In This Issue
TV Gun Control Coverage Tilts Its Tone, Talking Heads and Labels to Liberal Side; NewsBites: Clinton on Quayle, Take 2; Revolving Door: Democrat Heads PBS; Media Dive on GOP in New Jersey, Ignore Democrats in Philadelphia; No Clinton "Sleaze Factor"; Endangered Property?; Editor Squashes "Pejorative" Words; Janet Cooke Award: CBS This Morning's Giselle Fernandez Hails "Castro's Playground;" Tunnels with Nightclubs
TV Gun Control Coverage Tilts Its Tone, Talking Heads and Labels to Liberal Side
Shoot First, Ask Questions Later
The networks hailed passage of the Brady Bill by Congress on November 24 as a triumph in the national battle against crime. Three days later, NBC Nightly News honored the gun control measure, mandating a five-day waiting period and background check for handgun purchasers, as the "Moment of the Week."
To examine if NBC's tone accurately reflected how the networks covered the gun control debate, MediaWatch analysts reviewed every gun control policy story on ABC's World News Tonight, CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly News, and CNN's World News for a two-year period from December 1, 1991 to November 30, 1993. (Stories exclusively on assault weapons were excluded.)
In the 107 stories analyzed, a clear pattern emerged, emphasizing the agendas, spokesmen, labels, and academic research of gun control supporters. Overall, 62 percent of the stories devoted substantially more time to pro- than anti-gun control arguments; talking heads who endorsed gun control outnumbered opponents by nearly 2 to 1; and in stories concerning the Brady Bill, the bias against gun control opponents was even greater, a ratio of 3 to 1.
Story Angle. Analysts timed the length of pro- and anti-gun control statements in each story. Pieces with a disparity of greater than 1.5 to 1 were categorized as either for or against gun control. Stories closer than the ratio were considered neutral. Among statements recorded as pro-gun control: claims that gun control would reduce crime; that violent crime occurs because of guns, not criminals; and claims that gun control opponents are partisan or obstructionist. Categorized as arguments against gun control: gun control would not reduce crime; that criminals, not guns are the problem; and that Americans have a constitutional right to keep and bear arms.
In the 78 non-Brady Bill gun control policy stories, 46 (or 59 percent) contained an aggressively pro-gun control agenda , 29 (37 percent) remained neutral , while only 3 stories (4 percent) in two years were devoted to gun rights.
Talking Heads. The networks provided far more opportunities for gun control supporters than opponents to present their case. Of 272 talking heads in non-Brady Bill pieces, 146 were pro-gun control (54 percent), 26 were neutral (10 percent), and 100 sources argued against gun control (36 percent).
Brady Bill. Of 29 stories covering the Brady Bill, 20 were dominated by the pro-gun control agenda (69 percent) while the remaining 9 were neutral. None leaned to the anti-gun control point of view. Soundbites were just as uneven, as those favoring gun control during the Brady debate outnumbered anti-gun control soundbites by 75 to 24, a vast 3-to-1 disparity. Brady Bill supporters amounted to 69 percent of all the sources quoted, compared to 22 percent opposed and 8 percent who were neutral.
Among the networks, NBC gave only six opportunities for gun rights supporters to state their case, while those who supported the Brady Bill were given 34, a 5-to-1 advantage. Similarly, CNN aired 16 talking heads advocating gun control, while only 4 disagreed. CBS granted the Bradys and their supporters twice as much coverage, 13 soundbites to 6, as they did to the National Rifle Association and their supporters.
On story angles, ABC remained closest to neutral during the Brady Bill debate. All five ABC stories gave both sides about equal time, although talking heads favoring gun control held a margin of 12 to 8. CNN ran 6 neutral stories, and just one heavily pro- gun control story. Both CBS and NBC skewed their coverage and sources in favor of gun control. Five of six CBS stories favored the Brady Bill. But NBC was the most egregious offender: Pro-gun control themes dominated in 10 of 11 stories (91 percent).
None of the Brady Bill stories mentioned that the homicide rate in California, with a strict 15 day waiting period for all guns since 1975, surpassed the national average by 37 percent, according to the FBI.
