(Opinions expressed here are each author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Grade the News)
One of the features I find most valuable is the side-by-side columns,
such as used to discuss the Chronicle public schools article. Since comparing
and contrasting articles from different papers is usually recommended for understanding
news coverage, providing this device "ready to go" is very welcome.
--Angela Woodall 5/1/03
On war coverage analysis
If McManus is going to make objectivity an issue, then his own
references should be held to a similar standard, should it not?
Consider the language McManus used in presenting one criteria by which coverage could be judged....
...The global story of the war enraging large numbers of people around the world and of the increasing isolation and alienation of the United States was buried by "rat-atat-tat" coverage...
How can Mr. McManus qualify the degree of "isolation and alienation'' to which he alludes? Seems to me, he's interjecting his own bias here.
-- I would refer the reader to the New York Times,
or other newspaper with strong international coverage. Ed.
Where not to go for local news
TV news lost me many years ago, when it became clear that it was
more important to sell me products that I didn't want than to provide me with
decent news coverage. It was also more important to show the gruesome crime
scene and the crying survivors that investigate and report on the "why's
and the "how's". The corporate owners prefer to muzzle real news,
especially news contrary to the current
So I go elsewhere for my news.
The SF Chron's coverage of the many peace marches has been less than objective. When headlines stated that only 65,000 people attended the peace march in February, well, many thousands who were there heartily disagreed. The SF Chron has down-played the breadth and depth of dissent on the war, as have most corporate owned media. Or they choose to show violence by outsiders or opportunistic fringe elements at peace rallies, but they do not cover why there is dissent.
As for local news, I don't see our local Daily's (Palo Alto, Redwood City,
etc) included on your list. Their coverage of local events,
outside of SF, is excellent, even if the editing leaves a lot to be desired. A fifth grade English teacher could have a field day with the typos and spelling and grammatical errors. But they cover the local news and their letters to the editor sections are always full
of letters, meaning that these papers are widely read.
But the best source for national and international news is the internet. With
American media controlled by a few corporate giants
with no interest in rocking the Bush boat, an American seeking real information goes to the internet. Within a few keystrokes and mouse
movements, the world's events can be read about in any number of papers and brands of bias. The most insightful and informative
portions of internet newspapers are usually the OpEd sections.
Thanks for asking...
--We do hope to include smaller papers as our resources grow. Ed.
Iraq War Coverage
I would like ask David Weir ... why he says asking about the President and his TV viewing [is] "ludicrous". I find it unconscionable on the part of the American media for their total biased nationalistic spin on the war and the way it has been reported. I am also struck by the double standards that ooze out of every tv channel and the media's reverential treatment of the US government and the military.
Shame on you media!!
Dear sir ,
After reading your web page covering the war you state that this
new kind of journalism is here to stay. I would like to differ from the
point of view that at present journalists and the media in general seem to be treating this conflict as if it was a Hollywood war movie with no regards to the feelings of the families and especially the children who are being exposed to some of the more gruesome sights.
I feel we should not have to suffer this type of coverage, although we do all need to know what is happening in the conflict.
I also feel that this media coverage is also too informative to the opposition. In such conflicts as WWII, there would have been at times total news black outs. I truely believe that this should be the case presently.
I will give you an instance, the loading of bombs, etc., on to B52 aircraft at Fairford. This is beamed instantly across the world which gives the opposition the advantage of knowing that within around six hours its payload will be dropped upon them, which in turn, allows them this window of time to do certain things to evade the onslaught.
There is no element of surprise due to the way coverage is reported now .
I know these are the feelings of many people around me who are
in the same position as ourselves with either sons or loved ones who are presently
serving in this conflict. This type of coverage is endangering them. You may
wish to dissagree, but you can pull
out at any time whereas they cannot. I hope can understand my concern and that I have balanced my views accordingly.
Another Side to the Domestic Violence Story
As a lawyer frequently representing those accused of "intimate violence" (as well as the victiims), I see another side to this issue. While the news media tend to ignore the issue or play the blame game, the mass media in general wallow in it in the reality shows, the day time Springer-style shows, and the subject is pervasive in the court houses and the police departments of the Bay Area.
