In This Issue
PBS Documentary Series Routinely Excludes Conservative Experts, Topics; NewsBites: It's His Fault; Revolving Door: deLaski's Defensive Detail; Networks Legitimize NRDC's Press Release Science; Two Views on the Ozone Hole; Russert Returns to 1990; Media's Lack of Religion Addressed; Janet Cooke Award: CBS Street Stories Touts France's Socialist Day Care System, Downplays the Costs
PBS Documentary Series Routinely Excludes Conservative Experts, Topics
Stacking the Deck at Frontline
The PBS series Frontline portrays itself as a tough investigative program willing to tackle any issue. But how does it stand up to investigation? MediaWatch analysts reviewed every new Frontline broadcast during the last three seasons (72 programs) and found:
Conservative arguments and experts were completely ignored in eight programs on race relations and seven shows on the environment. In another 15 investigations of domestic politics, 40 percent of topics came from a left-wing issue agenda. In foreign policy, 42 percent of topics came from the left, 4 percent from the right.
Race Relations. In eight programs on race, not a single conservative voice appeared. In 1990's "Throwaway People," Roger Wilkins, a fellow at the radical Institute for Policy Studies, expounded on inner-city decline: "In the '80s.... the old racist libel about moral inferiority that used to be leveled at blacks was now focused on the poor. It justified crippling the only programs that provided any ladder at all. The Reagan Revolution slashed $51 billion in social spending."
Other programs contended that lack of gun control is the reason black teenagers are murdered more often than whites, and that racist banks deny loans to deserving black applicants. In "Black America's War," Anita Hill confidant Charles Ogletree moderated a one-sided panel discussion with Hodding Carter, Jesse Jackson, and Newsweek's Joe Klein [then with New York].
A lead-in documentary set the tone: "The disengagement of the rich, the growing divide between black and white: the arguments seemed a metaphor for what this country had become in the 1980s. One writer, looking at how differently the war was perceived by whites and blacks, dubbed it the Reagan-Bush gap." The chairman of the Joint Chiefs was called a sell-out: "Domestic programs were being cut, civil rights leaders protested loudly. [Gen. Colin] Powell remained loyal to Weinberger and Reagan. They, in turn, were loyal to him." Powell was even attacked in victory: "This man would go on to orchestrate in the Persian Gulf one of the most punishing bombing campaigns ever unleashed....yet few have chosen to criticize Powell for that."
Environment. In seven shows, none included conservative voices. The most recent: Moyers' March 30 "In Our Children's Food," linking pesticides to cancer in children. Other shows included a four-part series on development in the rain forests, and another Moyers documentary (co-produced by the left-wing Center for Investigative Reporting) that the United States is turning the earth into a "global dumping ground" for hazardous waste.
Foreign Policy. Frontline's favorite topic is foreign policy, the subject of 24 of the 72 programs (33 percent). Ten of those 24 (42 percent) came from a left-wing agenda. Programs included a graphic depiction of civilian casualties of U.S. bombing in Iraq by leftists Andrew and Leslie Cockburn; the allegation that Oliver North used Anglican Church envoy Terry Waite as a dupe; and endorsements for a Japanese-style industrial policy for America.
Frontline also enjoyed hunting down Republican foreign policy scandals. Bill Moyers hosted "High Crimes and Misdemeanors," a look at Iran-Contra. He saw the scandal in almost apocalyptic terms. "What happened in Iran-Contra was nothing less than the systematic disregard for democracy itself...officials who boasted of themselves as men of the Constitution showed utter contempt for the law. They had the money and power to do what they wanted, the guile to hide their tracks, and the arrogance to declare what they did was legal."
Robert Parry reported two programs charging that the 1980 Reagan campaign conspired to delay the release of the hostages in Iran. The first program aired in April of 1991. After The New Republic, Newsweek, and even the Village Voice denounced the October Surprise theory as fraudulent, Frontline devoted yet another hour to renouncing Parry's initial sources as liars, but suggesting they may have been sent out to lie by the CIA.
