A Special FAIR Report

                           ALL THE USUAL SUSPECTS:
                        MACNEIL/LEHRER and NIGHTLINE

                    by William Hoynes and David Croteau
                   (Sociology Department, Boston College)

                                  May 1990

      I.      Introduction
              The Original Study
              MacNeil/Lehrer:  An Alternative Form of News?

      II.     Summary Results:  Six Months of MacNeil/Lehrer and Nightline
              Race and Gender

      III.    Case Studies
              The Environment
              The Economy
              Central America

      IV.     Conclusion

      V.      Nightline Follow-Up
              Nightline:  Then vs. Now

      VI.     Postscript:  The Kwitny Comparison

         (c) 1990 by FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting)
         130 W. 25 Street,  New York, NY 10001 *  212/633-6700


      In February 1989 FAIR published its study, "Are You on the Nightline
    Guest List?"  The study generated much discussion in the media and
    elsewhere.  We chose Nightline for the first study because it is
    widely seen as the best television journalism has to offer.  However,
    our data showed that a narrow range of guest panelists dominated
    Nightline.  The study's data left people wondering how other TV news
    programs might compare to Nightline in diversity and inclusiveness of
    their guest lists.
      In response to such questions, we conducted the supplemental study
    presented here.  It is a comparative analysis of the guest lists of
    ABC's Nightline and PBS's MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour for a six month
    period (2/6/89 to 8/4/89), beginning on the day the first Nightline
    study was released.  We chose MacNeil/Lehrer for comparison because it
    seemed to be the only serious challenger to Nightline as today's pre-
    eminent daily news/public affairs program.  Also, like Nightline,
    MacNeil/Lehrer relies heavily on invited guests to provide analysis
    and commentary.
      Despite the fact that MacNeil/Lehrer is the nightly news show of
    the public broadcasting service, we found that, in most respects, its
    guest list represented an even narrower segment of the political
    spectrum than Nightline's.
      In addition to comparing MacNeil/Lehrer with Nightline we compared
    the Nightline guest list before and after the release of our first
    study to check for any changes.  Since Nightline host Ted Koppel and
    then-executive producer Richard Kaplan publicly concurred with some of
    our original criticism, we hoped to find improvement in the diversity
    of Nightline's guests.  Our hopes for significant changes were not
    met.  These findings are reported in the "Nightline Follow-Up"

                             The Original Study

      Our original study was an examination of the guest list for all of
    Nightline's 865 programs over a forty month period (1/1/85 to
    4/30/88).  We identified Nightline's most frequent guests:  Henry
    Kissinger, Alexander Haig, Elliott Abrams and Jerry Falwell.  We also
    found that 89 percent of the US guests were men, 92 percent were
    white, and 80 percent were professionals, government officials, or
    corporate representatives.
      It is a basic sociological tenet that one's position in national and
    social hierarchies--race, class and gender--effects how one sees the
    world.  Nightline's domination by white male elites is, in the long
    run, likely to result in a narrow set of perspectives on current
    issues that favor the interest of those elites.
      But a quantitative analysis of race and gender is not enough.
    Having token women or African-Americans, for example, who merely
    espouse the ideology of those in power does little to broaden the
    program's scope.  We were concerned that the guest list include a
    broader range of perspectives, not simply better demographic
      Our original study examined some of the ways Nightline was able to
    present "debates" while maintaining the boundaries of "legitimate"
    political opinion.  We found that Nightline gave its viewers analysis
    and commentary that largely followed an agenda parallel to that of the
    US government and that presented an apparent "domestic consensus" on
    major policy issues.  Criticism of US foreign policy came almost
    exclusively from foreign guests.  Largely absent from Nightline were
    critical public interest viewpoints from consumer groups, civil rights
    organizations, labor unions, US peace and anti-intervention movements,
    and so on.  Therefore, we argued, Nightline's "in-depth" format,
    rather than encouraging comprehensive and inclusive reporting, served
    primarily as a vehicle for the dissemination of the views of a narrow
    sector of the political spectrum.
      One interesting response to this argument came from Ted Koppel:
    "Ours is a news program....When we are covering the news, we try to go
    to the people involved in the news....What they have reflected in
    their analysis of our guest list is that over the 40 months [of the
    study] we've been dealing with a rather conservative Reagan
    Administration.  If we had a liberal administration in office, you
    would suddenly see an enormous disparity in the other direction" (Los
    Angeles Times, 2/6/89).
      Koppel's response is characteristic of an approach to news which
    argues that the media essentially hold up a mirror to the world,
    reflecting the "reality" which exists there.  Thus a conservative
    guest list is reflective of a conservative administration in power.
    This "bias" is not the media's doing, it is the "slant" of the real
      There are several problems with this explanation.  A mirror cannot
    reflect the whole world.  It must be facing a particular direction,
    including some subjects in its frame and excluding others.  Nightline
    acts not as a mirror on the world but, instead, as a mirror on those
    in power.  As Nightline's Richard Kaplan noted, the program tries "to
    get the players, the people who really are the decision makers, to
    hold their feet to the fire" (L.A. Times, 2/6/89).  Thus, those who do
    not currently wield power or those who hold minority opinions are
    usually left outside the boundaries of the mirror's reflection.
      Nightline and similar programs do not just present the views of
    those in power, they actively solicit the analysis and commentary of
    non-office holders.  Most of Nightline's "regulars" in our original
    study were not current officeholders;  they were largely academics or
    former officials.  Thus Nightline's conservative guest list is not
    just a reflection of a conservative administration's "decision
    makers".  Instead the boundaries of these guest lists are actively
    constructed by Nightline's staff and that of other news programs.
      We suggest that the news media do not merely reflect some objective
    reality "out there" in the "real" world.  Instead, news is the result
    of a process in which media personnel make decisions about what is
    important and what is not, about who is important and who is not,
    about what views are to be included and what views can be dismissed.
    None of these decisions can be totally "objective."  Instead, hidden
    assumptions underlie the approach media professionals take in making
    such decisions--assumptions which apply to both MacNeil/Lehrer and
      * "'News' is understood to be what those in power say and do."
    Broadcast time is largely devoted to the happenings in Washington,
    D.C.  As a result, these programs don't reflect anything close to the
    available range of views on a particular issue.
      * "By limiting the boundaries of acceptable views, the news media
    legitimize positions and certify 'expert' spokespersons while
    dismissing other positions and labelling their advocates as
    'partisans.'"  Advocates of conservative foreign and domestic policy
    are frequently introduced as reliable "experts"--people whose
    knowledge results from experience or training.  Guests with critical
    or alternative views, when they do make appearances, are often
    identified as partisans, with the implication that they are "pursuing
    an agenda."
      * "The limited range of views presented on these programs suggests
    foreign policy 'taboos.'" Critical perspectives--those of public
    interest representatives or progressive academics--do appear
    occasionally on discussions of domestic political issues, but, similar
    voices are almost never heard in foreign policy debates.  Viewers are
    not offered wide-ranging debate between foreign policy makers and
    policy critics--whether concerning Central America, Southeast Asia or
    the Middle East.  Substantive discussions about the ends and means of
    US foreign policy--common in Western European mass media--are simply
    not available here.
      Yet such discussions could occur on Nightline and MacNeil/Lehrer
    since they are able to provide more comprehensive and in-depth news
    coverage than the evening news.  MacNeil/Lehrer's Charlayne Hunter-
    Gault has commented that "as good and insightful as [network]
    correspondents are, they must function inside that straightjacket of
    22 minutes of nightly news that touches, on average, some 20-odd
    subjects.  That leaves little or no time for context or perspective"
    (Vogue, January 1984).  MacNeil/Lehrer and Nightline, on the other
    hand, purport to offer "context" and "perspective."  But which
    "context" and whose "perspective" are featured?  This is what we
    continue to examine in this study.

               MacNeil/Lehrer:  An Alternative Form of News?

