Following the tragedy at Virginia Tech, the media found someone other than Seing-Hui Cho to blame -- legal businesses like Roanoke Firearms, Glock and eBay.
Roanoke Firearms' owner John Markell was treated as an accomplice to the horrific crime by ABC's Brian Ross:
“The Roanoke Firearms store where Seing-Hui Cho bought his murder weapon has a history of selling guns involved in murders. It is the fifth time a gun sold in this store has been used in a homicide, according to gun shop owner, John Markell,” said Ross on the April 18 “Good Morning America.”
While Tuesday's NBC Nightly News commendably devoted a story to mourning in the Fort Bragg community after the loss of nine 82nd Airborne soldiers in Iraq, a loss to the division anchor Brian Williams described as “the largest since June of 1969,” reporter Bob Faw pivoted from sadness over the deaths to how “even here, where support for the war has been unswerving, the latest round of casualties raised new doubts about the American military presence in Iraq.” Faw included the views of those in the Fayetteville, North Carolina community who praised the soldiers and still support the war, but stressed, based on a few anecdotal quotes from people on the street, how “on this day, publicly, the voices of dissent grew louder and angrier -- even here.” Viewers then heard a woman declare: “It's senseless. All they're doing is going over there and dying for nothing, absolutely nothing.”
When is something clearly newsworthy clearly not newsworthy?
Interesting question, wouldn’t you agree?
Like millions of Americans, I watched the Virginia Tech killer’s videotape yesterday with shock and horror. (Please be advised: I refuse to use his real name, or publish pictures of him, for reasons that should be obvious, and wish all members of the media would adopt the same anonymity strategy when referring to this animal.)
I was at my athletic club when clips of it were making the rounds on the various networks after originally being broadcast on the NBC “Nightly News.” Groups of half-dressed men, some with only towels around their waists, stood staring at the television sets throughout the locker room gazing mesmerized at the screens like moribund ghosts.
I imagine like many Americans, when the shock wore off, it was quickly replaced by anger.
The ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts on Tuesday night all ran full stories on the Supreme Court's 5-4 ruling upholding the Partial Birth Abortion Act, but while each included arguments from justices in the majority, featured a soundbite from pro-life lawyer Jay Sekulow and offered at least a brief description of the procedure, they all framed the stories in ways favorable to those on the losing side. All led into competing soundbites by putting abortion supporters on the side of “rights” -- describing “abortion rights supporters” versus “abortion opponents” -- characterized the ruling as imposing a further “restriction” on abortion instead of as expanding protection for the unborn, and creatively distanced themselves from the “partial-birth” abortion term.
ABC's Charles Gibson saw “a long-sought victory for abortion opponents” before Jan Crawford Greenburg fretted that “abortion rights activists were devastated.” CBS's Wyatt Andrews highlighted how “abortion rights supporters bitterly protested” since “the ban is now the first abortion restriction ever approved with no exception for the health of the mother.” NBC's Chip Reid related that “abortion rights activists worry this may be only the start of a campaign to limit abortion rights.”
The ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts on Friday all hyped the “dire” warning on global warming from the UN's “prestigious” Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), with the CBS Evening News leading with two full stories. But ABC's Charles Gibson acknowledged “a bit of irony on the day global warming report was released,” given “parts of the Northeast are digging out from April snow” as “temperatures could be 20 to 40 degrees below normal,” making it “colder on Easter day than on Christmas day." NBC anchor Brian Williams followed up his newscast's global warming story with how “the problem isn't warming but what could be a record cold Easter weekend in parts of this country.” CBS anchor Russ Mitchell didn't point out any contradiction with the hyperbolic stories on global warming as he described the current weather simply as “strange” since “a Spring freeze is on” in the Northeast.
Mitchell teased his top story of the day: “Tonight, dire new predictions about disappearing species, melting glaciers, shrinking continents and more. Scientists say all the results of global warming.” Over on ABC, Gibson echoed: “Dire warning. The world's top scientists issue a stark forecast of drought, crop failure and floods because of climate change.” NBC's Williams hailed the “new report on global warming from a prestigious panel of scientists” who issued “blunt” findings: “Climate change is happening, it will lead to tremendous changes around the world that could have a very negative impact on the well-being of people, animals and entire ecosystems.”
The last story of Holy Thursday’s Nightly News broadcast featured anchor Brian Williams acknowledging “we are a very religious nation.” The lead-in was for a story on workplace chaplains, a growing trend being offered by companies seeking to provide amenities that are meaningful to their employees.
The story featured the nondenominational Corporate Chaplains of America which serves 450 firms in 26 states. Corporate chaplains offer on-site opportunities for employees to talk with a person of faith about any issues that are bothering them.
