In This Issue
Media Money Funds Democrats; NewsBites: The Wrong Rights; Revolving Door: Special Report: Democrats Covering Democrats; Networks Decry Difficulties for Teens Seeking Abortions; Style Triumphs Over Substance of Summit; Bored By KGB Archives; Clinton's Media Fans; Janet Cooke Award: CBS: Blind "Eye of the Earth"
Media Money Funds Democrats
Media critics on the left have warned that a conservative bias dominates the news thanks to the "conservative" executives who run America's major media corporations. Even some reporters believe the heads of media corporations are conservative. On C-SPAN last December 6, CNN reporter Bob Franken concluded: "The ownership of the media are in fact conservative. They are, first of all, they're rich. They have to be rich, and that usually translates to conservative."
But how do these "conservative" corporate executives really come down on political issues? In the last few years, MediaWatch has shown that media company foundations give 90 percent of their political grants to liberal groups. Now, MediaWatch analysts have investigated the federal political contributions made by major media executives and journalists. A sample of those findings, from 1988 to present, strike another damaging blow to the myth of "conservative" media corporations. Media figures give to Democrats roughly six times as often as they donate to Republicans.
Contributions to Republicans were seldom based on executives' beliefs, but on a self-interested support-the-winner attitude. How else could you explain supporting both Clinton and Bush? ABC Chairman Thomas Murphy gave to both Republican Tom Campbell and Democrat Dianne Feinstein in the same Senate race. Media executives may also be self-interested in donating to Senators such as Daniel Inouye, or Congressmen such as Ed Markey, since they chair subcommittees governing the media. Donation records were gathered at the Federal Election Commission and do not include state races. For example, CBS reporter Ed Bradley and PBS anchor Charlayne Hunter-Gault gave $500 and $700, respectively, to Virginia Gov. Douglas Wilder in 1989; and in 1988, Dan Rather attended a fundraiser for Texas Gov. Ann Richards.
While many executives would claim they have no control over the content of news, some donors we've identified do. Howard Stringer, President of CBS News during 1990-91, is a Clinton supporter; Douglas Bennet, President of NPR, gave money to Paul Tsongas. Judith Moyers, who produces all of husband Bill Moyers' PBS programs, donated to Sen. Harris Woford and the Democratic feminist fundraisers at Emily's List. Reporters who favor Democrats in their copy aren't challenging the corporate brass -- they're pleasing them.
Partial list of media contributors with titles, 1988-92 (Republicans in italics):
Steven J. Ross, Co-Chairman, Time Warner: Democratic National Committee, $100,000; Sen. Rudy Boschwitz, $1,000; Sen. Bill Bradley, $2,000; Sen. Bill Bradley, $2,000, Rep. Jack Brooks, $2,000; Bush-Quayle '92, $1,000; Sen. William Cohen, $2,000; Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, $5,000; Sen. Chris Dodd, $1,000; Sen. Wyche Fowler, $2,000; Rep. Dan Glickman, $500; Sen. Al Gore, $2,000; Sen. Howell Heflin, $2,000; Sen. Ernest Hollings, $2,000; Sen. John Kerry, $2,000; Sen. Patrick Leahy, $1,000; New York Republican County Committee, $2,500;; Sen. Sam Nunn, $2,000; Pennsylvania Democratic State Committee, $5,000; Rep. Charles Rangel, $1,500; Sen. Jay Rockefeller, $2,000; Sen. Warren Rudman, $2,000; Sen. Terry Sanford, $1,000; Rep. James Scheuer, $2,000; Sen. Paul Simon, $1,000; Rep. Edolphus Towns, $1,000.
Gerald M. Levin, Co-Chairman, Time Warner: Clinton for President, $500; Sen. Al D'Amato, $250; Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, $1,000; Sen. John Kerry, $1,000; Rep. Thomas Manton, $1,000; Rep. Thomas Manton, $1,000; Rep. Ed Markey, $1,000; Mrazek for Senate, $1,000; Sen. Bob Packwood, $1,000; Sen. Wyche Fowler, $1,000; Sen. Tim Wirth, $1,000.
N.J. Nicholas, ex-Co-Chairman, Time Warner: Tsongas for President, $1,000.
