Broadcast nightly news programs have remained silent on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) over the past three months of weekday programming, even as Congress is scheduled to vote this week on whether to grant President Obama authority to finalize the terms of the massive trade deal. The coverage blackout continues a trend extending back to 2013.
On May 12, the Senate plans to vote on legislation that would grant "fast-track" trade promotion authority to Obama as he attempts to complete negotiations among the 12 member nations that comprise the TPP. "Once Congress grants a president trade promotion authority, lawmakers have the ability to vote up or down on a final trade agreement, but they forfeit the right to amend the deal or filibuster it," The New York Times explained.
Debates over the merits of the deal itself and of granting the president trade promotion authority have erupted among Democratic and Republican members of Congress, but coverage of the negotiations has been largely absent from evening news programming on the major broadcast networks.
A Media Matters analysis of ABC's World News Tonight, CBS Evening News, and NBC's Nightly News from August 1, 2013, through May 10, 2015, found that the programs completely ignored the trade negotiations and related policy debates. Only PBS NewsHour devoted substantive coverage to the TPP, with 14 total segments:
Coverage of the TPP among major cable outlets has been similarly one-sided. Since August 1, 2013, MSNBC has mentioned the Trans-Pacific Partnership in 124 evening and primetime segments, the overwhelming majority of which (103) came during The Ed Show. Fox News trails far behind with just 12 mentions of the TPP over that time period, 10 of which have come since February 1, 2015. CNN has been almost completely absent from the discussion, registering only 2 mentions of the trade negotiations:
From the May 10 edition of CBS' Face The Nation:
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Anti-gay conservatives are criticizing CBS News' Bob Schieffer for correctly identifying one of his guests as the president of an anti-gay "hate group," accusing him of "anti-Christian bias" for doing so. The outrage over Schieffer's disclosure highlights why it's so important for the media to hold extremists accountable for their views when they appear.
During the April 26 edition of CBS' Face the Nation, Schieffer invited Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council (FRC), to discuss the Supreme Court's upcoming oral arguments on marriage equality. Schieffer began the interview by noting that FRC has been listed as an anti-gay "hate group" by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and citing critics who argue that Perkins' extreme views don't represent the views of most Christians:
SCHIEFFER: I'm going to start with probably the most vocal opponent of same-sex marriage and that is Tony Perkins. He is the president of the Family Research Council. And, Mister Perkins, I'm going to say this to you upfront. You and your group have been so strong in coming out against this -- and against gay marriage -- that the Southern Poverty Law Center has branded the Family Research Council an anti-gay hate group. We have been inundated by people who say we should not even let you appear because they, in their view, quote, "You don't speak for Christians." Do you think you have taken this too far?
During his speech at the annual White House Correspondents' Dinner on April 25, President Obama invited comedian Keegan-Michael Key to reprise the Comedy Central bit in which Key plays Luther, Obama's "anger translator." What followed was highly amusing -- but also quite revealing of the President's frustration with how the media covers climate change.
As he spoke to an audience of thousands of journalists, media executives, politicians, and celebrities, Obama began the sketch by emphasizing that "we count on the press to shed light on the most important issues of the day." That line provided an opening for Luther to piercingly mock Fox News' fearmongering that "Sharia law is coming to Cleveland" and CNN's "wall-to-wall Ebola coverage." He even landed a few good one-liners about Ted Cruz and Hilary Clinton as they pursue contributions for their presidential campaigns.
But the skit took a noticeable turn when Obama told the media-heavy crowd that "we do need to stay focused on some big challenges, like climate change." After Luther joked that drought conditions have made California "look like a trailer for the new Mad Max movie up in there," it quickly became apparent that Obama needed no assistance from his anger translator to spell out how the media and climate change deniers in Congress are failing to take this threat seriously:
OBAMA: I mean, look at what's happening right now. Every serious scientist says we need to act. The Pentagon says it's a national security risk. Miami floods on a sunny day and instead of doing anything about it, we have elected officials throwing snowballs in the Senate.
