Foulest media memos
January 2002

In a recent column, media watchdog Norman Soloman awarded prizes for the foulest media performances of 2001. The award for Protecting the Viewer from the News goes to CNN's Walter Isaacson: "It seems perverse to focus too much on the casualties or hardship in Afghanistan," said Isaacson in a memo ordering his staff to accompany any images of Afghan civilian suffering with rhetoric that U.S. bombing is retaliation for the Taliban harboring terrorists. As if the American public may be too feeble-minded to remember Sept. 11, the CNN chief explained: "You want to make sure that when they see civilian suffering there, it's in the context of a terrorist attack that caused enormous suffering in the United States."

Soloman's "Protecting Readers from the News Prize" goes to the Panama City Florida News Herald. An October internal memo from the daily warned its editors: "DO NOT USE photos on Page 1A showing civilian casualties from the U.S. war on Afghanistan. Our sister paper . has done so and received hundreds and hundreds of threatening emails. DO NOT USE wire stories which lead with civilian casualties from the U.S. war on Afghanistan. They should be mentioned further down in the story. If the story needs rewriting to play down the civilian casualties, DO IT."

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