In two stories, NBC White House correspondent Andrea Mitchell posited that if the bill had been in effect, "John Hinckley might have flunked that test." But attorney and author David B. Kopel wrote in the Winter 1993 Policy Review: "Hinckley...had no felony record, and no record of mental illness. The simple police and mental health records check proposed by the Brady Bill would not have turned up anything on him."
Labels. As with abortion, where "anti-abortion" versus "abortion rights advocates" define the debate in the media, the networks' labels on gun policy lean to the liberal side. Of 16 labels for gun control supporters, "gun control advocates" appeared 14 times while reporters used "gun advocate" and "gun rights advocate" once each. Apparently only the NRA engages in lobbying for its position, to judge from network reporters who mentioned the "gun lobby" 17 times, but only cited the "gun control lobby" twice. (The networks are not known to have used the term "the abortion lobby.") On April 3, 1992, CBS reporter James Hattori called doctors seeking to ban guns as having a "clinical, apolitical view."
Two other labels which often appeared together were "fear" and "NRA." NBC anchor Tom Brokaw hit a double when he alluded to the "feared NRA gun lobby" on the June 5, 1992 Nightly News. ABC's Bill Greenwood declared on the May 8, 1992 World News Tonight: "There is evidence that fear does sell. Since the National Rifle Association began its recent campaign promoting self-defense against criminals, a thousand new members have been signing up every day."
Candy Crowley of CNN exemplified network attitudes when she declared on the November 20 World News: "Nobody really knows how much impact a waiting period will have on crime, but the Brady Bill has become so symbolic that its actual impact is no longer the point. It is at once a reminder of how dangerous a place the world is, but how, with enough work and enough dedication, the human spirit can triumph." In other words, don't let the facts interfere with the emotion for gun control.
NewsBites: Clinton on Quayle, Take 2
Clinton on Quayle, Take 2. Last year, Bill Clinton criticized Dan Quayle's now-famous speech on family policy that happened to include a mention of Murphy Brown. In May, Clinton said "The Vice President's address is in my view cynical election year politics." In his convention speech, he stepped up the attack: "Frankly, I'm fed up with politicians in Washington lecturing the rest of us about family values. Our families have values, but our government doesn't."
So when President Clinton changed his tune in early December in interviews with NBC and Newsweek and said "I thought there were a lot of very good things in that speech," including "it's certainly true that this country would be much better off if our babies were born into two-parent families," the rest of the media jumped on the flip-flop, right? Wrong. There wasn't a word of it in the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, or The Washington Post. ABC's Charles Gibson asked Dan Quayle about it on Good Morning America December 6, but CBS totally ignored it.
Gutting HUD? Knight-Ridder reporter Reginald Stuart thinks the Department of Housing and Urban Development has been starved for funds. On C-SPAN's Journalists' Roundtable November 5, Stuart asserted: "(Henry) Cisneros got good grades for running HUD. And HUD is an agency that was gutted by the Republicans in 12 years and then under the Clinton/Gore performance, it's going to be gutted some more. So he's doing a good job of running an agency that's being gutted successively by administrations."
But federal budget outlays to HUD grew from $12.7 billion in 1980 to $22.8 billion in 1991, meaning HUD has grown 18 percent more than inflation. And the number of people served by housing assistance grew 31 percent from 1981 to 1989. If that's "gutted," what's expanded?
Darling Democrats... Newsweek examined the first year in the careers of three House freshmen in the November 29 issue: Democrats Cynthia McKinney and Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky and Republican Terry Everett. To Senior Writer Bill Turque, the Democrats' shortcomings showed they were learning the congressional game.
In "The Learning Curve," McKinney learns the way things are done in Congress. This self-described outsider's attempt at playing an insider's game is handled matter-of-factly: "And despite her problems with the pork-friendly Appropriations Committee, she quietly lobbied the panel to secure a $200,000 research grant for Savannah State College." Her cynical attempt to game the system by refusing to take a hard stand on NAFTA is described with pride. "A White House in desperate search of Congressional support on big votes also helped her learn to play the system... Was she holding out for a deal? She just smiled and said `You never want to be so definitive that you can't take advantage of a changing situation.' Cynthia McKinney may find a home in the House after all."
