In This Issue
Study: Reporters Write Left, Not Right; Study Bites: Opinion Journalists Follow a Slightly Different Pattern; NewsBites: Doom But Not Boom; Revolving Door: Palestinian Connection; Reporters Addicted to Tax Hikes; Your Tax Dollars at Work for PBS; Janet Cooke Award: The ABC's of Day Care
Study: Reporters Write Left, Not Right
Faced with the recent resignation of Michael Kinsley as Editor of The New Republic, Published Martin Peretz considered replacing him with Newsweek's Washington Bureau Chief, Evan Thomas. He could have been thinking of returning a favor: a few years ago, Newsweek needed a Washington Bureau Chief and hired Morton Kondracke from The New Republic. When Mother Jones needed an Editor in 1987, they hired Douglas Foster, who developed stories for 60 Minutes under the aegis of the left-wing Center for Investigative reporting. The Progressive has former CBS reporter and current National Public Radio (NPR) commentator Daniel Schorr sitting on its editorial advisory board. When The New Republic was looking for a regular columnist on "Science and Society," they settled on NBC's Robert Bazell.
With this kind of networking in effect between the mainstream media and liberal opinion magazines, does it follow that more freelance articles by major journalists get published in liberal rather than conservative opinion magazines?
A MediaWatch Study has determined that news reporters overwhelmingly prefer contributing to liberal opinion journals, writing 315 articles in the last 42 months, compared to 22 in conservative ones. In other words, reporters wrote 15 times as many articles for liberal magazines than they did for conservative ones.
To capture the freelancing record, MediaWatch analysts looked at three and a half years of magazine articles, from January 1986 to the end of June 1989. On the liberal side, we examined The New Republic, The Nation, the Progressive, Ms., Mother Jones, Dissent, Foreign Policy, and The Washington Monthly. On the conservative side, we looked for articles in National Review, American Spectator, Commentary, Chronicles, Policy Review, The National Interest, The Public Interest, and Human Events. We counted only "objective" journalists -- reporters, editors, producers, and news executives committed to the traditional journalistic expectations of accuracy and balance.
The subjects of study were those from the major television/radio networks (ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC, PBS and National Public Radio); news magazines (Time, Newsweek, and U.S. News and World Report); major papers (The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the Los Angeles Times); and any other major paper in which two or more articles appeared by its reporters (Baltimore Sun, Boston Globe, Chicago Sun-Times and Tribune, Miami Herald, New York Post, and Newsday).
The media's favorite freelancing outlet is The New Republic, which carried 112 articles by major reporters, producers, or executives during the study period. Newsweek writers led the pack with 32 articles, paced by Washington reporter Timothy Noah's 13 contributions. All three networks were represented, with articles by CBS News Executive Political Editor Martin Plissner and producer Richard Cohen, ABC News White House correspondent Brit Hume, and from NBC, then State Department Correspondent Anne Garrels (now with NPR) and then-Chief Political Correspondent Ken Bode, not to mention 19 articles from Bazell.
Bazell hasn't been writing for the liberal magazine solely for fun and profit, but because of his liberal politics. When The New Republic endorsed aid to the Contras in 1986, Bazell wrote a letter to the editor in protest: "When I was asked to write my first piece for The New Republic three years ago, I was honored and proud to have of my work appear to a journal with such a distinguished liberal tradition. When I read you editorial 'The Case for the Contras' (March 24), I was angry and ashamed that my piece on the space shuttle had appeared in the magazine."
The Washington Monthly, edited by neoliberal Charles Peters, is also a popular haven for reporter freelancing, with 98 articles by "objective' journalists. The board of Contributing Editors is a regular roll call of reporters: Time Senior Writer Walter Shapiro, Christian Science Monitor staff writer Jonathan Rowe, U.S. News and World Report Associate Editor Arthur Levine and Chicago correspondent Paul Glastris, and a whole contingent from Newsweek; Senior Writer Jonathan Alter, Contributing Editors Gregg Easterbrook and Joseph Nocera, and Washington Correspondents Timothy Noah and Steven Waldman. Between them, these reporters wrote 82 articles for the liberal magazine.