The flip-flops on issues by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney have been a topic of discussion for months amongst GOP and conservative opinion leaders and pundits, but on Thursday's NBC Nightly News reporter Andrea Mitchell contended a critique in the Doonesbury comic strip is really what's the “worse” development for Romney this week. As if Republican primary voters care about the left-wing cartoonist's take.
Providing a rundown of the significant events this week in the presidential campaigns, Mitchell started with “a new Republican front-runner in the money race now facing new scrutiny. So when Mitt Romney cozied-up to the gun lobby,” -- Michell played a clip of him asserting that “I've been hunting pretty much all my life” -- “his campaign had to admit he's only been on hunting trips twice.” She then declared: “Even worse, Romney was lampooned in Doonesbury all week as a flip-flopper.” As she spoke, viewers saw a blow-up of a frame of Garry Trudeau's Doonesbury with a radio talk show fretting: “Say it ain't so, Governor Romney! Changed positions on abortion, gun control, and gay rights? What's next, immigration?”
Mitchell's decision to highlight Doonesbury says more about her, and how the Washington press corps apparently check the strip every day, than conservatives who largely ignore it.
Lt. Col. Rick Francona (USAF Retired) is an MSNBC military analyst who also writes for the network's "Hardblogger" blog. But while Francona has plenty of thoughts on how to deal with Iran's hostage-taking and on the notion of setting a withdrawal deadline for U.S. troops in Iraq, a review of Nexis showed zero hits for Francona on MSNBC recently, and only one appearance on NBC's "Nightly News" the day after the British servicement were taken hostage. And even then, he was featured with a sound bite about the Pat Tillman investigation.
WITHDRAWAL DATE FOR IRAQ AIDS THE ENEMY (March 23)
GULF ARABS DRAW A RED LINE AGAINST IRAN (March 19)
The 15 British sailors and Royal Marines were captured on March 23. Francona has written more on Iran specifically and the Middle East in general, it's just not all been posted to MSNBC's Web site. Francona runs his own Web log, Middle East Perspectives, and has a few additional posts in the same time period, including one dated March 25 explaining the long-disputed Shatt al-Arab waterway in which Iran captured its British hostages.
So given Francona's expertise and his being on the MSNBC payroll, he's been pretty busy appearing on air, right?
Well, a Nexis search for "Rick Francona" among MSNBC documents from March 19-April 3 turned up no hits.
On Saturday's World News, ABC's David Kerley characterized President Bush's statement regarding the standoff between Britain and Iran as "lashing out," presumably because the President referred to the captured British soldiers as "hostages," as the ABC anchor suggested that Bush risked "inflaming" the situation. After relaying that the "outspoken" Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, today called Britain "arrogant" while still demanding an apology, Kerley also suggested that Bush's statement was not "cool-headed" as he introduced a story by correspondent Mike Lee playing up the possibility of a diplomatic solution. Kerley: "In spite of that rhetoric [from Ahmadinejad] and those remarks from President Bush today, there were some new signs that cooler heads may be prevailing." (Transcripts follow)
NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams, reporting on Saudi King Abdullah’s condemnation of America’s “illegitimate foreign occupation of Iraq,” decided to gratuitously bring up the fact that President Bush had held Abdullah’s hand when the then-Crown Prince was visiting Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas nearly two years ago, a gesture that resulted in much snickering from media types at the time.
Mentioning Abdullah’s critique, Williams suggested his hand-holding with the President in April 2005 was somehow relevant to his views on Iraq. “You may recall this visit by Abdullah to the Bush ranch in Texas and the closeness the two men displayed then,” the NBC anchor announced over two-year old file footage of the two men at Bush’s ranch.
"We should have went to the mob for a loan," said Bronx homeowner Ana Rosado on CNN's March 27 "American Morning."
Her statement, extreme as it was, rivaled network reporting in March about subprime loans and foreclosures.
Reporters called the situation a “meltdown,” an “epidemic” and a “crisis” that could potentially lead to recession, and blamed lenders while almost entirely ignoring personal responsibility for borrowers. Instead, media accounts portrayed borrowers as victims, many of whom seemed shocked when their adjustable-rate mortgages adjusted upward.
While lenders were painted as the bad guys, they were rarely allowed to give any perspective. The networks, ABC, CBS and NBC, have done at least 26 stories on subprime loans just in the month of March, but only six of those included a lender’s voice. That meant an overwhelming 77 percent of stories didn’t even try to explain the lenders’ position.