...Irresponsible Republicans. But in the section titled "Pork, Peanuts, and Promises," Terry Everett, who ran for Congress on a Perot-like no-business-as-usual platform, is a hypocrite for accepting PAC money: "Beneath Everett's reform fervor lurks the soul of a career politician. He insists he was clear during his campaign about the no-PACs pledge -- that it was a one time offer, good only for 1992. But Everett's caveat was tantamount to the fine print on the side of a cereal box...Until Congress passes new limits on PAC contributions -- which he supports -- Everett intends to play the game by the same rules as his opponents." Turque also disdained Everett for securing the peanut subsidy: "Reform was on Everett's agenda only when it caused pain in someone else's district.
Rush to Judge. When Gennifer Flowers' allegations threatened Bill Clinton's campaign, the media pronounced it sleazy to report sensational charges. Skeptical about Flowers' evidence, they held off reporting the story.
A different standard applies to Catholic clergy. All the networks immediately ran reports on the charges made against Chicago's Joseph Cardinal Bernardin by a 34-year-old AIDS patient, who had just remembered he was sexually abused 18 years after the alleged event, and by the way, wanted $10 million for his anguish. Connie Chung's sensational introduction on the Nov. 12 CBS Evening News typified media reaction: "The Roman Catholic Church in America was rocked today by charges of scandal against one of its most prominent leaders and reformers."
CNN ran a one-hour special on sex abuse in the Catholic Church two days later, Fall From Grace, which continued the sensational coverage of unproven allegations. Host Bonnie Anderson reported "Charges that a Prince of the Church, a man eligible to become Pope, a Cardinal on the forefront of reforming how the Church deals with clergy's sexual abuse has himself fallen from grace."
Envy the French. "If the French can do it, why can't we?" ran the headline over Steven Greenhouse's story in the November 14 New York Times Magazine. What do the French do so well? Day care. Not just day care, but a system that offers children "poached fish and cauliflower mousse, parsleyed potatoes and Camembert cheese -- not bad compared with the peanut butter sandwiches served at so many American preschools."
According to Greenhouse, the food is just one advantage of "a free, full-day, public school or école maternelle," because, "In France, 99 percent of the 3- 4- and 5-year olds attend preschool at no or minimal charge." By comparison, "Many New Yorkers, Washingtonians and Californians pay $8,000 to $14,000 a year to send a child to preschool or a day-care center, if they are lucky enough to find a place." He continued, "Comparing the French system with the American system -- if that word can be used to describe a jigsaw puzzle missing half its pieces -- is like comparing a vintage bottle of Chateau Margaux with a $4 bottle of American wine."
Just what are the "minimal" charges? "The French spend $7 billion a year to make sure every child -- rich, middle class or poor -- gets off to a good start. They feel the benefits outweigh the cost." France is showing some strain on their "free" system. Politicians are feeling the crunch to keep taxes (which are already "almost half of their gross domestic product") down. Greenhouse's answer to keeping taxes down and keeping the level of day care up: "charging parents, especially the rich ones, more."
Hunger Hype I. The liberal Urban Institute released a report on November 16 claiming that "Between 2.5 and 4.9 million elderly Americans -- many living well above the poverty line -- suffer hunger and food insecurity." ABC, CBS and CNN all promoted the study, but none of them interviewed a conservative skeptic to question it.
Eugenia Halsey's Nov. 15 CNN World News report featured some complaining elderly; a social worker; Martha Burt of the Urban Institute; and Rep. Tony Hall (D-Ohio). On Nov. 16, CBS Evening News put together nearly the same story, with extra hype. Sandra Hughes interviewed elderly people; a social worker; Rep. Hall; and Burt.
