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Not a voice you're likely to hear on the national television news.
If you think you don't see much coverage of unions on national television news, you're not wrong. A new study finds that, over a three-year period, ABC, CBS, NBC and CNN aired just 141 stories in which unions and the labor movement were either the primary or secondary topic. That's out of an estimated 16,000 news stories aired on the four networks, so less than 0.3 percent of all news stories.

The study, conducted by Federico Subervi of the Texas State University School of Journalism and Communications and commissioned by The Newspaper Guild, found that it's not just that unions didn't get much attention in the news. Coverage of labor issues often didn't include any union point of view, with CBS not using even one union source in 24 percent of its stories on labor; NBC omitted union voices from 19 percent of the stories, ABC from 10 percent and CNN from 9 percent. Also:

Subervi found that the pattern of portrayal of unions was negative, with workers critical of unions more likely to be heard. “One clear example was the case of a production crew member who was losing income and having financial difficulties due to the lack of work during the Writers Guild of America strike,” Subervi writes. “But the news failed to have any statement pointing to the corporations’ failure to reach an agreement.”

Additionally, he found that news about labor and unions related to the field of education and the automobile industry included more governmental sources than labor sources. “The news treatment thus presents the government as the organized party willing to provide solutions, but not the labor/union negotiators,” he writes.

These conclusions resemble those of past studies, which have found that media coverage is often slanted against collective economic action and toward business and elite interests. Nothing you can't pretty much pick up on by watching the news yourself, but it's good to have a more methodical approach to draw on.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Wed Apr 03, 2013 at 09:25 AM PDT.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions and Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Thank you for this diary. Many folks who blog (16+ / 0-)

    here may not even be old enough to know that at one time, most major newspapers also had a 'labor' section, to balance the 'business' section.'

    So it is incumbent upon progressive voices in alternate media to help unions get their message out!


    "Only he who can see the invisible, can do the impossible."-- Frank L. Gaines


    by musiccitymollie on Wed Apr 03, 2013 at 09:43:59 AM PDT

  •  The Lena Dunham press (14+ / 0-)

    There's no doubt that the dominant bias in the press is toward the financial interests of the corporations who own the media. It's easy to see in coverage of unions and energy.

    More recently it seemed like I was flooded with articles in progressive news sources about the new season HBO's show Girls. I wondered why that show was getting so much attention when there are plenty of others worthy of commentary. Then I started noticing how many of the writers for progressive magazines, blogs and such fit the same profile. They're mostly New Yorkers with Ivy League degrees. Even on the left, we overwhelmingly have a Lena Dunham press corps of young Northeasterners from privileged backgrounds. Stories about unions and "flyover country" are beyond their experience, so it's no wonder those topics are overlooked.

    •  ...I like that... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      'The Lena Dunham Press.' I like that. It has a certain ring to it.

      Of course, you have to be a privileged northeasterner with an Ivy League degree (preferably living in NYC or LA) to get the full meaning of the phrase...

    •  I just "love" it when women like Tina Brown (10+ / 0-)

      and Arianna Huffington are paraded in front of the news camera as representative of "women in the workplace", as if they have a real perspective of what it's like to climb your way up from the bottom among a group of men, or deal with other day-to-day problems of the average working woman.  (Must be really hard to start a business when you're already a millionare, and don't have to worry about financial security.)
        When will the TV media start interviewing real women who weren't pretty enough to make it to the top, or who were pushed out of their line of work for being competent ?

      My Karma just ran over your Dogma

      by FoundingFatherDAR on Wed Apr 03, 2013 at 10:33:57 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Can we stop (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Egalitare, Batya the Toon

        using phrases like real women?  

        Even if Ms. Huffington inherited money or did not do the work that a woman on the ground floor had to do to build herself up, I am really tired of the real men/real women meme going around.

        I see it with fat women vs. skinny women.  I see it with muscled women vs. curvy women.  I see it here now with women inheriting millions vs. from-the-ground up women.  They're all real women, and come to life from different backgrounds.  We can debate the merits of those women in context of 'did they earn this?' but I am solidly standing against any kind of debate where 'real women', or 'real men' for that matter, are invoked.

        "You have to let it all go, Neo. Fear, doubt, and disbelief. Free your mind." -Morpheus, The Matrix

        by Sarenth on Wed Apr 03, 2013 at 09:49:37 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Union voices.... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    musiccitymollie, Sarenth

    Not at all surprising to see the survey showed that few of the union stories on TV news included the voices of union members/officials themselves.

