Author Page | Media Matters for America

John Kerr

Author ››› John Kerr
  • The subtle and nuanced take on climate change from Trump ally Alex Jones

    Blog ››› ››› JOHN KERR

    Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones has repeatedly bragged about his communications and influence with President Donald Trump. During the presidential campaign, Trump even appeared on Jones’ show, praising Jones’ “amazing” reputation and vowing not to let him down.

    As Trump withdraws from the Paris climate accord, here’s a look back at Alex Jones’ perspective on climate change

  • How Sinclair Broadcasting purchasing Tribune Media could help Trump get re-elected

    Blog ››› ››› DAYANITA RAMESH & JOHN KERR

    Local TV news conglomerate Sinclair Broadcast Group is purchasing Tribune Media Group. Sinclair and its affiliates have a history of airing far-right reporting and commentary, its executives have donated to Republicans, and Sinclair even hired former Trump adviser Boris Epshteyn as its chief political analyst. With all the Tribune media stations that are located in big cities and swing states, Donald Trump’s re-election campaign is about to get a big boost:

  • Protesters At The White House Speak Out About Trump, Russia, And The Media

    Blog ››› ››› DAYANITA RAMESH & JOHN KERR

    Protesters gathered at the White House a day after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey. Media Matters was there and spoke to activists, protesters, and people simply on their lunch break who wanted to take a stand. Here's what they had to say about Trump, Russia, and the media:

    Sarah Wasko created the drawing and visual elements in this video.

  • Climate Change Is Getting Worse And So Is Media's Coverage Of It

    Blog ››› ››› DAYANITA RAMESH, JOHN KERR & KEVIN KALHOEFER

    Broadcast networks are decreasing their climate coverage at a time when the case for reporting on the issue is become more and more compelling. By ignoring this serious matter, media are failing to inform audiences about pressing impacts on human migration patterns, women, and the economy.

    In 2016, media had no shortage of compelling reasons to cover climate change -- from the revelation that it was the third consecutive hottest year on record to the United States’ election of a climate denier to its highest office. Yet broadcast news outlets’ coverage of climate change dropped a whopping 66 percent from 2015 to 2016, making it the third consecutive year of declining coverage.

    When media turn a blind eye to climate change, they ignore an issue that will have devastating impacts and multiply existing threats across the globe. According to The New York Times, unmitigated climate change could displace between 50 million and 200 million people by 2050. But the effects of climate change are already visible. Un the U.S. last year, the federal government allocated $48 million in grants to resettle residents of Isle de Jean Charles in Louisiana, which represents “the first allocation of federal tax dollars to move an entire community struggling with the impacts of climate change.”

    Climate change poses a particular threat to women. A whole host of studies have concluded that women will bear the brunt of climate change-induced natural disasters and severe weather events. According to a United Nations analysis, “Women are more vulnerable to the effects of climate change than men—primarily as they constitute the majority of the world’s poor and are more dependent for their livelihood on natural resources that are threatened by climate change.” The analysis also stated, “When coupled with unequal access to resources and to decision-making processes, limited mobility places women in rural areas in a position where they are disproportionately affected by climate change.”

    The prospect of a warming planet also presents a huge risk to the global economy. Researchers at Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley found that climate change could "reshape the global economy by reducing average global incomes roughly 23% by 2100 and widening global income inequality." The National Climate Assessment reported that in the U.S., “more than 5,790 square miles and more than $1 trillion of property are at risk of inundation from sea level rise of two feet above current level by 2050.” Not surprisingly, Bloomberg recently reported that most of the world’s biggest investors now consider climate change when making investment decisions.

    More and more Americans are waking up to the threat of climate change. Recent polls have found that a majority of Americans are concerned about global warming and believe action should be taken to address it. And yet there’s an inverse relationship between Americans’ growing concern about climate and the media’s coverage of it.

