Emerging Story of Hubbell's $400,000 Pre-Prison Bonanza
Yawning at Webster's
Did former Associate Attorney General Webster Hubbell
get "hush money" from Clinton associates concerned he would tell what he
knows about Whitewater? The White House claimed they were just helping a
friend after his March 1994 resignation amidst charges he stole from his
law partners. But viewers heard little about evidence that officials
knew of Hubbell's importance to the Whitewater probe.
After Hubbell left prison, the February 25 Los Angeles
Times noted that "the Clintons have stayed quietly in touch with
Hubbell" through aide Marsha Scott, who visited him in prison and later
traveled to Little Rock to confer as he went before a grand jury.
Coverage? Zilch on ABC's World News Tonight, CBS Evening News or NBC
A bit more than a week later, the March 6 New York
Times first pegged Hubbell's payments at "more than $400,000 from about
a dozen enterprises." CBS aired a piece, but not the ABC and NBC evening
shows. The New York Times was back on March 20: "In late June of 1994,
the Indonesian businessman James T. Riady saw President Clinton and some
of his aides in five days of White House visits ending on Saturday.
Early the next week, one of Mr. Riady's companies paid $100,000."
Nothing on ABC, CBS and NBC that night.
On April 1 former Chief-of-Staff Mack McLarty and
Erskine Bowles, who now holds that slot, admitted soliciting deals for
Hubbell. The networks all ran brief items on their insistence they were
just helping a friend in need.
That spin soon collapsed. White House lawyer Jane
Sherburne wrote "monitor cooperation" by Hubbell's name on a 1994
Whitewater memo, the Los Angeles Times disclosed April 6. The next day,
The Washington Times reported that two weeks before Hubbell quit in
1994, White House lawyer Neal Eggleston forwarded to the First Lady a
memo noting Hubbell's Whitewater testimony to the Resolution Trust
Corporation (RTC). On April 10, The Washington Times discovered the
First Lady asked the RTC in 1993 to keep her aware of any media
interest, "including inquiries on Webster Hubbell's ties to suspected
"White House Knew in '94 that Hubbell Was Focus of
Inquiry," read an April 12 New York Times story on how officials knew
when Hubbell quit that he "had already emerged as a crucial witness."
Coverage of all of these revelations? Nothing on ABC, CBS or NBC.
San Diego Padres owner John Moores told the April 12
Los Angeles Times that he paid Hubbell $18,000, but that Hubbell "did
not provide him with an accounting of any services he provided." The
networks also failed to provide viewers with an accounting.
Incomplete Tributes to Poet
When poet Allen Ginsberg died April 5, network
liberals displayed their continuing romance with the 1960s, praising the
"Beat Generation's Poet Laureate" while whitewashing the more sordid
parts of Ginsberg's cultural legacy.
Ginsberg's death actually led the NBC Nightly News
that night. Anchor Brian Williams began with a fulsome tribute: "The man
who died in a New York hospital room this morning didn't just watch
times change in the '60s as much as he helped change our times."
Reporter Rick Davis called Ginsberg a "guru with a showman's grace."
Davis aired left-wing spokesmen hailing his place in history. Norman
Mailer called him a "genius" and said "I knew he was going to make a
revolution in the consciences of his time." Tom Hayden described
Ginsberg as "a prophetic figure and poet like an Old Testament figure
combined with a hippie."
The next day on CBS Sunday Morning, host Charles
Osgood also raised Ginsberg to Biblical status: "It is with the
righteous wrath of an Old Testament prophet that Allen Ginsberg
denounced the greed and grasping and the superficiality and the
complacency that he believed he saw all around him in this country in
1956....if we are suspicious now of the material world, and sometimes
our souls burn a little for the ancient connection to the `starry dynamo
in the machinery of the night,' we have Allen Ginsberg, angry on the
page but mild and thoughtful otherwise, to thank for that."
On ABC's World News Tonight, anchor Aaron Brown
enthused on April 5: "Two often overused words seem to describe Ginsberg
best to us: Genius and controversial....His sexuality -- he was gay --
was often the center of both his art and his politics. And if his causes
weren't yours, and his poetry sometimes left you confused, then you
could still appreciate his candor, and his courage, and his energy."
