FAIR in the News
As part of our outreach work, FAIR spokespersons discuss and debate media issues on national TV and radio programs, and on local shows across the U.S.
FAIR has been cited or covered by papers such as the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and the Boston Globe, to name just a few. FAIR's work has also been well covered by the alternative press-- including outlets like the Village Voice, L.A. Weekly and In These Times-- and by the overseas press, including the Moscow Times and Daily Yomiuri. Below are a few highlights from the coverage FAIR has received in the past few months.
On debate fact-checking:
"CNN's fact-checking after the first two debates was pretty poor," says Peter Hart, a media analyst for Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting.
Specifically he's referring to CNN's Bill Schneider, who focused on statements made by President Bush, and David Ensor, who watched for inaccuracies or exaggerations by Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry.
"Schneider only came up with one exaggeration from the Bush camp, and it's one that Kerry noticed and rebutted [during the debate]," says Hart. "If you picked up a newspaper the next day, you saw a handful of things he could have done. Ensor picked up on four things, but two of them were taken out of context, and it wasn't quite accurate. The other two were rather minor. It was kind of unfulfilling if you were hoping to get real analysis."
--Hartford Courant (10/13/04)
On CBS holding its story about Iraq's WMD capabilities:
The decision to put it off troubles media critics who were watching CBS News for signs of timidity following the Guard controversy.
"The idea that you would withhold journalism because you think it would have an effect on the world runs contrary to the whole idea of what journalism should be," said Peter Hart, a FAIR analyst.
--Associated Press (10/4/04)
Both MoveOn.org, a liberal, online advocacy group, and Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), a liberal, New York-based media watchdog group, demanded the Bush/Iraq story be broadcast before Nov. 2. Both also suggested that CBS had decided not to do so because Sumner Redstone, chairman of its parent company Viacom, supports Bush.
This theory fits with liberals' insistence that it doesn't matter if most reporters, editors and other news executives are liberal because most media owners, like most owners of other big companies, are conservative, and in any serious showdown, it's the man who signs the paychecks who prevails.
FAIR quotes Redstone as saying, "From a Viacom standpoint, the election of a Republican administration is a better deal," and the organization goes on to say it's "journalistically indefensible for CBS to withhold a story due to embarrassment incurred by another, unrelated piece. It is particularly unacceptable when the shelving of a story benefits a candidate that CBS' boss has just publicly endorsed. If CBS wants to restore trust in its news judgment, it can begin by applying journalistic standards, not political calculations, to the decision on when to air its report on the origin of the forged Niger documents."
If FAIR and its sympathizers on the left are correct about CBS' motivation, the decision to withhold the story is reprehensible, a worse abdication of the network's journalistic responsibility than even Rather's careless rush to judgment. But Andrew Heyward, president of CBS News, "categorically" denies that Redstone had anything to do with that decision.
--Los Angeles Times (10/10/04)
On the bad news from Iraq:
Peter Hart, an analyst for the self-described liberal media watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, said facts on the ground are driving the news coverage and said those facts aren't positive.
"The problem with the military's argument is that the media has covered some of the positive stories and that Iraq is a violent place with a growing insurgency," said Hart during a telephone interview from New York City.
"To wonder why the media coverage isn't uniformly positive is frankly bizarre," Hart said. "It sounds like what the critics want is propaganda, and journalism obeys different rules. You can't fault journalists for reporting what they see."
--San Diego Union-Tribune (10/4/04)
On economic reporting:
Although many news-media watchdogs take business reporters to task for biases, few say the problem stems from a political slant. "One of the main biases we've found in business reporting is cheerleading," said Jim Naureckas, an editor at Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, which is on the left side of the political spectrum. He argues that the news media tend to favor the point of view of business because they depend on advertising from business.
--New York Times (9/12/04)
On the Swift Boat Vet ads:
"It was a juicy story but patently misleading and based on lies," said Jim Naureckas, editor of Extra!, a publication sponsored by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, which has staunchly criticized Bush's campaign tactics.
