Katie Couric of "Today," Diane Sawyer of "Good Morning America," and Bryant Gumbel of "The Early Show" are three of the nation's biggest media stars. But are they journalists or glorified hawkers? According to a report by the Project for Excellence in Journalism, which studied the three network morning shows for two weeks in June and two weeks in October, these programs spend an awful lot of time selling things to the public. ... Even given some slight moderation after the Sept. 11 attacks, the report suggested that the shows were becoming a "kind of sophisticated infomercial."
On November 7, former President Bill Clinton gave a speech at Georgetown University on foreign policy and globalization in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11. Within 24 hours, Clinton's words had been twisted into the nonsensical allegation that the former president had blamed slavery and America's treatment of Native Americans for the attacks.
Apparently Muslims have learned a thing or two from America after all, according to Fouad Ajami, who complains that the Al Jazeera television network is guilty of "the Hollywoodization of news ... with an abandon that would make the Fox News Channel blush." Ajami notes that "Al Jazeera's reporters and editors have no qualms about challenging the wisdom of today's Arab rulers. Indeed, Al Jazeera has been rebuked by the governments of Libya and Tunisia for giving opposition leaders from those countries significant air time.
"So how come media objectivity is suddenly a bad thing?" asks columnist Michael Kinsley. "Conservative press critics are in another tizzy about objectivity and balance in American journalism. Only this time, their complaint isn't the lack of these fine qualities but that there's way too much of the stuff. ... The traditional conservative media critique is that journalists bend the news in a liberal direction because they're liberals.
"Here's one sure thing you can learn from watching TV: Almost all of the people who seem to know anything are men," comments Washington Post writer Paul Farhi. "Men know about Afghanistan. They know about anthrax. They know foreign policy and military strategy. They know about terrorism and counter-terrorism.
A New York Times story headlined "Network Coverage a Target Of Fire From Conservatives" reports that the far-right Media Research Center (MRC) is successfully attacking news media coverage of the war, especially ABC TV, for lack of patriotism. MRC is a powerful tax-exempt PR and lobby operation begun in 1987 by L.
Government needs the media on its side to keep public support in times of war. Journalist Phillip Knightley writes for the Public I, "In democracies like Britain and Australia, with a powerful press and a tradition of dissent, or like the United States, where freedom of expression is constitutionally guaranteed, the media cannot be coerced into supporting the war. They have to be seduced or intimidated into self-censorship.
Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting writes: "During the weeks following September's terrorist attacks, two leading dailies used their op-ed pages as an echo chamber for the government's official policy of military response, mostly ignoring dissenters and policy critics.
Alessandra Stanley of the New York Times examines some of the different ways in which TV networks are marketing the war in the US and abroad. CNN in the US has been careful not to transmit too many images of the Afghan civilian victims of US bombings, but CNN International is showing the rest of the world different images. In other words CNN is targeting audiences by supplying the different images their different viewers most want to see, typical in the world of TV marketing and ratings wars.
Jerold M. Starr, executive director of Citizens for Independent Public Broadcasting, takes an in-depth look at the Public Broadcasting Service in a series of article for TomPaine.com. In part three, Starr writes, "It is times like these that Americans need a truly independent public broadcasting service.