook also said Lunden was
wrong to imply 12 million children "go to bed hungry at
night," that is, every night. "Our findings only claim that 12
million children were hungry at some time in 1991." Lunden might
have gotten this point clarified if her summary had preceded an
interview with a conservative like the Heritage Foundation's Robert
Rector, but GMA brought on two leftists: Brown and Assistant
Agriculture Secretary Ellen Haas, until recently an activist with the
group Public Voice for Nutrition and Health.
Warped Abortion Terms.
The language of the pro-abortion movement is quickly becoming the
standard way anchors and reporters describe the two sides in the
abortion battle. For years one side has been termed
"pro-choice," the other "anti-abortion." Recently,
even stronger pro-abortion euphemisms began appearing in the media.
Newsweek reporter Eleanor Clift
claimed on the May 22 McLaughlin Group: "Therapeutic
abortions will be in [the Clinton health plan] as a matter of
reproductive health...It's part of a woman's reproductive health, it's
not a euphemism."
On the August 20 World News, CNN
anchor Susan Rook introduced a story on violence outside abortion
clinics: "For years, women's clinics that perform abortions have
dealt with [what] abortion rights advocates call the tyranny of the
anti-choice minority. This year the violence has escalated, one doctor
has been shot to death and another shot and wounded." There is also
a change in how interviewees are tagged. CBS This Morning
co-host Paula Zahn on August 23 interviewed two doctors who perform
abortions. When their names flashed on screen, they were each labeled an
Weisberg's White House.
In the September issue of Vanity Fair, New Republic writer
Jacob Weisberg turned the tables on the White House press corps when he
got a chance to look behind the scenes. Weisberg found a few young corps
members who believe in Clinton and "form a tight subculture within
the White House press corps." Members include: Mark Halperin of
ABC, Matthew Cooper of U.S. News & World Report, David
Lauter of the Los Angeles Times, Jeffrey Birnbaum of The
Wall Street Journal, Ruth Marcus of The Washington Post,
and Adam Nagourney of USA Today. "Politically, they're all
liberal and, despite the emotional wounds of the campaign, far more
sympathetic to Clinton than the press corps as a whole."
Then there is the case of Newsweek's
openly gay reporter Mark Miller, who on the campaign trail
"epitomized the closeness of journalists to Clinton."
According to Weisberg, Miller "helped sensitize Clinton to the
issue of gay rights." After Clinton took office, Newsweek
editors asked him to toughen up on the administration. Early on, Miller
reported that George Stephanopoulos was contemptuous of the press.
Miller told Weisberg that Stephanopoulos "was really hurt. It was
not pleasant for our friendship. I didn't want to be in the position of
having to write something like that." Not long after, Miller
"asked (Newsweek) to be taken off the beat and transferred
to the magazine's Los Angeles bureau."
Defending the Deceased.
Reporters are stepping up to defend late Deputy White House Counsel
Vince Foster's bad decisions, including his membership in an all-white
country club. In a long August 15 article, Washington Post
reporter David Von Drehle bemoaned: "But what was obvious
politically was personal agony...Foster had to telephone his wife to
tell her to cancel a tennis match that afternoon...Furthermore, in
Little Rock society, many people were offended, according to one leading
citizen, by the suggestion they were racists with whom it was damaging
to associate. Though the issue passed in a blink on the public stage,
privately it deepened the sense, for some Arkansans in Washington, of
cutting ties to a life they loved." A life without blacks on the
In the August 23 Newsweek, media
writer Jonathan Alter attacked The Wall Street Journal's
editorials criticizing Foster: "The savagery is actually a
throwback to an earlier era. The Journal editorial page
resembles nothing so much as the rabidly partisan 19th Century
newspapers that routinely -- often brilliantly -- slandered anyone on
the other side of the barricades." Speaking of rabidly partisan,
Alter wrote: "If Robert Bartley, the Journal's editor,
hasn't been sleeping fitfully, he's even less of a human being than his
worst enemies imagine." Funny -- we don't remember this sensitivity
to criticism when it came to Republican officials like Ed Meese. Or
Ollie North. Or Lyn Nofziger. Or....
Affirmative Action's Negatives. The
unusually large number of D.C. police officers who have been convicted
of crimes prompted Eye to Eye with Connie Chung to examine the
causes. CBS correspondent Edie Magnus, who pointed out one of every 61
officers is under indictment or has a case pending before a grand jury,
traced the problems back to the late '80s when the city's crime rate
soared. "Congress ordered the city to beef up its police force --
In the August 12 piece, Magnus catalogued
the problems this hiring blitz aggravated. "It wasn't only the
failure to do background checks that let in the bad apples. Some of them
were overlooked because of department policy. Policies that remain in
effect today. Recruiters aren't allowed to look at an applicant's
juvenile criminal record...Applicants are allowed to admit some previous
drug usage...And preferential treatment is given to residents of the
But a Winter 1993 Policy Review
article by Tucker Carlson shows Magnus skipped over one problem too
politically incorrect to mention. Tucker cited the same maladies as
Magnus, but concluded affirmative action shared some blame. Gary
Hankins, former Fraternal Order of Police President, was distressed at
the quality of recruits that were passing the police entrance exam in
the '80s. Tucker wrote: "Hankins called Donna Brockman, an employee
at the Office of Recruitment and Examining...Brockman told him that all
test scores were `converted' on the basis of non-academic factors. She
said the `conversion factors are sex, race, residency, and whether you
went to D.C. schools.'" Hankins told Tucker that "Social
engineering in the police department drove down standards and elevated
Less Than FAIR? When the
left-wing radicals at Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) put out
a study in August asserting conservatives were wrong about a liberal
bias on PBS, the Los Angeles Times and The Boston Globe
were quick to publicize the story. But when the Center for Media and
Public Affairs (CMPA) issued a study in March 1992 of PBS documentaries
that found a liberal bias, neither the Times nor the Globe
did a story.
Times reporter Sharon Bernstein
compared the FAIR study to "a well-publicized conservative study of
public broadcasting" by CMPA, even though the Times never
publicized it. But on April 2, 1992, Bernstein did find space to report
on another left-wing study by the Center for Media Education and the
Center for the Study of Commercialism, two Naderite groups, on how
corporate underwriting is destroying the integrity of PBS.
"Facts" Crumble. In 1984, former Sandinista war hero
turned Contra commander Eden Pastora was the target of an assassination
attempt at a news conference in La Penca. Three journalists and a number
of Contras were killed. The bomb had been planted by a man posing as a
Danish photographer using the false name of Per Anker Hansen. For nearly
a decade, the leftist Christic Institute, bolstered by journalists Tony
Avirgan and Martha Honey, maintained in a $24 million lawsuit that the
bomb plot was part of a right-wing, CIA-sponsored attempt to frame the
Sandinistas. The PBS series Frontline touted the Christic
accusations in two 1988 episodes, one produced by former CBS News
producer Leslie Cockburn.
Through the use of fingerprints, Miami
Herald foreign editor Juan Tamayo has now identified the bomber as
Vital Roberto Gaugine. A member of the ultraleftist faction of
Argentina's People's Revolutionary Army, Gaugine worked for Sandinista
counter-intelligence and was trained in Managua by a Cuban intelligence
operative. In the September 6 issue of The Nation, Tony Avirgan
acknowledged the identity of the bomber noting, "It turns out that
he was not part of a right-wing cell or group." We await a
retraction from Frontline and Cockburn. And an apology to
General John Singlaub and Co.
Miami Lice. The media
frequently exaggerate the number of homeless children in America, but
NBC added the liberal "solution" to this "growing"
problem -- higher taxes. NBC reporter David Bloom declared on the August
11 Today: "A report titled `No Way Out' shatters the image
of the homeless. Yes, there are drunken men and mentally ill women, but
the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty says that `families
with children make up one-quarter to one-third of America's
homeless.'" Bloom then asserted: "What's the answer? Homeless
advocates say you might find it in Miami, where a new one percent tax on
restaurant meals is expected to raise close to $8 million a year for
homeless programs. Dade County's plan is being hailed as a national
model...because it includes money for long-term subsidized
Bloom quoted Dade County Commissioner
Alex Penalas: "We are trying to accomplish...a long-term
comprehensive solution to a problem that for many years has been
piecemealed to death." Actually, housing assistance grew 120
percent from 1989 to 1993. Bloom only aired soundbites of homeless
activists, local government officials, and the homeless themselves. A
review by the prestigious National Academy of Sciences found that,
contrary to Bloom, "studies seeking to provide an estimate of the
number of homeless children...are nonexistent."
