Media Bites: Coca Cola

In this week’s edition of Media Bites, GRIID looks at Coca Cola commercials that aired during the 2009 Super Bowl. The coke ads are promoting their “open happiness” campaign. We deconstruct this idea and present information about how the consumption of Coke products harms us and what Coca Cola’s business practices are around the world:

Media Bites – Coke from Girbe Eefsting on Vimeo.

About Media Bites

On any given day, most Americans are exposed to about 3,000 different commercial messages. These messages are in the form of TV ads, billboards, product placement in movies and video games or online advertising. Media Bites is an effort by the Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy to provide some regular analysis of these images and messages that corporations and the government use to manipulate the public into supporting products and policies.

Presidential Speeches and US Troops: Week Six of the Grand Rapids Press’ Coverage of the Obama Administration

Week 6 of the Press' Coverage of the Obama Administration Featured a Number of Stories on U.S. Foreign Policy

Week Six of the Grand Rapids Press coverage of the Obama administration took a departure from the previous week, with the focus shifting to the US occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

There were a total of 17 stories for the week of February 23 through March 1st. President Barack Obama’s first speech before Congress on February 24 received the most single stories, but foreign policy dominated the coverage in week six with a total of seven stories. Here is a breakdown of what articles appeared on the new administration:

  • 5 stories on Obama’s speech before Congress
  • 3 stories on Iraq
  • 3 stories on Afghanistan
  • 3 stories on the economy

The Speech before Congress

There were three stories about the President’s upcoming speech, with the first story from the New York Times on February 23. This article relied heavily on White House spokespersons, like Rahm Emanuel, who said, “Everybody has to have the notion that to make the system better, you’re going to have to give a little,” when talking about the economy.

The second pre-speech story also used White House spokespersons, with the focus being on what the President would say in his speech about reducing the deficit. This story, from the Associated Press, was quite technical and also sourced experts from the Brookings Institute and Moody’s

The Grand Rapids Press used the President’s speech as an opportunity to write two articles with a local perspective. They spoke with people before and after the speech to get some impression of what people are thinking about what the President can realistically do about the economy. In the February 24 article, Press reporter Ted Roelofs spoke with an auto worker who last her job recently, a CEO of a local manufacturing company, and Congressman Pete Hoekstra. Hoekstra was given more space in the story and was critical of the Obama administration’s ability to stabilize the economy.

The main speech story ran on the front page of February 24 with the headline, “Balancing Hope with Urgency.” the Washington Post article was framed, like much of the news coverage in recent months, as a comparison between FDR and Barack Obama. The story says:

“Not since Franklin Roosevelt delivered his first fireside chat, eight days into his presidency, have Americans been more hungry — and more desperate — for economic leadership. And not since FDR has there been an economic agenda as bold or ambitious, or as likely to reshape American capitalism.”

However, there was no examination of the content of his speech, nor how it would “reshape American Capitalism.” The article mostly focused on how “well crafted” the speech was. The reporter also commented that the President’s speech “reinforced the image of a serious and purposeful leader.”

Obama on Iraq & Afghanistan

Week six of the new administration gave the public the first concrete comments from President Obama on the US occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan since he took office.

On February 26, the President laid out his plan for US troop withdrawal from Iraq. However, the story framed the plan as one of “ending the war in Iraq.” Even the headline for February 27 ran as “Obama sets date to end Iraq war.” The article never clarifies how it would “end the war in Iraq,” but it does mention that, “a sizable U.S. force of 35,000 to 50,000 U.S. troops will stay in Iraq under a new mission of training, civilian protection and counterterrorism.”

We have already provided a critique of the Iraq withdrawal plan and unlike our critique, the AP story that ran in the Press did not seek any responses from the national anti-war organizations, many of whom endorsed the President’s candidacy. Instead, the Press ran a follow up story from the Associated Press on February 28 that was written by the AP reporter while visiting a US military base in Iraq. While it is important to solicit the views of US troops on the new Iraq withdrawal plan, shouldn’t the anti-war organizations also be given an opportunity to comment on the new policy?

