Janine Jackson

‘The people with the least resources are now shouldering the greatest burden’

Janine Jackson interviewed educator Kevin Kumashiro about student debt forgiveness for the June 28, 2019, episode of CounterSpin. This is a lightly edited transcript.

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‘It’s an attempt to impose a white nationalist vision of what America is’

Janine Jackson interviewed author Sasha Abramsky about Trump’s new attack on immigrants for the August 23, 2019, episode of CounterSpin. This is a lightly edited transcript.

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Here's how Black communities are already living in a tech dystopia

Janine Jackson interviewed Ruha Benjamin about racism and technology for the August 9, 2019, episode of CounterSpin. This is a lightly edited transcript.

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How journalism is helping to normalize the concentration camps

Janine Jackson interviewed Arun Gupta on Trump’s concentration camps for the July 12, 2019, episode of CounterSpin. This is a lightly edited transcript.

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‘The FBI Appears to be engaged in a modern-day version of COINTELPRO’: ACLU Racial Justice Program deputy director

Janine Jackson interviewed Nusrat Choudhury about FBI targeting of black activists for the April 12, 2019, episode of CounterSpin. This is a lightly edited transcript.

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Why won't corporate media call out 'racism' by its real name?

It should go without saying that things we don’t have names for…go without saying. For years, that’s been the deal with corporate media and racism. Actions, policies, statements and ideas that regular people have no trouble identifying as racist become, in elite media hands, “racially tinged,” “racially charged,” “race-related.” And if racism isn’t a thing our famously objective reporters can see, well, maybe it’s not really out there, right?

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Washington Post Refuses to Acknowledge That This White Supremacist Senate Candidate Really Means It

A few things about Virginia Republican Senate candidate Corey Stewart:

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‘Our Health Care Crisis Won’t Be Solved Until We Get Private Insurance Out’

Janine Jackson interviewed Margaret Flowers about undermining single-payer healthcare for the March 2, 2018, episode of CounterSpin. This is a lightly edited transcript.

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‘There’s an Alternative to the Top-Down Capitalist Corporation’

Janine Jackson interviewed Richard Wolff about questioning economic fundamentals for the February 9, 2018, episode of CounterSpin. This is a lightly edited transcript.

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The FBI Is Once Again Profiling Black Activists Because of Their Beliefs and Their Race

Janine Jackson: Demonstrations continue in St. Louis, Missouri, over the acquittal of former St. Louis police officer Jason Stockley of first degree murder charges in the 2011 killing of Anthony Lamar Smith. Very likely some protesters would tell you they are distraught and angry, not just about this case, but about the undeniable fact that US law enforcement rarely pay any penalty for murdering black people, whatever the circumstance. According to an FBI intelligence assessment recently leaked to Foreign Policy, that may make those people "black identity extremists."

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How Republicans Get a 10% Vote Advantage with Gerrymandering and Voter Suppression

CounterSpin's Janine Jackson interviewed AlterNet's Steven Rosenfeld on Republican gerrymandering. Read the interview below. 

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Pundits Will Pay No Price for Being Arrogantly Wrong About Trump

The Washington Post‘s Dana Milbank (10/2/15) said he would eat the page on which his column was printed if Donald Trump gained the Republican nomination. “The entire commentariat is going to feel a little silly when Marco Rubio wins every Republican primary,” tweeted the New York Times‘ Ross Douthat (9/25/15). “Trump Will Still Lose. Here’s How,” said Bloomberg News (1/7/16). “No, Donald Trump Won’t Win,” lectured David Brooks (New York Times12/4/15). And on and on.

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Nike CEO Phil Knight Brags About His ‘Entrepreneurial Edge,’ While His Company's Worker Abuses Are Beyond the Pale

USA Today (4/26/16) featured what the paper promoted as a “rare interview” with Nike founder Phil Knight. He offers his opinion that “international trade agreements benefit both nations, always”—the paper doesn’t correct him when he overstates US GDP growth since NAFTA by more than 300 percent—and his worry that the United States might be losing some of what’s called “the entrepreneurial edge that propelled him and fueled Nike.” Students he meets, Knight laments, seem “more pessimistic.”