Conservatives were allowed to answer hostile inquiries, but Frontline foreign policy investigations never aired conservative arguments, such as the illegitimacy of the Boland Amendments restricting contra aid.
Only one show reflected a conservative theme. "Cuba and Cocaine" detailed the Castro government's role in the drug trade, but criticisms of the regime at large were nonexistent. An October 17, 1992, Castro biography, "The Last Communist," ignored the drug charges and gave only brief mention to human rights abuses. It's little wonder. In 1990, Washington Times television writer Don Kowet reported filmmaker Nestor Almendros was told: "Frontline does not co-produce anti-communist programs."
Domestic Politics. Of the 15 shows on domestic politics, six (40 percent) came from the left. Frontline did not limit its taste for right-wing threats to foreign affairs."The Resurrection of Reverend Moon" hinted that the conservative movement is partially controlled by the leaders of the Unification Church. Last season, Frontline outlined unproven charges that FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover was a transvestite.
Topics also included David Duke, with no corresponding investigation of anyone on the extreme left with disreputable views; a 60-minute complaint that the U.S. does not have a "national energy strategy" because of Bush's chief of staff, John Sununu; and a Bill Moyers look at the supposedly significant domestic opposition to the Gulf War. Only an April 1992 investigation of then-Gov. Bill Clinton's child welfare reform program would please a conservative, even if the critique came from the left.
Reagan-Bush victories were belittled by former Washington Post editor William Greider in a two-hour 1992 special. "The Republican Party's artful election strategy has been accomplished not by addressing the real economic concerns of the disaffected working class but by broadcasting messages attuned to their resentments," he sermonized. "They concocted a rancid populism, perfectly attuned to the age of political decay. The party of money won national elections mainly by posing as the party of the alienated." Speaking of making money, Greider's essay aired just as his book Who Will Tell the People hit book stores.
In the last three years, Frontline has produced some fine non-political shows, on topics such as baseball's financial troubles. On political issues, however, its bias is beyond question. Frontline producers have argued that they simply examine those in power, and Republicans held the White House. But how do they explain the lack of investigative stories on the misuse of power in Congress or entrenched regulatory agencies?
NewsBites: It's His Fault
It's His Fault. Why did President Bill Clinton have trouble getting his tax and spend budget passed? Could it be because Clinton broke his promise to reduce spending and provide a middle class tax cut? No, it's You Know Who's fault. In a front page story on August 1, New York Times Washington Bureau Chief R.W. Apple explained: "To understand why it has been so hard for Clinton to achieve his goals...one has to hark back to the presidency of Ronald Reagan and the political atmosphere he created. It is still with us, and it makes Clinton look like Sisyphus on a bad day."
The notion that "most federal programs were bad, taxes were bad, spending was bad," Apple argued, "continues to exert a hold over a broad section of the American electorate. As a result, politicians are terrified to wear the awful label, `tax and spend,' however much their constituents need government money for health care or roads."
A Hungry Globe. Just a month and a half after a Boston Globe story insisted "most readers would agree that the Globe's liberal bias has been toned down in news stories," the July 25 Sunday Globe allocated four full pages to Stan Grossfeld's photos and article under the title of "Wasting Away: America's Losing Battle Against Hunger." Citing Larry Brown of the left-wing Center on Hunger, Poverty and Nutrition Policy, Grossfeld asserted: "Widespread hunger in the United States was virtually eliminated in the 1970s, according to Brown, but hunger increased dramatically and steadily during the 1980s. To put it simply, the rich got richer and the poor got poorer."
Grossfeld charged that "during President Reagan's first term, $12 billion was cut from the food stamp and school meal programs." In fact, as detailed in a 1986 column by the late Warren Brookes, in constant 1984 dollars food stamp spending grew 1.5 percent between 1981 and 1984 as the number of qualifying recipients fell. In nominal dollars, National School Lunch Program spending grew from $2.28 billion in 1980 to $2.58 billion in 1985.