Yet the networks omitted the darker aspects of that
sexual milieu, ignoring Ginsberg's membership in the North American
Man-Boy Love Association (NAMBLA), which supports the repeal of age of
consent laws and advocates "consensual" sexual relations between men and
young boys. According to the Queer Resources Directory web site,
Ginsberg defended his affiliation: "I'm in NAMBLA because I love boys
too -- everybody does, who has a little humanity." Though it was central
to his work, NBC didn't even mention that Ginsberg was gay.
And although reporters found Ginsberg's art and
sexuality honest and courageous, they weren't courageous enough to quote
revealing examples, like this excerpt from Ginsberg's "Come All Ye Brave
Boys": "Come heroic half naked young studs, that drive automobiles
through vaginal blood/Turn over spread your strong legs like a lass,
I'll show you the thrill to be jived up the ass/Come sweet delicate
strong minded men, I'll take you through graveyards and kiss you again."
Or this, from an interview in Seconds magazine: "If
you just take a walk through the Vatican, you could say everybody loves
the slightly erotic emanation of nude prepubescent bodies."
The networks ignored the "mild and thoughtful"
Ginsberg's political statements as well, such as his 1994 suggestion to
The Progressive magazine: "I have no doubt that if Rush Limbaugh or Pat
Buchanan or Ollie North ever got real power, there would be
concentration camps and mass death."
ABC, CBS Still Soft-Pedaling...
A former Soviet KGB agent, with firsthand knowledge of
the events, has come forward to confirm what the right has always
maintained and the left has always denied: Julius Rosenberg was a Soviet
spy. Rosenberg's old handler said the man he considered a "hero" passed
along information on military electronics, including components of the
atomic bomb. Two networks conceded that Julius Rosenberg was a spy, but
instead of treating this as confirmation that the left was wrong, they
re-spun the story to emphasize how the agent's revelation showed the
Rosenbergs were wrongly executed.
On the March 16 World News Sunday, ABC reporter Jim
Wooten maintained that "There's no longer much debate over whether
Julius Rosenberg was a Soviet spy. But after all these years, a few
questions still remain. Did he pass on atomic secrets? Was his wife
Ethel involved? Was their execution justified? No to all three answers,
says Alexander Feklisov, a former KGB agent, in a documentary to be
broadcast on the Discovery Channel next Sunday."
After a soundbite from Feklisov, Wooten added: "Fifty
years ago Feklisov was the Soviet contact for Rosenberg and a network of
other agents in New York City. He says Rosenberg did hand over important
military material, but not atomic secrets."
On the next day's CBS This Morning, anchor Jose
Diaz-Balart reported "A retired KGB agent who worked with Julius
Rosenberg says Rosenberg and his wife Ethel were not the top spies
they've been made out to be. The Rosenbergs were executed in 1953 for
giving the Soviets blueprints for the atomic bomb. The former KGB agent
says Julius Rosenberg did pass some secrets to Moscow, but nothing
useful for building the bomb."
A March 16 Cox News Service story by Joseph Albright
and Marcia Kunstel showed Rosenberg did pass useful items along to the
Soviets. Rosenberg gave Feklisov "a hand-drawn diagram of a lens mold
used in making the U.S. atomic bomb." Rosenberg also passed along a
proximity fuse, an item a scientific historian called "one of the four
most important" American breakthroughs during World War II. This type of
fuse was later used in the bomb that shot down Gary Powers' U2 spy plane
over the Soviet Union in 1960.
Janet Cooke Award
NBC's Ron Allen Piles "Sleaze" Labels on
Britain's Conservatives Without Rebuttal
If John Major's "Sleazy" What's
The term "sleaze" is not a word the national media
employs in the Clinton era. In the decade beginning with its coinage by
Walter Mondale in the 1984 campaign through May 1994, a MediaWatch study
of major newspapers and news magazines found reporters used the term
"sleaze factor" 114 times in news stories to refer specifically to the
Reagan administration or the Republicans, and only on eight occasions to
the Democrats. Never in that period had it been applied to Bill Clinton.
