P.U.-litzer Prizes recognize some of America's stinkiest media
performances. Each year, I work with Jeff Cohen of the media watch group
FAIR to sift through hundreds of deserving entries. The competition is
always fierce. But only an elite few can walk off with a P.U.-litzer.
Here are the eighth annual P.U.-litzer Prizes, for the foulest media
achievements of 1999:
PRE-PRE-FEMINIST PRIZE -- CNN's "Larry King Live"
When Larry King hosted a segment about potential senatorial candidate
Hillary Clinton on June 1, the discussion took political analysis to new
depths. One panelist commented: "She has a bad figure. She's bottom heavy
and her legs are short." Another expert added: "I don't know one good thing
about her. She's got fat -- her legs are too short, her arms are too
long.... If your legs are too short, how do you evolve?" The panelists did
not find time to discuss the anatomy of Clinton's likely GOP opponent,
ALL THINGS ETHNOCENTRIC PRIZE -- NPR's Linda Wertheimer
On Dec. 13, when "All Things Considered" host Wertheimer interviewed a
Time magazine reporter about videos made by the two teens who massacred
people at Columbine High, she expressed amazement: "You say in the article
in Time that Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were steeped in violence and
drained of mercy. How could that be? I mean, they were middle-class
children that had lots of advantages; they had nice parents."
"INOFFENSIVE INTEGRITY" AWARD -- Viacom Chair Sumner Redstone
Speaking in October at a celebration in China, where Redstone hopes to
expand business operations, the media mogul cautioned international news
outlets about irritating sensitive governments. "Journalistic integrity
must prevail in the final analysis," he advised. "But that doesn't mean
that journalistic integrity should be exercised in a way that is
unnecessarily offensive to the countries in which you operate." Weeks
before this warning, Viacom announced plans to acquire CBS, thereby
becoming the boss of CBS News employees.
MONOPOLIZING THE NEWS AWARD -- The New York Times
The day after Viacom -- the movie, cable TV and publishing powerhouse --
announced plans to purchase CBS and become the third-largest media
conglomerate in the world, the New York Times devoted seven articles to the
proposed takeover. But there was no space to quote a single critic about
the threat to consumers or to democracy posed by this concentration of
media power. There was room, however, for quotes from various upbeat Wall
Street analysts, and for a reporter's reference to the bygone era of the
1970s: "In those quaint days, it bothered people when companies owned too
many media properties."
PLAY-IT-AGAIN SPIN AWARD -- National TV News
On April 5, network TV convened panels of experts to discuss the war on
Yugoslavia. Viewers could see hawkish Sen. John McCain at 9 p.m. on CNN's
"Larry King Live," at 10 p.m. on Fox News Channel, at 11 p.m. on PBS's
Charlie Rose show and at 11:30 p.m. on ABC's "Nightline" with Ted Koppel.
The senator's whereabouts between 10:30 and 11 p.m. could not be determined.
"ANCHORS AWAY TO WAR" PRIZE -- Fox News Channel and PBS "NewsHour With
Jim Lehrer" (Tie)
On March 24, about an hour before the first NATO missiles struck
Yugoslavia, viewers heard a Fox News Channel anchor make an understandable
slip: "Let's bring in our Pentagon spokesman -- excuse me, our Pentagon
correspondent." A more scripted demonstration of journalistic independence
came later in the war, when "NewsHour" anchor Margaret Warner introduced a
panel: "We get four perspectives now on NATO's mission and options from
four retired military leaders."
PROUD TO CENSOR AWARD -- Seattle TV Station KOMO
Days before the World Trade Organization summit in Seattle, the news
director at the city's ABC television affiliate released a statement that
promised to manage the news appropriately: "KOMO 4 News supports coverage
of the critical issues raised by the conference, including legal protests,
but will not devote coverage to irresponsible or illegal activities of
disruptive groups. KOMO 4 News is taking a stand on not giving some protest
groups the publicity they want."
TAKE-IT-ON-FAITH AWARD -- Michael Kinsley
In a Time magazine essay, Kinsley -- who works for two of the planet's
most powerful communications firms, Microsoft and Time Warner -- sought to
persuade readers that the World Trade Organization is a fine institution,
despite protests. Kinsley's Dec. 13 piece ended with these words: "But
really, the WTO is OK. Do the math. Or take it on faith."
© Creators Syndicate
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December 19, 1999 (http://www.monitor.net/monitor)
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