Grossfeld noted that "the number of food stamp recipients reached an all-time high of 27.4 million in June. One in 10 Americans is now eating courtesy of government handouts." What was his answer to the hunger problem? Even more spending, urging passage of the $7.3 billion Leland Hunger Relief Bill. And under the heading of "What You Can Do," he suggested: "1. Support legislation to fully fund existing federal food programs."
Brainy, Brave Moseley-Braun. During the Senate confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Ruth Bader Ginsburg, USA Today's Jessica Lee reported on July 23 that liberal Senator Carol Moseley-Braun "showed how racial diversity can have an impact. She...got an apology from Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah." Lee explained: "While questioning Ginsburg, Hatch equated the interpretation of a `fundamental right' in the Roe vs. Wade abortion ruling to that in the 1857 Dred Scott case upholding slavery. Interrupting, Moseley-Braun called Hatch's line of questioning `personally offensive.' Hatch promptly apologized." In fact, Hatch replied: "I apologize if I was inarticulate in what I was saying, but I don't think I was."
In contrast to the triumph of "racial diversity" described by Lee, the same day reporter Joan Biskupic of The Washington Post corrected Moseley-Braun's condemnation of the Utah Republican. "In fact, Hatch was not providing a `rationale' for slavery. He compared the two cases as examples of `judicial activism,' calling Dred Scott the `all-time worst' court ruling."
Cold War Communists. NBC weekend Today host Mike Schneider noted the 40th anniversary of the execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg on June 20: "Today's kids may have a difficult time understanding what it was like during the Cold War, especially back in the `50s. There were fears of atomic bombs falling from the sky, of communists lurking behind the scenes, almost everywhere. They told us we were in great danger, all of us in great danger, and they also, sometimes told us who to blame -- Julius and Ethel Rosenberg...Forty years later, some still wonder, did the Rosenbergs really betray their country and endanger the lives of millions? Or were they victims of a witch hunt, innocents who paid the ultimate price?" To answer that question, Schneider interviewed only Robert Meeropol, the Rosenbergs' son, who still maintains his parents' innocence.
Jacob Cohen of Brandeis University thinks otherwise. In the July 19 National Review, Cohen reviewed the allegations against the Rosenbergs: "It now seemed strongly possible that Julius Rosenberg was a central player in far-flung espionage activities, covering the years 1943-1950...who, except the Soviets, could have told Rosenberg about the secret work at Los Alamos, including details about the A-bomb itself, before [Los Alamos technician and Julius Rosenberg's brother-in-law David] Greenglass knew anything about it?"
Turner's Page Turner. For the past five years, CNN employees have been treated to the State of the World report from Lester Brown's Worldwatch Institute. In a recent "Dear Colleague" memo, Ted Turner explained his reasons for distributing the new edition: "The 1993 State of the World gives the information needed to make intelligent environmental decisions that can make a difference. I hope that you find it as illuminating, useful, and ultimately hopeful, as I have." The Institute, however, can hardly be described as hopeful, as anchor Jeanne Meserve proved in a July 17 World News report: "The world's population growth is showing clear signs of outpacing the food supply. That's according to a report from the Worldwatch Institute."
Steve Haworth, CNN's Vice President for Public Relations, told MediaWatch the report was distributed to "inform rather than to influence the editorial content of the newscasts. Our environmental coverage has always been fair and balanced and will continue to be so." Yet when asked if Turner planned to pass out materials with other viewpoints, Haworth pointed to Turner's personal relationship with Lester Brown and suggested that the news employees are "amply able" to gather opposing viewpoints. As for other resources CNN could use, conservative economist Julian Simon suggested the fashionably liberal United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization annual report, which shows calorie production per capita continuing to increase, as it has annually since 1950.
Psychologists Call It Denial. As a few media heavies like NBC's Tim Russert ask what went wrong with the 1990 budget deal, The Washington Post suggested nothing's wrong. On July 18, reporter John E. Yang argued that although the annual deficit is $60 billion higher than 1990, "that's not because the 1990 budget agreement failed, analysts say. The tax increases in that package have generated additional revenue and the spending limits have curbed the growth of federal discretionary spending."
