Slick Spins and Fractured Facts: How Cultural Myths Distort the News

Overview

"P.M.S. Affects Millions." "More Blacks in Prison Than in College." "Working Women Stressed Out." "Campus Thought Police Vs. Free Speech." "Asian Influx Raises Questions On Campus."
We read headlines like these in newspapers and magazines every day, or hear them on television and radio broadcasts, and we're expected to take them at face value. But can we really believe that the media are giving us "just the facts"? Veteran journalist Caryl Rivers investigates the story behind "All the News That's Fit to Print." ...
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Overview

"P.M.S. Affects Millions." "More Blacks in Prison Than in College." "Working Women Stressed Out." "Campus Thought Police Vs. Free Speech." "Asian Influx Raises Questions On Campus."
We read headlines like these in newspapers and magazines every day, or hear them on television and radio broadcasts, and we're expected to take them at face value. But can we really believe that the media are giving us "just the facts"? Veteran journalist Caryl Rivers investigates the story behind "All the News That's Fit to Print." In Slick Spins and Fractured Facts, she demonstrates that "the news" is whatever the homogenous clan that runs America's print and broadcast media says it is.
In this witty, persuasive, on-target book, Rivers turns the camera back on the media, taking a hard look at the players who shape the news. She shows how this group--upper-middle-class whites--filters the news through their barely recognized self-interest and ideologies.
Slick Spins and Fractured Facts presents a raucous wealth of examples showing how the interests, values and viewpoints of this close-knit group inform the stories that appear again and again in the American media. The result is the perpetuation of gender, race, and class stereotypes from one generation to the next, as the media focus on problems of the present while paying scant attention to history and the mistakes of the past. Other perspectives, she contends, are usually considered "biased": a gay journalist, for instance, must go to great lengths to prove that he or she can be impartial.
Drawing on a rich array of news stories, Riversexplores the media's typical treatment of women, African Americans, welfare recipients, immigrants, crime and criminality, and multiculturalism. From the media war on Hilary Clinton to the media blitz that accompanied Charles Murray's The Bell Curve, from the sordid details of Tonya Harding's working-class upbringing to the media-sponsored character assassination of the alleged "quota queen" Lani Guinier, Slick Spins and Fractured Facts analyzes the ways the media put their own spin on the news items of our sound-bite generation.
With as much humor as indignation, Rivers shows how the media pursue a deeply biased agenda, ignoring the currents of prejudice and primal fear that inform their version of reality. Slick Spins and Fractured Facts pierces the cultural myths that inform the media, compelling us to question our assumptions and offering hope for coming generations of journalists to promote a more inclusive understanding of "the news."
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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
A spirited reading of the daily papers, with an eye to uncovering the cultural and political forces that shape the news.

Most Americans, writes Boston University journalism professor Rivers, do not follow current events. This is less out of ignorance than because the makers of news and of newspapers do not represent their interests: "Working-class voices—not to mention those of poor people—are rarely heard on op-ed pages. The exotic minutiae of foreign policy, the endless inside-the-beltway battles, are the stuff that interests elite journalists." What also interests elite journalists, she argues, are sensational stories that play to cultural myths that are not borne out in reality; in this vein, she examines matters like the so-called bell curve, which excited so much attention a couple of years ago, and which she believes reflects racist attitudes among the power elite and the media that serve it; and much-trumpeted stories like the one that claimed women over the age of 35 have as much chance of being killed by terrorists as they do of getting married. (Not true, Rivers says: The claim is the result of bad math being "hyped into a phony trend.") Rivers's aim is wide, and sometimes scattershot; she notes that few people will soon forget Lorena Bobbitt, but that the "thousands of women who are shot, beaten, maimed, and burned by their male partners each year" will forever remain nameless. She doesn't acknowledge that the Bobbitt case was in fact newsworthy if only for its unusualness. Still, she undertakes thoughtful analyses of a number of cases to show how the media becomes an actor in making the news, and she is usually convincing, especially when she takes on notions of objectivity in news reporting—reporting that, she argues, is inherently biased in favor of the status quo.

Students of the media will want to have a good look at this deconstruction of the headlines.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780231101523
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press
  • Publication date: 6/6/1996
  • Pages: 250
  • Product dimensions: 6.24 (w) x 9.35 (h) x 0.91 (d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction
1 Totem and Taboo: The Culture of the News Media 1
2 Put the Blame on Eve, Boys: The Devil Made Her Do It - Or Maybe It Was Just Her Tiny Brain 17
3 Unruly Bodies: Is It PMS, or Just the Wrong Side of Her Brain? 31
4 Dragon Ladies: Give Women Power, and Who Knows What Will Happen 44
5 Vanishing Acts: How Good News About Working Women Disappears 59
6 Monkey Business: Why the Media Love Our Primate Cousins 75
7 Born to Be Bad: The Fault, Dear Brutus, Is in Our Genes 89
8 Flash-Feminism Is Still Dead: But It's Bad for You, Anyhow 102
9 Thought Police, Tribes, and Victims: The Media and Multiculturalism 114
10 Quota Queens Meet Affirmative Discrimination: When Fairness Comes Under Fire 132
11 Strangers Among Us: Zoo Stories and Ice Queens 143
12 The Color of Evil Is Black: The Media Demonize the Black Male 156
13 Was Dan Quayle Right?: Or Did the Media Buy a Pig in a Poke? 168
14 Comforting the Comfortable: Does News Coverage of the Poor Bolster the Status Quo? 184
15 The War on Welfare: How the Media Scapegoat Poor Women 198
16 The Call of the Wild: Are Journalists a Slavering Pack? 213
Notes 225
Index 241
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