District Attorneys offices have developed specialized units that
channel the alleged offenders into domestic violence counseling programs. Much
of the East Bay black male population (this is a visual estimate, not a hard
fact), and large portion of the white population
of the Bay is now enrolled in one program or another and is on probation for three year stretches and under the thumb of the police at all times, night or day, in or out of their respective homes.
Intimate violence has become the bugaboo of our society -- the currency of the battle of the sexes. It cuts both ways (no pun intended).
I represented a woman accused of manslaughter for stabbing her live-in boyfriend to death with a kitchen knife in anger, then leaving him to bleed to death without calling for help. She'd had physical fights with him before and admitted that she gave as good as she got. I've represented men accused of the crime by women desparate to forgive and forget, but unable to convince the DA to dismiss the charges however spurious.
One man was accused of hugging too tightly. The woman conceded he'd never struck her or threatened her before and only got riled up when she confessed to being unfaithful to him. In his shock and despair in the first hour of learning of the end of the relationship, he "got physical" but inflicted no injury and did not strike or threaten the woman. Yet, he now suffers a criminal conviction, a restraining order, anger management class requirement and a fine.
I have clients who have tapes of their accuser conceding they filed a false charge and offering to try to pull the prosecutor of the case (all futile, as prosecutors will threaten the reporting parties with prosecution for filing false police reports if they attempt to recant). Probation has been converted into a license for police to tramp on the Fourth Amendment protections like gestapo on Kristalnacht.
The police used to ignore the problem. But the pendulum has swung too far in the opposite direction, with a strong sexist twist--the man is almost always arrested even if he's the only one bleeding at the scene.
This story too is completely ignored. It is politically incorrect. It is an awful situation, however.
Robert E. Kroll
Ch. 11 v. Ch. 7
My wife and I watch TV news in San Jose. We are 4-year transplants
from Canada and are learning US politics. I personnally do not like the look
and feel of Ch11 (too slick, less content) but can accept Ch 7 generally.
On the issue of President Bush preparing new tax rollback policy, the Ch 11 news went like this:
1. Pres Bush is making an unpopular tax rollback policy
1b. while he and his close aides prepare for war
2. he's at his Crawford Tx ranch
3. Democrats cite that it will hurt families, middle and low income
4. long sound bite speech from Sen. Daschle explaining how bad it all is
5. Democrats are picking a new Presidential candidate and here's clip of Gephardt
5b. Gephardt opposes the tax rollback and a text overlay explains how he will help families
my wife and I were surprised at how fiercely biased the newsreel appeared. We felt so because the Democrat leader selection is not related to Bush's tax policy and because the tax policy was covered in 5 seconds as an entry point to much more detailed coverage of Democrat opinion and activities. So we switched to Ch 7 news which read like this:
1. Pres Bush is making a tax rollback policy
1b. it will ease taxes at corporate and very high income levels
1c. the President expects that this is an important trickle-down to revive employment
2. Democrats oppose the measure saying that it only helps the top 1% income earners
Dave Devries 1/5/2003
Is this news or an undercover ad?
I have enjoyed your site and your KQED commentaries. Keep up the
Yesterday's evening news (KRON I think, but it could have been KNTV) featured a spot with Marty Nemko that showed a new twist in mixing ads and news. Just by "coincidence" the shot showed one of his books (Cool Careers for Dummies) pulled out of his book shelf and propped up, cover out, for all to see. Now there was no mention of his books, just the typical "Bay Area job guy" title, but it seemed a little sneaky to pitch the book that way.
I was pretty disappointed. I guess after seeing so many "stories" about Disney on KGO, I should cut Marty a little slack though.
Union City 12/30/2002
I didn't see the newscast you reference, but you are absolutely right to notice that advertising Nemko's book was an intended part of the "news" story.
My perspective is that such promotion is ethical if the
product is relevant to the subject of the story. There's nothing wrong, for
example, with Terry Gross or Michael Krasny interviewing an author about a book
and mentioning the name of the book. That clearly promotes its sale, but the
promotion is incidental to informing the public about an interesting or important
Journalism ethics get bruised when the promotion is irrelevant
to the story topic or that topic itself is promotional rather than neutrally
informative. It's especially a problem when the news organization benefits from
the promotion. (In this case, it's Nemko who benefits.)