Naureckas was bothered by "the media's lack of consistency in dealing with these kinds of stories. Imagine if these kinds of charges were made against Bush, from these kinds of sources. Would they have received this kind of coverage?"
Kerry was criticized in the media for not quickly and forcefully responding to the Swift Boat charges.
"How do you respond to lies?" Naureckas said. "Then, when you do respond, it becomes a bigger story."
--Buffalo News (9/6/04)
On the March on the Media:
Demonstrators haven't come to Manhattan solely to denounce President George W. Bush and his policies. At least two protest events are scheduled for the headquarters of big media companies later this week.
Organizers of the "March on the Media" hope to draw attention to what they said is uncritical coverage of corporate scandals, terrorism prevention and the war against Iraq. "Corporate media have failed to provide the public with critical, probing coverage of this administration," said Peter Hart, a media analyst at Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting, one of the march's sponsors. "The public needs a watchdog, not a lapdog."
On PBS's new conservative programming:
PBS's ideological critics on the left and right don't agree on much. But they do suspect a link between politics and programming. Says Jim Naureckas, an official at the liberal watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting: "They are, to a large extent, a business, and they understand where their money's coming from -- it's a Republican-controlled Congress."
--Boston Globe (8/30/04)
On terror warnings:
"It's very clear that intelligence has been manipulated by the Bush administration (in the past). And part of the job of the media, as much as to repeat what officials tell you, is to evaluate the credibility of those claims," says Jim Naureckas, editor of 'Extra', a magazine published by the group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR).
"That's really why you have the freedom of the press guarantee in the constitution, because that function is so critical for a democracy," Naureckas added in an interview from New York. ***
Naureckas argues that in this pre-election period, when the public is increasingly divided between those who are "very much frightened" by terror warnings and others "who don't have any faith left in the Bush administration," journalists must press officials harder to back up their claims.
"Particularly when you have problems of trust with the government, you need the media to do more to separate factual information from political spin, from manipulation, and I don't think they've been doing enough to make that happen."
--Inter Press Service (8/6/04)
On covering the Democratic and Republican conventions:
"Complaining about the lack of news seems like a convenient way to avoid talking about substantive issues," said Peter Hart, analyst for the media watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting. "What's in the party's platform? How about a realistic assessment of the rhetoric coming from the convention stage? These are questions reporters should be investigating. The fact that the conventions are staged shouldn't give reporters a sense that there's nothing there for them. That sounds like a cop out."
--Austin-American Statesman (7/23/04)
On Outfoxed and Fox News bias:
More damning to Fox News is the study commissioned from FAIR for the film. In "Special Report With Brit Hume," the balance of one-on-one guests in a 25-week period was outrageously in favor of Republicans, by a 5-to-1 margin. That's on the flagship news program, not one of the prime-time opinion shows.
--Chicago Tribune (7/20/04)
On right-wing accusations of media bias against Bush:
Steve Rendall of the liberal group Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting scoffs at the indictment, saying that "things are going badly for the White House in Iraq. Accurately reporting that isn't bias. As for the economy, positive indicators are reported every day. That many Americans still see a net loss of jobs, wages lagging behind inflation and rising health care costs, well, reflecting their views is basic journalism."
From 9/11 through last summer, Rendall says, "journalism was largely in the tank for the White House."
--Washington Post (6/28/04)
On media memories of Reagan:
The liberal media analysis group, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, has decried early coverage declaring Reagan the most popular president ever to leave office, citing Gallup poll data showing Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush among five former presidents with higher approval ratings upon retirement.
"We're seeing a regular syndrome . . . a media that is far too uncritical of the powerful, coming out afterward like a drunk on a bender, saying "Woe is us, we didn't ask enough tough questions,' " said Steve Rendall, a senior analyst at FAIR.
