Fight Media Ownership Deregulation

Kevin Martin, Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, has been keeping a secret from the American people. He wants to push through plans to remove decades-old media ownership protections. And he’s trying to do it without public scrutiny. If Martin is successful fewer companies will own more of the media and that would be disasterous for democracy.

Send an e-mail to Congress urging them to convene oversight hearings immediately:

http://action.freepress.net/campaign/fcc_oversight/

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Investigate Ehlers’ Claims on the Iraq War

On Friday, July 6 the Grand Rapids Press ran a short article about a demonstration organized by the Iraq Summer campaign. The article has only one quote from the organizers of the effort to challenge Rep. Ehlers’ position on the US Occupation of Iraq, with no details on why the group is opposed to the current policy. The article quotes Congressman Ehlers three times, but never verifies his claims about US policy in Iraq, allowing him to make statements with no accountability.

Please send the Grand Rapids Press an email using the pre-written letter below demanding that in the future they hold politicians accountable for their statements by examining their accuracy:

Send an Email to the Grand Rapids Press

WXMI Needs to Investigate Rep. Vern Ehlers’ Comments on Iraq

On Saturday, May 5, WXMI ran a story on a “town hall meeting” hosted by US Representative Vern Ehlers. The story simply repeated one of Ehlers’ statements without bothering to verify its accuracy. The statement, that more people died in Iraq under Saddam Hussein than in the ongoing war and occupation, was questionable at best and should have been examined.

Please send WXMI an email using the pre-written letter below demanding that in the future they hold politicians accountable for their statements by examining their accuracy:

Send a Pre-Written Email

Another Awful Story on Arrests at an Antiwar Protest

For the second time in two weeks, WZZM 13 has run a one-sided story on the arrests of protestors at an antiwar rally in Grand Rapids on March 17, 2007. Both the initial story and the most recent story on March 26, “Grand Valley Professor Arraigned after Anti-War Rally,” assert that the protests were “out of hand.” However, the only perspectives reported are those of the Grand Rapids Police Department. Even more disappointing is the fact that WZZM 13 failed to give any context about the protest. In the March 26 story, WZZM 13 states only that a Professor Herman Kurthen of GVSU was arrested during “an anti-war rally in Grand Rapids” but neglects to mention the fact that the group was specifically targeting Representative Ehlers because of his ongoing support for the occupation of Iraq and that the protest was asking him to sign a contract supporting an immediate end to the occupation of Iraq by pledging to vote against funding requests for the war.

Send a letter to WZZM 13 about this story.

Analysis of the Marrch 26 Story

Analysis of the March 17 Story

Media Sensationalizes March 17 Antiwar Protest

The March 17 antiwar protest received widespread coverage in the local and statewide media, although most of it was sensationalized and focused on the arrests rather than what was a successful action at the home of Representative Vern Ehlers (who was in his house at the time). The protestors delivered a pledge for Ehlers to sign stating that he supports an immediate end to the occupation of the Iraq and will vote to stop funding the war. However, despite these clear goals, the local news media focused on unprovoked arrests by the Grand Rapids Police Department (GRPD). In light of the news coverage, we encourage people to send letters to the local news media using the following links:

WZZM 13

WOOD TV 8

WXMI 17

The Grand Rapids Press

For a thorough analysis of the media coverage, read “Local News Coverage of Antiwar March Sensationalized and Biased” at mediamouse.org. The article also features links to the media coverage and deconstructions of each story.

Local News Media fails to provide voters with adequate information for November 7 Election

If voters were relying on the Grand Rapids Press or the 3 Grand Rapids based TV stations for information on candidates and ballot proposals, they will have limited information. (see data below) In many races there was a lack of information, particularly local races such as County Commissioner and State Representative. There were also limited stories on State Board of Education, Attorney General, Secretary of State and Judicial races. Even when there was a higher number of stories, as in the Governor’s race and the Senate race, there was limited information on candidate platforms or voting records. Most of the coverage was either horse race coverage or a form stenography, where reporters just provided a summary of candidate statements without verifying claims made.

TV Coverage summary

Analysis of local TV news coverage leading up to the Nov. 7 election reveals that if a viewer relied on the local TV news as their primary source on information, they would be woefully informed on the issues and candidates. In some cases, particularly with many of the ballot propositions, judicial and state representative races, the viewer would have received almost no substantive information. Approximately two thirds of all the election coverage was devoted to the Governor’s race. Much of this coverage was devoted to reporting on poll results. Little time was devoted to coverage of the candidate’s platforms, voting records, or funding sources. Nor was there any coverage of the three third party gubernatorial candidates. These results, while unfortunate, are not unusual and conform to the pattern GRIID has documented in previous election cycle studies. The one area of departure from pervious studies has been in the increased amount of political ads that ran during the news broadcast. In the three month period between the August Primary and the November election, GRIID noted about a three to one ratio in terms on air time devoted to political ads versus actual election news coverage. This became particularly acute in the two weeks proceeding Election Day, in which it was not uncommon to see as many as sixteen political ads run in one half hour news broadcast. This amount of airtime devoted to political ads far exceeded any previous election cycle in this news market, including the 2004 presidential race.