Timothy A. Boggs, Vice President-Government Affairs, Time Warner: Sen. Bill Bradley, $1,000; Rep. Jack Brooks, $1,000; Bush-Quayle '92, $1,000; Clinton for President, $1,000; Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, $2,500; Sen. Chris Dodd, $2,000; Rep. Vic Fazio, $1,000; Rep. Barney Frank, $250; Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, $500; Rep. Dick Gephardt, $250; Harkin for President, $1,000; Human Rights Campaign Fund PAC, $420; Rep. Robert Kastenmeier, $1,000; Sen. John Kerry, $2,000; Sen. Patrick Leahy, $250; Rep. Thomas Manton, $500; Rep. Ed Markey, $3,000; Sen. Bob Packwood, $1,000; Rep. Mike Synar, $1,500.
Mark Mitzner, Executive Vice President, Time Warner: Clinton for President, $1,000.
Mayo Stuntz, Executive Vice President, Time Warner: Clinton for President, $1,000.
Andrew Tobias, "Money Angles" columnist, Time magazine: Abrams for Senate, $500; Clinton for President, $1,000; Rep. Barney Frank, $1,000; Sen. Graham, $250; Huffington for Congress, $500; Tsongas for President, $1,000; Melvin Watt for Congress, $1,000.
Martha Smilgis, Reporter, Time magazine: Dianne Feinstein for Senate, $250.
Howard Stringer, President, CBS Broadcast Group and former President, CBS News: Clinton for President, $1,000; Sen. Daniel Inouye, $1,000.
Martin D. Franks, Vice President-Government Relations, CBS: Sen. Brock Adams, $500; Sen. Joseph Biden, $500; Rep. David Bonior, $500; Rep. Rick Boucher, $500; Rep. Barbara Boxer, $500; Sen. John Breaux, $1,000; Sen. Kent Conrad, $500; Sen. Tom Daschle, $500; Rep. Butler Derrick, $500; Rep. John Dingell, $1,000; Sen. Alan Dixon, $1,000; Sen. James Exon, $1,000; Rep. Vic Fazio, $500; Sen. William Ford, $1,000; Rep. Martin Frost, $500; Rep. Bart Gordon, $500; Rep Willis Gradison, $250; Kerrey for President, $500; Sen. John Kerry, $500; Sen. Patrick Leahy, $250; Rep. Ed Markey, $500; Rep. Bob Matusi, $500; Rep. Tom McMillen, $250; Rep. David Skaggs, $250; Sen. Ted Stevens, $500; Rep. Al Swift, $500; Rep. Mike Synar, $1,000.
Daniel B. Burke, President, Capital Cities/ABC: Sen. Ernest Hollings, $1,000; Rep. Peter Kostmayer, $500.
Thomas S. Murphy, Chairman, Capitol Cities/ABC: Tom Campbell for Senate, $1,000; Feinstein for Senate, $1,000; Sen. Ernest Hollings, $1,000; Sen. John Kerry, $1,500; Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, $1,000; Rep. Marty Russo, $500; Sen. Terry Sanford, $2,000; Rep. Mike Synar, 1,000; Rep. Tom Tauke, $1,000.
Mark MacCarthy, VP-Government Affairs, Capital Cities/ABC: Sen. Ernest Hollings, $500; Sen. John Kerry, $500; Rep. Peter Kostmayer, $500; Rep. Ed Markey, $1,500.
Robert C. Wright, President, NBC: Sen. Bill Bradley, $1,000; Bush-Quayle '92,$1,000; Rep. John Dingell, $1,000; Sen. Earnest Hollings, $2,000; Sen. Daniel Inouye, $1,000; Rep. Thomas Manton, $500; rep. Ed Markey, $500; Rep. Charles Rangel, $500; Rep. Christopher Shays, $2,000; Tom Tauke for Senate, $1,000.
Lawrence A. Bossidy, Vice Chairman, General Electric: Bush-Quayle '92, $1,000; Sen. Ernest Hollings, $1,000; Rep. Charles Schumer, $2,000.
Richard Cotton, Vice President and General Counsel, NBC: Clinton for President, $1,000; Sen. Ernest Hollings, $2,000; Sen. John Kerry, $1,000; Rep. Thomas Manton, $500; Rep. Ed Markey, $500; Rep. Jim Scheuer, $1,000.