LUTHER: Okay, Mr. President. Okay, I think they've got it, bro.
OBAMA: It is crazy! What about our kids! What kind of stupid, short-sighted, irresponsible, bull--
Luther cut Obama off before he engaged in any presidential profanity, but the President had already gotten his point across. As a less angry Obama put it in June 2014, "the media doesn't spend a lot of time covering climate change and letting average Americans know how it could impact our future."
On CBS' Face the Nation, Bob Schieffer accurately identified one of his guests as the president of an anti-gay "hate group," providing his audience with valuable context often missing from mainstream media interviews with anti-LGBT extremists.
On the April 26 edition of Face the Nation, Schieffer invited Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council (FRC), and Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, to discuss this week's Supreme Court arguments over marriage equality. Scheiffer began the interview by noting that Perkins' group has been labeled an anti-gay "hate group" by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC):
SCHIEFFER: I'm going to start with probably the most vocal opponent of same-sex marriage and that is Tony Perkins. He is the president of the Family Research Council. And, Mister Perkins, I'm going to say this to you upfront. You and your group have been so strong in coming out against this-- and against gay marriage that the Southern Poverty Law Center has branded the Family Research Council an anti-gay hate group. We have been inundated by people who say we should not even let you appear because they, in their view, quote, "You don't speak for Christians." Do you think you have taken this too far?
The appointment of CNN's Jake Tapper as the new host of State of the Union means that the program will join Sunday political talk shows on ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox as being anchored by white men, highlighting the long-standing lack of diversity in Sunday morning political talk shows.
CNN announced on April 24 that network host Jake Tapper would begin anchoring the network's Sunday political talk show State of the Union in June, taking over the temporary duties of Dana Bash after Candy Crowley left the program in December. Tapper's appointment to the position highlights the continued lack of diversity represented on Sunday political talk shows. CBS News also recently announced that network political director John Dickerson will replace Bob Schieffer as the host of Face the Nation when he retires this summer. All of the hosts of major Sunday political talk shows on ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, and CNN will now be white men. MSNBC's Sunday news programs, which include Up with Steve Kornacki and Melissa Harris-Perry do present a contrast to the lack of diversity at other networks.
But white men aren't just dominating the programs as hosts -- they also make up the large majority of guest appearances. According to a Media Matters report analyzing the state of diversity on the Sunday news programming in 2014, white men made up the largest proportion of guests on all shows considered. The report, which analyzed the ethnicity, gender and ideology of guests on ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos, CBS' Face the Nation with Bob Schieffer, Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace, NBC's Meet the Press with Chuck Todd, and CNN's State of the Union with Candy Crowley, found that white men dominated the guests appearances on all programs considered:
These findings underscore a 2013 Media Matters' analysis that uncovered how gender diversity on Sunday morning political talk shows had gone basically unchanged over the previous five years:
The continued lack of diversity in Sunday morning political news programming illustrates a news environment that consistently fails to bring minorities and women to the table. According to a 2014 survey by the American Society of News Editors, "the percentage of minority journalists" in the United States remains between just 12 and 14 percent -- where it has been "for more than a decade." The percentage of women in newsrooms has also gone virtually unchanged for 14 years.
On the most recent editions of CBS' Face The Nation and Fusion's America With Jorge Ramos, presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) was asked about his past remark that "I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate." But while Fusion's Jorge Ramos made clear that Rubio's claim runs counter to the findings of 97 percent of climate scientists, CBS' Bob Schieffer did not.
During the April 19 edition of Face The Nation, Schieffer asked Rubio if he has said that "humans are not responsible for climate change." Watch how Schieffer allowed Rubio to again deny the science of climate change with no pushback:
In contrast, when Rubio appeared in an interview that aired on the April 21 edition of Fusion's America with Jorge Ramos, Ramos emphasized that "97 percent of the studies on climate change say that you are wrong":
Un reciente estudio de Media Matters analizó la cobertura de historias transgénero en las cadenas televisivas de emisión nacional ABC, NBC, CBS; de cable Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, y medios hispanos Univisión y Telemundo, y encontró que en el período estudiado entre el 1 de enero y el 28 de febrero de 2015, los medios apenas han incluido en su cobertura de historias sobre personas transgénero, las historias importantes sobre la epidemia de violencia contra esta comunidad.
