Nets Trumpet Hackett, "Candor" in Chastising "Chicken Hawk" Bush --8/3/2005
2. Early Show Forwards Liberal Spin on Bolton Recess Appointment
3. LA Times Reporter David Shaw, Who Documented Abortion Bias, Dies
Correction: The August 2 CyberAlert article, "Rather Stands By What He Won't Call 'Memogate,' Will Get Emmy," mistakenly cited SmarterMoney.com and SmarterTimes.com as the source of quotes from Dan Rather. As the link accurately directed readers, the interview was posted by SmartMoney.com.
On ABC on Sunday, reporter Geoff Morrell recited how Hackett denounced Bush as a "chicken hawk" and "the biggest threat to America," but instead of describing that as mudslinging, Morrell called it "candor," relaying: "If elected, Hackett says he'll use that same candor to educate Congress about what's really going on in Iraq." On Saturday, CBS's Drew Levinson touted Hackett as "a tough talker" who "goes as far as saying President Bush is a greater threat to U.S. security than Osama bin Laden." Tuesday on CNN, Bruce Morton noted how Hackett's attacks on Bush have "angered some Republicans," but highlighted how one "Vietnam vet, who voted for Bush, is having second thoughts." NBC's Carl Quintanilla plugged Hackett as what "some call a next generation Democrat" and asserted that "analysts like Stu Rothenberg say there may be fallout even if Hackett finishes a close second."
Republican candidate Jean Schmidt won the 2nd District race 52 to 48 percent.
The four stories, in date order from oldest to newest, as compiled by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth:
# CBS Evening News, Saturday, July 30. Anchor Russ Mitchell announced: "It is shaping up as a referendum on Mr. Bush's Iraq policy, a special election for Congress in Ohio on Tuesday. The battle in the state's 2nd District pits a supporter of the President against a U.S. Marine, an Iraqi war veteran who is harshly critical. Drew Levinson has more."
Paul Hackett, Ohio Democratic congressional candidate: "I'm Paul Hackett. I need your vote on August 2nd."
Morrell began, over video of Hackett on a motorcycle: "It's two days before the special election, and Paul Hackett is hunting for votes. The 43-year-old Cincinnati Democrat is not your typical candidate."
Co-host Mile O'Brien touted Hackett's expertise: "Voters at the polls in Southern Ohio right now, they're choosing a Congressman in a special election there. The Republican candidate supports President Bush on Iraq. The Democrat opposes him. That would seem to be a disadvantage to the Democrat, but as Bruce Morton reports, this candidate has experience that is hard to argue with."
Morton began: "Paul Hackett, ex-Marine, Democrat running for Congress in Ohio's second district, which has elected Republicans to Congress for more than thirty years, and gave George Bush 74 percent of its vote last November. If Hackett wins, he'd be the first Iraq War veteran elected. Three lost House elections in 2004, and Iraq is what he talks about. He served seven months there in 2003, saw duty in Fallujah, and thinks the United States isn't winning the peace."
Quintanilla explained: "He's a first-time candidate with little experience, but Paul Hackett may also be what some call a next generation Democrat. Hackett is a Marine reservist, whose deployment in Iraq has helped him stage a high-profile challenge here in a district that hasn't voted Democratic in decades. While Hackett is not expected to beat his opponent, anti-abortion advocate Jean Schmidt, his image as a war veteran and gun enthusiast has drawn notice and support from national party leaders -- John Glenn, James Carville. A wave of party money has flooded the race on both sides, unleashing a fierce ad war."
Matching how the networks framed the matter on Monday night, Tuesday's Early Show acted as if President Bush were out of line in making a recess appointment of John Bolton as U.S. Ambassador to the UN and portrayed Democrats as victims instead of obstructionists. Julie Chen asked Gloria Borger: "How angry are Democrats about this recess appointment?" Chen followed up with the liberal spin of the day: "As for John Bolton, Democrats are calling him damaged goods, do you think that undermines his capabilities and effectiveness on the job?" Borger answered that "Democrats will continue to do that," and then reminded Chen and viewers "that there were some Republicans like Senator Voinovich of Ohio, who also did not vote for him."