Election Resources

You can read for yourself every newspaper story that has run in this market since January 15 as well as a number of TV stories at the GRIID Election Watch Website.

More importantly, we encourage people to go to these sources for independent information on Voting Records for Congressional races or State House and State Senate races. A good, non-partisan source for information on what is on the ballot is the League of Women Voters – Voter Guide and it is important to know how much money candidates are raising, how they are spending it and who is giving it to them. Michigan Campaign Finance Network, Money in State Politics, Political Money Line

Local Media Ignore or Underreport Visit by CIA Analyst Critical of Hoekstra

On Wednesday May 10, Ray McGovern, a 27 year veteran CIA analyst was in Grand Rapids to speak at the Wealthy Theatre. The event was originally planned to be a debate between McGovern and area congressman Peter Hoekstra, chair of the House Intelligence committee, on the current state of the CIA, the misuse of intelligence in the lead up to the Iraq War, and the current secret government wiretapping program. Hoekstra declined to participate in the debate. McGovern delivered a lecture in place of the debate on Wednesday night and on Thursday morning visited Congressman’s Hoekstra’s Holland Michigan office to relate his concerns and disagreements with one of Hoekstra’s staff. Local Media coverage of these events was less than one would expect, considering the timeliness of these issues and the qualifications of McGovern. The weekend prior to his visit to Grand Rapids, McGovern had been featured on national TV for publicly challenging Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on the issue of pre-war intelligence.

Of the local TV stations, only WOOD 8 provided any coverage of McGovern’s visit. A producer from WOOD 8 interviewed McGovern for an hour on Wednesday, prior to McGovern’s lecture. This footage was not used in the evening broadcast that evening. Six minutes of this footage was used on the following Sunday during “To the Point”, WOOD 8’s political affairs show. WZZM 13 and WXMI 17 did not provide any coverage of the event. Rather, the local TV stations aired stories that day on topics such as a tornado in Texas, a junk food free camp for kids, a luncheon promoting good etiquette, and the debut of Playstation 3.

The Grand Rapids Press ran two articles, one on Wednesday, and one on Friday. These were both relatively short stories that were placed on pages 3 and 5 of the “Region” section. The Press neglected to post the story from Friday’s paper on their website, MLive.com. The headlines of the two articles both were problematic as well. The first headline, “Hoekstra, Bush critic to speak” was inaccurate. In the article it is plainly noted that Hoekstra had declined to participate in the debate. The headline for the Friday article was “Hoekstra’s staff questions ex-CIA analyst’s motives.” While not factually inaccurate, this headline seems crafted to prejudice the reader against McGovern while deflecting criticism of Hoekstra.

By underreporting the visit by Ray McGovern, the local media essentially rewarded representative Hoekstra for not participating in a debate with Ray McGovern. When elected officials know the media will not hold them accountable when they are challenged by critics, these officials will refuse to take part in public dialogues with those they may not agree with. Below is the contact information for the local media. Let them know that when qualified and reputable critics are in Grand Rapids speaking on timely issues of great importance, it is the responsibility of the media to report on these issues and to hold elected officials responsible for responding to these critics.

Contact:

WOOD TV 8

News Director: Patti McGettigan

Phone #: 771-9366

E-mail: patti.mcgettigan@woodtv.com

WXMI FOX 17

News Director: Tim Dye

Phone #: (616) 364-1717

E-mail: tdye@wxmi.com

WZZM 13

News Director: Tim Geraghty

Phone #: (616) 785-1313

E-mail: tgeraght@wzzm.gannett.com

Grand Rapids Press

Editor: Mike Lloyd

Phone #: (616) 222-5455

Media Coverage of the War in Iraq

This weekend marks the 3rd anniversary of the beginning of the US War/Occupation of Iraq. GRIID has been monitoring this coverage from the beginning and is pleased to join forces with Media Channel and United for Peace and Justice to demand better news coverage of the war in Iraq. Recent polling indicates that the majority of Americans are in favor of a withdraw of US troops with growing opposition to the war. However, the local news media continues to provide inadequate coverage of what is happening in Iraqi. It is of vital importance that citizens communicate to the local news outlets with the following talking points:

The U.S. news media has an obligation to reflect on the role it has played in building a pro-war consensus with false and deceptive reporting, what TIME magazine calls “mili-tainment” and “group think” in the pervasive use of conservative pundits and “experts” led by current and former government officials, and virtually no coverage of extensive civilian casualties and the suffering of Iraqi society because of the U.S. occupation.