But the freelancing temptation didn't stop at safely establishment liberal magazines. Another 73 articles appeared in the three biggest far left periodicals. CNN Senior Correspondent Stuart Loory has written for The Progressive. Shortly after being fired by the network in 1988, CBS Producer Richard Cohen wrote one of the 11 articles in Mother Jones. Contributors to The Nation included a CNN producer (Linda Hunt), an ABC News production associate (Richard Greenberg), a MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour reporter (Nancy Nichols), NPR's Foreign Editor (John Dinges), and Newsday's National Security Correspondent (Roy Gutman). Four current Washington Post reporters (Marc Fisher, Douglas Farah, Walt Harrington, and Steven Mufson) have been published in Mother Jones.
Dissent, "a critical magazine for the concerned, inquisitive reader who views the world from the democratic socialist position," ppublished eight articles by reporters, four from Washington Post political correspondent Thomas B. Edsall and two pieces by Charles Lane, Newsweek El Salvador Bureau Chief. Ms. ran 16 stories.
Conservative opinion magazines, on the other hand, rarely contains articles from reporters or executives. Of the 22 articles that appeared from 1986 through mid-1989, The American Spectator led with 11, with three articles each from ABC's Brit Hume, ABC Radio reporter Robert Kaplan, and John Podhoretz, a contributing editor at U.S. News and World Report (now a Washington Times Assistant Managing Editor). Time Senior Editor George Russell wrote five articles or book reviews for Commentary. National Review ran only three articles, from a Los Angeles Times news editor (Robert Knight), a former Time military correspondent (David Halevy), and a former President of CBS News (Fred Friendly). Two articles appeared in The Public Interest and one in The National Interest. In three and a half years, not one news reporter for a major media outlet wrote anything for Human Events, Chronicles or Policy Review.
Journalists should certainly be allowed to escape the constraints of objective news reporting and write for the opinion magazines they enjoy. But this overwhelming preference for liberal journals, this "freelance gap," offers quite a telling insight into the personal biases that color the news.
Study Bites: Opinion Journalists Follow a Slightly Different Pattern
Critics of theater, movies, books and other subjects preferred writing articles for liberal magazines (48) over conservative ones (22) by more than 2 to 1. The New Republic has published 13 columns by Newsweek art critic Mark Stevens, in addition to articles by Time art critic Robert Hughes, USA Today book editor Robert Wilson, Wall Street Journal television critic Martha Bayles, and from The New York Times, drama critic Frank Rich and film critic Jane Maslin.
John Leonard, the New York magazine critic who regularly appears on CBS Sunday Morning, wrote nine pieces for Ms. and eight articles for The Nation. James Lardner, a former drama critic for The Washington Post, wrote 12 reviews for The Nation. Conservative magazines were graced only by Wall Street Journal book editor David Brooks (17) and Washington Times television critic Richard Marin (5).
Conservative magazines could find few reports to contribute articles, but plenty of editorial writers made it into print. Wall Street Journal and Washington Times opinion writers were most frequently represented in the 52 such pieces published. Just 20 articles by editorial writers appeared in liberal magazines. Conservatives in the media stick to working for the editorial page. But with 315 pieces in liberal magazines by reporters, liberals sure don't.
NewsBites: Doom But Not Boom
DOOM BUT NOT BOOM. "They're starting the happen: plant closings, worker layoffs," reporter Ray Brady ominously began the July 27 CBS Evening News. Brady droned on with more bad news, noting, "consumers have cut back on their spending, another factor hitting the economy by slowing up housing and driving autos into a slump." And what did these trends reflect? A government report pegging GNP growth at a relatively low 1.7 percent.
