Carlos Maza

Author ››› Carlos Maza
  • VIDEO: Stop Calling Donald Trump “Controversial”

    Blog ››› ››› CARLOS MAZA & COLEMAN LOWNDES

    News networks frequently use the word “controversial” to describe Donald Trump’s anti-Muslim and anti-Mexican comments, and it’s setting a dangerous precedent for the way the media talks about bigotry in American politics.

    Trump’s candidacy has brought religious and racial bigotry to the forefront of Republican presidential politics. He’s repeatedly demonized Muslims and Mexicans on the campaign trail, scapegoating them as security threats to justify calling for mass deportations, government surveillance, and travel bans.

    That has put news networks in the uncomfortable position of trying to remain “impartial” while covering Trump’s increasingly deplorable rhetoric. Instead of plainly labeling his campaign as “bigoted,” networks have used neutral-sounding terms like “controversial” to avoid making editorial judgments about Trump’s anti-Muslim and anti-Mexican positions.

    But calling Trump’s comments “controversial” is lazy and dangerous. It treats racial and religious intolerance as just a quirk of Republican politics. It normalizes that intolerance, turning it into an unremarkable and routine partisan disagreement. It lets Trump’s defenders spin his comments as just evidence of his “tough” stance on immigration or border security. And it makes it easier for Trump to reinvent himself as a serious “presidential” candidate as he prepares for the general election.

    Failing to call out Trump’s bigotry also makes it harder for news networks to accurately tell the story of Trump’s rise in Republican politics. As PBS’s Tavis Smiley explained on Democracy Now in January:

    Trump is still, to my mind at least, an unrepentant, irascible religious and racial arsonist. And so, when we talk about how Donald Trump is rising in the poll, you can’t do that absent the kind of campaign he’s running, the issues that he’s raising. And for us to just say, "Donald Trump is rising in the polls," and not connect that to the base message that he’s putting out there, I think, just misses the point.

    Religious and racial bigotry deserves to be treated differently than other campaign trail stories, especially by journalists. News networks that shy away from making editorial judgments about Trump’s extremism are setting a dangerous precedent -- one that could last long beyond this election cycle.

  • VIDEO: How The Media Turns Black Rage Into The Enemy

    Media Images Of Violence Distracted From A History Of Disenfranchisement And Structural Racism In Baltimore

    Blog ››› ››› CARLOS MAZA & COLEMAN LOWNDES

    It’s been a year since the death of Freddie Gray, the 25-year-old black man who died while in police custody. Gray’s death sparked major protests from local residents and activists, but it wasn’t until some of those protests turned violent that Baltimore captured the attention of national news networks.

    In the days that followed, media images of the events in Baltimore fixated on scenes of violence, looting, and property damage, drawing criticism from local residents who rejected what they saw as sensationalized and misleading media coverage.

    One of those residents is Lawrence Grandpre, the Assistant Director of Research and Public Policy at Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle -- a grassroots think tank that advances the public policy interests of Black people in Baltimore. Talking to Media Matters, Grandpre criticized corporate media’s tendency to highlight the most sensational images during events like the Baltimore protests.

    “You have a kind of race-to-the-bottom in terms of corporate media looking for the most spectacular incidences of violence, the biggest names, and what they think will drive the media cycle forward in their favor,” Grandpre explains. “In a corporate media environment, the spectacle drives views, drives retweets, and thus drives profits.”

    That focus on sensationalized images comes at a cost. Images of violence and property damage distracted viewers from understanding the long-term problems in Baltimore that fueled the outrage over Gray’s death, making it difficult for audiences to fully grasp what was motivating protesters.

    “The reality is the frustration you saw in April of 2015 wasn’t just about Freddie Gray,” says Grandpre. “It was about a system that had left a large chunk of Baltimore politically abandoned in terms of people who genuinely represent their interests and structurally in the line-of-fire for systemic poverty, hyper policing, and structural racism.”

    Without understanding the history of inequality and disenfranchisement in Baltimore, news viewers were more likely to see images of violence and property damage and conclude that protesters were acting irrationally.  And that made it easier for commentators on major news networks to dismiss the protesters as “thugs” and “criminals.”