Connie Chung introduced the piece as a "disturbing report tonight about older Americans in this country. Millions of them, even some living above the poverty line, don't know from day to day where their next meal is coming from." Then Hughes revised upward the Urban Institute's high estimate: "Up to 5 million Americans over the age of 65 at some point worry about whether they'll have enough food to survive."
On Good Morning America November 16, Joan Lunden interviewed -- Tony Hall and Martha Burt. Lunden's questions were PR softballs: "Well, this study does say we do need to spend more money, in fact it says `We need to shift public resources from the affluent to the low income elderly through higher Social Security taxes and other means.' But would that not be a political bombshell?"
Hunger Hype II. On Thanksgiving Day 1988, CBS Evening News reporter Bob McNamara claimed: "Today, soup kitchens feed more people than ever, and sadly, more families, more children." The story ended: "For more and more young families," there is "little to be thankful for."
Five years later CBS found another category of hungry people. This Thanksgiving night, Giselle Fernandez and Randall Pinkston claimed middle-class and affluent families are suffering, too. Fernandez began: "A lot of Americans are going hungry, and not just in the inner city." Pinkston explained: "Hunger is showing up in the most unlikely places. This is affluent Columbia, Maryland." Forwarding only anecdotal accounts from food banks, Pinkston concluded that "middle-class Americans are forced to look to others for food." Why can't the networks balance stories on hunger with a conservative expert?
Pork Prince's Integrity. Democratic Senator Robert Byrd is well-known in Washington as the "prince of pork." Since the former Senate Majority Leader has moved to chair the Senate Appropriations Committee, Byrd has tried to move any government agency that's not tied down to his home state of West Virginia. But during the Senate debate over the Packwood diaries, the media pictured Byrd as the Senate's voice of integrity.
"Like it or not about what you say about Senator Byrd's background, and his policies, and his politics, he has a very high sense of integrity," declared the Chicago Tribune's Elaine Povich on C-SPAN's Journalists' Roundtable on Nov. 5. Two days before, Washington Post staff writer Helen Dewar had written: "`None of us is pure or without flaw, but when those flaws damage the institution of the Senate, it is time to have the grace to go,' said Byrd, widely regarded as the Senate's foremost defender of its traditions and integrity." Bernard Shaw also joined in with this question on Inside Politics: "What was Byrd trying to do given his esteem?" It's a good thing Byrd doesn't have any skeletons in his closet, like former membership in the KKK.
Hurray for Halperin. With a newly acquired vigor for the pursuit of fairness to presidential nominees, Time reporter Kevin Fedarko chronicled the confirmation difficulties faced by Morton Halperin, President Clinton's nominee to a newly created Pentagon position for peacekeeping operations. In a November 29 article, Fedarko rhetorically asked, "How did Halperin manage to get himself caught between the cross hairs of a confirmation hearing so savage it resembled a drive-by shooting?"
The answer? "Halperin's liberal views have achieved their most ardent expression in defense policy, a piece of hallowed conservative turf." These liberal views seem to be offset, in Fedarko's mind, by Halperin's work for the ACLU, where he was involved in "defending the constitutional rights of Oliver North, Lyn Nofziger and the conservative student writers at the Dartmouth Review."
"Despite such ideological balance," Fedarko lamented, "Halperin has suffered from a hit-and-run campaign by conservative ideologues." While Halperin's views at the ACLU may be interesting, opposition to him is based on his radical positions on military and intelligence issues. But Fedarko mentioned nothing conservatives found objectionable about Halperin's work as head of the leftist Center for National Security Studies, his role as an accomplice in releasing the Pentagon Papers, or Halperin's well-documented beliefs that "Secrecy...does not serve national security...Covert operations are incompatible with constitutional government and should be abolished."
Revolving Door: Democrat Heads PBS
Democrat Heads PBS
Three months after NPR chose a Democrat as its new President, PBS has followed suit. Ervin Duggan, nominated by George Bush to fill a Democratic slot at the Federal Communications Commission in 1989, has been named President of PBS. He starts February 1.