That same imbalance of "sleaze" labeling surfaced on
the April 1 NBC Nightly News. For highlighting the "sleaze" of Britain's
Conservative Party after years of avoiding the "sleaze" label on Bill
Clinton, NBC earned the Janet Cooke Award.
Tom Brokaw announced: "In Britain tonight, the
national election campaign formally got under way. And if you think
American campaigns are too much about candidates' personal lives, check
the Conservative Party -- in power for 18 years, and a P.R. man
determined to get rid of all of them."
Reporter Ron Allen began: "In Britain, it's a
single-issue campaign: sleaze. Charges of adultery, indecency, bribery.
Three disgraced members of the Conservative Party quit the race in one
week. They're the party in power who say they stand for family values."
On came left-wing publicist Max Clifford: "They will
be remembered for one thing: that's being sleazy." Allen explained:
"Tennis isn't Max Clifford's game -- he plays hardball kiss-and-tell,
selling scandals to London's tabloids for big fees." Clifford added: "It
gives me a chance to show up people that I believe should be shown up
for what they really are -- hypocrites."
Allen continued: "Scandal is making the race a stroll
for the man who wants to be Prime Minister, Tony Blair of the Labor
Party. Twenty points behind and mired in sleaze -- the incumbent,
Conservative John Major. Clifford says the Conservatives are ruining
Britain. In one sleaze attack, he gave the tabloids letters a
Conservative lawmaker wrote to his underage gay lover...He then helped a
17-year-old waitress expose another Conservative lawmaker." Allen went
on: "Sleaze didn't start with the current campaign, it's been dogging
the Conservatives for years. Since the last election in 1992, at least
16 senior officials with the ruling party have left office clouded in
scandal. And it's not just sex. Some are accused of pocketing thousands
of dollars in bribes....David Leigh wrote the book on sleaze. The
corruption he goes after is about cash, not the steamy sex tales of Max
Leigh asserted: "We've had one party for 18 years
whose slogan has been `greed is good'....We're looking at someone who's
operating in a very sleazy area of the market itself." Allen concluded
the story: "Clifford says there's more sleaze he's ready to sling, and
the election here is still a month away."
No one from the Conservative Party was put on to
defend their reputation. No one appeared in the story to object to the
findings or partisan leanings of Clifford or Leigh, a writer for the
left-wing Observer newspaper, a sister publication to the notoriously
left-wing Guardian newspaper. When MediaWatch called NBC's London bureau
for comment, Ron Allen was on assignment in Zaire, but producer Carol
Grisanti claimed there was a simple reason for the story's
one-sidedness: "No one could speak to us. No one from the Conservative
Party would. There's a moratorium on speaking to the press until after
the election is over. That's what we were told." But shouldn't NBC have
sought out the Conservatives' side of the "sleaze" charges elsewhere, or
at least explain they weren't talking to the press? "Well, we didn't
find that necessary. It was about fact."
Clearly, NBC could have at least forwarded actual,
existing criticisms of Laborites and their media allies from newspaper
accounts. Critical barbs about Leigh's book ("poses as many questions as
it answers," wrote the Sunday Telegraph, parts of it were "fantasy,"
said The Mail on Sunday) were ignored. Clifford, who the London Daily
Telegraph reported Conservatives call "a front man for those in charge
of Labor's dirty tricks" and the Labor Party "totally condemns" as a
profiteer, was not identified by Allen as the man who brought O.J.
Simpson to Britain for an image-polishing. Couldn't NBC find one person
in London to bash Clifford? "We tried that as well," Grisanti told
MediaWatch. Only pasting the "sleaze" label on the Conservative Party
made the air.
Now this is not the approach NBC has used in recent
American campaigns. Take NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams when the
Clinton White House was caught with Republican FBI files, a clear
offense against good government. Instead of putting the onus on a sleazy
White House, he scorned the opposition: "The politics of Campaign '96
are getting very ugly, very early. Today, Bob Dole accused the White
House of using the FBI to wage war against its political enemies, and if
that sounds like another political scandal, that's the point." A massive
violation of privacy was cast as just another partisan food fight.