      Because ABC's Nightline does not try to survey the range of
    happenings on a particular day, it is more of a late-night supplement
    to the nightly news.  PBS's MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour, on the other
    hand, attempts to provide a full-fledged early-evening alternative to
    the network news. The one-hour program includes a brief "news round-
    up" of the day's major events followed by a more detailed look at
    usually three stories.
      Several features make MacNeil/Lehrer ostensibly different from
    network programs like Nightline or the evening news.  In preparing
    this study, we hypothesized that these characteristics might allow
    MacNeil/Lehrer to provide more inclusive and comprehensive coverage.
      First, we thought that the program's airing on the Public
    Broadcasting Service--with its different financing and different
    aims--might have implications for how it approaches the news.  The
    Carnegie Commission Report, from which the Public Broadcasting Act of
    1967 was derived, suggested that public television "should be a forum
    for debate and controversy" and called for public television to
    "provide a voice for groups in the community that may otherwise be
    unheard" and to "help us see America whole, in all its diversity."  We
    hoped, therefore, that MacNeil/Lehrer would be more concerned with the
    interest of the public at large rather than with the narrow elites
    that populate other public affairs programs.
      Second, MacNeil/Lehrer's one-hour format is unique among national
    evening news programs.  While comparatively underfunded,
    MacNeil/Lehrer's time budget must be the envy of other TV journalists.
    The program's focus on a limited number of major stories each night
    means that correspondents sometimes have as much as 10 minutes for
    their taped reports--almost half of an entire network evening news
    broadcast.  But the bulk of air time is usually devoted to interviews
    with the program's guest panelists, often its primary sources of
    information.  We thought that the program's lengthy segments might
    allow for the inclusion of a broader spectrum of views.
      Third, MacNeil/Lehrer eschews the typical "flashy" network approach
    in favor of a more conservative appearance and genteel style.  (Robert
    MacNeil's first book criticized the networks for their sensationalism
    and consequent distortion of the news.)  One PBS insider described
    MacNeil/Lehrer as "the best radio show on television."  The program
    harks back to an earlier day of "gentlemen's" debates with Robert
    MacNeil pursuing what he calls "civil interviewing" (Columbia
    Journalism Review, Jan/Feb 1985).  The program thus makes grayness a
    virtue and presents a distinctive brand of unimpassioned journalism.
      But as we explain below, these differences in format had virtually
    no positive effect on the inclusiveness and diversity of the
    MacNeil/Lehrer guest list.

                       SUMMARY RESULTS: SIX MONTHS OF
                        MACNEIL/LEHRER AND NIGHTLINE

      During the six month period we studied, 19 US guests appeared more
    than twice on MacNeil/Lehrer, and 13 US guests appeared more than once
    on Nightline.
                       Repeat and Frequent U.S. Guests *
                              (2/6/89 - 8/4/89)
    Nightline Repeat Guests               MacNeil/Lehrer Frequent Guests
    (two or more appearances)             (three or more appearances)

    Robert Bork-former Supreme Court      Ed Baumeister-Trenton Times
    Patrick Buchanan-former White         Rep. David Bonior-(D) Michigan
      House Communications Director       Richard Cheney-Sec. of Defense
    Rep. Newt Gingrich-(R) Georgia        Lee Cullum-Dallas Times-Herald
    Rep. William Gray-(D) Pennsylvania    Sen. Christopher Dodd-(D) Conn
    Dennis Kelso-Alaska Environ. Comm.    Rep. Mickey Edwards-(R) Oklahoma
    Michael Oksenberg-Univ of Mich.       Rep. Thomas Foley-(D) Washington
    Dr. Arnold Relman-New England         Sen. Orrin Hatch-(R) Utah
      Journal of Medicine
    Orville Schell-author                 Rep. Henry Hyde-(R) Illinois
    Sen. Alan Simpson-(R) Wyoming         William Hyland-Foreign Affairs
    Nina Totenberg-National Public Radio  Kenneth Liebenthal-Univ. of Michigan
    Faye Wattleton-Planned Parenthood     Sen. Richard Lugar-(R) Indiana
    Rep. Vin Weber-(R) Minnesota          Eleanor Holmes Norton-
                                            Georgetown University Law School
    Sen. Pete Wilson-(R) California       Norman Ornstein-Amer. Enterprise 
                                          Clarence Page-Chicago Tribune
                                          Nina Totenberg-National Public Radio
                                          Sen. Malcolm Wallop-(R) Wyoming
    * The titles used here are for        Gerald Warren-San Diego Union
    identification purposes only.         Fred Wertheimer-Common Cause

      Nightline's repeat guests include five current US government
    officials, four "experts," and two journalists.  MacNeil/Lehrer's
    frequent guests include nine US government officials, four "experts,"
    and five journalists.  Four of Nightline's five government officials
    (Newt Gingrich, Alan Simpson, Vin Weber and Pete Wilson) are
    conservatives while only William Gray can be considered a liberal.
    Six of MacNeil/Lehrer's nine frequent government officials were
    conservative (Richard Cheney, Mickey Edwards, Orrin Hatch, Henry Hyde,
    Richard Lugar and Malcolm Wallop), while only David Bonior and
    Christopher Dodd can be considered liberals. Despite the Democratic-
    majority in Congress, most of the repeat lawmakers were Republicans.
      Both programs rely heavily on analysts who are not currently
    government officials or "decision makers"--primarily journalists and
    "experts".  MacNeil/Lehrer's four "experts" include two pro-
    establishment figures--Norman Ornstein from the conservative American
    Enterprise Institute, and William Hyland from the right-tilting
    journal, Foreign Affairs--while Eleanor Holmes Norton is the one
    "expert" with progressive views.  Two of Nightline's four "experts"
    are right-wing activists (Robert Bork and Patrick Buchanan), though
    not identified as partisans.  There are no partisans-as-experts with
    left-wing perspectives.
      Fred Wertheimer of Common Cause was a frequent guest on
    MacNeil/Lehrer, and Faye Wattleton of Planned Parenthood was a repeat
    guest on Nightline.  Both were identified as partisans rather than
    independent "experts."  Perhaps this is the most candid way to
    identify Wertheimer and Wattleton, both of whom represent public
    interest organizations.  Yet the same standard does not apply to
    conservative partisans, especially those who are former government
    officials.  Pat Buchanan, Robert Bork, William Hyland, and Elliott
    Abrams all may have the credentials of former government officials.
    But they are also partisans with conservative agendas, not neutral
      For example, when a representative of CISPES (Committee In
    Solidarity with the People of El Salvador) and Elliott Abrams appeared
    on Nightline to discuss the Salvadoran election (3/17/89), Abrams--
    then out of government--was identified by his State Department
    credentials, while CISPES was identified as an organization
    "supporting the Salvadoran rebels."  Similarly, it is misleading to
    identify Robert Bork as a "scholar in legal studies" (Nightline,
    7/3/89), without indicating his longstanding association with
    conservative legal pursuits.  In short, many of these "experts" are
    advocates who should be identified as such.
      Since a six-month sample yields only a few repeat guests, looking at
    the institutional affiliation of guests reveals patterns that an
    examination of individual guests cannot.  On MacNeil/Lehrer, two
    conservative Washington think tanks dominate the guest list:  the
    American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and the Center for Strategic and
    International Studies (CSIS).  AEI fellows appeared six times and CSIS
    fellows appeared eight times in this six month period.  In simplified
    terms, AEI provides the resident experts for domestic political
    issues, and CSIS provides the resident experts for foreign policy
      While AEI and CSIS fellows are introduced as nonpartisan "experts,"
    it is clear that both institutes are strong conservative voices.  AEI
    and CSIS receive a great deal of corporate funding, and both provided
    many high level appointees to the Reagan Administration.  AEI and CSIS
    fellows should certainly be welcome on MacNeil/Lehrer, but why are
    they not balanced with appearances from progressive think-tanks like
    the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) or the World Policy Institute
    (WPI)?  Experts from IPS and WPI did not appear once on MacNeil/Lehrer
    in the six months we studied.
      Nightline does not rely as heavily on these particular think-tanks.
    AEI fellows appeared only three times and CSIS fellows appeared only
    once.  Still, Nightline brings on guests from a variety of other
    conservative think-tanks and rarely, if ever, invites guests from
    progressive think-tanks like IPS or WPI.  Whenever progressives are
    featured on Nightline they are clearly identified as such, not masked
    by academic credentials.