Duggan was a Washington Post reporter in 1964 before moving to the White House as a Special Assistant to President Johnson. He later worked for then-Senator Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas), followed by Senator Adlai Stevenson (D-Ill.) from 1971-77. In the Carter years, he wrote speeches for Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare Joseph Califano, jumping to the State Department planning staff in 1979.
Two at USIA
Two network veterans have landed positions at the U.S. Information Agency (USIA), which runs the Voice of America. The Washington Post reported that Heidi Schulman, a reporter at NBC News for 17 years ending in 1990, "has signed on as a one-year, $330-a-day TV programming consultant." Last year Schulman worked on Hillary Rodham's staff, coordinating relations with Hollywood celebrities....Joyce Kravitz, Director of Information for ABC News in Washington from 1985-88, is now Senior Adviser for broadcasting. Kravitz was Press Secretary for the Presidential Inaugural Committee.
"Dump the Hump!"
In a September Vanity Fair story Jacob Weisberg wrote that "Curtis Wilkie of The Boston Globe once called the White House pressroom `the only day care center in America Ronald Reagan hasn't abolished.'" An October 31 Boston Globe Magazine cover story revealed that Wilkie's been a dedicated liberal since at least 1968, when he worked to elect liberal presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy.
In the midst of a tribute to Hubert Humphrey on the 25th anniversary of his loss to Richard Nixon, Wilkie recalled his activities during the Democratic convention in Chicago: "As a small town journalist in Mississippi, moonlighting as a foot soldier in the revolutions of the 1960s, I went from being an admirer of Humphrey for his work in civil rights to becoming an antagonist. As a member of an insurgent delegation from Mississippi, I went to Chicago, voted for McCarthy, and chanted `Dump the Hump' with thousands of other demonstrators under his window at the Conrad Hilton. We got tear-gassed for our efforts."
Wilkie conceded that "I probably should have been fired from my job for my partisan activities." But he wasn't quite finished with political activity: "My first brush with big-time politics over, I went back to covering Rotary Club speeches and the city council and grudgingly supported Humphrey in the fall. Wallace sentiment was so strong in the state that I perversely encouraged my 2-year-old son, Carter, to startle people with childish shouts: 'Boo, Wallace! Yea, Humphrey!'"
Wilkie's not the only Globe reporter directly involved in politics in the 1960s. In a June story on David Gergen's move to the White House, Globe Washington bureau reporter John Mashek revealed that he "worked briefly in 1964 for Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy." Mashek toiled for U.S. News & World Report and the Atlanta Constitution before joining the Globe in the late '80s.
Media Dive on GOP in New Jersey, Ignore Democrats in Philadelphia
The One-Sided Dirty Trick Hunt
No story excited reporters in November more than GOP consultant Ed Rollins' strange story that he paid $500,000 in "street money" to black ministers to refrain from asking people to vote for New Jersey Gov. Jim Florio. But while reporters played prosecutor against Rollins and the Republicans, they ignored proven Democratic vote fraud in Philadelphia.
"Now, there are charges that dirty tricks may have made the difference, with a prominent Republican operative from the Reagan years at the center of it all," Connie Chung announced on the November 10 CBS Evening News. From November 10 to November 30, the four networks aired 38 evening stories on the New Jersey allegations. CNN's Inside Politics reported an additional 13 stories on the New Jersey allegations. Between the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, USA Today, and The Washington Post, 62 stories were filed on New Jersey, 15 on the front page.
Meanwhile, on November 14, The Philadelphia Inquirer, a heralded pillar of the liberal journalistic establishment, reported that Latino voters in Philadelphia were talked into casting absentee ballots for Democratic State Senate candidate William Stinson even though they did not qualify for them. Stinson's Republican opponent, Bruce Marks, actually won the regular vote but lost dramatically in the absentee ballot count. This is especially important because Pennsylvania's Senate is divided 25-25, with Democratic Lt. Gov. Mark Singel casting any tie-breaking vote.
One week later, the paper's front page returned to the story, with testimony from people of all races who said they did not vote in the Stinson race, but had ballots filled out for them without their knowledge. The Inquirer even reproduced forged signatures.