--St. Petersburg Times (6/11/04)
On the NY Times editors' note on WMD reporting:
Though many critics of the Times' coverage have singled out articles written by Times reporter Judith Miller, the newspaper's editors said the problem of insufficient oversight "was more complicated." They said that "editors at several levels" should have been challenging reporters more skeptically but may have been "too intent on rushing scoops into the paper."
Nonetheless, Chalabi, widely believed to be Miller's most prominent source, was all but officially discredited last week following a raid by U.S. and Iraqi forces on his Iraqi National Congress offices.
"The stories Judith Miller wrote were incredibly important in selling the idea that Iraq posed an immediate threat to the world," said Jim Naureckas, editor of Extra!, a magazine published by the media watchdog group Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting.
Although some news organizations did publish stories questioning the administration's claims that Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, most coverage did not emphasize a critical examination. That helped build an atmosphere in public opinion that was difficult to counter.
--Chicago Tribune (5/27/04)
On the blurring line between journalism and advertising:
"It's across the culture," says Peter Hart, media analyst at Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) in New York. "You're seeing these tendencies everywhere, whether it's product placement on a sitcom or in the news."
During the ad-sales slump of the early 1990s, a few consumer magazines faced lawsuits - and editors were fired - amid allegations that they blurred the line between editorial content and advertising.
In 1999, Times-Mirror Co., publisher of the Los Angeles Times, cut a deal with the owners of the Staples Center to share ad revenue generated by a Times Sunday magazine that dedicated one issue to the arena.
"That was scandalous at the time," says Mr. Hart. "If it happened now, I don 't know. I think the bar has been lowered."
Tolerance for mentioning specific products in a publication's articles has risen significantly in this fourth year of another ad slump, experts say, with product placement today spilling out of the entertainment realm and deeper into zones of supposed objectivity.
"They're failing to inform their readers, their viewers, about how these relationships really work," says Hart, who hadn't seen the June/July issue of Ski.
Any "implied endorsement" flouts the guidelines of the American Society of Magazine Editors, says Marlene Kahan, ASME's executive director. Though many editors work to hold the line, she and others say, marketers are turning up the pressure on publishers to get "added value."
"The more they can make advertising look like journalism, the better suited they are to sell their products," says Hart. "Those boundaries have steadily been getting fuzzier," he adds. "It's not clear anymore, which is exactly what advertisers want."
"Whether you call it advertising or public relations really doesn't matter," says Hart. "[Publications are] still pulling one on the readers, and the end effect is the same: You're promoting a product."
--Christian Science Monitor (5/27/04)
National Public Radio, which conservatives have long labeled "liberal," relies on largely the same range of sources that dominate mainstream commercial news, airing more Republican than Democratic voices, and with male sources outnumbering female sources by nearly four to one.
So says left-leaning Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting, which finds that nine of the top 10 most frequently used sources on NPR were white male government officials. (Secretary of State Colin Powell was the one exception.) The top seven were Republicans.
FAIR's study looked at on-air sources in June 2003 on NPR's four main news shows.
"We wanted to find out how 'public' is National Public Radio," FAIR's Steve Rendall says. He says NPR programmers quote a "preponderance of people from right-leaning and centrist-leaning think tanks and generally ignore left-wing think tanks."
Rendall says that as NPR has grown, the environment has become more "corporate" and programming more conservative. NPR's removal of longtime Morning Edition host Bob Edwards hinted at a shop where "numbers crunchers are saying NPR has to shoot for a younger demographic that commercial stations have always searched for."
--USA Today (5/24/04)
On Disney and Fahrenheit 911:
Miramax Films, a Disney subsidiary, had planned to distribute the film. Disney's decision to block distribution provoked criticism from several media organisations.
"The idea that Disney is declining to release the film because it is political does not bode very well for democratic debate in this country," says Jim Naureckas, a spokesman for Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), a liberal watchdog group.
"We rely on companies like Disney to distribute information and entertainment in this country."