                              Race and Gender

      By itself the demographic make-up of these programs' guest lists
    does not guarantee a diversity of perspectives.  However, demographic
    variety is one important sign of substantive diversity.  Both
    MacNeil/Lehrer and Nightline have disproportionate numbers of white
    males on their guest lists.  For MacNeil/Lehrer, 90 percent of its US
    guests were white and 87 percent were male.  Nightline was only
    slightly broader in this regard:  89 percent were white and 82 percent
    were male.  (Race was identifiable for 90 percent of guests).
      On programs about international politics the numbers are even more
    stark:  94 percent of MacNeil/Lehrer's US guests were white and 94
    percent were male, while 96 percent of Nightline's US guests were
    white and 90 percent were male.  Thus, during discussions about
    foreign policy, on which Nightline's reputation is largely based,
    women and people of color from the US were, for all practical
    purposes, non-participants.
      Coverage of domestic politics was more representative.  Twenty-one
    percent of the US guests on MacNeil/Lehrer were women and 26 percent
    of Nightline's US guests were women.  A good many of the women
    appeared on programs about abortion, where debates were generally
    inclusive.  All three Nightline programs about abortion featured
    activists on both sides of the debate--representatives of Planned
    Parenthood and the National Abortion Rights Action League, as well as
    representatives from Operation Rescue, the American Life League and
    American Victims of Abortion.


      MacNeil/Lehrer relies heavily on current and former government
    officials.  A total of 46 percent of MacNeil/Lehrer's US guests were
    current or former government officials.  Another 38 percent were
    professionals (primarily academics, doctors, and lawyers) and 5
    percent were corporate representatives.  A total of 89 percent of
    MacNeil/Lehrer's US guests represent elite opinion, while only 6
    percent represent public interest, labor or racial/ethnic
    organizations.  On programs about international politics, 67 percent
    of MacNeil/Lehrer's US guests were current or former government
    officials.  It is not surprising, then, that MacNeil/Lehrer's
    "debates" are usually less than provocative.
      Nightline also relies heavily on similar elites, but it shows more
    diversity in its guest list than MacNeil/Lehrer.  Thirty-four percent
    of the US guests were government officials, 39 percent professionals,
    and 5 percent corporate representatives.  A total of 78 percent of the
    guests represent elite opinion, while 10 percent represent public
    interest, labor or racial/ethnic organizations.  While this is clearly
    broader than MacNeil/Lehrer, it is still far from a diverse sample of

                                CASE STUDIES

                               The Environment

      The destruction of our natural environment is arguably the most
    significant issue facing humanity at the end of the twentieth century.
    Ted Koppel (3/7/89) has called the threat to the ozone layer "perhaps
    the most imminent danger now confronting this planet."
      In a program on the ozone layer, Koppel commented that "what we are
    doing to ourselves may have such devastating consequences that we will
    wonder some day how we could have been distracted by such trivial
    concerns as earthquakes, or famine, or flood."  Yet in the same
    program Koppel seemed to offer his own answer.  He said, "Politically
    this is not an exciting issue.  In fact, it causes people's eyes to
    glaze over when you start talking about some of these issues."
      After decades of ignoring warnings from environmental activists and
    scientists, the mainstream media are finally beginning to pay more
    attention to growing ecological devastation.  Despite this trend, the
    environment still poses two major difficulties for the news media.
    First, the environment is rarely a "breaking" story.  The dangers and
    developments affecting the environment evolve gradually over a period
    of time.  There is not always a convenient "peg" on which to hang an
    environmental story.  The exception proves the rule:  The dramatic
    Exxon oil spill in Alaska provided journalists with a compelling story
    and engaging visuals.  Nearly half of the environmental stories during
    our study focused on this spill.
      Second, environmentalists know that in order to fully assess the
    issue of ecological destruction one has to "follow the money."  For
    journalists this can pose problems.  Tracing environmental damage back
    to the corporate and industrial organizations which benefit from weak
    environmental protection laws might result in pressure from corporate
    advertisers or underwriters.  Even when environmental stories are
    covered, the role of corporate polluters is often obscured.  As Ralph
    Nader notes, "Look at all the stories on the destruction of the Amazon
    rain forest.  Do you ever see the names of any multinational
    corporations mentioned?"  MacNeil/Lehrer's July 4 story on Brazil's
    Amazon rain forest was no exception;  no corporations were mentioned.
      MacNeil/Lehrer featured 16 environment-related stories.  Besides the
    Exxon Valdez spill, subjects included President Bush's "clean air"
    proposals, other oil spills, environmental/safety problems at nuclear
    weapons facilities, the search for nuclear waste sites, driftnet
    fishing, the food additive Alar, Brazil's rain forest and a proposed
    dam outside Denver.
      A total of 17 guests, all white American males, appeared on
    MacNeil/Lehrer's environmental segments.  If viewers expected to find
    representatives from environmental groups on programs about the
    environment, they were disappointed.  Only one representative of an
    environmental organization appeared.  Instead, government and
    corporate representatives dominated MacNeil/Lehrer's guest list for
    environmental stories.  More than half of the guests were government
    officials, while almost one-third were corporate representatives.
      MacNeil/Lehrer's inattention to environmentalists is highlighted by
    the sole case in which an environmentalist actually made an
    appearance.  On March 16, 1989, Al Meyeroff of the Natural Resources
    Defense Council was on MacNeil/Lehrer to speak about NRDC's report on
    the dangers of Alar, the food additive.  Since NRDC was the source of
    the Alar story, it would have been virtually impossible for
    MacNeil/Lehrer to cover it without including an NRDC representative.
    Such was not the case for most environmental stories and no other
    environmentalists were guests on the show.
      When MacNeil/Lehrer discussed the government's plan to clean up
    environmental and safety problems at major nuclear weapons plants
    (8/2/89), it invited Energy Secretary James Watkins for a "Newsmaker"
    interview--alone with no dissenting guests.  When MacNeil/Lehrer
    examined President Bush's proposals for cleaner air (6/12/89), it
    invited the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) William Reilly--
    alone with no dissenting guests.
      Without critical voices, many of MacNeil/Lehrer's environmental
    programs presented extremely limited perspectives, sometimes with
    corporate and government voices supporting each other.  MacNeil/Lehrer
    featured the Alaska oil spill on four consecutive programs, and had
    three later follow-ups.  The first program featured Exxon's Alaska
    Coordinator, Don Cornett, and Alaskan Governor Steve Cowper.  Cornett
    assured the audience (wrongly, it turns out) that, with chemical
    dispersants, Exxon would "handle a great deal of the spill before it
    ever touches the shore line of Prince William Sound" and argued that
    "people tend to forget that oil is biodegradable."  For his part, Gov.
    Cowper expressed concern at the lack of preparedness by the oil
    company, but felt that this spill should not interfere with future
    expansion of oil drilling in the Arctic.  He concluded, "By and large
    the Trans Alaska Pipeline is a very effective way to get oil from one
    place to another.  It's clean from an engineering standpoint and while
    there have been some relatively minor incidents, I think that they're
    acceptable."  No environmentalists were present to challenge such
      While the scale of the spill could not be overlooked, government
    experts and corporate representatives presented a largely reassuring
    view of the impact of the accident.  Exxon chairman Lawrence Rawl was
    featured on the fourth story MacNeil/Lehrer did on the spill
    (3/30/89).  He apologized for the spill, but downplayed its impact on
    the oil industry.  Rawl's appearance was "balanced" by Governor Cowper
    who, while criticizing the oil company consortium responsible for
    clean-up plans, argued that "the chairman of the board of Exxon, I
    think, has been too heavy on his own company....Obviously Exxon's
    skipper caused this accident but after it took place, I think that
    Exxon did a good job under the circumstances.  I really do."
      Nightline featured environmental issues on only six out of 130
    programs--with a total of 15 guests.  All the guests were white and
    only two were women.  All but one guest (Margaret Thatcher) were US
    citizens.  A full 60 percent of the guests were government officials
    while 13 percent were corporate representatives.  Nightline included
    only two environmentalists--Wilderness Society president George
    Frampton (future of oil spills) and Janet Hathaway of the National
    Resources Defense Council (health effects of pesticides).
      The Exxon oil spill dominated Nightline's coverage of the
    environment.  Nightline's three programs on the spill, spread over a
    four month period, had a decidedly more skeptical tone than
    MacNeil/Lehrer's.  Its first program featured a spokesperson for the
    Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, the agency conducting
    on-site coordination of the oil spill cleanup;  the mayor of Valdez;
    and a fisherman, Jim Brown.  The inclusion of Brown was a rare case
    where the perspective of someone affected by events was included.
    It's worth noting that Exxon, which had sent a representative to
    appear on MacNeil/Lehrer on the same day, turned down Nightline's
    invitation to have a spokesperson on its program.  (The same thing
    occurred on July 25 when Exxon turned down a Nightline invitation to
    appear, but sent Exxon president Lee Raymond to appear on
    MacNeil/Lehrer two days later.)
      While Koppel did ask tougher questions about the bungled clean-up
    operations, the programs relied heavily on government and corporate
    experts for commentary and analysis.  For example, Dennis Kelso from
    the Alaska Environmental Commission was on all three of Nightline's
    Alaskan oil spill programs.  In a taped introduction to one program,
    ABC's Roger Caras said:  "The torn hull of the Exxon Valdez is the
    greatest environmental 'I told you so' in history."  Yet notably
    absent from any of the Exxon oil spill programs were representatives
    from environmental groups which had long warned about just such an
      What Nightline and MacNeil/Lehrer's environmental coverage reveals
    is a good deal of lip service to the importance of environmental
    issues with an apparent lack of commitment to serious, ongoing
    coverage.  Even more disturbing is a disregard for the views of
    environmentalists--the very people who have long struggled to bring
    attention to the plight of the earth's environment.  There are many
    respected environmental organizations in this country--Sierra Club,
    Greenpeace, Earth Island Institute, League of Conservation Voters,
    National Toxics Campaign, among others--with well-informed
    representatives who could be valuable assets in illuminating the
    admittedly complex issues associated with environmental destruction.
    MacNeil/Lehrer and Nightline should be calling upon them much more