Or take Dateline NBC's July 26, 1994 feature on
American Spectator editor R. Emmett Tyrrell. At the opening of the show,
Stone Phillips declared: "The Whitewater hearings opened today, and this
man couldn't be happier. He's the conservative bad boy who's having a
field day going after President Clinton," immediately followed by
Clinton flack James Carville saying: "He's just another scumbag in
Washington that wants to turn a buck."
Minutes later, in previewing stories still to come,
Phillips added: "He pummels the President, he skewers the First Lady,
and he's having the time of his life doing it....He's declared war on
every Democrat and liberal in Washington." Carville again followed
immediately: "He's willing to ruin people's lives, and lie and engage in
anything to do it."
When the actual story arrived, Phillips announced
Tyrrell "has declared war on the White House. Its policy is strictly
scorched earth: leave nothing and no one standing." Reporter Lisa Myers
questioned the tone and accuracy of Tyrrell and the Spectator. Tyrrell
puckishly defended the magazine and then Myers turned to liberals like
Carville and academic Kathleen Hall Jamieson for a bracing critique.
Myers' story was tough, but two-sided, with a sympathy toward respect
for the President and First Lady and some privacy in their personal
Allen's story was almost exactly the opposite: a
completely one-sided attack on "sleazy" Conservative Party politicians
with no questioning of their attackers in the press, and no sympathy or
respect for governing authorities or their personal lives. There's
plenty of facts available on Clinton sleaze, but NBC doesn't bother with
that. Instead, it spends its time compiling dirt on conservatives in a
Boobs on the Tube
Ed Bradley interviewed Paula Jones
on the March 16 60 Minutes -- but strangely edited out the substance of
her sexual harassment charges against President Clinton. When Jones
began to describe the specifics of how Clinton harassed her, Bradley's
voice-over narration drowned her out. Bradley explained: "What she says
happened next and what she says caused her to leave the room is spelled
out graphically in her lawsuit. As a matter of taste we opted not to
include it." For 60 Minutes, serious allegations against the President
of the United States are in bad taste. What isn't in bad taste? A film
clip of Julie Andrews baring her breasts in the 1981 movie S.O.B. which
they flashed during a Mike Wallace profile of the actress in October
Lauer's Cover Story
The cover of the March 24 issue of
National Review grabbed the attention of NBC's Today when it caricatured
the Clintons as Asians, but when the liberal Emerge magazine defaced
conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, Today ignored it.
On the March 21 Today, co-host Matt Lauer
opened the segment: "Asian-Americans are calling the current cover of
the National Review magazine offensive and racist. As you can see the
cover depicts the President and First Lady as narrow-eyed, buck-toothed
Chinese dressed in Mao suits serving tea. The cover story is about the
Asian connection to the Democratic Party campaign fundraising
Daphne Kwok, representing the
Organization of Chinese Americans decried the magazine cover, while
National Review editor John O'Sullivan was invited to defend the
caricatures. Lauer questioned O' Sullivan's sensitivity: "Mr. O'
Sullivan you are part of a committee that commissioned a drawing for the
front of the magazine. What was the message you were trying to get
across?....Didn't you know though that there would be a lot of people
who would think this was very offensive?" Today didn't make an issue
last November of a derogatory Emerge cover depicting Justice Thomas as a
lawn jockey with the title "Clarence Thomas: Lawn Jockey of the Far
Right." Thus, George Curry, editor of the left-leaning magazine, escaped
questioning by NBC's sensitivity police.
Pay Up -- or No Tornado Warnings
All the networks portrayed a tiny
reduction in the National Weather Service's $400 million annual budget
as a major impending disaster. For example, the March 22 NBC Nightly
News report by Robert Hager began: "The National Weather Service faces
hard times, says it must cut 200 jobs and put off replacement of
outdated equipment. All because of a $27 million budget cut ordered by
Congress and the administration."
