SOLOMON: A Pop Quiz About News Judgment

With summer almost gone and schools back in session around the country, now is a good time for a pop quiz on news coverage. Don't worry -- this "test" won't be graded. It's up to you to decide which answers ring true.Today's quiz is multiple choice.1. When America Online gained control of Compuserve the other day, there wasn't much concern expressed in news media because:a) "Anti-trust" is an obsolete idea that just belongs in history books.b) America Online was already huge, with 9 million subscribers, so 2.6 million more are no big deal. c) Key media conglomerates -- like Disney, Westinghouse and Time Warner -- have grown even larger because of recent mergers and buyouts, so they're hardly inclined to make an issue of such consolidation of media power.2. Cyberspace continued to be a great subject for thousands of adulatory news stories over the summer because: a) Everybody loves to sit in front of computer screens. b) Color graphics are more nifty than ever on the World Wide Web.c) Few journalists seem bothered by the fact that the Internet is well on its way to becoming mainly a broadcast medium dominated by a few corporations.3. Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright visited a Jerusalem hospital last Wednesday for a widely reported photo-op with Israeli victims of terrorism. What are the chances that Albright will ever visit a Lebanese hospital for a photo-op with civilian victims of the periodic bombing raids by Israeli air force jets?a) 50-50.b) One out of 100.c) Roughly equivalent to the odds that you'll win a lottery and collect several million dollars.4. The death of Princess Diana was the biggest American media story of the season. That's because: a) No other event in the world was more important. b) She was extraordinarily nice and helped a lot of charities.c) She was a glamorous mega-celebrity with stylish clothes who boosted TV ratings and magazine sales as soon as she died. 5. In their first two issues of September, the nation's top news magazines, Time and Newsweek, devoted all four covers and a total of 129 pages to Princess Diana's life and death. Meanwhile, those magazines ignored many issues that deeply concern a broad range of Americans. This is an example of journalism: a) Giving people what they want.b) Telling people what they want.c) Telling people what they want and then giving it to them. 6. Many American reporters and pundits explained that Diana was heroic because she struggled to overcome adversity as a single mother. However, the same reporters and pundits are much more likely to vilify than praise this country's millions of low- income single mothers. That's because:a) Princess Diana endured more adversity than impoverished single mothers do.b) Princess Diana tried harder to be a good mom than they do.c) Generally, news reporting and punditry are respectful of the rich and disdainful of the poor.7. In the mainstream media, hundreds of stories and commentaries have been very critical of the paparazzi because: a) Unlike the photographers who make big money by hunting down celebrities as quarry, the owners of mainstream media are committed to placing public service above profits. b) It's moral to sell millions of dollars worth of TV commercials for repetitive specials about a dead princess but immoral to sell photographs of a live princess. c) This has been a wonderful opportunity for mass-media outlets to tout their own moral superiority in a profitable manner.

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