No "Terrorists" at Reuters; No Lapel Flags for ABC News; College Students Want Flag for All of Earth; Criticism Upset Jennings
1) There were no "terrorist attacks" on
September 11, just "attacks" according to Reuters since the wire
service decided that "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom
fighter." Following this decree, one Reuters story gave life to
inanimate objects as a reporter asserted that "two hijacked planes
attacked the twin towers." On Monday night FNC’s panel decried the
2) ABC News "has barred its journalists from wearing
lapel flags," the Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz disclosed. But NBC
for all programs, and ABC during sports, have altered their corner of the
screen "bugs" to feature flag motifs.
3) Ted Koppel dedicated a Nightline story to how "the
first voices of protest are already being heard" on campuses. ABC’s
Judy Muller found that "students demonstrated this week against
violent retaliation, calling for justice not revenge" as "they
all agree on one thing." Which is: "When will we see a flag that
embraces all people on earth, not just Americans?"
4) Peter Jennings was "really disturbed" about
distorted claims about what he said on the air. Howard Kurtz noted:
"The conservative Media Research Center says the Jennings comments
were either ‘never uttered, distorted or taken out of context.’"
that "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter,"
Reuters decided to ban the use of the term "terrorist" or
"terrorism" to describe those who did whatever they did on
September 11, the Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz disclosed Monday in
uncovering an internal Reuters memo.
A Reuters story after the events of unknown
origin gave life to inanimate objects as a reporter asserted "two
hijacked planes attacked the twin towers." Generally, the
Britain-based wire service has applied the word "attacks" to
describe what occurred. Back in 1995, however, Reuters had no such
reluctance to describe the Oklahoma City bombing as a terrorist act.
In a discussion Monday night a Fox News
Channel panel didn’t think much of the newly-adopted values-neutral
approach favored by Reuters. The Reuters policy, NPR’s Mara Liasson
observed, "implies that there are somehow two sides to this, that in
every story you write you should have someone who’s in favor of the
attack on the World Trade Center interviewed as well as somebody who
decries it. I mean, it just doesn’t make any sense."
An excerpt from Howard Kurtz’s September 24
"Media Notes" column in the Washington Post which included an
item about the Reuters policy:
To Reuters, there are no terrorists.
As of last week, suicide attacks that deliberately kill thousands of
innocent civilians cannot even be described as acts of terror.
Stephen Jukes, the wire service's global head of news, explained his
reasoning in an internal memo: "We all know that one man's terrorist
is another man's freedom fighter and that Reuters upholds the principle
that we do not use the word terrorist. . . . To be frank, it adds little
to call the attack on the World Trade Center a terrorist attack."
Except for the little detail that a terrorist assault is what it was.
So why the value-neutral approach?
"We're trying to treat everyone on a level playing field, however
tragic it's been and however awful and cataclysmic for the American people
and people around the world," Jukes says in an interview.
Besides, he says, "we don't want to jeopardize the safety of our
staff. Our people are on the front lines, in Gaza, the West Bank and
Afghanistan. The minute we seem to be siding with one side or another,
they're in danger."
Not everyone at the London-based news agency, which employs 2,500
journalists, is happy about the policy. Jukes acknowledged there had been
"an emotional debate" with news editors around the world.
After the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, and again after the attacks on
the World Trade Center and Pentagon, Reuters allowed the events to be
described as acts of terror. But as of last week, even that terminology is
banned because "we felt that ultimately we weren't being logically
consistent," Jukes says. References to terrorism are allowed only
when quoting someone.
"We're there to tell the story," Jukes insists. "We're
not there to evaluate the moral case."
To read the entirety of Kurtz’s "Media
Notes" column, go to: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A14272-2001Sep23.html
A quick scan of past Reuters stories posted by
Yahoo News revealed how Reuters is getting around the word
"terrorist" in all types of stories by using the terms
"attack" or "strike" without any "terrorist"
modifier. Here are three dispatches I clicked on at random:
-- A September 13 story about the World Trade
Center rescue effort. Under the headline, "Rescuers Battle to Find
Survivors in New York Ruins," Reuters reporter Ellen Wulfhorst began
her New York City-datelined story:
"Rescuers battled into the night on Thursday
in a tireless effort to find survivors in the grim remains of the World
Trade Center after a day of dimming hopes that anyone was still alive in
the mountains of rubble.
"The list of those missing since two
hijacked planes attacked the twin towers numbered 4,763 people, Mayor
Rudolph Giuliani said...."
-- A September 13 story from the Washington
bureau. "Bush Vows to 'Whip Terrorism;' Cheney Evacuated," read
the headline over the piece by reporter Arshad Mohammed, which started:
"With tears in his eyes and a trembling
voice, President Bush vowed on Thursday to wage a relentless campaign to
‘whip terrorism’ after this week's attacks in New York and Washington.