Hager outlined some of the dire
consequences that have occurred: "Already, after Florida growers were
caught off guard by a sudden, disastrous freeze in January, some weather
service managers blamed budget cuts -- and blamed them, too, for a
failure to forecast high waves off the Washington coast, which capsized
a Coast Guard vessel and drowned three crewmen in February." But an
April 6 Washington Post article by Stephen Barr quoted an unnamed
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration source denying these
events are connected with the budget cuts: "Repair crews had not been
able to reach the malfunctioning buoy for two weeks because of high
winds and seas, the official said. As for the crop loss, the official
said, `We blew the forecast. Sometimes it happens.'"
Rather Wrongs Rebels
Dan Rather found some GOP heroes on March
20, when 11 House Republicans jumped ship to block a bill funding House
committees, including the Government Operations Committee's
investigation of illegal DNC and White House fundraising techniques.
Rather cast the dissenters as Clinton
defenders: "For the second time in two weeks Republicans have revolted
against their leaders over the investigation into political campaign
finances. By the narrowest of margins, 213 to 211 [sic], the House
tonight refused to approve the money to finance the work of 19
committees. Many Republicans did not go along with their leaders who
want the investigation to focus only on the Clinton White House."
But the very next day Washington Post
reporter Guy Gugliotta had a more accurate account: "The key votes to
block yesterday's funding resolution were cast by the 11 conservatives
because it included increases in committee budgets. The dissenters
insisted that their votes did not imply disapproval of the campaign
fundraising investigation...Republican conservatives began to grumble
about the funding resolution...because it increased the budgets for 18
standing committees by 14 percent."
That evening, Rather failed to correct
himself: "House Republicans settled their differences today and voted to
provide nearly four million dollars for an investigation of mostly if
not entirely Democratic campaign fundraising during the last
But Aren't They Too Expensive?
As investigations into campaign
fundraising begin on Capitol Hill the calls for an independent counsel
are getting louder, but not from the broadcast media. On the March 31
World News Tonight, ABC's John Martin used the "Your Money" segment to
look at how much various independent counsels have cost taxpayers.
Funny, ABC never bothered while Iran-Contra prosecutor Lawrence Walsh
ran up a $40 million tab.
Martin opened: "They are legal lions
conducting monumental investigations. Leon Jaworski looking into
Watergate. Lawrence Walsh looking into Iran-Contra. Kenneth Starr
looking into Whitewater. But today's GAO report shows that many cases
are far from monumental and the time and money spent on them are far
from inconsequential. Example, the investigation of whether former
Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy repaid corporate favors worth perhaps a
few thousand dollars." After airing a quote from Donald Smaltz, the
independent counsel on the Espy case, Martin continued: "But that was
two and a half years ago and so far Smaltz has spent $6.6 million."
Martin might have had a better
appreciation for Smaltz's work if he had reported his convictions. Since
the beginning of 1995, the evening news shows have aired only two full
stories and one anchor brief on the Espy investigation, while Smaltz has
piled up six convictions. Martin failed to note that a federal jury
convicted a California agribusiness company of illegally showering Espy
with nearly $6,000 in gifts and that this past March, a lobbyist for
Tyson Foods was convicted of lying to investigators who were looking
into allegations that Tyson had given gifts to Espy, his girlfriend and
another high-ranking department official. ABC skipped both developments.
On the March 20 NBC Nightly News, Tom
Brokaw teased viewers into sticking around for a story about a
modern-day Utopia: "Later, where women rule the land. A place where
family matters are a national priority." And where was this magical
paradise of which Brokaw spoke? None other than socialist Finland.
Reporting from Helsinki, the site of the
Yeltsin-Clinton summit, Ron Allen found that the Finnish Speaker,
one-third of the parliament and nearly half the cabinet are women.
Noting that women got the vote in Finland 90 years ago Allen asserted:
"Today, 90 percent of Finnish women work. It's 74 percent in the U.S.
And the gap between what women and men earn is smaller in Finland. By
some measures, Finnish women are smarter than the men. They earn more
than half the college degrees. It's all meant family-friendly
government-paid programs, like affordable day care...And parents can
take three years off to care for a newborn without losing their jobs,
thanks, they say, to mothers in government. Abortion is legal and free.
Teen pregnancy rates are the lowest in the world. A law like America's
failed Equal Rights Amendment passed long ago."