On November 29, the Justice Department announced it was investigating the Philadelphia case. When the Justice Department announced an investigation of the GOP in New Jersey, ABC and CBS made it the lead story that evening, but the Philadelphia story went unmentioned. On December 1, CNN's Inside Politics led with the Philadelphia story (and did one other story, for a ratio of 13-2). But the same night's World News had no story. As for the newspapers, The Washington Post did two less-than-200-word briefs, USA Today filed three tiny items, and the Los Angeles Times and New York Times never wrote anything.
Even reporters noted the disparity. On C-SPAN's Journalists' Roundtable December 3, National Public Radio White House reporter Mara Liasson admitted: "I think the Pennsylvania story has not gotten the coverage it's deserved...I think the Pennsylvania story's going to be getting a lot more attention." Not yet.
No Clinton "Sleaze Factor"
S&L Story Spiked
Serious charges of conflict of interest have moved from the Resolution Trust Corporation to the Justice Department's criminal division, charges that could damage the ethical reputations of the President and First Lady of the United States.
A former Arkansas judge charged that in 1986, then-Governor Bill Clinton had pressured him to make a $300,000 Small Business Administration loan to one of Clinton's financial partners, Susan McDougal, even though she was not financially disadvantaged -- a requirement. Prosecutors dropped the case because documents detailing the business activities of Whitewater Development Corporation, the Clintons' joint venture, could not be found.
Webster Hubbell, the third-ranking official in the Justice Department, and Vincent Foster, the White House deputy counsel who killed himself earlier this year, told federal bank officials their Rose Law Firm had not represented S&Ls. But Hillary Clinton, a Rose partner, represented the bankrupt Madison S&L before state agencies her husband controlled.
Other than one brief question to CNN's Wolf Blitzer on Inside Politics November 2 and a November 11 NBC Nightly News story by Andrea Mitchell, the TV networks have done absolutely zero on this potentially ruinous scandal. The news magazines dismissed the story with one page or less each.
The only interested media outlets seem to be Washington's two newspapers. The Washington Times, regularly breaks embarrassing news about Democrats that the rest ignore. But The Washington Post has remained interested in the story, placing it on Page One four times since it returned to the story on Halloween.
Most reporters hated this Clinton S&L story last year, too. When The New York Times broke the scoop on March 8, 1992, the four networks did only five full stories between them. The news magazines were even worse: Newsweek devoted one clause, while Time and U.S. News wrote nothing. After a brief rash of stories in March 1992, the scandal disappeared. Other than two stories in the late summer of 1992 and one this April by The Washington Post, it never came up again until the new stories started on October 31.
The destruction wrought by the California fires was an inevitable result of building houses in wind-swept canyons, right? Maybe not. In a November 19 piece for 20/20, ABC reporter John Stossel suggested the problem rested less with the environmental risks than environmental regulations, specifically the Endangered Species Act. Stossel began by asserting that "in the aftermath of the fires, some who lost their homes now say one cause of the disaster was the government's rules." As Stossel pointed out, "When the Endangered Species Act passed 20 years ago, it passed easily. Everyone wants to stand for protecting nature, especially species like the bald eagle and the grizzly bear. But laws like this tend to grow."
Stossel reported the law grew to include the kangaroo rat as a protected species. The result? "These people believe they could have protected their property, but the government wouldn't let them because of a rat...One of the best ways to stop brush fires is to create a firebreak -- to clear out a strip of vegetation so that when the fire gets here, it won't have anything to burn. Doing it with this machine is called disking, and the people around here have disked the property for years, until a few years ago, when the government told them they could not because... digging into the ground destroys the burrows of the Stevens kangaroo rat."
Another Side of Canada
CBS reporter Bob Faw began his November 12 Evening News report with a familiar refrain: "Canadians can go to the doctor whenever they want and never get a bill." Instead of singing the praises of the "free" single-payer system, however, Faw introduced viewers to a rarely reported side of Canadian health care.