                                The Economy

      Perhaps the most striking feature of MacNeil/Lehrer and Nightline's
    economic coverage is its narrow focus.  News programs focus more on
    Washington budget debates than on economic trends in particular
    industries or in the nation's labor force.  Consequently much of the
    "economic" reporting on television is really about Washington
    political debates.  In this section, we limit ourselves to programs
    which actually discussed economic issues, whether in particular
    industries, the US as a whole, or the world.  For MacNeil/Lehrer, and
    even more so for Nightline, such economic coverage is scant.
      MacNeil/Lehrer aired 35 segments on economic issues with a total of
    42 guests.  Only four of the 42 guests were women;  two appeared on a
    program about the "mommy track"--the separate corporate career track
    for women who plan to have children.  Economic coverage on
    MacNeil/Lehrer was characterized by a heavy reliance on government
    spokespersons. Government officials made up 41 percent of the guests,
    while corporate representatives accounted for another 29 percent and
    professionals 21 percent.  Only 10 percent were labor representatives.
      The most heavily covered economic issue during our study was the
    Eastern airline strike and subsequent bankruptcy of the airline.
    MacNeil/Lehrer did five stories on this topic.  It was during this
    coverage that all four appearances by labor leaders took place.  The
    strike provided for a dramatic conflict with two clearly demarcated
    sides:  union and management.  MacNeil/Lehrer did a good job at
    soliciting the union's opinions to balance those of Eastern airline
      Unfortunately, this was the only time that the views of workers or
    their representatives were ever considered in MacNeil/Lehrer's
    economic coverage.  No labor or consumer rights representatives
    appeared on MacNeil/Lehrer's other 14 economic stories that featured
    guests.  When the program did a story on the US government's suit to
    seize control of the Teamsters union, no union or rank & file
    representatives were on the show.  Instead, the only guest was a
    reporter from the Long Island paper, Newsday.  A week-long series on
    the "Hi-Tech Frontier" did not have any labor or consumer
    representatives as guests but did feature MIT professor Michael
    Dertouzos and Commerce Secretary Robert Mosbacher.
      The lack of labor representatives is less surprising when one looks
    at the economic issues MacNeil/Lehrer did cover.  Watching
    MacNeil/Lehrer, a viewer might think that workers are not part of the
    economic realm.  Instead, government officials, corporate
    representatives and professional "experts" populate MacNeil/Lehrer's
    economic reports.  The budget deficit and the Savings and Loan bailout
    are the economic stories that MacNeil/Lehrer covers, yet these stories
    did not include any consumer rights advocates.  The economic
    conditions of the workers who make up the vast majority of our economy
    are rarely considered.  For example, the Pittston coal strike which
    began in April and lasted through the end of our study was never
    featured on either MacNeil/Lehrer or Nightline.
      Nightline ran four programs with a total of 12 guests on economic
    issues.  Only two women appeared;  both were on a program about the
    "mommy track."  One-third of the guests were government officials and
    one-third were corporate representatives.  Seventeen percent were
    labor representatives.  Professionals and public interest
    representatives each had one guest (8 percent).  Despite its usual
    attention to international events, all of Nightline's economic stories
    were focused on the United States.
      Nightline's four economic programs were on the indictment of junk
    bond king Michael Milken, the damage to United Flight 811 and airline
    industry's aging aircraft, the debate over Felice Schwartz's article
    on the "mommy track," and the bankruptcy of Eastern airlines. Prompted
    by dramatic, individual events, these are the kind of stories covered
    on the evening news.
      Typically missing from MacNeil/Lehrer and Nightline was analytical
    coverage of economic trends.  The one exception was MacNeil/Lehrer's
    series on the "High-Tech Frontier" which attempted to analyze an issue
    which did not easily lend itself to short news formats.
      Also generally missing from both programs' economic coverage were
    women, people of color, consumer rights advocates, and labor
    representatives.  Just as the media tend to equate the nation with the
    federal government, they also equate the "economy" with corporate
    management and government officials, to the exclusion of the workers
    and consumers who make up the bulk of the economy.