Frank P. Doyle, Senior Vice President, General Electric: Clinton for President, $1,000; Democratic National Committee, $2,200; Dole For President, $500; Rep. Dick Gephardt, $250; Sen. Tom Harkin, $1,000; Sen. Ernest Hollings, $1,000; Sen. John Kerry, $1,000; Rep. Ray McGrath, $500; Rep. Thomas Petri, $300; Sen Paul Simon, $1,000.
Edward E. Hood, Jr., Vice Chairman, General Electric: Rep. Nicholas Mavroules, $500.
Terence p. Mahony, VP-Governmental Relations, NBC: Rep. Ed Markey, $250; Kerrey for President, $1,000.
Cathleen P. Black, President, American Newspaper Publishers Association and former publisher, USA Today: Rep. Ed Markey, $1,000; Women's Campaign Fund, $1,000.
Victor Zonana, Financial Reporter, Lost Angeles Times: Clinton for President, $100.
Millicent Feller, Vice President for Government Relations, Gannett: Rep. Beryl Anthony, $500; Sen. Bob Packwood, $1,000; Rep. Al Swift, $300.
Douglas J. Bennet Jr., President, National Public Radio: Tsongas for President, $500.
Judith Moyers, Executive Producer, Public Affairs Television (PBS): Sen. Harris Wofford, $1,000; Emily's List, $250.
Sharon Percy Rockefeller, President, WETA and retiring board member, Corporation for Public Broadcasting: Barbara Boxer for Senate, $250; Clinton for President, $1,000; Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, $1,500; Democratic National Committee, $3,000; Ferraro for Senate, $500; Harvy Gantt for Senate Campaign, $500; West Virginia State Democratic Executive Committee, $1,000; Sen Tim Wirth, $1,000; Women's Campaign Fund, $500.
NewsBites: The Wrong Rights
THE WRONG RIGHTS. The networks believe some "rights" are more important than others. On the same day the abortion decision was announced, the court ruled in favor of individual rights in Lucas vs. South Carolina Coastal Council. David Lucas spent $975,000 for two beachfront lots, but the state prevented him from building anything of value on them, even though houses surround the lots.
But to court reporters, property rights aren't important rights. The evening newscasts all reported at least three stories on the abortion decision. But ABC and CBS didn't even mention the Lucas case. NBC gave the story a brief anchor read, and CNN World News anchor Patrick Greenlaw placed this spin on a clear victory for individual liberties: "The Court also handed down a ruling cutting into the government's ability to regulate private property."
MEDIA CHIEFS HONOR DEMS. The 1992 campaign is under way and media bigwigs are lining up for Democrats. The night before the Democratic convention began, the gay magazine The Advocate and the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association hosted a reception honoring California Senate candidate Barbara Boxer, Rep. Barney Frank, and D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton. The co-chairs to this event: Tom Johnson, President of the Cable News Network; Arthur Sulzberger Jr., Publisher of The New York Times; and Shelby Coffey, Editor of the Los Angeles Times. We'll be waiting to see if these three journalists will be fair and balanced and lend their names to any pre-Republican Convention reception honoring California Senate candidate Bruce Herschensohn, Rep. Dick Armey, and Rep. Bob Dornan. Right.
BACK TO HOMELESS MYTHS. Only three months ago Newsweek reporter Jay Mathews debunked the popular liberal myth of a homeless population of three million. Mathews wrote in the April 6 issue: "The figure of 3 million homeless in the United States, used by advocates and the media in the 1980s, has little basis in fact. A 1988 Urban Institute report found there were no more than 600,000 homeless people on any night."
But Newsweek just can't let go. In a June 29 report on rising homelessness in Europe, Newsweek reporter Pascal Privat suggested "the best figures available" were these: "The National Coalition for the Homeless says 3 million Americans have no permanent shelter."
HATE CRIME HYPE. When the Supreme Court overturned a law against flag-burning in 1989, the media went into a frenzy applauding "free expression." But there was no applause from CNN when the court ruled on June 22 that a Minnesota "hate crime" law on cross burnings went too far in limiting First Amendment-protected speech.
On that night's World News, reporter Bonnie Anderson announced that one "hate crime" victim is "angry the Supreme Court ruled the racial hatred that drove her from her Marietta, Georgia home is protected by the U.S. Constitution....The ruling means that she and her children must still live in fear....Civil rights groups are concerned that the wording [of the court's ruling] was too vague, and now it is open season on hate crimes." CNN left the impression that the Supreme Court had overturned all the other laws under which cross burners can be prosecuted: trespassing, destruction of property, disturbing the peace, and so on.
