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 Post subject: Re: FAIR Stuff...
PostPosted: 06 Mar 2009, 19:27 
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FAIR Study: Media Blackout
on Single-Payer Healthcare
Proponents of popular policy shut out of debate

3/6/09

Major newspaper, broadcast and cable stories mentioning healthcare reform in the week leading up to President Barack Obama's March 5 healthcare summit rarely mentioned the idea of a single-payer national health insurance program, according to a new FAIR study. And advocates of such a system--two of whom participated in yesterday's summit--were almost entirely shut out, FAIR found.

Single-payer--a model in which healthcare delivery would remain largely private, but would be paid for by a single federal health insurance fund (much like Medicare provides for seniors, and comparable to Canada's current system)--polls well with the public, who preferred it 59-to-32 over a privatized system in a recent survey (New York Times/CBS, 1/11-15/09). But a media consumer in the week leading up to the summit was more likely to read about single-payer from the hostile perspective of conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer than see an op-ed by a single-payer advocate in a major U.S. newspaper.

Over the past week, hundreds of stories in major newspapers and on NBC News, ABC News, CBS News, Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, NPR and PBS's NewsHour With Jim Lehrer mentioned healthcare reform, according to a search of the Nexis database (2/25/09-3/4/09). Yet all but 18 of these stories made no mention of "single-payer" (or synonyms commonly used by its proponents, such as "Medicare for all," or the proposed single-payer bill, H.R. 676), and only five included the views of advocates of single-payer--none of which appeared on television.

Of a total of 10 newspaper columns FAIR found that mentioned single-payer, Krauthammer's syndicated column critical of the concept, published in the Washington Post (2/27/09) and reprinted in four other daily newspapers, accounted for five instances. Only three columns in the study period advocated for a single-payer system (San Diego Union-Tribune, 2/26/09; Boston Globe, 3/1/09; St. Petersburg Times, 3/3/09).

The FAIR study turned up only three mentions of single-payer on the TV outlets surveyed, and two of those references were by TV guests who expressed strong disapproval of it: conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks (NewsHour, 2/27/09) and Republican congressman Darrell Issa (MSNBC's Hardball, 2/26/09).

In many newspapers, the only argument in favor of the policy has been made in letters to the editor (Oregonian, 2/28/09; USA Today, 2/26/09; Washington Post, 3/4/09; Philadelphia Inquirer, 2/27/09; Atlanta Journal Constitution, 2/26/09).

In contrast, the terminology of choice for detractors of any greater public-sector role in healthcare--such as "socialized medicine" and "government-run" healthcare--turned up seven times on TV, including once on ABC News's This Week (3/1/09) and five times on CNN. CNN senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen has herself adopted this terminology in discussing healthcare reform, stating (CNN Newsroom, 2/26/09) that "if in time, Americans start to think what President Obama is proposing is some kind of government-run health system--a la Canada, a la England--he will get resistance in the same way that Hillary Clinton got resistance when she tried to do tried to do this in the '90s."

Particularly in the absence of actual coverage of single-payer, such rhetoric confuses rather than informs, blurring the differences between the Canadian model of government-administered national health insurance coupled with private healthcare delivery that single-payer proponents advocate, and healthcare systems such as Britain's, in which healthcare (and not just healthcare insurance) is administered by the government.

The views of CNN's senior medical correspondent notwithstanding, opinion polling (e.g., ABC News/Washington Post, 10/9-19/03) suggests that the public would actually favor single-payer.

Though more than 60 lawmakers have co-sponsored H.R. 676, the single-payer bill in Congress, Obama has not expressed support for single-payer; both the idea and its advocates were marginalized in yesterday's healthcare forum. But given the high level of popular support the policy enjoys, that's all the more reason media should include it in the public debate about the future of healthcare.
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Feel free to respond to FAIR ( fair@fair.org ). We can't reply to everything, but we will look at each message. We especially appreciate documented examples of media bias or censorship. And please send copies of your correspondence with media outlets, including any responses, to fair@fair.org.

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 Post subject: Re: FAIR Stuff...
PostPosted: 17 Mar 2009, 12:51 
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http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=3734

Action Alert

CNN: Single-Payer Is So '90s
Medical reporter warns against 'government-run health system'

3/12/09

In one of the few recent corporate media mentions of single-payer healthcare, CNN senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen (3/5/09) explained why healthcare "reform" is more possible now than it was under President Bill Clinton:

Fifteen years ago you sometimes heard--actually you heard quite a bit--people saying: "Let's have a single-payer system like in Canada. The government is going to be the health insurer for everybody." You don't hear that as much as you used to. So more people are on the same page more than they once were.

Cohen is right that there were many people in favor of single-payer 15 years ago; as an Extra! article from that era (7-8/93) pointed out, New York Times polling since 1990 had "consistently found majorities--ranging from 54 percent to 66 percent--in favor of tax-financed national health insurance." The numbers today? A New York Times/CBS poll (1/11-15/09) found 59 percent in favor of government-provided national health insurance. In other words, contrary to Cohen's claim, people are on pretty much the same page today as they were 15 years ago.