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Media Asking Wrong Questions on North Carolina’s ‘Bathroom Law’

In the wake of North Carolina’s new law banning transgender people from using restrooms that correspond with their gender identity in publicly run facilities and schools, you will have heard media asking what things like the cancellation of a Bruce Springsteen concert might mean for the state’s economy.

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Polluter Interests Have Been Spending Millions on Disinformation Campaigns

Janine Jackson interviewed David Baron about new pollution rules for the October 2 CounterSpin. This is a lightly edited transcript. To listen to the interview, click here.

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Watch: This Is How the Mainstream Media Covered the Brown and Garner Grand Jury Announcements

This week on FAIR TV: Fox News' Ferguson grand jury coverage just got worse and worse; the New York Times article on Eric Garner case implies officer's arm had a mind of its arm; and ABC News excessively 'covers' the new Star Wars trailer from its parent-company Disney.

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Watch: 3 Big Mainstream Media Blunders This Week

This week on FAIR TV: The media misframe the Keystone XL debate, TV journalists have some odd ideas about war and what NPR actually asked Bill Cosby.

Watch the new episode below: 

Watch: The Mainstream Media's Big 3 Blunders This Week

On FAIR TV this week: Time attacks public school teachers, a look at a new GOP tactic on climate change denial and campaign coverage that omits the non-voting majority.

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Watch The Mainstream Media's Top 3 Blunders This Week

On FAIR TV this week: The mainstream media continues its ISIS fearmongering. Sunday talk shows think hosting two pro-war pundits is a "healthy debate"  Plus, corporate media tries to un-link fracking and water contamination, despite new study linking them 

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Watch: Mainstream Media's 3 Biggest Blunders This Week

On the show this week: Media reactions to the police shooting of Mike Brown and the protests in Ferguson. Plus a look at the pundits' reaction to Obama's Iraq bombing and the efforts of two papers to cast doubt on the death tolls numbers from Gaza.

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Mainstream Media's 3 Biggest Blunders This Week

On the show this week: The idea that the surge of US troops is what "won" the Iraq War shouldn't be treated as if it's a fact. Plus we look at who NBC tapped for his Iraq/Iran expertise.  And media tried to tell us what we need to know about a powerful Republican lawmaker. They failed.

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Corporate Media's Top 3 Biggest Blunders This Week

Editor's note: Each week, Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) takes on the media's biggest blunders. This week on FAIR TV, they look at how TV news uses the word "terrorist." They also take on CNN's non-debate on Hillary Clinton as well as USA Today's labelling of Walmart protesters as "party poopers."

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The Mainstream Media's Top 3 Biggest Blunders This Week

Editor's note: Each week, Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) takes on the media's biggest blunders. This week on FAIR TV, they look at how TV news has been upset that China spies on U.S. companies — but they don't mention that the U.S. spies on Chinese companies. They also take on the media's failure to connect the dots on climate change as well as Meet The Press's new series "Meeting America" and how the show keeps meeting the same people. 

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The Mainstream Media's Top 3 Biggest Blunders This Week

Editor's note: Each week, Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) takes on the media's biggest blunders. This week on FAIR TV, they look at CNN's climate change "debates." They also take on the media's erasure of the CIA's role in the polio health emergency and ABC's love for all things Disney. 

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Watch: The Mainstream Media's Top 3 Biggest Blunders This Week

Editor's note: Each week,  Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) takes on the media's biggest blunders. This week on FAIR TV, they take a look at how The New York Times printed inaccurate photos concerning Russians in Ukraine — and then failed to correct it. They also take on MSNBC's Meet The Press' assertion that Obama is 'weak' on foreign policy and CNN's complete insensitivity to drone victims.