The coverage remains one-sided — “All about us” — and excludes anti-war voices from citizens and anti-war groups all over the world.

We need to hear more from the Iraqi people!

Reports That Question Official Claims – We need more aggressive reporting, not just official stenography – just repeating official sources.

Independent Assessments of Political Developments – Let’s hear from international experts, not just pro-war pundits.

Stop Sanitizing the war – show the American people what the consequences of war really are.

Follow-up on Corruption Investigations – There have been reports on billion-dollar financial scandals to defense contractors, but little follow-up. How is our tax money being squandered? Tell us.

Previous GRIID Iraq War Studies

Searching for the Smoking Gun 2003

Reporting Official Positions 2004

Violence, Soldier Deaths and Omissions 2005

PDF of data for 2006

Contact:

Grand Rapids Press

Mike Lloyd

Phone #: (616) 222-5455

WOOD TV 8

News Director: Patti McGettigan

Phone #: 771-9366

E-mail: patti.mcgettigan@woodtv.com

WXMI FOX 17

News Director: Tim Dye

Phone #: (616) 364-1717

E-mail: tdye@wxmi.com

WZZM 13

News Director: Tim Geraghty

Phone #: (616) 785-1313

E-mail: tgeraght@wzzm.gannett.com

Hyped Crime Coverage

On February 28, the three Grand Rapids based TV station spent a tremendous amount of time on the escape & capture of an African American male prisoner in Kent County. WOOD 8 spent a total of 32 minutes and 21 seconds combined on the 5:30, 6 & 11pm newscasts, WZZM 13 spent 33 minutes and 38 seconds on their 5:30, 6 & 11pm newscasts, and WXMI 17 spent 8 minutes and 25 seconds on their 10pm newscast. Clearly this was a public safety issue, but did it deserve this much attention? Never have we seen during the evening newscasts this much time devoted to a single election story or factory closing or other major local public interest story. Was there special attention given to this story because he is charged with shooting a police officer? Does the fact that he is an African American male have any impact on shaping public opinion? These are all questions that need to be asked of the TV stations.

Contact:

WOOD TV 8

News Director: Patti McGettigan

Phone #: 771-9366

E-mail: patti.mcgettigan@woodtv.com

WXMI FOX 17

News Director: Tim Dye

Phone #: (616) 364-1717

E-mail: tdye@wxmi.com

WZZM 13

News Director: Tim Geraghty

Phone #: (616) 785-1313

E-mail: tgeraght@wzzm.gannett.com

WZZM 13 Runs Pro-Military TV Special

This Saturday, January 21 at 7pm, the local ABC affiliate WZZM 13 will air a 1 hour special, “Class 186: The Making of a Marine Officer,” a program that has been heavily promoted this week by WZZM 13. From the clips shown on WZZM 13 and on the Class 186 website, it is clear that the program, which takes viewers through boot camp, an obstacle course, graduation, and even rifle school. The emphasis of the show is on the “patriotism” of the recruits profiled, and in many ways is little more than a 1-hour recruiting tool for the military. The program was produced by Marine Times, a newspaper owned by WZZM 13’s parent company, Gannett, a media company owning a large number of newspapers and television stations. The program is being heavily promoted and aired on Gannett’s television stations nationally, having already been shown by Gannett stations in Tampa Bay, Phoenix, and Jacksonville. Gannett sees nothing wrong with this cross promotion of its products across mediums and even went so far as to give the managing editor of Marine Times, a special recognition award for his work producing the program. According to the award press release, the program was distributed to all Gannett stations for airing.

That WZZM 13 and its parent company Gannett are willing to devote an hour of time to a program unquestioningly promoting the military is not surprising given their record of not . WZZM 13’s coverage of the ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq has included almost no critical coverage of current US military policy according to a recent study by the Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy (GRIID). According to the GRIID report there were only a few stories that included any anti-war voices during the 90-day study period on WZZM. In light of the GRIID study and the blatant pro-military special that WZZM 13 is running, we encourage people to contact the station. It might be an instructive exercise to call and ask them if they will run a 1-hour special that features anti-war voices working on counter-recruitment efforts or one that takes a critical look at the Iraq War. It might also be interesting to ask them to explain why they decided to run this special and if Marine Times is paying for it to air. If so, it is important to point out that any and all advertising or videos produced by the US Military are subsidized by US taxpayers. If US tax payers are paying for it to air on channel 13, then they can surely provide free airtime for an opposing view point. WZZM 13’s News Director is Tim Geraghty who can be reached at 616-785-1313 or tgeraght@wzzm.gannett.com.

GRIID will be recording the show to have a copy available in their library, and will also conduct an analysis of the show that will be posted online on their News Dissection page.