Cohen's suggestion that it was those loud voices that stymied "reform" is likewise unsupportable; as Extra! reported back in 1993, corporate media were then solidly behind the Clinton administration's big insurer-friendly "managed competition" plan:

While the phrase "managed competition" appeared in 62 New York Times news stories in the six months following the 1992 election, "single-payer" appeared in only five news stories during that period--never in more than a single-sentence mention.

Establishment journalists thus silenced those single-payer voices in 1993, just as Cohen and her contemporaries silence single-payer advocates today, as a new FAIR study recently revealed (3/6/09).

Earlier (CNN Newsroom, 2/26/09), Cohen had argued that "if in time, Americans start to think what President Obama is proposing is some kind of government-run health system--a la Canada, a la England--he will get resistance in the same way that Hillary Clinton got resistance when she tried to do tried to do this in the '90s."

As noted above, a government-financed national health insurance program is broadly popular in opinion polls, so it's unclear why Obama would get "resistance" if "Americans start to think" he's proposing such a plan. (If insurance companies start to think that, on the other hand, then they're certainly likely to create resistance.)

And Hillary Clinton in 1993 was certainly not proposing a government-financed system like Canada's, let alone a government-run system like Britain's; her "managed competition" plan was explicitly designed to preserve a central role for private insurance companies. It's hard to square the suggestion that Clinton was proposing a government-based healthcare system with Cohen's later acknowledgment that single-payer advocates were not "on the same page."

CNN plays a significant role in the healthcare reform debate. The channel's other top medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, was Obama's first choice to be surgeon general, and was one of the leading critics attacking Michael Moore's pro-single-payer documentary Sicko (FAIR Action Alert, 7/11/07). Cohen should use her prominent journalistic role in the healthcare reform debate to broaden and clarify the debate, rather than confuse and narrow it.

ACTION: Please write to Elizabeth Cohen and ask her to include the single-payer proposal as an option in the healthcare reform debate with continuing popular support.


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 Post subject: Re: FAIR Stuff...
PostPosted: 23 Mar 2009, 11:45 
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The Short, Happy Iraq War of Howard Kurtz

3/20/09

As the world marks the sixth anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, corporate media's most prominent journalism critic is wondering if Barack Obama's Iraq policy isn't being sufficiently scrutinized. As Washington Post media reporter Howard Kurtz asked recently on his CNN program (3/15/09): "What about the previous president? I mean, he famously landed on that aircraft carrier, declared 'Mission Accomplished,' and we're still there. Could journalists be falling into the same trap of taking a president's word about Iraq at face value?"

It's a good question to ask-- but is Kurtz really the best person to ask it? In the heady days of "post-war" Iraq, Howard Kurtz went out of his way to criticize those journalists who didn't adopt Bush's short-sighted optimism about the "success" of the invasion.

In a column he wrote on April 14, 2003,* Kurtz congratulated the press for its coverage of the just-concluded Iraq War. The piece provides a useful guide to the conventional wisdom that guides not just journalism, but also the profession's most powerful internal critics.

Kurtz began, "It's been the best of times and the worst of times for journalists." On the negative side, "The worst because they nearly got submerged in a sea of second-guessing just days into the fighting." After remarking that "unnamed critics, it turns out, are never in short supply," he elaborated by citing some examples of apparently too-pessimistic reporting:

* The Washington Post, March 27: "Despite the rapid advance of Army and Marine forces across Iraq over the past week, some senior U.S. military officers are now convinced that the war is likely to last months and will require considerably more combat power than is now on hand there and in Kuwait, senior defense officials said yesterday."

* Los Angeles Times, March 28: "The stiff resistance shown by Iraqi forces in the last week has forced administration officials to consider the prospect of a longer, costlier war."

* The New York Times, April 1: "Long-simmering tensions between Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Army commanders have erupted in a series of complaints from officers on the Iraqi battlefield that the Pentagon has not sent enough troops to wage the war as they want to fight it."

So journalists who were the right track--raising questions ("second-guessing") about whether the war would last "months," or noticing tensions between military commanders and Rumsfeld--were the "worst," according to Kurtz. He also stuck up for Dick Cheney, writing:

On the other hand, Newsweek's "Conventional Wisdom Watch" gave Cheney a down arrow: "Tells Meet the Press just before war, 'We will be greeted as liberators.' An arrogant blunder for the ages." Or not.

The arrogant blunder here seems to be all Kurtz's.

Kurtz recalled other highlights from the media's performance:

No anchor-gab was needed when it came to the powerful images produced by this short war. The American POWs cruelly displayed by the Iraqis; the dazed face of the wounded Jessica Lynch during the rescue that freed her; the sheer joy of Baghdad residents hacking away at that Saddam statue. The footage sent the world a message more compelling than a thousand op-ed pieces or a million propaganda leaflets dropped from U.S. planes.

