Rep. John Conyers, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, says big media, especially cable news channels, are giving the Bush Administration a free pass by focusing on celebrity news and other “trivial matter” rather than examining White House policies.
Conyers based his assertion on a new survey of cable news treatment of important or high-profile stories by the Congressional Research Service, which gathers data at lawmakers’ request to help them write bills or prepare for hearings. Conyers used the CRS sampling to charge that cable news outlets gave big play to some inconsequential stories while largely ignoring a lot of news casting Bush Administration policies in a negative light.
For instance, according to the study, April 28 revelations of a British government memo indicating intelligence services had concluded prior to the start of the Iraq war that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction were ignored by CNN’s Wolf Blitzer Reports and Anderson Cooper 360, MSNBC’s Countdown with Keith Olberman and Fox’s Big Story. Days later, those same shows were leading or devoting a lot of time to the runaway bride saga.
“All you need to do is turn on the television, open up the paper, or listen to the radio to appreciate the extent our so-called ‘fourth estate’ has fallen,” Conyers complained at a Capitol Hill forum on media coverage attended by some Judiciary Committee Democrats.
“We have turned from breaking stories like Watergate and the Iran-Contra scandal to celebrity journalism."
A CNN spokeswoman said the network had done a story on the memo April 28, but not in either Cooper's or Blitzer's show.An MSNBC spokeswoman responded that Countdown did do a piece on the memo, and with one of Conyer's "esteemed colleagues," Rep. Louise Slaughter, though it did not air until May 16.