After hearing a doctor document the crowded condition of Canadian emergency rooms, he noted: "Despite a population of 150,000, rural Sudbury in Northern Ontario is so short of medical specialists that when Oscar Burnier broke his leg this summer he had to make a painful flight all the way to Toronto to get care, enraging his mother." Why? Faw reported: "Doctors...say the government is making things even worse by interfering and setting limits on how much doctors can make."
Faw explored the unintended incentives of the single-payer plan: "Experts agree consumers abuse the system. One study shows Canadians go to the doctors 30 percent more than Americans, often for the common cold. Result: Canada, mired in a recession, has a health care system that is hemorrhaging money." Faw ended with a cautionary message: "`Our lesson for Mr. Clinton,' said a doctor, `is that you cannot provide infinite health care for everyone with finite tax dollars. There have to be limits.'"
Editor Squashes "Pejorative" Words
P.C. Rules the L.A. Times
The Los Angeles Times has jumped in with both feet as it joins the ranks of the politically correct media. Howard Kurtz reported in the November 29 Washington Post that Times Editor Shelby Coffey III issued a new committee-drafted pamphlet, Guidelines on Ethnic, Racial, Sexual, and Other Identification.
The guidelines ask reporters not to use such words as "WASP" ("may be pejorative"), "coed" ("considered derogatory to female college students"), "Dutch treat" ("an offensive reference to sharing expenses") "mailman" ("many women hold this job"), "mankind" ("humanity, human beings and humankind are preferred") and "man-made"("preferred words are artificial, manufactured or synthetic.")
The Times urged that phrases such as "admitted homosexual" or "tidal wave of immigrants" be avoided. In regard to "the New World," the guidelines say: "Beware of this usage when referring to the ancient continent of North America stumbled upon by Christopher Columbus. It ignores 2,000 separate cultures that already existed on the continent."
The guidelines also outlaw "biddy," "bra-burner," "Chinese fire drill," "crazy," "divorcee," "gal," "ghetto," "gypped," "handicapped person," "hick," "hillbilly," "Hispanic," "holy rollers," "Indians," "inner city," "lame," "male nurse," "normal," "powwow," "queer," "welsher" and "white trash." The Times did not forbid references to religious conservatives as "poor, uneducated, and easy to command." But hey, it's only written by news gathering craftpersons for descendants of humans who stumbled upon North America.
Janet Cooke Award: CBS This Morning's Giselle Fernandez Hails "Castro's Playground;" Tunnels with Nightclubs
Painting a "Pretty Postcard" of Cuba
Is the Cold War over? To watch some reporters in Cuba, you might wonder. The old sins of reporting from communist countries -- trading journalistic access for positive publicity, presenting oppressed people's party-line statements as unforced genuine opinion, and treatment of government statements as fact without confirmation -- were all evident in CBS This Morning's live broadcasts from Cuba November 3-5. For repeating almost all the mistakes of past Cuba trips, CBS reporter Giselle Fernandez earned the Janet Cooke Award.
Access for Publicity. CBS This Morning co-host Harry Smith asked Fernandez why the Cubans granted access to their tourist resorts. She replied: "Why not? What's to lose for the government? We were giving them the opportunity to paint a pretty postcard of the country. At the very least, it gives Fidel Castro a chance to show American businessmen some of the opportunities that may await them here someday."
On November 3, Fernandez declared: "Welcome to Fidel Castro's playground, Cuba's Caribbean paradise few have seen, a Cuba the Commandant is now inviting the world to enjoy. It's the promised land Cuba is hoping will guarantee a promising future. In the last two years alone, Cuba and its sultry beaches has become a major vacation hot spot."
She ended without a hint of sarcasm: "While tourism may be changing the landscape of Cuba's Caribbean shores, Fidel Castro is banking on it to lure in foreigners with dollars to try and save his workers' paradise from becoming a paradise lost."
Party-Line Statements. Fernandez never found one person to suggest that perhaps the economic crisis is the fault of communism. Instead, it was all the fault of the U.S. embargo: "On lines for rationed fuel and food, at hospitals with severe shortages of medicine, most all say the embargo, trying to force political change, is the reason they suffer." Fernandez explained pictures of hardship: "The embargo has forced all the Cuban people to be extremely resourceful here just to get through the day."
