American journalists are quick to expose government scandal if the offending party is the Soviet Union, Iraq or Iran, say media watchdogs Jeff Cohen and Norman Solomon. But when it comes to exposing U.S. government mistakes, mainstream journalists revert
to Now it can be told! reportage, exposing scandal only after those responsible cannot be held accountable, argue Cohen and Solomon, co-authors of a syndicated column on media criticism.
In 1988 an American warship shot down an Iranian civilian airplane in the Persian Gulf, killing 290 people. Nightline host Ted Koppel reported that the plane was outside of the commercial air corridor and the ship was in international waters. Al
most three years later, Nightline revealed that the plane was actually flying within the commercial air corridor, and the U.S. warship was located in Iranian territorial waters.
Now Koppel talks disdainfully of a Reagan administration party line, but in 1988 his show was a key disseminator of that line, the co-authors say.
When hundreds of Panamanian civilians were killed in the 1989 U.S. invasion, those deaths were widely reported throughout Latin America, but it took CBS 60 Minutes nine months to cover the story.
A month before the Gulf war, the Village Voice ran a cover story regarding the Bush administrations financial and military aid to Saddam Hussein, but not until recently has the issue been addressed by mainstream journalists. According to Coh
en and Solomon, establishment journalists parrot the official line until the truth is less threatening to the powers that be. The truth eventually reaches the American public, they say, but by that point the blood has already been shed.