So much for the conspiracy theory that major media conglomerates intentionally distort newscasts toward big corporate interests – because they won’t even defend themselves.
This was evident in network coverage of the two-month-long Writers Guild of America (WGA) strike, including recent decisions to go without a settlement and begin taping late-night shows anyway. Though television companies are losing millions, that business perspective didn’t show up in pro-union coverage.
Good because it Created Union ‘Awareness?’
CBS’s January 3 “Early Show” anchor Maggie Rodriguez had a peculiar take in the wake of these decisions by the networks. Advertising revenue from the popular late-night shows was coming in again for the betterment of her employer, but her focus was union and strike awareness.
“Don't you think the writers are the real winners here, because all these comics brought such attention whether they had writers or not to the WGA?” asked Rodriguez.
Rodriguez’s two guests agreed.
“I do,” comedian Nancy Giles said, who admitted earlier she was also a union member.
“I don’t think they had any kind of awareness of the writer’s strike until last night,” said TV Guide Editor Stephen Battaglio.
Missing from the Coverage: The Financial Cost of the Strike
The January 2 “NBC Nightly News” ignored the network’s own financial losses from the WGA strike that forced its popular late-night television shows, “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” and “Late Night with Conan O’Brien,” off the air.
According to a May 25, 2007, Chicago Tribune article by Media Columnist Phil Rosenthal, estimates put the annual revenue from “The Tonight Show” “at well north of $100 million.” So without the show on the air, General Electric Co. (NYSE:GE), the parent company of NBC Universal, was losing millions. But the NBC report didn’t mention it.
Late-night comedy programs returned to the air January 2, despite the continued strike. Ironically, the lone pro-NBC statement that night came from the union.
Correspondent Mike Taibbi did report that non-WGA members stood to lose their jobs from the strike, but the explanation came from John Bowman, chairman of the WGA Negotiating Committee.
“They were forced to go back on the air,” Bowman said. “They have to or their staffs were going to be fired.”
Striking Writer Plays the ‘Jesus’ Card
The heavily skewed reporting even addressed the question: What would Jesus do?
The question was related to the “Tonight Show” appearance by GOP presidential hopeful and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee on January 2. The decision required the outspoken Baptist preacher to cross the picket line.
According to one WGA member on strike outside of NBC Studios in Burbank, Calif., Jesus would have showed solidarity with the writers.
“I don’t think Jesus would cross the picket line, no, I’m almost positive Jesus would be on our side,” the striking writer said to CBS’s January 3 “Early Show.”