REPORT OF THE MONTH

Corporations’ Hometown News

Journalists Give Workers the Business
By DavidMadland, Centerfor American Progress, Washington, D. C., June20, 2008. - http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2008/06/pdf/world_without_wo rkers.pdf

Debate about media bias has mainly centered on the left-right political divide, characterized by heated, point/counterpoint about the supposedly liberal media. This report shows the real prejudice of mainstream media is its preference for business sources over workers or unions.

In a study that examines economic news in the five largest national newspapers (LosAngelesTimes, New York Times, USA Today,Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post), and the majorTV broadcast and cable news networks (ABC News, CBS News, NBC News, CNN, FOX News, and CNBC), David Madland found that journalists quoted business sources over twice as often as either unions or workers themselves.

Across four target areas of economic news coverage—coverage of employment, minimum wage, trade, and credit debt—workers and business were cited in a one-to-one ratio only in reports on credit debt.

While alternative news sources are growing, the mainstream media still has the power to shape people’s perspectives on issues and influence their voting. Therefore, quoting corporate perspectives in excess leads audiences to have more favorable views of business, Madland argues. The report neglects to discuss the mainstream media’s general failure to run stories on labor organizing and conflict, which creates an even stronger bias in favor of business.

He says the cause of the bias lies in journalism’s evolution into an “elite profession,” with privileged reporters more likely to be conservative, pro-business, and associate with elite sources rather than working class ones. The solution is for journalists to admit to their bias, and then change their ways.

–Alex DiBranco

Other Reports in Review

Women’s Greater Economic Hardship
Women at Greater Risk of Economic Insecurity: A Gender Analysis of the Rockefeller Foundation’s American Worker Survey Institutefor Women’s Policy Research, Washington D. C., May 2008. - http://www.iwpr.org/pdf/D482AWSReport.pdf

Using data compiled by the Rockefeller Foundation’s American Worker Survey, this report presents the unsurprising news that women, and in particularwomen of color, are struck hardest by economic downturns.

Much of the report reads as a psychological study: women worry more about their economic security, they’re “jittery” about the impact ofinflation, and they’re anxious about lacking health insurance and pensions. But with reason: “Women’s unease about their finances is not simply a greater propensity to worry; it reflects their experiences of material hardship.” Women are twice as likely as men to make less than $19,000, and almost twice as likely to have found themselves unable to pay for food or prescription medication. While more educated women fared better than their less fortunate female counterparts, they still suffered more in comparison to men of the same education bracket.

In addition, women are twice as likely to be single parents, putting an additional strain on their already limited resources. Motherhood is a precarious economic situation: Mothers have far less job security than men or single women, but have more mouths dependant on their paycheck. Women were twice as likely as men to have passed up taking their child to the doctor because they did not have enough money or insurance.

Women of color are hit hardest. Almost half ofAfrican-American women and 40 percent of Hispanics have been unable to pay a bill on time, as compared to 26 percent of White women. Asked about their employment status over the past year, almost twice as many women of color reported having been involuntarily unemployed.

–Alex DiBranco

Republicans Less Likely to Believe in Global Warming
A Deeper Partisan Divide over Global Warming The Pew Research Centerfor People and the Press, Washington D. C., May 8, 2008. - http://people-press.org/reports/pdf/417.pdf

Republicans are growing increasingly skeptical that global warming is actually happening, even as Americans as a whole are more likely to accept the idea. Six percent more Americans in 2008 believe evidence points toward the existence of global warming compared to last year, bringing the total to 77 percent;13 percent fewer Republicans believe in global warming since 2007.

This survey report provides a useful overview of the demographics ofglobal warming believers and dissenters without analyzing why the trends are happening. For instance, college-educated Democrats are more likely to accept human causes for global warming, but Republicans with college degrees are less likely to agree that global warming has human causes—an intriguing finding that leaves further questions about the grounds for their beliefs. The report also notes a generation gap regarding perspectives on global warming, with young people under thirty much more likely to believe it is caused by human activity (54 percent versus 37 percent).

–Alex DiBranco

Immigration as a Global Agenda
Border Crossings: Links between Immigration, Debt and Trade By Sarah Anderson, Institutefor Policy Studies, Washington D. C., June 20, 2008. - http://www.ips-dc.org/reports/#515

As long as people are suffering from an abysmal quality oflife in their home countries, migrants without documents will continue to come to the United States. From this simple insight, Sarah Anderson argues policymaking on immigration must take a global perspective.

Taking Haiti, Honduras, El Salvador, and Mexico as case studies, Anderson argues that debt cancellation by the World Bank and IMF, protections ofworkers rights, reparations for “odious” debts contracted under U.S. supported dictators, and waivers of NAFTA requirements for these countries would go a long way toward improving economic conditions there. This, in turn, would reduce the root cause of desperate immigration to the United States.