    By dropping the ball on climate change, media are doing audiences a huge disservice. As Washington Post Deputy Weather Editor Angela Fritz wrote, “The media have a responsibility to report the facts. If scientists agree an extreme weather event was made worse by climate change, viewers need to know that, not just because it is true, but because people do think it’s a problem. I don’t know whom network news and Congress are serving by turning a blind eye to climate change, but according to these poll results, it’s not the voters.” 

  • VIDEO: How News Outlets Fail Rape Survivors

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN, DAYANITA RAMESH & JOHN KERR

    April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, but based on the way most news outlets cover sexual assault and harassment cases year-round, it seems they didn’t get the memo.

    Since the month of awareness was officially instituted in 2001, the goal has been to educate the public about sexual violence and teach people how to prevent it. Yet media tend to make the same three mistakes when covering cases: They blame victims, they treat offenders like the “true” victims, and they almost exclusively cover cases that confirm pre-existing cultural biases about “believable” survivors and culpable offenders.

    Although high-profile cases that dominate media coverage may make sexual assault seem like an isolated problem, the National Sexual Violence Resource Center reports that “one in five women and one in 71 men will be raped at some point in their lives.” Similarly, the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey found that “nearly half” of survey respondents “were sexually assaulted at some point in their lifetime.” Given the sheer number of challenges survivors face when reporting sexual assault and harassment, these numbers are likely much higher. According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, 63 percent of rapes and sexual assaults already go unreported.

    Beyond cases of rape and assault, sexual harassment is also rampant in the United States. Although Fox News has finally parted ways with Bill O’Reilly after multiple women reported that he sexually harassed them, the problem goes beyond him or even the network.

    After 2005 footage that showed President Donald Trump bragging about sexual assault was leaked to the media last year, networks downplayed the severity of his comments -- calling them merely “vulgar” or “lewd” -- and attacked the credibility of the women who came forward with specific allegations against him.

    Sexual assault isn’t just “vulgar” -- it’s unacceptable. And what’s really “vulgar” is media’s refusal to call it what it is. This is rape culture: the willingness to treat sexual assault or harassment as natural, inevitable, or acceptable. Rape culture not only silences survivors, it’s also at the root of why stalking, domestic violence, and workplace and online harassment are so pervasive: People treat these behaviors as if they’re normal or somehow the recipients invite them.

    Media have an obligation to cover the issue in a fact-based and stigma-free way.

    First, media need to ditch the victim-blaming rhetoric and quit treating survivors as if they are even partly responsible for what happened. Survivors are not, and will never be, responsible for inciting acts of sexual violence. Period.

    When writing about sexual assault and harassment, choosing the right words is crucial to clearly, accurately, and compassionately communicate with broad audiences. A report from the Columbia Journalism Review found that when reporting on sexual assault, media rely on “leading language, scant statistics, and a whole lot of victim blaming” -- all of which contribute to downplaying and at times dismissing sexual violence allegations. Similarly, the Dart Center for Journalism instructs media to “avoid any language that might imply that the [survivor] is responsible in any way.”

    Media coverage around former Stanford student Brock Turner showed that media outlets also tend to treat offenders as the real victims -- sympathetically highlighting past accomplishments, or bemoaning the costs to their careers.

    Particularly when offenders are high-profile figures, media treat the issue as merely a “scandal.” Writing about allegations against his father Woody Allen, The Hollywood Reporter’s Ronan Farrow explained how these reactions cultivate a “culture of impunity and silence” around reporting on sexual assault allegations. By getting caught up in a cult of celebrity -- even when focusing on a deserved fall from grace -- media can either trade fact-based reporting for access or lose sight of their “obligation to include the facts, and to take them seriously.”

    Finally, media scrutinize every move made by a survivor -- how they dressedwhen they reported, and even their possible “ulterior” motives. While doing so, they tend to focus on cases that confirm pre-existing cultural biases about the identities of survivors and offenders.