Of course, there was plenty of "anchor-gab" about the Jessica Lynch "rescue" and the Saddam Hussein statue, which were indeed more effective than leaflets dropped from planes--precisely because they were celebrated by the press corps in wildly exaggerated accounts rather than exposed as the propaganda stunts they were (London Times, 4/16/03; L.A. Times, 6/3/04).

There were other lessons to be learned, according to Kurtz, from the other short war the U.S. had just finished: "Were parts of the media too downbeat about the war's early setbacks? Sure. Trying to assess a war after a week or two is a high-wire act, as journalists learned after the infamous 'quagmire' pieces about Afghanistan." He elaborated:

Now comes the difficult part of the story--forming a government, rebuilding a shattered country, fending off suicide attacks--that lacks the obvious drama of toppling a brutal dictator. (Anyone seen a television report from Kabul lately?) Once the embedded reporters are liberated, it's all too easy to imagine the media drifting off to other obsessions while the future of Iraq is hammered out.

Kurtz was right about one thing, in retrospect: Corporate media did eventually "drift off" from Iraq--hundreds of thousands of lives and billions of dollars later. In the meantime, that forgotten Afghanistan conflict is still underway, with more U.S. troops on the way.

*Viewable here as a pdf, or by pasting the following url into your browser:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dy ... ge=printer

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 Post subject: Re: FAIR Stuff...
PostPosted: 22 Apr 2009, 15:37 
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NBC's Secret Ballot Falsehood
Today show misrepresents pro-union bill, asks Wal-Mart for explanation

4/21/09

On April 15, NBC's Today show host Matt Lauer mischaracterized the Employee Free Choice Act, then turned to Wal-Mart CEO Mike Duke for further explanation of the pro-labor bill.

The Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) would make it easier for workers to form unions by increasing penalties for employers who violate workers' right to organize, and by giving workers the right to form a union if a majority signs cards declaring they want one--the so-called "card check" provision.

NBC's Lauer declared that EFCA "would do away with secret ballots." This is inaccurate; under the proposed law, workers would still have the right to vote in a National Labor Review Board (NLRB) "secret ballot" election if 30 percent of the workforce signs cards, just as they do now. Under current law, employers rather than workers get to decide whether unionization requires a card check or a vote. The false claim that EFCA would eliminate secret ballots has been a major talking point of anti-EFCA campaigners.

In an interview with Wal-Mart CEO Mike Duke, NBC host Lauer advanced that falsehood, saying EFCA "would do away with secret ballots."

Lauer then asked Duke:


Some people say, unions say it'll make it easier for American workers to earn a fair salary. Others, like the guy who runs Home Depot, the co-founder, Bernie Marcus, say it's going to cripple American business. What's the truth?

Duke replied by dismissing EFCA as "really one of those bills that would be damaging to the American economy long-term." Lauer seemed unsurprised, responding: "Probably expect that response from Mike Duke, the new CEO of Wal-Mart."

Yes--asking the new CEO of an adamantly anti-labor corporation that was recently exposed for forcing workers to attend anti-EFCA meetings what he thinks of the proposed pro-labor bill is bound to yield a predictable result. That's why it would make sense for NBC's Today show to seek out another point of view on the Employee Free Choice Act. This exchange between Duke and Lauer is the only time the Employee Free Choice Act has been mentioned on the program.

ACTION: Ask the Today show to correct host Matt Lauer's false claim that the Employee Free Choice Act "would do away with secret ballots." And ask them to interview a supporter of the Employee Free Choice Act--someone who can counter the arguments made against the bill by Wal-Mart CEO Duke.

CONTACT:

NBC
Today show
TODAY@nbcuni.com

Phone: 212-664-4602
Web form: http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/29041920/

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 Post subject: Re: FAIR Stuff...
PostPosted: 22 Apr 2009, 20:12 
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Bill O'Reilly's Pirate Solution
04/14/2009 by Peter Hart

From the O'Reilly Factor last night (4/14/09):

So far, the United Nations has not responded to the pirate threat. Are you surprised? Talking Points believes the U.N. could blockade the Somali ports where the pirates live, thereby crushing the threat. Is that hard? No, all it takes is will.

I suppose what he's really saying is that the Somali people aren't suffering enough. Come to think of it, lashing out at civilians seems to be O'Reilly's knee-jerk solution to a lot of problems. Consider O'Reilly's advice in September 2001:

Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly the channel's most popular host, declared on his September 17 broadcast that if the Afghan government did not extradite Osama bin Laden to the U.S., "the U.S. should bomb the Afghan infrastructure to rubble-- the airport, the power plants, their water facilities, and the roads." O'Reilly went on to say:

"This is a very primitive country. And taking out their ability to exist day to day will not be hard. Remember, the people of any country are ultimately responsible for the government they have. The Germans were responsible for Hitler. The Afghans are responsible for the Taliban. We should not target civilians. But if they don't rise up against this criminal government, they starve, period."

O'Reilly added that in Iraq, "their infrastructure must be destroyed and the population made to endure yet another round of intense pain.... Maybe then the people there will finally overthrow Saddam." If Libya's Moammar Khadafy does not relinquish power and go into exile, "we bomb his oil facilities, all of them. And we mine the harbor in Tripoli. Nothing goes in, nothing goes out. We also destroy all the airports in Libya. Let them eat sand."

