From the February 7 edition of NBC's Meet the Press:
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With Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton facing a barrage of criticisms over the tone of her voice during a recent speech, Media Matters looks back at the rampant sexism she faced from the media during her 2008 presidential bid.
A new report from researchers at Stanford University found that the United States is "dead last" among other developed countries on poverty and inequality measures, which highlights the need for media outlets to focus more on these issues.
On February 1, the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality published a special edition of Pathways magazine featuring the university's "State of the Union Report" for poverty and inequality in 2016. The report found that among 10 similarly developed nations -- including Australia, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Spain, and the United Kingdom -- the United States had the highest levels of income inequality and wealth inequality, and the worst-rated social safety net. The U.S. placed near the bottom (eighth) in terms of both economic mobility and labor market strength, and finished only fifth in terms of poverty. According to the report's authors, a weak safety net, stagnant economic mobility, and rampant economic inequality are the primary reasons for the United States' poor performance, but a "moderate increase" in public spending on safety net programs would push poverty in the U.S. down to the levels of its peers (emphasis original):
The research shows that, among the well-off countries for which comprehensive evidence is available, the U.S. has the lowest overall ranking, a result that arises in part because the U.S. brings up the rear in safety net performance, income inequality and wealth inequality. When the comparison set is expanded to include other less well-off countries, America still ranks 18th (out of 21 countries), with only Spain, Estonia and Greece scoring worse.
The report also notes some bright spots. It shows, for example, that a relatively moderate increase in U.S. safety net spending would push the poverty rate down to levels observed in other well-off countries. The rate of disposable-income poverty, which is the rate that people actually experience after transfers play out, is especially high not because market incomes are all that low but because the safety net is relatively small.
These findings create greater urgency for American media to adequately report on issues related to poverty and economic inequality. According to a recent Media Matters analysis of cable and broadcast economic news coverage in the second half of 2015, media's focus on economic inequality slipped to its lowest point since late 2013. In the second half of 2015, just 23 percent of qualifying economic coverage contained significant discussions of economic inequality:
The findings also highlight a need for media to counter prevailing myths that public assistance programs are expensive and ineffective. According to the study, the United States could measurably improve its poverty rate compared to the rest of the developed world with "a relatively modest increase" in safety net spending at a time when Republican lawmakers, including Speaker Paul Ryan, have proposed doing the opposite. Calls from conservative lawmakers to gut the social safety net are propped up by right-wing media outlets notorious for shaming those that need assistance, and progressive calls to preserve and expand vital programs are openly attacked by the same right-wing outlets.
With the presidential primary season in full swing, prime-time cable and broadcast evening news coverage of the economy focused on the candidates' policy priorities in the second half of 2015. News coverage of economic inequality fell considerably after hitting an all-time high in the first half of the year.
From the January 26 edition of NBC's Late Night with Seth Meyers:
A Media Matters study of network evening news found that the evening news has failed to report that 1 million low income Americans are at risk of having their food assistance benefits severely restricted following 22 states' reinstatement of work requirements as a condition of eligibility on January 1. While the cuts are aimed at able body adults with no dependents, experts agree these individuals are "very poor" and qualify for very few alternative means of assistance.
From the January 24 edition of NBC's Meet the Press:
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On the sixth anniversary of the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United v. FEC, PBS remains the gold standard for coverage of campaign finance reform while other broadcast networks show room for improvement, according to a Media Matters review of their evening and Sunday news shows over the past 16 months. While coverage of the subject has increased across the board, with CBS in particular showing a substantial increase, a sizable fraction of the increase is due to Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders (I-VT) raising the issue in interviews on Sunday programs, rather than proactive efforts by journalists to cover campaign finance reform.
The hosts of the Sunday morning political shows neglected to bring up reports that Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz failed to properly disclose $1 million in campaign loans from Goldman Sachs and Citibank during his 2012 Senate campaign.
Buzzfeed News highlighted a Columbia University study that found that "Media company mergers rarely result in a significant boost in representation for Latinos on or off screen, despite promises from studio executives to increase diversity."
Buzzfeed's report echoes prominent advocates for the Hispanic community who have previously underscored the importance of improving the representation of Latinos in the media. During a Media Matters-sponsored panel on September 17, 2015, Voto Latino's Maria Teresa Kumar pointed out that, although Latinos "are the second-largest demographic group of Americans," the policies, issues and opinions of this community "are completely missed from mainstream." National Council of La Raza's Janet Murguía added that media coverage of Latino issues often presents "a very shallow view of what the Latino voter looks like." The underrepresentation of Latinos in media is reflected across the board, including in government -- according to NPR's Latino USA, "Latinos make up 17 percent of the population of the country but only one percent of its elected officials."