    This is largely the fault of unions, not TV producers. I recently came across a case where street picketers were told by their union reps not to allow themselves to be interviewed by TV crews. Nor would the union officials go on camera, despite invitations to do so.

    No movement that seeks public support can expect to succeed if it hobbles itself through fear and loathing of the mass media.  

    •  Is it possible - from that example - (7+ / 0-)

      the union wanted to provide official spokespeople who could speak to the action?

      "So, please stay where you are. Don't move and don't panic. Don't take off your shoes! Jobs is on the way."

      by wader on Wed Apr 03, 2013 at 10:03:19 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  This is WAY too anecdotal (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      libnewsie, Sarenth

      for me to give it any credence. You "recently came across a case"---what case, what circumstances, where, IOW, supply a link or be more specific.

      Your one unsubstantiated "example" does not equal your summary statement:

      No movement that seeks public support can expect to succeed if it hobbles itself through fear and loathing of the mass media.  
      Sorry, but this is ridiculous.  I could give you plenty of examples where union leaders have spoken out, and all but begged for more coverage. One need look no further than the recall initiative in Wisconsin to see just how UN-loathing of the media unions were in that case

      No sir. The problem is labor issues in this country are RARELY covered, re-read this article if you didn't get it the first time. Everyone out there shouting about jobs, but no one willing to look at just what that means, at what wage, under what conditions, and who decides those things.

      "A typical vice of American politics is the avoidance of saying anything real on real issues." Theodore Roosevelt.

      by StellaRay on Wed Apr 03, 2013 at 08:26:25 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •   I miss Ed Shultz already. n/t (10+ / 0-)

    "The United States is a nation of laws: badly written and randomly enforced." -Zappa My Site

    by meagert on Wed Apr 03, 2013 at 10:05:16 AM PDT

    •  Yes. Thank you. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      akze29, meagert, andalusi

      That's what I intended to comment on here too. Ed was the ONLY major media outlet for labor. He was a fucking champ when it came to that, put his microphone out there in Wisconsin so many times. Covered it on his show so many times. In fact, I'm pretty sure most of the tiny percentage of  stories about labor referenced in this article happened on either Ed's TV or radio show.

      And I just need to get this off my chest, so pre-apologies for the rant. But I'm so sick of hearing some progressives whine about how angry Ed always was, how loud he was, how aggressive and in their face he was. In fact, I wrote a diary about the loss of Ed to Chris Hayes.

      Not linking to pimp my diary, it's over and past. But it does say how I feel about the loss of Ed's voice on prime time. I'm not saying he was perfect or did everything right, but who does?

      I am saying his voice for labor in prime time is a terrible loss to the progressive cause, and I'm tired of folks saying yeah, he was a good voice for labor BUT...

      Until we have another such voice with as big of a platform the progressive cause will be hobbled.  Because it's not just about unions, it's about the working class, which includes most of us.

      Union issues are a just a part of it--- the minimum wage, workers' rights, stagnant wages, the fact that many Americans are doing 3 jobs for the price of one while major companies sit on their profits and tell us these are lean times, and I could go on and on.

      Ed talked about that. Almost every fucking night. Rachel doesn't, Lawrence doesn't, Chris doesn't, Al doesn't. And no, I don't think Chris Hayes is going to either.

      Ok, I'm done. Thanks for listening, to those who did.    

      "A typical vice of American politics is the avoidance of saying anything real on real issues." Theodore Roosevelt.

      by StellaRay on Wed Apr 03, 2013 at 08:45:22 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I thought the majority of the coverage (14+ / 0-)

    of the December demonstrations against union busting legislation in Michigan was very hostile to unions and union workers.

  •  CBS This Morning anchor Gail King cut off a guest (13+ / 0-)

    talking about an issue from a liberal perspective (environmental, IIRC) , saying "there are two sides to every story [ we have to hear from the other side now]."  Yet that same show has on a long string of CEOs and other business "leaders", with very few (if any) employee representatives from those same companies or  industries.
      So much for "two sides" on CBS.

    My Karma just ran over your Dogma

    by FoundingFatherDAR on Wed Apr 03, 2013 at 10:23:40 AM PDT

    •  I heard that! I really (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      unionblue, libnewsie, akze29

      pissed me off. Labor takes a hit, not matter the network. They're all still in thrall to supply side economics.