What Allen failed to point out is the
cost of such burdens -- such as an astronomical unemployment rate.
According to the Finnish Ministry of Finance the latest figures put the
unemployment rate above 15 percent, or three times greater than that of
the United States.
Walter's War on Israel
It might be the only government housing
project the liberal media have ever opposed: The Jewish settlements
being built on Har Homa in Jerusalem, angering Palestinians who say the
building is a violation of the "peace process." In two reports on the
project and the Palestinian terrorist acts that followed, CNN's Walter
Rodgers portrayed the attacks as a natural response to the Jewish
building, while ignoring clear PLO violations of the Oslo peace accords.
Charles Krauthammer's April 4 Washington
Post column noted that "Arafat's aides admit his own Fatah faction
organized the anti-Israeli rioting of the last 14 days." Oslo also calls
for the PLO to change its charter calling for the destruction of Israel,
which Arafat has refused to do. Yet when Israel builds Jewish
settlements in Jersualem, a subject on which Oslo is silent, they are
blamed for wrecking the peace process.
On CNN's The World Today April 6, Rodgers
stated: "The Palestinians say Mr. Netanyahu is no longer negotiating
peace, he's trying to dictate its terms...militant Palestinians now burn
U.S. and Israeli flags, asking what became of American assurances Israel
would not expand Jewish settlements during the peace process." But
Krauthammer's column pointed out: "Israel's building Jewish housing on
Har Homa in East Jerusalem....is routinely cited as a violation of Oslo.
The real Oslo, however, is very explicit in treating Jerusalem as a
separate entity from the West Bank...Jewish housing was built in East
Jerusalem throughout Yitzhak Rabin's stewardship of the Oslo process."
Rodgers' March 31 report on The World
Today forwarded more Palestinian public relations: "The agenda at the
White House may have been restarted in the Middle East peace process,
but in the Middle East there was no spirit of reconciliation. Only cries
for revenge. This as Palestinians paraded through the streets, shouting,
`we were not born to lead lives of humiliation.' That humiliation is
felt deeply here. Witness these Israeli Arabs marching in solidarity
with Palestinians. Both commemorating Land Day, marking decades of
Israeli confiscation of Arab lands."
Earlier Rodgers had claimed that Israel
was moving "to protect bulldozers on land Israel took from Arabs in the
1967 War." Yet the land in question was gained after Arab countries
attacked Israel in 1967. During the battle, Israel gained the territory
and retained it as a buffer zone -- hardly the clear-cut "confiscation"
of Rodgers' imaginings.
Voters Cause Pedophilia?
When ABC's Prime Time Live reported on
pedophiles preying on young Mexican boys in Balboa Park in San Diego,
reporter John Quinones didn't blame the police department, the Border
Patrol, or even the pedophiles themselves. He blamed California voters
that supported Proposition 187 in 1994.
Quinones forwarded the liberal spin as
fact: "In California, the problem has been made only worse by the
passage of Proposition 187. It specifically says that no public funds
can be used to provide social services to anyone who's in this country
illegally. That means that even if social workers for the city or the
state wanted to help the boys of Balboa Park, they couldn't. It would be
against the law. Proposition 187 is now being challenged in court, but
its message is clear."
So, pedophilia wasn't a problem before
From 1993 to 1996, Network Coverage Fails to
Significantly Crack One-Percent Marker
Still Not Enough
Time for Religion News
For the last four years, the Media
Research Center has conducted an annual survey of the quantity and
quality of religion news coverage by the networks. The landscape remains
surprisingly unchanged: year after year, the networks continue to fail
to significantly break the one-percent barrier of total news content,
neglecting religion in their everyday reporting.
In the last four years, from 1993 through
1996, the networks have aired an estimated 72,000 evening news stories,
and an estimated 104,000 morning show segments. But only 955 of those
72,000 evening news stories were devoted to religion; and only 830 of
those 104,000 morning news segments covered news of religion.