–Alex DiBranco

Immigration Myths
Fear and Loathing in Prime Time: Immigration Myths and Cable News Media Matters Action Network, Washington, D. C., May 21, 2008. - http://mediamattersaction.org/reports/fearand loathing

Not only are undocumented immigrants criminals who act as a massive drain upon the United States’ economy, they also are causing an outbreak of leprosy. Well, at least according to cable commentators like Lou Dobbs, who uses his prime time show Lou Dobbs Tonight to launch anti-immigration screeds and to propagate myths. Dobbs and other cable hosts, most notably Bill O’Reilly and Glenn Beck, devote an astonishing proportion of their air time (70 percent, in Dobbs’ case, according to a new report) to championing the cause against undocumented immigrants.

Dobbs and his ilk will air coverage of one crime perpetrated by an undocumented immigrant over and over and over again, to give the illusion of rampant crime. Dobbs fabricated the statistic that “just about a third ofthe prison population in this country is estimated to be illegal aliens”; in fact, noncitizens comprise barely six percent of the overall prison population.

And while Dobbs, O’Reilly, and Beck bemoan the impact of immigrants “leeches,” undocumented immigrants, while not contributing as much on the state and local level, pay into federal programs (like social security) from which they are ineligible to receive benefits. Overall, they’re paying more into the system than they’re getting back.

The report also takes on Dobbs’ & Co.’s conspiracism, most notably the fabricated elite plan to merge the U.S., Mexico, and Canada into one “North American Union.” Depending on their mood, they might also warn that illegal immigrants are committing voter fraud in droves.

–Alex DiBranco

African-American and LGBT Rights
At the Crossroads: African-American Attitudes, Perceptions, and Beliefs toward Marriage Equality C. NicholeMason, Ph.D, National Black Justice Coalition, Washington D. C. and Freedom to Marry, New York City, May 2008. http://www.nbjcoalition.org/news/marriage_ report.pdf

A large proportion of the Black community is annoyed by efforts to equate the LGBT rights movement with the civil rights movement, says author C. Nichole Mason. Nearly 75 percent ofAfrican Americans believe that homosexuality is always wrong; 65 percent oppose marriage equality and, in contrast to the trend toward LGBT-sympathy over the past 10 years, these numbers have been climbing. There is significantly more support for LGBT rights among White and Latino communities, and the report asks why, especially since prominent religious leaders such as the Rev. Al Sharpton and civil rights leaders such as Coretta Scott King advocate marriage equality.

Mason suggests the political leaders are less influential than the numerous Black churches that embrace homophobic teachings and view same-sex marriage as unholy. She adds that some Black men harbor concerns that support for LGBT rights will call into question their own sexuality, which they feel has already been degraded by racism.

However, she points out the limitations of her own sources for understanding the problem, since she drew on a mish-mash of statewide surveys in her analysis. She also suggests reframing the issue so that it becomes a natural extension of African- Americans’ struggle for civil rights and against discrimination.

–Alex DiBranco

Spying Matters
Fusion Center Update By Mike German andJay Stanley, American Civil Liberties Union, Washington, D. C., July 2008.
News is breaking fast and furious about the threat of government “fusion centers,” which collect and distribute “intelligence” from both private data companies and police sources on the local, state and federal levels. So much so that the ACLU published this update to its November 2007 report on the subject, warning the network could lead to a “total surveillance society.”

Among the recent news: in March 2008 the Los Angeles Police Department issued LAPD Special Order #11, which charges its officers to create “suspicious activity reports” (SARs) compiling “information ofa criminal or non-criminal nature.” An SAR promotes racial profiling and violation of protected first amendment activity by encouraging beat cops to track those using binoculars, taking pictures or video footage “with no apparent estheticvalue,” and those taking notes. While nominally anonymous under federal standards, such SARs contain enough information that individuals can be identified once channeled to fusion centers with access to private data bases. And they violate federal law banning police from collecting information on someone unless there is “reasonable suspicion” of criminal conduct.

Far from being an isolated development, in June the departments ofJustice and Homeland Security, and the Major City Chiefs Association, recommended that other U.S. cities take up the LAPD practice.

Commercial databases accessed by fusion center staff allow them to make an end run around privacy laws preventing police from maintaining individual dossiers on people not engaged in wrongdoing. Those prohibited by state law from buying credit reports can simply ask a fusion center in another state to provide the desired information.

Despite their threat to civil liberties, the feds seem to be working to exempt the centers from state Freedom of Information laws as happened in Virginia in April 2008 by action of the state legislature.

–Ashley Pandya

Fall 2008
Vol. 23, No. 3 :

 


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