      "The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now do you begin to understand me?" ~Orwell, "1984"

      by Lily O Lady on Wed Apr 03, 2013 at 07:27:03 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Yep, (0+ / 0-)

      it's profoundly ridiculous when a corporate "news" talker like Gail King finds it necessary to elbow out the liberal perspective to make yet MORE room for "the other side of the story" which gets about 90% of the pie all day and every day across the scope of the media.

      In fact, I'm thinking about how much of the media in general is dedicated to the right wing, positive or negative.  Even this site spends a great deal of its time talking about the right.

      Yeah, they're a crazy bunch, very juicy from a "talk" stand point. Makes me wish for a cadre of loonies from the left, so that we too, might be discussed day in and day out.

      Because the fact is, the right IS dominating the conversation in the media today, and of course, much of it to their detriment. But that doesn't change the fact that we're centered on arguing about and from THEIR POV, instead of about and from the liberal POV.

      "A typical vice of American politics is the avoidance of saying anything real on real issues." Theodore Roosevelt.

      by StellaRay on Wed Apr 03, 2013 at 09:11:24 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Isn't a union just a bunch of (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Larsstephens, MPociask, LordMike

    whiny, lazy people who want more money for nothing?

    That's what it looks like on TV to me.

    What's the point of letting neoliberals into the tent when neoliberalism is burning down the campground?

    by Words In Action on Wed Apr 03, 2013 at 11:43:17 AM PDT

  •  There is an Alternative The Union Edge (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Larsstephens, unionblue

    on Working Family Radio

    The Julianna Michigan Show on Itunes and Podbean.

    by libnewsie on Wed Apr 03, 2013 at 12:26:48 PM PDT

  •  activists (10+ / 0-)

    I grew up union. So, I raised my daughter to know and understand her rights in the workplace. she questions her bosses and reminds them when they are breaking the law. It's hard, and it's scary and she's found that when she talks to her co-workers, they are willing to put up with the law breaking because it's a good paying part time job for a university student. At $10 an hour at UMD, it's not bad pay. But that doesn't give anyone the right to break the law.

    Labor isn't often covered because of the money interests and how little anyone in the Press wants to talk to an average worker. More locals should do press training for members so that they can learn at the local level how to get their message across and into the local papers. I don't think you need one spokesperson, you need thousands. So, let's train ourselves and get out there. I kind of wish Media Matters partnered with the AFL-CIO and together worked on the kind of training programs that could really make a difference for locals.

    •  local coverage key.... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Eyesbright, libnewsie, akze29

      Local coverage is key. The enormo-corporate media can only be cracked if they are shown to be out-reported by the local yokels. Besides, a dirty secret of big media is that they steal shamelessly from local sources all the time.  

    •  I think it has to do w/interlocking directorates. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      The same owners of the people who are on Boards of Directors own the people who determine what makes it to MSM or the advertising dollars the MSM gets.

      MSM is a captive of the major pharmaceutical corps, energy corps, manufacturing corps, insurance (financial corps) etc. and the boards of directors by power of their dollars determine what gets said on MSM.

      It's not difficult to figure out. Unions could (but don't) threaten them at all.  
      Given that more than half the workers in America receive wages less than that of the 1970's and jobs are scarce at best if available at all, while corps make absolutely record profits, workers are desperate for any wage.
      Workers are terrified of losing the measly pay they get while simultaneously  losing benefits that used to be common.

      To mention the word "union" in the workplace is a ticket to being unemployed.

      Those who make five hundred times what their employees earn won't stand for any discussion of unions.
      Walmart, five people who inherited their wealth and power have as much as 141,000,000 Americans (one hundred forty-one million people don't have what 5 people inherited). That's absurd. Those five, who won the DNA lottery, didn't earn it. They inherited it and now they and their ilk own the legislators and MSM.

      Complaining will only lead to homelessness and starvation for your family.
      A concerted, nationwide strike by all employees, in every union(of course the owners of our gov't have made that illegal and punishable by imprisonment) in the country would capture attention, but maybe not any changes. It would have to be a very looooong strike and a lot of people would die and be imprisoned.
      There really are no reasonable choices for workers.
      Wages will continue to go down and jobs will continue to be eliminated. The billionaires have a strangle hold.
      This is no longer a democracy, it's a capitalist utopia.
      Capitalism has crushed democracy.
      It only takes a few dedicated sociopaths to destroy a democracy. And we have more than a few.

      "I freed a thousand slaves, I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves" Harriet Tubman

      by BrianParker14 on Wed Apr 03, 2013 at 07:59:14 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  What do you expect from fake journalism? (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eyesbright, Lily O Lady, unionblue, akze29

    They serve their masters well.

