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Who Really Gets Preference
in the Media?

by Paul Rockwell
Oakland, California

There is a lot of self-righteous talk in the media about so-called preferences for women and people of color. But it's time to turn the tables on Pete Wilson and the opponents of affirmative action. It's time to ask: Who gets the big advantages in America? Who controls the public airwaves where the affirmative action debate is framed? Who really gets preference in the media?

Nightline, produced by ABC News is considered to be the preeminent public affairs program. In 1989, Extra (a publication of FAIR, the best media-watch organization in the U.S.) published the results of a detailed 45-page study of Nightline. The study is called. "Are You On The Nightline Guest List?" Its findings are relevant to the present controversy over affirmative action and preference.

Look who gets preference on, Nightline. Not the poor. Not labor. Not working people. Not small business. And not women and minorities. Not by a long shot.

FAIR demonstrated that Nightline reflects a "profoundly elitist perspective." Nightline is overwhelmingly white, male, and its white, male hosts fawn over centrist, right-wing "experts". Its limited range of guests, its huge preferences for white men of power, conveys a distorted view of the world.

"Nightline serves as an electronic soapbox from which white male elite representatives of the status quo can present their case. Of U.S. guests, 89 percent are men. 92 percent (for whom race was identifiable) are white.'' On international issues, 94 percent of the guests are men." And when women do appear, the men still are given more time to express themselves.

Paul Rockwell, formerly assistant professor of philosophy at Midwestern University, is a writer and children's librarian in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Published in In Motion Magazine December 20, 1995.