(AP) The American media has drifted toward tabloid journalism and has been cowtailed by the Bush administration over its coverage of events such as the war in Iraq, a congressional panel organized by Michigan Rep. John Conyers said Tuesday.
“The vast majority of the mainstream media is not only unwilling to accurately report on the failings of the administration, but the few who do have fallen victim to scapegoating and retribution,” said Conyers, a Democrat. “We have turned from breaking stories like Watergate and the Iran-Contra scandal to celebrity journalism.”
Conyers organized the hearing in the aftermath of Newsweek’s retraction of a report that claimed investigators had found evidence the Koran was desecrated by interrogators at the U.S. naval prison at Guantanamo Bay.
He recently led 88 members in Congress in writing President Bush to demand information about reports in the British media that the United States and Great Britain secretly agreed to invade Iraq in the summer of 2002.
The Downing Street memo, as the report has been called, was cited by panelists as an example of important news that has failed to receive adequate attention from U.S. news outlets.
Conyers released an analysis by Congressional Research Service that found the Downing Street memo received no coverage from evening news shows on major cable TV outlets in the days after its publishing in Great Britain. But stories on runaway bride Jennifer Wilbanks and the Michael Jackson trial were covered extensively.
White House spokesman Trent Duffy said the White House is not a media critic.
“The president is a strong supporter, as is the White House, of a free, vigorous, and aggressive press in America like we are in emerging democracies overseas,” Duffy said.
Al Franken, a comedian and the host of a liberal radio show, cited a study conducted by a research group at the University of Maryland that found prior to the war, many Bush voters believed Iraq had weapons of mass destruction or a program to develop them.
He said the attitudes were created by “the right-wing media in league with the Bush administration and corporate-funded think tanks and abetted by an intimidated mainstream media scared of its own shadow.”
Randi Rhodes, the Air America radio host, said ratings for top cable television news outlets have declined because viewers are turned off by coverage.
“People have decided the news has been canceled and so they do no watch. Nor do they trust the news to report the most important stories of the day,” Rhodes said.
CORRECTION, May 31: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Randi Rhodes as a Florida radio host.