Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting

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Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR) is a media criticism organization based in New York City, founded in 1986 by Jeff Cohen and Martin A. Lee. FAIR describes itself as "the national media watch group". The organization has been described as both progressive and leaning left. FAIR monitors the U.S. news media for "inaccuracy, bias, and censorship" and advocates for greater diversity of perspectives in news reporting. It is opposed to corporate ownership of media entities and calls for the break-up of media conglomerates. FAIR publishes Extra!, a monthly newsletter of media criticism, and also produces a weekly, podcast and radio program called CounterSpin, which is aired on more than 150 stations throughout the United States.

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2020[edit]

  • Reuters routinely buries information that would badly damage the reputation of US allies in the Americas. Whether those allies are bureaucrats from the Organization of American States and the dictatorship they helped install in Bolivia (FAIR.org, 12/17/19), violent protesters in Nicaragua (FAIR.org, 8/23/18) or Venezuelan politicians who support lethal US sanctions on their own country (FAIR.org, 6/14/19), the London-based news service can be counted on to cover for them.
    In the case of Ecuador, a servile US ally since President Lenín Moreno took office in 2017, Reuters has ignored efforts to prevent Moreno’s strongest opponents from participating in the presidential and legislative elections scheduled for 2021.
    • Reuters (Unsurprisingly) Looks Away as Ecuador Tries to Outlaw Opposition Parties, Joe Emersberger, (17 August 2020)
  • Why would the US government care so much about such a seemingly innocuous app? The reasons for Trump’s rage are at once comical and frightening. On the one hand, Trump has found what might appear to be a random media issue to deflect from his various problems (plummeting poll numbers, rising Covid cases, slumping economy), a phenomenon that lends itself to ribbing from satirists and talkshow hosts. But the deeper problem is that he is leveraging his executive position to fight and try to take control of a media group with the excuse of its being foreign, which is both a threat to free speech and free press, and adds to his administration’s pugnacious Sinophobia... The reason he has fixated on TikTok, it seems clear, is because of its reported use by young online activists to organize spurious reservations to his Tulsa rally—contributing to his humiliation when the sparse attendance failed to match his boastful expectations. Trump’s use of the power of the federal government to punish media outlets he perceives as having crossed him is part of a disturbing pattern of contempt for the First Amendment’s protection of the press...
    • Trump’s Tantrum Against TikTok Is No Laughing Matter, by Ari Paul, (5 August 2020)
  • In order to have a legal arrest, you need probable cause to believe that the person committed a crime. And these snatches, by unidentified federal officials in unmarked vehicles, snatching peaceful protesters off the streets, transporting them to unknown locations without informing them of why they’re being arrested, and later releasing them with no record of their arrest, violates the law. And this “proactive” arrest that the Department of Homeland Security is intending to carry out, violates the Fourth Amendment, which requires that, as I said, an arrest be supported by probable cause.... There is nothing in the law that allows “proactive arrest.”
    • ‘Trump’s Troops Are Breaking the Law and Creating Chaos’... CounterSpin interview with Marjorie Cohn on Portland secret police, Janine Jackson, (30 July 2020)
  • It’s the power of the people, and people are in the streets—hundreds of thousands of people in the streets in US cities, and in cities around the world—in support of the Movement for Black Lives, and against police brutality... we can’t rely on the legal system, but it’s a tool that we have to use... my organization, the National Lawyers Guild, is front and center in the middle of legal defense for the protesters... to witness what the police are doing... they have been the target of police brutality and violence... there is an ACLU lawsuit... asking for an injunction against these federal agents targeting legal observers, and targeting journalists as well, because the last thing in the world that the Trump administration and his goons want are witnesses, are media that are witnessing what’s happening... there are lawsuits being filed in support of the real power, and that is the power of the people.
    • ‘Trump’s Troops Are Breaking the Law and Creating Chaos’... CounterSpin interview with Marjorie Cohn on Portland secret police, Janine Jackson, (30 July 2020)
  • Whatever inflammatory rhetoric North Korean officials may or may not use in the face of perceived attacks on the country, journalists ought to remind their audiences that North Korean government officials are no more suicidal than any other country’s leaders.
    • US News Falsely Reports That North Korea Threatened to Nuke US, Joshua Cho (5 July 2020)
  • Despite the fact that the anonymous accusations were far from proven, and that both the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal included categorical denials from all those involved, including the White House, the Taliban and Moscow, much of corporate media treated the story as an established fact.
    • In ‘Russian Bounty’ Story, Evidence-Free Claims From Nameless Spies Became Fact Overnight, Alan MaCleod, (3 July 2020)
  • In their zeal to once again expose Trump as an all-around bad man, corporate media have elevated someone who should be condemned by a civilized society.
    • In the Name of Anti-Trumpism, Media Elevate a Lying Warmonger, Bryce Green, (3 July 2020)
  • Election Focus 2020: The obvious questions the endorsement raises are how it might influence Biden’s military policy, and perhaps whether such an endorsement would be demotivating for antiwar voters in Biden’s voter base.
    • For Politico, ‘Objectivity’ Means Asking Only Arms Industry Sources About an Arms Industry Endorsement, Julie Hollar, (30 June 2020)
  • The New York Times purported to explain how the Taliban managed to “outlast a superpower through nearly 19 years of grinding war,” without examining at all how the US contributed to reviving and sustaining the Taliban insurgency.
    • NYT Erases US Occupation’s Role in Prolonging Taliban Insurgency, Joshua Cho, (12 June 2020)
  • After Curfew, Detroit Police Act Aggressively to Disperse Protesters Who Refused to Leave” (Detroit Free Press, 5/31/20) “Minneapolis Officers Use More Aggressive Tactics Against Protesters as Rallies Flare Around US” (NBC News, 5/31/20) “An Agitated Trump Encourages Governors to Use Aggressive Tactics on Protesters” (CNN, 6/1/20)“An “Police Turn More Aggressive Against Protesters and Bystanders Alike, Adding to Disorder” (Washington Post, 5/31/20) “After Curfew, Protesters Are Again Met With Strong Police Response in New York City” (New York Times, 6/4/20)...
    • Top 16 Euphemisms US Headline Writers Used for Police Beating the Shit Out of People, Neil DeMause, (7 June 2020)
  • More people are coming to consider that racist policing cannot be ‘reformed’ with an occasional lawsuit and some implicit-bias classes.
    • The People Capturing Police Violence on Video Are the Ones Enhancing Public Safety’, Janine Jackson (3 June 2020)
  • It’s easy enough to find reporting in major US news outlets describing the hardships many Americans are facing. But lamenting inequality is one thing, and acknowledging—or, God forbid, highlighting—efforts to rectify it are very much another for corporate media.
    • Proposals to Ease Covid’s Blow on the Hardest Hit All but Ignored by Corporate Media, Julie Hollar, (3 June 2020)
  • It’s critically important that media provide accurate reporting on what our governments are choosing to do, and what price we are likely to pay for their choices. Instead, Newsweek is giving us the latest fashion reports on the emperor’s new clothes.
    • Newsweek Fails to Note That White House Reopening Guidelines Make Absolutely No Sense, Jim Naureckas, (29 May 2020)

