Special Reports

Executive Summary As in last year’s coverage of the death of President Ronald Reagan, the national media offered Pope John Paul II a generous farewell, highlighting his positive role in ending the Cold War, building bridges to other faiths, and inspiring Catholics in his energetic travels. But the positive coverage did not match the usual pattern of papal coverage over the decades of his pontificate (1978-2005). In the typically secular and political approach of the networks, John Paul was portrayed during his life as positive or negative depending on whose political side he landed on. On internal church matters over... continue reading
Executive Summary Ever since the United States and an international coalition toppled Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship in the spring of 2003, the Iraq war has dominated network newscasts. Since then, there’s been a lot of undeniably bad news, as terrorists have launched a savage campaign to thwart efforts to establish democracy in a major Arab state. But are network reporters giving the public an inordinately gloomy portrait of the situation, as some critics charge? Are the positive accomplishments of U.S. soldiers and Iraq’s new democratic leaders being lost in a news agenda dominated by assassinations, car bombings and casualty reports? The... continue reading
Executive Summary After more than two decades in which Dan Rather used his CBS Evening News anchor desk as a soapbox to punish conservatives and promote liberals — years in which the Evening News tumbled from the undisputed ratings leader to a poor third place among the nightly newscasts — CBS has elevated Katie Couric, the longtime co-host of NBC’s Today , to sit as Rather’s permanent replacement. In TV ads promoting Couric’s arrival, outgoing interim anchor Bob Schieffer claimed: "She’s tough, she’s fair, she’s a straight-shooter....Just watch." But meeting with TV critics in early July, Couric suggested a desire... continue reading
Executive Summary The news media play an important role in popular culture by providing publicity for the movie studios as films are readied for release. But some movies are more favored by the news media than others, some for their expected status as expensive but appealing blockbusters, and some for their social commentary (for example, the film Brokeback Mountain) . The DaVinci Code was both: an expected blockbuster movie based on one of the most publicized works of fiction in the new century, drawing enormous national media interest with its vision of a vast, murderous church conspiracy. It should not... continue reading
Executive Summary Spurred by a passionate public outcry against the tide of illegal immigration, on December 16, 2005, the House of Representatives passed a bill to curb the flow of illegal aliens and give the federal government more responsibility for detaining and deporting them. On that night, ABC, CBS, and NBC didn’t cover the vote. But when left-wing advocacy groups for illegal aliens organized large protests against the House bill in the spring, as the Senate considered its own immigration bill, the networks suddenly, fervently discovered the issue and gave the advocacy groups not a mere soapbox in the park,... continue reading
Executive Summary In the five years since al-Qaeda terrorists killed nearly 3,000 Americans on September 11, 2001, both international critics and domestic groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union have suggested that the American government’s tactics in the War on Terror are as frightening as terrorism itself. These mostly liberal critics portray the Bush administration as trampling on the civil rights of ordinary Americans, abusing the human rights of captured terrorists and acting without regard to the rule of law. Unfortunately, the broadcast networks are using this Bush-bashing spin as the starting point for much of their coverage of... continue reading
Executive Summary Journalists who act offended by even the mildest suggestions that the media elite have a liberal bias have in recent years become vocal media critics themselves, accusing the Fox News Channel (FNC) of skewing its news in a conservative direction. While all three cable networks feature prime time personalities who are rarely shy about making their opinions known, how does FNC really compare with CNN and MSNBC when it comes to hard news reporting of a major story like the Iraq war? MRC analysts reviewed all three cable news networks’ reporting on Iraq during a crucial ten weeks... continue reading
Executive Summary As the 2008 presidential campaign season gets underway, wide-open primary races in both the Republican and Democratic parties are competing for the media’s attention. So are the broadcast networks covering both sides equally, or are they tilting the campaign playing field in favor of liberal Democratic candidates? To find out, Media Research Center analysts reviewed all 517 campaign segments on ABC’s Good Morning America , CBS’s The Early Show and NBC’s Today from January 1 through July 31. Those three broadcast morning shows draw nine times the audience of their cable news competitors, and are geared toward everyday... continue reading
Executive Summary When she founded her blog two years ago, Arianna Huffington made a pledge that was quoted by Newsweek : “If you’re looking for the usual flame-throwing, name-calling, and simplistic attack dog rhetoric....don’t bother coming to The Huffington Post.” But an MRC review of the first two years of the HuffPost’s content reveals that flame-throwing, name-calling, and hate speech against conservatives are all on the Web site’s everyday menu. True to everything pundits decry about the blogosphere, the official bloggers of The Huffington Post, from celebrity dilettantes to lesser-known attack dogs, have made wild mudslinging and hate speech, usually... continue reading
Executive Summary The Democratic takeover of Congress in 2007 quickly made one definitive change in the national media infrastructure. For the first time since Newt Gingrich became speaker in 1995, America's public broadcasting system didn't have a skeptical majority party that might sporadically ask questions about PBS using the taxpayer-funded airwaves for overt liberal activism. In previous years with Democratic control of Congress, PBS has played a more activist role within the media, dragging the rest of the national media further to the left and spurring more aggression and ill will against conservative and Republican leaders. Just as 2007 has... continue reading