MediaWatch: October 1995

Vol. Nine No. 10

Recalling the Gulag

In a rare post Cold War look at the political oppression that existed in the Soviet Union, Newsweek's Andrew Nagorski reported about the horrors of Soviet prison camps in his September 25 piece, "Back to the Gulag."

He traveled to Perm, 700 miles east of Moscow, to relate the horrors of those who had been trapped in the gulag. "What most gripped the survivors was the memory of being hungry and cold. Their jail diet was watery soup, bread and weak tea -- meager at best, and often forsworn by prisoners on hunger strikes." Nagorski learned: "Prisoners lived in terror of catching a cold, because they were so weak that any illness could prove fatal...And guards played on that fear by often forcing prisoners to repeatedly submit to strip searches in the cold."

Nagorski noted that Soviet oppression ended only recently. "Several inmates died in Perm as late as 1985." He concluded that most former prisoners "aren't looking for retribution. But they do want some wider recognition of how they were wronged."

Death to Women

NBC's Lucky Severson took advantage of the UN women's conference in China to explore the danger women there face under communism. On the September 3 Nightly News he explained: "Hidden in this mass of humanity, there's an alarming statistic. By the year 2000, China will have eighty million more men than women." Why? "They're missing because China has strictly enforced a one child per family policy" which is "a death sentence for China's women."

Citing a human rights report, he asserted that women become "the silent victims of abortion, and murder, or they are simply abandoned" since a boy can work the fields. Now, "it is not uncommon to find the bodies of baby girls floating in a river." Ultrasound "was designed to save lives," but Severson said it "is the reason 97 percent of abortions in China are performed on female fetuses."

A Reagan Salute

After criticizing Ronald Reagan for years, Newsweek ran two upbeat articles October 2 on the ailing ex-President. The first was au-thored by Contributing Editor Eleanor Clift, who once praised Kitty Kelley's 1991 book about Nancy Reagan (that alleged she had a lesbian affair, performed oral sex acts on various men, and cheated on her husband) as "a contribution to contemporary history."

This time, she provided a largely touching portrait of a family brought together by tragedy, detailing the reconciliation of daughter Patti with her parents. Clift described how "Ronald Reagan has always believed in happy endings, and now, in a way, he is living one. The onset of Alzheimer's in the 84-year-old former President's brain has brought peace to his once-warring family." Former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan's appreciation followed Clift: "Other Presidents have loomed large. Nixon loomed, but like a shadow. Reagan looms like a sun, lighting the stage on which the year's contenders [for the presidency] stand. But his light is so bright they squint in the glare and seem paler, washed out."