In another story, Fernandez suggested: "The standoff is rooted in a Cold War mentality that has disappeared from almost every other place on the planet. Along Havana's famous seafront, a proud tradition of honoring a revolutionary hero is passed on to a new generation of Cubans. They sing songs of socialism, songs of tribute to Fidel Castro, and almost all raise their voices against the U.S. embargo."
Cubans told the cameras "It's an injustice against the Cuban people" and "They're selfish because they want to own us and that cannot be, because in this country there's socialism" and "We are Cubans, Communists, and we are ready to die. As old as I am, I am ready to take up arms."
In the only mention of human rights in three days, Fernandez threw in one soundbite from Jorge Mas Canosa, of the Cuban American National Foundation, noting: "Members of Miami's powerful exile community say it's the only way to end political repression and the violation of human rights here."
On the 5th, Fernandez reported on defectors, both athletes and soldiers: "You believe it when Cuban [baseball] players say national pride is their paycheck. Says pitcher Laslo Vijay, the defectors abandon their families, the love of their people, because of a bunch of dollars...Once players come to the U.S., [defector Rene] Arrocha says, they realize how much they lied to them in Cuba. But outfielder Victor Mesa has a simple reply. They were tired of our system so they committed treason." A few weeks later, 50 Cuban athletes defected in Puerto Rico.
Fernandez did the same in a story on defecting pilots, marching in Cubans to denounce them as traitors. (At least in this case, Harry Smith interviewed defector Orestes Lorenzo back in the U.S. for an opposing view.) But what about dissidents inside Cuba? "For every 20 or 30 people you speak to...you're very lucky if you get one to go on camera," Senior Producer Lin Garlick told MediaWatch.
"You have to talk to a lot of people, not just the Cubans who are within Cuba now, but you have to talk to a lot of people to understand the Cuban psyche. I don't think you expect any person outside of America to tick along and think like an American. And I think maybe what you just said illustrates to me that you're coming from the American viewpoint."
But aren't Cuban-American exiles part of the Cuban story? Garlick countered: "Are you counting all the many, many, many hours and hours and days we've only done on the Cuban exiles?...When you have an opportunity to go into a country and report, what you don't do is try your very best to get the information that you can't normally get there." But the MRC database shows CBS hasn't done a story on Cuban exiles since at least 1990.
Jose Cardenas of the Cuban American National Foundation told MediaWatch a different story: "We gave them a list of dissidents with addresses. The dissidents were fully prepared to meet with them, dissidents on the island who are quite open about it and have no fear of being cited by name or appearing on camera, and somehow they didn't find them. And they're all in Havana."
Government Statements as Fact. On the 4th, Fernandez toured Cuba's military tunnel system, passing on everything the Cubans told her: "The tunnels are built by paid workers and volunteer brigades." Fernandez asked: "So you have a club, a nightclub, in the tunnel? You have a barbershop?" Later, she again said they "told us there are more sophisticated tunnels with...a nightclub, a barbershop." Smith asked: "Did you see any evidence of that?" "No," she replied.
Fernandez played up Cuban claims: "He [the colonel] says they're the largest tunnels in the world...Hundreds of miles snake through the countryside, and all over the city." But only a minute before, Fernandez admitted: "We never saw a completed tunnel." When asked why Fernandez simply passed on the nightclub claims, Garlick told MediaWatch: "I think she probably said they say they have. There's a very big difference."
Even if they have a tunnel system, CBS never asked why the government builds tunnels and opens five-star hotels while Cubans go without food or medicine. When asked about that, Garlick replied: "You're a little unprofessional. For someone who's never been to Cuba...Giselle has been to Cuba before, I have been to Cuba before, and it's very difficult to fight your pre-judged opinions. You have set yourself up as expert. You have never been there but you obviously consider your viewpoint correct. If you're coming from a journalistic viewpoint, you should get permission to go to Cuba, and then after you've been there a week or two, feel free to criticize. After you have some experience."