2019[edit]

  • In addition to whitewashing Áñez, corporate journalists have sought to sanitize the image of the figure widely considered to be the real force behind the coup: Christian fundamentalist multimillionaire Luis Fernando Camacho.
  • Camacho is quite literally a fascist who got his political start in the sieg-heiling Santa Cruz Youth Union, an ultra-right paramilitary outfit that was instrumental in the Santa Cruz oligarchy’s 2008 US-backed secessionist plot which ultimately failed.
  • But none of this appears to matter to the Western media, which have portrayed Camacho as a “conservative protest leader” (BBC, 11/13/19), “a firebrand Christian” (Financial Times, 11/12/19) and a “civic leader” (Reuters, 11/7/19).
  • WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange should never have been punished for working with a whistleblower to expose war crimes.... The material exposed atrocities perpetrated by the US military, as well as other disgraceful acts—like US diplomats strategizing on how to undermine elected governments out of favor with Washington, spying on official US allies and bullying poor countries into paying wildly exorbitant prices for life-saving drugs... The point of journalism is to expose horrific crimes like this so that the powerful people who order them pay legal consequences, not the ones who expose them.
  • ...We live in a society where some people have a great deal of power, and most people have very little. And that this works out well for the few and not so well for the many. This plays out in the political realm with the few using their power to support candidates who would maintain that power. In the past..[news] outlets told us very little about which candidates were beholden to whose interests,,, ensuring that few people outside the donor class were aware of who was doing the donating. A funny thing happened in the 21st century: The development of digital technologies made it much cheaper to create and distribute information... this ability allows us to have conversations about politics that we’ve always needed and never have had until now... These discussions of candidates’ financial and policy histories can look like negativity—because it’s seldom good news when a line can be drawn between where politicians gets their resources and how they do their jobs. But the possibility of picking nominees based on who can best serve the interests of voters rather than donors is really one of the most positive developments in modern politics.
  • International opinion largely opposes Donald Trump’s current and threatened intervention in Venezuela, but that’s not the impression you get US corporate news media, who appear to be all-in with Trump’s push for the ouster of democratically elected President Nicolás Maduro... In reality, 75 percent of the world’s countries reject the US anointing of Juan Guaidó—whom most Venezuelans hadn’t heard of when Trump declared him their leader. And the UN has formally condemned US sanctions on Venezuela, which a special rapporteur compared to a “medieval siege.”...Corporate media’s fealty to the idea that the United States has the right if not the duty to overthrow other countries’ leadership to suit our—some of our—interests doesn’t begin and end with Venezuela. But the history of coverage of the country is especially illustrative of what it looks like when elite media work strenuously to maintain the storyline on an “official enemy.”
  • While the New York Times has been sandbagging Sen. Bernie Sanders (Ind.–Vermont) for years (Rolling Stone, 3/15/16), last weekend’s headline: “Bernie Sanders Is Making Changes for 2020, but His Desire for Control Remains” (3/1/19) is a particularly overt example...
    Unless one reads past the headline, which most Americans don’t, one is left wondering about what exactly Sanders desires to “control.” Is it the country? The media? When one actually digs into the Times’ article, written by Sydney Ember and Jonathan Martin, one quickly discovers that what Sanders desires to control is his own campaign, and that his oppressed victims were his highly paid media consultants, who quit because Sanders was “not willing to empower them.”
    Left unreported by the Times were statements by the consultants themselves (CNBC, 2/26/19) claiming that they were leaving on a “very positive note” over “differences in a creative vision,” and that they would be happy to assist his campaign again in the future. In the Times version, instead, we’re given anonymous sources described as “Democrats directly familiar with the episode” who give the impression the consultants were “enraged” over their “humiliation.”
  • Abrams’ public record in Latin America and elsewhere, as an official under Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, ought to be central in any reporting on his current Venezuelan adventure. But it only really got on media’s front burner when Abrams’ was confronted with it by Rep. Ilhan Omar in a House Foreign Affairs Committee meeting, an exchange then subsumed in media’s “Hot Controversy of the Day” framework.