Of the thousands of segments last year on the five network programs
evaluated (ABC's World News Tonight, CBS Evening News, CNN's The World
Today, NBC Nightly News, and The News-Hour with Jim Lehrer on PBS) the
networks devoted only 269 stories to religion in 1996, a slight increase
(eight percent) from 1995. But only 130 of these were full stories
(compared to 131 anchor briefs), a decrease of 13 stories from 1995's
full story total.
ABC's World News Tonight again aired the
highest number of religion stories with 76, up 11 stories from 1995. ABC
was trailed by CNN's The World Today with 64, one less than in 1995. NBC
followed with 53 stories, up ten from 1995. CBS aired 49 stories, down
one story from 1995. For the fourth straight year, The News-Hour lagged
far behind the others with 27 stories, one more than 1995.
Despite a full two hours daily for news and interviews, adding up to
more than 26,000 segments in 1996, the major network morning shows
(ABC's Good Morning America, CBS This Morning, and NBC's Today) devoted
258 morning show stories to religion in 1996, an increase of 34 segments
(15 percent). Unlike last year, the networks were not roughly equal in
their amount of coverage. NBC led again with 112 segments, up from 80 in
1995 and 52 in 1994; and ABC aired 97 segments, up from 70 segments in
1995 and 50 in 1994. CBS, however, dropped from 74 stories in 1995 to 49
in 1996, and only 17 of those were full reports or interviews. (In late
July, CBS went to a slimmed-down This Morning, offering more of its
first hour to local affiliates.)
The blind spot to religious news remains especially noticeable on Sunday
morning interview shows and prime-time magazine programs. Analysts
reviewed the Sunday shows (ABC's This Week, CBS's Face the Nation, NBC's
Meet the Press) as well as the prime-time magazine lineup (ABC's Prime
Time Live and 20/20; CBS's 48 Hours, and 60 Minutes; and NBC's
three-night, even in some weeks, four-night Dateline format). Out of
roughly 400 shows, the number of religion stories rose to 19. That's up
from 15 in 1995. Out of roughly 150 shows between the three networks,
not a single Sunday morning interview program focused on religion.
The relative dearth of TV religion coverage did not result from a lack
of interesting religion news events and feature ideas in 1996. Religion
reporters at the nation's print outlets unearthed a number of stories
that network producers could have developed for their own broadcasts.
- The Templeton
Prize. First awarded in 1972, the annual
Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion is the world's largest
monetary award, with the winner receiving $1.2 million, more than the
better-recognized Nobel Prizes. Network coverage: zero.
- The Evolving
Evolution Debate. Two academics challenged
the orthodoxy of Darwinian theories of evolution in 1996. Lehigh
University biology professor Michael Behe wrote the book Darwin's
Black Box, which argues the human body is a machine of "irreducible
complexity" that would have had difficulty evolving into a cohesive
whole. David Berlinski, author of the book A Tour of the Calculus,
wrote a cover story in the June issue of the journal Commentary noting
facts in favor of Darwinian theory "have been rather less forthcoming
than evolutionary biologists might have hoped." Network coverage?
Liberty Abroad. In response to pressure from
human rights activists and religious leaders, the State Department
appointed a panel of 20 religious leaders and scholars to monitor the
oppression of religious believers abroad. TV coverage? Zero.
Chaplains. The networks didn't consider the
angle of military chaplains and their role in ministering to soldiers
in trying times. The networks also ignored a lawsuit in 1996 demanding
the Department of Defense allow chaplains the freedom to be
politically active, stemming from an Air Force ban on chaplains
organizing a postcard campaign against partial-birth abortions.
- The Role of
Faith-Based Charity. As the political debate
centered around social problems like welfare reform or abortion, the
networks failed to ask where faith-based charities can help solve
problems. This year, the debate over the explicit federal support for
religious charities in the Watts-Talent bill before the House of
Representatives has yet to be explored. The role of crisis pregnancy
centers in saving babies from abortion is a largely faith-based
movement that is almost as large as the network of abortion providers,
but the networks have paid no attention to them.
