The Obama Administration Through the Lens of the Grand Rapids Press

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With the first few days of the Obama Presidency already past, we thought it would be good to look at how the news media is reporting on the new administration. What follows is an analysis of the first four days of coverage in The Grand Rapids Press. This will be a regular feature here on Media Mouse and after the first 100 days of the new administration, the Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy will publish a report detailing The Grand Rapids Press‘ coverage of those first 100 days.

New Administration Makes the Front Page

Over the first four days of the new administration, The Grand Rapids Press has published a total of 8 articles, with 3 articles appearing on the front page. So far, The Press has relied on a variety of sources for the coverage, such as Associated Press, Washington Post, Boston Globe and Cox News Service. Only one story has been generated by a Grand Rapids Press reporter, a piece that featured the reactions of two area Congressmen to the announcement of plans to close the Guantanamo detention center.

Some stories have been policy driven, on topics such as Guantanamo or the economy, but there have also been stories about more marginal issues as well such as what sports Obama likes to play and his administration’s use of technology.

Transparency and Detainees

Two articles appeared in The Press that discussed the new administration’s shift in policy, what AP reporter Charles Babington called, “a clean break from the Bush administration.”

One of the specific changes cited are that the Obama administration will “make government transparent so that the American people can know exactly what decisions are being made.” The AP story doesn’t report what this transparency will look like, but groups such as Public Citizen and the National Security Archive have acknowledged that transparency for them means the government will renew a commitment to the ideals of the Freedom of Information Act, that allows the public to petition any government agency for documents related to policy.

The other issue that demonstrates the new administration’s “break from the previous one” is the issue of the detainee prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The AP story acknowledges that while this is the intention of the new administration, the article also points out that there is no concrete plan of how to close the prison or “what to do with the political prisoners.” The American Civil Liberties Union is cited as offering up some criticism of the Obama administration’s announcement by stating, “there are ambiguities in the orders regarding treatment of certain detainees.”

The Grand Rapids Press published an additional short article to accompany the AP story that included responses from Congressmen Pete Hoekstra and Vern Ehlers on the announcement to close Gitmo.

Hoekstra was quoted as saying:

“Given the fact that we are talking about trained terrorists and people who have committed acts of mass murder, it would seem the proper course would be to have a plan in place before making this decision.”

Congressman Ehlers added:

“Are you going to let them all go? Are you going to pay to put in a foreign prison? You can’t send them back to their own country. The president will find out as he gets into this he has far less power than he thinks, that’s the problem George Bush had.”

Unfortunately for readers, The Press does not provide any context to what Congressman Ehlers’ or Hoekstra’s position on the issue of Guantanamo has been since the detention center has been used in the current “War on Terror.”

Obama Reverses Bush Policy on Funding Abortion

On January 24, The Press ran an AP story on the new administration’s decision to allow “federal money to international groups that perform abortions or provide abortion information.” The Press version of the article is much shorter than the original AP version, but neither version provides any comments or reaction from anti-abortion or pro-choice organizations. The story mostly framed the issue as a “political football between Democratic and Republican administrations.”

Obama’s Economic Plan

On Sunday, January 25, The Press published a story on the much-touted Obama economic stimulus plan. In the article, President Obama is cited as saying, “In short, if we do not act boldly and swiftly, a bad situation could become dramatically worse.” The Press version of the article focused mostly on partisan responses to the stimulus plan, but the original AP story had details on what the stimulus package actually looks like. Even with more details on the economic plan, the AP story does not provide any non-partisan or independent perspectives such as the criticism that author and journalist William Greider recently provided on AlterNet:

“Obama’s stimulus program might restart factories in China while leaving US unemployment painfully high. In fact, some leakage may occur via the very banks or industrial corporations that taxpayers have generously assisted. What prevents Citigroup and General Motors from using their fresh capital to enhance overseas operations rather than investing at home? The new administration will therefore have to rethink the terms of globalization before its domestic initiatives can succeed.”

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Author: mediamouse

Grand Rapids independent media // mediamouse.org