By Jeff Cohen and Norman Solomon
It's that time again: Here are the second annual "P.U.- litzer Prizes" -- highlighting some of the sorriest and smelliest media efforts of 1993.
News outlets love to crow when they or their employees win awards. But no one brags about winning a "P.U.-litzer." As always, the losers are us media consumers.
BEST KISS-UP INTERVIEW -- John McLaughlin
On his show televised by the GE-owned cable network CNBC, a gushing John McLaughlin interviewed the co-author of "Control Your Destiny: How Jack Welch Is Making General Electric the World's Most Competitive Company." McLaughlin and his guest invoked superlatives to describe the "brilliant" and "revolutionary" Welch, GE's top boss. McLaughlin didn't mention that Welch is the man behind GE's underwriting of the "McLaughlin Group" to the tune of $1 million per year.
"MY SOURCES SAY" AWARD -- Los Angeles Times
Weeks after the World Trade Center bombing, Robin Wright's scary, front-page report in the L.A. Times warned that terrorism "will escalate against the United States and other countries." You can't blame Wright for the terror upsurge that didn't happen; she relied on the "experts." And who were they? We haven't a clue, since not one was named. The 22-paragraph story attributed facts, quotes, and "ominous assessments" 17 times to unnamed sources -- "senior U.S. officials said"; "U.S. experts said"; "U.S. specialists say"; etc.
DUBIOUS SOURCE -- Washington Post
A July 27 Washington Post article -- headlined "Scientists Critique Media's Coverage of Cancer" -- focused on a report that scolded news media for inflating "minor cancer risks." The Post stated that the new report charged "the media overstate the cancer risks associated with nuclear power." What the Post didn't say is that the report's co-author, Mark Mills, has long been a paid consultant to the U.S. Council for Energy Awareness -- the public relations arm of the nuclear industry.
MOST POORLY TIMED HATCHET-JOB -- New York Times reporter Felicity Barringer
On March 6, Barringer's article in The New York Times implied that abortion rights groups -- "like a conclave of unreconstructed Cold Warriors" -- were exaggerating the threat of violence at family planning clinics. Four days later, Dr. David Gunn, a Florida physician who performed abortions, was murdered by an anti-abortion activist.
"WE MAKE THE RULES, WE BREAK THE RULES" AWARD -- PBS
For years, PBS has used conflict of interest rules to reject programs about workers that were underwritten by unions...and to reject an Oscar-winning documentary about General Electric because the grass-roots group INFACT was both the funder and producer of the program. But in January, PBS bent its rules to broadcast a glowing documentary about New York Times columnist James Reston -- which was funded by the Times and produced "in association with The New York Times" by a member of the family that owns the Times.
HALF-NAKED DOUBLE STANDARD AWARD -- Sports Illustrated
The magazine that has cashed in on its annual swimsuit issue, featuring scantily clad women, refused to publish an ad because it showed partially naked men. In June, Sports Illustrated rejected an Adidas ad for its Canadian edition which featured a team of soccer players, wearing only cleated shoes, covering their private parts with their hands or a ball or a trophy. "We just didn't feel it was appropriate," said a Sports Illustrated spokesman.
HAPPILY EVER NAFTA AWARD FOR BEST FAIRY TALE -- CNN's Michael Kinsley
Debating a senator concerned about the flight of U.S. manufacturing jobs to Mexico, CNN's Michael Kinsley argued vehemently in support of NAFTA: "What are these Mexicans going to do with these dollars they're earning? When these plants rush down to Mexico...and [the workers] earn dollars, those dollars are only good for one thing, which is buying stuff in the United States. You can't spend your dollars in Mexico. You can only spend them in the United States." Nice tale -- except that Mexican workers are paid in pesos; and dollars are easily exchanged for pesos throughout Mexico, where goods are cheaper to buy.
HAPPILY EVER NAFTA AWARD II -- Rush Limbaugh
"If you are unskilled and uneducated, your job is going south. Skilled workers, educated people are going to do fine 'cause those are the kinds of jobs NAFTA is going to create. If we are going to start rewarding no skills and stupid people, I'm serious, let the unskilled jobs that take absolutely no knowledge whatsoever to do -- let stupid and unskilled Mexicans do that work." Limbaugh's economic wisdom: Only stupid people lose their jobs.
"WE SPONSOR RACISTS AND SEXISTS FROM RIGHT TO BOTTOM" -- Snapple Beverage Corp.
In a letter answering a customer's complaint about its sponsorship of Rush Limbaugh, Snapple boasted of its commitment to diversity: "We do not necessarily agree with [Limbaugh's] point of view. For example, we are a sponsor of the Howard Stern radio and national television show. Howard Stern expresses opinions that are completely opposite to those of Rush Limbaugh. As a supporter of the right to freedom of speech, our advertising extends across all disciplines: from right to the left and everything in between." True diversity: Stern belittles women's breast size, Limbaugh their brains.
BEST COLUMNIST OF THE (19TH) CENTURY -- Patrick Buchanan
Furious that Carol Moseley-Braun had rallied her Senate colleagues to stop renewing the patent for a Confederate flag insignia, Buchanan rallied to the cause of the Confederacy: "The War Between the States was about independence, about self- determination, about the right of a people to break free of a government to which they could no longer give allegiance." When Sen. Moseley-Braun associated the Confederacy with slavery, she was "putting on an act," according to Buchanan. "How long is this endless groveling before every cry of 'racism' going to continue before the whole country collectively throws up?"
There you have it: the P.U.-litzer Prizewinners for 1993. Hold your nose and get ready for '94.