PBS NewsHour

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  • How The Nightly Network News Covered The Supreme Court's Rejection Of Texas' Anti-Choice Law

    ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    After the landmark Supreme Court ruling that struck down Texas’ anti-choice law HB 2, two network evening news programs allowed anti-abortion activists to spin the ruling as a “loss for women’s health and safety.” But in actuality, the Supreme Court found that the requirements imposed by the Texas law addressed “no significant health-related problem” and are “nearly arbitrary” -- findings that two other networks highlighted.

  • A “Better Way” To Fight Poverty Based On Research, Instead Of Right-Wing Media Myths


    Speaker of the House Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) new series of proposals -- released June 7 in a report commissioned by House Republicans titled “A Better Way to Fight Poverty” -- aims to restructure federal anti-poverty programs, but they heavily rely on myths commonly promoted by right-wing media outlets that mislead about poverty and shame the poor. On June 6, the Center for American Progress (CAP) released its own plan to reform and restructure anti-poverty programs in the United States, offering an example of what serious proposals look like when informed by serious economic research, rather than by right-wing media myths.

  • STUDY: Sunday Shows Less Likely Than Weekday Competitors To Discuss Poverty

    Fox News Talks A Lot About Inequality And Poverty, But Promotes Policies That Would Make The Problems Worse


    In the first quarter of 2016, prime-time and evening weekday news programs on the largest cable and broadcast outlets mentioned poverty during roughly 55 percent of their discussions of economic inequality in the United States. During the same time period, Sunday political talk shows mentioned poverty in only 33 percent of discussions of economic inequality.

  • STUDY: Cable And Broadcast News Try To Cover The Economy Without Economists

    Economists Made Up 1 Percent Of Guests In The First Quarter Of 2016, While Shows Focused On Campaigns, Inequality


    Expertise from economists was almost completely absent from television news coverage of the economy in the first quarter of 2016, which focused largely on the tax and economic policy platforms of this year’s presidential candidates. Coverage of economic inequality spiked during the period -- tying an all-time high -- driven in part by messaging from candidates on both sides of the aisle, but gender diversity in guests during economic news segments remained low.

  • New Report Presents Opportunity For Networks To Address How Climate Change Affects Public Health

    Blog ››› ››› ANDREW SEIFTER

    Extreme Heat Danger

    The Obama administration has released a comprehensive new scientific report detailing how climate change affects human health, presenting the broadcast networks' nightly news programs with a good opportunity to cover a critical topic that they rarely addressed last year.  

    The Climate and Health Assessment, which is the result of three years of research by approximately 100 health and science experts in eight federal agencies, builds on the findings of the U.S. Global Change Research Program's National Climate Assessment and signifies increased "scientific confidence in the link between climate change and a broad range of threats to public health."

    These threats include some of the most severe effects of global warming, such as increased incidence of death from extreme heat waves and worsened air quality, as well as some less discussed impacts, including the potential for carbon pollution to make our food crops less nutritious and the toll that weather-related disasters can take on our mental health. The report also details how climate change will increase or otherwise alter the risks of suffering from various diseases and illnesses, including Lyme disease from ticks, West Nile virus from mosquitos, water-borne illnesses, and Salmonella poisoning from food.

    Any of these topics could provide fodder for an important and informative nightly news segment that would help viewers better understand the threats and challenges posed by climate change.

    NBC Nightly News and CBS Evening News did each provide a substantial report last year on the ways climate change is impacting allergies and asthma, respectively. But here, too, the Obama administration report provides opportunities for additional coverage.

    For instance, the networks could examine these issues from an environmental justice perspective; the report finds that minority adults and children "bear a disproportionate burden associated with asthma as measured by emergency department visits, lost work and school days, and overall poorer health status." And when considering all of the various health impacts, the report identifies many specific populations that are "disproportionately vulnerable" to climate change:

    [C]limate change exacerbates some existing health threats and creates new public health challenges. While all Americans are at risk, some populations are disproportionately vulnerable, including those with low income, some communities of color, immigrant groups (including those with limited English proficiency), Indigenous peoples, children and pregnant women, older adults, vulnerable occupational groups, persons with disabilities, and persons with preexisting or chronic medical conditions.

    The networks could also cover some of these public health findings alongside a distressing new study on sea level rise, which projects severe impacts on coastal cities that will undoubtedly have profound implications on the health and well-being of millions of Americans. Or they could address the public health benefits of the most significant U.S. climate policy in U.S. history, the Clean Power Plan, which the networks infrequently covered in 2015 -- and which polluting fossil fuel industry groups and allied attorneys general are now fighting in court.