And:

His tone remained the same a few nights later (9/19/01), as he recommended bombing Afghanistan "in strategic ways and hope that the people themselves would rise up and throw the Taliban out." Acknowledging that Afghans "are starving as it is," O'Reilly recommended that the U.S. intensify civilian suffering by knocking out "what little infrastructure they have" and blowing up "every truck you see" to make sure that "there's not going to be anything to eat."

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 Post subject: Re: FAIR Stuff...
PostPosted: 22 Apr 2009, 20:12 
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The Liberal Media Blackout of Right-Wing Tea Parties Continues...
04/16/2009 by Peter Hart

A nice round-up from TVNewser of the evening newscasts. Will conservatives ever catch a break from the left-wing media?

How The Evening Newscasts Covered the Tea Parties

• NBC Nightly News led with two stories on tax day. Lee Cowan reported on the tea parties while Savannah Guthrie reported on the White House message of middle-class tax cuts. In his open, Brian Williams said the tea parties were "organized on the Internet and by some cable TV personalities."

• ABC's World News made it the third story. First a soundbite from President Obama and a Dan Harris story on the tea parties which were "cheered on by Fox News and talk radio," Harris explained. The Charles Gibson broadcast led with two stories on the pirate attacks--Jim Sciutto in Kenya with the crew of the Maersk Alabama and David Muir with a story on the attack of another U.S. ship.

• CBS Evening News led with tax day--a soundbite from President Obama, a live picture of a rally in Arlington, Texas and a tea party story from Dean Reynolds. Reynolds referenced "a fistful of rightward leaning websites and commentators...embraced the cause," while showing Neil Cavuto and Glenn Beck at two different rallies.

Tags: tea parties, TVNewser

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 Post subject: Re: FAIR Stuff...
PostPosted: 22 Apr 2009, 20:13 
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Foreign Governments Suspiciously Oppose Civilian Deaths
04/16/2009 by Peter Hart

In today's New York Times (4/16/07), Jane Perlez is wondering about Pakistani government officials who complain about U.S. drones attacks in their country. Perlez starts by floating the idea that Pakistan can't possibly be against the strikes, because the government has asked to have some control over the use of the drones:

In fact, both sides have grown accustomed to an unusual diplomatic dance around the drones. For all their public protests, behind the scenes, Pakistani officials may countenance the drones more than Mr. Qureshi's reprimand would suggest, Pakistan and American analysts and officials say.

Why else would Pakistani military officials be requesting that the United States give them the drones to operate, asked Professor Riffat Hussain, of the defense studies department at Quaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad.

I'm not sure how that adds up. Most governments would like to have better weapons, wouldn't they? Especially those that are being used against their own populations.

But in case you might believe that the Times thinks civilian deaths are the least relevant factor in this discussion, this piece comes out and more or less says so:

But as effective as the attacks have proved, the Pakistanis' discomfort with the drones is real. The larger issue surrounding the drone strikes is the trade-off between decapitating the militant hierarchy and the risk of further destabilizing Pakistan--by undercutting the military and civilian government, by provoking retaliatory attacks from the militants, and by driving the Taliban and Al-Qaeda deeper into Pakistan in search of new havens.

Then there is the matter of public perception, particularly over the civilian casualties caused by the drone strikes, which infuriate Pakistani politicians and the media.

The deaths make it difficult for any Pakistani leader to support the drones publicly. At the same time, the Pakistani disavowals only reinforce the popular notion that the war against the militants merely furthers America's interests, not Pakistan’s own.

Well, it's good that civilian deaths--"the matter of public perception"-- was tacked on after other "larger" issues. The Times goes on to cite a number of deaths, but then finds someone to justify the killings:

About 500 civilians have been killed in the drone attacks, Talat Masood, a former Pakistani general, estimates. But, he said, the government fails to point out that many of those killed are most likely hosting Qaeda militants and cannot be deemed entirely innocent.

That's not all; Perlez closes with a survey of Pakistani opinion that serves the piece's point of view nicely:

One intriguing aspect of the drone attacks is that people living in the tribal region under the militants' grip may be more accepting of them than other Pakistanis, according to a recent but limited survey.

Perlez acknowledges that the survey can be "described as unscientific," but it's clearly too important to the point of the piece to leave out.

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 Post subject: Re: FAIR Stuff...
PostPosted: 22 Apr 2009, 20:13 
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The Boston Tea Party's Actual Successors
04/15/2009 by Jim Naureckas

With all the fuss about tea parties today, it's worth noting again that the original Boston tea party was not, as is often claimed, a protest against the British imposing a tax on tea. What the colonists were actually objecting to was the British lowering the tax on tea in order to favor the East India Company, the era's corporate giant, and undercut illegal tea smugglers. The real successors to the civil disobedience initiated by Samuel Adams in 1773 are not today's media-boosted events, but the protests against corporate globalization, big business monopolies and the war on drugs.