GUNNING FOR GARTNER. NBC News President Michael Gartner, a man who believes the First Amendment is so expansive it gives him the right to identify rape victims on national TV, isn't so hot about other parts of the Bill of Rights. The National Rifle Association has targeted Gartner as a supporter of a total ban on handguns, which would require a rewriting of the Constitution. The NRA launched an ad campaign with actors Charlton Heston, Susan Howard, and Gerald McRaney. The ads quote a January 16 USA Today column in which Gartner called for eliminating the constitutional right to own handguns: "Let's ban them. Let's change the Constitution....There is no reason for anyone in this country, anyone except a police officer or a military person, to buy, to own, to have, to use a handgun."
Cheerleading for a handgun ban is nothing new to the NBC News President. On January 10, 1991, The Wall Street Journal published a Gartner column titled "Tell Me a Good Reason for Handguns." He wrote: "I'm especially against handguns. I'm against them because they are used to threaten, to maim, to kill. I'm against them because today, if it is typical, 10 children will be killed by handguns....I can't think of any reason to be for handguns." If the criteria for a ban is maiming or killing people, why not ban cars?
CHICKEN LITTLE'S SQUAWK. The media's general affection for the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro couldn't be missed, and Newsweek reporter Sharon Begley couldn't find enough praise for the summit's efforts -- or disdain for the U.S. position.
In her June 1 report on the upcoming summit, Begley applauded the accuracy of the notoriously wrong Club of Rome's Limits to Growth report of 1972: "Its warning that population and growth might tip the world's economic or biological life-support systems into collapse within 100 years was greeted with as much ridicule as reflection. Few thought its doomsday scenario possible. Few took it seriously. But then a funny thing happened....exactly the sort of collapses foreseen in Limits came about." She failed to mention the report also warned the world would run out of oil by 1992.
Begley had no use for President Bush. In the June 15 issue, she wrote: "When Bush shows up this week for a 40-hour appearance, even many of America's allies are going to greet him as the Grinch who stole the eco-summit." Begley's measure of success was detailed in the June 22 issue where she wrote, "But the real yardstick of success was neither rhetoric nor treaties...The true measure was cash....America, in contrast, found itself in the role of cranky Uncle Scrooge."
HIT MAN HUGHES In the same issue in which Time devoted two pages to its favorite Time-Warner recording artist, "Cop Killer" rapper Ice-T, (his "poetry....deftly slices life's jugular"), the magazine selected art critic Robert Hughes to attack Dan Quayle for making Time-Warner an issue in the first place.
Hughes defended his favorite involuntary charity, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), and dripped contempt for Quayle's family-values crusade: "It may be, as members of the Republican Party seem to believe, that there are few disadvantages to being American. But there is at least one: what other democratic nation would make a bantam like J. Danforth Quayle its Vice President and send him forth to lecture on public morality and cultural health?...Now the Little Communicator is at it again."
Hughes again charged conservatives with divisive and diversionary politics: "A plethora of Washington conservatives hope for distraction issues -- anything that will take voters' minds off the domestic economy -- and see the campaign for moral restrictions on the NEA a rich source of cheap shots against `liberal' culture." As for the NEA's new director, Anne Imelda-Radice, Hughes blustered that she was appointed to "replace John Frohnmayer, who was fired to appease Pat Buchanan's distorted and ranting attacks on the NEA during the early primaries."
ANITA AMNESIA. Reporters are still ignoring evidence that shakes the credibility of Anita Hill, the media's poster girl for sexual harassment and female Senate candidates. While Capitol Games, a new book by Newsday reporter (and Hill leak beneficiary) Timothy Phelps, drew stories or interviews from ABC's Good Morning America, CNN's Larry King Live, NBC's Sunday Today, and U.S. News & World Report, David Brock and his March American Spectator exposé remained unreported and unchallenged by all of these outlets. Reporters also ignored the latest crack in Hill's credibility. The June 11 Daily Oklahoman reported that Hill is taking a year-long sabbatical from the University of Oklahoma to give lucrative speeches and more importantly, write a book -- which she told Senators she wouldn't do.
The almost-total silence on Brock's expose was broken on June 7 by The Boston Globe's Thomas C. Palmer Jr., a writer for the Globe's Sunday "Focus" section. Wrote Palmer: "John Bliss, a Judiciary Committee staff member who questioned many witnesses in preparation for the hearings, says he considers the Spectator article accurate: 'We've had several months go by now to have someone come forward and effectively rebut it, and no one has.'"