But on August 29, the revised government figure showed GNP actually grew at a healthy 2.7 percent clip. CBS anchor Bob Schieffer read the news as the ninth story of the night. The reasons behind the growth: consumer spending way up, new home sales up over 14 percent. By September, auto sales had jumped 22 percent. Neither Brady nor CBS bothered to tell viewers any of this.
NOT TOO FRANK. Washington's pack journalism has turned into pack avoidance over the Democrats' latest ethical embarrassment, the male-prostitution scandal of Rep. Barney Frank. Broken wide open by The Washington Times on August 25, most of the media provided only obligatory coverage in the scandal's first few days, then let the matter drop.
The Washington Times has led the pack in uncovering the seamy details in the day-to-day coverage. Washington scandals usually rate in The Washington Post when the subjects are conservative (a la Meese). Meanwhile, the Post, the master of page one political warfare, could muster only seven stories over the subsequent three weeks, most buried on inside pages. Only four stories each appeared in the Los Angeles Times and The New York Times, "the newspaper of record." In fact, the Post and the Times, the networks' favorite papers, did not do one news story on Frank in September until the 12th, when the House ethics committee announced it would investigate.
The three networks were even less interested, leaving a vacuum in evening news coverage from August 26 to September 12, when CBS and NBC (but not ABC) mentioned the ethics committee decision in brief anchor reads. But the prize goes to the Boston-based Christian Science Monitor, which completely ignored the Frank scandal until it finally ran a news story on September 5.
NO GOOD NEWS IS NEWS. When former White House Political Director Lyn Nofziger was convicted of violating a federal ethics law and sentenced to prison in 1988, Time found it newsworthy. When his conviction was overturned in June, Time didn't. Only after an angry letter from Nofziger in which he asked, "Shouldn't newsmagazines also have a code of ethics?," did Time respond. In its July 31 Letters To the Editor section, Time conceded, "The answer is yes. Mr. Nofziger's point is well taken, and we apologize."
DISARMAMENT RACE. The Defense Department recently experienced snafus in testing the B-2 Bomber and Trident II missile, prompting Newsweek to gleefully proclaim the score, "Pentagon: 0, Glasnost: 1." In an August 28 article, General Editor Elaine Salholz and Washington reporter Douglas Waller, a former aide to Sen. William Proxmire, argued "that distaste" for defense spending "has only intensified with the spread of glasnost fever."
"Some day soon," they noted wistfully, "budget deficit woes may converge with international gamesmanship, putting a crimp in some of the best-loved programs of the Reagan defense buildup." Bolstering their point with quotes from liberals Gordon Adams of the Defense Budget Project and John Pike and Thomas Longstreth of the Federation of American Scientists, the two reporters asserted that troubled weapons may be too costly and unnecessary since Gorbachev has "undercut the rationale for the nuclear buildup."
Only one unnamed Navy spokesman got an opportunity to defend the Trident II. Newsweek concluded, "The score at the weekend: two down for the Pentagon, one up for glasnost."
BLAMING THE BIG TEDDY BEAR. Why does the U.S. harbor such hostility toward the Soviet Union? Could it be mass oppression, death camps, tanks in the streets of foreign capitals? Naah. After consulting psychologists, Newsweek has come up with a novel reason: "When a child observed at play stumbles and hurts herself, she immediately accuses her teddy bear, as if it were the bear who tripped her. If she is scolded for misbehaving, she turns and scolds her doll. In infancy, we are just beginning to develop a sense of where we are and where others begin. Unable to tolerate the 'unpleasurable' parts of ourselves, we 'externalize' them onto others. Although our attitudes mature as we age, we never quite outgrow this self-versus-other mindset," Senior Writer David Gelman explained in the August 28 edition.
Gelman suggests anti-communism is something some people never outgrow. "Human beings do love to hate. Having enemies fulfills an important human need, as evidenced by children forming rival packs in a playground or nations stockpiling nuclear weapons." te Gelman concluded: "In the long run, indeed, the hope for a global glasnost may depend on how much the adults who run nations can surrender their childhood need to hate." MediaWatch did not make this up.
