The wall between editorial and business is thinner than ever, according to "Fear & Favor: How Power Shapes the News," a new report from Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting. This is a time capsule from a year when journalists came under ever more pressure by government, advertisers, and their own bosses to "shape or slant news content." Herewith a few of FAIR's "most outrageous and instructive examples," culled from published reports.
After Campbell's Soup bought eight infomercials, ABC encouraged the hosts of The View "to weave a soup message into their regular on-air banter," and Barbara Walters was quick to comply. "Didn't we grow up . . . eating Campbell's Soup?" she asked on-air one day, to which her colleagues replied, "M'm! M'm! Good!" When a reporter for The Idaho Statesman turned in an investigative piece on Micron Technologies, his bosses sent the text to Micron for prepublication review. The Statesman called the practice "good journalism." Micron is the area's largest employer. ABC News is dominated by an "atmosphere of self-censorship and timidity." Producers there regularly refrain from reporting on companies that compete with their parent Walt Disney Co., and they nixed a story on executive compensation because it might draw attention to millionaire Disney chair Michael Eisner. Said one producer, "No one here wants to piss off the bosses."