Special Reports

The first big test of Barack Obama's presidency didn't begin on the day he took office. It started on the campaign trail when then-candidate Obama promised to push for a $175-billion stimulus package to boost a flagging economy. Once Obama was elected Nov. 4, 2008 a new campaign began - to get the stimulus through Congress while the size of the promises grew by billions of dollars. Along with solid Democratic majorities in both the House and the Senate, Obama enjoyed another advantage to push his plan - a strongly supportive news media. The media outlets that were covering the... continue reading
In a few short months, the term “stimulus” went from a $175-billion campaign promise to the most-expensive law ever passed by Congress. Nearly $800 billion of special interest funding, healthcare plans and precious little infrastructure made up the final agreement. New President Obama had strong majorities in both the House and Senate to push his massive stimulus bill through. But he had another advantage – the same news media that helped him get elected was covering the “bold” push for a stimulus plan. Two broadcast networks – ABC and NBC – showed particularly strong support for the president by relying... continue reading
See Executive Summary Even in the midst of an election and Wall Street crisis, oil and gas prices have been front and center in 2008. The huge spike in both commodities was followed by a greater collapse in those prices in recent months. When the year began, gas was already $3.04 a gallon. It dropped a bit to $2.95 by February 11. Oil started the new year at nearly $100 a barrel and followed a similar track. After that, it was off to the races for both. In just a week, gas topped $3 a gallon again and began an... continue reading
Read Full Report The incredible spike in oil and gas prices was a huge story in 2008. Consumers struggled as a gallon of regular gasoline soared from nearly $3 to $4.11 by mid-summer. Network news shows bombarded viewers with more than 500 stories about oil and gas prices - an avalanche of coverage - as anchors and reporters warned gas would hit $5 or $6 and, as CBS put it, 'that high gas prices are here to stay.' One problem with the warnings: they were wrong nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of the time. As it turned out, $4.11 was the... continue reading
Presidential debates are crucial, especially for Americans who have not made up their minds about who could best lead the nation. Although reporters often focus on policy differences, many Americans are more interested in the character of the person who will occupy the Oval Office than his or her position on particular issues. Debates are a window into the candidates' character and values. In a volatile world where crises can arise at any moment, Americans need to trust that their president is guided by something stronger than public opinion. A short dictionary.com definition of character says it comprises 'qualities of... continue reading
Introduction L ike clockwork, the holiest Christian holidays bring stories into the news cycle that clearly take aim at the faith of the majority of Americans. In 2007, the Discovery Channel's 'The Jesus Tomb' made headlines just before Easter. So it comes as no surprise to learn that a popular comedian announced plans to release a 'documentary on atheism' on Easter Sunday, 2008. Atheism has always intrigued the news media. A 2005 study by the Media Research Center on the media's coverage of religion showed that church-state issues and the convergence of religion and politics was the third most heavily... continue reading
Only eight percent of Americans are atheists, according to the National Cultural Values Survey,* yet atheism was the 'it' religion in 2007, with just three best-selling books generating much of the media coverage. Christianity Today put the topic at No. 2 in its Top 10 list of religion stories for last year. 'The Roar of Atheist Books' was the seventh biggest religion story of 2007 according to Time magazine. Media indifference and even hostility toward religion in general and Christianity in particular has been well documented by the Media Research Center for years. With the ascendancy of atheism as a... continue reading
In just one month, the percentage of Americans who viewed GOP vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin unfavorably soared from 32 percent to 49 percent, according to a new survey. Might hostile media coverage account for Palin's skyrocketing unfavorable rating? Polls conducted in September and October by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press report a stunning reversal in public perceptions of Palin. An October 21 story posted on Pew's Web site stated: 'In the current survey, 49% of voters express an unfavorable opinion of the Alaska governor, while 44% express a positive opinion; in mid-September, 54% viewed Palin... continue reading
Apart from politicians embroiled in scandals, rarely have the public perceptions of a candidate soured so quickly. According to Pew Research Center polls from September and October, the percentage of the public that sees Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin unfavorably shot up from 32 percent to 49 percent in just one month. Why have so many Americans turned against Palin, who made such a strong impression on the public when John McCain introduced her as his running mate at the Republican convention in September? Most likely, it's because the few good reports they've heard about the Alaska governor have been... continue reading
Introduction The mood was sour on Capitol Hill in June 2007. Powerful members of the Senate were humiliated when they were forced to withdraw a wildly unpopular immigration bill that would have provided de facto amnesty to illegal aliens. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) quickly blamed conservative talk radio hosts for the embarrassing defeat. On CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight, Feinstein said, 'I listened to talk show hosts drumming up the opposition by using this word 'amnesty' over and over and over again and essentially raising the roil of Americans to the extent that in my 15 years I've never received more... continue reading