      The student-led occupation of Tiananmen Square was the major story
    of the summer of 1989, and both MacNeil/Lehrer and Nightline gave it a
    great deal of air time.  Both programs did an impressive job of
    keeping abreast of events, with daily updates on breaking news.  But
    analysis of the history, motivations and consequences of the student
    movement and the government response were severely limited.
      MacNeil/Lehrer ran 18 segments that focused on China during our
    study, with a total of 37 guests.  Seventy-three percent of these
    guests were from the US, while the remainder were from China.  In
    total, 61 percent of the guests were white, while 39 percent were
    Asian, showing MacNeil/Lehrer's inclusion of both Chinese citizens and
    Chinese-Americans.  Eighty-nine percent of the guests were men--
    despite the fact that the news media were heralding the important
    leadership role played by female students in China.
      The occupational breakdown of the guest list was broader than for
    other international issues.  Thirty percent of the guests were
    government officials, 46 percent professionals (mainly academics and
    journalists), and 14 percent were public interest activists.  These
    activists were all Chinese students either living in the US during the
    hostilities or fleeing to the US shortly after.  The most frequent
    guest was Pei Minxin, a Chinese student attending Harvard.  Pei made
    five appearances on MacNeil/Lehrer, representing one perspective
    amongst the diverse student activists.  MacNeil/Lehrer never made
    clear exactly who Pei is, or why he was chosen to speak on behalf of
    the students;  his appearances suggested he had access to information
    from inside the Chinese student movement.
      Nightline's coverage of China was even more extensive than
    MacNeil/Lehrer's:  China was Nightline's story 10 nights in a row in
    early June.  During the period we studied, there were 19 China
    programs with 49 guests.  Fifty-three percent of the guests were from
    the US, while the remainder included foreign journalists, Chinese
    dissidents, and Chinese student activists.  Fifty-one percent of the
    guest were white, while 49 percent were of Asian ancestry.
      Nightline's coverage of China was significantly different than its
    coverage of other international issues as only one-tenth of the guests
    were government officials, while 20 percent were public interest
    activists.  This is the only issue in our study in which activists
    outnumber government officials.  The activists were all Chinese
    student leaders, and, as with MacNeil/Lehrer, Pei Minxin was the most
    frequent guest, appearing four times, including three consecutive
    nights.  It was refreshing to see Nightline pay so much attention to
    "unofficial" views of events.  Were Nightline to seek out "unofficial"
    sources on a variety of other topics, its coverage might improve a
    great deal.
      MacNeil/Lehrer and Nightline covered the story in China much as TV
    news covers natural disasters, with a premium on getting the latest
    information, reporting the casualties, and providing video footage.
    But MacNeil/Lehrer and Nightline are capable of providing more than
    just the drama of the nightly news.  These programs purport to offer
    in-depth analysis of events.  Yet they failed to seriously examine the
    history leading up to the 1989 student activism, the reasons for
    unrest, and the demands of the students.
      Perhaps it is not surprising that Nightline failed to discuss
    China's recent history more thoroughly;  it only broadcast one program
    on China between 1985 and 1988, a time when a student movement was
    repressed and the human rights situation was dire.  Setbacks to
    democracy in China during the mid-80s were ignored by most US media
    (see "Human Rights and the Media," Extra!, Summer 1989), which were
    content to hail China's openness to Western investment.  The media's
    disinterest in China's human rights situation was shared by the US
    government--as China was becoming an increasingly important US ally in
    regional conflicts in Asia, Southern Africa and Central America.
      When the media asserted that the Chinese students were leading a
    "pro-democracy" movement, they rarely explored the meaning of this
    label.  It was as if "pro-democracy" was somehow self-explanatory.
    The student movement grew, in part, in response to the problems of
    free market experiments.  Popular protest slogans were "Eradicate
    privilege" and "Down with official racketeering."  Yet MacNeil/Lehrer
    and Nightline failed to explore these issues.
      On six of the 19 Nightline programs on China the demands of the
    students were discussed, but not substantively.  The programs included
    mention of civil liberties and corruption but there was no effort to
    connect discussions of corruption to economic "reforms"--which, when
    they were mentioned, were heralded uncritically.  Nor did viewers
    learn what the pro-democracy students thought of socialism as an
    economic system.  Were they calling for a US-style political and
    economic system?  Also absent from the programs' coverage was serious
    attention to the reasons why many workers decided to support student
      The "mirror" these programs held on the world excluded significant
    historical roots of the protests.  For example, the mid-1980s student
    movement in China was mentioned on only four of the 19 Nightline
    programs--each time only in passing.  There was so little historical
    context that on May 28 Koppel described the movement as one that had
    emerged "so suddenly."  Without any information about recent Chinese
    history, viewers of Nightline would be almost certain to concur.
    Viewers may have been left with a good sense of what was happening in
    China, but not why it was happening or what the long term effects of
    the student movement might be.  Analytical coverage of events like
    those in China is supposed to differentiate Nightline and
    MacNeil/Lehrer from the evening news, yet this kind of reporting was
    largely missing from both programs.

                              Central America

      Seven MacNeil/Lehrer programs featured segments on Central America:
    two on the Salvadoran election, two on aid to the Nicaraguan contras,
    and three on the Panamanian election.  All 22 of the guests were men
    and all of the US guests were white.  Perhaps most interesting is the
    fact that 100 percent of the guests were current or former government
    officials from the US or elsewhere.  Furthermore, all of the foreign
    government officials were friendly to the US--there were no voices
    from the Nicaraguan government or Noriega's Panamanian government.
      MacNeil/Lehrer's coverage of Central America presented essentially
    one side of this multifaceted issue, without even an attempt at
    pluralism.  Democrats and Republicans may disagree on the tactics of
    US policy, but they rarely disagree on the "democratic" goals of that
    policy or on the "good" intentions of the US government.  And friendly
    foreign government officials seeking US support are not likely to
    fundamentally disagree with US officials.
      What makes this kind of coverage curious is that the US government's
    (often bipartisan) policies towards Central America have been
    vigorously condemned by a significant part of the world community, and
    by large sectors of the US population, especially in academia, the
    religious community, and the labor movement.  Yet as far as
    MacNeil/Lehrer is concerned, these critical perspectives do not exist:
    The only views that matter are those of the US government.
      MacNeil/Lehrer's coverage of Nicaragua and the contras featured
    appearances by two US congressmen, Secretary of State James Baker, and
    Guatemalan President Vinicio Cerezo.  The discussion did not include
    any voices from Nicaragua, nor did it include any leaders of the
    anti-intervention movement in the US.  There was such a consensual
    atmosphere on MacNeil/Lehrer that one would never know that polls
    indicate that a majority of the US population has opposed US policy
    toward Nicaragua for years.
      The choice of Guatemalan President Cerezo to discuss human rights
    abuses and democratic shortcomings in Nicaragua was quite telling,
    since Cerezo's US-backed government stood accused by human rights
    monitors of involvement in the disappearances and abductions of dozens
    of Guatemalan civilians each month.  The findings of independent human
    rights groups indicate that the human rights situation in Guatemala
    was significantly worse than in Nicaragua.  While the selection of
    Cerezo to judge Nicaragua tended to distort human rights realities in
    the region, it conformed perfectly with US government propaganda
    contrasting Guatemala's "burgeoning democracy" with "repressive"
    Nicaragua.  Robert MacNeil also adhered to US propaganda when he
    opened his interview with Cerezo by charging that the Sandinistas made
    and broke promises about having free elections in the past.  MacNeil
    did not refer to any specifics and he neglected to mention the 1984
    elections in Nicaragua which were certified as free and fair by many
    neutral international observers.
      MacNeil/Lehrer's coverage of El Salvador focused on the March 1989
    election in which Alfredo Cristiani of the ARENA party was elected.
    The guests were two US Congressmen praising the election, as well as a
    "Newsmaker" interview with President-elect Cristiani.  Again, no
    opposition voices from the US were heard--even at a time when there
    was widespread opposition to Washington's support of the Salvadoran
    government.  Furthermore, there were no voices of the armed FMLN
    opposition in El Salvador, or of recently-returned opposition
    politicians who had risked their lives to participate in the
    elections.  In sum, MacNeil/Lehrer's coverage of Central America was
    so one-sided that it provided viewers with little substance at all.
      Nightline's coverage of Central America, while more inclusive than
    MacNeil/Lehrer's, had some of the same shortcomings.  Nightline
    broadcast six programs featuring discussion of Central America:  two
    on the Salvadoran elections and four about the Panamanian election.
    All 16 of the guests were men and all of the US guests were white.
    Three-quarters of the guests were current or former government
      However, Nightline's few guests who were not government officials
    made a large difference.  Nightline's coverage of the Salvadoran
    election was generally commendable.  Each of its two programs--on the
    eve of the election and the day after the election--presented diverse
    views.  On the eve of the election Nightline hosted a debate between
    Elliott Abrams, former architect of the Reagan policy in Central
    America, and Michael Lent of CISPES, a national organization which
    opposes US policy and supports the Salvadoran opposition.  This
    configuration of guests made for a more substantive debate than the
    traditional discussions limited to Democratic and Republican
    leadership;  Abrams and Lent--both passionate partisans, although only
    Lent was clearly identified as such--were able to argue fundamental
    issues about politics in El Salvador and in the US.
      The day after the election Nightline hosted the president-elect,
    Cristiani, along with one of the highest ranking members of the
    political opposition in El Salvador, Ruben Zamora.  Unlike
    MacNeil/Lehrer, which interviewed Cristiani alone, Nightline brought
    Cristiani on to debate a political opponent, leading to a more
    informative program.
      Nightline's coverage of the Panamanian elections also included more
    perspectives than MacNeil/Lehrer's coverage.  Seventy percent of the
    guests on Nightline's programs about Panama were US officials.  The
    others included both pro- and anti-Noriega forces from Panama, rather
    than simply anti-Noriega forces.  Still, no US policy critics appeared
    as guests.  Nor was there substantive discussion about the past
    relationship between the US and Noriega.


