Morton Mintz (www.mortonmintz.com), Nieman '64, has been a senior adviser to the Nieman Foundation's Watchdog Project since its inception in 1996.
He was a reporter at The Washington Post for 30 years, is the author of four books and co-author of four more, and served as chair of the Fund for Investigative Journalism. He is the recipient of numerous honors, including the Worth Bingham, Heywood Broun, Raymond Clapper, and George Polk Memorial Awards, and, twice, the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild Awards for Public Service.
During most of his career at the Post, Mintz reported on corporate crime and misconduct, with a strong focus on the automotive, tobacco and drug industries. He broke the story of the child-deforming drug Thalidomide in 1962 and went on to report extensively on unsafe and ineffective medicines and medical devices, including the disastrous Dalkon Shield IUD. He also covered the Supreme Court, campaign financing and wasteful Pentagon weapons systems.
In 1999 and 2000, in a precursor to NiemanWatchdog.org, Mintz, sponsored by Tompaine.com, wrote a series of 28 articles that raised a broad range of questions that the press should have been but was not asking federal candidates.
Holding executives accountable for corporate wrongdoing
ASK THIS | September 27, 2010
If people, not guns, are responsible for killing people, then aren’t executives, not corporations, responsible when their products kill people? Such as GlaxoSmithKline executives who concealed for years that the drug Avandia increased heart risks, causing thousands of strokes, heart attacks and deaths? And isn't this an issue reporters should deal with?
Pin Kagan down, accept no platitudes
ASK THIS | May 25, 2010
The Judiciary Committee is duty-bound to ask whether Kagan regards corporations as people and if she feels they should be allowed unlimited spending in election campaigns. Tough questions, please, no ‘peculiar ritual dance’ for her.
Remembering the Flexner Report as a drug firm pays $520 million for misleading marketing
COMMENTARY | May 15, 2010
According to company e-mail unsealed in civil lawsuits, AstraZeneca 'buried' - a manager's term - a 1997 study that showed Seroquel users gained 11 pounds a year, while publicizing a study that claimed users lost weight.
Will the states intervene to get our democracy back?
ASK THIS | February 21, 2010
Congress needs to turn to public financing to restore its integrity and it’s not likely to do that, writes Lawrence Lessig in the Nation. But something needs to be done, he writes, and the answer may lie in the long, difficult workings of a constitutional convention.
A paean to the late James Goddard, and to Martin Agronsky as well
SHOWCASE | January 09, 2010
Morton Mintz recalls getting candid answers from Goddard, then FDA Commissioner, on Agronsky’s ‘Face the Nation’ in the 1960s, a time when – believe it or not – some Sunday morning talk shows cared about, reported, and made news.
Regarding that government takeover of health care…
ASK THIS | December 11, 2009
Morton Mintz has a few questions for the Tea Party Patriots as they 'storm' Senate offices. His first one: Does it bother you that the U.S. is way ahead of other nations in the share that insurers get of health care expenditures?
For executive pay, how much is too much?
ASK THIS | August 27, 2009
In the past, Nancy Pelosi supported a bill to disallow business tax deductions for the portion of executive pay exceeding 25 times that of a firm's lowest paid employees. These days average pay for chief executives can be hundreds of times higher than the lowest paid workers. Would Pelosi back a similar bill today?
If a drug is new does that make it better?
ASK THIS | May 20, 2009
Obama wants an institute to be set up to guide reviews of the effectiveness of various health care decisions. Morton Mintz points out that, for prescription drugs, a simple legislative test of effectiveness is easily available—one in which new drugs, to get FDA approval, must be shown to be more effective than existing ones.
Parsing an op ed ad in the Times
COMMENTARY | May 09, 2009
On May 4th a DC group, the Washington Legal Foundation, attacked trial lawyers, saying that “one industry—Litigation, Inc.”—is parasitic and in pursuit of riches that “restrains the U.S. economic recovery.” Morton Mintz thinks the press should know a little more about the group behind the ad, especially its ties to the tobacco industry.
Ask Obama about a truly progressive income tax
ASK THIS | March 24, 2009
In the World War II era the marginal tax rate was 90 percent, starting at incomes of $250,000. Obama is asking for a modest increase of a few percentage points, to 39.6 percent, at upper income levels.