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Watch: The Mainstream Media Worries Christie's Public Perception Will Change from "Tough-Talking Pragmatist" to "Bully"

Editor's note: Each week,  Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) takes on the media's biggest blunders. This week on FAIR TV, they take a look at how the media conducted image management on Chris Christie's bully stature. They also take on how the international press cover politicians' personal scandals, and Time magazine's early election coverage.

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How the Mainstream Media's Coverage of Mandela Attempted to Rewrite History

Editor's note: Each week, Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) takes on the media's biggest blunders. This week on FAIR TV, they take a look at how the media misremembered Nelson Mandela. They also take on a dubious USA Today poll on the White House's nuclear pact with Iran.

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Watch: How The Media Covered Obama's Inauguration (And More) This Week

Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) takes on how the media covered Obama's inauguration, the anonymous Iran truth teller and drones.

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Watch: How The Media Covered Bradley Manning's Trial, Taxes and Poverty This Week

The stories that came out due to the information Bradley Manning allegedly leaked have been explosive, front page news. But his trial? Not so much. And Maria Bartiromo told Meet the Press that tax increases on the wealthy are really tax increases for everyone. And why was a Starbucks $450 gift card front page news at USA Today– right underneath a stirring piece about poverty?

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The Corporate Media Is Shamelessly Pretending Racism Died When Obama Got Elected

There were early indications that corporate media coverage of Barack Obama’s candidacy would be squirm-inducing, putting on display the elite (mainly white) press corps’ murky ideas about race much more than any straightforward reckoning of black Americans’ situation or what an Obama presidency might mean for their concerns.

Journalists were sometimes embarrassingly frank about how they interpreted Obama’s blackness and what they hoped his success might mean. “No history of Jim Crow, no history of anger, no history of slavery,” declared NBC’s Chris Matthews (1/21/07). “All the bad stuff in our history ain’t there with this guy.” “For many white Americans, it’s a twofer,” opined the New Republic (2/5/07). “Elect Obama, and you not only dethrone George W. Bush, you dethrone [Al] Sharpton, too.” (See Extra!, 3–4/07.)

Looking to find parallels for the “stuff” they did like, journalists turned to fiction, as when Jonathan Alter (Newsweek, 10/27/08) alleged that voters “decided they liked Obama when he reminded them more of Will Smith than Jesse Jackson,” or when CNN (6/22/08) told viewers that Michelle Obama “wants to appear to be Claire Huxtable and not Angela Davis.”

The fondest hope seemed to be that an Obama victory (if not his strong candidacy alone) would absolve us of any need to talk about racism any more. Newsweek’s Howard Fineman (5/14/08) wrote that, in announcing his run for office, Obama was making a statement: that his candidacy would be the exclamation point at the end of our four-century-long argument over the role of African-Americans in our society. By electing a mixed-race man of evident brilliance, moderate mien and welcoming smile, we would finally cease seeing each other through color-coded eyes.

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Wal-Mart: Always Deep Pockets, Always

In January 2005, readers across the country all saw the same thing in their morning paper: an ad for Wal-Mart. That in itself is no surprise -- Wal-Mart is, after all, the largest corporation in the world -- but this particular ad, which ran in more than a hundred papers, was different: it consisted of a rebuttal of arguments lodged by the retail behemoth's critics.

Subject to condemnation for business practices ranging from low pay and stingy healthcare benefits to exporting jobs and destroying small businesses, Wal-Mart is also the subject of litigation, including a class action discrimination suit representing 1.6 million current and former female workers who accuse the company of systematic underpayment and lack of promotion.

The ad blitz was something of a two-fer for Wal-Mart, since many outlets thought it interesting enough to report as actual news, including USA Today, which ran two stories on it.

It was just part of a PR offensive that included big-money charitable donations (dutifully reported) and an April invitation to reporters to its Bentonville, Ark. headquarters for a "media day." The session was described as a "feisty response to critics" and a chance for Wal-Mart to "defend" itself and "dispel myths." Journalists were reportedly enjoined "to clear their minds of previous articles about the company and 'start with a clean slate'."