      MacNeil/Lehrer and Nightline had remarkably similar coverage of
    terrorism in the six months covered by this study.  Both featured six
    programs on terrorism--the bulk of which were about the "hostage
    crisis" triggered by the killing of Colonel Higgins, the Beirut
    hostage, at the end of July.
      On MacNeil/Lehrer, 70 percent of the guests were current or former
    government officials.  Ninety-five percent of the guests were white
    and over 90 percent were men.  There were no voices from a critical or
    alternative perspective.  Instead of a spectrum of opinions debating
    US policy, it was a procession of the same "experts" who always appear
    on discussions of terrorism:  Brian Jenkins of the Rand Corporation;
    Neil Livingstone of the Institute on Terrorism and Subnational
    Conflict;  former US government counterterrorist "experts" Noel Koch
    and L. Paul Bremer;  and Edward Luttwak of CSIS.  These men rarely
    disagree--particularly on fundamental issues.  They all agree, for
    example, on the importance of reserving the right to "retaliate"
    militarily, and stress the importance of "counterterrorism."  Nowhere
    in the discussion was there any real questioning of the underpinning
    of US policies toward terrorism or the Middle East;  and nowhere was
    the military option debated with any seriousness.
      Nightline's coverage of terrorism was little different.  Two of the
    terrorism programs focused on the hostages in Lebanon, two on airport
    security, one on the political problems hostages present to US
    presidents, and one looked at the Chilean fruit scare as a terrorist
    activity.  While Nightline may have defined a marginally broader range
    of issues as terrorism (MacNeil/Lehrer covered the Chilean fruit scare
    as a public health issue, not a terrorist issue), its range of
    viewpoints was little different from MacNeil/Lehrer's.  Seventy-four
    percent of the guests were current or former government officials and,
    as with MacNeil/Lehrer, no alternative voices were aired.
      Nightline relied less on terrorist "experts" than MacNeil/Lehrer, as
    Brian Jenkins of the Rand Corporation was the only guest of this type.
    Instead, Nightline enlisted a series of former US government officials
    and current Israeli officials to discuss terrorism.  Israel's Ehud
    Olmert and Benjamin Netanyahu both appeared on Nightline to discuss
    the hostage situation.  Perhaps their expertise was sought due to
    their central role in the ongoing crisis.  Yet there are a variety of
    opinions in Israel--both inside and outside the government--and Olmert
    and Netanyahu represent a distinctly hardline perspective.  It is
    similar to the perspective shared by the former US officials Nightline
    presented:  Patrick Buchanan, Henry Kissinger, and Bobby Inman.  In
    fact, Buchanan was the only repeat guest in Nightline's set of six
    terrorism programs.  It is unclear, aside from tough rhetoric, what
    makes Buchanan an expert on terrorism.
      As with MacNeil/Lehrer, no underlying issues were examined on
    Nightline's discussions of terrorism.  The focus was generally on the
    use of US military force.  Rather than debating US policy, Ted Koppel
    handed his Aug. 3 program over to Henry Kissinger to run a simulated
    National Security Council meeting with five other former government
    officials, including Buchanan.  Perhaps viewers found this
    interesting, and Koppel himself said he was "rather amazed at how much
    substance" emerged in the discussion.  But it did not appear to be
    news or journalism.  It seemed more an attempt to outflank the Bush
    administration on its right wing, encouraging a military approach.
      The problem with MacNeil/Lehrer and Nightline's coverage of
    terrorism is that there is no substantive debate--who commits
    terrorism, how can it be stopped, what are its roots.  Instead it is
    framed as a technical, not a political, problem--one that "experts"
    can solve.  Guests with the same assumptions so dominate both programs
    that no policy questions were ever challenged.  Never was the
    discussion linked to a broader discussion of political violence.  Nor
    did they ever discuss what differentiates counterterrorism, if
    anything, from terrorism.
      Several US administrations have faced terrorism crises, yet little
    progress has been made.  Television news has been content to trot out
    the same commentators and experts to make all the same points.
    Perhaps 10 years of this has made it seem as if there are no other
    views on terrorism.  If programs like MacNeil/Lehrer and Nightline
    would seek out and present alternative perspectives, perhaps the US
    public would benefit from some new thinking on the subject.

    |                     MacNeil/Lehrer Flashbacks                    |
    |                                                                  |
    |  March, 1982:                                                    |
    |  Jeane   Kirkpatrick  tells   MacNeil/Lehrer  that  Nicaragua's  |
    |  Sandinista government is building concentration camps for more  |
    |  more than  250,000  Miskito  Indians.   No one points out that  |
    |  the Miskito population is less than 90,000.                     |
    |                                                                  |
    |  September. 23, 1987:                                            |
    |  After  Nicaragua's  government  declares  cease fire zones and  |
    |  allows reopening of opposition media outlets, MacNeil/Lehrer's  |
    |  news roundup features this spectrum of responses:  1) a contra  |
    |  representative;  2) Elliot Abrams ("a trick");  Phyllis Oakley  |
    |  of the State Department ("just cosmetic").                      |
    |                                                                  |
    |  January, 1988:                                                  |
    |  Months  after  Elliot  Abrams  is  exposed  as  having lied to  |
    |  Congress, he is  offered  two  segments--as  against one for a  |
    |  Democratic spokesperson--to debate contra aid. Abrams is *not*  |
    |  asked:  Given your track record, why should the public believe  |
    |  you?"                                                           |
    |                                                                  |
    |  February, 1988:                                                 |
    |  A poll  of  rightwing  activists at the Conservative Political  |
    |  Action  Conference  ranks MacNeil/Lehrer as the "Most Balanced  |
    |  Network News Show."                                             |
    |                                                                  |
    |  November 3, 1988:                                               |
    |  When  Vice  President  Dan Quayle refuses to be interviewed by  |
    |  MacNeil/Lehrer,  the  program follows its interview with Lloyd  |
    |  Bentsen with  one  of  Quayle's  20-minute,  flag-draped stump  |
    |  speeches...just as the Republicans had wanted.                  |
    |                                                                  |
    |  March 24, 1989:                                                 |
    |  The day Secretary of State  Jim  Baker  works out an agreement  |
    |  with Congress enabling more aid to go to the  contras,  anchor  |
    |  Jim Lehrer wraps up his interview with Baker:  "Mr. Secretary,  |
    |  congratulations on your deal and thank you for being with us."  |
    |                                                                  |
    |  December 21, 1989:                                              |
    |  During  the  Panama  invasion,  after  quizzing  a panel of US  |
    |  military  experts  as  to  whether  "we"  had  wiped  out  the  |
    |  Panamanian  Defense  Forces,  anchor  Judy Woodruff concludes:  |
    |  "So not only have we done away with the PDF,  we've  also done  |
    |  away with the police force."   Woodruff was not wearing battle  |
    |  fatigues.                                                       |
    |                                                          --FAIR  |


