Media Reality Check

C hina's illegal contributions to the Democrats and their exploitation of Clinton-approved satellite launches for military technology have been deemed non-news by the national media during the President's trip to China. With one NBC exception on June 24 as Clinton left, the networks have failed to air a full story on the scandals. Although their Friday and Saturday deadlines meant they'd witness only the first pieces of Clinton's trip, the news magazines made no attempt to add any China scandal news to the context of the Clinton trip and U.S.-China relations: U.S. News & World Report ran three pages on... continue reading
W hen President Clinton on Tuesday announced new regulations for Medicare providers, the networks had a common reaction - one way or another, it was an opportunity for them to bash private medical care. NBC Nightly News was the most aggressive. Tom Brokaw announced that it was "a new day for Medicare with more choices and a wider range of coverage," with "Medicare now offering a lot more than many private insurance companies." But according to correspondent Bob Faw, "The fact that for-profit HMOs welcome the new rules make some think the changes are not what they're cracked up to... continue reading
T his is a tale of two news stories on the Lewinsky probe. One reflects badly on the White House: the Los Angeles Times reported that Deputy White House Counsel Bruce Lindsey contacted Monicagate witnesses. One reflects badly on Kenneth Starr: the debut issue of the alleged journalism review Brill's Content attacks Starr for admitting he's briefed reporters. A fair, complete media outlet might feel compelled to do both. Guess which one the networks selected - and hyped? On Friday, Los Angeles Times reporters David Willman and Ronald Ostrow explained: "After reviewing Lindsey's actions, a federal judge has sharply questioned... continue reading
T wo months after The New York Times broke the first story and fourteen weeknights after the May 15 China connection story broke in the same paper, ABC's Nightline finally got to it - but with a major dose of skepticism. (It could be worse: it took Koppel 668 days from the first New York Times scoop to do his first show on Whitewater.) Ted Koppel began June 3 by noting he was driving in to work listening to Rush Limbaugh: "He's a smart fellow and I enjoy the program, although sometimes Rush leaps to what may seem like an... continue reading
T he new frontier in the fundraising scandal - the China missile question - is being covered in much the same way the networks covered the old territory: hardly at all. The evening news leader, ABC's World News Tonight, aired seven full stories in April and May, compared to two on CBS and two on NBC. As for the news magazines this week, Time carried nothing, Newsweek gave half a page. U.S. News & World Report printed its first article, a four-pager titled "RED SCARE? The sensational rhetoric over the China scandal obscures a basic question: Is China friend or... continue reading
H ow much does corporate America compared to labor unions spend on political campaigns? This question has become central to the debate over California's Proposition 226, which would require labor unions in the Golden State to receive written permission from members before using their dues for political purposes. Many reporters have repeated the claims of one study in particular, from the liberal Center for Responsive Politics (which is regularly labeled "nonpartisan"), purporting to show that there is much more corporate money than labor money in politics. But these reporters haven't mentioned the study's serious flaws, which overstate corporate political contributions... continue reading
M ore than six weeks have elapsed since the April 4 New York Times scoop that the Justice Department was looking to prosecute two defense contractors - Loral and Hughes Electric - who may have illegally provided China with space expertise that "significantly advanced Beijing's ballistic missile program." But in February, Bill Clinton "quietly approved the export to China of similar technology by one of the companies under investigation." The Times noted Loral has a number of business ties with China. Its chairman, Bernard Schwartz, was the largest individual contributor to the Democratic National Committee last year. Last Friday, the... continue reading
J anet Reno's decision to request an independent counsel for Labor Secretary Alexis Herman attracted the same TV news buzz as other Cabinet probes: almost nothing. The May 11 decision drew a lead story from ABC's World News Tonight (where investigative ace Brian Ross first broke the story in January.) As with Ross's scoop in January, the other networks were unimpressed: CBS gave it 26 seconds and NBC kept it to 18 seconds. Laurent Yene charged that when Herman was a White House employee, she accepted cash from him in exchange for helping his clients with government business. With the... continue reading
W ebster Hubbell, once America's third-ranking law enforcement official, embezzled almost $500,000 from his law partners. Then Clinton donors gave him more than $700,000 after he was pushed to resign. Despite receiving more than $1 million in 1994, he paid less than $30,000 in taxes. After plea bargaining with Whitewater counsel Ken Starr, Hubbell refused to cooperate with Starr and took the Fifth before House Government Reform and Oversight Committee's probe, chaired by Congressman Dan Burton (R-Indiana). But Hubbell is now the sympathetic center of a story of how Burton released portions of Hubbell's taped prison phone calls, and Burton... continue reading
B ig tobacco has been big news at the networks this month. Between April 1 and April 26 on ABC World News Tonight , CBS Evening News , and NBC Nightly News , there were 23 stories about various aspects of federal tobacco legislation. But, amazingly, none of these stories mentioned the argument that the proposed new taxes on cigarettes would hit poorer Americans most heavily. This is a startling omission for reporters whose first question about tax legislation is almost always, "Is it fair?" Just how regressive would proposed tobacco tax increases be? In the bill offered by Senator... continue reading