    Sexual violence happens in a wide variety of contexts and communities. And more often than not, survivors know their assailants prior to the assault. Nevertheless, media fixate on the myth of the “perfect victim”: an unrealistic expectation that believable victims of sexual assault are attractive, innocent white women who unwittingly provoke attack from an unknown (usually non-white) predator. As MSNBC’s Irin Carmon reported, accounts of sexual assault shouldn’t have to “be black and white, starring a perfect victim and a perfect set of villains, in order for us to get outraged.”

    Rather than fixating on only these “perfect” examples, media should cover cases from across the spectrum of experience, and they should provide audiences with critical context about the widespread nature of sexual violence.

    Sexual assault isn’t just a problem at Fox News or in “other communities”; it’s all around us. People look to the media to tell stories about their lives and the world at large, so reporters and outlets have an obligation to educate audiences about this reality and correct harmful misconceptions.

    If the Trump-era media have shown us anything so far, it’s this: Survivors deserve far better.

  • VIDEO: Media Can't Ignore The Voices of Activists

    Blog ››› ››› DAYANITA RAMESH & JOHN KERR

    In a time of historic protests and activism against bigoted and hateful policies of President Donald Trump and his administration, news outlets need to scrap the so-called “fair and balanced” panels of pundits and politicians speculating and judging protests from a studio.

    Since day one of the Trump administration, there have been organized efforts around the country to protest the president’s policies. These include the Women’s March On Washington in January which mobilized an estimated 3.6 to 4.6 million protestors around the world, demonstrations at airports across the U.S. a week later to protest banning and detaining Muslim travelers, the International Women’s Day Strike, the upcoming Tax Day March in April to pressure Trump to release his full tax returns, the People’s Climate March in the same month, and the Immigration March in May. Journalists can no longer ignore the activists, organizers and protestors who are taking to the streets and to town halls across the country to demand accountability and change.

    Media have dismissed the protests as spectacles, alleged that they are being staged, or falsely claimed that the protesters are paid to show up. Activists have been central to the evolution of American democracy and have fought for policies that are more inclusive and that better their communities.

    News outlets need to let activists tell their stories.

  • VIDEO: Fox News Is Extremely Racist

    Blog ››› ››› JOHN KERR

    Three black women are currently suing Fox News over "top-down racial harassment." Bill O'Reilly recently made racist remarks against Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), the latest in the star Fox host’s long history of bigoted remarks. And it’s not just O’Reilly -- the entire network is filled with bigotry. Here is a supercut showing the worst of Fox News’ putrid racism:

  • Alex Jones Is Not Bragging

    Blog ››› ››› JOHN KERR

    Conspiracy theorist and Donald Trump ally Alex Jones wants to be very clear that he is not bragging when he says the things he says.

  • The White House Is Gaslighting The Media (And The Entire Country)

    Blog ››› ››› DAYANITA RAMESH & JOHN KERR

    President Donald Trump’s administration is gaslighting America. He lies, reporters fact-check him, then he and his team spin the lies to blame the "biased" and "dishonest" media. Trump's team wants to create a world where no one knows what to believe, where facts and reality are irrelevant, and all that matters is what Trump says matters. Gaslighting reporters is one part of the administration’s war with the press -- just another way for his team to try to make the media's role as truth-tellers obsolete.

    And here’s the kicker: It’s not just the Trump administration. It’s also propaganda outlets tied to Trump. They rush to reinforce Trump’s false narratives with his base, which only puts mainstream outlets in a tougher position.

    Some journalists, like Teen Vogue's Lauren Duca, have already made it clear they won't fall for Trump's ploy. It's important that the rest of the media learn that same lesson. The future of American democracy depends on journalists, reporters, and everyday Americans rising above Trump’s gaslighting and calling the president out on his lies. It’s not the Trump administration’s place to decide what is true or false or set the frame of reference. In America, that role belongs to the free and fair press.