Jamieson interviewed Tom Branon and his wife, who run a sugaring business in Vermont. Branon told ABC "springs are coming earlier" and "winters are less harsh." Then the ABC reporter mentioned researchers who say the state is caught in a "long-term warming trend" that might eventually cause the decline of the industry.
But NBC "Nightly News" proved that the syrup story didn't have to be doom and gloom. Instead, NBC focused on a sugar farmer's decision to adapt. "Some years, like last year, we lost out. We lost the first run, but I'm not worried this year. We're going to-we're almost fully tapped," said Burr Morse to "Nightly News."
ABC anchor Charles Gibson teased his lead Wednesday night story by touting how “Al Gore goes back to Capitol Hill for the first time since the year 2000 and finds a heated debate on global warming.” But the broadcast network evening newscasts didn't get to the debate. They were too busy trumpeting Gore's cause and barely touching his critics. ABC's Kate Snow gave a doubter ten words before running a much longer laudatory clip from former Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill) which ended with Hastert calling Gore “a movie star.” When Gore demurred that “I just have a slide show,” Snow, far from exploring the “debate,” endorsed the premises of Gore's most dire ideas: “Of course, that slide show won an Oscar. And the man dubbed the 'Goracle' now jets around the planet trying to save it. Gore today called on Congress to freeze carbon emissions and figure out how to drastically reduce all greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2050. The message endorsed by much of the scientific community.”
With “Planetary Emergency” on screen, NBC anchor Brian Williams excitedly announced, “Look who was back on Capitol Hill today: Al Gore.” Over on CBS, Katie Couric celebrated “a lot of excitement on Capitol Hill. A movie star showed up to testify before Congress -- a movie star named Al Gore.” Gloria Borger recalled that “the last time Gore appeared on Capitol Hill was in his official role as Vice President, certifying his own loss in the disputed 2000 election,” but she championed how “he came back today as a winner, his popular movie, An Inconvenient Truth, grabbing an Oscar.” Borger concluded: “Gore could still get in late and run for President. Maybe that's why Hillary Clinton didn't gush all over him today like her fellow Democrats.” What excuse do journalists have for their gushing?
“Sixty bucks! That’s ridiculous,” said one woman filling up her gas tank, on ABC’s “World News with Charles Gibson” March 12.
Consumer complaints and frequent mentions of "the most expensive gasoline" in the country are used by the media to hype rising gas prices. And what state has the most expensive gasoline? California.
“Let me show you what is the most expensive gasoline location in the country. A gallon of unleaded in California right now going for $3.08 a gallon,” said NBC reporter Tom Costello during the March 12 “Nightly News.”
Costello's report, like many others on NBC, CBS and ABC left out the explanation for exorbitant prices at California pumps: higher taxes and excessive environmental regulation.
Some journalists are starting to project parallels between the media-fueled controversy over the Bush administration replacing eight of 93 U.S. attorneys and Watergate, what many reporters see as their glory days of the early 1970s. A brief video snippet in David Gregory's story on Tuesday's NBC Nightly News showed Fred Fielding, Chief Counsel in the Bush White House who worked in the counsel's office during the Nixon administration, walking down a Capitol Hill hallway as a male voice off-camera, presumably a reporter, asked: “Does this bring back memories of Watergate?” NBC didn't play Fielding's reply. And that most likely took place before President Bush's address at 5:50pm EDT in which he promised to turn over more documents, have Justice officials testify before Congress and to allow Senators to interview Harriet Miers and Karl Rove.
Bush's offer only antagonized a couple of media figures. On MSNBC's Countdown, Keith Olbermann proposed that “the President sounded awfully like President Nixon during Watergate.” Newsweek Senior Editor Jonathan Alter readily agreed: “That is a great point. You know if you go into executive privilege land, you do take us on a kind of a return trip to Watergate.”
ABC anchor Charles Gibson led on Monday night, the fourth anniversary of the start of the Iraq war, with the results of a door-to-door survey of more than 2,000 Iraqis conducted for ABC News (and USA Today). Gibson started the “sobering report” with how “fewer than half the Iraqis, just 42 percent, said life was better now than it was under Saddam Hussein.” Gibson, however, failed to explain that when asked, “compared to the time before the war in spring 2003, are things overall in your life much better now, somewhat better, about the same, somewhat worse or much worse?”, fewer than 42 percent -- 36 percent -- said worse and 22 thought things are the same. A poll of 5,000 Iraqis reported in the Times of London discovered, as highlighted by FNC's Brit Hume, that “49 percent said life is better under the current Iraqi government” and “just 26 percent preferred life under Saddam Hussein.”