    Going faster miles an hour, with the radio on.

    by Troubadour on Wed Apr 03, 2013 at 06:57:34 PM PDT

  •  "Should the Minimum Wage Be Abolished?" (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    unionblue, KJB Oregon, akze29

    ...That's the subject of a debate that's going to be sponsored tomorrow by WAMU, my local NPR station.

    It's COMPLETELY disgusting.

    Which is why unions should be sponsoring NPR stations, much as the corporate pigs do.

  •  Why would the corporate owners of a TV station (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eyesbright, unionblue, Whatithink

    ...encourage positive (or even balanced) news reporting about unions, when the unions are clearly in opposition to everything that corporations are doing to workers, wages and working conditions?

  •  Back during Reagan's reign (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eyesbright, LordMike, unionblue, akze29

    republicans were pushing for media consolidation. It is part of their longterm strategy for world domination (I say this in jest but not really).  This is the result of their great success.

    Remember when monopolies were a bad thing?

  •  Of Course. Media Companies Have to Deal w Unions (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LordMike, unionblue, akze29, Sarenth

    so the last thing they're going to do is advance the union cause.

    Every new angle you view the free press concept, it looks even worse than it did from the last.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Wed Apr 03, 2013 at 07:13:20 PM PDT

  •  Owners of the media controls coverage... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Jim R, LordMike, KJB Oregon, akze29

    as I still haven't gotten over the lack of coverage of the protests against the Iraq war, ten years ago.  

    The networks will go 24/7 on a Lindsey Lohan court appearance.  

    But, when the worst international mistake of a decade by the USA was about to happen, all we got was a few seconds of video and soundbites on the evening news.

    You had to go to the internet to discover how widespread the protests were.

    BTW, why isn't Judith Miller, formerly of the New York Times, the poster girl for everything wrong with the media, in jail?

    That's right, she's now a regular contributor on Fox News Watch.

    *Austerity is the opposite of Prosperity*

    by josmndsn on Wed Apr 03, 2013 at 07:17:19 PM PDT

  •  And that makes the media different (0+ / 0-)

    from either of the Two Parties . . . how again?

    Dogs from the street can have all the desirable qualities that one could want from pet dogs. Most adopted stray dogs are usually humble and exceptionally faithful to their owners as if they are grateful for this kindness. -- H.M. Bhumibol Adulyadej

    by corvo on Wed Apr 03, 2013 at 07:22:40 PM PDT

  •  Not grokking 141/16000 < 0.3% (0+ / 0-)

    That's what the study says though.

    Disclaimer: If the above comment can possibly be construed as snark, it probably is.

    by grubber on Wed Apr 03, 2013 at 07:23:05 PM PDT

  •  Back in the Glorious Fifties (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LordMike, akze29, smileycreek

    Remember Ike,Lucy,and Whites only golf? All this was paid for by the top tier tax rates near 95% and just about everyone else working for their union.

  •  Since Reagan the narrative in this country (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    josmndsn, LordMike, KJB Oregon, akze29

    Has been to turn worker against worker, and particularly against unions. Unions are portrayed as hurting competitiveness, and thus costing jobs. It's a lie, of course, but the narrative has been successful in decimating the middle class, stripping workers of their voice, rights and protections. A spectacular race to the bottom for for most Americans. It will turn around, eventually, when people get sick enough of being treated like rabble and of seeing plutocrats like the Kochs and the Walton's living like emperors. The media has been guilty of piling on, and a big part of that is that anti labor corporate ownership.

  •  In NY, WNEW News had a reg. labor reporter (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Victor Riesel. I uploaded a clip of him reporting on the labor environment in the summer of 1978:

    Riesel is wearing sun glasses because in the late 1950's a violent capo in the Gambino family known as Johnny Dio ordered one of his thugs to throw acid in his face. Riesel's ended up blind and Dio (who was the bases for the Lee J. Cobb character in 'On The Waterfront' was jailed for the attack (Dio had the acid thrower killed shortly after the attack for asking for more money.)

  •  I was watching... (0+ / 0-)

    ...a block of commercials from the late 70s recently on YouTube and not only did they have one from GM in which a worker praised his union but there was also one from the Ladies Garment Workers Union that was nearly a minute long (!) and ended with a group of workers singing an anthem together (!!!!)

    And this was national advertising on CBS.  Could you even imagine anything like that ever happening today?

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