MAURO'S MOURNINGS. USA Today court reporter Tony Mauro has taken his complaints about the conservative Supreme Court to where he doesn't have to pretend to be balanced, the July/August issue of the liberal Washington Monthly. "The rightward shift has, of course, been most visible on the Supreme Court....But the decisions at the next tier of the judiciary -- the circuit courts of appeals -- and the tier below that -- the district courts -- are, ideologically, the Supreme Court again and again. Only worse." Declared Mauro: "The losers in this ideological battle are, of course, those who most need the protection of the courts: minorities, criminal defendants, and the downtrodden. Congress, state courts, and legislatures are increasingly called upon to assume the role of protector once played by the federal courts."
Mauro even took a shot at the American people for backing the nomination of Clarence Thomas: "Our nation's attention -- if not its conscience -- was aroused by the feisty public battles waged at the confirmation hearings of Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas." Mauro concluded by lobbying: "The composition of the courts should be a major issue in the campaigns for both the presidency and the Senate, where the power to confirm federal judges should, after the Thomas debacle, be taken a little more seriously."
STRONG'S NOVEL IDEA. Peter Jennings gave "Person of the Week" honors June 5 to Maurice Strong, Secretary General of last month's U.N. Earth Summit. Jennings complimented Strong: "He is hopeful about finding ways to make the earth a better place to live...He is the world's most tireless cheerleader for the planet."
But Jennings left out Strong's real feelings for the planet's industrial nations, captured in Strong's own words on his idea for a novel plot, quoted in the Canadian news magazine Alberta Report on May 11: "What if a small group of world leaders were to conclude that the principal risk to the earth comes from the actions of the rich countries? And if the world is to survive, those rich countries would have to sign an agreement reducing their impact on the environment. Would they do it? The group's conclusion is no. The rich countries won't do it. They won't change. So in order to save the planet, the group decides: isn't the only hope for the planet that the industrialized nations collapse? Isn't our responsibility to bring that about? This group of world leaders form a secret society to bring about an economic collapse."
Revolving Door: Special Report: Democrats Covering Democrats
As the Democrats convened in New York City this month, many of those covering the convention or overseeing the news content from executive offices, had experience on the other side of the microphone or notepad. The following people once worked on behalf of Democratic presidential hopefuls or for liberal politicians. Next month MediaWatch will list the few Republican veterans involved in Republican Convention coverage.
ABC News: Jeff Gralnick, Vice President and Executive Producer of convention coverage; Press Secretary to Senator George McGovern in 1972. Jeff Greenfield, political and media reporter; Speechwriter to Senator Robert Kennedy, 1968.
CBS News: Dotty Lynch, Political Editor; Democratic National Committee (DNC) Polling Director in 1981-82 and pollster for Gary Hart and Mondale-Ferraro in 1984.
CNN: Tom Johnson, President; Deputy Press Secretary and later Special Assistant to President Lyndon Johnson. Ken Bode, special assignment and political reporter; aide in 1976 Morris Udall presidential campaign and author of the 1972 McGovern Commission Democratic delegate reform rules.
NBC News: John Chancellor, co-anchor of convention coverage; Director of the Voice of America in the Johnson Administration. Tim Russert, Vice President and Washington Bureau Chief, and "roving analyst" for the convention; Counselor to New York Governor Mario Cuomo 1983-84 and previously Chief-of-Staff to Senator Patrick Moynihan. Maria Shriver, podium reporter; volunteer campaign aide for the 1972 McGovern-Shriver ticket and 1980 Ted Kennedy effort.
National Public Radio: Douglas Bennet, President; Director of the Agency for International Development for Jimmy Carter and Administrative Assistant to Senators Tom Eagleton and Abraham Ribicoff. Bob Ferrante, Executive Producer of morning news; Director of Communications for the Democratic National Committee, 1986-88. Anne Edwards, Senior Editor; scheduler for the 1984 Mondale-Ferraro campaign.
PBS: Kwame Holman, MacNeil-Lehrer NewsHour reporter and for thec onvention, a floor reporter; Press Secretary in 1980 for Washington D.C. Mayor Marion Barry.
