MediaWatch: February 8, 1999

Vol. Thirteen No. 3


Slanted Sample

When the Supreme Court rejected plans to use statistical sampling instead of just a head count for the 2000 census, ABC’s World News Tonight and Associated Press both parroted the liberal view and ignored conservative arguments that sampling is an inaccurate and illegitimate measuring device.

Peter Jennings announced: "The administration argued that this was the way to account for millions of Americans who do not get counted in the traditional door-to-door surveys, millions of voters the Democrats covet."

John Cochran continued with the doom-and-gloom Democratic Party line, adding that minorities fear the census takers: "Let’s say you are an African-American in Harlem and you always feel harassed by the authorities. So when the census takers send you a form to fill out, you don’t."

The Associated Press likewise issued a one-sided story lamenting that "The Supreme Court ruled Monday that the 2000 census cannot use statistical sampling to enhance its accuracy, a decision making it more likely millions of people will be left out."

Both ABC and AP left out opposing viewpoints, including the Southeastern Legal Foundation or Newsweek’s Robert J. Samuelson, who wrote in the February 8 edition that "possible population errors are so tiny that the distribution [of federal funds] would barely change" and that "some experts think that the sample could reduce accuracy."

Why Children Smile
Sometimes the next best thing to cheering President Clinton on during his impeachment trial is to prop up one of his small-bore, photo-opportunity policy initiatives.

On the January 21 "Eye on America" segment, CBS Evening News reporter Maggie Cooper offered a textbook example. "Today’s announcement in Washington by President Clinton to continue funding a program called Troops to Teachers brought a sigh of relief to educators around the country. But, more importantly, smiles to the faces of many children." Cooper explained how Clinton called for an additional $18 million for the program, which provides military personnel with up to $5,000 for training and certification if they agree to teach in certain schools for at least five years.

Cooper explained: "The program was living on borrowed time because funding was running out. But today President Clinton’s appeal to Congress may give Troops to Teachers a new lease on life." So why wouldn’t Congress keep funding this program? Cooper offered viewers no sources besides Clinton. Cooper merely concluded: "It remains to be seen whether Congress will come up with the cash to turn military men and women into some of the two million new teachers this nation will need in the next ten years." Don’t they want kids to smile?

Sam’s No Skeptic
Sam Donaldson revealed his own bias in covering State of the Union addresses. Where once he denounced Reagan’s policies while praising his performance, now Clinton’s stagecraft is all that matters.

On This Week January 24, Donaldson recalled, "I learned way back in 1981, I learned, Ronald Reagan. He gave this wonderful speech, this great, accurate — I don’t disparage him, I mean, it was really moving. But I said on the air, something to the effect, yes, but the programs here, to cut taxes like that, we’ll run up huge deficits, they’ll never buy that."

Sam claimed Clinton would also succeed: "This guy uses television better than, with all due respect, all five of us put together." He certainly used Sam. After the speech, Donaldson said nothing about the costs of Clinton’s new proposals: "I would think the President had done what he wanted to do: show that he was in command, show that he had new programs and an agenda, and as far as you saw in the chamber, there was no overt mention or appearance of his great trial in the Senate."

But on January 22, ABC’s evening show became the only one to note a study from the National Taxpayers Union Foundation: "A taxpayer watchdog group says that if all the initiatives Mr. Clinton proposed were enacted, federal spending would increase by $288 billion, and create a $100 billion deficit in just a year."