ZEALOT WATCH. Psychologists could better investigate the journalistic split personality at The Wall Street Journal: conservative editorial page staff on one side of the brain, conventional liberal news reporters on the other. Journal reporters held up their end of the psychosis with Gerald Seib and Kenneth Bacon's August 17 report, headlined "Right-Wing Zealots Still Wield Power Over Bush Appointees" and "Nomination of Robert Fiske, Hailed by Most, Is Victim of Conservative Activists."
Seib and Bacon wrote an entire story on rejected Bush nominees based only on Fiske and the pro-life campaign against Health and Human Services nominee Robert Fulton, who they asserted was dropped "on grounds that were tenuous at best." As chairman of the American Bar Association's judicial nominations panel, Fiske helped sandbag conservative nominees by sending their names to liberal lobbying groups before the ABA made recommendations.
The two reporters failed to recognize how ironic it sounded to assert that "Mr. Fiske's experience is a case study of how single-minded political activists can distort Washington's nomination-and-confirmation process." The Journal reporters made no mention of Robert Bork or of Bill Lucas, certainly no less the victims of distorted confirmation processes, whose hardiest defenders were--the Journal's editorial page staff.
DIRTY CLEAN AIR REPORTING. The environment is one of the hottest topics on the liberal agenda, it's also at the top of ABC's "American Agenda." On July 25, Ned Potter traveled to Camel's Hump Mountain in Vermont to illustrate the dire need for federal action. Potter asserted a comparison of pictures from 1963 and the present revealed that "40 percent of the trees were dead." Potter blamed the devastation on the fact "clouds that blow in here carry sulfur, lead and more." In early August, however, Yale University tree expert Tom Siccama told syndicated columnist Warren Brookes the problem arose from a "very severe drought followed by an especially killing winter" in 1962.
Potter also contended: "Doctors think 50,000 Americans a year die prematurely because of the fumes that cause acid rain." According to Brookes, "the 50,000 figure came from one extreme theoretical estimate in an analysis where half the experts estimated zero health effects" from the sulfur dioxide emissions that create acid rain. Nonetheless, Potter insisted this specious figure demonstrates "why a new Clean Air Bill is so urgent."
CLIMATE NONSENSE NETWORK. On August 1, CNN joined forces with environmental extremists by airing Climate in Crisis. Narrated by Headline News anchor Don Harrison, the show spent an hour presenting apocalyptic visions of an uncertain future in an attempt to popularize the increasingly discredited global warming theory. Harrison asserted: "People across the world will be chased from places they call home as the thermometer rises. Sea levels may climb more than three feet over the next 50 or 60 years...that's enough to wipe out an entire nation." Harrison claimed the Maldives are "the world's first endangered nation" and threatened "a tidal wave of greenhouse refugees." At the same time, however, Harrison warned of a "rapid increase" in temperatures turning "farm into desert."
Harrison proclaimed that "solutions will require major shifts in economies and lifestyles...Citizens of affluent nations like the United States are not likely to accept big cuts in their standard of living. But if dramatic action isn't taken, the crazy summer of '88 may seem moderate when compared to the turbulent weather that's likely to follow." Forgotten were the record cold temperatures in Alaska the following winter. Harrison urged viewers to "push our leaders for policies that are more environmentally sound. If we fail to act, there may be hell to pay in a hotter world." Critics of global warming theory were completely absent from the special. Summing up the show Harrison declared, "Global warming is not a fact, just a widely held theory. The problem is if man waits for proof, it may be too late."
MORE MEDIA $ FOR ABORTION. The Cowles Media Foundation recently came under fire from Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL). Cowles, which owns the Minneapolis Star Tribune, was embarrassed by a brief story in the paper's July 15 edition in which "The Cowles Media Foundation and the Minneapolis Star Tribune" jointly announced the foundation's half-million dollar grant budget, dominated by a $200,000 grant to Planned Parenthood.
