Framed! Labor and the Corporate Media

“Framed! Labor and the Corporate Media,” by Christopher Martin.

Reviewed by David Swanson

May 27, 2004

I didn’t need to be told that the corporate media do a horrendous job of covering organized labor. What this book tells us that I have not seen analyzed so well elsewhere is what the thought processes look like that lead to this horrendous coverage.

It’s simple enough to observe that the media support capital and work against the concerns of workers. But why are there exceptions to this rule? And what are the thoughts going through a producer’s head? I am certain that few producers or editors routinely think to themselves “Hey, here’s a good way we can hurt workers.” It would hurt the members of the media themselves too much to think such thoughts. What do they think instead?

According to Christopher Martin, five main themes organize their thinking. The first is that the consumer is king. The media are able to cover labor disputes without touching on the workers’ demands or difficulties and while blaming labor unions, through the simple guise of viewing all events from the point of view of the consumer. For example, more attention is paid to tourists’ travel delays than to the reasons airline employees have for going on strike. And through the “objective” technique of quoting “both sides” without commenting on the accuracy of the claims, the media often manage to distort the facts, even though that is not what they think of themselves as aiming to do. The direction in which they distort the facts is effected by the second and third themes.

The second theme is that the process of production is none of the public’s business. The point of view that the media adopt is one of a consumer uninterested in how a product or service is produced and only interested in acquiring it as soon as possible for the lowest possible price. This theme eliminates work – you know, that activity that most of us spend most of our time doing — from the acceptable topics for our public discourse.

Third, the economy is driven by great business leaders and entrepreneurs. Because members of the media believe this, it makes sense for them to discuss a labor issue with a panel made up exclusively of owners and managers. This is “fair and balanced

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