CyberAlert -- 08/14/1997 -- Helms the Terrorist

Helms the Terrorist; Don't Blame Communism; Cunanan Tops Fundraising

MRC Job Opportunities

: The MRC has an opening for an entertainment analyst and two intern positions. Entertainment analysts review television shows to track content. Starting salary in low $20s. The interns will work for the entertainment and news division. Hourly pay of about $7 per hour. The MRC is located in Alexandria, Virginia and applicants should be in the area so they can be interviewed. Fax resumes to: 703-683-9736
  1. Charming Jesse Helms is "a good warm-up game" for Madeleine Albright before meeting Yasir Arafat, suggested a Newsweek reporter.
  2. Communism did cause North Korea's famine, argued the New York Times. And CNN treated a credible the view of a North Korean General.
  3. A new study found that crime is the number one topic on network news and a study by the MRC of fundraising hearings confirms that as Cunanan stories far outnumbered fundraising ones.

1) More on the Jesse Helms as terrorist theme. The August 13 CyberAlert included the latest issue of Notable Quotables which cited Time columnist Margaret Carlson's reference to Senator Helms as a terrorist who runs a committee. MRC news analyst Steve Kaminski caught another member of the media comparing Helms to a terrorist in his battle with Bill Weld. On this past weekend's Inside Washington the panel discussed Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's upcoming meeting with Yasir Arafat. Evan Thomas, until a few months ago Newsweek's Washington Bureau Chief, suggested:

"Albright wants to deal face to face with the principles. It's going to be fascinating to see whether she can charm Arafat. If she can charm Jesse Helms, which is sort of a good test, a good warm-up game for Arafat. She has incredible gumption, she's a different kind of Secretary of State, it will be a fascinating test for her."

2) Food shortages and a starving population of North Korea has nothing to do with communism, it's caused by a famine. Last Friday, August 8, a New York Times editorial opened: "Two months of drought and scorching heat has turned North Korea into a veritable oven enclosing 24 million people." The Times absolved communist policies: "It is not the doctrines of Marx but Malthus that now shape this isolated and fanatical communist fortress."

This bizarre reasoning reminded me a NBC Nightly News commentary from the late John Chancellor. On August 21, 1991 he tried to explain why the Soviet Union faced so many shortages:

"It's short of soap, so there are lice in hospitals. It's short of pantyhose, so women's legs go bare. It's short of snowsuits, so babies stay home in winter...The problem isn't communism; nobody even talked about communism this week. The problem is shortages."

Back to the Korean peninsula. Wednesday night at 6:30pm ET CNN ran a special, "Inside North Korea," based on the reporting of CNN International President Eason Jordan who managed to get into North Korea. Anchor Jonathan Mann asked who or what are being blamed for the lack of food. Jordan replied:

"It depends on whom you talk to. The international relief agencies, some of the people who work there say that the plight of the people here is not just the fault of Mother Nature, that it's also the government's economic policies and agriculture policies. Government officials dispute that and they say this is solely a problem generated by Mother Nature and only Mother Nature can solve this problem. So there's a real dispute about the blame in this case, but General Kim Jung Il (sp?) has been personally involved in this. He has ordered all of the entire army, hundreds of thousands of troops, into the countryside to help the farmers try to harvest what crops will survive."

Another example of the problem with Western reporters applying Western journalistic norms to reporting from an oppressive nation. Jordan gave equal weight to views of both the communist regime and the relief workers, as if each are equally credible. And the fact that the General "is personally involved in this" is more ironic than reassuring. In a closed off, backward nation run by a military dictatorship the army is hardly the solution to anything.

3) A study released by the Center for Media and Public Affairs determined that on the three broadcast network evening shows crime coverage has soared this decade. From 1990 to 1992 it was the sixth most covered topic, but jumped to first for 1993, 1994, 1995 and 1996. The least policy and most crime oriented newscast: NBC Nightly News. As relayed in Wednesday's USA Today: "From 1993 through July 1997, Tom Brokaw's NBC Nightly News had the most crime stories (2,896), the least foreign news (15.6%), and the most features (20%)."

As if on cue, the lead story on Wednesday's Nightly News: release of the autopsy report on JonBenet Ramsey. Neither ABC or CBS led with it.

Crime coverage overwhelmed any network interest in the fundraising hearings, a new study from the MRC documented. Released Wednesday in a Media Reality Check fax report, the study put together by the MRC's Tim Graham based upon the news logging of the MRC analysts determined that Andrew Cunanan trounced the hearings. The three morning shows, for instance, did not conduct one interview with a member of the Senate committee and ran seven times as many segments on Andrew Cunanan as on fundraising.

Below is the full report, but MRC Web manager Joe Alfonsi has placed a more graphically appealing version on the MRC Web site. Go to:

The next CyberAlert probably won't be until next week, so don't be surprised if you don't get one on Friday.

-- Brent Baker