Jan Schwichtenberg, contributions coordinator for the foundation, told the Twin Cities Reader that the Star Tribune item was inaccurate, claiming the foundation is totally separate from the newspaper. But MCCL points to the Star Tribune's proclamation of support as indicative of the liberal paper's pro-abortion bias.
Cowles joins the foundations of the New York Times, Gannett Newspapers, and Times Mirror (owner of the Los Angeles Times) in sending thousands of corporate dollars to Planned Parenthood, and not to pro-life groups.
ELECTION SELECTION. If you rely on the CBS Evening News, you'd never know about Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen's victory in a special election for the seat of the late Democratic Congressman Claude Pepper. CBS felt the race was important enough to justify a story by Eric Engberg three days before the August 29 vote,but didn't mention the GOP victory when it happened. But back in March, only CBS reported the Democratic victory to fill the Republican House seat Dan Coats left to succeed Dan Quayle in the Senate.
POLL WITH A GOAL. When Time ran its July 17 story "7 Deadly Days" profiling 464 Americans killed by guns during one week in May, it included a poll for readers to mail in. Time conducted a unscientific, non-random sampling, loaded the questions and incorrectly identified the results. Under the headline "A Vote for Regulation," Time claimed 88 percent of readers who responded "support additional regulation" of firearms. But Time only asked whether readers supported waiting periods, registration and mandatory safety training. Such policies cannot be called "additional regulations," since these provisions are presently in effect in many states, and the vast range of "additional regulation" includes far more extreme measures (such as confiscation of all firearms) that very few readers would support.
Time's sloppy and lopsided poll sharply contrasts with the results of scientific polls. A study commissioned by the Justice Department found that 78 percent of those polled agreed that "Gun control laws affect only law-abiding citizens, criminals will always be able to find guns." When asked about the level of gun legislation, 13 percent thought there were too many laws and 41 percent thought there were about the right amount. So much for one of Time's current canned letters to readers insisting that the objective of Time's "interpretive reporting" is "to inform rather than to sway."
ABORTING COVERAGE. Since the Supreme Court allowed states to limit abortions, media coverage of special elections has emphasized winning pro-abortion candidates and ignored winning pro-life candidates. On August 8, for example, when Tricia Hunter, the pro-abortion candidate, won a Republican primary for a state Assembly seat in California, the ABC, NBC, and CBS evening newscasts reported the outcome. The Washington Post and New York Times both ran stories and the USA Today headline read: "California's win may be bellwether." The same day, right to life Republican Albert Lipscomb won a state representative seat in Alabama, but the networks, the Post and Times all ignored his victory. Only USA Today even bothered to mention the pro-lifer's victory in Alabama.
CHUNG'S CHOICES. On Sunday, August 13, Evening News anchor Connie Chung announced CBS would examine "alternatives to abortion." But in presenting two alternatives, CBS managed to criticize pro-lifers both times: first for impeding progress, then for being unrealistic.
The first story dealt with contraception. Chung featured three pro-contraceptive spokesmen, including one from the Alan Guttmacher Institute, the research project of pro-choice lobby Planned Parenthood. Only one "anti-abortionist" spoke. Chung never explained the chief objection of many pro-lifers to some kinds of contraceptive devices: IUDs and many birth control pills induce early abortion. Instead, Chung asserted "contraception should...reduce the need for abortions," and complained "support for basic contraceptive research, funded by the government, is drying up, partly because of pressure from the pro-life lobby." The result, said Chung, is that "experts believe that moving away from this research causes the U.S. to lag further behind" other countries.
Correspondent Christine Negroni followed with a report on a pro-life alternative, a home for unwed mothers, where counselors encourage abstinence from sex until marriage. But Negroni was quick to add: "Critics charge by teaching religion instead of birth control, maternity homes...don't really address the problem." Which "critic" did Negroni feature? Planned Parenthood's Faye Wattleton.