    Major news outlets including The Washington Post, The New York Times, USA Today, The Guardian, Time magazine, The Associated Press, and McClatchyDC have already covered the new White House report. Now is the time for the broadcast networks' nightly news programs to improve on last year's coverage and educate their viewers about the myriad ways that a changing climate is affecting our health.

    Image at top via Flickr user Graeme Maclean using a Creative Commons license.

    public health

  • PRIMARY DEBATE SCORECARD: Climate Change Through 20 Presidential Debates


    With 20 presidential primary debates now completed, debate moderators have only asked 22 questions about climate change, which is just 1.5 percent of the 1,477 questions posed. In addition, the moderators were more than twice as likely to ask a climate question to a Democratic candidate than to a Republican candidate, and they have not asked a single climate question to Donald Trump or Ted Cruz, the two front-runners for the GOP presidential nomination. Nearly one-third of the climate questions were asked in the two most recent debates in Miami, following a bipartisan group of 21 Florida mayors urging the networks to address the issue in those debates.

  • "A Travesty Of Journalism": Experts React To Broadcast Networks' Decline In Climate Change Coverage

    Blog ››› ››› ANDREW SEIFTER

    Networks climate

    It is nothing short of stunning that in 2015, a year that featured more newsworthy climate-related events than ever before, the broadcast networks' coverage of climate change declined. The networks have a responsibility to educate the public about the impacts that climate change is having on our security, our economy, and our health.

    In response to Media Matters' new analysis of climate change coverage on ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox in 2015, members of Congress, climate scientists, environmental advocates, and other experts criticized the networks for providing too little climate change coverage and too much climate science denial.

    Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI): "In a year when nearly 200 countries around the world collectively recognized the threat of climate change and the United States made historic commitments to cut carbon pollution, major networks actually cut their media coverage of climate change. In 2015, the network Sunday shows devoted just 73 minutes to climate change, a ten percent decrease from the year before. What makes these findings even more troubling is the fact that with the little time devoted to climate change, these Sunday shows continued to mislead their audiences by including climate denial as part of the discussion. The facts are clear. Scientists, governments, and major corporations around the world have accepted the facts about climate change and are having real debates on solutions. In this consequential election year, it's time for news broadcasters to do the same."

    Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY): "As the co-founder of the House Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition, I read Media Matters' new study and it's a wake up call to the news networks. The most important long term global and national issue shouldn't be getting short-thrift. People need more information, not less."

    Michael Mann, climate scientist at Penn State University: "It is unconscionable that so many purportedly mainstream media outlets continue to misinform the public when it comes to the matter of human-caused climate change. History will not look back kindly upon television news networks that had an opportunity to inform the public about this existential threat, and instead chose to serve as willing mouthpieces for denialist fossil fuel interests."

    Kevin Trenberth, climate scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research: "These results are disturbing. ... It is evident that the networks are gun shy about climate change, most likely because advertisers demand it.  It is a very sad state of affairs that the science of climate change and the continuing evidence about it is hidden from listeners.  What is done about the problem should be a separate matter entirely from whether we have a problem. Climate change is already with us and is causing mostly adverse effects every day, but the public is not well informed."

    Liz Perera, Sierra Club climate policy director: "This past year, we have seen unprecedented progress tackling the unprecedented danger that climate change poses to our families, yet the major networks seem to dedicate more time to covering the Kardashians than this public health crisis. Americans deserve to know the truth about how the climate crisis is affecting the world around us and how clean energy is helping solve the problem. Ignoring that reality only serves the interests of the big polluters and undermines the health and well-being of all American families."

    David Arkush, managing director of Public Citizen's climate program: "It is beyond shocking that broadcast network coverage of climate change declined in 2015. If we don't act quickly to mitigate climate change, it will cause devastating harm to our economy, our health, and our security. Last year's high temperatures shattered the previous record, set just one year earlier. At the same time, 2015 was probably the most momentous year in history on climate change, with a landmark Paris deal, the Obama Administration's rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline, the first-ever federal rules curbing carbon pollution from power plants, the Pope's encyclical, and more. The media should be covering climate change as if it were World War III, and they have plenty of material to work with. It's a travesty of journalism to commit such a small and declining amount of air time to the existential threat we face from runaway greenhouse gas emissions."