Government-Directed Systems, Obscure Cost, Quality
Prescribing Nationalized Health
Four years ago on NBC Nightly News,
reporter Fred Briggs pushed for the Canadian health care system:
"When a baby is born in Canada it's given a birthright denied to
U.S. citizens -- free health care, a lifetime of preventive and
corrective medicine without ever getting a bill from a doctor or a
With President Clinton about to unveil
his health plan, MediaWatch set out to learn
if Briggs' report was typical. Analysts identified 20 health stories,
aired between January 1, 1990 and July 31, 1993 from morning and evening
shows on NBC, CBS, ABC, and evening shows on CNN. The stories profiled
government-run or mandated health systems in five countries (Canada,
Germany, Britain, Japan and Sweden) and two states (Hawaii and the
proposed single-payer Vermont plan).
determined that 70 percent of the stories were decisively positive;
talking heads favoring government-run systems outnumbered opponents by
two to one; and most stories called the other systems free or cheaper
than the U.S. system.
Story Angle. Analysts
timed the length of positive and negative statements in each story.
Pieces with a disparity greater than 1.5 to one were categorized as
either negative or positive. Stories closer than the ratio were
Of the 20 stories analyzed, 14 clearly
shed a positive light on single-payer or state-mandated health insurance
systems. Four were considered neutral, while only two qualified as
negative. None included a mention of a market-oriented approach to
ABC's George Strait typified the positive
assessments. He concluded a May 3, 1990 World News Tonight
story: "Hawaii had to make hard political and business choices to
become the only state in the union which assures everyone equal access
to health care. It is a glimpse of what the rest of America could be if
it chooses." Tom Fenton ended his April 5, 1993 CBS Evening
News report: "As Americans search for a better system, the
lesson from Germany is that private health care can be made available to
everyone, provided all pay their fair share."
of government-directed systems outnumbered the opponents 72 to 36, a
two-to-one talking head ratio including both "experts" and
"the man on the street" interviews. Among stories classified
as positive, the ratio jumped to five-to-one, including eight stories
with no negative voices and two with only one dissenter.
Free? In 13 stories (65
percent), the reporter directly stated or indirectly implied that health
care came at no cost. Paula Zahn introduced a 1990 This Morning piece
on Britain by noting "Many countries have a different approach,
making sure no one has to pay for health care." Jeff Levine's May
28, 1992 CNN Prime News piece followed suit: "About 3,000
patients a year visit this community health center in Toronto and no one
has to pay a penny."
Even in neutral or negative stories this
myth persisted. In the first of a two-partner on Britain, classified as
neutral, Dr. Bob Arnot said on the July 16, 1990 CBS This Morning:
"Since it began in 1948, the National Health Service has promised
universal access at no charge." In the next day's story, classified
as negative, Arnot quipped: "It's always free."
Of these 13 stories, only five mentioned
a source of payment. Four of those five cited the source of revenue as
"the government," and only three mentioned the word taxes. In
only one, Tom Fenton's April 5, 1993 report on the CBS Evening News,
was a direct tax, in this case the average 13 percent payroll tax placed
on German workers, mentioned. Ironically, Fenton reported this just
seconds after declaring: "Germans get full medical and dental care
without ever seeing a bill."
Cheaper and More Efficient?
In 14 of the 20 stories (70 percent), reporters claimed that health care
in these alternative systems cost less than in the United States. In a
May 26, 1992 CNN Prime News report, Jeff Levine asserted that
in the U.S. "yearly medical costs run about $800 billion -- nearly
13 percent of Gross Domestic Product. In contrast, Canada commits about
$2,000 per citizen -- that works out to about 9.5 percent of its
No story mentioned that per capita
spending on health care in Canada, relative to the United States,
remained unchanged at 75 percent of the U.S. level even after 20 years
of national health insurance. As John Goodman of the National Center for
Policy Analysis has pointed out, between 1967 and 1987 "real
increases in health care spending per capita have been virtually the
same in both countries."
Additionally, none of the stories
mentioned the different accounting methods that skew the costs of health
care. In Canada for example, the capital costs of health care, such as
the building of hospitals, along with the cost of employee health
benefits are part of the general costs of the Canadian government and
are not counted as health care expenditures.
Just one story mentioned the indirect
effects of mandated health. In a July 11 Evening News story
this year on Hawaii, CBS reporter Bill Lagattuta observed: "Since
state law requires companies to contribute for all who work at least 20
hours a week, some businesses are now limiting their workers to nineteen
hours." Reporters didn't mention Hawaii's dropping wages, or the
absence of job growth in western European countries.
Quality and Access?
Fifteen of the 20 stories (75 percent) mentioned problems ranging from
long waiting lines to shortages of hospital beds and medical technology.