Revolving Door: Palestinian Connection
Palestinian Connection. A Washington Post profile story of Jo Franklin-Trout, producer of the controversial pro-Palestinian documentary Days of Rage carried by most PBS affiliates in early September, revealed she wrote speeches briefly for Hubert Humphrey's 1968 presidential campaign. Franklin-Trout signed onto the staff of the then titled MacNeil/Lehrer Report in 1975, where she remained a producer until 1980.
More Than One on Prime Time. Diane Sawyer, co-host of Prime Time Live, spent her days after college as a Press Assistant in the Nixon White House. But Sawyer is not the only politically experienced hand aboard ABC's new Thursday night show. Until April, reportorial producer Sheila Hershow was an investigator for the House Government Operations Sub-Committee on Government Activities and Transportation chaired by liberal Congresswoman Cardiss Collins (D-Illinois). From 1983 to 1986 Hershow worked for CNN as a special assignment reporter.
Nightline's Political Line. Still on Prime Time Live, ABC News President Roone Arledge chose Nightline Executive Producer Rick Kaplan to run the new program. To take over Nightline, Arledge chose Dorrance Smith, Executive Producer of This Week with David Brinkley. Before joining ABC News in 1977, Smith worked in President Gerald Ford's White House advance office. Balancing things out, Nightline's number two slot is filled by Senior Producer Deborah Leff, Director of Public Affairs for the Federal Trade Commission during Carter's later years.
Three on the Hill. Two liberal Senators and a liberal Representative have more than ideology in common. They also have reporters as their new press Secretaries. Deborah Matthews, now working for Senator Wyche Fowler (D-Georgia), was one of CNN's original employees as an assignment editor back in 1980. She then spent several years in similar positions with Atlanta's NBC affiliate WXIA-TV, and ABC affiliate WSB-TV before switching to print. For the past year she's been an Atlanta Journal and Constitution reporter.
Elizabeth Rose, now toiling for Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-West Virginia), was most recently the Dukakis campaign's Wisconsin Press Secretary. Before joining Congressman Tom Downey's office in 1987, the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call reported, Rose worked as an editorial associate for the Public Broadcasting Service.
Congressman Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts) has hired San Francisco Examiner Washington correspondent Mike Connolly to handle press for his personal office and the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Telecommunications and Finance, chaired by Markey. By the time Connolly ended an eight year stint with the Gannett News Service in 1984, he had risen to White House correspondent.
Reporters Addicted to Tax Hikes
DESPERATE FOR DRUG MONEY
In his first televised speech to the nation on September 5, President Bush announced his plan to fight a war on drugs. To his Democratic opponents, the war is not over changing people's behavior, it's over money, or the perceived lack of it. Two Democrats leading their party on the issue, Senator Joe Biden and Congressman Charles Rangel, immediately demanded taxes and spending be increased. A fair number of reporters agreed.
"One Democratic veteran of the budget wars insists taxes are the only answer," ABC's Cokie Roberts preceded a matching comment from former Democratic Rep. James Jones on the September 3 World News Sunday. Roberts noted that "Republican strategists reject that argument," but, she wondered, "how much can Peter be robbed to pay Paul?"
On the CBS Evening News the night of Bush's address, correspondent Bob Schieffer reported: "That's what you hear all over the country, that it will take more than just good intentions or even first-class treatment facilities...it's going to take money, a lot of it for a long time." After interviewing Boston Mayor Raymond Flynn, who said Bush's plan is "a real joke in terms of the resources that have been offered," Schieffer concluded: "That's very much the feeling here" on Capitol Hill. "Until Congress gets a lot more detail on just how the President intends to pay for all this, there will be considerable doubt here as to just how serious the administration really is." The problem is "finding the money for everything on the congressional agenda this year, and doing it without raising taxes," Schieffer worried the next night.