Time magazine: Margaret Carlson, Deputy Washington Bureau Chief; Special Assistant to the Chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission during the Carter Administration. Walter Shapiro, Senior Writer who is covering the '92 campaign; Speechwriter for President Carter and Press Secretary to Labor Secretary Ray Marshall.
U.S. News & World Report: Kathryn Bushkin, Director of Editorial Administration; Press Secretary for Gary Hart's 1984 campaign. Harrison Rainie, Assistant Managing Editor now covering the campaign; Chief-of-Staff to Sen. Patrick Moynihan, 1987.
A few media veterans are putting their talents to work for the Democrats. DNC Press Secretary Ginny Terzano served as a researcher in the CBS News election unit during the 1988 campaign season. Former CBS News producer Anne Reingold is in charge of a 50-person staff producing video of the convention for use by local television stations. "The main goal is to get our guys and our message on the air," Reingold told Washington Post reporter Howard Kurtz. During her eight years with CBS, Reingold worked for the Election and Survey Unit, served as a special events producer and covered the campaigns of Democratic presidential candidates Gary Hart and Jesse Jackson.
Networks Decry Difficulties for Teens Seeking Abortions
PARENTAL CONSENT, TV DISSENT
The Supreme Court's June 29 ruling upholding most of Pennsylvania's abortion law had network reporters mourning the consequences in exaggerated tones. Reporters predicted the law's provisions for informed consent, parental consent, and a 24-hour waiting period would cause many women to seek abortions in other states.
On ABC's World News Tonight, reporter Carole Simpson reported from the Allentown Women's Center, showing a 21-year-old woman who said she would have become a single mother on welfare had the Pennsylvania law been in effect a few years ago. Simpson concluded: "Abortion rights advocates say if necessary they will help women travel to neighboring states to get abortions; a way to avoid restrictions the Supreme Court did not find burdensome, but that many women in Pennsylvania may."
On the CBS Evening News, anchor Bob Schieffer declared: "The Supreme Court may have upheld the principle that a woman has the right to an abortion, but the reality is that in some places, it is still difficult to get one. After today, it could be even more difficult." Reporter Edie Magnus found an under-age "Jane Doe" from Ohio who got an abortion in another state rather than tell her parents. Magnus worried about the availability of abortion: "Pro-choice activists say even a strong volunteer network won't reach every woman who wants an abortion, particularly in rural areas. And most of the women who get abortions will be directly affected by the restrictions upheld today. Fully a third are minors, and fully a third are poor, making travel to other states that much harder."
The next night, Dateline NBC also featured a story on another anonymous Ohio teen who got an abortion. In favor of unchallenged teen abortions were the anonymous teen "Linda," and pro-abortion attorneys Al Gerhardstein and Evelyn Maier. On the other side, NBC used only state legislator Gerry Luebbers. Reporter Deborah Roberts explained that abortion proponents find laws allowing women to seek a judge's permission instead of parental notification "humiliating" and a "grueling ordeal for a teenager."
But ABC and CBS didn't quote anyone in favor of parental consent laws, even though 71 percent of the public supports them. Only CNN pointed out the Pennsylvania restrictions, usually described as "severe," were enormously popular. For months, CNN-USA Today polls have shown that all four Pennsylvania restrictions were favored by strong majorities of Americans.
Style Triumphs Over Substance of Summit
To reporters, the U.N. "Earth Summit" in Rio de Janeiro wasn't a forum for detailed reporting on the complexities of political and scientific debate on the environment. Instead, it was a laudable and idealistic gathering ruined by President Bush. The substance of the summit, the text of the treaties to be signed or rejected, took a back seat to style. Who was in favor of "saving the planet"? And who was not? Among the highlights of Rio bias:
Anchors and reporters regularly reported that the summit was designed to "save the planet." But taking the position that the planet was in danger landed the media squarely in the liberal camp. In the days before the summit, anchors wallowed in the simplistic: on ABC's World News Sunday May 31, Forrest Sawyer stated: "The U.S. is under fire for standing in the way of efforts to protect the planet." CNN anchor Christiane Amanpour oozed like a U.N. press packet on June 3: "The Summit, with perhaps the loftiest goal ever, to stop us from pushing our own planet toward environmental collapse."