Afghanistan was also the focus of three stories than ran during the sixth week of the Press coverage of the new administration. The first was a February 27 article from the Washington Post that reported on a recent poll showing that most Americans support the increase of US troops to Afghanistan. The article said the Washington Post and ABC-News conducted the poll, but the story doesn’t provide much information on the poll results nor does it give readers a clear sense of the questions asked to those polled.

The other two articles that focused on Afghanistan were both run on March 1st, with one story focusing on an increase in US troop deaths and the other on Afghan civilian deaths. However, the two articles are framed in a completely different way. The AP story that focused on US troop deaths in Afghanistan was headlined, “US Deaths on rise in Afghanistan” while the story focused on civilian deaths was headlined as, “US airstrikes sometimes backfire in Afghanistan.”

The US troops deaths in Afghanistan, according to the AP story, are the result of “an increasingly violent insurgency,” while Afghan civilian deaths are because the Afghan insurgents “are wily.” the New York Times article, a story written by the reporter from a US aircraft carrier, only cites US military personnel who say the insurgents, “will meld themselves within the population. They will fire from areas that they know that if we put a bomb there, it’s going to look bad.” The whole article is framed to suggest that the US military campaign in Afghanistan only kills civilians by accident or because the Taliban insurgents hide amongst the population. This notion seems in conflict with a report from Human Rights Watch, which documents civilian deaths due to US/NATO air strikes.

Media Bites: Go Daddy’s Porn

In this week’s edition of Media Bites, GRIID looks at Go Daddy commercials that aired during the 2009 Super Bowl. Go Daddy continued their trend of using women’s bodies to sell their imagine, but they also used a pornographic theme in one of the ads:

About Media Bites

On any given day, most Americans are exposed to about 3,000 different commercial messages. These messages are in the form of TV ads, billboards, product placement in movies and video games or online advertising. Media Bites is an effort by the Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy to provide some regular analysis of these images and messages that corporations and the government use to manipulate the public into supporting products and policies.

Economy Drives GR Press Coverage for Week Five of Obama Administration, Escalating War in Afghanistan Still Marginal

The Grand Rapids Press Coverage of Obama Focused on Economic Issues

The fifth week of the Grand Rapids Press coverage under the new administration continues to follow a pattern set in recent weeks, with the economy dominating coverage. There were 18 articles were run by the Press, with some coming from the Associated Press and others from the New York Times and the Washington Post.

Fourteen of those stories were related to the economy or budget issues:

  • General Budget stories – 7
  • Mortgage Crisis – 3
  • Auto Industry – 3
  • Bank Bailout – 1

The remaining stories were made up of two on the new administration’s troop increase in Afghanistan, one on Sec. of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to Asia, and one on the Justice Department’s decision to keep some of Bush’s internal memos secret.

A Car Czar?

Early in the fifth week of coverage, there were three stories about the Obama administration’s dropping of a proposal to have someone oversee the revamping of the US auto industry. A February 16 article states that the President “is designating the Treasury secretary, Timothy F. Geithner, and the chairman of the National Economic Council, Lawrence H. Summers, to oversee a presidential panel on the auto industry. Mr. Geithner will also supervise the $17.4 billion in loan agreements already in place with G.M. and Chrysler, said the official, who insisted on anonymity.”

There was also mention that the administration has brought in Ron Bloom to advise the government on how to handle the revamping of the auto industry. The New York Times article states that Bloom is a “restructuring expert who has advised the labor unions in the troubled steel and airline industries.” Bloom has worked in the banking industry as well and helped to “revive and restructure 50 companies in bankruptcy,” according to a recent online statement from the AFL-CIO.

However, what seems to be missing from the articles on the auto industry loans from the government, is that these loans might be contingent on getting auto workers to make more concessions. According to Labor Notes, the UAW leadership is planning more concessions to the auto industry such as reducing more benefits, loss of holiday bonuses, and restructuring overtime pay. Unfortunately, the only labor voice included in the three stories was from the United Steel Workers, but that comment was only related to the appointment of Ron Bloom not what the government’s proposal means for auto workers.