"With the nation's capital on hair-trigger
alert for more possible strikes, the White House said Vice President Dick
Cheney was taken to the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland as a
‘precautionary measure’ while the security perimeter was expanded
around the executive mansion...."
-- A September 19 report from New York City
about the economic impact of whatever occurred. "U.S. Job Cuts Mount
in Wake of Air Attacks," announced the headline over the story which
Nichola Groom opened:
"Corporate America's job cuts toll mounted
on Wednesday after Boeing Co.'s shock announcement of up to 30,000 layoffs
was followed by similar plans by major U.S. airlines trying to cope with
the growing fallout from last week's attacks on New York and Washington.
"The U.S. aviation industry, already
suffering from a slowdown in air travel before the devastating attacks on
Sept. 11, have announced as many as 100,000 job cuts since then, sending a
tremor through the U.S. economy.
"Late Tuesday, Boeing said it could lay off
up to 30,000 workers by the end of 2002 due an expected slump in orders
following the attacks, a trend that is likely to spread as the U.S.
economy comes closer to recession...."
Just a bunch of random "attacks."
To see for yourself how Reuters avoids any
version of the word "terrorist," go to Yahoo’s page with top
stories from Reuters: http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/ts/nm/?u
Scroll down to the bottom of the page to
retrieve older dispatches archived by story date.
Monday night on Special Report with Brit Hume,
FNC’s Hume raised the Reuters policy during his panel segment.
Fred Barnes of The Weekly Standard agreed
"terrorist" is "a pretty loaded term," but
"it’s an absolutely accurate term." Barnes elaborated, as
transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth:
"Why Reuters wouldn’t want that being
used, a very accurate term, which is, as you pointed out earlier on this
show, Brit, they used quite openly with the Oklahoma City bombing, and, of
course, that was a terrorist bombing in Oklahoma City done by American
citizens. You know, there is among the ‘enlightened’ people, a lot of
whom tend to be in journalism and others tend to be Brits. There are two
things that they hate the most, I think. One is expressions of religious
faith, and the other is displays of patriotism. And I’m afraid at
Reuters they think that, ‘Well, we’re calling this a terrorist attack,
we’re siding with those Americans.’"
Mara Liasson of National Public Radio was
equally befuddled by the Reuters policy: "Well, first of all, I
really would doubt that any of the so-called ‘terrorists’ or their
sympathizers would deny that that’s exactly their intent. I don’t
think that they shy away from that word. However, that implies that there
are somehow two sides to this, that in every story you write you should
have someone who’s in favor of the attack on the World Trade Center
interviewed as well as somebody who decries it. I mean, it just doesn’t
make any sense."
Washington Post reporter Ceci Connolly added
some caveats, but also took issue with Reuters: "I think there’s a
common sense standard that should be used most of the time, and accuracy
is also the key, Fred. I mean, if we’re talking about the 19 individuals
on those planes, the hijackers, I think it’s factually accurate to call
them terrorists. On the other hand, I think there’s always a danger in
journalism of being sort of lazy and just kind of relying on quick throw
away terms. You can’t use that term to just any old person on the FBI
list of 100, for instance. You don’t know anything about them. So you
use it when it’s accurate and appropriate, but to arbitrarily ban a word
to me is not-"
Liasson jumped in: "But he was saying you
shouldn’t call the attack a terrorism attack."
Hume: "That’s right, they can’t call the
attack a terrorist-. Well, presumably, you wouldn’t be able to call
those, the FBI might say that someone is a terrorism suspect. You would
only be able to say that if it was in a direct quote from an FBI
Barnes: "Well, what does Reuters want to
call these people? Activists?"
Hume: "They say they use more direct terms
like, you know, ‘bomber’ or ‘killer’ or something like that."
Liasson: "Oh, well, ‘killer’ and
‘murder’ would be fine, ‘mass murderer.’"
Connolly: "They’re awfully loaded."
Hume: "But wait a minute, but
‘terrorism’ implies, I mean, has a certain connotation. And, of
course, in this country at this stage, it is a very negative connotation.
He is also saying that he is concerned about his people on the front
lines. And that if Reuters appears to be taking sides in this controversy,
that the people he has in Afghanistan or in dangerous places in the
Palestinian areas of the Middle East, for example, in the West Bank, would
Barnes suggested a solution for that concern:
"Well, then, don’t send them there. Don’t send them there. Look,
if you have to send people in a way that’s going to deprive you from
being accurate in your reporting, then try another mode of
Hume: "But what’s striking about that is
isn’t that giving in to terrorism?"
Barnes: "Yes, it’s self-censorship."