NBC anchor Brian Williams opened by emphasizing the length and cost of the war: “U.S. involvement in this war is now longer in duration than the Korean War, longer than World War I or World War II. And here are the numbers of great importance to all Americans. So far, at least 3,218 Americans have died. At least 24,000 have been wounded. Estimates of Iraqi dead are close to 60,000...” CBS's Katie Couric began with how “the war goes on, there is no end or victory in sight, thousands of Americans are dead, but the President says victory is still possible.” Reporter Allen Pizzey, who on The Early Showhad insisted that “Iraqis have very little to be thankful for,” also delivered a dire assessment on the Evening News: “And so four weary and blood-soaked years on, the so-called coalition of the willing has become the coalition of those who are stuck with it.”
The three broadcast network evening newscasts were similar Friday night in featuring full stories on Valerie Plame's testimony before the House Government Reform Committee, including video of Plame with a woman behind her wearing a pink “Impeach Bush” T-shirt -- ABC even caught a moment when the woman was making the “shame” sign with her fingers (see screen shot to right) -- and not mentioning Richard Armitage, the former Deputy Secretary of State who was the source for columnist Robert Novak's reporting of her name. CBS's Gloria Borger, remarkably, concluded her report by listing every big name involved but Armitage's: “When asked whether she'd gotten an apology from the President, the Vice President, Karl Rove or Scooter Libby, she said no.”
But there were differences. Only NBC Nightly News led with Plame as fill-in anchor Campbell Brown announced: “The CIA operative at the heart of a scandal tells Congress the Bush administration blew her cover and wrecked her career.” NBC's Chip Reid uniquely highlighted how Plame contributed to Al Gore's 2000 campaign and that she conceded “I am a Democrat.” While CBS's Borger concluded with a missing apology to her, ABC's David Kerley ended his piece by noting how Plame is taking advantage of her situation: “While Plame may have lost the undercover job she loved, the blown cover is allowing her to find a new career. She signed a book deal for more than $1 million. And oh, about all those ingredients for a Hollywood movie, there will be one of those, as well.”
ABC's World News separated itself from the media pack Thursday night. Though ABC's coverage was keyed to how e-mails supposedly show that Karl Rove was at “the center” of early 2005 discussions about replacing all 93 U.S. attorneys, anchor Charles Gibson pointed out how “these U.S. attorneys do serve at the pleasure of the President. He can fire them at any time. So did anything really get done that was wrong?” Jan Crawford Greenburg answered, in a broadcast network evening newscast first, by informing viewers of how “President Clinton, in fact, fired all the U.S. attorneys when he came into office from the previous Republican administration.”
Meanwhile, NBC and CBS continued the obsession on the story for the third night in a row. NBC Nightly News anchor Campbell Brown breathlessly teased her lead, “The prosecutor purge: Did the idea of firing all U.S. Attorneys start with inner circle adviser Karl Rove? If so, what now?” The CBS Evening News led with two stories on the subject, starting with Jim Axelrod on Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher's call for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to resign. Next, Bob Orr looked at how Gonzales “was tangled in controversy" before becoming AG. “As the President's chief lawyer, Gonzales sanctioned the widespread use of warrant-less wiretaps,”Orr thundered, thus “allowing the government to snoop on Americans without court orders.” Plus, “he also approved the so-called 'torture memo'” and “under Bush-Gonzales policies, prisoners were allowed to be held indefinitely at Guantanamo Bay with no access to U.S. courts,” policies reflecting an “attitude,” Georgetown law professor David Cole charged, in Orr's words, which “led directly to the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib.”
Before I started as NewsBusters managing editor, I finished up a study of the media's bias when it comes to reporting on prescription drugs. The study was released on March 14.
After the page break are some findings from the executive summary. Here's a link to the PDF version of the study.
Even when one new drug was hailed as a “major advance in combating
breast cancer” and a “major medical breakthrough,” its manufacturer was
given only a passing mention on one network. BMI looked at 132 stories
on prescription or over-the-counter drugs from the ABC, CBS, and NBC
evening newscasts between January 1 and Sept. 30, 2006.
How many networks does it take to change a lightbulb? Two.
CBS "Evening News" and ABC "World News with Charles Gibson" both ran segments on a coalition supporting a ban on incandescent light bulbs in order to save money and save the planet through decreased energy consumption.
“Brian Castelli is part of a growing coalition that wants to ban your standard bulb and replace it with compact fluorescents (CFLs). Advocates say it’ll cut greenhouse gases, save electricity and money,” said CBS technology correspondent Daniel Sieberg.
Both networks left out the anti-regulation perspective that if compact fluorescent bulbs are really more efficient and will save consumers money in the long run there is no need for a mandate from the government.