Mortgage Relief?

Beginning with a February 18 article, there were three stories on the administration’s plan to deal with the mortgage crisis. The Washington Post article of February 18 stated:

“The plan will include several elements, including ones that focus on encouraging lenders to lower borrowers’ payments to affordable levels, perhaps by having the government subsidize lower interest rates, sources familiar with the proposal have said. It will also establish industry standards for modifying troubled loans. Those could include extending the terms of loans or giving borrowers a short-term break on payments.”

The other two articles continue along the same line of reporting by discussing what the administration’s proposed plan will do and whom it will help. A February 19 article cites an individual who has been affected by the mortgage crisis, but only as it related to the foreclosure assistance plan under the Bush administration. Nowhere in these three stories was there anything about the growing movement of people refusing to leave their foreclosed homes nor the groups that are organizing thousands across the country to fight foreclosures.

Other Economic News

The remaining stories that focused on the economy ranged included a February 16 story about the ongoing bank bailout, a 2/20 article on Obama saying he is putting NAFTA changes on hold, a 2/21 story focused on the President’s warning to US Mayors if they misspend stimulus money, and another 2/21 article where former President Clinton gives advice to Obama on “how to talk about the economy.” All of these articles were fairly short and lacking in substance. The only other economic story of interest was a February 22 piece that explored ways in which the Pentagon might find ways to cut spending during the economic crisis.

The 2/22 New York Times story discussed how the Pentagon and the Obama administration are “considering” cuts to the military budget. Defense Secretary Gates was quoted as saying, “One thing we have known for many months is the spigot of defense funding opened by 9/11 is closing.” However, there are no real details of where these cuts might come from.

William Hartung, with the New American Foundation, recently stated that the defense industry has been lobbying Congress and the new administration with the idea that an increase in defense spending is a great stimulus:

“The defense budget is not a jobs program, nor should it be. Decisions on how many Humvees to buy, or how many bases to refurbish, should rest on military necessity, not economic expedience subject to political chicanery. When military procurement becomes nothing more than a series of thinly veiled pork-barrel projects, it risks exposing our troops to unnecessary risks, and ultimately undermines our security.”

Onto Afghanistan

There were two stories about the administration’s plans to escalate the US/NATO war in Afghanistan. On February 17, an Associated Press article focused on a recent Rand Corporation study that “a game-changing strategy is urgently needed in Afghanistan to save the faltering international campaign.” The article only cites Rand Corp. researchers and White House press secretary Robert Gibbs who both are of the opinion that a new strategy is need to better win the war in Afghanistan.

The very next day (2/18), the Grand Rapids Press ran another story on the announcement that the Obama administration will be sending 17,000 more US troops to Afghanistan. President Obama was quoted as saying, “This increase is necessary to stabilize a deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, which has not received the strategic attention, direction and resources it urgently requires.”

The article only cites the President and US military officials who are in agreement over the need for more US troops being deployed to Afghanistan. Missing from this coverage is an assessment of the current situation in Afghanistan, Afghani voices, or US opposition to the war.

Media Bites: Budweiser

In this week’s edition of Media Bites, GRIID looks at the numerous Budweiser ads that ran during the 2009 Super Bowl, the techniques they use, and how some of their ads even target children in order to develop brand loyalty. :

About Media Bites

On any given day, most Americans are exposed to about 3,000 different commercial messages. These messages are in the form of TV ads, billboards, product placement in movies and video games or online advertising. Media Bites is an effort by the Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy to provide some regular analysis of these images and messages that corporations and the government use to manipulate the public into supporting products and policies.

The Stimulus and Nothing but the Stimulus: Week Four of Grand Rapids Press coverage of the Obama Administration

Newspaper (the Grand Rapids Press) Coverage of Obama's Fourth Week in Office Focused Exclusively on the Stimulus Bill

The stimulus package dominated the fourth week of newspaper coverage of the new Obama administration. Like the second and third week of the Grand Rapids Press’ coverage, the stimulus plan dominated the coverage, but in week four it was the only story to that was covered.