    After the exchange with Representative Omar, Elliott Abrams sent a message to the Washington Post that described his role in the Reagan administration, saying, “It’s a remarkable record of support for Latin democracy, of which Representative Omar is obviously unaware and in which she is uninterested.” And he added, “That was clear from her conduct, which constituted attacking rather than questioning a witness.” The idea that Omar was speaking from ignorance—set aside her purported incivility as the conduct with which we should be concerned—but the idea that she was factually wrong, that she doesn’t know her history; for reporters to let that stand, as if to say, “who’s right depends on who you like”—it feels like an abdication of duty.
  • ...1995. Abrams was on the Charlie Rose Show with Allan Nairn, who is one of the best and most knowledgeable reporters about US foreign policy. And Nairn said that George Bush I—this was, again, 1995—had talked about putting Saddam Hussein on trial for crimes against humanity. And Nairn said, like, “That’s a good idea, but if you’re serious, you’re going to have to be even-handed, and so you’re going to have to prosecute people like this guy that I’m on the show with, Elliott Abrams.”
    And Elliott Abrams found this idea preposterous, and chuckled about it, and said, like, “Well, you know, if you want to do that, that would mean putting all the American officials who won the Cold War in the dock.”
    And that actually is a pretty fair point from Abrams. It’s not like he somehow fooled Ronald Reagan, that he fooled George W. Bush. I mean, they knew what he was doing. He was doing what they wanted him to do. And this is US foreign policy; this is what it’s like. There are doves and there are hawks, but the difference between them is not that great. And if you were going to put the hawks on trial, if you’re going to be honest about it, you’re going to have to put a lot of the doves there, too.
  • ...viral video company... In the Now, was taken off Facebook because of its indirect connection to the Russian government... The Facebook page of Voice of America, the US government’s main broadcast outlet... doesn’t seem to be any acknowledgement at all that VoA is connected to the US government—just the slogan, “The news may be good or bad. We shall tell you the truth”...” If you’re thinking that Facebook—90 percent of whose customers are not in the United States—should treat Russian-backed outlets differently than US-backed outlets because the US supports peace and democracy, or doesn’t use social media to try to manipulate other nations…. Well, this is why it’s important to get your information from a variety of sources.
  • But it’s not just US outlets that get to conceal their government funding on Facebook. The BBC doesn’t mention that it’s controlled and funded by the British government—only that its “mission is to enrich your life. To inform, educate and entertain.” At Al Jazeera English’s Facebook page, you learn, “We are the voice of the voiceless”—not that they are owned by the monarchy of Qatar. *Facebook needs to have one rule for whether government-funded outlets need to disclose their connections. And it needs to apply that rule consistently.
  • Alfred de Zayas, the first UN special rapporteur to visit Venezuela in 21 years, told the Independent (1/26/19) that US, Canadian and European Union “economic warfare” has killed Venezuelans, noting that the sanctions fall most heavily on the poorest people and demonstrably cause death through food and medicine shortages, lead to violations of human rights and are aimed at coercing economic change in a “sister democracy.” ...Given that de Zayas is the first UN special rapporteur to report on Venezuela in more than two decades, one might expect the media to regard his findings as an important part of the Venezuela narrative, but his name does not appear in a single article ever published in the Post; the Times has mentioned him once, but not in relation to Venezuela.
    Sanctions have kept the Venezuelan government from accessing financing and dealing with its debt while hamstringing its most important industry. Given that US media are writing for a principally US audience, the damage done by Washington and its partners’ sanctions should be front and center in their coverage. Exactly the opposite is the case.
    Thus, the US government acknowledges that it is knowingly, consciously driving the Venezuelan economy into the ground, but US media make no such acknowledgment, which sends the message that the problems in Venezuela are entirely the fault of the government, and that the US is a neutral arbiter that wants to help Venezuelans. Call this elision what it is: war propaganda.