On a CBS News special report following the President's address, Lesley Stahl directly contradicted Bush. "The President says the issue is not money, but in fact it is money, and everything in this plan is constrained by the fact that one, the President does not want to ask for new taxes, and two, we're working under the Gramm-Rudman budget restrictions. There just isn't money."
In Time's September 11 issue, Senior Editor George Church charged that "the amount he proposes to spend is almost laughably inadequate." Church added: "The big joke is that Bush proposes to do all this with pitifully little money...it falls far, far short of what a true war on drugs would require."
But the fight is not really about a drug war. As ABC's Brit Hume succinctly explained on September 6: "The fight's not really about drug policy, it's about taxes. Congressional Democrats want the President to agree to raising them so they can spend them on the drug war, and a lot of other things."
Your Tax Dollars at Work for PBS
CUBA'S LAPDOG LAPHAM. PBS generated an angry response from the public when it decided to broadcast the unabashedly pro-Palestinian Days of Rage. PBS has not learned from its mistake, however, as can be seen in the choice to air "America's Century," a six-part series written and narrated by Harper's Editor Lewis Lapham. The expressed purpose of the series is to chart America's rise as a superpower, and the 1962 Cuban missile crisis is one the issues examined when the series airs this fall.
Among the "experts" appearing during the show, according to a Los Angeles Times article, is leftist author Noam Chomsky who declares that "it's taken for granted that we have a right to ring them [the USSR] with missiles but they don't have a right to put a few, a few missiles in Cuba." Lapham agrees with this Soviet apologia and continues "the U.S. staked the life of the human race. The risk...expressed the arrogance of power." Hard as it is to believe, Lapham claims other parts of the series will be even more controversial.
Janet Cooke Award: The ABC's of Day Care
David Blankenhorn, President of the non-partisan Institute for American values, dispels one of the ever growing day care crisis myths espoused by the media this way: "To paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of the death of the traditional family have been greatly exaggerated."
Karen Geers, Congressional Liaison for the largest women's group in the U.S., Concerned Women for America, has worked long hours in support of the Toddler Tax Credit bill. In her view, it is the fairest proposal: "American families do not need a new national child care program. They need tax relief."
The Heritage Foundation's Robert Rector agrees. His ideas were the driving force behind the Toddler bill sponsored by Reps. Clyde Holloway (R-LA) and Richard Schulze (R-PA). The plan is similar to one backed by President Bush. Rector notes: "Despite what the media have reported, the majority of Americans are happy with their day care situation and support a Bush-type plan."
If you're surprised to hear an alternative exists to the Democratic party-backed Act for Better Child Care (ABC), in a way you should be. By distorting and manipulating the facts, the media have lobbied hard for the ABC bill, which would establish a system of federally-subsidized, secular day care centers. Consequently, other plans have been attacked and supporters of alternatives ignored.
To show just how far much of the media have gone in support of ABC, look at the July 31 Good Morning America (GMA) hour-long focus on the status of American day care, the winner of this month's Janet Cooke Award. In addition to co-host Joan Lunden, GMA brought on the following to perpetuate several myths associated with day care in America:
-- T. Berry Brazelton, Pediatrician, Harvard University.
-- Rhae Perlman, star of NBC sitcom Cheers.
-- Representative Patricia Schroeder, (D-CO).
-- Gail Christopher, Director, Family Resource Coalition.
No alternative voice appeared at anytime during the hour. Blankenhorn, Geers, and Rector all told MediaWatch they would have been happy to appear if asked. In an effort to counter the myths, MediaWatch asked these three experts to react to the program. Here's a sampling of the Myths furthered by GMA and the Facts on day care in America.
Myth #1: There's A Crisis In Day Care.
Lunden: "I don't know if [Americans] truly understand what a national crisis it is. Let's talk about what are the dangers if things just stay status quo and we don't do something... It's kind of become a political football now to get this ball rolling as far as a national day care system...
"Earlier this year in a Harris poll, parents with children under age six were asked how the system of child care was working in America. Well, only 8 percent could say it was doing very well...