On Iraq casualties:
Asked to estimate the number of Iraqi civilians killed in the war in March and April of last year, 41 percent of respondents guessed below 500. Nearly 75 percent said 2,000 or below. No official toll exists, but even the lowest estimates put the number of Iraqi civilian deaths in the month after "major combat" began at more than 3,000. Last June, The Associated Press guessed that 3,240 Iraqi civilians died in March and April of last year. Iraq Body Count, an independent group tracking reports of civilian casualties, puts the number at more than 7,000.
Some say the American press has contributed to this hazy picture.
"To cover war without noticing death is like covering a sporting event without noticing the ball," said Jim Naureckas, an editor at Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, a left-leaning group.
--New York Times (5/9/04)
On the bad news from Iraq:
The changing mood means newspapers and TV networks may not be risking economic hardship if they publish bad news. "There's a great fear that news outlets will be seen as unpatriotic by advertisers, who are the people who pay the bills in American media, and they are the ones who determine what the limits of acceptable expression are," said Jim Naureckas, a magazine editor at the liberal media watchdog FAIR, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting.
But media organizations have to watch their flanks and maintain the trust of their audience that they are still interested in delivering the news. If a story breaks on Al-Jazeera or the BBC -- both available in the U.S. via cable, satellite and the Internet -- it can't easily be ignored. Similarly, private citizens operating websites that release information against government wishes put pressure on the mainstream press to follow the stories.
Some see the questioning as anti-American, but not everyone agrees. "It's good for people to know reality," says FAIR's Jim Naureckas. "Certainly a nation that thinks it should ignore reality if it might change minds about political policy, is going to wind up supporting some policies that will run it into very serious problems in the world."
--The Globe and Mail (Ontario) (5/8/04)
On the Abu Ghraib photos:
Peter Hart, an analyst with the U.S. media watchdog Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, points out CBS had the images for two weeks before broadcasting them at the request of Gen. Richard Myers, who cited the safety of American hostages. CBS confirmed this yesterday, saying the circumstances were "unusual."
"We could be talking about the story that changed the course of the whole occupation," said Mr. Hart.
"You see people losing faith in the occupation. But you also see a hardening of resolve. The same story can have opposite effects on people."
--Ottowa Citizen (5/4/04)
On Iraq coverage:
TAVIS SMILEY: How bad has it gotten? And I ask that of you because if anybody would know, you would. But I have been bothered by it and have talked about it on this program and other places in a variety of ways about I think the kind of work that the media should have been doing since 9/11, it just hasn't been done quite frankly.
AMY GOODMAN: Oh, no question about it. I mean, the media watch group, Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting, called FAIR, did a study of the week leading up to Colin Powell giving his address, his push for war at the UN on February 5th, 2003, and the week after, that two-week period, that was right before the mass global protests. They looked at the four major nightly newscasts, CBS, NBC, ABC and PBS' "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer." There were 393 interviews done around war. Only three of almost 400 interviews were with anti-war representatives. That is not a fair and balanced media at a time when more than half the people were opposed to the invasion. That is a media beating the drums for war and it's got to change.
--NPR, the Tavis Smiley Show (4/26/04)
On Bob Woodward, author of "Plan of Attack":
Jim Naureckas, editor of Extra, the magazine of the liberal media watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy in Media, says it's hard to describe what Woodward is doing as journalism.
"What he does is much more akin to that of a historical novelist, except he's writing about a more recent period of history," Naureckas says. "The clearest way he differentiates himself from journalism is the way he uses quotations. He creates verbatim accounts of conversations from meetings he didn't attend."
--Atlanta Journal-Constitution (4/25/04)
On showing images of corpses in war coverage:
Jim Naureckas, editor of Extra, a media criticism magazine published by FAIR, a national media watchdog group, questioned whether people would have a chance to react if major media outlets censored the pictures.
"During the invasion of Iraq, there was a great concern by journalists not to show any kind of imagery that could be upsetting or disturbing to people," he said. "They particularly didn't want to show a dead American soldier. It almost became a taboo to show such a thing."
Naureckas said the mood has changed, but he predicted the pictures of dead civilians would not receive widespread coverage.