Praise for a Chronicle Education Story
San Francisco parents and public-school advocates award a star to Chronicle writer Jan Goben for her back-to-school package on parent involvement in the Sunday Living section, Aug. 11, 2002.
The main [story] showed how parent involvement benefits schools and demonstrated how parents can help their own kids' schools. The sidebar told the story of how a committed neighborhood turned a struggling school -- Alvaradoin Noe Valley -- into a success. Both stories showcased San Francisco public schools.
Here's why the package was notable:
-- Without sounding like a puff piece, it demonstrated concrete and positive
ways for parents and community members to support and improve public schools.
-- It focused on San Francisco public schools that are not among the five or six well-known trophy schools.
-- It conveyed no implication that San Francisco schools are pathetic, helpless and downtrodden, as features on urban schools are so
unfortunately prone to do. (We San Francisco public-school parents are pathetically grateful not to be portrayed as crackheads.)
On behalf of San Francisco's 60,000 schoolchildren (most of whom do not have crackheads for parents), thanks to Jan, to photographers Chris Stewart and Penni Gladstone, and to Living Editor Pati Poblete for giving ample space to a thorough, unbiased and high-quality package.
-- Caroline Grannan
Parent, Aptos Middle School and Lakeshore Elementary School
Board member, 2nd District PTA and Parents for Public Schools-San
[Disclosure: Caroline Grannan is the wife of a Chronicle reporter, but not one associated with this story. ]
Criticism of Chronicle's Series on San Francisco Public Schools
The climate in the schools, in general, has not been so positive for decades.
There is a sense that ALL schools are making steady progress, and there
is widespread support and genuine respect for Superintendent Arlene Ackerman,
who has been investigating past problems of mismanagement and abuse in the
district, and fixing them.
I was very disapointed in the story by Guthrie. It was sensationalistic in the worst sense. Those of us who are working closely with our schools felt really disgusted with the series, and I was amazed that the Chron took credit for "uncovering" the "story"! What a crock! The story didn't tell anything about what really is happening in schools across San Francisco.
Ann Melamed, Parent, SF public schools
Anybody who has attended the public meetings of the SFUSD school board in the last few years will have a radically different view of events. They will also wonder why this particular reporter is never to be seen there. Only one side of the story is told and none of the positive changes in the school district are reported. What is portrayed by the reporter as a discovery or exposé is in fact information made public by the current Superintendent of Schools and school board members who are trying to clean up the mess made by their predecessors. Instead of giving them credit for this task, they receive the blame for the mess. This is unfair, twisted, and irresponsible. This is sensationalist smear tactics and character assassination masquerading as investigative journalism.
I can only guess at the motive behind these articles. Perhaps it's just simple journalistic ambition and promotion of one's own career? Or perhaps there were more sinister forces wielding their dark influence? Was there an ax to grind? At that time there were several SFUSD issues before the public eye. A possible bond issue for millions of dollars for school renovation was effectively torpedoed by these articles. A bitter battle was being fought by commercial interests who seek to privatize public schools. And a political contest was being fought by two members of the SFUSD school board for the Democratic primary for a seat in the State Assembly.
Anyway, this series did more than any other I have read in the Chronicle to discredit that newspaper as a reliable source of information for me. Julian Guthrie indeed deserves a prize for conducting her subtle propaganda with skill. Perhaps her next assignment will be as a spokesperson for the Ministry of Truth? George Orwell would have been proud!
--name withheld by request
Please feel free to print the text of this letter, but I would prefer to submit it to you anonymously. Best wishes for your efforts to grade the news.
Concerning the SFUSD: Several times the Chronicle Editors have been requested to rein in Julian Gutherie on her rampage against the school district. What is she trying to prove, does it help the kids any? NO. First there is no response from the press to events in the schools, then an over-emphasis and distortion of what is wrong. Everyone should know you don't quote the Chronicle without hours of independent fact checking.