2018[edit]

  • The Trump administration in April began enforcing a “zero-tolerance” immigration policy that has resulted in thousands of immigrant children being separated from their families. On June 18, ProPublica released an audio recording from inside a Border Patrol detention facility; children separated from parents and family members could be heard crying in the background, while a six-year-old girl from El Salvador begged for someone to let her call her aunt. The recording reminded the public of the undeniable reality that immigration policy has deep and lasting effects on actual people.
    However, as corporate media dove into this story, the voices of those impacted most by immigration policy were drowned out by soundbites from congress members and Trump administration officials... The few immigrants and civil rights advocates who were cited often expressed the crucial point that those coming into the United States are generally trying to escape imminent violence or political instability... Corporate TV news programs amplified the voices of the federal government while neglecting to show the lives and tell the stories of those affected by federal policy. The programs framed the story as whether or not families who try to cross the US/Mexico border should be separated, rather than exploring the causes and consequences of the current situation. In their coverage, the lived experiences of these immigrants are reduced to leverage for US politicians.
  • In major-paper opinion coverage of the Singapore summit, the people with the most to lose and gain from the summit, the people whose nation was actually being discussed—Koreans—were almost uniformly ignored. Three major US papers—the New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal—had only one Korean-authored op-ed out of 41 opinion pieces on the subject of the Korean peace talks.... The Post had 23 total opinion pieces, the Times had 16 and the Journal four. The only op-ed by a Korean was a pro-summit piece on June 12 by Moon Chung-in, an aide to South Korean President Moon Jae-in. Of the 41 editorials or op-eds only four (9 percent), were broadly positive about the Trump/Kim summit, 29 (70 percent) were negative and eight (21 percent) were mixed or ambiguous. The full list, current as of June 19, is here.... As FAIR noted in May (5/7/18), there’s a huge chasm between how recent peace efforts are being received in ostensible US ally South Korea and how they’re being covered in US media.

2017[edit]

  • The three most prominent US newspapers haven’t run a critical investigative piece on Jeff Bezos’ company Amazon in almost two years, a FAIR survey finds. A review of 190 articles from the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and the Bezos-owned Washington Post over the past year paints a picture of almost uniformly uncritical–ofttimes boosterish–coverage. None of the articles were investigative exposes, 6 percent leaned negative, 54 percent were straight reporting or neutral in tone, and 40 percent were positive, mostly with a fawning or even press release–like tone.

2012[edit]

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