    Riley Dunlap, environmental sociologist at Oklahoma State University: "I am not surprised that there was more TV coverage of climate change denial in 2015, as historically there is a pattern of the 'denial machine' ramping up its efforts whenever the possibility of meaningful action on climate change seems imminent.  This began with the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, and has continued, so I'm not surprised to see more coverage of denialists last year because of the Paris [climate agreement].  The conservative think tanks and front groups behind the denial campaign, and the small number of contrarian scientists aligned with them, have great success in obtaining media exposure in general.  And they really go into overdrive when they fear that national legislation or an international treaty could be enacted.  The disappointing thing is that mainstream media still give them a forum."

  • STUDY: PBS Remains Gold Standard For Coverage Of Campaign Finance Reform

    Six Years After Citizens United, Coverage Of Campaign Finance Reform Has Room For Improvement

    ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    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.

  • As Trans-Pacific Partnership Debate Rages, Broadcast Evening News Stays Silent

    Media Largely Ignore Negotiations Of Sweeping Free Trade Deal

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    Broadcast nightly news programs have remained silent on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) over the past three months of weekday programming, even as Congress is scheduled to vote this week on whether to grant President Obama authority to finalize the terms of the massive trade deal. The coverage blackout continues a trend extending back to 2013.

    On May 12, the Senate plans to vote on legislation that would grant "fast-track" trade promotion authority to Obama as he attempts to complete negotiations among the 12 member nations that comprise the TPP. "Once Congress grants a president trade promotion authority, lawmakers have the ability to vote up or down on a final trade agreement, but they forfeit the right to amend the deal or filibuster it," The New York Times explained.

    Debates over the merits of the deal itself and of granting the president trade promotion authority have erupted among Democratic and Republican members of Congress, but coverage of the negotiations has been largely absent from evening news programming on the major broadcast networks.

    A Media Matters analysis of ABC's World News Tonight, CBS Evening News, and NBC's Nightly News from August 1, 2013, through May 10, 2015, found that the programs completely ignored the trade negotiations and related policy debates. Only PBS NewsHour devoted substantive coverage to the TPP, with 14 total segments:

    PBS NewsHour Is Completely Alone Covering The Trans-Pacific Partnership

    Coverage of the TPP among major cable outlets has been similarly one-sided. Since August 1, 2013, MSNBC has mentioned the Trans-Pacific Partnership in 124 evening and primetime segments, the overwhelming majority of which (103) came during The Ed Show. Fox News trails far behind with just 12 mentions of the TPP over that time period, 10 of which have come since February 1, 2015. CNN has been almost completely absent from the discussion, registering only 2 mentions of the trade negotiations:

    If Not For MSNBC, Cable Viewers Would Know Little About TPP

    Previous research, including Media Matters' methodology, on the lack of media attention for Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations dating to August 2013 can be found here, and here.

  • PBS' Newshour Provides A Much-Needed Lesson To Right-Wing Media In Covering Racial Disparities In Education

    Blog ››› ››› LIBBY WATSON

    A segment on PBS' Newshour provided an example of how media should cover racial disparities in school discipline and educational achievement -- as well as a stark contrast with how right-wing media outlets have covered the same issues.

    On the April 1 edition of PBS' Newshour, April Brown reported on the beginning of a new initiative in Washington, DC called the Empowering Males of Color initiative, and noted that some are concerned that the focus on boys of color leaves girls of color behind. The segment featured Kimberlé Crenshaw, a UCLA law professor, who pointed to the greater racial disparity in school discipline for girls than boys. The report went on to cover broader racial disparities in education, including the lower college graduation rate, and after-school programs such as Higher Achievement that are designed to help both boys and girls of color. 

    The Newshour segment was detailed and thoughtful -- providing a striking contrast with the way these issues have been discussed in right-wing outlets. Bill O'Reilly recently covered programs designed to reduce racial disparities in school discipline by declaring that "liberal mayors all over the country are making it easier for violent students to remain in public schools." National Review Online has published several articles that painted an image of black children as inherently more likely to need discipline: a post by Heather Mac Donald said it was "common sense that black students are more likely to be disruptive"; another post cited the "lack of impulse control" of black students (as evidenced, she argued, by higher crime rates among black people). An NRO editorial described optional guidelines from the Department of Justice and the Department of Education to address these disparities as being the administration's "most foolhardy idea yet"; Fox News host Megyn Kelly bashed that same DOJ policy as "handcuffing our educators" and needlessly "bringing race into it." 

