CBS Delivers A Steady Diet Of One-Sided Coverage

CBS Delivers A Steady Diet Of One-Sided Coverage
Network skews lawsuit story toward government and virtually ignores defendant

By Dan Gainor
August 10, 2005

     Viewers of the Aug. 9 CBS Evening News saw a report on diet pills, but the slant of the story gave them something difficult to swallow. CBS took the governments side in a lawsuit and undermined the company in question, Window Rock, which makes Cortislim diet pills.

     The Inside Story didnt go too far inside, as reporter Sharyl Attkisson didnt even include video of a spokesperson from the company, which was the defendant in the case. Here are a few other problems with the report:

    Face time: CBS was the worst network about giving defendants face time in a March 2005 Business & Media Institute analysis of lawsuit coverage. In Media Malpractice: Journalists Ignoring Tort Reform to Report One-Sided Stories Against Business,  CBS had the highest total of stories where the defendant had no face time 47 percent (30 out of 64). This time, the network was only slightly better. Rather than actually interviewing a company representative, Attkisson showed a photo of a company spokesman as she read a statement. It was unclear whether CBS had actually talked with the spokesman.
    Slanted experts: CBS led off the story with a representative from the Federal Trade Commission, which is suing Cortislim, and followed with Cortislims former spokesman, who is being sued by the FTC. The piece ended with comments from one happy customer.
    A simple plan: According to Attkisson, Cortislim can only legally be sold as part of a total diet and exercise plan. She went on to interview a dieter who claimed he had done just that combined exercise, diet and the pills to lose 40 pounds. Despite that testimony, anchor Bob Schieffer introduced the story with this sentence about the advantages of making products that promise to reduce weight: The good part about that is the product doesn't even have to work.