But as Wall Street Journal columnist Paul Gigot pointed out, IRS revenue estimates show tax revenues fell in 1991, the first decline since 1983. Even though "the rich" were "soaked" by tax hikes in 1990, revenues from those earning $200,000 or more fell 6 percent, while for everyone else, revenue rose 3.3 percent. And discretionary spending curbed? "Nonsense," says Republican economist Stephen Moore. "Discretionary spending has been going up eight percent every year, twice the rate of inflation."
Yang continued: "The unhappy lesson of the 1990 budget battle is that it was overwhelmed by unexpected developments: a recession that was deeper than forecast, a war in the Persian Gulf, natural disasters from Hurricane Andrew to Typhoon Iniki and so on." But the government was mostly reimbursed by allies for the Gulf War. "We ended up spending maybe $5 billion," Moore told MediaWatch. And a recession following a tax hike? That's only unexpected by liberals.
Invasion of the Bible-Thumpers. A "nationwide Christian fundamentalist movement to take over public school boards." Is this a new movie plot? No, it's ABC's "American Agenda" on Pennsylvania education reforms. On the June 30 and July 1 World News Tonight, reporter Bill Blakemore targeted Citizens for Excellence in Education (CEE), run by Dr. Robert Simonds. Blakemore questioned the tactics of the group: "There is nothing illegal about the organized approach the CEE is taking to get people on school boards. But Simonds' opponents charge that candidates inspired by him often hide their real agendas until after they're elected." He also spoke to parents who "believe that the Christian right needs to be exposed," and found a minister who called the practices "stealthful."
Blakemore discussed Pennsylvania's Outcome Based Education (OBE), a new program that sets up state-dictated guidelines or "values" that all students should have. Religious activists opposed to the program were twice identified on-screen as "anti-reform" leaders. Blakemore asserted that reform leaders believe attacks to their plan are a "smokescreen for a hidden Christian fundamentalist agenda." And they think Oliver Stone is paranoid.
Not Even a Brief Briefing. Despite Bill Clinton's siding with "those who work hard and play by the rules," the media ignored an August American Spectator expose of hypocrisy in the Clintons' own finances. Lisa Schiffren discovered that while the President threw nominees overboard for not paying taxes on nannies, the Clintons never paid taxes in 1980 on their state-funded nanny, Dessie Sanders. In 1981 and 1982, when Clinton was out of office, they claimed a child care exemption for Sanders' services, but still didn't pay any Social Security taxes for her.
Schiffren also revealed that contrary to the media myth, Bill Clinton did not earn only $35,000 as Governor. His expenses were often paid out of various state funds, including a $51,000 "food allowance" and a $19,000 "public relations" fund, never claimed as income. Schiffren also revealed Hillary Clinton's aggressive tax deductions, including more than $1,000 a year for used clothing donations, such as $3 for Bill's used undershirts and $1 a pair for Bill and Chelsea's underwear. A month after Schiffren's story appeared, the media which grilled Nancy Reagan for keeping donated evening gowns had yet to mention it.
ABC's Missing Connection. Evidence connects both Afghan fundamentalists and Nicaraguan Sandinistas to the World Trade Center bombing. Which one got network coverage? ABC blamed America first. Nightline focused its June 16 show on the U.S.-funded Afghan rebel connection, mentioning it on June 24, 25 and July 1. Then on July 12, Day One sent John Hockenberry to Afghanistan to explore "The Afghanistan Connection." Forrest Sawyer introduced the piece: "One nation did, in fact, unwittingly pay to train some of these people and at one time supplied them and others like them with billions of dollars in weapons. That nation is the United States, and it all goes back to the U.S. involvement in the Afghanistan war."
Two days later, Douglas Farah wrote a front page story for The Washington Post detailing how an explosion in Managua uncovered a Sandinista-owned "guerrilla arsenal" housing "tons of weapons, including 19 surface-to-air missiles...documents detailing a Marxist kidnaping ring...and hundreds of false passports and identity papers." Farah noted that "fraudulently obtained Nicaraguan passports were discovered in March at the home of a suspect arrested in New York in connection" with the Trade Center bombing, Ibraham Elgabrowny. This development led the U.S. Senate to vote overwhelmingly on July 29 for a one-year moratorium on aid to Nicaragua. ABC's response? No story.
