("Quid coniuratio est?")
Is The Media Missing The Story?
[From a 700 Club Fact Sheet, based on a 700 Club Newswatch feature broadcast on September 28, 1994.]
+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +
The Washington press corps is famous for investigating White House "scandals" with the ferocity of a pit-bull. But regarding the most recent "scandal" called "Whitewater," many are wondering: has the pit-bull lost its bite?
While some have complained of a media feeding frenzy over Whitewater, Dr. Robert Lichter's Center for Media and Public Affairs reported earlier this year that media coverage of Whitewater has been lacking.
Prior to the Senate hearings on the subject, Whitewater had received just one-third the coverage Watergate received at a similar point in that episode.
Why have reporters been seemingly slow to thoroughly cover a story of political intrigue that first came to the surface at the height of the 1992 presidential campaign?
"It snuck under the national press' radar screen," says Stephen Hess, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. Hess blames the complicated nature of Whitewater for the media's slow and inadequate coverage.
L. Brent Bozell of the conservative Media Research Center does not accept Hess' explanation. "[Whitewater] is very complicated, but guess what: so was Watergate and so was Iran-Contra... and so were a bunch of other things."
From November 1, 1993, to August 15, 1994, Lichter's Center for Media & Public Affairs monitored media coverage of the major players in scandals surrounding the Clintons, classifying coverage as either "positive" or "negative." The results show a clear media bias in favor of the Clintons and against Clinton opponents: Bill Clinton, split at 49 percent positive; Hillary Clinton, 61 percent positive; Lloyd Cutler, 87 percent positive. Roger Altman was the only administration figure to receive overwhelmingly bad press (70 percent negative).
Critics of Clinton received consistently negative coverage: Congressman Jim Leach (R-IA), 60 percent negative; Senator Bob Dole (R-KS), 62 percent negative; Paula Jones, 67 percent negative; Arkansas state troopers, 77 percent negative; Kenneth Starr, 52 percent negative.
Members of the foreign media have been more willing than their American counterparts to cover Whitewater. The London Economist, and Sunday Telegraph both have published accounts related to Whitewater that received little coverage in the American media.
The Economist's Christopher Wood recently wrote a critique in The Wall Street Journal of the American press' coverage of Whitewater. He said he was "a little puzzled by my colleagues in the American media" for what he called the "genteel distance" the press has kept between itself and the strange events in Arkansas. He concluded by calling the American media's failure in this story "extraordinary."
In a recent Wall Street Journal-NBC News survey, just one in five Americans said the media are very or mostly honest. The media's seeming reluctance to delve deeply into the waters of Whitewater has only enhanced charges of media bias, making increasing numbers of Americans suspicious of both their president and their press.
I encourage distribution of "Conspiracy Nation."
"Justice" = "Just us" = "History is written by the assassins."