Algunos medios de cable, como CNN y MSNBC resaltaron por la cantidad de cobertura dedicada a historias de personas transgénero, 46:20 y 61:20 minutos respectivamente.
Most of the largest newspapers in the Northeast corridor did not publish a single piece covering this winter's major snowstorms in the context of global warming, despite strong scientific evidence that climate change creates the conditions for heavier snowstorms. The major broadcast networks and cable news channels also provided scant mention of climate change in their discussions of the snowstorms, with the notable exception of MSNBC, which provided extensive coverage of the topic. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Fox News, the Boston Herald and the Providence Journal featured content that used the snowstorms to deny climate science.
LGBT organizations, transgender advocacy groups, and prominent transgender activists are calling on national news networks to improve their coverage of important transgender issues, including the disproportionate amount of violence targeted at trans women of color.
A recent Media Matters report found that national cable, broadcast, and Spanish-language news networks ignored the murders of seven transgender women of color in the United States in the first two months of 2015. Transgender news coverage often focused on sensationalized stories while excluding trans voices and ignoring the more substantive issues of violence and discrimination against transgender people.
In the wake of the report, LGBT organizations and transgender advocacy groups are calling on national news networks to improve their coverage.
Raffi Freedman-Gurspan, Policy Advisor for the Racial and Economic Justice Initiative at the National Center for Transgender Equality:
Violence against transgender women is an undeniable crisis in this country. In the first few months of this year alone, eight transgender women have been killed while state legislative attacks gain traction nationwide. Major news networks have largely ignored these attacks including the deaths of transgender women. NCTE calls on these news networks to accurately, fairly, and respectfully report on these murders and to allow transgender women, especially those of color, to speak about the discrimination and violence in their communities. To get the story right on news in America, that news must include the stories of transgender people.
Bamby Salcedo, President of the TransLatin@ Coalition:
As the epidemic of violence and murders targeting transgender women and gender non-conforming people continue to take place throughout the nation, national news organizations remain silent on the issue. We need the media to elevate the voices of transgender women of color, to challenge the violence and discrimination directed at transgender people, and to commit to fairly and accurately reporting information about our community. In order to create a world without any violence, harassment, and discrimination, we need everyone to join us in raising awareness.
Lourdes Ashley Hunter, National Director of the Trans Women of Color Collective:
There is an epidemic of brutal violence against trans women of color that is inextricably linked to the structural oppression we face every day. In this country, it is completely legal to deny a trans women of color access to housing, employment, educational opportunities and healthcare. This legalized discrimination contributes to the socio-economic disenfranchisement of our community, which also puts us at risk for homelessness, poverty, heightened criminalization, and physical and state-sanctioned violence. In 2013, there were 14 reported murders of trans women of color. In 2014, the same year that our nation celebrated the 45th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion, 12 trans women of color were brutally murdered in a 6-month time span. And in the first two months of this year, 7 (reported) trans women of color have been brutally murdered. When media outlets do report on violence against trans women, they often carelessly and callously engage in violence by using "given names," mug shots or recklessly including alleged criminal history when reporting on victims. The lack of national outrage reinforces a narrative that our lives are disposable.
Kris Hayashi, Executive Director of the Transgender Law Center:
There is a crisis of violence against transgender women of color, and it is irresponsible for outlets to ignore that reality. By failing to recognize these epidemic levels of violence or listen to the voices of those impacted by it, our news contributes to the very climate that makes this violence possible. It sends the message that transgender women of color do not matter.
Kylar Broadus, Transgender Civil Rights Project Director at the National LGBTQ Task Force:
Eight transgender women and gender non-conforming people have been murdered across the US this year alone and not a single national news media outlet has reported on these homicides. This epidemic of violence must end and we need everyone's help--from the classroom, to the newsroom, to the corridors of power. Everyone has a key role to play in creating a safe, just, and equitable society free from discrimination and persecution.