But these complaints were offset by qualifying remarks in 66 percent of
those stories. On the May 28, 1992 CNN Prime News Jeff Levine
opined, "High-tech procedures aren't as widely available here, as
in the States, but Canadians point out that could be a plus." Bob
Arnot echoed this aversion to technology in his July 16, 1990 report on
Britain, declaring: "There's not the competitive pressure to have
every new high-tech device in every hospital."
Similarly, after noting Canadian waiting
lists and high tech equipment shortages in a 1992 Good Morning
America piece, Greg Dobbs insisted: "But still, there seems to
be less pressure on doctors to produce, and more time to simply practice
While some doctors may be pleased with
these systems, only three stories pointed out that patients are not.
CNN's Jeff Levine reported on May 29, 1993: "Some Canadians do
cross over into the U.S. in search of medical care. In some cases,
they're seeking high-tech treatments not readily available in
Canada." Bob Arnot's 1990 CBS This Morning report outlined
how centralized care inevitably leads to rationing: "British health
care has become a two-tiered system, with money or connections you get
to the head of the line, without them you wait. That fact is turning
the Bright Side
Reporters and politicians keep talking
about federal "budget cuts," but former Roll Call Editor
James Glassman has proved that those claims are "essentially a
fraud." In a July 30 Washington Post "Business"
section analysis, Glassman explained the government calculates
"budget cuts from an imaginary number called the baseline."
The baseline is figured by factoring in population increases and other
"technical" measures. A program could cost $50 billion one
year, while baseline adjustments mean it will take $53 billion the next
year to reach the same percent of the population. So if the budget for
that program jumps to $52 billion, the media will consider that a $1
Take the Clinton budget deal, for
example. "The final hurdle was getting agreement on a cutback of
$56 billion in Medicare, part of nearly $250 billion the plan promises
to slash in everything from defense to social programs over the next
five years," insisted CBS reporter Bob Schieffer on the August 2 Evening
News. In fact, as Glassman explained, Medicare is one of the most
"cut" programs because the baseline regularly calls for huge
annual increases: "From 1993 to 1994, for example, the CBO's
[Congressional Budget Office] Medicare baseline will rise by about $21
billion, or 14 percent. The budget will cut that increase by about $2
billion, but the hike will still be at least 12 percent. Thanks to
baseline budgeting, oldsters are now screaming about planned reductions
in Medicare spending, even though spending will rise at about triple the
rate of inflation."
During the Pope's visit to Denver, ABC's
Jeff Greenfield noted that 60 percent of Americans "say they
consider religion very important in their lives." So, he asked on
the August 13 World News Tonight, "Why is religion so
rarely seen in the media?"
Greenfield told viewers: "Only 50
newspapers in America even have a full-time religion reporter. The major
TV networks have none." He explained that "news and drama rely
on conflict, action" which is why they focus on dissent and
scandals in religion as opposed to the "quiet, daily influence of
faith." Add to that "the nature of media people -- more
skeptical, more secular." He also noted the absence of religious
themes in entertainment television. Greenfield concluded: "The
ongoing influence of religion in daily life goes all but ignored. This,
in a country where on any given weekend there are more people in houses
of worship than attend major league baseball games all year long."
Diversity or Uniformity?
Diversity is the word of the day in
journalism. It's the theme of the Society of Professional Journalists'
upcoming 1993 convention. Coalitions of Blacks, Hispanics, Asians,
Native Americans, and women have formed professional associations to
push for more diversity in the newsroom.
These movements do not, however, include
efforts to diversify the political ideology in newsrooms. As Art Carey,
a magazine writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer, told The
Washington Post in an August 14 article about diversity seminars at
his paper: "There's an emphasis on cosmetic, Benetton-ad diversity,
but there's very little diversity of political opinion. You'd be hard
pressed to find a half-dozen Republicans on our editorial staff."
The reality is that if you're a
conservative, gaining access to the news media can prove difficult. The
August 14 edition of Editor & Publisher reported that at
this year's National Association of Black Journalists' convention, an
overwhelming majority of members voted to bar the National Rifle
Association from having a booth at the job fair. "This is how the
NRA, in its wormy way...works its influence on us," said Los
Angeles Times reporter Andrea Ford. The NRA joined a list of
"wormy" groups barred from previous NABJ conventions that
includes the FBI, the CIA, and the Voice of America.
Don't look for things to change in the
near future. A 1992 Freedom Forum survey of 1,400 American reporters
found minority journalists "are much more likely to call themselves
Democrats" (Blacks 70 percent, Asians 63 percent, Hispanics 59
percent, women 58 percent) than the average journalist (44 percent),
making this push for "diversity" a catalyst for more
ideological uniformity in the media.
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