One year ago today, Media Matters for America, a 501(c)3 not-for-profit research and information center, launched its website, www.mediamatters.org, dedicated to monitoring, analyzing and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media -- wherever we find it, in every news cycle. I'm writing today to thank all of you who have joined our web-based, rapid-response effort -- the first of its kind for progressives -- to hold the media's feet to the fire.
In just 12 months, more than five million consumers and producers of news have visited our site, viewing 30 million pages; our robust discussion forums have featured more than 120,000 comments; and more than 35,000 websites have linked to Media Matters' research documenting lies, distortions, inaccuracies and other forms of misinformation in the news media that forwards the agenda of radical right-wing political forces. In addition, more than 20,000 subscribers have registered to receive research, publications and e-mail alerts directly from Media Matters electronically, and more than 1,500 of you have supported our work through online donations.
For your commitment to the Herculean task of holding the media accountable, we at Media Matters are profoundly grateful.
With more than 1,800 pieces of original research on a wide range of print, broadcast, cable, radio, and Internet media outlets posted so far, Media Matters has led the way in alerting the public to news that made national headlines soon after: from Rush Limbaugh's outrageous comparison of torture at Abu Ghraib to a "college fraternity prank," to Internet hate speech by of one of the ringleaders of the so-called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, to Talon News "correspondent" Jeff Gannon's presence in the White House press room and his ties to GOP activists in Texas. Media Matters research led to the admission of Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly that he had, in fact, called Sen. Barbara Boxer "a nut" -- after denying it on the air; columnist Bob Novak's retraction of a false claim he made on CNN about DNC Chairman Howard Dean; and pundit David Horowitz's concession that claims he made against a college professor in Colorado were phony.
Media Matters' action campaigns have been credited with MSNBC canceling plans to let a partisan pollster, Frank Luntz, conduct the network's presidential debate focus groups; pressuring Sinclair Broadcast Group to abandon its plan to force its local stations to air an anti-John Kerry propaganda film, billed as "news," 10 days before the election; and prompting ABC's John Stossel to publicly defend his efforts to cast the threat of global warming as "just another foolish media-hyped scare." We also successfully pushed to get paid propagandist Armstrong Williams's column dropped by his syndicate.
Maybe that's why, commenting on these and other controversies, CNN's Paul Begala has called Media Matters' website "terrific" and The New Yorker's Hendrik Hertzberg has described it as "invaluable." Meanwhile, Limbaugh has called the site a "middle-finger appendage of the Democratic Party," and Bill O'Reilly has described the Media Matters team as "the most vile, despicable human beings in the country."
While serving its own visitors, Media Matters' research also has garnered national media coverage in more than 500 print outlets, including almost all of Editor and Publisher's "Top 50 Daily Newspapers" -- most notably USA Today, The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and the New York Daily News. Media Matters representatives have been seen on major networks and cable channels -- including CNN, MSNBC, CNBC, NBC, ABC, C-SPAN, and Court TV. I have appeared on such prominent radio programs as National Public Radio's Fresh Air, On the Media, On Point, and Marketplace, Air America's The Al Franken Show (on which I appear weekly on Wednesdays at 2 p.m. ET), Jones Radio Network's The Ed Schultz Show, Sirius Satellite Radio's The Young Turks, and a variety of Pacifica Radio Network shows. Our work has been regularly cited in such publications as The Nation, The American Prospect, Salon.com, AlterNet.org, and the daily Progress Report from the Center for American Progress. Media Matters items have reached millions more through top political blogs like Daily Kos, Eschaton (aka Atrios), and Talking Points Memo.
Last summer, we formed the Media Matters Action Network, a 501(c)4 advocacy organization, to turn our research into progressive action. The Action Network coordinates grassroots advocacy, partnerships with progressive organizations, and legislative action. When Rush Limbaugh made his offensive Abu Ghraib remarks, the Action Network collected more than 40,000 signatures asking the Pentagon to remove him from the publicly funded Armed Forces Radio and Television Service, which brings Limbaugh's show to U.S. troops abroad. The Action Network supported legislation introduced by Sen. Tom Harkin to require that AFRTS honor its statutory requirement to bring balance to its news and public affairs programming. The Action Network also published a book, Misstating the State of the Union, which exposed the long-standing conservative misinformation campaign to deny the proven success of progressive policies and leadership while shamelessly covering up conservative failures. More than 1,000 activists emailed Bill O'Reilly to support my request to appear on The O'Reilly Factor to discuss the program's smear campaign against philanthropist George Soros, although O'Reilly is still unwilling to confront me.
This year, with the news media's disgraceful performance in the national elections carefully archived, Media Matters is closely tracking news coverage of the debate over the future of Social Security, burgeoning scandals surrounding House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, and the growing war over the judiciary. When Fox News Channel's Brit Hume mangled a quote by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to falsely suggest that he favored privatizing Social Security, when The Washington Times promoted a skewed Social Security "calculator" issued to the press by the right-wing Heritage Foundation, and when The Washington Post reported President George W. Bush's false claim that Social Security shortchanges African-Americans without challenging it, Media Matters was there to chronicle the misinformation and push back with the truth. When major media outlets downplayed damaging news implicating DeLay in unethical activities -- then repeated his angry denunciations of the "liberal media" (while ignoring Republican criticisms of his leadership) -- Media Matters was there to demand adequate coverage. And when the Rev. James Dobson compared the U.S. Supreme Court to the Ku Klux Klan in his daily radio broadcast, Media Matters was there to ensure that Dobson's extremist assaults on an independent judiciary were reported in national publications.
For all of our progress, however, conservative misinformation will undoubtedly remain a blight on the media landscape into the foreseeable future. Just last month, Media Matters drew attention to a conservative publisher's plans to "Swift Boat" Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton in a book by an author of dubious repute scheduled for release this fall; Time magazine whitewashed the lies of author Ann Coulter in a fawning cover story; MSNBC worked up plans for a prime-time show for conservative pundit Tucker Carlson; and media mogul Rupert Murdoch had the temerity to challenge "anyone to show Fox News has any bias in it." Clearly, we have our work cut out for us.
And so do you. Like any fledgling enterprise, we have plenty of room for improvement. Please help us stem the tide of conservative misinformation in the media by getting directly involved in our work. Many of our items have come to us from readers, who email them to email@example.com. Media Matters also wants to develop a corps of media activists. Our website readers know that our research items include contact information for the offending parties, so our readers can confront the media directly with their concerns about conservative misinformation. And we know that media as varied as CNN, ABC's Nightline, syndicated columnists Thomas Sowell and Michelle Malkin, and the ombudsmen of The New York Times and The Washington Post have felt the heat. Please register for our action alerts, and enlist friends and family.
Together, we will continue to make a difference.
President & CEO