All The News That's Fit to Skip: Network Apathy Toward Chinese Contributions and Espionage

Introduction: Hazardous to Your Health, TV News Judgment on National Security

The networks suspect foreign policy bores viewers to death, even foreign policy scandals. Instead, network newscasts thrive on warning the American public about the more visible threats to their everyday lives. On an almost nightly basis, TV anchors suggest viewers should worry about spoiled hamburgers, pesticide-tainted fruit, caffeine, tobacco, flammable children’s pajamas, unsafe bottled water, "monster" sport utility vehicles, unused seat belts, negligent nannies, "road rage" and global warming. Sensational murders outside bars or inside schools, whether the victims are celebrities or obscurities, can dominate the news for days.

Would any network executive dare to suggest that improved Chinese missiles are somehow not as threatening to the public as the "news-about-you" nightmares they present on a regular basis? Their lack of coverage would seem to say so. The nation’s most prestigious newspapers — the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Washington Times — have published scoop after scoop detailing the connections between Chinese contributions and espionage efforts. But the ABC, CBS, and NBC morning and evening shows have aired next to nothing of these reports. (CNN and FNC did cover many of these disclosures, but we’ve targeted the Big Three newscasts.) The CBS Evening News, it should be noted, has run two exclusive pieces in the past month about security lapses at the nuclear labs and Energy Dept.

While network reporters crusade against tobacco companies and SUV salesmen, malignant meat-grinders and disgruntled drivers, couldn’t they add to their list of people to hold accountable the foreign-policy experts and politicians who have allowed a potentially life-threatening erosion of our strategic advantage? 
With the end of the Cold War, the networks seem to have abandoned the idea of covering threats to America’s national security. After years of Democratic foot-dragging, Congress recently held a surprising bipartisan vote to build a strategic missile defense. But the networks did not explain what caused this stunning policy shift: reports of Chinese espionage inside the United States. Republicans and Democrats agree the communist government of China has made leaps and bounds in developing more sophisticated missile-guidance systems to improve their aim, and miniaturized multiple warheads to increase their deadliness.

Network apathy on Chinese espionage would seem less irresponsible and less unfair if the networks hadn’t doggedly pursued foreign-policy scandals during Republican presidencies with a curiously partisan sense of geopolitics. What the President knew and when he knew it was an absolutely central tenet of the Iran-Contra story. Why are the same networks now so uninterested in Clinton’s knowledge of Chinese espionage? These new disturbing discoveries and their lack of TV coverage can be broken down into four subject areas: