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Fear and Favor in the Newsroom

November 18, 1997


The latest crisis between Iraq and the United States is once again a reminder that the first casualty in war is truth. But with the increasing concentration of media ownership in the hands of fewer and fewer multinational corporations, the truth — even in the absence of war — seems more elusive than ever. Instead, sensationalism and entertainment — driven by the needs of corporate advertisers — dominate the airwaves.

Still, top media executives say their editorial decisions are made without the fear or favor of senior executives and owners. But a new documentary film called Fear and Favor in the Newsroom, shatters the myth. Based on interviews with some of this country’s most distinguished journalists — including four Pulitzer prize winners — the documentary reveals the hidden wreckage of spiked stories, demotions and firings.


  • Sydney Schanberg, a freelance journalist and formerly a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter for the New York Times. The movie The Killing Fields was based upon his work. He was eventually forced off the New York Times for his critical columns on the news-industrial complex.
  • Jon Alpert, a film and TV producer who has won nine Emmy awards. He was the first journalist to film the devastating effects of the bombing of Iraq during the 1991 Gulf War. He is also the co- founder of Downtown Community Television, the largest community television organization in the country.
  • Peter Graumann, with MacNeil/Lehrer Newshour for ten years.
  • Beth Sanders, the producer of Fear and Favor in the Newsroom, a film about self-censorship in the American newsroom. Ironically, though, this acclaimed documentary is having a tremendous amount of difficulty getting on the air.

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