Thanks to Saudi Arabia's generous willingness to sell oil to the United States, politicians generally turn a blind eye to its repressive government and frequent anti-Semitism, which surfaced again recently when Al-Riyadh, the Saudi government's daily newspaper, published an article claiming that Jews celebrate the holiday of Purim by eating special pastries filled with "the blood of Christian and Muslim children under the age of 10" extracted using slow torture with sharp needles --
"Wars often have had a profound impact on journalism," writes former journalism professor Betty Medsger. For example, the trend toward "news as entertainment" began with the war in the Persian Gulf in early 1991 when "the military, prepared by its 1980's marketing classes in how to sell a war, set new restrictions and higher levels of censorship that guaranteed coverage would be controlled by the military." That trend continues today, as "marketing practices honed by the Pentagon in the brief Gulf War now seem to be the standard M.O.
The media's use of spokespeople as primary news sources has increased 81% between 1995 and 2000 according to a study by Bob Williams, an ethics fellow at the Poynter Institute. "As a reporter, you look around the newsroom, and the tendency has become to talk to spokespeople rather than to even try to get to the principals," Williams told PR Week. Council of PR Firms president Kathy Cripps suggests reporters and editors sit down with their PR contacts for interviews as a way to improve the relationship between the media and PR practitioners.
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press has issued a special "RCFP White Paper" chronicling the effects the "war on terrorism" has had on media coverage. Available as a free PDF download, the 34-page report outlines actions taken over the last six months by state and federal government agencies that limit the ability of journalists to do their jobs.
Today's Republican Party demonizes any criticism of President Bush on the grounds that it will "undermine the war effort," and journalists like Tom Gutting are learning the hard way that they can be fired if they question the president's leadership. Yet one of the GOP's most influential forebears, presidential nominee Thomas Dewey, openly criticized Franklin Roosevelt at the peak of the war against fascism.
Does the White House blacklist critical journalists? Nicholas Confessore examines the way journalists who flatter the Bush administration get treated compared to others.
Following the murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, Robert Fisk ponders "the slow, painful, dangerous erosion of respect" for journalists who cover international conflicts. "We used to risk our lives in wars -- we still do -- but journalists were rarely deliberate targets," he writes. One reason for the change, he says, is that journalists themselves have lost their status as impartial witnesses to war. "What on earth was CNN's Walter Rodgers doing in US Marine costume at the American camp outside Kandahar?
Robert Cribb, the president of the Canadian Association of Journalists, is calling for "a parliamentary inquiry into the effects of media concentration in this country," in response to efforts by the CanWest media empire to muzzle journalists who disagree with management views. "At issue is CanWest's decision to run 'national editorials' in its major dailies, limiting the diversity of viewpoints available to readers," Cribb writes.
When it comes to global warming, science writers seem to do a better job of getting the facts straight than editorial writers. University of Illinois scientists recently published research in Nature which shows a local pattern of cooling in parts of the Antarctic. The scientists' published research made it clear that this local cooling does not contradict the evidence of global warming.
The news media reacted initially to the terrorist attacks of September 11 with great care about not getting ahead of the facts, but over time the press is inching back toward pre-September 11th norms of behavior, according to a new study of press coverage of the war on terrorism. In the beginning, solid sourcing and factualness dominated the coverage of bombings and their aftermath, according to the study, conducted by the Project for Excellence in Journalism with Princeton Survey Research Associates.