CyberAlert -- 06/14/1996 -- Blaming Talk Radio for Church Burnings & More Brokaw

Blaming Talk Radio for Church Burnings & More Brokaw

Three items today:

1) ABC's Nightline puts "the violence from talk radio" in a list of what's causing the black church burnings.

2) The June MediaNomics features a front page story titled "After Hyping Worker Anxiety, National Press Ignores Contrary Evidence." An excerpt runs below.

3) NBC anchor Tom Brokaw believes people are "getting bored" with talk radio; that having to endure talk radio is "the price of free speech" which makes it "all the more important that...the mainstream, traditional news outlets can hold their own." But "unfiltered" Web sites are even more dangerous than talk radio.


Nightline on Wednesday night (June 12) examined the burning of black churches in South Carolina. One segment dealt with the role of the Confederate flag, but here's how reporter Deborah Amos began her story: "Why are there so many church burnings in South Carolina? Some people say it's racism, some, that it's evil, or the violence from talk radio, or the insecurity over jobs. But many people say it's the flag."


The June issue of MediaNomics, the newsletter of the MRC's Free Market Project, features a cover story on how the same media which have hyped stories of worker anxiety ignored a poll showing most workers are happy and content. The newsletter will mail next week. Here's an excerpt from the article by Tim Lamer:

Few business and economics stories capture the imagination of political reporters like this year's barrage of news about worker anxiety. It's accepted as fact among reporters that American workers are alarmed about their prospects in the new, global economy.
But, in fact, are they? While most reporters have relied on carefully selected anecdotes highlighting worried workers, Inc. magazine commissioned the Gallup Organization to conduct a nationwide poll. The survey found that the vast majority of American workers are remarkably content with their work lives. But no national news outlet has reported on Inc.'s survey. Perhaps this is because the survey contradicts what reporters have been saying all year. According to CNN's Kathleen Kennedy, on the January 3 World News, "The latest rounds of corporate cutbacks have left many people fearing that they may be the next to be fired." Wyatt Andrews, on the February 26 CBS Evening News, described "an increasingly anxious middle class, whose dreams of upward mobility have met a downward reality."
The New York Times, in a now-famous seven-part series in early March depicted American workplaces as "battlefields" with "millions of casualties." According to the Times, the story of a man who lost a high-paying bank job, was forced to take a job at one-fourth the pay, and then had his family leave him "is no longer extraordinary."
Not so, reports Inc. "Across the board the 34 questions [to the worker survey] prompted upbeat -- sometimes even glowing -- responses," the magazine found. For example: 90 percent of the respondents were not worried about losing their jobs and 75 percent had not had three or more days in the past month when stress caused them to behave badly with their families.


The last e-mail featured quotes from Tom Brokaw denying that he has any liberal bias. He was also asked, during the same Q & A session at the National Press Club on June 11, about the role of talk radio in the campaign. Here's his response:
"I think these things all cycle out. I think that we're probably at about the end of a cycle on talk radio. I think that people pretty soon get bored with it, and only the gifted will survive. I think that you'll find that a lot of these acts and a lot of these towns around the country will began to dry up because it's so Johnny One Note and it's not very enlightening. Once you get past the shock value, then it doesn't have much merit anymore, and I don't think except for the true-blue believers that you're going to get much of an audience."
It's not clear who he's referring to when talking about hosts emphasizing their "shock value," but he then goes on to dismiss the credibility of "nationally known names," presumably Rush Limbaugh who was included in the Pew Center poll ranking the credibility of news sources.
Brokaw: "I think the constituencies are pretty narrow. I saw some polling recently about who has credibility in terms of communication and information, and the fact is that a lot of these people who are nationally known names, and have their own radio shows, are way down at the bottom in single digits. So I don't think that it's going to have the impact that it might have four years ago or eight years ago. They can still stir-up an issue from time to time but you know what, it's the price of free speech. That's who we are in this country and it just makes it all the more important that people like Jim Lehrer and Tom Brokaw, and yes Peter and Dan, and Bernie Shaw and Judy Woodruff of CNN, that we all do our job better, so that the mainstream, traditional news outlets can hold their own and that we're being responsive on what's going on and we're telling the truth about what's happening."
But there are things worse than talk radio in Brokaw's view:
"The country is divided up in a lot of ways. It's not just talk radio, by the way. If you don't go on the net and look at the political Web sites, then you're missing something, because that's an unfiltered access to people out there, and there's some outrageous stuff that is going out on the internet right now -- claims that are being made by these special interest groups, all the way across the political spectrum, from the far left to the far right. Before the internet, there were newsletters that we didn't see, that we didn't report on, that we didn't cover. And the newsletters went out to specifically targeted constituents in this country, and would make all manner of claims that didn't necessarily hold the truth, but they aroused people and they titillated people and I think that those are more dangerous, if you will, to a democracy and to the health of a democracy than talk radio, which is at least out there in the open."

Do you see a pattern here? If "journalists" don't control the information flow then it's a dangerous medium.

-- Brent Baker