Revolving Door: deLaski's Defensive Detail
For the March 27 World News Tonight, Kathleen deLaski filed a story on Defense Secretary Les Aspin's budget presentation. Now, Aspin's her boss. In July, deLaski became the chief public affairs officer at the Defense Department. Before joining ABC's Washington bureau in 1988, she worked at WBAL-TV in Baltimore and covered arms control and defense for National Public Radio.
Last year she contributed to ABC's campaign coverage. In a September 20 story, deLaski looked at candidate misstatements. After noting that Clinton falsely claimed Bush would cut Social Security, she continued: "Republican scare tactics are not so targeted to certain voting blocs. Bush is accused of using Clinton's tax plan to scare almost everyone." Viewers then saw a clip of Bush asserting "He says he wants to tax the rich, but folks, he defines rich as anyone who has a job." To which, deLaski retorted, "Not true. Middle class Americans, Clinton says, will get a tax cut, although he has yet to define middle class."
As troops were going to Somalia, she found: "Some food aid groups are calling for more spending at home, particularly after a recent study showed that the numbers of undernourished swelled by 50 percent in the last decade," she asserted leading into a soundbite from Robert Fersh of the Food Research and Action Center. Her Dec. 6 story failed to identify Fersh as liberal or to include a conservative view.
In step with Clintonite thinking that "tax and spend" equals caring, she concluded that a "poll suggests that most Americans are already sensitive to the problems of hunger in America. Two-thirds of those surveyed said they'd be willing to pay a special income tax of $100 a year to feed this nation's hungry."
In July John Chancellor said goodbye to 40-plus years with NBC, interrupted in 1966 by a two-year stint as Director of the Voice of America for the Johnson Administration. NBC Nightly News anchor from 1972 to 1982, he's offered commentary for the past decade. The Washington Post bade farewell with this headline: "John Chancellor, Giving the Voice of Reason a Rest." The Post's Howard Kurtz relayed, "Chancellor says his own politics are more left-of-center than his on-screen analysis. `I think you hold back some,' he says. Over the years, he says, he `probably developed a way of looking the news that was pretty centrist.'"
Voice of Reason? Centrist? From April 17, 1990: "The overall tax burden for Americans, federal, state, and local, is actually quite low....The fact is Americans could pay more taxes and the country wouldn't go down the tube. Taxpayers don't believe this because they are being conned by the politicians...The truth is that the United States needs higher taxes and can afford them. Some political leaders are now starting to say that, but until more say it, the country will remain in trouble."
Rationalizing the Los Angeles riots on April 20 last year: "It's not a big surprise that the jury in suburban Simi Valley sided with the white policemen. Just as it's no surprise that the blacks in downtown Los Angeles rioted and people died.... Politicians have fanned these flames with code words about `welfare queens,' `equal opportunity,' and `quotas.' Language designed to turn whites against blacks. With two-party politics that favored the rich and hurt everyone else."
Networks Legitimize NRDC's Press Release Science
"Passive Conduits" On Pesticides
New York Times Science Editor Nicholas Wade conceded that the media often serve as a "passive conduit" for environmentalists. The quote came in a July 27 Washington Post story on a Center for Media and Public Affairs (CMPA) poll of scientists which found "the media overplay minor environmental threats to health." Wade confirmed to the Post's Howard Kurtz: "Often we're just doing our duty in following the activism of environmentalists, who make an issue of radon in houses or abandoned Superfund sites."
On June 21, the "passive conduits" struck again. The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) released a report supposedly summarizing a National Academy of Sciences analysis. CNN and ABC simply passed on the NRDC summary. ABC's Bettina Gregory warned: "The National Academy of Sciences is coming out with a report expected to document that children are more vulnerable than adults to pesticide residues."
But a week later, the actual NAS report contained no conclusion resembling the NRDC summary. The report said nothing about the danger pesticides pose to children. The report only suggested EPA regulations might be altered to account for the tolerance levels of children. Still, the media ignored what the actual NAS report said, and continued to parrot the NRDC summary.