"If so, it would reflect a real sea change in media attitudes," he said.
--Tampa Tribune (4/1/04)
On the anniversary of the invasion of Iraq:
The liberal group FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting) noted that while the Sunday morning talk shows of March 14 all focused on the anniversary, only NBC's "Meet the Press" offered competing perspectives.
"Meet the Press" featured separate interviews with national-security adviser Condoleezza Rice and former Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean, an outspoken critic of the U.S. presence in Iraq.
Conversely, ABC's "This Week" and "Fox News Sunday" each had the same sole guest: Secretary of State Colin Powell. CBS' "Face the Nation" had Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman.
--Seattle Times (3/24/04)
On partisanship in TV news:
So when did the conventional news hour splinter into a thousand points of fight? Peter Hart, a media analyst for Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting, says partisan debate always existed beneath the surface of broadcast news, but now has become "the dominant programming model" in cable news. "Programmers were looking for a way to make sure people don't change the channel," Hart says, "and they settled on a solution: Tease the audience with a fight, rather than provide reasonable dialogue or timely information. In the end, they seek to inflame the passions that already exist in those viewers."
--USA Today (2/4/04)
On John Stossel:
One media critic says he has no problem with the topics Stossel chooses, just the message he espouses.
"He often approaches stories with a conclusion and looks for evidence to support that conclusion," says Peter Hart of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), a media watchdog group. "He often excludes evidence that doesn't support his point of view. That makes it propaganda for his side, and that's not good journalism."
As an example, Hart cites a Stossel report on organic vs. conventional produce.
"He made a series of errors and actually concocted evidence to support his point of view, referring to research that he said ABC had done but that didn't exist."
--Atlanta Journal-Constitution (2/2/04)
On journalists' campaign contributions:
Rhonda Schaffler, CNNfn Anchor: The whole issue here really is, can you give money to a candidate or campaign and cover without any bias?
Jim Naureckas (editor, Extra!): I think that it's fair to ask journalists who are working in covering politics not to become unnecessarily involved with the issue that they 're covering, which is the electoral process. When you're giving money to a campaign, you are, almost literally, investing in that campaign and it makes it more difficult for you to separate yourself.
Every journalists has opinions. You can't cover politics, learn about the process without developing your own ideas about what works and what doesn't. But it's the journalists job to try to report all sides fairly. And I think it makes it more difficult to do that when you're actively participating in the story.
Schaffler: How about the actual media organizations themselves?
Naureckas: That's an issue that I think doesn't get enough attention. People talk about the individual journalists. And, to a large extent, journalists understand that they aren't supposed to be giving money. But the bosses of the journalists, the executives of the media corporations, often do give money and there's often no rules against that. And I would say that it's often more of a issue, in terms of influencing coverage, to know that your boss has a strong interest in one party or the other coming out on top.
Molly Ivins, columnist, on FAIR:
Two outfits I especially like that watch the media are the Center for Media and Democracy, which specializes in analyzing public relations and propaganda campaigns, and FAIR, the overworked folks trying to keep up with right-wing lies in the corporate media.
--Chicago Tribune (12/18/03)
On Alan Colmes:
The liberal media watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy in Media studied two weeks of "Hannity & Colmes" this summer and found that between the co-hosts and their guests, conservatives spoke 2,768 lines to 2,004 for liberals.
FAIR has likened Colmes to the Washington Generals, the hapless basketball team hired to lose to the Harlem Globetrotters every night.
"Hannity gives no quarter," said Steve Rendall, a FAIR analyst. "Colmes is often giving points when he should be fighting. When the chips are down, Colmes often concedes."
--Associated Press (10/17/03)
On FAIR on Wesley Clark:
It's worth one's while to walk through a sampling of Clark's statements and writings about Iraq. I must note that it was the website of Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (fair.org) that brought this sampler to my attention, in particular a valuable article by FAIR's Peter Hart posted on September 16, the day before the general declared his candidacy.
--The Village Voice (9/30/03)