For the August 2 CyberAlert items, "Scold Bush's 'End Run' on Bolton, ABC Points to Hillary as Model" and "ABC and NBC More Sympathetic to Clinton's Recess Appointments," go to: www.mediaresearch.org
Chen set up the session: "As we've been reporting, President Bush installed John Bolton as the American ambassador to the UN, despite the fact that the Senate refused to vote on his appointment. Gloria Borger is the CBS News national political correspondent. Good morning, Gloria. How angry are Democrats about this recess appointment?"
Los Angeles Times media reporter David Shaw died Monday night from complications from a brain tumor. In 1990, he researched and authored a groundbreaking series on liberal bias in abortion coverage, "Abortion Bias Seeps Into News: A comprehensive Times study finds that the press often favors abortion rights in its coverage, even though journalists say they make every effort to be fair." As his LA Times obituary recalled, "he found 'scores of examples, large and small, that can only be characterized as unfair to the opponents of abortion, either in content, tone, choice of language or prominence of play.'" But his criticism of journalists on that and other subjects led to ostracism from many of his colleagues. As his obituary pointed out, after he won the Pulitzer Prize in 1991 for documenting bad reporting of the infamous McMartin alleged child care abuse case, "colleagues gathered around his desk, but it was not the large crowd that usually materialized on such an occasion. Champagne was poured, but many of the bottles were returned to the kitchen unopened."
Below, an excerpt from the LA obituary for Shaw followed by the MRC's 1990 excerpt of highlights from his series on abortion coverage.
"David Shaw, 62; Prize-Winning Times Writer Forged New Standards for Media Criticism," read the August 2 headline over the Los Angeles Times obituary by Jon Thurber. An excerpt:
David Shaw, a Pulitzer Prize-winning Los Angeles Times writer who set new standards for media criticism with his hard-hitting examinations of the American press '€" including his own newspaper -- died Monday evening. He was 62.
Shaw died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles of complications from a brain tumor that was discovered in late May, said his wife, Lucy.
"David believed in journalistic independence, and he definitely practiced it," said John S. Carroll, editor of The Times. "As a critic, he was fearless in exposing the shortcomings of his own newspaper, his colleagues and his profession. His findings weren't always popular, but they earned him a national reputation for insight and integrity."
Since 2002, Shaw had been writing about two of his passions, food and wine, for the paper's weekly Food section. He also continued to reflect on the media in a column that appeared in Sunday Calendar.
But for most of his 37 years at The Times, Shaw used his energies to dissect trends and issues in the print and electronic media.
"He became a kind of educator for the general public who could come away from his many articles with a greater understanding of the news," said Ben Bagdikian, a media critic himself and former dean of the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. "His detail and clarity of writing was an enormous contribution to journalism."
Among Shaw's targets were movie criticism, best-seller lists, editorial cartooning, the use and abuse of political polls, the perceived influence of editorial endorsements in politics, coverage of the abortion issue, restaurant criticism, the Pulitzer Prize selection process, coverage of the pope and obituary writing.
"He had real clout in the craft," said Jim Naughton, former president of the Poynter Institute for Media Studies and former executive editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer. "If the White House criticized your work, you looked for the political motive. If David Shaw criticized your work, you looked for ways to improve your work."
"We are in the age of transparency in journalism," said Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism and a former colleague of Shaw's at The Times. "David was the first guy outside washing the windows."
Shaw was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for criticism in 1991 for his four-part series examining coverage of the McMartin molestation case. The case, which gained national attention, involved allegations that more than 60 children had been subject to sexual abuse and satanic rites while in the care of the McMartin Pre-School in Manhattan Beach. The legal proceedings dragged on for seven years, and ultimately no one was convicted of a crime....
Admirers of his work cite one series in particular that showed Shaw's eagerness to blaze new ground on a topic. That was the four-part report, published in 1990, on coverage of the abortion issue, which scrutinized journalists' cherished self-image of impartiality.
For the series, he reviewed print and television coverage of the issue over an 18-month period and interviewed more than 100 journalists, as well as activists on every side of the abortion debate.