The Press ran a total of 12 stories during the fourth week of the Obama administration and every one of them was related to the stimulus package. Some stories dealt with details of the plan, some on the partisan positions, some presented the long term cost of the stimulus, and one story touched on the issue of public trust and government spending.

Stimulus Details

On February 12, the Press ran a story from the Los Angeles Times that was one of the first articles to provide some information on how the public might benefit from the stimulus package. The story mentioned that first time home buyers would get a break, people making less than $100,000 would get a tax credit, those receiving unemployment would receive an additional $25 a week, and college students would receive additional benefits.

On February 10 and 11, there were consecutive articles about the “real” cost of the bailout and the stimulus package. The February 10 article cites Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner who claims that the total cost will come to roughly $1.5 trillion, while the February 11 article puts the total closer to $3 trillion. Naomi Klein, in a speech given at MSU on February 17 said that according to Bloomberg News the real cost of the bailout/stimulus is actually $10.5 trillion. The stories in the Press don’t really explore where all the cost has come from and how the government plans to pay this additional debt.

The Press did run an interesting article from the Washington Post on February 9 that stated that even though the stimulus plan has some oversight components built into it, it may be difficult to track “wasteful spending.” However, much of the original Washington Post story was omitted in the Press version, particularly examples of government waste that have been documented by George Mason University’s Mercatus Center.

Executive Pay and Nominee Rejection

On February 15, the Press ran an Associated Press story on the executive pay restrictions that the new administration has placed on companies that have benefited from the bailout. Obama “set a $500,000 cap on pay for top executives and limited bonuses or additional compensation to restricted stock that could only be claimed after the firm had paid the government back.” The AP story presented the executive pay restrictions as a victory for the new administration, but the reality was that the executive pay restrictions were not included in the final draft of the stimulus plan, as reported in the Huffington Post. The only restrictions that were included in the final draft were limitations of executive bonuses, not their salaries.

On February 13 the Press ran a New York Times article about the last Obama pick to run the Commerce Department and his rejection of that position. The Times story stated, “Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire abruptly withdrew Thursday as the nominee for commerce secretary, saying he had irresolvable conflicts with President Obama over his economic stimulus plan.” The Times article frames the Gregg rejection in purely partisan terms, but the Republican Senator may have been using the nomination for other purposes. Independent journalist Dave Lindorff argues that Gregg used the confrontation with Obama over his nomination as a way of getting the Democrats to water down the stimulus plan.

The remaining stories from the fourth week of coverage focused on the stimulus vote (February 12 & 14) and a story announcing when Obama would sign the stimulus legislation (February 15).

Media Bites: General Electric Exposed

In this week’s edition of Media Bites, GRIID analyzes two recent commercials by General Electric:

About Media Bites

On any given day, most Americans are exposed to about 3,000 different commercial messages. These messages are in the form of TV ads, billboards, product placement in movies and video games or online advertising. Media Bites is an effort by the Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy to provide some regular analysis of these images and messages that corporations and the government use to manipulate the public into supporting products and policies.

More Coverage Does Not Translate Into Better Coverage: Week Three of the Grand Rapids Press and the Obama Administration

Just Because the Grand Rapids Press Ran More Articles About Obama Doesn't Mean Readers Were Better Informed

There was a dramatic increase in the amount of stories that the Grand Rapids Press published during the third week of the new administration. The Press ran a total of 18 stories, the same number of stories for the first two weeks combined.

The stories that dominated the coverage were:

  • The stimulus plan (6)
  • Foreign policy (4)
  • Ongoing problems with some of Obama’s nominees (3)

There were no fluff stories as we documented last week, but there was a story on how the new administration will deal with making good on campaign promises.

The Stimulus and Partisan Battles

Much of the coverage on the stimulus plan was framed as a partisan “battle.”

A February 8 story begins by saying, “President Barack Obama and Senate Republicans bickered Saturday over his historically huge economic recovery plan.” However, once you got beyond the headlines most of the stories that dealt with the stimulus plan actually reflected that there was more cooperation between the two major parties than “bickering,” even if the cooperation has meant a shift to the right, as Peter Hart and John Nichols have both observed in recent articles.