Ask Obama the hair-trigger alert question
ASK THIS | March 17, 2009
How many ballistic missiles do the U.S. and Russia have pointed at each other, ready to be set off in an instant? Will you work with Russia to bring down the threat level?
A columnist's sleight of hand
COMMENTARY | October 30, 2008
David Brooks is very bright, Morton Mintz and George Lardner, Jr., seem to agree. So why does he resort to poppycock to promote anti-government positions?
Health insurance from an employer's viewpoint
COMMENTARY | October 09, 2008
Alan Jacobs, the boss of the Isaac’s Deli chain in southeastern Pennsylvania, is part of the single-payer drive in that state. Right now, he says, health care “incentives are upside down.” (Second of two articles.)
In Pennsylvania, churches back single payer
COMMENTARY | October 05, 2008
Morton Mintz relays comments by the director of Public Advocacy of the Pennyslvania Council of Churches holding that health care ”is very much an issue for the faith community.” (First of Two Articles)
A court case of vital importance
COMMENTARY | August 15, 2008
The decision in Wyeth v. Levine could determine whether documents that expose massive, lethal misconduct are accessible to reporters and the public.
Ask McCain and Obama if they'll work to create a world free of nuclear weapons
ASK THIS | July 20, 2008
Longtime establishment leaders Shultz, Kissinger, Nunn and Perry have issued a call for the world to be rid of nuclear weapons. Obama says that is his goal; McCain hasn't staked out a position. The press, which has long avoided this subject, needs to ask Obama to spell out his plans, and it needs to get McCain on the record.
Yes, freedom of speech protects vicious liars
COMMENTARY | June 13, 2008
But there are standards, or at least there should be. Morton Mintz wants the owners and managers of news organizations to hold their talk show hosts and others accountable. And he wants journalism trade groups and J-schools to get in the act.
Reporters: Get the candidates to focus on federal safety groups
ASK THIS | May 24, 2008
Serious regulators are needed, not lobbyists or industry executives like those Bush appointed. Morton Mintz cites coal mine safety as a case in point.
Shifting the health insurance burden
ASK THIS | May 17, 2008
In Canada, GM and Ford executives and other business leaders laud single-payer health insurance; in the U.S. support on the CEO level is hard to find. Why?
Gore would have invaded Iraq, don’t you think?
COMMENTARY | March 01, 2008
That's what Ralph Nader said on Meet the Press in 2004. Comparing him to Bush, Nader said a Gore administration 'wouldn't have been any different in terms of military and foreign policy.'
Newspaper Web sites and White House disinformation
COMMENTARY | February 22, 2008
The Wall Street Journal print edition didn’t mention a recent report that cited more than 935 false statements by top Administration officials. The Journal’s Web site, however, not only mentioned the report—it attacked it. (Second of two parts.)
If 935 falsehoods fall from the White House, do the news media hear them?
COMMENTARY | February 20, 2008
Morton Mintz asks: If the president and top aides who made nearly 1,000 false statements to take us into war had been Democrats, would two national papers, the TV networks, the news magazines, and every newspaper in 33 states have ignored it? (First of two parts)
Needed: better reporting on how problems are dealt with elsewhere
COMMENTARY | September 30, 2007
In coverage of many problem areas, not just health-care plans, reporters would do well to go beyond local, state or national boundaries to compare practices and find systems that work and could be replicated. Morton Mintz wrote about this in the 70s, and wonders why such reporting still seems taboo. (Last of three articles.)
The press needs to tell us more about Canada’s single-payer health-care system
COMMENTARY | September 21, 2007
International data have long been easily available; they show Americans spending more but slipping in rankings for life expectancy and other key health issues. But few news organizations pay attention -- not even to our nearest neighbor -- and commentators deluge the public with false, misleading punditry. (Second of three articles)
What’s the Canadian medical system like, anyway?
COMMENTARY | September 16, 2007
Canada might as well be on the other side of the moon for as much as the U.S. press tells us about its health care system. Morton Mintz says he could find only one in-depth article on it, and that was published in 1992. (First in a series)
Bush and Putin have an opportunity to assure their nukes can't destroy U.S., Russia
ASK THIS | June 29, 2007
When the American and Russian presidents meet to discuss the threat of nuclear weapons, will they say anything about the fact that they each keep more than a thousand warheads aimed at each other on hair-trigger alert?
