I believe the media is far from being liberal. I find it amusing that conservatives actually believe that the media is liberal, I don't know what TV they are watching or what newspaper they read but I think that nothing could be further from the truth. Fox news is the obvious example of the "conservative" media but even the networks are no better. I know that there are many people who are going to disagree with me, ok, but show me some proof that the media is liberal.
(It seems to be different in the UK, just based on the articles that I have read here.)
FAIR Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting 112 W. 27th Street New York, NY 10001
Do Media Know That War Kills?
March 14, 2003
Despite daily reports about the "showdown" with Iraq, Americans hear very little from mainstream media about the most basic fact of war: People will be killed and civilian infrastructure will be destroyed, with devastating consequences for public health long after the fighting stops.
Since the beginning of the year, according to a search of the Nexis database (1/1/03-3/12/03), none of the three major television networks' nightly national newscasts-- ABC World News Tonight, CBS Evening News or NBC Nightly News-- have examined in detail what long-term impact war will have on humanitarian conditions in Iraq. They've also downplayed the immediate civilian deaths that will be caused by a U.S. attack.
The closest thing to a report on the likely humanitarian impact to appear this year on the nightly newscasts was a January 23 CBS Evening News story about the mood in Iraq. Noting that "many [Iraqis] are genuinely scared" of war, the report stated that "almost half" of the country "would starve without government food handouts." But CBS's report shifted responsibility for any humanitarian disaster away from the U.S., suggesting that what Iraqis fear "perhaps even more than an American military attack" is that domestic "hatred and revenge could tear [Iraq] apart" in the aftermath.
The networks' failure to integrate humanitarian concerns into their war coverage is especially striking in light of the numerous humanitarian and relief agencies that have issued urgent warnings about the impending crisis. Human Rights Watch, for instance, issued a 25-page briefing paper (2/13/03) warning of a "humanitarian disaster" impacting hundreds of thousands of people if the U.S. attacks Iraq. ABC, CBS and NBC did not cover HRW's findings.
Nor did they cover the announcement made (also 2/13/03) by the United Nations' undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs, Kenzo Oshima, that as many as 10 million people might need food assistance during and after an Iraq war, 50 percent of Iraq's population might be without potable water, and that between 600,000 and 1.45 million people might become refugees and asylum seekers.
Also unreported on ABC, CBS and NBC were the internal U.N. estimates revealed in leaked documents publicized by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq and the Center for Economic and Social Rights. The U.N. predicted that 30 percent of Iraq's children under five "would be at risk of death from malnutrition" in the event of war (CASI press release, 2/17/03), and that 500,000 people could "require medical treatment… as a result of direct or indirect injuries," with potentially 100,000 Iraqi civilians wounded "and another 400,000 hit by disease after the bombing of water and sewage facilities and the disruption of food supplies" (London Guardian, 1/29/03).
It's worth noting that the silence on ABC was not total; it did address some humanitarian issues on Nightline (2/24/03). In a segment about the "aftermath" of war, Nightline reported that "millions of Iraqis will need food, fresh water and medical care" and that "tens of thousands" of refugees may be created. But the central question posed was: "Who will take care of them? The American military or private humanitarian groups?" Seen through Nightline's lens, the main humanitarian problem would be the quandary confronting the U.S. as it both attacks Iraq and attempts to relieve the devastation it wreaks there; as correspondent Chris Bury put it in his introduction, "how exactly does an invading force juggle its military and humanitarian hats?"
Reporter John Donvan presented valuable information about the potentially "catastrophic" impact of war, but bracketed this with a tortured attempt to suggest that the U.S. would not be the real cause of civilian suffering: "And even if Saddam is the source of so many of the Iraqi people's problems, very likely it's the U.S. the world would choose to blame." Therefore, said Donvan, the U.S. was developing a relief plan, because "it is in American interests" and because "it's the right thing to do."
What could charitably be called Nightline's credulity was topped off by Donvan's closer. Humanitarian assistance is necessary to ensure that the war will have a "positive impact," he said, because "it is assumed that some Iraqi civilians, perhaps many, will be killed…. Not deliberately, but as a result of what is called collateral damage."