But the media image of a beleaguered corporation at last responding to a "horde of critics" raises at least one question: Just how tough has media scrutiny of Wal-Mart really been? "You've heard the firestorm of criticism about the company, about wages, benefits, union-busting, about locking employees in, about making them work overtime without paying them for it," ABC's Charlie Gibson said in introducing a Good Morning America interview with CEO Lee Scott. But how much have most people really heard about these issues?

There has without question been some hard-hitting investigative reporting on Wal-Mart's controversial business practices, including a 2003 Los Angeles Times series that nabbed a Pulitzer Prize, and a probing report on PBS's Frontline.

More typical, however, are accounts like Time's "Wal-Mart Nation." Focusing on Wal-Mart's Chinese enterprises, the article has an undeniably cheerleading theme: Wal-Mart is staging a "revolution" in China, in part by "spreading a management style that many of its young Chinese employees find liberating."

Time introduced "quintessential Wal-Mart guy" Joe Hatfield ("I was blessed to work for Sam Walton") and followed his tour through a Shenzhen Wal-Mart, where, he enthused, "We're bringing people a great shopping experience!" "Chinese customers," Time added helpfully, "seem to agree."

As in many articles, what criticisms were included Time allowed Wal-Mart to trump. What about complaints that the industry giant's use of cheap overseas labor undercuts U.S. workers? Time left unchallenged Hatfield's response that "if you stop stuff from [abroad] coming into the U.S., it would mean $180 blue jeans. Is that what Americans want?" Time didn't point out that it's easy to find U.S.-made jeans for less than $30.

But the magazine did step in when a spokesperson from Sweatshop Watch noted that Wal-Mart's policies make it "both a beneficiary and a driver of the race to the bottom in the global economy." The article followed the statement with its own rebuttal: "But that may be less true than it was 20 years ago." Many of Wal-Mart's suppliers are operating in countries like Taiwan and Hong Kong, Time explained, and had long ago left U.S. workers. So Wal-Mart "may indeed be eliminating factory jobs, but in South Korea, not South Carolina." It's unclear how this undermined the point that Wal-Mart drives the economic race to the bottom; it seems more an argument that it's been largely successful.

For those worried about sweatshop conditions, Time offered comfort: "Wal-Mart says it's trying to export its American-style standards and ethics to China's manufacturing sector too." Time presents the company matter-of-factly as "forcing suppliers to stick to ethical standards" (despite Chinese resistance), and claimed that "even those critical of Wal-Mart concede" that those standards are improving conditions.

In fact, the critic quoted underscored that such rules only work when enforced, a point on which the company, facing lawsuits on behalf of contractors' employees from Nicaragua to Swaziland, is frequently criticized, and which more skeptical reporting has illustrated. A hidden-camera investigation by NBC's Dateline, for example, found that corporate "codes of conduct" were not necessarily meaningful guides to life inside a factory in Bangladesh.

Press accounts have frankly celebrated Wal-Mart's reputed toughness on suppliers in the U.S. as well. A May 8, 2005 New York Times piece presents a company executive demonstrating how she might call a supplier on the carpet: "'Hello.... Where are the bananas? We're supposed to have 3 percent in this trail mix.'" "Quality control," reported the Times, "is rigorous."

Such admiration-tinged anecdotes would sit strangely side by side with, for example, the company's official contention that executives "knew nothing about" the hundreds of illegal immigrants being used to clean stores in 21 states, and that in any event it was contractors, not Wal-Mart, that were responsible for the janitors' treatment. The same presumably went for the child laborers Wal-Mart settled lawsuits about in Connecticut, New Hampshire and Arkansas.

In the last year or two, Wal-Mart has become a more prominent advertiser on news programs, occasionally to the dismay of news consumers. Some NPR listeners, for example, weren't pleased with Wal-Mart's new role as a frequently mentioned "underwriter" of NPR programming. Ombudsman Jeffrey Dvorkin dismissed the complaints in an online column: "NPR is a mature and robust news organization. It would take more than a few Wal-Mart underwriting messages to corrupt its journalistic integrity."

