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CULTURE DIGEST: Journalists’ political donations lean left 9 to 1; …

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Mainstream journalists claim not to lean to the left or the right when it comes to politics, but some digging through the public records of the Federal Election Commission revealed that in recent years, journalists gave campaign cash to Democrats at a rate 9 times greater than their contributions to Republicans.

“There’s a longstanding tradition that journalists don’t cheer in the press box,” Bill Dedman, an investigative reporter for MSNBC.com, wrote June 21. “They have opinions, like anyone else, but they are expected to keep those opinions out of their work. Because appearing to be fair is part of being fair, most mainstream news organizations discourage marching for causes, displaying political bumper stickers or giving cash to candidates.”

From a public records search, MSNBC.com identified 144 journalists who have made political contributions since 2004. Of those, 125 journalists gave to Democrats and liberal causes, only 17 gave to Republicans, and two gave to both parties, Dedman reported.

The donors come from popular news sources such as CNN, National Public Radio, Fox News Channel, Vanity Fair magazine, The New York Times and even MSNBC, researchers found.

“Apparently none of the journalists disclosed the donations to readers, viewers or listeners,” Dedman wrote. “Few told their bosses, either.”

With the growing use of the Internet as a tool to track down donation records and other public information, as well as the Iraq war fueling a distrust of the press, Dedman said many news organizations are starting to crack down on their employees’ political moves. The Chicago Tribune, CBS and The Atlantic Monthly are among those that have prohibited all political activity aside from voting, he said.

The Pew Research Center, Dedman noted, found that more than 72 percent of Americans they surveyed said news organizations tend to favor one side, which marks the highest level of skepticism in 20 years, and two-thirds said they prefer to get news from sources without a particular point of view.

PROGRAM WOULD PAY FOR GOOD BEHAVIOR — New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, amid rumors of a possible third-party run for the presidency in 2008, unveiled a plan June 18 that will pay some of the city’s poorest residents for such things as visiting the dentist, holding down a job and making sure their kids are in school.

The experimental anti-poverty program is modeled after ones in Brazil and Mexico, the Associated Press reported, and Bloomberg has raised $43 million in private donations to avoid using government funds, though he is asking that the U.S. government not tax the “healthy lifestyle payments.”

“For all of us the stress of our daily lives can cause us to make decisions that aren’t always in our best interests,” the mayor said. “Living in poverty makes it even more difficult and can lead to missing a doctor’s visit, for example. Struggling families are so focused on surviving, that it is often difficult for them to plan for the future. We are serious about tackling poverty in New York City and are committed to finding innovative ways of doing so.”

Under the two-year program, families can earn $150 a month for maintaining fulltime employment, $50 for obtaining a library card, $300 for performing well on school tests, $200 for visiting the doctor, $25 a month for each child who maintains a 95 percent school attendance record and $25 for attending parent-teacher conferences.

Registration for the program’s 14,000 participants begins in late June, with an anticipated start date for the payments in September, the major’s office said. Payments will be directly deposited in recipients’ bank accounts or will take the form of debit cards that cannot be overdrawn.

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said Bloomberg’s plan raises some “serious ethical concerns” and seems like a misuse of political and financial capital.

“American society has reached new lows if we must turn parenthood, personal achievement and personal hygiene into a system of cash awards,” Perkins said in his Washington Update e-mail June 19. “Virtues such as these have their own rewards in time, which would be overshadowed in this program of instant gratification. Offering citizens the American dream used to be prize enough. How tragic that we must now consider paying people to pursue it.”

MORE PARENTS PROTECTING KIDS FROM MEDIA — Parents are realizing the dangers posed by the abundant forms of media in the 21st century, and they’re taking measures to protect their children, the Kaiser Family Foundation said in a study released June 19.

The poll of 1,008 parents found that 73 percent said they know “a lot” about what their children are doing online, 87 percent said they check their kids’ Instant Messaging buddy lists, 82 percent review their children’s profiles on social networking sites, 41 percent use parental controls to block access to certain websites and 76 percent look to see what sites their kids have visited after they’ve been online.

“While parents are still concerned about a lot of what they see in the media, most are surprisingly confident that they’ve got a handle on what their own kids are seeing and doing — even when it comes to the Internet,” Vicky Rideout, director of Kaiser’s Program for the Study of Entertainment Media and Health, said.

Fifty-one percent of parents surveyed said inappropriate media content is a big concern for them, and another 23 percent said it’s one of their top concerns, Kaiser reported. The study also found, though, that many parents still don’t understand the TV ratings system and few have ever used the V-Chip to block unwanted content. Sixty-six percent of parents favor government regulations to limit television content during early evening hours.

Overall, two-thirds of parents surveyed were closely monitoring their children’s use of media.

“This awareness of parental responsibility over media use is a major step forward in protecting children from negative cultural influences,” Janice Crouse of Concerned Women for America said.

    About the Author

  • Erin Roach