Unfortunately, Nightline is not alone among major media outlets in asserting that civilian deaths can be considered accidental even if the Pentagon predicts them ahead of time and factors them into its battle plans; it's a conceit that's widespread in the mainstream press.
NBC Nightly News, for instance, aired a story (2/19/03) about the Pentagon's "growing worries" about civilian casualties, in which it reported that military officials predict that thousands of Iraqi civilians may "be killed entirely by accident in an intensive bombing campaign." Correspondent Jim Miklaszewski offered details of the "devastating" air assault planned, and explained that "despite the most advanced technology" and "all the painstaking efforts the U.S. military," a large percentage of bombs "will stray off target, increasing the likelihood that civilians will die." Of course, predicted deaths from an aerial bombardment of a major city cannot be said to come about "entirely by accident."
Civilian casualties also came up in an earlier NBC Nightly News report (2/10/03) about the financial costs of war. Reporter Campbell Brown raised the question of "human costs, casualty numbers impossible to pinpoint," and addressed it with a soundbite from an academic analyst stating that "if there are going to be heavy civilian casualties, they'll mainly be caused by the Iraqis." Brown let this assertion stand without comment, and failed to contextualize it (with information about casualties from the Gulf War, for example, or about the people who can be expected to die as a result of damage to the public health infrastructure over the long term).
Commendably, CBS Evening News aired one segment on the prospect of "door-to-door urban warfare" in Iraq (1/13/03) that took a more grounded approach. CBS's Bryon Pitts reported that fighting in cities like Baghdad, "filled with women, children and unarmed men," would involve heavy casualties, both military and civilian. Offering a rare glimpse of an ordinary soldier's criticism of the planned urban fighting, Pitts interviewed a private who said, "If it was up to me, I don't want no part of it. You know, it's too dangerous, too deadly."
There have been other scattered mentions of civilian deaths on the three network nightly newscasts. All made brief mention (3/3/03) of Iraq's charges that U.S. and British warplanes killed six civilians near Basra in early March. CBS and NBC (2/16/03) reported on the anniversary of the U.S. destruction of the Amiriyah bomb shelter during the Gulf War, an attack which killed over 400 civilians. (CBS thoughtfully noted that "apart from the tragedy" involved, "the images of the civilian dead and wounded were a major public relations setback.") All three have also done stories about peace activists volunteering as "human shields;" these stories necessarily alluded to the activists' concerns about civilian casualties, but did not elaborate.
Overall, however, death and disaster have been discussed as troubling details rather than fundamental facts of war-- unless media can blame Saddam Hussein. One segment on ABC News' Good Morning America (2/20/03), for instance, focused on the evils that Hussein may wreak. ABC News reporter Claire Shipman opened with a strident emphasis on Hussein as "somebody who's happy to kill his own people." Explaining "what the Bush Administration most fears," Shipman asserted that Hussein might "starve thousands of his own people, destroy their infrastructures, even cities in order to slow down U.S. troops, and then blame the United States." This remark was followed by a soundbite from a spokesperson from the Center for Strategic & International Studies asserting that Hussein "is very likely to try and commit some kind of humanitarian disaster" in the event of war.
It's important for journalists to investigate the Iraqi regime's atrocities, but media must just as tirelessly investigate the U.S.'s role in Iraq's sufferings-- and not merely as actions committed "by accident." Journalists might remember, for example, that the U.S. deliberately targeted Iraq's water system during the Gulf War, even while predicting that this would lead to large-scale epidemics (The Progressive, 9/01). When media fail to acknowledge the hundreds of thousands of deaths that U.S. policy has contributed to in Iraq, they obscure the plain fact that war is always, in its own right, a humanitarian disaster.
Please urge ABC, CBS and NBC to do in-depth reporting about the impact that war will have on civilians in Iraq, both in terms of immediate deaths and long-term suffering and death from infrastructure damage.
ABC World News Tonight
CBS Evening News
NBC Nightly News
As always, please remember that your comments are taken more seriously if you maintain a polite tone. Please cc [email protected] with your correspondence.
