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CyberAlert -- 06/25/1997 -- Fewer Conservative Journalists

Fewer Conservative Journalists; Disney Appeases Liberals

  1. More budget balderdash about imaginary "cuts."
  2. An ABC e-mail suggests likely future GMA host Elizabeth Vargas has quite an ego, demanding an on-scene hair stylist and expecting everyone to accommodate her late arrivals.
  3. The number of conservatives in newsrooms fell by a third between 1986 and 1996 according to a national poll of journalists.
  4. Disney may resist conservative calls for programming changes, but they fired a conservative talk host so as to appease liberals.

1) Misleading Headline of the Week, caught by MRC news analyst Clay Waters -- from a June 24 AP story featured on the Chicago Tribune Web site:
"Senate Beginning Votes on Huge Budget-Cutting Bill"


2) Prima Donna Watch. Better watch what you say in e-mail. It can cause some embarrassment. Two examples:

a) Good Morning America news reader Elizabeth Vargas, the June 14 TV Guide noted, "is high on the list of possible successors to outgoing Good Morning America co-host Joan Lunden." But it doesn't look like the off-camera staff is pulling for her to be picked to fill the opening. TV Guide relayed the highlights of "an internal GMA e-mail memo" about Vargas. "According to the 'high priority' February 21 memo that went out to GMA associate producers, the following are things to keep in mind when working with Vargas:"

-- "Two-camera shoots whenever it involves her interviewing somebody." TV Guide explained that "multi-camera shoots are reserved for news stars to make them more a part of the story."

-- "Hair and makeup at location."

-- "Use [Vargas] only...where it is vital to the piece that she be there. In other words...she doesn't want to be there if you're shooting B-roll." TV Guide elaborated "that means Vargas has better things to do while background footage is being shot."

-- Always anticipate that she will be running a little late (15-20 minutes)."

b) Meanwhile, MRC news analyst Steve Kaminski noticed that the June 9 Newsweek ran a correction to a Newsweek item on a NBC e-mail message that was highlighted in the April 24 CyberAlert. The April 28 Newsweek reported that Dateline NBC co-host Stone Phillips was none too pleased with an e-mail message he received. Newsweek reported in April:

"Love your butt, that was the gist of the intra office e-mail that flashed across the computer screen of Dateline NBC anchor Stone Phillips...Phillips...was not amused, especially since the identification tag at the end of the note belonged to a young (fairly low-level) female staffer with whom he had little contact. So the upright anchor confronted her and demanded an explanation. The bewildered desk assistant protested her innocence -- she barely knew Phillips, much less his buns. So who was the real source of the naughty note? None other than that chipper prankster Katie Couric, co-host of the Today show."

Newsweek's correction: "In fact, Phillips knew all along that Couric was the author of the note, and did not confront the staffer. Newsweek obtained erroneous confirmation of the incident from NBC. Newsweek regrets the error."


3) With the constant flow of daily bias, I never reported in April the results of a new poll of journalists that, surprise, surprise, proved they are more liberal than ever. So here's an excerpt from a May MediaWatch article which highlighted the key findings:

Liberals Rule Newsrooms

Newspaper staffs have become even less conservative over the past eight years, a poll for the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE) found. Last fall, ASNE polled 1,037 journalists at 61 papers of all sizes. Released in April, The Newspaper Journalists of the 90s report discovered:

-- "In 1996 only 15 percent of the newsroom labeled itself conservative/Republican or leaning in that direction, down from 22 percent in 1988" when the ASNE last conducted a comprehensive survey. Those identifying themselves as independent jumped from 17 to 24 percent while the percent calling themselves "liberal/Democrat" or "lean" that way held steady, down one point to 61 percent.

-- The bigger the paper, the more liberal the staff: "On papers of at least 50,000 circulation, 65 percent of the staffs are liberal/Democrat or lean that way. The split at papers of less than 50,000 is less pronounced: still predominantly liberal, but 51-23 percent."

-- "Women are more likely than men to fall into one of the liberal/Democrat categories," as just 11 percent said they were conservative or leaned that way. Minorities "tend to be more liberal/Democrat," with a piddling 3 percent of blacks and 8 percent of Asians and Hispanics putting themselves on the right. The least liberal: 20 percent of those 50-plus in age were conservative or leaned that way.

Ideological imbalance isn't a concern, however, to ASNE which believes skin color and sex has the most impact on reporting. The poll plugged in three groups as responders were asked "How would you describe your newspaper's commitment to...." The three: "ethnic and race diversity," "gender diversity," and "fairness on sexual orientation."

So how did the media establishment react to this latest evidence that reporters overwhelming view the world through a liberal prism? The poll numbers led a media think tank leader to pen an article titled, "The Myth of the Liberal Slant." To learn more about that, read the entire article from MediaWatch. Go to: http://www.mediaresearch.org/mediawatch/1997/mw0597p8.html You can read all of the January through May MediaWatch articles at: http://www.mediaresearch.org/mediawatch/1997/


4) Disney is willing to sacrifice profit if content offends those at the top of the corporate structure, at least if the content is conservative and disturbs liberals.

A little background: The Southern Baptist Convention voted last week to launch a boycott of Disney because of the company's liberal social messages, such as the famous Ellen episode. In a speech in Washington last Friday, Michael Medved, a conservative movie critic and KVI in Seattle talk show host, called the boycott "a profound mistake." Medved contended that the move only re-enforces the image of conservatives as intolerant and targets one of the few entertainment companies that produces family-friendly entertainment. Whether you agree or not, an item I came across about Disney's WABC Radio should give some ammunition to the Southern Baptists who say Disney could alter content if it really wished.

Disney of course argues that it just follows the market and produces what people want to see and read. Indeed, Ellen was a ratings bonanza. But does Disney always put profit ahead of judging the appropriateness of its products or resisting pressure from outside groups?

In April, 1996 WABC Radio in New York City fired afternoon talk show host Bob Grant after he made a distasteful joke about the plane-crash death of Commerce Secretary Ron Brown. Over the years he had uttered numerous comments that upset liberals who labeled him a racist. In the June 19 New York Post Michael Starr documented the disastrous result of Disney's decision:

"The station's ratings fell below WOR's almost as soon as Grant switched stations, and WABC has been trying to catch up ever since." Competitor WOR picked up Grant and gave him the same time slot he had owned at ABC -- 3 to 7pm. Starr noted that WABC recently adjusted its 3 to 7pm schedule, but "so far the move hasn't made much of a difference for WABC" with the new host "averaging a 2.7 share to Grant's 4.1, according to the Winter 1997 Arbitron ratings report."

Starr observed: "WABC scored one of its highest shares -- a 4.5 in the fall 1995 Arbitron report -- just months before Grant's exit. Those were the days when WABC could accurately promote itself as the nation's highest-rated talk radio station. But those days are over."

Sounds like Disney is willing to appease complaints from outside groups -- if they are liberal.

-- Brent Baker