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 Post subject: Re: FAIR Stuff...
PostPosted: 22 Apr 2009, 20:15 
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If Google Is Handing Out Free Money, Newspapers Would Like Some
04/15/2009 by Jim Naureckas

Maureen Dowd today (New York Times, 4/15/09) writes about the newspaper industry's complaints about Google:

Robert Thomson, the top editor of the Wall Street Journal, denounced websites like Google as "tapeworms." His boss, Rupert Murdoch, said that big newspapers do not have to let Google "steal our copyrights." The AP has threatened to take legal action against Google and others that use the work of news organizations without obtaining permission and sharing a "fair" portion of revenue. But what's fair will be hard to prove.

First of all, Google is not stealing anyone's copyrights; quoting the headline and a small bit of text to indicate what various news organizations are reporting about is clearly covered by the fair use exemption to copyright laws.

But Google, rather than insisting on the inherent right that we all have to quote minor amounts of copyrighted material, allows news outlets to opt out of Google News by adding a simple line of code to their websites. Dowd's piece cites Google CEO Eric Schmidt pointing out that "newspapers could opt out of giving their content to Google free." Apparently they must think they get more from Google linking to them than from Google not linking from them.
So if Google has a right to quote the newspapers' material, and the newspapers see such quotation as beneficial to themselves, why should Google volunteer to write big checks to the newspapers? Well, because the papers would like to get free money. And who wouldn't?

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 Post subject: Re: FAIR Stuff...
PostPosted: 22 Apr 2009, 20:15 
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Tea Parties and False Balance
04/15/2009 by Peter Hart

With Fox News Channel relentlessly promoting--and MSNBC mostly mocking-- the right-wing "tea party" demonstrations around the country today, middle-of-the-road media critics are making a typically middle-of-the-road complaint: Yes, Fox shouldn't be sponsoring such events, but the rest of the corporate media shouldn't just ignore these allegedly newsworthy events.

As Howard Kurtz put it in the Washington Post today:

Some Fox News hosts have been pushing the tea party protests slated for hundreds of cities today, almost to the point that they seem to be the ringmasters of the event. "It's now my great duty to promote the tea parties. Here we go!" Fox Business anchor Stuart Varney said the other day.

But there's another side to this saga. Most of the mainstream media fell down on the job, ignoring the growing movement or mocking it as a bunch of wingnuts.

The New York Times has run zero stories. (The only mention was Times columnist Paul Krugman taking a brief swipe at the parties.) The Washington Post has done zip until today, with a story on two planned D.C. parties on Page B-4. The Chicago Tribune ran a 300-word story and an item on postal workers mistaking tea for a hazardous substance. The Los Angeles Times did a 500-word piece on a small protest in Hermosa Beach and has a media piece today. The Boston Globe, published in the city famed for the original tea party, nothing. CNN ran its first news story on the protests Monday (followed by a piece by me on the coverage). MSNBC's coverage had consisted of Rachel Maddow and Ana Marie Cox mocking the "teabagging" until Chris Matthews held a more serious debate on Monday.

I must say I'm struck by this new standard for coverage of citizen activism--papers should cover small protests, some of which haven't happened? Was this the standard for, say, anti-war protests in 2002 and early 2003?

The pressure to treat these events seriously seems to be having some effect. Moments ago CNN had a long introduction to its live report from the Boston tea party, explaining that the protests have spread across the country, stoked by plain old citizen passion. The correspondent on the scene in Boston then explained that there were perhaps a few dozen attendees on hand. I guess Howard Kurtz will be pleased.

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PostPosted: 22 Apr 2009, 20:15 
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We Want the Washington Post to Be More Than an Official Echo Chamber
04/14/2009 by Jim Naureckas

Washington Post reporter Paul Kane proffered what blogger Matthew Yglesias aptly called a "full-throated defense of journalism-as-stenography." Kane had been criticized by Media Matters that he had quoted Sen. Olympia Snowe (R.-Maine) as saying that Barack Obama's use of the filibuster-avoiding budget reconciliation tool would make it "infinitely more difficult to bridge the partisan divide" without noting that Snowe had backed budget reconciliation when it was used by George W. Bush. Asked in a WashingtonPost.com chat to defend himself against this criticism, Kane responded:

I'm sorry, what’s to defend?

Someone tell Media Matters to get over themselves and their overblown ego of righteousness. We reported what Olympia Snowe said. That’s what she said. That’s what Republicans are saying. I really don’t know what you want of us. We are not opinion writers whose job is to play some sorta gotcha game with lawmakers.

It's a little dismaying that we have to explain this to professional journalists, but what we want them to do is to examine official claims and put them in context. It's not clear why society would need the kind of institution that Kane thinks he works for; if we want to find out what Olympia Snowe said, we can sign up for her RSS feed.

See Extra!: "Meet the Stenographers: Press Shirks Duty to Scrutinize Official Claims" (11-12/04), by Steve Rendall.