One of the reasons religion is
undercovered by the networks may be the lack of a religion specialist
to learn about and report on what's going on in religion. ABC hired
Peggy Wehmeyer early in 1994, and she remains the only explicitly
assigned religion reporter at the networks. Wehmeyer reported 15
stories in 1996. CBS, CNN, NBC, and PBS have yet to hire even a
part-time religion correspondent who could match the quantity of
Not all the news was bad: ABC's World
News Tonight devoted three of its weekly Friday "Person of the Week"
segments to religious figures in 1996. But the networks have yet to
demonstrate that religion will ever break out of its ongoing ghetto of
the Bright Side
On the Bright Side
A program which gets young Americans to volunteer to
serve their community, from renovating houses for the homeless to
cleaning up parks. How could anyone oppose such a well-meaning Clinton
initiative? Conservatives know it's not so simple.
On the March 13 NBC Nightly News Lisa Myers
scrutinized Americorps, the federal program that in essence pays
students to be volunteers. Myers examined the pros and cons of President
Clinton's favorite government initiative that so far has received a
passing grade from the media. Myers opened the segment by interviewing
enthusiastic students but asked: "So Americorps is supposed to be the
essence of the American spirit: lifting people up and helping the
community. But is it?" Myers went to a soundbite from Republican Senator
Charles Grassley condemning Americorps as "a financial mess."
Myers expounded on the Senator's point: "In fact, two
private accounting firms found that Americorps' books can't be audited,
millions unaccounted for. Beyond that, there is an even bigger issue.
Critics concede that Americorps does change lives, but they question the
cost. A new government report finds that at some locations the cost for
each young person who actually ends up going on to college can be
staggering. Congress' General Accounting Office found that 39 percent of
kids drop out of Americorps, and that so far only about half, 54
percent, of those who do finish, actually go on to college or vocational
schools." Myers pointed out the "principal aim@ of the program is to get
students through college but the cost per student is very high. Myers
noted: "One program in California costs about $32,000 per student who
may go on to college. Others, like the Casa Verde program in Austin,
Texas, cost far more. Here, it's about $100,000 per student."
Former Democratic Senator Harris Wofford was quoted in
the piece defending the program. He claimed Americorps students
rehabilitated neighborhoods and received tutoring. However, Myers
concluded: "Still congressional critics say Americorps has one more year
to get itself on track or they'll go all out to kill it,
well-intentioned or not."
Liberal Bias Hurts Credibility
Media Reputation Slides
The public is
increasingly rejecting the media and a close look at a recent poll shows
liberal bias is a key factor.
Of those polled for the Pew Research Center for the
People and the Press, 67 percent said that "In dealing with political
and social issues" news organizations "tend to favor one side." That's
up 14 points from 53 percent who gave that answer in 1985. Those who
think the media "deal fairly with all sides" fell from 34 percent to 27
percent. Republicans, Pew discovered, "are more likely to say news
organizations favor one side than are Democrats or independents (77
percent vs. 58 percent and 69 percent, respectively)."
Over the same time period the percentage who felt
"news organizations get the facts straight" fell from 55 percent to 37
percent while the ratio of news consumers who believed news stories "are
often inaccurate" soared from 34 percent to 56 percent.
Which side do reporters favor? Asked whether the "news
media helps society to solve its problems" or whether "the news media
gets in the way of society solving its problems," 57 percent chose the
latter. Of those, when asked why they were dissatisfied, 25 percent
pointed to sensationalism, but 23 percent responded with variations of
what Pew categorized as Abiased/liberal/slanted/one-sided
reporting/offer their own opinions and views." Another nine percent said
reporters "distort the facts." None cited a conservative bias.
Public displeasure has driven people away from the
mainstream media, the survey released March 21 found. The percent who
said they "enjoy watching TV news a great deal" plummeted from 42
percent in 1985 to 26 percent this year. Those who "look forward to
reading the paper very much" dropped from a statistically identical
margin, from 42 percent to 27 percent.
Of respondents with an unfavorable view of network TV
news, 50 percent couldn't give a reason for their dissatisfaction,
leaving "news is biased" as the most cited reason at 14 percent. Another
seven percent listed "give opinions not facts," and three percent gave
"too liberal" as their response. Those three reasons totaled 24 percent
while conservative bias didn't make the list.
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