    “An audience that doesn’t know Baltimore will just assume these are irrational young people all over the city who are taking out their anger on the streets,” says Grandpre.  “When you see black folk as an irrational threat, or responding in ways that are irrational, all you need to do to assuage your fear is put them down, either by quelling the riot or taking violence against those people. And that prevents you from actually interrogating the structural conditions which produced that rage.”

    That depiction of black protesters as irrational, dangerous, and out-of-control helped turn public opinion against protesters, making it less likely that audiences would hear protesters’ grievances as legitimate or credible. And Grandpre argues those kinds of images play on deeply ingrained fears about black rage.

    “In this country, there are certain psychological tropes that relate to blackness that the media is going to exploit in these incidences. In reality, there are fears in Baltimore not just of urban revolts going back to the 60s, but really honestly slave revolts going all the way back to Nat Turner in the 19th century. So the idea of black people having these types of uprising produces this deep fear within the collective psyche of many in America, in terms of ‘there’s this black rage that threatens to consume this country that folks have built up, could that black rage be turned on to me and my family?’”

    The media’s focus on sensationalized depictions of violence shaped how audiences imaged a resolution to the crisis in Baltimore. Just as images of violent protests came to define the “problem” in Baltimore, ending that violence became the “solution,” so news networks fixated on whether protesters would disperse rather than asking if the conditions that had brought the protesters onto the streets in the first place had changed.

    “We have this discourse and representations that are strategically designed to make it so that the discussions about changing conditions in society that could actually hurt the material interests of many of the folks who are in power, are not centered in political discourse,” Grandpre explains. “Instead what’s centered is the threat, the spectacle, and can we have a bonding moment with the reestablishing of security. But that reestablishing of security is really just reestablishing the status quo which was never secure when you’re talking about black people in places like Baltimore.”

  • VIDEO: Here's The Truth About The Anti-LGBT "Bathroom Predator" Myth

    Blog ››› ››› CARLOS MAZA & COLEMAN LOWNDES

    North Carolina is the first state in the country to pass a law aimed at broadly controlling transgender people’s access to public restrooms. Proponents of the law claim it’s needed to prevent sexual predators from sneaking into women’s bathrooms by dressing up as women and pretending to be transgender.

    That “bathroom predator” talking point is a myth. Law enforcement experts and people who work with victims of sexual assault have called it “beyond specious” and “the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.” There have been zero proven incidents in the more than 17 states and 200 cities where transgender people are currently protected from discrimination and allowed to use public bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity.

    But the “bathroom predator” myth has dominated news coverage of the fight for transgender equality. Reporters repeat the talking point without debunking it, so viewers are left thinking that LGBT nondiscrimination protections might lead to sexual assault.

    Chase Strangio, an attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union, criticized news networks’ uncritical repetition of the “bathroom predator” talking point, telling Media Matters:

    Journalists who talk about this as two co-equal sides are essentially letting proponents of these talking points get away with mythic narratives about trans predators or non-trans predators having access to bathrooms and locker rooms. And that story is incredibly damaging and really undermines efforts to protect trans people and the whole LGBT community.

    […]

    When the media doesn’t point out that the bathroom talking points are complete bullshit, what they’re doing is participating in a falsehood that allows trans people to be associated with intrusions into privacy, with violence, and with harm to other people. The reality is none of these things are true.

    Instead of focusing on mythic stories about bathroom predators, news networks should ask how “bathroom bills” like North Carolina’s will be enforced. As Strangio explained, these laws “would open the door to major intrusions into people’s privacy and people’s medical information, … allow[ing] for policing of people’s gender every time they walk into a restroom.”

    Republican politicians are using imaginary horror stories about bathroom predators to pass creepy, invasive laws policing the gender of anyone who goes to the bathroom in a public place. That’s the story media outlets should be telling when covering “bathroom bills” like North Carolina's.

    Video by Coleman Lowndes and Carlos Maza.

  • How News Networks Should Cover Someone Like Donald Trump

    Ratings-Come-First Journalism Turns News Networks Into Trump Enablers

    Blog ››› ››› CARLOS MAZA

    Donald Trump is political media's dream candidate. He supplies news networks with a seemingly endless supply of ridiculous sound bites, over-the-top press conferences, and legitimate scandals. As a result, news networks have devolved into 24-hour Trump channels, covering his every speech, press conference, stunt, and tweet. And they've compromised some of their most basic journalistic standards in hopes of earning access to the candidate.