The U.S. delegation was regularly described as "isolated" after it "watered down" a "global warming" treaty and refused to sign the biodiversity treaty, which was "designed to protect plants and animals." Almost every reporter, in print and broadcast, used this inaccurate shorthand. Few mentioned the actual text of the treaty, which demanded that the U.S. hand out foreign aid to Third World countries with no conditions, meaning they could not designate the money to protect plants and animals. Only CNN obliquely mentioned that fact.
While the Big Three networks edged toward a tentative balance in talking heads in summit stories in the last week in May and the first two weeks in June, mildly favoring summit promoters over summit skeptics, 39 to 34, CNN demonstrated its "pro-planet" bias with a lopsided soundbite count of 83 to 3. But the skeptical soundbites were dominated by the resolute President and less-than-resolute EPA Director William Reilly. Scientists skeptical of U.N. pronouncements on global warming, biodiversity, overpopulation and other topics were still mostly excluded.
Even so, there were breakthroughs. For perhaps the first time ever, greenhouse-skeptical scientist Fred Singer appeared in a network story. ABC's Ned Potter, however, cast doubt upon Singer's credibility: "S. Fred Singer is a scientist who often defends industries like coal and oil, which are less concerned about the climate than about drastic economic measures being proposed to protect it."
Bored By KGB Archives
GORBY GETS OFF
During a June 17 press conference, NBC's John Cochran asked Boris Yeltsin why Mikhail Gorbachev had never mentioned American POWs. The Russian President responded: "You have had a chance to ask this question of the former president of the former Soviet Union, why he kept this a secret." Reporters still have no interest in searching out the truth about Gorbachev's reign.
Several million documents of the former Soviet Communist Party and government have been released to the public. Rather than investigate these documents, reporters downplayed their importance, and even ridiculed the Yeltsin government for releasing them. On the May 26 CBS This Morning, reporter Jonathan Sanders began: "It seems like a scene out of a very bad, very old spy movie or the rantings of some right-wing American politician, but it's government officials here who say that they have proof that the Communist Party provided money and arms to international terrorist organizations."
On the June 20 NBC Nightly News, Bob Abernethy reported that the files revealed official ties to terrorism and the Chernobyl disaster, but suggested: "explosive revelations, real 'smoking guns' -- they probably never will be disclosed." Abernethy charged: "For Yeltsin, if old files embarrass his critic and possible rival Mikhail Gorbachev, all the better. "
Yeltsin brought 300 declassified KGB documents for exhibition at the Library of Congress. A Library spokesman told MediaWatch most of the print media attended a news conference opening the exhibit, but the network news crews were all absent. Only ABC's Good Morning America did anything, airing a Joan Lunden interview with Librarian of Congress James Billington.
Clinton's Media Fans
HOPING HE WINS
In recent months two New Republic Senior Editors, both veterans of Newsweek, have described the depth of Bill Clinton's support in the news media. In the March 9 issue, Hendrik Hertzberg wrote: "Several dozen political journalists of my acquaintance, many of whom the Buchanan administration may someday round up on suspicion of having Democratic or even liberal sympathies -- was of one mind as the season's first primary campaign shuddered toward its finish. I asked each of them, one after another, this question: If you were a New Hampshire Democrat, whom would you vote for? The answer was always the same; and the answer was always Clinton. In this group, in my experience, such unanimity is unprecedented....
"Almost none is due to calculations about Clinton being `electable'....and none at all is due to belief in Clinton's denials in the Flowers business, because no one believes these denials. No, the real reason members of The Press like Clinton is simple, and surprisingly uncynical: they think he would make a very good, perhaps a great, President."
In the May 11 issue, Mickey Kaus suggested why many hope Clinton wins: "Many pro-Clinton journalists can reasonably hope for something more than glamorous candlelight dinners in the Clinton White House. They can hope for jobs in the Clinton White House. The air is thick with undisclosed ambition....let's just say that the positions of press secretary and speechwriter to President Clinton will be among the more hotly contested job opportunities to come along since 9,000 people lined up for a few hotel jobs in Chicago last winter."
Janet Cooke Award: CBS: Blind "Eye of the Earth"
Pessimism dominates everything the network news touches. Like a reverse Midas, the news turns gold into toxic waste, calm into calamity. Signs of hope lie unacknowledged. Government statistics and reports disproving bad news go unreported. Environmental coverage is perhaps the most notorious example. Mix the media's taste for bad news with their desire to side in favor of "saving the planet" and you have a potent combination of bias by omission. For sticking with discredited environmental theories and ignoring scientific dissenters, CBS News earned the July Janet Cooke Award.