    Newshour's nuanced discussion on racial and gender disparities in education seems far out of reach for outlets like Fox and NRO, which fall at the first hurdle in attributing racial disparities to the characteristics of children of color, and not systemic injustice. 

  • PBS Sets The Standard For Nightly Climate Coverage

    Blog ››› ››› KEVIN KALHOEFER

    In 2014, PBS NewsHour provided far more climate change-related segments and interviewed far more climate scientists than the nightly news programs at ABC and NBC, while also outperforming CBS. Additionally, like CBS Evening News, PBS NewsHour managed to avoid airing any segments that provided a platform for climate science deniers, whereas NBC Nightly News and ABC's World News Tonight both featured a segment in which a guest either denied that climate change is occurring or questioned the scientific findings of the National Climate Assessment.  

    Although it airs for twice as long as its broadcast network counterparts, PBS NewsHour's number of climate segments and scientists more than made up for this difference, particularly in comparison to ABC's World News Tonight. PBS NewsHour, which runs for 60 minutes, aired 45 reports last year that covered climate change. By comparison, CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly News, and ABC's World News Tonight, which are each 30 minute programs, aired 22, 14, and 11 climate-related reports in 2014, respectively. PBS NewsHour's 45 climate-related reports were a substantial increase over 2013, when the program aired 35 such reports.

    Nightly News Coverage Of Climate Change

    PBS NewsHour also provided scientific perspectives in climate change stories more often than any of the other major networks, interviewing or quoting 27 scientists over the course of the year. In comparison, CBS Evening News and NBC Nightly News interviewed or quoted 11 and 7 scientists, respectively, while ABC's World News Tonight interviewed or quoted just two scientists.

    How Often Did Nightly News News Programs Talk To Scientists About Climate Change?

    Scientists lent their insight on a range of topics on PBS NewsHour, providing perspective on landmark reports on climate change, describing the impact of climate change on wildlife habitats, and illustrating how climate change is already having an impact on communities in places as disparate as Alaska and Florida. For example, in a two-part special on climate change's impacts in Alaska, PBS NewsHour interviewed paleoclimatologists, geophysicists, oceanographers, and ecologists to detail how climate change is threatening local wildlife and a centuries-old way of life for many Alaskans.

    The recent announcement by NOAA and NASA that 2014 was the warmest year on record should serve as the starkest reminder yet that climate change is an issue deserving of mainstream media coverage. The networks' nightly news programs -- and ABC's World News Tonight in particular -- would do well to follow PBS NewsHour's lead by improving the quality and quantity of their climate change coverage.

  • Five Years After Citizens United, Media Coverage Of Its Sequels Is Lacking

    Little Scrutiny Given To Legal Effects Of The Fall Of Campaign Finance Regulation And Rise Of Corporate Personhood

    Blog ››› ››› MEAGAN HATCHER-MAYS

    This January marks the fifth anniversary of Citizens United v. FEC, the 2010 Supreme Court case that expanded the idea of "corporate personhood" by ruling that the First Amendment protects a corporation's right to make unlimited expenditures in support of political candidates as a form of speech. Network news coverage of its legal impact, however, has largely ignored how the Supreme Court continues to aggressively expand the decision.

    This expansion of corporate rights has wide-ranging consequences, even outside of the context of campaign finance deregulation. The court's decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, for example, seemed to embrace the idea that corporations are capable of morally objecting to contraception coverage, co-opting yet another constitutional right -- that of religion -- that had previously been reserved for people, not businesses.

    In terms of election law, the conservative justices further dismantled campaign finance restrictions in 2014's McCutcheon v. FEC, which struck down aggregate campaign donation limits and allowed wealthy donors to contribute money to a virtually unlimited number of candidates and political parties. The court will hear yet another campaign finance case on January 20 called Williams-Yulee v. the Florida Bar, which could strike down a Florida rule that prohibits judicial candidates from directly soliciting money from donors -- a rule that was put in place in response to a serious corruption scandal that resulted in the resignations of four Florida Supreme Court justices.

    Yet despite the cascade of decisions from conservative justices intent on dismantling campaign finance regulations and rewriting corporate rights -- and the majority of Americans who support a constitutional amendment that would overturn Citizens United -- the media have largely underreported this story.

    Here are four graphics that illustrate this failure.