Connolly: "Sure, absolutely. I mean, I think
it’s important throughout this whole story to be sensitive to cultural
differences in your coverage and not kind of just use derogatory terms in
a kind of loose manner but, yeah, as soon as you start taking words out of
your stories, you’re letting somebody else dictate the news
Hume: "All right. Mara, you agree with
Liasson: "I agree with that."
Hume concluded: "All right. We got unanimous
agreement on that. Reuters, that’s not good news for you."
"has barred its journalists from wearing lapel flags such as the one
sported by White House correspondent Terry Moran," the Washington
Post’s Howard Kurtz also disclosed in his September 24 "Media
Kurtz reported: "‘Especially in a time
of national crisis, the most patriotic thing journalists can do is to
remain as objective as possible,’ says spokesman Jeffrey Schneider.
‘That does not mean journalists are not patriots. All of us are at a
time like this. But we cannot signal how we feel about a cause, even a
justified and just cause, through some sort of outward symbol.’"
NBC hasn’t been so ashamed, however. Over
the weekend NBC altered its "bug," the network logo in the
bottom right corner of the screen, to display the peacock’s feathers
above "NBC" in a red, white and blue flag-like motif. The bug
appears on all NBC shows, including NBC News programs.
And while ABC News may be shying away from
displaying any signs of patriotism, ABC Sports is not. During Monday Night
Football last night ABC Sports added flag-patterned bars extending from
the right of the circular ABC bug to the corner of the screen.
Nightline focused a Friday night story on "voices of protest" on
college campuses against U.S. military reaction to, as Reuters would put
it, some planes attacking buildings. Ted Koppel acknowledged "they
certainly do not represent a majority," but he nonetheless dedicated
a piece to how "the first voices of protest are already being
Los Angeles-based ABC reporter Judy Muller
asserted that "students demonstrated this week against violent
retaliation, calling for justice not revenge." She added that
"whatever opinions students may express, and they do vary, they all
agree on one thing." Viewers then saw a close-up of this written on a
banner: "When will we see a flag that embraces all people on earth,
not just Americans?" She did, however, note that "for some
students, patriotism may trump parental fear."
Koppel set up the September 21 Nightline
story: "Today's college students were in elementary school during the
Persian Gulf War, and Vietnam? Well, that's a subject they study in
history class. But this week they were presented with the prospect of
another American war, one on which they could be heard. And while they
certainly do not represent a majority, the first voices of protest are
already being heard."
Judy Muller began her story with clips of
students: "From Brown-"
Protesters: "One-two-three-four, we don't
want your racist war!"
Muller: "-to Berkeley-"
Protesters: "Five-six-seven-eight, stop the
violence, stop the hate!"
Muller: "-and more than 100 colleges in
between, students demonstrated this week against violent retaliation,
calling for justice not revenge."
Snehal Shingabi, UC Berkeley student: "We
can conquer terrorism without breeding more terrorism, without becoming
the terrorists ourselves."
Muller proceeded to explain, as transcribed by
MRC analyst Jessica Anderson: "But whatever opinions students may
express, and they do vary, they all agree on one thing."
Close-up of comment on a banner: "When will
we see a flag that embraces all people on earth, not just Americans?"
College student: "I think this is a sort of
defining historical moment for people of our generation."
College student: "We've had nothing like
this. It's totally unprecedented for us. We read about this in books, but
we were brought up to believe that we were safe and secure, and this would
never happen, especially in America."
Muller: "But war is now a very real
possibility, and this is the generation that would be called upon to fight
it, especially if the conflict becomes prolonged, and feelings about that
are decidedly mixed."
Arjuna Kuperan, Brown University student:
"There's been a real, like, surge of patriotism on this campus, which
has been interesting but frightening at the same time for a lot of
students, because nobody wants to get into a war."
Andrew Hasbun, USC student: "I've always
told myself that I would never go to war and fight for a cause that I
didn't believe in, but now this is, this is different. This is like
nothing we've ever seen before. This is, this is unbelievable."
Atish Baidya, USC student: "But we have,
there's a difference between patriotism, and there's a difference between
Muller: "In other words, it's one thing to
wear the flag, another to fight for it."
Rick Robinson, USC student: "It's kind of
scary as a youth because I know I'm going to graduate soon, and it's not
really, it doesn't seem like there's a known enemy, sort of a single-face
through all this, and so it's kind of scary thinking we can go to war with
an unknown enemy."
Muller: "At Berkeley, one group of students
has been studying these issues for some time now."
Professor: "Are these steps going to lead
toward peace or will they produce an escalation of violence?"
Muller: "There is a class on peace and
conflict, and it is no longer theoretical. Most of the class comes down on
the side of non-violence, for humanitarian reasons-"
UC Berkeley student: "We need to focus on
life, on improving life and not on creating more death and more
Muller: "-and for practical reasons."
UC Berkeley student: "If you lash out
violently against terrorists, you get 10 more."