On the May 31 Sunday Morning, host Charles Kuralt introduced the first report in the CBS "Eye on the Earth" series with a flourish: "Our motor cars free us and foul the air. Our factories supply us with everything we need and poison the water. Every time humanity makes a great leap forward, we land deep in toxic mud."
Reporter David Culhane used the report to glorify the reputation of CBS News as the first network to "care" about the environment. He began with a Walter Cronkite clip from 1969: "What is happening to our world is directly related to too many passengers. Before there were too many people, it did not seem to matter if we used up the environment. The earth is rich in natural resources; we could use up a spot and move on. No longer." Culhane failed to note that the expected consequences of "overpopulation," namely mass famine and resource scarcity (as measured by exorbitant prices), have not occurred since Cronkite's sermon.
But Culhane's mission wasn't truth, it was self-promotion. He announced: "It was 1969. Walter Cronkite was introducing America to a new subject...Twenty-three years later, Walter Cronkite still feels a deep sense of concern."
Cronkite congratulated himself: "All these things were impinging upon our future. That's what got us excited about it. I'm very happy to say that I think we were pioneers, we were on the cutting edge, and it's amazing really, that we have come as far as we have in barely a quarter of a century."
But Culhane couldn't let the notion of improvement stand. To accentuate the negative, Culhane produced Barry Commoner, the socialist ecologist who ran for President in 1980 on the Citizens Party ticket. During Earth Week 1990, Commoner appeared on the CBS show Nightwatch and declared: "It's the very principles of the free market, the free enterprise system, that has caused this....We have got to get the common interest in environmental stability into the decision-making process, and I'm afraid when we do that, it won't be a free enterprise system."
Commoner gave Culhane the grave assessment he was seeking: "I think that the situation is more dangerous now. The global problems that we now understand much more clearly, global warming, the ozone problem. Those are very serious. They're global." Neither pointed out that the same environmentalists who warn of global warming now spent the 1970s warning the media about global cooling.
Culhane continued: "In 1969, Barry Commoner was one of the first scientists to speak out about these very new concerns ...Despite a trillion dollars spent in the United States to improve the environment, and some successes, Commoner thinks the overall record is dismal." Commoner painted a dark picture: "If you look around to environmental pollution generally, where we have numerical data, the improvements are on the order of 10 to 20 percent."
Wrong. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) figures on urban air quality from 1979 to 1988 show that the amount of lead in the air declined 89 percent, sulphur dioxide declined 30 percent, and carbon monoxide declined 28 percent just in ten years.
Later, Culhane pretended there had been no progress in reducing air pollution: "Barry Commoner agrees that government is not providing the leadership to change the environment. He says there are many ways government could produce immediate action. For instance, with the air pollution that was there in 1969 and is still with us now."
Culhane also promoted the theory that acid rain has caused major damage to American lakes and forests, saying acid rain is responsible for "killing fish and further damaging plants and trees."
Wrong. Culhane ignored even his own network's 1990 report on acid rain. As reported by Steve Kroft on 60 Minutes, the government's ten-year scientific study on acid rain, the National Acid Precipitation Assessment Project (NAPAP), found that there had been no discernible damage done to crops or forests at present levels of acid rain emission.
Culhane then shifted his attention to the cause of the day, the Rio Earth Summit: "At first, President Bush threatened not to attend the Rio conference, but then agreed to go after other nations accepted his version of the major treaty on control of greenhouse gases. He wanted no timetables or binding goals. Political and environmental critics say the treaty has been gutted."
So who did Culhane bring on to be Bush's political critic? Cronkite, the supposedly objective news anchor: "I think we led the world in this area for so many years, and now the world's awakened to the problems. We know the situation's critical all over the world, and those people are ready to move, and here we are putting on the brakes. I think it's terribly disappointing." If the 1969 news clips didn't prove Cronkite's bias, his 1992 statements definitely did. In the end, CBS didn't so much burnish its history of reporting as remind viewers of its history of liberal advocacy.
When contacted by MediaWatch, Culhane said he'd call back. Reached later in the day, Culhane said he couldn't talk: "I'm literally out the door. I mean I have a cameraman and producer standing here." Asked if he could call back later or the next day, he said: "We're literally right in the middle of a production." If Culhane decides to respond to this article, we'll print his response in the next issue.