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PostPosted: 22 Apr 2009, 20:16 
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Richard Cohen and the Managerial Failure in Iraq
04/14/2009 by Peter Hart

Richard Cohen's Washington Post column today (4/14/09) is about how the new George W. Bush Policy Institute should focus primarily on Bush's managerial errors:

Conventional wisdom holds that the bungling of the Iraq war was a consequence of ideology run amok. Maybe. But it was also an example of awful management. Whether you supported the war or opposed it, you have to concede that it should have ended years ago and, along with the invasion of Grenada, be a fit dissertation subject for a desperate PhD candidate and not, as it remains, a festering debacle.

I don't follow the logic. First of all, if one opposed the war, then one actually doesn't "have to concede" that it should have been a quick war. Some war opponents (you know, the people Cohen maligned-- "only a fool-- or possibly a Frenchman" could argue with Colin Powell's WMD presentation, he wrote) were against the invasion precisely because they thought it wouldn't work, and would lead to a bloody occupation. If people like Cohen had spent more time listening to the war's critics-- and less time insulting them-- he might be less inclined to conclude that George Bush was mostly an inept manager.

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PostPosted: 22 Apr 2009, 20:17 
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Centrism-Boosting at the Washington Post
04/13/2009 by Peter Hart

There's nothing the corporate media loves more than centrism and "bipartisanship," so the Washington Post offered up a double scoop on Sunday. Dan Balz's piece "Partisans Argue Over Partisanship" looked at whether Barack Obama has lived up to his campaign pledge to "move the country away from the red-blue divisions of the past." Balz notes that there has been virtually zero Republican support for the White House's stimulus and budget proposals, but turns his attention to budget reconciliation, something that has been worrying pundits of late:

There is talk that Obama may seek a parliamentary tactic that would allow a health-care package to pass with 51 votes, thereby avoiding a Republican filibuster. That could help achieve his goal of producing major reform of the health-care system but at the probable cost of further polarization. Who will pay the price for that?

It's hard to figure what Balz means could happen; the Republicans are about as unanimous in their opposition to the the Obama White House as they could possibly be. How could they get more partisan than that?

Balz seems to suggest that Obama needs to give some ground, or he could find himself in trouble:

As the next round of legislative battles begins later this month, the president must balance his desire to push through his agenda against a possible public backlash accusing him of embracing the politics of partisanship that he criticized on the campaign trail. Republicans risk being tagged as a party rooting for Obama to fail when the public clearly favors the president's priorities. Obama and Republicans face uncomfortable choices as they maneuver in the months ahead.

It's odd to treat Obama as having similar political problems as the Republicans, though; Obama is very popular at the moment, and the Republicans are not. But this sort of calculation is popular among pundits, who believe the surest path to success for Democrats is to move to the right.

One of the chief purveyors of that kind of thinking is Balz's Post colleague David Broder, whose Sunday column "Why the Center Still Holds" is basically the same column he's been writing for years. As Broder sees it, "political independents" are the "fastest-growing portion of the electorate," though they remain "badly underrepresented in Congress." Broder writes:

It is the reaction of those swing voters -- or the politicians' anticipation of their shifting opinion -- that drives the outcome of the big policy debates. You've had an example of this already with Obama's cap-and-trade proposal for protecting the environment from carbon discharges.

Once political independents, who like the idea of clean air, grasped that cap-and-trade would mean a big tax increase for them, Republican opposition was reinforced and Democratic support weakened to the point that the Obama plan may already be doomed this year.

So centrists were scared off by the "big tax increase" that would accompany the White House's environmental policy, thus making it a non-starter. Would there be such a tax increase? The Wall Street Journal editorial page and leading Republicans say so, though it's not clear that they're right (and some of those Republican claims have been totally misleading). Broder concludes that given the power of these independents, "it will continue to behoove Obama to woo Republican help." Which means shifting the White House's policy goals to the right-- exactly where folks like Broder want them to be.

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 Post subject: Re: FAIR Stuff...
PostPosted: 22 Apr 2009, 21:09 
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Activism Update
Frontline Responds on Sick Around America

4/9/09

In the wake of a FAIR Action Alert (4/6/09), Frontline has responded to critics of its documentary Sick Around America, defending the film's focus on mandatory private health insurance and its exclusion of the single-payer option. (Frontline's full response follows.)

In an email response to FAIR (4/7/09), Frontline characterized FAIR's charge that the documentary presented mandatory for-profit healthcare as the only alternative to the current U.S. healthcare system as "untrue" because the film's narrator acknowledged that "other developed countries bar health insurance companies from making profits on basic care and cap their administrative costs."

While it's true that FAIR's alert had not cited that statement, it did note that this point had been made in the film by a source. As FAIR's Action Alert explained, though, "the only alternative to the current U.S. healthcare system that was examined in any depth in Sick Around America was Massachusetts' system of mandating that people buy insurance from for-profit health insurance companies."

FAIR's alert also pointed out that Sick Around America misrepresented the findings of Frontline's earlier documentary, Sick Around the World (4/15/08). In response to a statement by a spokesperson for health insurance trade group America's Health Insurance Plans that her industry could offer universal coverage if the government mandated all citizens to have insurance, the film's narrator stated, "That's what other developed countries do."