    But Trump isn't just a charismatic performer, and he's not a typical presidential candidate -- he's a racist, bigoted, proto-fascist whose rallies have become hotbeds of violent extremism. He's a serial liar without a consistent or serious policy agenda.

    And he routinely exploits one of the mainstream media's greatest weaknesses -- its addiction to political theatrics -- to keep his campaign front and center in the public's imagination.

    The horse race journalism that's defined the past few election cycles isn't appropriate for covering a figure like Trump. To properly report on Trump's candidacy, news networks will have to adjust their typical, ratings-come-first approach to election coverage.

    1. Stop Airing Entire Trump Events

    Much of Trump's dominance of the news cycle is a result of news networks' willingness to air many of his stump speeches and press conferences live, unedited, and without commercial breaks. Veteran campaign reporter Walter Shapiro called the airing of Trump's speeches by networks unprecedented, adding "No one has ever gotten to have all of their campaign speeches broadcast unedited."

    His speeches make for good television -- he calls Ted Cruz a "pussy," imitates Marco Rubio, botches Bible verses, pulls bizarre supporters on stage. But beyond sheer entertainment value, there's rarely a good journalistic reason to give Trump's speeches so much attention.

    News networks' inability to look away from the Trump circus means Trump can rely on the media to deliver his campaign messages, unfiltered, to millions more voters than would otherwise hear them. And that special treatment means Trump's opponents in both parties are forced to compete in a news environment that gives Trump millions of dollars in free advertising and exposure.

    2. End Trump's Call-In Interview Privileges

    Trump has taken advantage of news networks' willingness to allow him to call in to his television interviews over the phone. It's a privilege he uses frequently -- he conducted 69 phone interviews in the first 69 days of 2016.

    Phone interviews give Trump an obvious advantage over his rivals: he can ignore visual cues and body language, potentially review notes and talking points during the conversation, more easily steamroll over his interviewers' questions, and avoid awkward confrontations. Phone interviews also allow Trump to tightly control his image -- he gets his polished headshot on screen without running the risk of looking bad on camera. And the frequency with which he does phone interviews allows him to flood the airwaves with very little effort.

    3. Start Identifying Hate For What It Is

    Trump is running an aggressively hateful campaign. It's difficult to imagine a major presidential candidate being more explicitly bigoted than one who refers to Mexican immigrants as "rapists" and "criminals" and proposes banning Muslims from entering the country, to say nothing of his support among white supremacists and increasingly toxic rallies.

    The fact that he's supported by millions of Americans does not somehow make his comments about Mexicans and Muslims less bigoted. The fact that he denies being a bigot does not make it any less objectively true.

    But too many journalists and news outlets have shied away from using terms like "bigot" and "racist" to describe Trump's campaign, choosing neutral terms like "controversial" instead. That avoidance is irresponsible and dishonest -- it obscures the real ugliness of his campaign and downplays gross bigotry to the level of a routine policy disagreement. It tacitly mainstreams that hate by treating it as little more than a partisan policy disagreement. To talk about Trump's rise without acknowledging the anti-Mexican and anti-Muslim animus fueling it is to not tell the full story -- neutrality at the expense of accuracy. Good journalism demands that media outlets can distinguish between partisan disagreements and blatant, indefensible bigotry and scapegoating.

    4. Accept That Trump Doesn't Care About Fact-Checking

    Trump isn't concerned with appearing honest or consistent. He's the master of deflecting tough questions by going on long, rambling tangents. He's quick to backpedal from or completely reverse his positions under scrutiny. He's an unrepentant, serial liar who shows no concern about how frequently his public statements turn out to be completely wrong.

    Trying to hold Trump accountable for every lie he tells is like bailing water out of the Titanic -- it may feel good and right, but it ignores the bigger problem.

    What's missing is the willingness to treat Trump's lies as more than isolated events, to tie his statements to a broader narrative about Trump's trustworthiness. The controversies around Hillary Clinton's email servers and Benghazi were just the latest iterations of a media narrative that suggests Hillary Clinton can't be trusted. But Trump's repeated, bald-faced lying hasn't similarly tarnished his reputation as a straight-talker. Nine months into Trump's campaign, news networks should be comfortable holding him to the same standards of honesty and consistency they hold other candidates.

