Dec
03
2009

New Frontiers in Journalism

Washington Times, the paper of Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church, has announced it will be going to free distribution and laying off at least 40 percent of its staff. Which positions won't make the cut? Well, one that's been mentioned is that of editor. That's right; former editor John Solomon resigned last month after less than a year at the Times, and the company's new president and publisher, Jonathan Slevin, told the Washington Post that "there is no search for a Solomon successor and that his job may not be filled under a reorganization." Who, exactly, will be in […]

Oct
22
2009

Feeding the World: The Expert's Burden

In today's New York Times article, "Experts Worry as Population and Hunger Grow," there's some Green Revolution mythology propagated about how the policies "staved off famines affecting millions." As has been pointed out, though food production did increase, hunger actually increased as well just about everywhere affected by the Green Revolution; the reason the overall numbers showed hunger down was because China, as part of its own revolution including land reform, managed to reduce hunger dramatically. But the overall framing of the article is what bothers me more–the idea that it's "scientists and development experts" who are responsible for "feeding […]

Aug
28
2009

NYT Stands Up for the Little Insurance Company Employee

It's about time someone stood up for the poor insurance companies! The New York Times today delves into what it's like to be "Dealing With Being the Healthcare 'Villains,'" eliciting sad stories from nice people who work for big insurance companies and feel they're under attack. Times reporter Kevin Sack tells us, "Some workers said that unlike other contributors to the country's healthcare problems–the doctors who overprescribe, the hospitals that fail to control infection, the consumers who do not take care of themselves–insurance companies are faceless, impersonal and distant." Sack and the NYT to the rescue! Let's put a face […]

Aug
21
2009

AP and CNN Go Tabloid on South African Runner's Gender

Eighteen-year-old Caster Semenya, a runner from South Africa, just blew away the competition in the women's 800-meter world championship race. But the news reports yesterday weren't about that–they were about whether she's "really" a woman or not. And supposedly serious outlets like the AP and CNN are sinking to tabloid levels of coverage on the issue. The AP video of the controversy, posted on the L.A. Times website, kicks off: "Quick! Man–or woman?" The piece includes slow pans over Semenya's body, more tabloidy commentary ("She–and yes, SHE claims to be a woman"), and the offering of her voice as some […]

Aug
19
2009

Wishful Thinking on Latin America Trumps Logic at Newsweek

Mac Margolis, who wrote recently about the "selective zeal for democracy" of those who condemned the Honduran coup, wrote another little piece on Latin America for Newsweek this week: "Latin America Rights Itself" (print only). He argues that "the region now looks on the brink of a rightward shift," pointing to upcoming elections in Chile, Brazil and Uruguay in which the more liberal incumbent party is projected to lose, contrasting that with the great popularity of Colombia's president Uribe, "who enraged the left by befriending the Bush administration." Margolis suggests that "pragmatism is trumping charisma" and concludes: "Castigating the gringo […]

Jul
23
2009

Time: Israeli Settlers vs. the Palestinians

Time has a big piece by Nina Burleigh on Israeli settlements in this week's issue. It's a familiar framing: The Katzes, very normal, gentle people readers can identify with (they're even from New York!), "consider themselves law-abiding citizens" and do painfully earnest and upstanding things like "publish a small community magazine and take part in civic projects. Sharon raises money for charity by putting on tap-dancing and theater shows." There's a smiling family portrait, and a picture of settlers playing in a swimming pool with their kids. They "don't think their town is an obstacle to peace." These settlers from […]

Jul
17
2009

Newsweek's 'Selective Zeal for Democracy'

Newsweek has a rather curious take this week (7/20/09) on the Honduras coup in a short piece headlined "The World Goes Bananas Over Honduras": Poor, hot and fractious, Honduras–the original banana republic–rarely draws a second look from the global community. But on June 28, when President Manuel Zelaya was yanked out of bed by the military and bundled into exile, the world took notice. International leaders unanimously decried the "assault on democracy." The Organization of American States expelled Honduras, the only nation since Cuba to be so disgraced. Venezuela even threatened to send in troops to reinstate Zelaya. But in […]

Jun
12
2009

Joe Klein Solves the 'Hot-Button Issues'

There's almost too much to say about this recent column Joe Klein wrote in Time magazine. But let's start by parsing this: In the good old days of the last century, the years before the collapse of the economy and the World Trade Center towers, political discourse in the U.S. was, too often, rutted in issues that didn't affect the lives of most people. They were important moral and symbolic issues, to be sure. And they were difficult issues, although their subtleties were obscured by extremists, who tended to dominate the debate. Still, the people directly affected by the so-called […]

May
28
2009

Spinning the Sotomayor Abortion Debate in the NYT

Charlie Savage did some good reporting on the Bush signing statements, but his front-page story in today's New York Times on reproductive rights groups' reaction to Sotomayor is way off course. His lead explains that abortion rights advocates are worried about Sotomayor, because "when she has written opinions that touched tangentially on abortion disputes, she has reached outcomes in some cases that were favorable to abortion opponents." OK, so what are those opinions? Here's what he names: She ruled in favor of the Bush administration's reinstatement of the global gag rule; she ruled that anti-abortion protesters could take police to […]

Apr
27
2009

The Post Stands Up for the Poor Rich

Today the Washington Post devoted front-page real estate to an examination of how some wealthy people who don't think of themselves as wealthy will suffer under Obama's proposed tax plans. Their primary example is Gail Johnson, who, along with her husband, earns about $515,000 in a typical year from the chain of preschools and after-school programs they own: "You hear 'tax the rich,' and you think, 'I don't make that much money,' " said Johnson, whose Rainbow Station programs are headquartered near Richmond. "But then you realize: 'Oh, if I put my business income with my wages, then, suddenly, I'm […]

Apr
03
2009

Structural Racism Not on ABC's Agenda

ABC's Good Morning America did a special 3-part series on race this week, "Black and White Now," to "look at race relations in America." All three parts revisited old experiments or news stories. The first (3/31/09) was a repeat of an experiment with children playing with black and white dolls, showing that now kids don't tend to think that the black doll is mean and the white doll nice, like they did in the '40s–although some black girls still say the black doll is ugly and the white doll pretty. The report cited William Julius Wilson saying "there's still work […]

Mar
23
2009

Black Women Are Props in Caitlin Flanagan's Rant

Caitlin Flanagan, primarily known (and embraced by mainstream media) for her anti-feminist writings, was back in the New York Times this weekend–this time attacking former '70s radical Sara Jane Olson. As a member of the Symbionese Liberation Army, Olson (born Kathleen Soliah) was indicted for plotting to bomb LAPD patrol cars; she evaded capture until 1999, during which time she built a life under her new name in Minnesota. She's now been allowed to serve her parole at home in Minnesota rather than in California, where she served her time. Flanagan's peeved, because, she would have us believe, she sees […]

Mar
18
2009

NYT: Obama Appoints 'Swahili-Speaking' Envoy to Sudan

The New York Times' Peter Baker reports today (3/18/09) that Obama has tapped "a Swahili-speaking retired Air Force officer who grew up in Africa as the son of missionaries" to be his special envoy to Sudan. Does Baker or his Times editors realize that they don't speak Swahili in Sudan? It's like reporting that Obama appointed a French-speaking envoy to Germany, and meaning it in a flattering way. Sure, they don't speak French in Germany, but they're both in Europe, right? Baker also writes: The latest crisis began March 4, when the International Criminal Court in the Hague charged Mr. […]