Frontline's editors have denied that this was misleading, emphasizing in a letter responding to an article by Corporate Crime Reporter's Russell Mokhiber (4/2/09) that "America's Health Insurance Plans represents both for-profit and non-profit companies." (The Frontline editors' full response is at the bottom of this email.)

It's true that this industry lobby group represents some non-profit companies, but the narrator's claim is still misleading. Most of the health insurance companies represented by America's Health Insurance Plans are for-profit--while, as FAIR's alert pointed out, no developed country other than the United States relies primarily on a system of for-profit insurance. Frontline's report conveyed the opposite impression.

Frontline's editors have also been dismissing the fallout between Frontline and journalist T. R. Reid. Reid had worked on Sick Around the World and told Mokhiber that he left the production of Sick Around America because he felt that it contradicted the earlier film, which had emphasized that no other countries used for-profit health insurance and had examined the models of Taiwan's and Britain's publicly funded healthcare systems.

The editors stated, "Frontline believes the dispute centered on a conflict between Frontline's journalistic commitment to fair and nuanced reporting and its aversion to policy advocacy and Mr. Reid's commitment to advocacy for specific healthcare policy reforms, for positions he apparently advocates in his forthcoming book."

Misleading the public about global healthcare systems and failing to explore any of the publicly funded alternatives to America's private insurance system is a strange way indeed of demonstrating commitment to "fair and nuanced reporting."

***
From: Jessica Smith
Sent: Tuesday, April 07, 2009
To: Jim Naureckas, FAIR
Subject: FRONTLINE responds to "Something is Rotten at PBS"

Jim,
I'm writing in response to a FAIR Action Alert surrounding the FRONTLINE
documentary "Sick Around America." The initial Action Alert cited Russell
Mokhiber's article from Corporate Crime Reporter "Something is Rotten at
PBS." Mr. Mokhiber's story falsely characterized the film's reporting and
the nature of the disagreement between the series and T.R. Reid.

Attached is FRONTLINE's response to the Mokhiber story. I see that the FAIR
Action Alert has already been amended--and no longer cite's Mr. Mokhiber's
story--but it continues to promote the claim that "Sick Around America"
"...presented mandatory for-profit healthcare as the only alternative to the
current U.S. healthcare system" when this is, in fact, untrue. As you will
read on the attached, the film's narrator explicitly says that, "Other
developed countries bar health insurance companies from making profits on
basic care and cap their administrative costs."

We believe that your readers at FAIR would benefit from hearing from both of
the parties involved, not just Mr. Reid's and Mr. Mokhiber's account. We
also encourage you to watch the film in its entirety on FRONTLINE's Web site
at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline ... rica/view/ .

Sincerely,
Jessica Smith
Marketing Communications Manager
FRONTLINE

***
FRONTLINE's editors respond to "Something is Rotten at PBS"
April 7, 2009

FRONTLINE takes a strongly different view of the characterization of its editorial disagreement with T.R. Reid as presented by Mr. Reid and Russell Mokhiber in the recent blog entry, "Something is Rotten at PBS" (Counter Punch, April 2, 2009).

That blog entry describes the dispute about FRONTLINE's "Sick Around America" as a disagreement about the correct health care policy for the United States and says that FRONTLINE "had a point of view - they wanted to keep the for-profit health insurance companies in the game." Those claims are not true and falsely characterize the reporting in the film.

"Sick Around America," in fact, made no assertions about the path health care reform should take, but simply reported on the current state of health insurance in the country, focusing primarily on how inadequacies in the current private health insurance system, both for-profit and non-profit companies, were negatively impacting many Americans. Our reporting revealed that both non-profit and for-profit insurance companies were concerned with keeping costs down and maximizing their market share. As a result both write policies that can be changed yearly based on the experience of the particular business in the case of employer-based coverage and both use medical underwriting (in all but five states) to reduce the number of sick or potentially sick individuals they cover. Both employ the practice of rescission, as we reported.

In his blog entry, Mr. Mokhiber makes this erroneous critique of one portion of the film:

During that segment, about halfway through Sick Around America, the moderator introduces Karen Ignagni, president of America's Health Insurance Plans, the lead health insurance lobby in the United States.
Moderator: Other developed countries guarantee coverage for everyone. We asked Karen Ignagni why it can't work here.
Karen Ignagni: Well, it would work if we did what other countries do, which is have a mandate that everybody participate. And if everybody is in, it's quite reasonable to ask our industry to do guarantee issue, to get everybody in. So, the answer to your question is we can, and the public here will have to agree to do what the public in other countries have done, which is a consensus that everybody should be in.
Moderator: That's what other developed countries do. They make insurers cover everyone, and they make all citizens buy insurance. And the poor are subsidized.
But the hard reality, as presented by Reid in Sick Around the World, is quite different than Ignagni and the moderator claim.
Other countries do not require citizens buy health insurance from for-profit health insurance companies - the kind that Karen Ignagni represents.