The New York Times ran four stories in a little over a week using the NRDC spin. NBC Nightly News anchor Garrick Utley warned June 27: "A major new report ordered by Congress shows that pesticides are a greater danger to children than previously thought."
Peter Jennings introduced a June 28 ABC story: "The National Academy of Sciences reports today that children may be ingesting unsafe amounts of pesticide residue." He conceded that NAS called for more testing, but reporter Ned Potter picked up the baton: "Two billion pounds a year. That's how much pesticide we use on our fruits and vegetables...Is it dangerous? The National Academy report is only the latest indication it may be."
In the July 16 Investor's Business Daily, Michael Fumento reported, "The NRDC statement indicated there was no reason to wait for the NAS report, since the NAS was just going to say what the NRDC already had. The confusion over who was saying what may not be coincidental."
Fumento quoted NRDC skeptics who charged "by pre-empting the NAS report, the environmental groups were able to get an extremist message tied to a respected scientific body." No wonder the CMPA survey discovered just six percent of cancer researchers consider network news to be a "very reliable" source for news about cancer risks.
Two Views on the Ozone Hole
ABC vs. ABC
On July 1, ABC's Prime Time Live repeated questionable environmentalist claims that a decaying ozone layer is increasing skin cancer rates and blinding herds of sheep on the tip of South America. "Thanks to ozone depletion, experts are predicting 300,000 new cases of skin cancer in the future," Sam Donaldson warned.
John Quinones went to Punta Arenas, Argentina, supposedly the most affected area. He agreed with the apocalyptic line: "When it's not filtered by the ozone layer... [ultraviolet] radiation damages living tissue, causing skin cancer and cataracts." He noted ominously: "What happens to the people of Punta Arenas is a valuable lesson to the rest of the world. For recently scientists discovered that the ozone layer was also eroding over the northern hemisphere."
Quinones used only two quotes from a skeptical scientist, but 26 from doom-saying sources, like a local professor: "[Dr.] Magas believes the entire population of this town is an endangered species, thanks to the extreme levels of UV." Quinones didn't put on dermatologist Dr. Frederick Urbach, a consultant to the U.N., who told Reason magazine: "You can crunch numbers in a computer and get whatever result you want to come out."
In fact, ABC-owned KGO-TV in San Francisco broadcast a special in April 1992 with a much different conclusion. Reporter Brian Hackney traveled to Argentina, and talked with the only dermatologist in Punta Arenas, who said skin cancer cases have not increased. He further reported that the only cancer study done in the region indicated "sun tanning habits" explain the majority of skin cancer.
And the blind sheep? Hackney found no blind flocks, and had to travel hundreds of miles to find even one ranch with blindness problems (only 2 percent of the herd suffered from it). Hackney took samples of eyeballs from sheep with vision problems back to America for study. A biopsy report by a veterinary opthalmologist determined that a common microorganism caused the blindness, and that UV was at best a minor factor. After Hackney's investigation, the only thing damaged is Prime Time's environmental objectivity.
Russert Returns to 1990
NBC Meet the Press host Tim Russert has added historical perspective to the budget debate by comparing the Clinton plan to the 1990 deal. On June 27, he grilled Budget Director Leon Panetta: "You raised taxes, the economy went further into recession, and there was no deficit reduction. Why is it going to be different in `92 when it didn't work in `90?" Treasury Secretary Lloyd Bentsen received the same welcome on July 25. "1990. Congress got together with the President, raised taxes, cut defense, tried to limit Medicare growth, promised a $500 billion dollar deficit reduction....The deficit went up. Why isn't the same going to happen this year?"
The same day, he asked Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.): "What do you think of a plan that raises taxes a couple hundred billion dollars, limits growth on Medicare, cuts a little defense spending, reduces the interest on the public debt, and promises $500 billion in deficit reduction?" Domenici condemned Clinton's plan, and Russert sprung his trap: "The plan I actually talked about was the one you supported in 1990, vigorously...you raised taxes, and what happened is you promised $500 billion dollars in deficit reduction and instead the deficit went up $50 billion."