    5. Don't Take The Bait

    It's unfair to call the media's treatment of Donald Trump "fawning". Many journalists and commentators have correctly and repeatedly documented Trump's racism, misogyny, and dishonesty. The real problem is that news networks are incapable of distinguishing between meaningful Trump stories and the bullshit political theater Trump puts on daily.

    In a typical news cycle, networks can treat any gaffe or off-color remark as newsworthy -- politicians are trained to stick to their prepared talking points and choose their words wisely, so public missteps, like Mitt Romney's "47 percent" comment or Howard Dean's infamous scream, get a lot of media attention, and can seriously derail a campaign.

    But Trump's unfiltered campaign style throws a monkey wrench into that dynamic, saturating the news cycle with more sound bites, press conferences, stunts, and pseudo-controversies than networks can keep up with. As former CBS News correspondent Eric Engberg told Media Matters, "Trump is smart enough to know that if he gets out in front of the media with some outrageous statement, he backs up their ability to follow up the outrageous statement he made yesterday." 

    That kind of frenetic, breakneck Trump coverage makes for great television, but it's a terrible way of vetting a candidate. It makes it difficult for voters to figure out what actually matters on the campaign trail. The significance of Trump's bigotry and absurd policy ideas gets diluted - "flattened and folded into a 'there he goes again' outrage-a-thon." Networks are so busy keeping their viewers entertained by Trump's theatrics that they end up treating Trump like an entertainer -- someone who's held to different standards than the rest of the presidential candidates.

    Asking news networks to stop focusing on Trump is misguided -- Trump's campaign and rise in GOP politics is tremendously significant and newsworthy. But the classic, horse race approach to campaign coverage isn't appropriate anymore. Trump has figured out how to game that system, and networks that continue treating his campaign like a harmless ratings spectacle risk becoming de facto Trump-enablers.  

    The responsibility of the media in an election cycle is to cut through the noise and bluster and help voters make informed decisions about which candidate is most qualified to run the country. That means resisting the urge to chase every shiny new Trump story. It means refusing to let Trump constantly phone in for interviews in the quest for more access to the candidate. And it means having the courage to look beyond the Trump spectacle and identify his campaign as what it is - a billionaire carnival barker's racist, hateful, and deeply dishonest effort to become the most powerful person in the country.

    Video by John Kerr, Carlos Maza, and Leanne Naramore. Top image by Sarah Wasko.

  • The Question Every Reporter Should Be Asking About Transgender Bathroom Bans

    "How Is The Government Supposed To Figure Out A Person's Biological Sex?"

    Blog ››› ››› CARLOS MAZA

    Media outlets covering the debate over transgender equality have helped amplify right-wing myths about privacy and women's safety in public restrooms. But they haven't asked Republican politicians to explain how they'll enforce laws that would require people to prove their "biological sex" at the bathroom door.

    On March 23, North Carolina became the first state in the country to pass a law broadly banning transgender people from using certain bathrooms in publicly run facilities and schools. The law -- House Bill 2 -- came in response to an ordinance passed in Charlotte, which would have protected LGBT people from discrimination in housing and public accommodations.

    The North Carolina law is just the beginning of a nationwide push to make it illegal for transgender people to use the public restrooms that correspond with their gender identity.

    Proponents of these anti-transgender laws claim they're needed to protect women's privacy and to stop men from sneaking into women's restrooms by pretending to be transgender. As North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory stated after signing HB 2 into law (emphasis added):

    The basic expectation of privacy in the most personal of settings, a restroom or locker room, for each gender was violated by government overreach and intrusion by the mayor and city council of Charlotte. This radical breach of trust and security under the false argument of equal access not only impacts the citizens of Charlotte but people who come to Charlotte to work, visit or play. This new government regulation defies common sense and basic community norms by allowing, for example, a man to use a woman's bathroom, shower or locker room.

    The idea that men will pretend to be transgender to sneak into women's restrooms has been debunked by law enforcement experts, government officials, and women's safety advocates in cities and states across the country.

    But media coverage of the debate around transgender bathroom access has been dominated by anti-LGBT talking points about "privacy" and "safety." In Charlotte, local news coverage of the LGBT nondiscrimination ordinance was largely defined by baseless fears about men entering women's restrooms.