Nick Adams, Director of Communications and Special Projects at GLAAD:
The violence against transgender people, especially transgender women of color, must not be ignored. The stories of transgender people who face staggering levels of violence, poverty, and employment discrimination need to be told, as well as the stories of resilience and advocacy work coming from within the trans community. By telling these stories, the media will educate lawmakers, social service providers, and everyday Americans about the urgent need for trans-inclusive legal protections, competent social services, and widespread acceptance.
Osman Ahmed, Research and Education Coordinator at the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs:
The homicides of transgender women, and specifically transgender women of color, is an ongoing epidemic that has reached unprecedented levels with the seven homicides of transgender women of color in the first two months of 2015 alone. In just these two months NCAVP has documented more than half of the 12 homicides that were reported in all of 2014. While coverage of individual homicides has somewhat increased recently, it is time for the media to start connecting the dots and talking about the breadth and complexity of this violence.
To read the full report, click here.
Major broadcast and cable news networks are failing in their coverage of the transgender community, prioritizing sensational depictions of transgender people while ignoring important transgender stories, including the recent murders of seven transgender women of color, according to a new Media Matters report.
Broadcast, cable, and national Spanish-language news networks struggled to appropriately report on stories related to the transgender community -- when they choose to discuss those stories at all. A Media Matters report tracking transgender coverage on CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, NBC, Telemundo and Univision in the first two months of 2015 raises concerns over the types of transgender stories being told in news media and the extent to which transgender people are allowed to speak for themselves on national television.
Coverage of transgender stories on national news networks varies greatly. MSNBC and CNN, for example, devoted significant coverage to stories involving the trans community, while Fox News, ABC, and NBC largely avoided substantive discussions of transgender issues:
Of the cable and broadcast Sunday news shows, only MSNBC's Melissa Harris-Perry featured a discussion of trans issues:
When networks did discuss transgender stories, coverage was largely focused on the unusual circumstances of high-profile transgender individuals, rather than the shared experiences of the transgender community. Though CNN spent forty-six minutes discussing transgender issues, for example, over 80% coverage was centered on TV personality Bruce Jenner's transition.
MSNBC's transgender coverage, on the other hand, spotlighted more substantive issues, including the military's ban on transgender service members, Smith College's rejection of a transgender applicant, and shifting representations of trans people in the media:
While a few news hosts, including MSNBC's Melissa Harris Perry and CNN's Don Lemon, used these stories as opportunities to talk about broader issues affecting the transgender community, the norm was overwhelmingly in favor of focusing on the particularities of already sensationalized news events.
This kind of sensationalized focus on trans issues is both misleading and disempowering. In a March 2015 study of transgender representation in the media for the World Professional Association of Transgender Health, Jamie Colette Capuzza wrote:
[T]ransgender people are largely "symbolically annihilated" by the mainstream news industry. Such invisibility makes this population more vulnerable to the power of other types of media images. Consumers may encounter transgender people more often than in the past, but these images lay primarily within entertainment media; even within the news genre, transgender people are featured more often in entertainment, arts, sports, and lifestyle sections. Audiences learn that transgender people are sources of entertainment more than they learn that transgender people face consequential and newsworthy obstacles as a community. [emphasis added]
Cable, broadcast, and Spanish language news networks largely ignored an "epidemic of deadly violence" against the transgender community in the first two months of 2015, despite devoting coverage to various transgender stories. When networks discussed transgender issues, they often failed to include the voices of transgender individuals, especially transgender women of color.
More than 150 writers and professors sent a letter to CBS criticizing 60 Minutes' Ebola coverage, which they described as a "frequent and recurring misrepresentation of the African continent."
