This fine piece points out just how powerful and dangerous
media hegemony is to our democracy.
THE UNMAKING OF A PRESIDENT-2004
Howard Dean supporters across the country were surprised when
they woke up Tuesday morning, January 19, to read reports of Dean's
unexpected third place finish in the Iowa caucuses.
Gov. Dean started 2003 with little name recognition and even
less campaign funding. Through the summer he spread the old familiar
theme of power to the people, mostly through the Internet, and
Americans by the hundreds of thousands responded with their support
and dollars. We wanted to take our country and the Democratic Party
Then in late 2003, the media, which had anointed Dean as the
front runner, started to attack him. By the time of the Iowa
caucuses, the polls showed him plummeting and the media's new
darling, Senator John Kerry, soaring.
Kerry's remarkable overnight turnaround even surprised the
candidate himself who gleefully declared he was the "Comeback
Meanwhile, the Center for Media and Public Affairs (CMPA), a
nonpartisan, nonprofit research organization in Washington, DC,
which conducts scientific studies of the news media, was monitoring
the nightly network news broadcasts that are the source of news and
information for most Americans.
The results of the CMPA study, released January 15, 2004,
revealed that Gov. Dean received significantly more negative
criticism on the network broadcasts while his Democratic
presidential competitors received significantly more positive
comments. The research examined 187 stories broadcast on the ABC,
CBS, and NBC evening news in 2003.
Only 49 percent of all on-air evaluations of Gov. Dean in
2003 were positive while the other Democratic contenders received 78
percent favorable coverage.
In a follow-up study by CMPA, of the network coverage of the
candidates from January 1 to January 18, the night before the Iowa
caucuses, revealed that the networks selected Kerry and Senator John
Edwards before the Iowa voters did. As you may recall, Kerry
finished first with 38% fo the vote; Edwards ranked second, just
below Kerry, with 32%; and Dean managed only a poor third with 18%
of the vote. During the two-and-a-half week period leading up to the
Iowa caucuses, there had not been a single negative word uttered
about Edwards by the three networks (100% favorable coverage) while
nearly all, 96%, of the comments about Kerry were positive.
However, Gov. Dean's coverage during those first 18 days of
January was significantly less glowing with 42% unfavorable on-air
What happened in the campaign that inspired the media to turn
on Dean and throw their support to uninspiring Kerry?
A clue may be found in a story published in the Washington
Post on November 19, 2003.
The Post reported that, "In an interview Monday night
(11/17/03), Dean unveiled his idea to 're-regulate' utilities, large
media companies and businesses offering employee stock options. He
also favors broad protections for workers, including the right to
Also on November 19, the Associated Press reported, "Dean,
the former Vermont governor, said Tuesday that if elected president,
he would move to re-regulate business sectors such as utilities and
media companies to restore faith after corporate scandals such as
Enron and WorldCom."
Dean's idea of re-regulating two out-of-control business
sectors produced criticism from some of his competitors and surely
struck a raw nerve within monopolistic utilities and mega-media
I believe Dean's progressive attack on monopolies helps
explain why the corporate media started piling on Dean, portraying
him with the pejorative term of the "angry candidate."
But while this helps explain why the media went after Dean,
it doesn't explain why they suddenly anointed Kerry as their Golden
However, it would appear that Kerry would not pose a threat
to corporate America while Dean would obviously challenge their
First, a search of Lexis Nexis, a comprehensive computer
databank of news and information, failed to find a single comment by
Kerry supporting re-regulation of media companies. In fact, Gov.
Dean was the only major candidate who ventured into no-man's-land to
criticize media monopolies and even threaten to break them up when
We then discovered a newly published book by the Center of
Public Integrity (CPI), a nonprofit, nonpartisan group that does
investigative reporting and research on public policy issues. The
book is titled, "The Buying of the President 2004: Who's Really
Bankrolling Bush and his Democratic Challengers - and What They
Expect in Return, (Harper Collins, 2004)
According to CPI, the three largest fundraisers in the
presidential campaign at this time are Howard Dean with more than
$25 million; John Kerry with more than $20 million; and, of course,
President George W. Bush with $85.2 million (as of Sept. 30,
As has been reported, Bush plans to build a war chest of some
$200 million for the election. His top major donors include
financial firms Merrill Lynch & Co., Credit Suisse First Boston,
UBS Paine Webber, and Goldman Sachs Group. The President's top
career donor is the scandal-ridden Enron Corp.
Kerry's top donors include Fleet Boston Financial Corp., Time
Warner, and a variety of major law firms. Time Warner, as we know,
is the world's largest media conglomerate. Among a variety of media
outlets, it also owns Internet giant America On Line and CNN - a
virtual cheerleader for Kerry.
The research Center does not cite any major donors for Dean.
As we know, the majority of his contributors are ordinary citizens
who donate an average of $77 dollars. Dean's "special interest
group" is the American people.
Finally, we come to a January 28, 2004, report from "The
Campaign Desk," which produces a daily analysis of the 2004 campaign
and is sponsored by the Columbia Journalism Review at Columbia
The non-partisan "Campaign Desk" reported that it is
concerned "when the press singles out one candidate for the kind of
mauling and piling on by exaggeration and distortion that Dean has
endured in the past week.
"On CNN last night, Judy Woodruff joined the mob at 10:42
p.m. when she suggested that perhaps Dean's lower-key post-election
address in New Hampshire means that he was 'preparing his minions,
all of his supporters, for the fact that he may not win this
"That's neither fair nor journalism," "The Campaign Desk"
There may be a limit to the piling on. When Wolf Blitzer
polled his CNN viewers on January 25, "Are the media unfairly
characterizing Howard Dean's post-Iowa loss rally?" 89% said
emeritus, Sonoma State University, Founder of
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