FAIR Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting 112 W. 27th Street New York, NY 10001
In Iraq Crisis, Networks Are Megaphones for Official Views
March 18, 2003
Network newscasts, dominated by current and former U.S. officials, largely exclude Americans who are skeptical of or opposed to an invasion of Iraq, a new study by FAIR has found.
Looking at two weeks of coverage (1/30/03-2/12/03), FAIR examined the 393 on-camera sources who appeared in nightly news stories about Iraq on ABC World News Tonight, CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly News and PBS's NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. The study began one week before and ended one week after Secretary of State Colin Powell's February 5 presentation at the U.N., a time that saw particularly intense debate about the idea of a war against Iraq on the national and international level.
More than two-thirds (267 out of 393) of the guests featured were from the United States. Of the U.S. guests, a striking 75 percent (199) were either current or former government or military officials. Only one of the official U.S. sources-- Sen. Edward Kennedy (D.-Mass.)-- expressed skepticism or opposition to the war. Even this was couched in vague terms: "Once we get in there how are we going to get out, what’s the loss for American troops are going to be, how long we're going to be stationed there, what’s the cost is going to be," said Kennedy on NBC Nightly News (2/5/03).
Similarly, when both U.S. and non-U.S. guests were included, 76 percent (297 of 393) were either current or retired officials. Such a predominance of official sources virtually assures that independent and grassroots perspectives will be underrepresented. Of all official sources, 75 percent (222 of 297) were associated with either the U.S. or with governments that support the Bush administration's position on Iraq; only four out of those 222, or 2 percent, of these sources were skeptics or opponents of war.
Twenty of the 297 official sources (7 percent) represented the government of Iraq, while a further 19 (6 percent) represented other governments-- mostly friendly to the U.S.-- who have expressed doubts or opposition to the U.S.'s war effort. (Another 34 sources, representing 11 percent of officials, were current or former U.N. employees. Although members of the U.N. inspection teams made statements that were both critical of Iraq's cooperation and supportive of further inspections, because of their official position of neutrality on the question of war they were not counted as skeptics.) Of all official sources, 14 percent (43 of 297) represented a position skeptical or opposed to the U.S. war policy. (Sources were coded as skeptics/critics if either their statements or their affiliations put them in that category; for example, all French government officials were counted as skeptics, regardless of the content of their quote.)
The remaining 96 sources-- those without a current or former government connection-- had slightly more balanced views; 26 percent of these non-official sources took a skeptical or critical position on the war. Yet, at a time when 61 percent of respondents in a CBS poll (2/5-6/03) were saying that they felt the U.S. should "wait and give the United Nations and weapons inspectors more time," only sixteen of the 68 U.S. guests (24 percent) who were not officials represented such views.
Half of the non-official U.S. skeptics were "persons in the street"; five of them were not even identified by name. Only one U.S. source, Catherine Thomason of Physicians for Social Responsibility, represented an anti-war organization. Of all 393 sources, only three (less than 1 percent) were identified with organized protests or anti-war groups.
Overall, 68 sources, or 17 percent of the total on-camera sources, represented skeptical or critical positions on the U.S.'s war policy-- ranging from Baghdad officials to people who had concerns about the timing of the Bush administration's war plans. The percentage of skeptical sources ranged from 21 percent at PBS (22 of 106) to 14 percent at NBC (18 of 125). ABC (16 of 92) and CBS (12 of 70) each had 17 percent skeptics.
Please urge ABC, CBS, NBC and PBS to broaden the sources they rely on in coverage of the Iraq crisis.
ABC World News Tonight
CBS Evening News
NBC Nightly News
PBS NewsHour with Jim Lehrer
Bush Cousin Made Florida Vote Call For Fox News
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Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 14, 2000; Page C1
In yet another bizarre twist to an already surreal campaign, the head of Fox News's Election Night decision desk who recommended calling Florida, and the election, for George W. Bush turns out to be Bush's first cousin.
Even as he was leading the Fox decision desk that night, John Ellis was also on the phone with his cousins "Jebbie," the governor of Florida, and the presidential candidate himself giving them updated assessments of the vote count.