    Instead of fixating on bogus right-wing "bathroom predator" horror stories, journalists should be asking a basic but tremendously important question about Republicans' efforts to regulate public restrooms: how is the government supposed to figure out a person's biological sex?

    Transgender people don't walk around with labels on their foreheads. It's impossible to prove whether someone is transgender just by looking at them. Anyone who uses public bathrooms has likely shared a bathroom with a transgender person without noticing.

    But laws like North Carolina's invite politicians, business owners, and even other bathroom goers to make snap judgments about who does and doesn't belong in a restroom. North Carolina's law states that people are allowed to use only certain bathrooms that correspond with their biological sex, "which is stated on a person's birth certificate." Most human beings don't walk around carrying copies of their birth certificates, and they certainly don't bring their birth certificates with them every time they need to use a public bathroom. But under HB 2, North Carolinians will need to be ready to prove their biological sex anytime they need to use a bathroom in a public facility or school.

    Other states across the country are considering "bathroom bills" that could award thousands of dollars in damages to anyone who shared a bathroom with a transgender person, creating a perverse incentive to try to seek out and accuse people who might be transgender in the bathroom.

    Those kinds of laws could encourage seriously gross violations of privacy, and not just for transgender people. As Scott Skinner-Thompson, acting assistant professor of lawyering at NYU School of Law recently wrote on Slate:

    If to be enforced the bills require individuals to somehow prove that their so-called "biological sex" matches the gender of the bathroom, they will be forced to disclose sensitive information about their sex and medical history. Indeed, all people--not just transgender people--could ostensibly be asked to prove their "biological sex" before using a restroom, meaning that the invasive privacy violation is not only a transgender problem.

    Last March, a Louisiana woman who underwent chemotherapy and a bi-lateral mastectomy after a stage 2 cancer diagnosis was accused of being a man while standing in line to use a Walmart restroom. Last January, a lesbian in Michigan was kicked out of a restaurant bathroom because she was mistaken for a man. On March 18, a Republican politician in Fayetteville, AR, questioned a cisgender restaurant employee and asked her to prove that she was a biological woman. Under HB 2, those kinds of mix-ups could potentially become awkward and invasive legal battles.

    "Bathroom bills" like North Carolina's give government officials an excuse to repeatedly police the gender of anyone who needs to use a public bathroom, even if that means forcing them to turn over sensitive personal documents or medical information at the bathroom door.

    In the effort to protect women from an imaginary "bathroom predator" boogeyman, state legislatures across the country are introducing bills that will allow the government to demand proof of people's biological sex. Journalists interested in the debate over privacy in restrooms should be asking Republican politicians and their LGBT supporters how they plan to enforce laws like HB 2.

  • The Whiteness Of The Media Is A Slow-Motion Train Wreck

    Blog ››› ››› CARLOS MAZA

    MSNBC has canceled its weekend morning editorial program Melissa Harris-Perry. The cancellation deals a significant blow to diversity on cable news, as Harris-Perry consistently hosted the most diverse guests of any of the Sunday morning news shows.

    But the lack of diversity on Sunday morning shows is just part of a much broader media diversity problem. People of color are widely underrepresented in both print and radio newsrooms, and the percentage of non-white journalists in traditional newsrooms has remained largely stagnant over the past 20 years.

    That's not just a workplace problem -- it's an accuracy problem. The absence of people of color in newsrooms and on television allows the biases of white journalists and commentators to go unchecked, resulting in reporting that often overlooks important angles, privileges one side of a story, and fails to provide necessary context to understand news events.  

    Media diversity isn't a luxury good that can be jettisoned for the sake of convenience. White newsrooms are broken newsrooms.

    Video by John Kerr, Carlos Maza, and Leanne Naramore.

  • What We Lose If We Lose Melissa Harris-Perry

    Blog ››› ››› CARLOS MAZA

    We may have seen the final episode of Melissa Harris-Perry's unique weekend morning MSNBC show, one of cable news' most diverse and important editorial programs.

    On February 26, The New York Times reported that Harris-Perry had refused to go on her show this weekend "following several weeks of pre-emptions and what she described as a loss of editorial control." The report described how Harris-Perry had become frustrated with MSNBC's pressure to spend more time covering the 2016 election.