Cutting Defense spending by $25 billion here, $23 billion there...
COMMENTARY | June 09, 2007
It doesn’t matter that there’s a war going on, some of the spending is obviously wasteful. The excesses are well-documented and easy to find, except, perhaps, by reporters and editors who choose not to look for them.
The need for responsible reporting on profits -- including our own
COMMENTARY | October 26, 2006
Journalists need to stop letting CEOs get away with deceptive descriptions of their profits, writes Morton Mintz. And that’s certainly true in our own industry.
News judgment as a life or death matter
COMMENTARY | July 23, 2006
In some major catastrophes, news coverage brings financial aid which brings calls for peacekeeping forces, which bring humanitarian assistance teams, which bring more news coverage. No coverage (think Congo) means the absence of all the above.
Ask candidates if we're in a new Gilded Age
ASK THIS | May 05, 2006
The division of labor for politicians and moneyed groups, as seen by Boies Penrose 110 years ago: You send us to office, we help you make money. What else is new?
On the subject of Congressional ethics...
ASK THIS | April 30, 2006
We don’t hear much talk now about what was a big flurry only a few months ago. That means Congress has the problem under control, right?
Candidates: do you want to extend the 2003 tax cuts?
ASK THIS | April 29, 2006
The House and Senate elections aren’t far off; reporters should be preparing basic questions. On taxes, the fate of the 2003 tax cuts is a main issue right now.
Ask candidates about the minimum wage
ASK THIS | April 26, 2006
It takes nearly two minimum-wage workers to earn what one earned in 1968. And then there’s Lee Raymond, who made $144,000 a day.
Ask candidates their views on Medicare drug prices
ASK THIS | March 06, 2006
The Veterans Administration saves taxpayers a great deal by negotiating the prices it pays for prescription medicines, but Medicare, under its prescription drug plan, is barred from negotiating prices. Where’s the logic?
Better off today than 4 years ago?
ASK THIS | February 21, 2006
With the 2006 elections looming, Morton Mintz is revving up questions for candidates for office. This installment may be seen, perhaps, as a 2006 version of the old-time misery index.
Wall Street Journal report: In pay, 1 CEO in the U.S. equals 475 workers
ASK THIS | January 23, 2006
Ratio is 20 times higher than for CEOs in Britain, 40 times higher than for those in Japan. How much is too much?
A nuclear threat that just keeps ticking
COMMENTARY | November 17, 2005
In 2000, Bush said the US should remove many of the hair-trigger missiles pointed at Russia. Morton Mintz writes that the press didn’t report what Bush said then—and it hasn’t reported his reversal of position since.
A critique of the press by a veteran reporter
COMMENTARY | September 18, 2005
In a talk, Morton Mintz describes what he calls six 'deep-seated, fundamental, and persisting press failings that have enormous impact on our people and our country.'
Corporate welfare: Talking less government but reaping enormous profits
COMMENTARY | August 04, 2005
Morton Mintz asks, if conservatives want government to leave them alone, then why are they investing in, and getting, such enormous windfalls from Washington?
A line of inquiry for Supreme Court nominee Roberts
ASK THIS | July 27, 2005
The 14th Amendment, ratified in 1868, gave former slaves full citizenship. Not long afterward it was read by the high court to also apply to corporations. Morton Mintz says that was a radical ruling.
Morton Mintz on the collapse of Congressional oversight
SHOWCASE | May 02, 2005
A personal account by the longtime investigative reporter and adviser to this Web site on his experience with Congressional oversight, how it should work, and how Congress and the press are falling terribly short.
As we begin to look at Alberto Gonzales...
ASK THIS | November 12, 2004
Morton Mintz poses questions for the Senate Judiciary Committee to ask of President Bush's attorney general nominee.
More presidential press conferences, please
ASK THIS | November 04, 2004
The White House correspondents missed their first chance to ask Bush to hold more sessions with them.
Social justice and other important issues
ASK THIS | September 17, 2004
Questions from Morton Mintz (Nieman '64), senior adviser to NiemanWatchdog.org, and a frequent contributor to these pages.
The NiemanWatchdog.org website is no longer being updated. Watchdog stories have a new home in Nieman Reports.