This stance raises an obvious question: If we needn't worry about the effects of corporate money on news values, what's the point of public radio? In any case, NPR's post-underwriting coverage of the retail behemoth does little to quell concerns.

Take Tavis Smiley's NPR program (cited in The Nation), which featured a one-on-one interview with Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott just before local voters weighed in on a proposed Wal-Mart site in Inglewood, Calif., a largely African-American suburb of L.A. (The company lost.) Smiley, whose programs are supported by Wal-Mart, gave Scott an easy time, marveling that employees at Wal-Mart's Arkansas headquarters call him by his first name, and pitching softball questions like: "Of all the criticisms that are leveled at Wal-Mart these days, which ones do you find most troubling? Which one do you really say, 'You know what? This kind of allegation we will not tolerate'?"

Smiley was open about his approach in a September 5, 2005 Time magazine article about Wal-Mart efforts to "court" the African-American community. Claiming his relationship with Scott and Wal-Mart allows him to raise issues "in private," the host said he doesn't begrudge more adversarial approaches. "You need a good inside game and a good outside game," Smiley explained.

NPR overall would seem to share that attitude. A review of a year's worth of the network's Wal-Mart coverage by Eesha Williams in the Massachusetts Valley Advocate failed to turn up any "hard-hitting investigative journalism." Williams singled out a puff piece All Things Considered ran regarding a supposedly eco-friendly store Wal-Mart opened in Texas. Williams pointed out that NPR failed to quote any environmental experts on the overall impact of a company "well-known for building its mammoth stores and parking lots on prime farmland in a location customers have to drive to even when there is vacant retail space in a walkable downtown."

Wal-Mart's role as a premium advertiser is even more apparent on ABC News programming. The company's ads air regularly on ABC's World News Tonight, and Wal-Mart sponsors the program's "Person of the Week" segment, as well as the "Only in America" series on ABC's Good Morning America. (The company also entered into an exclusive perfume marketing deal with an ABC soap opera.)

It's only natural to wonder whether such close commercial ties affect ABC's coverage of Wal-Mart. Some ABC reports have noted rather mundane Wal-Mart-related developments, like a Virginia store's "singles night" mentioned on Good Morning America.

Of greater concern is coverage of more serious issues, as when Wal-Mart went to court in early August to defend itself in the class-action sex discrimination lawsuit. On World News Tonight, ABC ran a segment that included a quote from plaintiff Chris Kwapnoski -- before going to three sources to criticize the case, starting with Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott. Steve Bokat from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce echoed Scott, calling the suit "fundamentally unfair."

ABC reporter Geoff Morrell also reported that "economists say [the lawsuit] could have a chilling effect on big retailers, forcing them to raise prices and implement stricter policies for promotion." To back up that point, the broadcast went to Tim Kane of the right-wing Heritage Foundation: "It will make the management risk-averse: that adds cost to you and me." No other economists were quoted.

About a month later, ABC displayed more Wal-Mart cheerleading. In an echo of Time's piece three months earlier, World News Tonight showed viewers "how Wal-Mart is changing the way the Chinese shop." Correspondent Bill Weir called attention to singing Wal-Mart workers and the "brightly-lit aisles" where "China's exploding middle class is discovering the novelty of free samples and a wide selection of everything." A customer praised the store ("It's big, it's clean ... and you feel good here") and Wal-Mart's Joe Hatfield praised his customers ("Talk about price conscious").

The only other source in the report was Jim McGregor, identified as the author of One Billion Customers but not as senior director of Stonebridge International, "a global business strategy firm that helps U.S. and multinational companies ... seize business opportunities worldwide." McGregor enthused about the new efficiency Wal-Mart has brought to the Chinese economy, saying that Wal-Mart's suppliers had to "clean up their act to compete."

ABC's Weir also praised Wal-Mart for that efficiency:

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