But Mr. Mokhiber made a factual error that seriously undercuts this critique. His argument rests on the assumption that Ms. Ignagni represents only for profit health insurance companies. In fact, her organization, America's Health Insurance Plans, represents both for-profit and non-profit companies. FRONTLINE rejects Mr. Mokhiber's assertion that we were misleading viewers in this section of the film.

In fact, in a later section of the film the narrator explicitly says that other developed countries require health insurance companies operate on a non-profit basis:

Narrator: Other developed countries bar health insurance companies from making profits on basic care and cap their administrative costs.

FRONTLINE sees the dispute with Mr. Reid as one not about for-profit vs. non-profit health insurance or health care policy, but instead about journalism. The dispute with Mr. Reid centered on a decision to include a section on the recent attempts by Massachusetts to reform its health care system. Mr. Reid objected to the inclusion of Massachusetts, the only state to require its citizens to purchase health insurance, and to require insurance companies to sell them policies with an adequate standard of coverage.

Reid repeatedly told FRONTLINE that including Massachusetts in the program at all, was to advocate for that kind of reform as opposed to Reid's preference of a "Medicare for all," one payer system for the entire country. FRONTLINE's position was that simply reporting on the state's plan was not advocacy and, in fact, our reporting would focus not only on the benefits, but also on the problems with the Massachusetts plan. We think any objective viewing of that sequence in "Sick around America" will confirm FRONTLINE's view that it was a piece of reporting not advocacy.

Editorial disagreements are common in the making of documentary films, but for more than twenty five years, FRONTLINE has been able to find a way to resolve those differences with a wide variety of producing and reporting teams. We were surprised to be unable to find consensus with Mr. Reid and found him resistant to working through the problems with us. He refused to travel to Boston conduct a critical interview with the Massachusetts Secretary of Health or to have requested face-to-face meetings on his editorial differences with the FRONTLINE team. Instead, Mr. Reid demanded that he be completely removed from the film and FRONTLINE reluctantly honored his request.

We would also note that on March 17, just three weeks after he asked to be removed from the film, a Denver magazine reported that T.R. Reid said he was interested it being appointed to a vacant seat in the Colorado House of Representatives, citing that his concerns about health care reform in the U.S. were "enough to push him from the reporting side over to the policy-making side. And he thinks Colorado would be a perfect testing ground." FRONTLINE's editorial guidelines explicitly state that "when working on any politically controversial programs the producer should engage in no personal political activities…and should not lobby for or against any specific piece of legislation."

In the end, FRONTLINE believes the dispute centered on a conflict between FRONTLINE's journalistic commitment to fair and nuanced reporting and its aversion to policy advocacy and Mr. Reid's commitment to advocacy for specific health care policy reforms, for positions he apparently advocates in his forthcoming book.

One last point: Mr. Mokhiber writes that Mr. Reid "did the reporting for the film." In fact, as is true in most FRONTLINE films, virtually all of the detailed reporting for "Sick Around America" was conducted by the film's producer, Jon Palfreman, and his co-producer, Kate McMahon. Mr. Reid consulted with Mr. Palfreman and conducted some of the interviews. However, Mr. Palfreman conducted many of the other interviews in the film. As is always the case, this was a collaborative journalistic effort. We regret that the collaboration had such an unfortunate conclusion.

Feel free to respond to FAIR ( fair@fair.org ). We can't reply to everything, but we will look at each message. We especially appreciate documented examples of media bias or censorship. And please send copies of your correspondence with media outlets, including any responses, to fair@fair.org.

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 Post subject: Re: FAIR Stuff...
PostPosted: 28 Apr 2009, 10:53 
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Media Discover 'Obscure' Latin American Book
04/20/2009 by Isabel Macdonald

When Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez gave U.S. President Barack Obama a copy of Eduardo Galeano's book The Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent at last weekend's Summit of the Americas, the corporate media appeared to be caught off guard.

In its initial report, CNN (Newsroom, 4/18/09) appeared to be completely unaware of Galeano's classic 1971 treatise on the history of European and U.S. imperialism in Latin America, failing to correct Obama's initial mistaken belief that the book was penned by Chavez himself.

Both CNN (CNN Newsroom, 4/18/09) and AP (4/19/09) contrasted the immediate surge in the book's sales on Amazon with its previous "obscurity":

It's gone from obscurity to bestseller overnight. In just hours, it zoomed to No. 14 on Amazon.com's bestseller list, and on Friday, it was ranked number 60,280, making its way to the top of the list very fast.--CNN, 4/18/09

The publicity about the gift of the Galeano book helped propel it from relative obscurity to No. 13 on the Amazon.com list of bestsellers by Saturday night.--AP, 4/19/09

The book may not have ranked highly a month ago on Amazon, but it can hardly be described as "obscure." A classic Latin American history text that was banned by several military dictatorships, with its author "forced into exile as the book grew in popularity," according to the New Yorker, the book boasts more than 50 Spanish editions, and has been translated into more than a dozen languages. As demonstrated by Chavez's choice, it still has currency with Latin American political leaders.

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