A February 6, Associated Press article reported that, “A group of nearly 20 moderates from both parties–more Democrats than Republicans–huddled off and on all day Thursday in hopes of cutting as much as $100 billion from Obama’s plan.” This cooperation was continued in a February 7 story where a Republican Senator from Maine said, “The American people want us to work together. They don’t want to see us dividing along partisan lines on the most serious crisis confronting our country.”

The coverage of the stimulus plan even provided some details on what was included in the package, unlike what we documented last week. A February 4 story commented that part of the Senate version of the stimulus plan would include tax breaks for people buying homes. A February 6 article also mentioned that, “A roster of $88 billion worth of cuts was circulating, almost half of which would come from education grants to states, with an additional $13 billion in aid to local school districts for special education and the No Child Left Behind law on the chopping block as well.”

What was missing from this coverage was any commentary on how the public or non-partisan groups might respond to the proposed changes to the stimulus plan. United for a Fair Economy points out that the proposed stimulus changes by the Senate who primarily benefit “upper-income people.”

Iraq, Iran, and the New Secretary of State

Stories on US foreign policy were all over the map last week with an initial story on where President Barack Obama stands on troop withdrawal from Iraq, a story we already looked at on February 7.

On February 8, there was a story about Vice President Joe Biden’s first major foreign policy speech at the annual Munich Security Conference. The Associated Press reporter said, “his remarks set a tone of partnership in contrast to what some allies saw as a more bullying posture by the previous administration.”

The article states that Biden and the new administration does want to have open relations with Iran, but the story filed to mention that Biden was opposed to Iran developing nuclear weapons and that “Iran has acted in ways that are not conducive to peace in the region.” Biden, like previous administrations, does not acknowledge Israel’s possession of nuclear weapons as a possible destabilizing factor in the region.

The idea that the new administration will make a departure from the Bush years on foreign policy was also reflected in a February 8 Los Angeles Times article about Hillary Clinton’s first overseas trips as Secretary of State. Much of the Press version of the Times story focuses on how Clinton’s visit to Asia shows a priority to that part of the world, unlike Condoleezza Rice as Bush’s Secretary of State. The article also compares Clinton’s Secretary of State status to that of a celebrity by saying, “Clinton, a worldwide celebrity since the early 1990s, is expected to command even more attention, whether or not the trip reveals much about the administration’s policy plans.” Apparently, Clinton’s celebrity is more important than what the new administration’s policies will actually be.

Nominations and Governance

There were also several stories (February 3 & 4) about the ongoing nomination process with both Tom Daschle and Nancy Killefer stepping down from positions because of personal tax issues. More importantly was a story on February 8, from the Associated Press that looked at the issue of whether or not the new administration would make good on their promise of staying away from lobbyists.

The story points out that on January 21, President Obama “issued an executive order barring any former lobbyists who join his administration from dealing with matters or agencies related to their lobbying work.” The article goes on to state, “However, William J. Lynn III, his choice to become the No. 2 official at the Defense Department, recently lobbied for military contractor Raytheon.”

The AP story also includes comments from a spokesperson from Democracy21, a non-profit/non-partisan group that seeks to curb the influences of big money in politics. The Democracy21 spokesperson acknowledges that the new administration has already made exceptions to the rule on having former lobbyists, but says “he focuses on Obama’s executive order and the hope of progress to come on public financing of campaigns.” This position is much different than the one expressed by the Center for Responsive Politics, which recently noted that the new administration’s “efforts are futile without a parallel order for transparency of contacts between lobbyists and government officials.”

Media Bites: Cargill

This is the first installment of a new weekly media analysis project called Media Bites by the Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy (GRIID). This week’s analysis looks at the global grain giant Cargill:

About Media Bites

On any given day, most Americans are exposed to about 3,000 different commercial messages. These messages are in the form of TV ads, billboards, product placement in movies and video games or online advertising. Media Bites is a new effort by the Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy to provide some regular analysis of these images and messages that corporations and the government use to manipulate the public into supporting products and policies.

