FAIR Lists the Stinkiest Moments in Journalism in 2010
Media watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR) has just announced its 2010 P.U.-litzer Prizes, a roundup of the best of the worst in Big Media reporting. And there are some real whoppers. From blatant class bias and explicit saber rattling to outright lies, the list shows how much of American mainstream news is a joke. Some examples:
–Prosecute the Messenger Award: Diane Sawyer (ABC News)
On October 22, ABC World News anchor Diane Sawyer introduced a report on WikiLeaks‘ exposure of thousands of classified documents from the Iraq War. ABC correspondent Martha Raddatz summarized the contents of the WikiLeaks files: “Deadly U.S. helicopter assaults on insurgents trying to surrender…. The Iraqi civilian death toll far higher than the U.S. has acknowledged…. Graphic detail about torture of detainees by the Iraqi military.” After Raddatz’s report, Sawyer offered this followup: “I know there’s a lot of outrage about this again tonight, Martha. But tell me, anything more about prosecuting the WikiLeaks group?”
–Pay Cuts for Everyone (Except Me!) Award: Steven Pearlstein (Washington Post)
Under the headline “Wage Cuts Hurt, but They May Be the Only Way to Get Americans Back to Work” (10/13/10), Washington Post columnist Steven Pearlstein argued that “structural adjustments”–that is, lower pay–“are necessary if the U.S. economy is to find a new equilibrium.” But he made clear that a 20 percent pay cut isn’t for everyone–it’s not for people like him, for example:
“I’m sure many of you are reading this and thinking that if anyone is forced to take a pay cut to rebalance the economy, surely it ought to be overpaid investment bankers, corporate executives and newspaper columnists. That’s how things would work in a socialist paradise, but not in market economies, which are much better at producing efficiency than fairness.”
While it’s hard to see investment bankers, whose industry survives because of a massive government bailout, as paragons of free-market efficiency, his inclusion of newspaper columnists is even less convincing: It’s clearly inefficient for the Post to pay Pearlstein when people would write columns of a similar caliber for a lot, lot less.
–Immigration Misinformation Award: Bill O’Reilly (Fox News Channel)
During the debate over Arizona’s harsh immigration law SB 1070, Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly made a case in support of Arizona’s crackdown: More immigrations equal more crime. According to O’Reilly, Phoenix’s crime problem is “out of control” (5/3/10); in the state overall, the crime problem is “through the roof” (5/4/10, 5/13/10, 5/14/10), it is “overwhelming” (5/6/10). One problem: There was no crime wave in Arizona or Phoenix, where authorities were reporting that crime was actually down–which research suggests is typical in areas with higher immigrant populations (FAIR Action Alert, 5/17/10). After FAIR noted O’Reilly’s errors, he actually stopped making them. But he soon found new ways to justify his anti-immigrant stance, like arguing that crime is indeed down along the border–because immigrants have stopped coming into the country (FAIR Blog, 6/21/10).