Fun_People Archive
3 Dec
While WTO Captures Attention, Nightline Looks the Other Way

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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Fri,  3 Dec 99 15:52:43 -0800
To: Fun_People
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Subject: While WTO Captures Attention, Nightline Looks the Other Way

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                    Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting
               Media analysis, critiques and news reports

ACTION ALERT: While WTO Protests Capture World Attention, Nightline Looks
the Other Way

December 3, 1999

Media from around the world have followed the World Trade Organization
summit meeting in Seattle, as tens of thousands of demonstrators gathered
to voice their concerns about corporate globalism, environmental abuse and
labor rights. The ensuing arrests, police abuse and property damage
dominated much of the mainstream media discussion.

But one news outlet in particular stood out for their peculiar lack of
coverage: Since the demonstrators began gathering and marching on Monday,
Nov. 29, ABC's Nightline has not so much as mentioned the events unfolding
in Seattle.

Nightline's record on covering the World Trade Organization is not terribly
impressive to begin with. A search of the Nexis news database finds that
the words "World Trade Organization" or "WTO" have rarely been uttered on
the show, and haven't been mentioned at all since a passing reference on
June 26, 1998.

One explanation might be found in Nightline's Oct. 4, 1994 broadcast. In
his introduction to a discussion of the General Agreement on Tariffs and
Trades (GATT), Koppel explained to viewers that capturing the public's
attention with light news was "relatively easy, even when the subject has
little or no widespread impact. Impact is not what draws a crowd, high
interest does."

Koppel named the O.J. Simpson case as an example of low-impact news that
interests everyone, in contrast to the GATT, the mere mention of which, he
said, "seems sufficient to turn most otherwise active minds to mush."  He
continued: "Our problem is holding onto your attention with a subject that
will have enormous impact on your lives, but is seen as being so complicated
that we'd rather take the consequences than a close look." (During one
seven-week stretch in early 1994, Nightline devoted 45 percent of its
airtime to discussions of the O.J. Simpson trial--see Extra!, 5-6/95.)

Despite the global importance of the WTO talks, not to mention the level of
citizen involvement, it seems that Nightline opted to "take the
consequences" rather than a "close look." Among the stories Nightline judged
to be of "higher interest" this week than the WTO protests was "Father Wants
Son to Return to Cuba" (12/1/99).  The show to air on Friday, November 3
will tell the story of Precious Bedell, a woman who spent time in prison
for murder and earned a master's degree while incarcerated.

No one is arguing that such stories are not important. But do they really
justify ignoring the labor, environmental and human rights issues raised by
the demonstrators in Seattle?

ACTION: Contact ABC's Nightline and ask them why they decided not to cover
the WTO summit. The overwhelming news value of the events in Seattle, not
to mention the availability of  progressive critics and WTO supporters
throughout the week, makes Nightline's silence all the more regrettable.

Tom Bettag, Executive Producer
1717 DeSales St NW
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 222-7000

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