He found "scores of examples, large and small, that can only be characterized as unfair to the opponents of abortion, either in content, tone, choice of language or prominence of play."
Writing in the National Journal last week , William Powers noted that the series "dramatically shifted the paradigm of abortion coverage, overnight."
Among Times staffers there seemed to be no middle ground on Shaw and his media examinations. His colleagues either liked it and him or they didn't.
"He wasn't bothered by staffers who came up to him to criticize his work," [Bill] Boyarsky [a retired city editor, columnist and political reporter for The Times] said. "He would discuss it in a civilized manner."
Some rank-and-file journalists grumbled that his focus was generally on reportorial failures and that he was far less pointed in criticizing failures by editors.
Boyarsky said that criticism was generally off the mark.
"The reporter is the key person in the [news-gathering] process," he said. "You can be a skeptical editor, but as an editor you have to go on what your reporter ultimately tells you. Shaw put the responsibility on the reporter. He thought they should be held accountable."
On April 9, 1991, the day Shaw won the Pulitzer Prize, colleagues gathered around his desk, but it was not the large crowd that usually materialized on such an occasion. Champagne was poured, but many of the bottles were returned to the kitchen unopened....
END of Excerpt
For the obituary in full, with a picture of Shaw: www.latimes.com
PRO-ABORTION BIAS DETAILED BY L.A. TIMES
How the political beliefs of editors and reporters influence news coverage is seldom a concern raised by the national news media. That's what made Los Angeles Times media reporter David Shaw's July 1-4 four-part front-page series on abortion bias so extraordinary.
Shaw noted that abortion opponents believe "media bias manifests itself, in print and on the air, almost daily." Shaw confirmed that belief: "A comprehensive Times study of major newspaper, television, and newsmagazine coverage over the last 18 months, including more than 100 interviews with journalists and with activists on both sides of the abortion debate, confirms that this [pro-abortion] bias often exists."
A number of major reporters whose primary beat is abortion agreed with Shaw's conclusion. "I think that when abortion opponents complain about a bias in newsrooms against their cause, they're absolutely right," Boston Globe legal reporter Ethan Bronner told Shaw. (See additional admissions in box on page 7).
When Bronner wrote a story explaining how an abortionist would be "destroying" the fetus by "crushing forming skulls and bones," Bronner recalled an editor told him "As far as I'm concerned, until that thing is born, it is really no different from a kidney; it is part of the woman's body." To talk about "destroying" it or about "forming bones," the editor said, is "really to distort the issue."
Indeed, reporters' personal views favoring abortion have an impact upon what the American people learn about the debate. Reporters have ignored stories that would cast doubt on the fundamental case upon which "abortion rights" are based. Bob Woodward, The Washington Post's star investigator of Republican wrongdoing, discovered the media's reflexes a few years ago when he revealed a 1973 memo between liberal justices admitting they were "legislating policy and exceeding [the court's] authority as the interpreter, not the maker of law" in deciding Roe v. Wade. No one picked up the story. Woodward told Shaw: "There are more people in the news media than not who agree with the [Roe] abortion decision and don't want to look at how the sausage was made." Shaw also learned:
"The media's language consistently embraces the rights of the woman (the primary focus of abortion-rights advocates), not the fetus (the primary focus of abortion opponents)." When the Louisiana legislature passed an anti-abortion bill, it was the nation's "harshest," and most "restrictive," not, as abortion opponents believe, the kindest, to the unborn child, or the most protective. Reporters "have referred to those who oppose abortion 'even in cases of rape or incest' (circumstances under which most people approve of abortion). But the media almost never refer to those who favor abortion rights 'even in the final weeks of pregnancy' (circumstances under which most people oppose abortion)."
"Abortion opponents are often described as 'conservatives'; abortion-rights supporters are rarely labeled as 'liberals.' Abortion opponents are sometimes identified as Catholics (or fundamentalist Christians), even when their religion is not demonstrably relevant to a given story; abortion-rights advocates are rarely identified by religion. Abortion opponents are often described as 'militant' or 'strident'; such characterizations are seldom used to describe abortion-rights advocates, many of whom can also be militant or strident -- or both."
