Media Reality Check

Why are executions in Texas suddenly the focus of multiple stories on network and cable news? The network air blitz began on June 12. NBC's Lisa Myers announced the "special scrutiny" came because of the "131 inmates executed by Governor George W. Bush." Now that would be a hands-on chief executive. The latest media rally against Bush's administration of capital punishment cases in Texas came with the case of Gary Graham, who went on a two-week crime spree in May of 1981, including ten robberies, the rape of a 57-year-old woman, and several shootings, including 19-year-old Greg Jones (see box.)... continue reading
Are the networks preparing to cover the party conventions? From the sound of their quotes, they're preparing to avoid them, disparaging them as party "infomercials." But what about this spring's liberal protests, especially the "Million Mom March"? Each of the Big Three networks devoted major air time to that infomercial. An MRC study of protest coverage follows on Page 2. As usual, though, the networks avoided covering the actual speakers at the protests. Everywhere you look, network stars are badmouthing the conventions. On CNN's Larry King Live , Dan Rather predicted: "I think there will be less coverage of the... continue reading
On Wednesday Al Gore, who last year boasted how he "took the initiative in creating the Internet," denied any knowledge of how his subpoenaed e-mails were lost by conceding, during a Fox News Channel interview, "I'm not an expert on computers." Last week, in a Jerry Seper story bannered across the front page of the June 9 Washington Times , but which was nearly completely ignored by the TV networks, the White House claimed that a problem with its computer back-up system meant e-mail sent to Gore's office between March 1998 and April 1999 could not be retrieved. Former White... continue reading
Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass jokingly called it "a tempest in a toilet." That seems to be the media reaction to the news that a family renting a house within sight of Al Gore's Carthage, Tennessee home were so upset they went to Nashville CBS affiliate WTVF-TV to get landlord Gore or his property helpers focused on their broken toilets and other problems. Tracy Mayberry called Gore a "slumlord" on TV, prompting Gore to call and promise to put the Mayberry family up in another house while the home is repaired. The story broke on Saturday morning with an Associated... continue reading
As Ronald Reagan wrapped up his second term in 1988, there was no scandal fatigue. Each new scandal, such as controversies over Attorney General Ed Meese, led to reporters decrying ever- increasing evidence of a "sleaze factor." But the media tend to yawn past the latest Clinton scandal news. Saving Reno's Job? On May 18, Associated Press reporter John Solomon dropped a bombshell: "FBI Director Louis Freeh wrote a memo in the earliest days of the Democratic fund-raising investigation suggesting a top Justice Department official was under pressure not to proceed with the probe to save Attorney General Janet Reno's... continue reading
All of the Big Three networks led Monday night with the formal recommendation that President Clinton be disbarred for lying under oath in the Paula Jones case. But how well had TV news covered the story before that? Most network morning and evening shows hadn't. For example: September 15, 1998: The Southeastern Legal Foundation (SLF) filed a complaint with the Arkansas Supreme Court Committee on Professional Conduct regarding Clinton's "willful professional misconduct by lying under oath in a court of law." Coverage? None. April 12, 1999: Judge Susan Webber Wright issued her contempt of court citation against Clinton for lying... continue reading
Long-time UPI White House reporter Helen Thomas quit yesterday, a day after the wire service was sold to News World Communications, the owners of the Washington Times , affiliated with the Unification Church. Thomas didn't say she was looking for a new gig because UPI was now owned by conservatives. But UPI International Editor Lee Michael Katz also resigned, telling The New York Times "I cannot work for the new owners." He was not surprised Thomas joined him: "Look at the timing of this, and Helen's devotion." A look at a few quotes shows Thomas's devotion to liberalism [see box]... continue reading
Washington protests can't seem too efficiently organized, or they risk looking like just another tool in the lobbyist's toolbox. They need to be portrayed as bubbling up from the innocent springs of suburbia. Otherwise, media skeptics might suggest your event is "Astroturf"- professionally manipulated heartland sentiment - instead of an authentic grass-roots passion. That would explain the selling of "The Million Mom March," the latest alliterative yet numerically challenged Washington event. The mom leading this parade is Donna Dees-Thomases, portrayed as a suburban homemaker and part-time CBS publicist from Short Hills, New Jersey. But sometimes the hype gets ahead of... continue reading
Texas Governor George W. Bush hasn't unveiled his Social Security reform plan yet, but the media are already deriding it as a neophyte's political gaffe. Here's how journalists are aiding the effort to undermine privatization: first, echo Vice President Al Gore's "risky scheme" spin; then appear balanced by hitting Gore on his over-the-top rhetoric; and finally portray Gore's plan to hijack the surplus to increase benefits as "conservative." Step One: Call it a Crap Shoot As the networks tell it, the GOP wants to take old people's money down to the casino and put it all on double sixes. "Bush... continue reading
Eron Shosteck writes a media column called "Pencil Necks" for National Last week, he made an unusual declaration: "Writing about the political print press without addressing the eternal question of bias is like trying to avoid a confrontation with the obstrep-erous drunkard at your intimate dinner party." Shosteck decided to evaluate media bias by doing a Nexis database search of "English-language news" for certain politically loaded terms. He found liberal favoritism: Partisans. The term "'partisan Republican'...has turned up 85 times in the English-language news media over the past 90 days. By contrast, the term 'partisan Democrat' has turned up... continue reading