According to Politico, former New York Times foreign correspondent and associate professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, Howard D. French, along with 150 academics and journalists sent a letter to 60 Minutes' executive producer Jeffery Fager, condemning what they called "many of the worst habits of modern American journalism on the subject of Africa." The letter takes issue with 60 Minutes' failure to air the perspective of Africans during their reports on Ebola from areas like Liberia, noting that "the only people heard from on the air were white foreigners who had come to Liberia to contribute to the fight against the disease." The letter continued:
Africans were reduced to the role of silent victims. They constituted what might be called a scenery of misery: people whose thoughts, experiences and actions were treated as if totally without interest.
Liberians not only died from Ebola, but many of them contributed bravely to the fight against the disease, including doctors, nurses and other caregivers, some of whom gave their lives in this effort. Despite this, the only people heard from on the air were white foreigners who had come to Liberia to contribute to the fight against the disease.
Taken together, this anachronistic style of coverage reproduces, in condensed form, many of the worst habits of modern American journalism on the subject of Africa. To be clear, this means that Africa only warrants the public's attention when there is disaster or human tragedy on an immense scale, when Westerners can be elevated to the role of central characters, or when it is a matter of that perennial favorite, wildlife. As a corollary, Africans themselves are typically limited to the role of passive victims, or occasionally brutal or corrupt villains and incompetents; they are not otherwise shown to have any agency or even the normal range of human thoughts and emotions. Such a skewed perspective not only disserves Africa, it also badly disserves the news viewing and news reading public.
In a statement to the Columbia Journalism Review, a 60 Minutes spokesperson responded that they have invited French to discuss the issue and said that "60 Minutes is proud of its coverage of Africa and has received considerable recognition for it." French told CJR that he "would be happy to speak with them, but the only basis for sincere conversation that I can detect would be engaging on the points of my letter, and they have not done that."
A broad coalition of 39 major Latino organizations has issued a letter to the heads of six major U.S. English-language broadcasters asking them to work towards better Hispanic guest inclusion on the Sunday morning political talk shows.
The letter, issued by the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (NHLA) and addressed to the heads of ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC, expresses the group's "deep frustration regarding the continued lack of Hispanic voices" on their agenda-setting Sunday political programs and urges them to "take immediate action to increase Hispanic guest bookings and broaden the scope of issues that include their voices."
Hector Sanchez, NHLA chairman and executive director of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, said in a statement that the lack of Hispanic inclusion on those programs "results in distorting the image of our community's contributions to the life of our nation." Alex Nogales, president and CEO of the National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC), added: "It is irresponsible to exclude the perspectives of 17 percent of the U.S. population from the airwaves."
Only seven percent of guests on English-language Sunday shows during the last eighteen weeks of 2014 were Latino, according to a Media Matters study. While the letter notes that this proves "an increase from the two percent representation found in a 2011 report by the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts," these numbers remain significantly short of the 17 percent of Americans who identify as Hispanic.
In the letter, the NHLA encourages the network chiefs to take advantage of the "impressive list of Latino experts from across the country that specialize in issues ranging from education, health, immigration, public safety, the economy, civil rights, the media and beyond."
CBS produced an informative, well-researched, and compassionate segment about the military's ban on transgender service members, setting an example for other networks on how to properly cover transgender stories.
The March 17 edition of CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley featured a segment on the military's current ban on transgender service members, a policy that's coming under increasing scrutiny. The segment followed the story of Landon Wilson, a former Navy sailor who was discharged after his commanding officer discovered he was transgender in 2013:
The segment was a remarkably simple example of how major news networks can and should discuss transgender issues. It allowed transgender people, including Wilson, to speak for themselves. It highlighted the extreme levels of discrimination faced by the transgender community. And it took time to provide basic information about being transgender to its audience, including dispelling the myth that transitioning requires hormone therapy or surgery.
CBS medical correspondent Dr. Jon LaPook ended the segment by stating, "It's difficult for people to understand that a person's biological sex can be different from a person's gender. Ignorance about that has led to discrimination for transgender people in all walks of life, not just the military."
In a piece about the segment at The Huffington Post, LaPook explained why he felt it was necessary to educate viewers about being transgender, writing, "if we're going to have a meaningful national conversation, we have to start by understanding the vocabulary."