    In a letter to her staff published on Medium by a former staffer, Harris-Perry described her reasons for deciding not to host the show (emphasis added):

    Here is the reality: our show was taken - without comment or discussion or notice - in the midst of an election season. After four years of building an audience, developing a brand, and developing trust with our viewers, we were effectively and utterly silenced. Now, MSNBC would like me to appear for four inconsequential hours to read news that they deem relevant without returning to our team any of the editorial control and authority that makes MHP Show distinctive.

    [...]

    While MSNBC may believe that I am worthless, I know better. I know who I am. I know why MHP Show is unique and valuable. I will not sell short myself or this show. I am not hungry for empty airtime. I care only about substantive, meaningful, and autonomous work. When we can do that, I will return - not a moment earlier. I am deeply sorry for the ways that this decision makes life harder for all of you. You mean more to me than you can imagine.

    In response to the letter, NBC explained its pre-emptions, stating:  "In this exciting and unpredictable presidential primary season, many of our daytime programs have been temporarily upended by breaking political coverage, including M.H.P. This reaction is really surprising, confusing and disappointing." It's unclear how MSNBC will resolve the dispute, but some sources believe the controversy spells the end of Harris-Perry's show.

    With the show's future uncertain, it's worth pausing to acknowledge how devastating it would be to lose Melissa Harris-Perry.

    In a cable news environment that too often seems geared to the lowest common denominator, MHP has always offered something different. While other programs fixated on flavor-of-the-week political controversies and breaking news, MHP was proudly, unwaveringly, a show for nerds -- centering on stories and discussions typically passed over by the breakneck pace of the 24-hour news cycle. Harris-Perry, a professor of politics and international affairs at Wake Forest University, asked her audience to think bigger, to connect seemingly trivial news alerts to broader discussions about identity, history, representation, and power.

    When the Supreme Court voted to legalize same-sex marriage in June, she wondered if the decision might threaten the queer political movement's resistance to tradition.

    When Bill Cosby was accused of sexually assaulting dozens of women, she challenged the possibility of finding a "perfect victim" in sexual violence stories.

    During the media firestorm surrounding the killing of Cecil the lion, Harris-Perry tied the story to a broader discussion of the history of colonial subjugation in Africa, and the subordination of black bodies in general.

    In the wake of the shooting in a black church in Charleston, she asked if focusing on the Confederate flag as a symbol might distract from material challenges to racist policies that impact black people in the South.

    At the height of the media spectacle around Black Lives Matter protests in Baltimore, she dedicated an entire segment to breaking down the history of the incarceration of black males in America, highlighting the "intersection between race and criminality."

    These were not the discussions of a typical cable news show.

    Termed "America's foremost public intellectual" by The Atlantic's Ta-Nehisi Coates, Harris-Perry challenged her guests and her audience to think critically about what makes news stories meaningful in the first place.

    MHP has also been a welcome break from the persistent whiteness of cable news media. As the only African American woman hosting an editorial cable news show, Harris-Perry offered a direly needed alternative perspective. Her ability to talk about her own experience with race and identity was a huge part of what made the discussions on her show so significant and rare.

    MHP's panels consistently featured the most diverse lineup of guests of any of the Sunday morning news show. Her show was unique not only because it featured far more women and people of color than the typical program, but because it gave a platform to people who weren't traditional powerbrokers, people who weren't interested in repeating sound bite talking points about current events.

    The power and influence of Harris-Perry's voice is matched only by the space she created to elevate the voices of those who most needed to be heard. Nowhere is this more evident than in her treatment of the transgender community. Harris-Perry has hosted some of the most compassionate and informative segments on the fight for transgender equality on cable news, challenging her audiences to look beyond the issue of same-sex marriage, regularly hosting transgender guests and sharing their stories. Last August, she invited prominent transgender activist Janet Mock to guest host her show, resulting in one of the most significant news segments on violence against transgender women that's ever been aired on national television. 

    Melissa Harris-Perry worked for years to create the gold standard for what editorial cable news shows should look like.

    Every week, MHP asked its viewers to stop, breathe, and be thoughtful. Without MHP, nerds will have lost a key respite from the trending news alerts, commentator screaming matches, and sensationalistic coverage that typically saturate cable news coverage.

    It's possible that this rift between Harris-Perry and MSNBC will be temporary -- that the network will once again create space for her thoughtful weekend programming once the spectacle of the presidential election dies down.