Buzzfeed News' Adolfo Flores reported on January 15 that data from Columbia University's study showed "no significant increase in diversity behind the camera" after Comcast and NBCUniversal merged in 2011. The study also found that the percent of Latino senior executives at Comcast and NBCUniversal increased from zero to 3.1 percent, but that "only one [executive] held a senior position outside of Telemundo," the Spanish-language network owned by NBCUniversal. On-screen representation improved, but the "slight increase ... was accompanied by a significant rise in Latino stereotypes." Flores noted that the study examined all media mergers from 2008 to 2015, but focused on the Comcast-NBCUniversal merger "because it was the largets and well documented":
Media company mergers rarely result in a significant boost in representation for Latinos on or off screen, despite promises from studio executives to increase diversity, new research has found
The report -- The Latino Disconnect: The Impact of Media Mergers on Latino Consumers and Representation -- was provided to BuzzFeed News ahead of publication and analyzed the relationship between media mergers and Latinos from 2008 to 2015.
Researchers at Columbia University's Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race found there was no significant increase in diversity behind the camera after the 2011 Comcast-NBCUniversal merger, despite a pledge to increase Latino representation in programming.
"In general, we found that the increase in representation after the merger was very minimal and really only happens in front of the camera, which makes sense because it's the most visible," said Frances Negrón-Muntaner, the study's lead researcher.
Researchers looked at all mergers after 2008, but focused on the one between Comcast-NBCUniversal because it was the largest and well documented.
After the Comcast-NBCUniversal merger and through 2015, Latinos made up less than 7% of behind-the-camera talent across all categories on the network's top 10 shows, national news programs, and films. It also found that while the percentage of Latino directors increased on average 0.8% after the merger, the percentage of producers and writers decreased by 1.1% and 1.2%. Executive produce[r]s also declined by 0.4%.
The average number of all Latino actors on television increased from 6.6% before the merger to 7.3% afterward. The slight increase, the study states, was accompanied by a significant rise in Latino stereotypes on NBCUniversal. Latinos who appeared as maids, janitors, inmates, and police officers in NBC's top 10 scripted television shows nearly tripled from 2008 to 2014.
"Despite the fact that the majority of Latinos are U.S.-born and English-dominant," researchers wrote, "the percentage of Latino executives remained extremely low in the company's non-Spanish language media sector."
Researchers recommended that media companies develop plans to diversify leadership and creative positions and hire experienced Latinos behind the camera who can help writers avoid stereotypes.
UPDATE: Felix Sanchez, Executive Director and Co-Founder of The National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts told Media Matters in a statement:
"This report is a cautionary tale that media mergers can usurp progress for minority communities. We have to follow the adage of trusting but verifying commitments made by companies before they merged. Given the findings of this study, we can conclude that not all key promises made have come to fruition."
It is long past time for a presidential debate in which the candidates thoroughly address the most pressing science-related topics, says the non-profit group ScienceDebate.org. And now the organization has a new video featuring a group of children who agree that it's critically important for the presidential candidates to debate science.
Science Debate, which is backed by Nobel Laureates and hundreds of other leaders in science, academics, business, government, and media, is running a campaign calling for at least one presidential debate that is exclusively focused on science, health, tech, and environmental issues. The group points to a recent Zogby Analytics poll that Science Debate commissioned with the health research-focused non-profit Research!America, which found that 86 percent of U.S. adults think the presidential candidates "should participate in a debate to discuss key science-based challenges facing the United States."
Thus far, the media figures moderating the presidential debates have rarely asked the candidates about one of the most pressing science-related topics: climate change. In a press release announcing its new video, Science Debate noted that neither CNN nor ABC moderators asked "a single question about climate change" during the Republican and Democratic debates that took place "in the days immediately following the historic Paris climate change summit, where 195 countries reached an agreement to begin shifting the world economy off carbon."
A new Media Matters analysis provides further evidence that presidential debate moderators are short-changing climate change. Our review of the first eight presidential primary debates found that the moderators have thus far asked the candidates more than ten times as many questions about the political horserace and other non-substantive issues as they have asked about climate change.
Reached for comment, Science Debate chair Shawn Otto expressed concern over the Media Matters study's findings, saying that "it's the science issues--from climate change to the Internet, from the war on drugs to a sustainable economy--that are driving most of today's major policy challenges, and the American people deserve answers."
The full statement by Shawn Otto, chair of Science Debate, as provided in an email to Media Matters:
Out of all the questions Media Matters analyzed from the debates so far, just 9 were about climate change. Ninety-four questions, or over ten times as many, were about non-substantive issues. Yet it's the science issues--from climate change to the Internet, from the war on drugs to a sustainable economy--that are driving most of today's major policy challenges, and the American people deserve answers. We have presidential debates dedicated to economics and to foreign policy. It's time we had a presidential debate dedicated to science, health, tech and the environment.
Multiple media outlets called out Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump's attacks on Bill Clinton's past personal life after he cited Monica Lewinsky and Paula Jones to claim that the former president has a "terrible record of women abuse." Media noted that Trump previously dismissed such scrutiny as "totally unimportant" and "out of control."
Chuck Todd neglected to ask Republican presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) about armed militia members who took over a federal government building in Oregon. The takeover was led in part by sons of Cliven Bundy, who Paul initially supported in his 2014 standoff with federal officials over land use and with whom Paul had extensively discussed land rights after a June 2015 campaign event.
From the January 3 edition of NBC's Meet The Press:
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