      Extended news programs offer the potential for significantly
    expanding the boundaries of television journalism.  Their format is
    conducive to more in-depth coverage than the half-hour evening news.
    The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour, in particular, is uniquely positioned to
    present more systematic coverage of issues which are not neatly
    "pegged" to a daily event and which cannot be neatly summarized in a
    brief evening news report.  On occasion, it has successfully done so.
      One example was the ongoing series, "Talking Drugs," which tried to
    explore the day-to-day realities of drug use and abuse and some of the
    complex economic, social, and political issues involved--albeit with a
    focus on punishment and rehabilitation rather than the causes of drug
    abuse.  While the series sometimes relied on the usual academics and
    government officials, it included interviews with people who are
    normally excluded from the usual government/expert guest list.
    Charlayne Hunter-Gault, who hosted the series, talked with a former
    drug abuser turned drug counselor, with a former drug addict who went
    through a residential recovery program, and a former San Francisco
    drug dealer who now works against drug abuse in the city's African-
    American community.  By asking these sources to evaluate the
    government's "war on drugs" and suggest alternatives to it, the series
    presented a range of perspectives on an issue which has been saturated
    with redundant coverage from other news outlets.
      Unfortunately, the example of "Talking Drugs" is a rare exception.
    By and large the promise of broad, in-depth coverage on MacNeil/Lehrer
    remains unfulfilled.  Instead, MacNeil/Lehrer's guest list represents
    an extremely narrow segment of the political and social spectrum.  The
    program relies too heavily on official Washington for both story
    topics and guests.  The rise and fall of personalities and the
    unfolding dramas of Washington's internal political debates fill the
    program like a national soap opera populated by an elite cast of
      What is most striking about MacNeil/Lehrer's coverage of Washington
    politics is the sheer volume of it.  When George Bush proposed John
    Tower as Secretary of Defense to a reluctant Congress, MacNeil/Lehrer
    offered 11 stories on the nomination process, including several
    extended excerpts from the Senate debate.  When House Speaker Jim
    Wright was charged with ethics violations and subsequently resigned,
    MacNeil/Lehrer had 10 different stories on it. Another 10 stories were
    devoted to the HUD scandal during the period of our study.
      When MacNeil/Lehrer covered Washington politics, 60 percent of its
    guests were government officials.  In addition, the program's
    Washington-centeredness was often augmented by lengthy excerpts from
    congressional hearings, floor debates, and press conferences.  When it
    comes to the inner workings of Washington, MacNeil/Lehrer serves as a
    veritable press agency for the views of US officialdom--one that
    excludes the views of critics.
      More generally, MacNeil/Lehrer has a very constricted guest list,
    rarely presenting critics of government policy or representatives of
    public interest organizations.  Our hypothesis that public television
    would allow for greater diversity, by removing the pressures of
    advertising dollars and corporate ownership, proved incorrect.
    Perhaps these pressures were merely supplanted by those associated
    with corporate underwriting.
      The NewsHour evolved from the original MacNeil/Lehrer Report, a
    half-hour program covering a single issue each day.  After Nightline
    set the new standard for the half-hour, single-issue program, it was
    proposed in November 1982 that MacNeil/Lehrer expand to a full hour.
    The proposal was cooly received by many public stations.  But the new
    format had the support of AT&T--to the tune of $10 million, nearly
    half of the show's $21 million cost (Columbia Journalism Review,
    Jan/Feb 1985).
      There are obviously many factors behind MacNeil/Lehrer's narrow
    guest list.  We wonder whether the need to attract corporate
    underwriters counteracts any freedom achieved through the non-
    commercial nature of PBS.  Or whether the problem stems from the
    political bias of MacNeil/Lehrer's decision-makers.  Former staffers
    have pointed out that co-anchor Jim Lehrer has no interest in the
    views of public interest representatives, whom Lehrer dismissed as
    "moaners and whiners" (The Progressive, July 1987).
      Compounding the problems caused by the lack of critical guests, the
    NewsHour's hosts do not play the role of critical interrogators.  Few
    challenging questions are asked.  Guests are often left free to answer
    open-ended questions.
      A comparison with MacNeil/Lehrer reveals some of Nightline's own
    strengths and weaknesses.  For example, Nightline makes use of its
    budget and technological capabilities to cover events all over the
    globe.  Nightline is much more likely than MacNeil-Lehrer to include
    foreign guests.  While Nightline can be commended for its inclusion of
    foreign spokespersons, it should be faulted for its inattention to US
    critics.  Like MacNeil/Lehrer, it features a narrow team of important
      In the end, this supplement to our original Nightline study
    reaffirms the key findings of our first report.  Both MacNeil/Lehrer
    and Nightline fall far short of being politically or socially
    inclusive.  Their limited political scope generally excludes critics
    in favor of voices of the powerful.  Conservative advocates regularly
    appear as "experts," while progressives are identified as partisans.
    And foreign policy debates are almost the exclusive property of policy
      Perhaps Ted Koppel and others are correct in arguing that these
    programs' guest lists merely reflect the characteristics of those in
    power.  Yet a democratic society can not be content with news coverage
    that acts primarily to transmit the views of the powerful.  On the
    contrary, a healthy democracy needs a media that can present multiple
    perspectives on issues and events. When the media regularly exclude
    significant views within the US population--the voices of women,
    people of color, political minorities, environmentalists and other
    public interest representatives--it effectively undermines the
    democratic ideal of a free press.

                            NIGHTLINE FOLLOW-UP

      When FAIR's first Nightline study was released in February 1989,
    Nightline spokespersons did not question the veracity of our data.
    While admitting that Nightline sometimes "gets in a rut" and
    concurring with some of the study's criticisms, Nightline's Ted Koppel
    and then-Executive Producer Richard Kaplan suggested that FAIR
    misunderstood Nightline's mission.  Kaplan argued that Nightline is a
    "news program, not the Op-Ed page of a newspaper," suggesting that
    they were interested in powerful "newsmakers" and "decision-makers,"
    not a range of critics and commentators.  Therefore, the argument
    went, a conservative administration in Washington inevitably led to a
    conservative guest list.
      This response sidesteps the substance of the original study.  The
    majority of the most frequent guests in that 40 month period--such as
    Kissinger, Haig, Falwell, and Lawrence Eagleburger--were not current
    government officials or decision-makers.  What we discovered, instead,
    was a litany of "experts"--usually ex-officials--who largely supported
    the conservative government.  (If former government service is a
    qualification for becoming a Nightline guest, the show could turn on
    occasion to dissident experts--such as ex-Attorney General Ramsey
    Clark, former military strategist Daniel Ellsberg, ex-CIA official
    John Stockwell, or former White House aide Midge Costanza.)
      Koppel suggested two other flaws in our study.  First, that we did
    not systematically analyze the opening, taped reports which, he
    argued, have a greater diversity of opinion;  and second, we did not
    discuss Koppel's ability to ask tough questions.  The assertion was
    that, while the guest list may be demographically and ideologically
    narrow, the host holds his powerful guests accountable.
      Koppel is correct that there is a slightly wider variety of
    perspectives on the taped background reports than in the program's
    guest list.  Yet this only underlines our suggestion that more
    diversity is needed among the guests who populate the 12 to l5-minute
    discussion segment, the core of the show.  It proves the Nightline
    staff knows there is a wider diversity of perspectives in the US than
    is apparent in their guest list.  Why, we wonder, should the views of
    critics of those in power be limited to ten second sound bites on a
    background segment?  Doesn't this imply that these views are less
    worthy of the public's attention?
      Koppel's suggestion that he--rather than policy critics--should put
    the tough questions to government and corporate officials, raises
    important issues.  Koppel is certainly a more active interviewer than
    either MacNeil or Lehrer, and he asks more substantive questions.
    While he should be commended for this, it in no way renders critical
    experts unnecessary.  Indeed, Koppel's questions rarely reflect the
    concerns of opposition critics.  During the years in which popular,
    independent movements challenged US foreign policies regarding nuclear
    weapons and Central America, Koppel consistently failed to ask the
    questions posed by these movements.  On the contrary, Koppel's
    "toughest" foreign policy questions often challenged hardline White
    House spokespersons as to whether they were sufficiently hardline.
      The basic issues are simple:  Who, except for an environmentalist,
    will raise pointed questions about corporate culpability for
    environmental decay?  Who, other than a peace activist, will raise
    fundamental questions about the history of US government support for
    death squads in Central America?  More generally, who is going to
    raise questions about the underlying assumptions which Nightline and
    other mainstream media share?  Even if tough questions are sometimes
    asked by Koppel, they are more likely to be shrewdly and vigorously
    pursued by a guest with an alternative perspective.  The inclusion of
    critical voices is the surest way of guaranteeing a robust debate.
    The public has a right to hear these voices for themselves.
      Nightline was not alone in reacting to FAIR's study.  Journalists,
    academics and public interest leaders also responded--by encouraging
    FAIR to continue to study Nightline and other TV news shows.  Many
    were curious how Nightline would respond to the original study, not in
    word, but in deed.  Beginning Feb. 6, 1989, the day on which the
    original study was released, FAIR undertook a six-month follow-up
    study to see if the guest list had changed in any way.