Muller: "But even at Berkeley, with it's
long tradition of anti-war sentiment, there are those who say the
provocation in this case may be too great to ignore."
UC Berkeley student: "For everything that's
been happening, I really don't see how conflict can be avoided."
Muller: "But how would they feel if they
were called to serve, if the draft were to be activated?"
Sam Clancy, USC student: "I don't feel, you
know, too good about the draft. Like me, myself, I don't, I don't think I
could personally fight a war, you know....Because I have, I have, I have a
future planned out for myself and it doesn't involve me being in a war
Hasbun: "I always told myself that if there
was a draft and I got drafted, that I'd go to Canada. I've always told
myself that, that I would never do it and I could never go to war for
something I didn't believe in."
Muller: "And now?"
Hasbun: "And now I believe in it."
Muller: "Some young women said they'd be
willing to serve as well."
College student: "Kids have been wearing
red, white and blue, and putting American flags on their cars, and people
would have laughed at that before, but I think once you are really faced
with it, and you see the severity of it, I think actually now I probably
Muller: "Many of these students have parents
with vivid memories of the Vietnam War, memories that might make them
reluctant to see their own children go off to war."
Jason Korengold, USC student: "No parent
wants to see their kid be drafted and go into a war to fight a faceless
Muller: "And yet for some students,
patriotism may trump parental fear."
Korengold: "And the fact that it happened in
the U.S., on U.S. soil, and this is the most major thing that's ever
happened -- yeah, this is hard core, and I think whatever the President
does, I think anybody, everybody has to support him."
Muller: "That statement would not buy much
support with the students demonstrating at these peace rallies, but one
thing is certain, whichever stand students take, they are not taking it
Mari Payton, USC student: "And I think this
is a true test of our generation and a lot of people are going to see what
we are actually capable of."
That ended Muller’s piece. On the up side,
at least there are some college students who have an appreciation of the
unique opportunities and responsibilities they have in the U.S.
this a nearly-all Howard Kurtz-inspired CyberAlert, the lead item in his
Monday "Media Notes" quoted from a past CyberAlert in
documenting how Peter Jennings was falsely maligned for things he didn’t
say on the day, as Reuters would put it, planes attacked buildings in New
York City and Arlington, Virginia.
"Peter Jennings, in the News for What He
Didn't Say," read the headline over the September 24 story by Kurtz
which recounted how upset Jennings was at the criticism. An excerpt from
Kurtz’s Washington Post story:
....ABC has received more than 10,000 angry calls and e-mails since its
veteran anchor was reported -- erroneously -- to have criticized President
Bush for not returning directly to the White House after the attacks on
New York and Washington.
"It's very depressing to me and terribly depressing for him,"
says Paul Friedman, ABC News's executive vice president. "He's really
disturbed by it. He says, rightly, 'I've done a pretty good job and people
are quoting me out of context and inaccurately to hurt me.' And it really
Rush Limbaugh, relying on a friend's e-mail message, denounced Jennings
-- "this fine son of Canada" -- for "insulting comments
toward President Bush." He said that "Little Peter couldn't
understand why George Bush didn't address the nation sooner than he did,
and even made snide comments like, 'Well, some presidents are just better
at it than others,' and 'Maybe it's wise that certain presidents just not
try to address the people of the country.’"...
The radio host made a full on-air retraction after ABC protested....
The conservative Media Research Center says the Jennings comments were
either "never uttered, distorted or taken out of context."
After noon on Sept. 11, when Air Force One did not return to
Washington, Jennings wondered where Bush was. After learning Bush had gone
to an Air Force base in Louisiana, Jennings said "none of us should
be surprised" that the Secret Service takes his safety "with
deep and profound seriousness." He added there was a
"psychological" aspect because "the country looks to the
president on occasions like this to be reassuring to the nation. Some
presidents do it well, some presidents don't."
After Bush addressed the nation, Jennings said Bush's quoting of the
Bible "will just sit so appropriately" with many Americans....
"His telephone is full of vitriol, really awful stuff,"
Friedman says. "You ought to be able to say, 'Some presidents do it
well and some presidents don't,' without it being taken in a partisan way,
especially when later in the day he made it clear he thought the president
had done pretty well."
For the Kurtz article in full, go to: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A14272-2001Sep23.html
For more about the MRC analysis of Jennings’
performance, refer back to the September 19 CyberAlert which featured a
reprint of a Media Reality Check the MRC’s Rich Noyes produced after
reviewing videotape of 17 hours of Jennings on September 11: http://www.mrc.org/news/cyberalert/2001/cyb20010919.asp#1
I’d note something I forgot to mention in
that CyberAlert: Since we taped ESPN’s uninterrupted simulcast of ABC
News coverage all afternoon on September 11, we were able to review
virtually every minute Jennings was on the air without local affiliate
news updates bumping him.