Ellis's projection was crucial because Fox News Channel put Florida in the W. column at 2:16 a.m. followed by NBC, CBS, CNN and ABC within four minutes. That decision, which turned out to be wrong and was retracted by the embarrassed networks less than two hours later, created the impression that Bush had "won" the White House.
Which is why media circles were buzzing yesterday with the question of why Fox had installed a Bush relative in such a sensitive post.
"Appearance of impropriety?" asks Fox Vice President John Moody, who approved Ellis's recommendation to call Florida for Bush. "I don't think there's anything improper about it as long as he doesn't behave improperly, and I have no evidence he did. . . . John has always conducted himself in an extremely professional manner."
But Moody admits that Ellis's Election Night conversations with the cousins "would cause concern."
Ellis whose mother, Nancy Ellis, is the sister of former president George Bush boasted to the New Yorker that "everyone followed us." He also said the morning after the election that "Jebbie'll be calling me like eight thousand times a day." Ellis did not respond to an interview request yesterday.
Ellis's support for his cousin was hardly a secret. He wrote in The Washington Post's Outlook section nine days ago that the Texas governor is "smart, engaging, enormously energetic, possessed of dynamic leadership skills, funny, wry [and] optimistic," as opposed to "the morally berserk universe of the Clintons."
Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, said: "The notion that you'd have the cousin of one presidential candidate . . . in a position to call a state is unthinkable. Fox's call precipitated all the other networks' calls. That call wrong, unnecessary, misguided, foolish has helped create a sense that this election went to Bush, was pulled back and he is waiting to be restored."
Critics say the Ellis connection will reinforce Fox's reputation as a conservative network whose anchors include Tony Snow, a former Bush White House staffer, and such commentators as Newt Gingrich. Fox maintains it merely provides a balanced alternative to the liberal networks. But, says Rosenstiel, "the marketing slogan 'We report, you decide' is obliterated by the fact that one candidate's first cousin is actually deciding, and then they report."
Marvin Kalb, Washington executive director of Harvard's Shorenstein press center, calls Ellis "a fine writer and columnist, and he's always sensitive about his relationship with his first cousin. His mother is very, very close with former president Bush. Therefore I am puzzled as to why he'd put himself in a position where he would seem to be the one making the call for his cousin. It clearly conveys the wrong impression."
As a Boston Globe columnist last year, Ellis wrote after some reader complaints: "I am loyal to my cousin. . . . I put that loyalty ahead of my loyalty to anyone else outside my immediate family. That being the case, it is not possible for me to continue writing columns about the 2000 presidential campaign."
Ellis worked for NBC News as a producer and researcher in the political unit from 1978 through March 1989, soon after President Bush took office. Fox says it hired Ellis this year for work during the primaries and on Election Night. He also worked for Fox in 1998 when, Moody says, he called George Bush's reelection in Texas (though that was a landslide).
Ellis, who lives in Irvington, N.Y., was among those briefing Fox News President Roger Ailes last Tuesday night, but he was not a total Bush loyalist. At 7:52 p.m., Fox called Florida for Al Gore based on Ellis's recommendation, though Fox was not the first to make that projection. After Fox's report, according to the New Yorker, Jeb Bush called and asked Ellis: "Are you sure?"
The Gore call, based heavily on exit polls from Voter News Service, also turned out to be wrong and was retracted by the networks two hours later.
At 2 a.m., Ellis called his cousins to say it was "statistically impossible" for Gore to win Florida. "Their mood was up, big-time," Ellis told the New Yorker's Jane Mayer. "It was just the three of us guys handing the phone back and forth me with the numbers, one of them a governor, the other the president-elect. Now that was cool."
But it was decidedly uncool to some Fox staffers, angry at what they see as Ellis exaggerating his role. Some are calling him "John 'Alexander Haig' Ellis," declaring himself to be in charge.
Whatever the Yale graduate's job description, it remains unclear why a television network allowed him to call the election for his cousin.
"You factor that in to everything else, but John is a professional," Moody says. "It would be as strange not to hire him because of who he's related to as to hire him especially because of who he's related to."© 2000 The Washington Post Company