Albion Monitor /Commentary

New Book Reveals Media Inner Workings

by Farhan Haq

(IPS) NEW YORK -- Norman Solomon and Jeff Cohen, prominent U.S. media analysts and syndicated columnists, have one basic question: Where are the voices of the majority of people in the major media?

Judging from their book "Wizards of Media Oz" (294 pp from Common Courage Press at $15.95), the answer is "nowhere."

The book, a compilation of Cohen's and Solomon's individual and jointly-written columns during 1995-96, is a devastating, if often funny, portrait of the U.S. media's inner workings.

The phrase "free market" received 9,345 mentions; "labor rights" received 440
Take Sam Donaldson, the ABC newscaster who has a progressive reputation, but who also has a ranch in New Mexico that, over the past two years, netted him $97,000 in wool and mohair subsidies. Then there is Walter Pincus, the Washington Post reporter who denounced articles published last year in the San Jose Mercury News linking the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to cocaine distribution -- and who has himself been dubbed "the CIA's house reporter" for going on CIA-sponsored trips in 1960.

The mainstream media, Cohen and Solomon argue, has become too closely allied with power and wealth: too corporate, too uncritical of government and too willing to blame minorities, women or leftists for the United States' problems.

As examples, they point to everything from Walt Disney's ownership of the ABC network to a $1.7-million junket in 1995 where media moguls like Rupert Murdoch and Time-Warner chairman Richard Parsons paid to participate in a salute to House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

The linkage between mainstream media and corporate and political power, the authors say, influences the issues they cover and how those issues are shaped. Cohen and Solomon expose the fallacies that underlie most of the "big" stories in recent years: the glamorous image of the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Colin Powell, President Bill Clinton's "centrist" record, the success of Microsoft entrepreneur Bill Gates.

A Nexis database search of news stories during 1996 shows exactly what are the media's priorities, the authors say.

The phrase "free market" received 9,345 mentions; "labor rights" received 440. "Poor children" were mentioned 3,179 times, just a little bit less than "snowboarding" (3,220). In a year in which "welfare reform" -- or the cutting of aid programs for the poor - - was mentioned more than 22,000 times, "corporate welfare reform" -- or the cutting of programs that benefit corporations -- appeared only 17 times.

A CNN reporter speculated that left-wing professor Noam Chomsky doesn't appear on her network is because he's dead -- he isn't
Cohen, the executive director of the New York-based watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), and Solomon remain undismayed and often they're actually amusing.

For 1995 and 1996, the authors bestow the "PU-Litzer Prizes," which go to the worst media offenders. One New York Times reporter gets the "Relatively Tortured Prose Prize" for the marvelously obtuse sentence, "While a relatively small number of South Koreans were tortured to death under Mr. Chun (Doo Hwan) and Mr. Roh (Tae Woo), the great majority of people gained during their rule."

A CNN reporter wins the "Death by Censorship Prize" for blithely wondering if the reason that left-wing professor Noam Chomsky doesn't appear on her network is because he's dead. He isn't.

Modern historian and radio host Studs Terkel lauds Cohen and Solomon for "finding all the news the Respectables find unfit to print." Of their current book, Terkel writes in the forward, "It is an eye-opener. Don't leave home without it."

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Albion Monitor July 10, 1997 (

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