Week Two of Grand Rapids Press’ Obama Coverage Focuses on Stimulus Plan and Presidential Fluff

The Grand Rapids Press Coverage of the Obama Administration Focused on the Economic Stimulus Plan and Personal Stories

The first full week of the new administration is over and how did The Grand Rapids Press report on politics in the nation’s capitol? There was only one story that dealt with foreign policy, a story based on a CBS interview with Vice President Joe Biden that we have already analyzed. Articles that focused on the stimulus plan put forth by the Obama administration dominated the rest of the week.

The Stimulus Plan Without Substance

Five stories on the economic stimulus plan were published in The Grand Rapids Press throughout the week, three from the Los Angeles Times, one from The New York Times and one Associated Press (AP) story. The primary focus of those stories was on the partisan tensions around the stimulus plan. In a January 28 article, the AP reporter writes:

“With Democrats enjoying a comfortable majority and expected to fall in line behind Obama, they don’t need help from GOP lawmakers to win House passage of his top priority of economic recovery. But Obama wants Republican support to illustrate his promise of a new style of politics that rejects partisan gridlock.”

This AP story was filled with commentary on the partisan clash on the stimulus package and The Press version of the original AP story omitted any content that provided details on the plan. Here is one example of what was omitted:

“The House measure includes about $550 billion in spending and roughly $275 billion in tax cuts in hopes of spurring the economy and helping those directly affected. Much of the spending would be for items such as health care, jobless benefits, food stamps and other programs that benefit victims of the downturn.”

A New York Times story on January 29 continued this trend by focusing on the partisan aspects of how the House voted on the stimulus plan. Again, no details of the stimulus package were included in the story. A January 31 article from the Los Angeles Times looked the new administration’s use of e-mail as an organizing tool to push the stimulus plan and that the new Organizing for America team was encouraging people to host “house meetings is to inform neighbors about the president’s proposal and to help the people you know connect the recovery plan to their lives and learn more about why it’s so important.” Unfortunately for readers, there were no details of the recovery plan, only commentary on unnamed “Liberal groups” who were running ads across the country in favor of the stimulus plan.

The last two stories on the stimulus plan focused on the GOP response (1/31) and conservative talk radio’s take (2/1) on the Obama economic plan. The article on the GOP response included some comments from Republican lawmakers, but it was dominated by criticisms from a GOP lobbyist Vin Weber who said, “There is not a coherent Republican message at this moment,” in opposition to the stimulus plan. The article also cited Don Sipple, a longtime GOP communications strategist who said, “I don’t think there’s very much Republicans can do on economic matters right now, other than get out of the way … then let the chips fall where they may.”

After five articles on the economic stimulus plan readers would be hard pressed to know anything about what the stimulus plan would actually do and who would benefit from it. There were no independent or non-partisan voices in these stories, such as William Greider, journalist and author of several books on the US economy. Another glaring omission in the coverage was voices from working people and members of the public who have been most negatively impacted by the recent economic crisis.

Presidential Dates, E-mail Access and Tax Records

The remaining three stories from this past week on the new Obama administration dealt with the tax records of Obama’s choice for heading up the department that will deal with health reforms, former Senator Tom Daschle. The story mentions that, “some tax issues had emerged in connection with the nomination” of Daschle, but that the administration is confident that he will be confirmed. While the tax records of potential cabinet members is relevant, there was no information on Daschle’s history as an elected official, his qualifications in dealing with health reform issues, or his relationship to the health care industry.

The last two stories on the new Obama administration for the week of January 26 dealt with personal aspects of the new president. A February 1st article from The New York Times focused on President Obama’s use of his BlackBerry and which people were allowed access to his new e-mail address. This was the longest story on the new administration for the past week, with a total of 1,379 words devoted to who has access to the President’s e-mail. The article framed the story similar to the way the news reports on Hollywood celebrities by saying, “It is now the ultimate status symbol in a town obsessed by status.” On the same day (2/1) there was also an AP story that told readers that the new White House couple is struggling to maintain their traditional Friday night date night, since the new President is very busy.

Previous Obama Administration Coverage in The Grand Rapids Press