Eye on Male Bashing
CBS reporter Bernard Goldberg punctured the politically correct bubble of TV news on the June 24 Eye to Eye with Connie Chung. His report took a look at feminist male-bashers. "Male bashing has become part of the American culture," Goldberg noted. "Redbook magazine says male bashing is reaching epidemic proportions. Newsweek says 'So what! White guys are paranoid.'"
Goldberg allowed feminists to defend themselves, but his questions exposed some zealotry. "At the Whitney Museum in New York this spring, you got this button as you walked in: 'I can't ever imagine wanting to be white.'" He asked the exhibit curator if she would allow the button to read "I can't ever imagine wanting to be homosexual" or "a woman" or "black"? Her reply: "I would never have allowed that."
At an anti-male "rage conference," he asked two women why they were so angry. They said men "get all the good jobs, they rape women" and "all white men share [guilt] simply by virtue of the fact they are white and they have penises."
Ron Reagan Reports
On the premiere of the Fox Front Page magazine, Ron Reagan Jr. reported the intrusive effects of the Endangered Species Act on a Utah developer, Brant Child. "At issue is what he wants to do with his property. He had big plans: campground, golf course, curio shop. There was just one little problem. His problem was the Kanab amber snail."
On the other side, "Carl Pope of the Sierra Club says all species deserve protection. If any die out it eventually hurts the human species." But Reagan asked: "There must be 20 pearly mussels classified as endangered ...How many...mussels do we need?"
Media's Lack of Religion Addressed
Absence of Chalice
Since Washington Post reporter Michael Weisskopf called Christians "largely poor, uneducated, and easy to command" in a February 1 story, the media's shallow coverage of religion received some overdue attention.
In the July/August Columbia Journalism Review, Time political writer Laurence Barrett admitted: "Newspapers, magazines and networks frequently assign African-Americans to cover civil rights stories and related issues. Women journalists of a liberal bent often write about feminist concerns. Even if we had more conservative evangelicals in the ranks, I doubt they would be employed the way blacks and women have been. Conservative Christians are politically suspect." Barrett blamed "the cultural chasm dividing most national political writers and editors from the roughly 20 percent of the population that constitutes the core of the white, conservative evangelical movement."
Similarly, Scripps-Howard religion columnist Terry Mattingly described the greatest bias in the July/August Quill. "Bias of world view. It is hard to write a good story if you don't care that it exists." Mattingly wondered: "Can the `media elite' afford to offend a large segment of the population in an age of declining interest in newspapers and traditional network news?" Indeed, Barrett found "one reason for the deepening alienation of religious conservatives is that they've just about tuned out the mainstream media."
Janet Cooke Award: CBS Street Stories Touts France's Socialist Day Care System, Downplays the Costs
All Things French and "Free"
American liberals have a love affair with Europe. America's failure to emulate Europe's all-inclusive social programs regularly earns the network put-down that the U.S. is "the only industrialized nation except South Africa not to have" subsidized day care, paid family leave, or socialized medicine. On the CBS magazine show Street Stories July 2, correspondent Harold Dow promoted France's "free" child care. For one-sided promotion of a socialist system, Dow earned the August Janet Cooke Award.
The host of Street Stories, Ed Bradley, began: "Harold Dow found a place where dependable, affordable child care is available to everyone. You won't find it in the Yellow Pages, but you will find it on the map. Head east and you could be heading in the next direction in American child care."
Dow told a tale of two mothers, the anxious, cost-ridden Tracy Scheinoha of Milwaukee and Nancy Bragard: "She never worries about day care. She doesn't have to. That's because Nancy doesn't live in the United States anymore, she lives in Paris, France." Proclaimed Nancy: "Thank God for French day care. It's more than I would have asked for, for any of my kids."