                           Nightline:  Then vs. Now

    * "Regulars."  In the follow-up study, the Nightline guest list was
    not populated so heavily by the "usual suspects."  The four most
    frequent guests from our first study--Kissinger, Haig, Falwell,
    Abrams--made only two appearances during the six months of our
    follow-up study (Kissinger and Abrams, once each).  Furthermore, while
    the 19 US guests who were "regulars" during our first study had
    appeared a total of 159 times in 40 months (3.98 appearances per
    month), the same 19 men appeared only 10 times in the six months since
    the study's release (1.67 appearances per month).  This represents a
    58 percent decrease.  Unfortunately, the 13 repeat guests in the
    current six-month study were little different in type or opinions than
    the first study's regulars.

    * "Gender."  Women, who made up only 11 percent of the US guests in
    the original study, made up 18 percent of the US guests in the six
    months following.  Few of the female guests appeared on discussions of
    international politics (90 percent male).  There was, however, a
    significant increase in the participation of women in discussions of
    domestic political issues--up from 11 percent to 26 percent of the
    guests.  Even with more women appearing on the program, female guests
    still appeared later in the program (they were half as likely as men
    to appear before the first commercial break) and women spoke, on
    average, 12 percent less than male guests.  Both figures are similar
    to results from our first study.

    * "Race."  There was little change:  89 percent of the US guests were
    white, down from 92 percent in our original study.  White guests were
    twice as likely to appear early in the program as African-American

    * "Occupation."  The percentage of elites--government officials,
    corporate representatives, professionals--changed little.  Elites made
    up approximately 80 percent of the guests in both studies.  But the
    participation of public interest representatives almost doubled--from
    6 percent to 10 percent of the US guests.  Most of this change
    occurred on programs about domestic issues where public interest
    activists made up 12 percent of the US guests.  (The increase stemmed
    partly from abortion programs which highlighted the views of activists
    on both sides.)  On international issues, the figure remained at 5
    percent.  Elites were more likely to appear early on the program:  7
    percent appeared before the first break, while not one public interest
    representative did.  Government officials spoke on-average 14 percent
    more than public interest representatives, down from 23 percent more
    in the first study.

    * "Central America."  Our first study suggested weaknesses which
    Koppel and Kaplan acknowledged.  In the six months following,
    Nightline's Central America coverage was more inclusive, exemplified
    by the appearance of a representative of CISPES, a US anti-
    intervention group.  Days later, leftist leader Ruben Zamora appeared
    along with newly elected President Cristiani, another unusually
    diverse selection of guests.  Coverage of Panama during the summer of
    1989 had foreign critics of US policy--in particular, Panamanian
    official Mario Rognoni appeared twice but there was no real debate
    between US guests.
      In contrast to Nightline's apparent Nicaragua obsession from 1985 to
    1988, when it featured 22 programs, no Nightline programs in the six
    months following Feb. 6, 1989 dealt with Nicaragua.  While this
    suggests a greater willingness to deal with the rest of the region,
    it's worth noting that programs on Guatemala or Honduras were, again,
    conspicuously absent.  Perhaps the real change was in the White House.
    While the Reagan administration had waged a high profile campaign
    against Nicaragua, the Bush administration continued a similar policy
    but with a distinctly lower profile.  Throughout 1989, there were
    newsworthy happenings related to Nicaragua, yet Nightline chose not to
    cover them.  The dramatic dropoff in Nicaragua coverage suggests the
    power the White House wields in defining media agendas.

    * "Terrorism."  Ted Koppel acknowledged the validity of FAIR's
    criticisms in this area, saying that Nightline had looked at terrorism
    "much too narrowly" and had not done "as many programs as we ought to
    on state terrorism" (L.A. Times, 2/6/90).  Yet we found no change at
    all.  The same people carried on the same discussions.  No alternative
    voices were heard.  And there was no broadening of Nightline's
    definition of terrorism, as it continued to ignore the state terror of
    an array of US-backed regimes.

    * "Summary."  There has been some improvement in Nightline's
    diversity.  More critical voices appeared and there was less reliance
    on the usual suspects.  Still, there continues to be an overwhelming
    reliance on the same types of people--white men from powerful
    institutions.  Foreign policy debates still lack a critical edge, and
    the inclusion of dissenting voices continues to be the exception.

     |                      NO WHINERS NEED APPLY                      |
     |                                                                 |
     |  One factor behind the near-total exclusion of public interest  |
     |  voices from  "public  TV's"  NewsHour is the arrogance of the  |
     |  program's two main anchors:   Robert  MacNeil and Jim Lehrer.  |
     |  According  to  former  NewsHour  staffers,  Lehrer  reacts to  |
     |  proposals that policy critics be put on the air by dismissing  |
     |  them  as  "moaners"  and  "whiners".   As  for  chief  anchor  |
     |  MacNeil,  he  has  a  unique view of this country's political  |
     |  spectrum.   When  asked  why  his  program  tilts so strongly  |
     |  toward representatives of the  right,  he has a stock answer:  |
     |  "There is no left in this country."                    --FAIR  |


      How might a more inclusive news program look?  To answer this
    question, we looked at the guest list of "The Kwitny Report," a weekly
    PBS program hosted by Jonathan Kwitny, author and former Wall Street
    Journal reporter.  Kwitny aired 20 programs during the 1988-89 season,
    with a total of 40 guests.  It covered many of the same topics as
    Nightline and MacNeil-Lehrer:  Eastern Europe, US energy policy,
    Central America, the Philippines.
      Although the vast majority of guests were white men, Kwitny included
    a wider range of perspectives than Nightline or MacNeil-Lehrer.  In
    contrast to the other two programs, Kwitny regularly included critical
    or public interest voices.  Indeed, public interest representatives
    (33 percent of the total guests) appeared almost as frequently as
    government officials (35 percent of total).
      On a regular basis, The Kwitny Report offered substantive debates
    which included views of more than just "the usual suspects".  For
    example, a program about nuclear weapons included defense
    establishment figures McGeorge Bundy and Gen. Daniel Graham, along
    with critic Daniel Ellsberg.  A program on energy policy included a US
    senator, a corporate representative and an environmentalist.  And a
    program about US foreign aid featured a former US Agency for
    International Development official along with policy critic Frances
    Moore Lappe.
      The contrast between Kwitny and MacNeil/Lehrer was demonstrated
    quite graphically in Feb. 1989, when MacNeil-Lehrer presented US-
    backed Guatemalan President Cerezo as an expert on human rights...in
    Nicaragua.  During the same month, Kwitny presented two programs with
    panels that included an Americas Watch expert and a Guatemalan labor
    leader, examining savage human rights violations presently being
    committed by the Guatemalan government.  No Guatemalan official
    consented to appear on Kwitny, perhaps because--unlike on 
    MacNeil/Lehrer--they would have been asked to defend the human rights
    situation in Guatemala.
      The Kwitny Report proved that a more diverse guest list can promote
    more substantive and wide ranging discussions than are typically found
    on Nightline or MacNeil-Lehrer.  Unfortunately, the Kwitny Report's
    inability to attract renewed funding from corporate or foundation
    underwriters has--at least temporarily--driven this valuable program
    off the air.

  |                        MEDIA ACTIVISTS WANTED                           |
  |                                                                         |
  | Don't take the media lying down!  If you regularly watch MacNeil/Lehrer |
  | or Nightline, become an active viewer.  Contact the programs' producers |
  | to express your views on their coverage and choice of guest panelists:  |
  |                                                                         |
  |                     The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour                         |
  |                                                                         |
  | Jim Lehrer          Robert MacNeil      PBS President Bruce Christensen |
  | P.O. Box 2626       356 West 58th St.   1320 Braddock Place             |
  | Washington, D.C.    New York, NY        Alexandria, VA                  |
  | 20013               10019               22314                           |
  | 703/998-2870        212/560-3113        703/739-5000                    |
  |                                                                         |
  |           (Also let your local PBS station hear your views)             |
  |  _____________________________________________________________________  |
  |                                                                         |
  |                         ABC News Nightline                              |
  |                                                                         |
  |         Ted Koppel                       Dorrance Smith                 |
  |         1717 DeSales, NW                 Executive Producer             |
  |         Washington, D.C. 20036           47 W. 66th Street              |
  |         202/887-7364                     New York, NY 10023             |
  |                                          212/887-4995                   |

FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting)
130 W. 25th Street
New York, NY 10001