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Jeff – Readers would have learned a little bit about Rev. Falwell’s history, where he went to school, when he began working as a minister, when he founded Liberty University and that he got involved in politics with the Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision in the early 1970s. The original AP version of the story was much longer with information about the Moral Majority as well as mentioning his controversial comments made after 9/11 where he said “God continues to lift the curtain and allow the enemies of America to give us probably what we deserve,” even though he later apologized for those statements.
Linda – So what was omitted from the story about Falwell?
Jeff – The article begins with the sentence “The Rev. Jerry Falwell's conservative politics have earned him both friends and enemies in a long public career” but never really explores what his politics are other than to say he was politicized over the abortion issue. The only source used in the Grand Rapids Press were that of Falwell and a former assistant. The original AP version does have a comment from Rev. Barry W. Lynn, with Americans United for Separation of Church and State, but that comment doesn’t tell readers much. It reads “He is the face of the so-called religious right in America.” One significant omission was that Falwell was the major religious confidant throughout Ronald Reagan’s Presidency. According to the Center for Media and Democracy Falwell was also a major supporter of the State of Israel, had several large legal battles with the pornography industry and was an outspoken critic of homosexuality. On one occasion he said that “AIDS is the wrath of a just God against homosexuals. AIDS is not just God's punishment for homosexuals; it is God's punishment for the society that tolerates homosexuals."
Linda – On July fifth, WZZM 13 ran a story about the US missile defense system. What would viewers have learned form this story?
Tom - This story was prompted by the missile tests carried out by North Korea on July forth. In the story the reporter notes that the pentagon has spent 11 billion on a missile defense system and that in 10 test of the US interceptor, the most recent of which was last February, “only half have worked.” The reporter then notes that the Pentagon notes that “those problems have been solved” and that they are “confident that the missiles would work during an attack mainly because there four consecutive successful hits against target missiles in 2001 and 2002.” The reporter goes on to note that “that was four years ago, since then, much of the technology has been upgraded.”
Linda – Does this representation of the US missile interceptor agree with what other source are reporting on it?
Tom – No, and in fact if you look at this story closely, the reporter is contradicting herself. She notes that their were four successful tests in 2001 and 2002, that the technology has since then improved, and yet more recent tests have only been successful five out of ten times. Putting that aside, it should be noted that it is, in a way, misleading to say that the recent tests succeeded even half the time. According to an article that appeared in the Baltimore Sun, the five successful tests were “under controlled conditions that critics said did not reflect the challenges of an actual missile launch.” The article goes on to note that “these were under controlled conditions that critics said did not reflect the challenges of an actual missile launch. According to the Union of Concerned scientists, the interceptor system “will have no demonstrated defensive capability and will be ineffective against a real attack by long-range ballistic missiles. The administration's claims that the system will be reliable and highly effective are irresponsible exaggerations.” These critical voices were excluded in the WZZM story, which while it did report that the most recent tests were not successful, uncritically reiterated the Pentagon claims that these problems have been solved.
Linda – We will provide links to both the article in the Union for Concerned Scientists.
Linda - On Sunday, July 9 the Grand Rapids Press ran a front page story entitled “DeVos dollars back school choice.” Jeff, what would readers have learned from this story?
Jeff – The story is looks at what candidate DeVos has said recently about education, where he says he wouldn’t push a voucher system, and then provides the public with a substantial amount of information on what DeVos has supported with his money. The article provides some dollar amounts on organizations and campaigns he has funded such as the failed Kids first, Yes campaign and groups like All Children Matter. There is even a second story that provides excerpts from a 2002 speech DeVos gave to the Heritage Foundation, with a link for the entire speech. Press reporter did a good job of looking at what the candidate DeVos has recently said and compared that to what he has done as a citizen over the years, thus providing readers with some critical data to make an informed decision.
Linda – So what is missing from this story, if anything, that might also be useful for readers to know?
Jeff – The article does mention that DeVos has been a major donor to the group All Children Matter, but it doesn’t mention that his wife Betsy is the director. The article also doesn’t provide any details on how this group “supports lawmakers and organizations sympathetic to its cause,” much of which is through major financial support according to their own website. The story cites Clint Bolick, with the Phoenix-based group Alliance for School Choice, who makes positive comments about All Children Matter, but fails to mention that Betsy DeVos sits on their board of directors. Lastly, the article does mention that Granholm is opposed to any kind of a voucher policy, but the reporter fails to explore the Governor’s track record on education over the past 3 and a half years.
Linda – On July 6, WXMI FOX 17 ran a story about the Mexican presidential election. What would viewers have learned from this story?
Tom – This was very brief story which noted that, like the 2000 US election, the election in Mexico was very close and the results were disputed. The story reports that the “conservative candidate Felipe Calderon” defeated the “leftist Candidate” Lopez Obrador by a very narrow margin. The story further reports that Obrador “is claiming fraud and promises to fight those results in court.” No information is given as to the specifics of these fraud allegations, nor did the story mention the historical precedence for election fraud in Mexico.
Linda – What sort of evidence is there to support these allegations for fraud?
Tom – Mexico has experienced incidents of election fraud in the past, one of the most notorious being the 1988 election when the incumbent PRD party used the excuse of a “computer crash” to justify a their unlikely electoral victory. In this most current election, reports of wide scale fraud have been reported, and the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE), according to an article by reporter Laura Carleson, is refusing to open electoral packets and recount ballots individually. Journalis Greg Palast, who has done extensive invetigations into elections in the US, notes that the exit polls on election day indicated a victory for Obrador, in contradiction to the actual vote count. A report from Narco-News, an independent news source on drugs and democracy in Latin America, documents that an actual full recount of votes was only allowed in less than one percent of all districts, and in those few districts, the recount showed a marked increase in actual votes for Obrador. None of this information was included in the WXMI story, nor in any subsequent story which has run in the local news.