"Cynthia Gorney, who covers abortion for The Washington Post, says she's troubled by the media's tendency to portray the anti- abortion movement as 'dominated by religious crazies' and to 'ignore what I think are the very understandable and reasonable arguments that are put forth by the pro-life side.' Susan Okie, medical reporter for the Post, says she herself 'had sort of a mental image of the anti-abortion groups as all being extremists' before she began writing much about them."
"Like most newspapers, the [Milwaukee] Journal had long used 'pro-choice,' without any complaint from the staff that it was unfair. But when Sig Gissler, editor of the Journal, wrote in a column that the paper would also begin using 'pro-life,' more than 80 reporters and editors petitioned him in protest before the column was even published."
"The media rarely illustrate stories on abortion with photographs of aborted fetuses -- or even, generally, of developed fetuses -- claiming that to do so would be in bad taste and might offend readers. But no such concern inhibits the media from showing photos of starving, tragically bloated children in Ethiopia."
Pro-abortion bias on the campaign trail: "There were races in which the media said an abortion-rights advocate's victory showed the political strength of that movement when, in fact, most of the votes in the race actually went to anti-abortion candidates. That was the case in Republican Tricia Hunter's narrow victory in a special Assembly primary in San Diego last summer....But Hunter actually received only 30% of the vote; the other 70% was divided among five anti-abortion candidates, one of whom finished fewer that 200 votes behind her, with only 20% of the registered voters going to the polls. The Washington Post was one of the few major news organizations to note all these mitigating factors."
Noting the difference between coverage of Planned Parenthood President Faye Wattleton and Operation Rescue leader Randall Terry: "Time magazine headlined its profile of Wattleton last December 'Nothing Less Than Perfect' and said she was 'self-possessed, imperturbable, smoothly articulate,' 'imperially slim and sleekly dressed...a stunning refutation of the cliche of the dowdy feminist.'"
"....But Terry is almost always described as 'a former used car salesman'; the Associated Press, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, and Newsweek, among many others, have all referred to him that way."
Boston Globe reporter Eileen McNamara, who admitted using the phrase to describe Terry, said "most reporters 'try to be fair,' but most support abortion rights, and 'I think we were delighted to find out that he sold used cars.'"
In some cases, editors aren't even keeping up on the anti- abortion side. Witness the ignorance of two major newspaper editors on special "pain-compliance" techniques that police have used against pro-life activists, a story the national media have mostly ignored. Shaw found that "Coverage of abortion protesters' problems has been so slight" that Jack Rosenthal, editorial page editor of The New York Times, and Meg Greenfield, editorial page editor of The Washington Post, "said they had never heard of the 'pain-compliance' practices and resultant charges of police brutality."
When it came to the questionable indictment of pro-lifers on supposed violations of the Racketeer-Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, Rosenthal said "he didn't even know RICO was being used against abortion protesters until told of it in the course of an interview for this story."
These admissions cut to the very core of complaints about media bias. Today, editors are not simply favoring the side they prefer, they're failing to report the activities and concerns of the side they oppose. In other words, they're not doing their job.
END of Reprint of excerpt
A MediaWatch sidebar ran quotes from reporters who told Shaw they agreed with his take:
# "I do believe that some of the stories I have read or seen have almost seemed like cheerleading for the pro-choice side." -- NBC News reporter Lisa Myers.
# "Opposing abortion, in the opinion of most journalists...is not a legitimate, civilized position in our society." -- Boston Globe legal reporter Ethan Bronner.
# "There have been times when I have felt that pro-choice organizations have easier access, that their...spin gets somewhat greater credibility than the spin from the pro-life community and that it sometimes does affect the sensibilities of coverage." -- Washington Post political reporter Dan Balz.
# "The problem [with abortion coverage], pure and simple, is that the media's loaded with women who are strongly pro-choice." -- A "longtime network news executive" who asked not to be identified.
All of the above MRC material is online at: www.mrc.org
The LA Times has posted Shaw's 1990 abortion series, "Abortion Bias Seeps Into News: A comprehensive Times study finds that the press often favors abortion rights in its coverage, even though journalists say they make every effort to be fair." Go to: www.latimes.com
-- Brent Baker