Jewish World Review Jan. 28, 2002 / 15 Shevat, 5762

Jack Kelly

Jack Kelly
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Consumer Reports

Media is its own worst enemy -- FOR people who are convinced we're awfully smart, we journalists can be pretty stupid. We've been driving away customers.

In 1980, 75 percent of Americans routinely watched evening newscasts on ABC, NBC or CBS. Last year only 43 percent did. In 1980, 67 percent of adults customarily read a daily newspaper. In 1999, only 57 percent did.

Television news has lost 43 percent of its audience, newspapers 15 percent of ours. In other businesses, such losses would trigger massive changes. Heads would roll.

If word spread McDonald's was using rat feces as filler in hamburgers, McDonald's market share would drop. Viewers and readers are deserting us in droves because they think our product is shallow and biased.

Two books - ""Bias" by former CBS reporter Bernard Goldberg, and "Coloring the News" by former Newsweek reporter William McGowan - document that all the television networks except Fox and most leading newspapers are more interested in political correctness than in truth.

"Bias" is the more popular. It ranks number one on the New York Times bestseller list at this writing. "Coloring the News" is more substantive, thoughtful and balanced.

Both show the major media are badly biased, and the bias is both ideological and partisan. The elite media have an agenda to promote, and if facts must be twisted in order to promote it, so be it.

An example is homelessness. The Census Bureau estimated there were 230,000 homeless people in the 1980s. The General Accounting Office put the figure at between 300,000 and 600,000. But Candy Crowley of CNN told her viewers in 1989 there were 3 million homeless. Jackie Nespral of NBC upped the figure to 5 million. Charles Osgood of CBS said there would be 19 million homeless by 2000.

The Center for Media and Public Affairs analyzed 103 network news broadcasts and 26 newsmagazine articles on homelessness during this period. Only four percent of these stories suggested that homelessness could be caused by the personal problems of the homeless themselves, though every study of the homeless indicates the vast majority suffer from alcoholism, drug addiction and/or mental illness.

Though Charles Osgood predicted the homeless soon would exceed the populations of New York and Los Angeles combined, homelessness disappeared from news broadcasts as soon as President Clinton was inaugurated. Now that there is again a Republican president, the elite media have rediscovered the "problem" of homelessness.

Gay activist and journalist Randy Shilts blamed the media for many deaths among gay men for reporting, falsely, that AIDs posed a serious threat to heterosexuals who were not also intravenous drug users, and for failing to emphasize the chief means by which the disease is propagated.

McGowan noted that after a glowing profile of Patrick Chavis, the black who was admitted to the medical school at the University of California at Davis in preference to Allan Bakke, a white who had better grades and higher test scores, was written in the New York Times magazine, there were many copycat stories on how wonderful affirmative action is, and what a sterling example of it Dr. Chavis was.

But there was virtually no coverage two years later when the Medical Board of California suspended Chavis' license to practice because of gross negligence in the cases of three patients, one of whom died.

Many more Americans have heard of Matthew Shepard, a homosexual murdered in Wyoming, than of Jesse Dirkhising, a boy raped and murdered by homosexuals in Arkansas. Nor would Americans learn from news reports that FBI data indicate more whites are murdered each year by blacks in "hate" crimes than blacks are murdered by whites.

The only television news organization to show explosive growth in recent years is Fox News, which is also the only television news organization which puts reporting the facts as they happen ahead of massaging them to fit a politically correct agenda.

There is a lesson here for the rest of us in journalism, but we are unlikely to heed it.

Comment on JWR contributor Jack Kelly's column by clicking here.

01/25/02: Journalists making road to peace a bumpy ride, or: A case study in stupidity
01/23/02: Toward a stronger defense at a lower cost
01/21/02: How Bush could be Generations X and Y's Kennedy ... and guarantee a GOP victory in the midterm elections

© 2002, Jack Kelly