"A new drug that proved to be so effective so quickly, the approval process was sped up," lauded CBS "Evening News" anchor Katie Couric on March 13.
Couric and other reporters had reason to praise the newly FDA-approved drug Tykerb. The drug is approved for treatment of a specific kind of breast cancer, called HER-2 positive, and is showing tremendous promise.
Cancer patient Marsha Brekke told ABC "World News with Charles Gibson" that the drug was her last chance. Brekke has been cancer free for more than a year.
But what all three networks, ABC, CBS and NBC, left out of the evening newscasts on March 13 was any mention of the company that developed this breakthrough drug.
Last night, ABC "World News with Charles Gibson," and CBS "Evening News" both blamed increased foreclosures on lending companies and mentioned tightened regulation instead of discussing the issue of personal choice. NBC "Nightly News" was the only network to bring individual choice into the story on March 13.
"Mortgage companies were lending to people with questionable credit," said ABC's David Muir.
But it is not as if lending companies run around just handing out money to bad credit risks, people actually have to apply for home loans because they want to buy a home. Both ABC and CBS missed that.
Instead Muir's "World News" report pitied one couple "fighting to hold on."
The broadcast network evening newscasts, which didn't care in 1993 about the Clinton administration's decision to ask for the resignations of all 93 U.S. attorneys, went apoplectic Tuesday night in leading with the “controversy,” fed by the media, over the Bush administration for replacing eight U.S. attorneys in late 2006 -- nearly two years after rejecting the idea of following the Clinton policy of replacing all the attorneys. Anchor Charles Gibson promised that ABC would “look at all the angles tonight,” but he skipped the Clinton comparison. Gibson teased: “New controversy at the White House after a string of U.S. attorneys is fired under questionable circumstances. There are calls for the Attorney General to resign.”
CBS's Katie Couric declared that “the uproar is growing tonight over the firing of eight federal prosecutors by the Justice Department” and fill-in NBC anchor Campbell Brown teased: “The Attorney General and the firestorm tonight over the controversial dismissal of several federal prosecutors. Was it political punishment?” Brown soon asserted that “it's a story that has been brewing for weeks and it exploded today” -- an explosion fueled by the news media.
Of the broadcast network evening news shows, on Friday the NBC Nightly News uniquely covered the "history-making" federal court ruling striking down Washington, D.C.'s restrictive gun control laws. While anchor Brian Williams made the story his show's lead item, with correspondent Pete Williams calling it "the most important gun control ruling in 70 years," the CBS Evening News and ABC's World News ignored the story entirely.
Pete Williams set up his report relaying the story of D.C. resident Tom Palmer, "who was once assaulted and wants a gun in the house for self-defense." A party to the lawsuit against D.C., Palmer argued that since "criminals don't obey the law," that "it's the law-abiding citizens who are disarmed by this law." The report then featured opposing viewpoints in the form of soundbites from Democratic Mayor Adrian Fenty and gun control advocate Paul Helmke complaining that the ruling could "weaken gun laws nationwide." (Transcript follows)
If I were a rich man, the media would likely bash me. But if I were a female billionaire, I would become "good news" according to ABC and NBC.
While both ABC and NBC have called very successful CEOs examples of "runaway pay," there was no animosity to be found toward extremely high-earning women during the March 8 "World News with Charles Gibson" or "Nightly News."
In fact, after CNBC's Maria Bartiromo stated that 83 women made Forbes magazine's billionaires list on NBC "Nightly News," anchor Campbell Brown chimed: "All right, that's good news."
ABC's "World News" lauded the 1 percent club: "self-made members of the fairer sex," but left out Forbes statement that 60 percent of those on the billionaires list all made their fortunes from scratch.
NBC had some "horror stories" to share with its audience on March 7, according to "Nightly News" anchor Campbell Brown. Brown introduced the report by Lisa Myers that told the story of Wesley Wannemacher, a man who's $3,200 credit card debt ballooned to $10,700 after interest and penalties.
Wannemacher's plight also featured prominently in similar segments on ABC "World News with Charles Gibson" and CBS "Evening News" for the same day. [continued after jump]
Something is happening on the ground in Iraq. Something that even certain representatives of the MSM can't deny. Earlier this week, as NewsBusters noted here and here, NBC's Brian Williams, reporting from Iraq, offered some unusually positive observations. Now comes this eye-opening exchange from earlier this afternoon on CNN International between host Jim Clancy and correspondent Michael Ware, also reporting from Iraq:
JIM CLANCY: "The Democrats are pressing for a deadline, be it at the end of 2007, 2008 to bring all U.S. troops home. How is that going to affect General Petraeus, the Iraqi government and the Iraqis themselves?"