    It's also possible that Harris-Perry chooses to walk away permanently if she no longer believes she can do "substantive, meaningful, and autonomous work." If that happens, we nerds will lose what has been a rare bright spot in an ocean of cable news noise.

    And that's something worth mourning.

    UPDATE:

    On February 28, CNN senior media correspondent Brian Stelter reported "an MSNBC spokesman confirmed that the channel is 'parting ways' with" Harris-Perry.

  • The Extreme Radio Host Who Helped Ted Cruz Win The Iowa Caucuses

    Blog ››› ››› CARLOS MAZA, JOHN KERR & LEANNE NARAMORE

    Ted Cruz's victory in the Iowa Republican caucuses is due in part to the vocal support of Steve Deace -- an influential local radio host who spent the past few months urging his listeners to back Cruz in the nomination process. Deace has become a kind of kingmaker in Iowa Republican politics, and Cruz openly touted his endorsement in the lead up to caucus night.

    Deace is also one of the most extreme voices in right-wing media -- accusing Democrats of leading a "war on whites," warning of an army of jihadists coming to take over America to argue for a higher white birth rate, and claiming President Obama is a Marxist and not a Christian.

    Deace reserves his worst comments for the LGBT community. Deace calls homosexuality an "un-American and pagan ideology," a "sin orientation," and a "death sentence unto itself." He asserts the acceptance of homosexuality and marriage equality have created a slippery slope to pedophilia and has described gay activists as "homo-fascists" bent on promoting a "Rainbow Jihad." He argues gay people should be disqualified from serving as judges, and praised laws that criminalized homosexuality, which he wrote "punished evil" and protected civilization. He describes transgender people as "trannies" and mentally ill. He's even promoted an article that accused Obama of being secretly gay.

    If Cruz continues performing well in the GOP primary race, Deace will likely become a constant fixture in mainstream media's election coverage. It's up to media outlets to identify the right-wing extremism of the man who helped secure Cruz his first big victory in the presidential primary. 

  • VIDEO: Stop Blaming Students For America's Student Debt Crisis

    Blog ››› ››› CARLOS MAZA, JOHN KERR, LEANNE NARAMORE & PAM VOGEL

    Student loan debt in America has reached a staggering $1.3 trillion, surpassing even credit card debt. But right-wing media figures have criticized efforts to combat student loan debt by pushing misinformation and blaming students for pursuing higher education.

    Conservative media have labeled higher education as a "privilege" and suggested students ought to choose fictional cheaper colleges. Some outlets have even defended schools that take advantage of students and leave them with significant debt. But research shows college matters now more than ever, and the cost to attend is rising across the board. The student debt crisis is especially damaging for poor students and students of color, who more frequently attend cheaper open-access and community colleges and are still forced to borrow in higher numbers to pay for their education.

    Blaming students for the student loan debt crisis ignores the facts and distracts from finding real solutions to America's skyrocketing student debt burden.

    Previously:

    Myths And Facts About The College Debt Crisis

  • VIDEO: Abortion Stigma Is Ruining Good Abortion Journalism

    Blog ››› ››› CARLOS MAZA

    Nearly half a century after Roe v. Wade, news coverage of abortion stories continues to be plagued by negative and damaging stereotypes about the procedure. Those stereotypes are the product of "abortion stigma," and they pose a real threat to accurate abortion coverage.

    Abortion stigma -- the "shared understanding" that abortion is morally wrong or socially unacceptable -- shows up in all facets of popular culture. But it's especially dangerous when it taints news coverage of abortion stories.

    In right-wing media, abortion stigma is typically pretty obvious: abortion is referred to as sickeningviolent, and unethical, while abortion providers are smeared as villains and compared to Nazis.

    But abortion stigma also shows up in mainstream news reporting, often in subtle ways. Whether it's using misleading b-roll footage of babies and extremely pregnant women during abortion segments, or parroting conservative talking points about medical safety while discussing extreme efforts to regulate abortion clinics, media framing of abortion debates often reinforces the idea that abortion is risky cruel, and taboo.

    News coverage that peddles abortion stigma has a real impact on public opinion, policy debates, and women's reasonable access to healthcare. It's time media outlets stop treating abortion like something shameful and start treating it like what it is - an important and basic healthcare option for women across the country.

    Video by John Kerr, Carlos Maza, and Leanne Naramore.