Coleman Advocates for Children and Youth
Media Watch Calls for KSJO Shock Jock's Suspension
On Wednesday July 24th at 4:45 pm he told listeners that if they are kidnappers, "Let's say, for instance, you're somebody that is a kidnapper. Think of all the nylon rope you could get at Orchard Supply Hardware. Plus, they sell tarps. I'm sure they sell lye to dissolve the body.''
Earlier in the same show he was referring to the little 7-year old girl who escaped in Philadelphia by chewing through the duct tape when he said, "That's why I don't use duct tape. That's why I use nylon rope." His comments were made on the same day as the memorial for the recently raped and murdered 5-year-old Samantha from Orange County, California.
While the news is brimming with stories of kidnapped, raped and murdered
girls, Mickey Esparza airs on his show a little girl's voice telling jokes
like, "What are the two most important holes in a woman's body? Her
nostrils, so she can breathe while she's giving a blow job." India
Weeks has filed a complaint with the FCC regarding Mikey coaching this "
four year old girl" to tell jokes on the air.
Our children are at a much greater risk as a result of shock jocks like Mickey, who has been temporarily suspended for his comments. Please let Clear Channel know that we won't stop until Mikey is permanently suspended. We are also calling for the boycott of all sponsors of Mikey's show.
Subject: About Bias
Israel gained control of the West Bank and Gaza during the war of 1967. Territory gained through war is commonly called "occupied territory." It is the term used in the UN resolution following the 1967 war. It is used by the US State Department to describe the status of the West Bank and Gaza; it is used in the 4th Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in the Time of War.
This 50 year old convention signed on to by both the US and Israel prohibits, among other things, the torture, illegal detention, house demolition deportation and humiliation of a civilian population living in an "occupied territory." These protections were granted in order to protect civilians who, living in an "occupied territory", do not fall within the jurisdiction or domestic law of any one state, and whose rights, therefore should be governed by international law.
The fact that the territories were seized during war doesn't somehow fade with time, nor does the law governing "occupied territories" count only in some cases and not in others. It would not be a law if it did.
If the values held in the Geneva convention are the values implicit in the term "occupied territories", values, I might add, accepted by almost every country in the world (though not always adhered to), then what exactly, are the values represented by "disputed territories."?
There have been legalistic rationalizations for thischange in terms. 1. That 17.2% of the West Bank is under the nominal control of the Palestinian Authority. 2. That Palestine was never a state so no one has any more right to it than Israel. Only in a remote mountain village could you have missed the continued reinvasion of PA territory, and the continued encirclement of PA towns by Israeli tanks.
When I heard your radio piece an image came to mind of Mr. McManus entering a Palestinian town surrounded by tanks and checkpoints holding up a big sign saying
"GOOD NEWS PALESTINIANS: YOU ARE NO LONGER OCCUPIED,
YOU ARE NOW ONLY DISPUTED!"
Certainly, the Cat-burglers Union can protest that robbery should be called involuntary redistribution of property. Is this the logic that you, as a media critic, support? Coming from the director of an organization with an array of impressive names attached to it, I find this argument absurd. It seems as a journalist or critic of journalism, that you should at least have some inkling of the relevant history about that which you write.
Sincerely, Nathanael Aff
I did not equate "disputed territories," with "occupied territories." In fact, I never used the term "disputed territories." But were I ever tempted to, you have certainly clarified the matter. --Ed.
Subject: Change in Channel 2's News Selection
I think Channel 2 is under a lot of financial pressure to do what everybody else does. Crime reporting is incredibly cheap in terms of reporter time and talent, offends no one powerful, and plays well across the signal area. That's why it's so popular in this and every other market.
As you point out about the Fancher piece, Channel 2 often delivers news that matters in an artful way. (The other stations do too, but not nearly as often, according to our analyses.)
I'll forward your message to Andrew Finlayson, the news director at Channel 2. The more ammunition he has for good programming the better chance he has of getting the resources to do it from corporate headquarters. (Note: Mr. Finlayson is currently on vacation and was unable to respond to your question..) --Ed.