Dow made his pitch: "Here in France they have created a child care system that would amaze most Americans. Every child in this country, from the richest family down to the poorest, gets a chance at the same high standard of day care, preschool, and health care. Not only is it free, or at low cost to everyone, but the quality is better than what most youngsters get in the United States." Dow also reported: "What you pay is based on your income. So, while the Bragards pay nearly three thousand dollars a year for the Creche [nursery], some families pay slightly more -- but some pay much less -- as little as a few hundred dollars a year."
Dow never told viewers that the top tax rate in France is 56.8 percent. On top of that, employers pay an additional annual premium to the government for the child care system. Why no details on taxes? The story's producer, Tom Berman, told MediaWatch: "The French government wouldn't give us a breakdown of costs. They just don't do it that way. We had our Paris bureau chief, who's been there for 20 years, try to get some numbers, and even he couldn't get them."
So how can CBS claim the system's "free or at low cost to everyone"? Dr. James T. Bennett, an economist at George Mason University and the co-author of the new book Official Lies, recognizes the tactic: "Socialism sells itself with the thought that you never see a bill. It just materializes out of nowhere. As long as the government is paying, the government can just sort of conjure it up. But remember to take a look at your paycheck when the work week's done."
Nonetheless, Dow returned to the notion of a "free" system repeatedly. "Next fall, Benjamin will be old enough to leave the Creche for the next stage of the French government's child care system, the Ecole-Maternelle, or preschool, which is totally free." Dow also interviewed pleased American mother Victoria Aubert, whose daughter also attends a government preschool, and explained: "There's one in virtually every neighborhood in the country, and almost every single three- to five-year-old French child goes -- all day -- all for free."
Dow then promoted the French system to the Scheinohas in Milwaukee: "What if I told you about the French system? A system that provides total care for your children. They have beautiful buildings, they've got trained professionals, doctors that come in. What would you say?"
"Sounds too good to be true," Tracy replied. In the story's sole incidence of skepticism, the Scheinohas turn out to be critical of government. Dow asked: "One of the ways they do it is higher taxes. The French people pay more than Americans do, and French businesses pay much more than U.S. businesses. Would you be willing to pay 20 percent, 30 percent, 40 percent, and even up to 50 percent more by way of taxes, to have that system? Would you be willing to pay that?"
Answered Tracy: "No. I'd have to draw the line somewhere. I'm not getting very much for what I pay now, and I pay a lot in taxes." Her husband, Andy, added: "You can't just take away the money, promise the services, and not deliver, which is what I'd be afraid would happen....I'd like to think that they could, but their track record isn't too good."
Dow may have asked a vague question about taxes, but he didn't report any details of the French system's total costs. American University Professor Barbara Bergmann, a supporter of the French model, suggests a similar system would cost more than $200 billion a year to implement fully in the United States. Dow never factored in the burdens of the subsidized day care system on the French economy. France has had almost no job growth -- civilian employment went from 21.3 million in 1980 to 21.5 million in 1989, while at the same time the United States grew from 99.3 to 117.3 million jobs. Unemployed people are more common under Dow's model system in France, where the unemployment rate is now 11.5 percent.
Why didn't CBS use these numbers? Berman told MediaWatch "We only had ten minutes to tell the whole story. We had enough to do a whole hour on the subject. Is it harder for employers to employ people in France? Absolutely. But the Americans in France think they have a better standard of living than their brothers and sisters in America."
Dow also presented the system as completely uncriticized, bringing Gail Richardson of the French-American Foundation on to fondly remember Hillary Clinton's trip to France in 1989: "Hillary was tremendously impressed by what she saw in France, and she was most of all impressed by the consensus. She looked for some expression of opposition to the programs that she saw, many of which enjoy considerable public support, didn't find it."
But the Socialists just suffered an enormous loss at the polls, losing in 484 of 577 districts. Wouldn't that suggest recent dissatisfaction? Berman responded that "It's not a complaint about the day care system. There are all kinds of debates about the school system after day care and other issues, but no one's complaining about these programs for small children."
A balanced story comparing European-style social programs with the United States would present the negative consequences as well as the positive, and deal frankly with the issue of how much programs cost, both directly and indirectly. But TV news stories often sound more like ten-minute ads for statism than a balanced examinations of the pluses and minuses.