"The opinion polls show that, I think it's by three to one, people want some kind of regulations to come in and try to solve this problems and yet we still don't have any kind of policy."
Perlman: "The reality is that too many children spend everyday in overcrowded, unlicensed homes where the television serves as teacher and where a baby's cry often goes unanswered."
Fact #1: There Is No Crisis But There Are Things We Can Do. If Rector had appeared on GMA, he would have noted Lunden twisted the Harris poll numbers: "The entire poll was misrepresented. The majority of the people in the Harris poll were mildly or strongly satisfied with their day care. The media have distorted perceptions. Other polls, as well, show in individual circumstances, Americans are happy with their day care choice."
He would have pointed out that polls show parents least prefer the secular day care centers that the ABC bill would fund and expand. Less than one in ten American families say it is their first choice. Nine of ten children are still cared for by parents, relatives, or in other informal environments.
Myth #2: The Traditional Family Is Largely Extinct.
Lunden: "Today, two-thirds of all mothers spend their time working outside the home... Nine million pre-schoolers [are] spending their days in care outside their homes because their parents must go out to work."
Fact #2: The Traditional Family Is Largely Intact. Though not a conservative, Blankenhorn would have come down hard on the media: "The notion that traditional families are anachronistic and no longer exist unfortunately has become a governing theme in the media's coverage of family issue. There is a trend towards maternal employment, but the idea that the traditional family of homemaker mother and breadwinner father is extinct is simply wrongheaded."
Blankenhorn and Rector would have Census Bureau statistics to disprove Lunden's contention that two thirds of mothers are working. The figures show only 29 percent of mothers with pre-school age children work full-time. 17 percent work part-time and 54 percent do not work at all.
How did Lunden and GMA come up with such outrageous statistics? Blankenhorn would have explained: "They boost the number of 'working' families by merging full time and part-time maternal employment despite basic differences between the two types of employment, which relate directly to child rearing and family." The statistics used also bring in non-child families and newlyweds to distort the picture further.
Myth #3; The ABC Bill Is The Solution.
Lunden: "Of course, it's something where the federal government is going to have to become involved. Where is the ABC bill at this point?"
Schroeder: "This is where people out there can really help us. You've got two things. You've got the President saying he's just going to give a tax deduction to people... It doesn't do anything about child care. [ABC} deals with the child development, the quality, all the things we're talking about... We ought to do both and even more than that. So if people will really start helping us, talking to their elected leaders about this I think we can see some action."
Fact #3: ABC Would Not Help. It Would Hurt The Majority of American Families. The ABC bill would mean increasing the tax burden on those who can least afford it. Geers would have labeled it discriminatory: "Traditional families are making the financial sacrifice of a second income. They make fifty percent less than two income earners. Funding a national day care system would force these families to pay for others. We support the Toddler Tax bill because 9 out of 10 families would benefit. Polls show the majority of mothers would rather be home if they could afford to. Tax relief, especially for the lower income families, would allow them to stay at home or choose the day care they wish."
Rector explained the Toddler Tax Credit bill would abolish the current dependent care credit and offer parents an all-purpose tax credit for day care for each child under age 7. Whether a mother worked or wished to stay home raise her child, the family could receive a tax break. The credit could be about $1,000 for those earning up to $20,000, with the credit dropping gradually and ending when the family's income hits $50,000.
MediaWatch asked GMA Publicist Cathy Rehl if anyone would talk about why no alternative day care measure were featured. She responded: "We have five minute segments. We don't have large chunks of time to be able to do things." No producer responded to request.
At one point in the program, substitute co-host Morton Dean remarked to Lunden that the child care debate is of concern to all: "No matter what the income of a woman. And that's something you have to be concerned about. You're a working mother with young children." Lunden's response: "Absolutely, you bet." Given Lunden's income, ABC might have to cut her $1 million salary before she really understands what the average American family goes through. Don't hold your breath in either case."