John Hanrahan, a Washington, D.C. writer, is a former executive director of The Fund for Investigative Journalism and reporter for The Washington Post, The Washington Star, UPI and other news organizations. Until recently a legal investigator, Hanrahan is the author of two books: Lost Frontier: The Marketing of Alaska, and Government by Contract. He is now on special assignment for Nieman Watchdog.
The press needs to expose the siege of democracy, not abet it
COMMENTARY | July 06, 2012
John Hanrahan writes: ‘We have become overly fearful, willing to surrender many core freedoms for the illusion of absolute security…We as a nation are less free than we were 11 years ago. And the mainstream press needs to say so, needs to explore this in news articles, as well as editorially and on the op-ed pages and in the broadcast media.’
Why is the New York Times enabling a U.S. government smear campaign against reporters exposing the drone wars?
ASK THIS | May 11, 2012
The Times let government officials anonymously attack a group of journalists and a lawyer who have uncovered evidence that belies the White House's claim that drones aren't killing many civilians. Was their rationale for that justified?
Civilian drone victims, unrecognized by the U.S. government and public, seek justice
SHOWCASE | May 10, 2012
The US says civilian deaths by CIA drones are 'exceedingly rare', but the survivors of one attack that killed 50 in Pakistan describe the horror of a Hellfire hit in a petition to the government to criminally charge those responsible.
No Occupy events to cover? Look again.
COMMENTARY | April 16, 2012
Occupy issues and events, for starters: Climate change, Keystone XL pipeline, World Bank and IMF, agribusiness, big oil, money out of politics, closing the School of the Americas, the war on drugs, war on terror, war on immigrants, militarization, end tax giveaways to the 1%, military spending, mass incarceration, biggest tax-dodging war profiteers, Bradley Manning, the first international drone summit, corporate lobbyists – and a Mayday general strike.
If 25,000 people rally in midtown, is that a story?
COMMENTARY | April 15, 2012
The Occupy movement, active all winter, has been mostly ignored by the press. Now, along with other groups, it is stepping up its rallies and protests against corporate influence and militarism in America. Will there be any press coverage to speak of?
In DC, an 'Occupied Supercommittee' outdoor public hearing
COMMENTARY | November 07, 2011
Freedom Plaza occupiers, planning economic fixes, have scheduled open-air hearings with some noted experts. Subjects include job creation, taxes, concentration of wealth, poverty, military policy, Social Security, Medicare for all. The protesters, nothing if not modern, will live-stream the event.
Which comes first: the Constitution or cities' no-camping rules?
ASK THIS | November 01, 2011
John Hanrahan writes: 'What we are seeing in the Occupy Wall Street and related protests, in addition to the economic and other grievances being voiced, is a full-throated defense of the First Amendment in its purest form, the likes of which America has not seen for a very long time.'
Local police forces are now little armies. Why?
ASK THIS | October 06, 2011
More and more, in dealing with nonviolent political protesters police across America show up in battlefield dress with intimidating military gear supplied by the Pentagon and Homeland Security. Writer John Hanrahan says reporters, instead of ignoring this ominous development, should ask local, regional and national leaders: Do we need this crap?
Is protest in America at a turning point?
COMMENTARY | October 03, 2011
Tea Party aside, activism slowed almost to a halt after Democrats took the House and Senate and Obama was elected. Now antiwar, anti-corporate, anti-big bank protests have started up in Washington and on Wall Street, and they are spreading elsewhere. Two main questions: Will they grow to be a serious force in America, and how long will the mainstream media give them the silent treatment?
Missing from 9/11 anniversary coverage: crucial context and history
COMMENTARY | September 16, 2011
By neglecting to mention the key U.S. role in supporting militant jihadists in their war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan in the 1980s, the press missed an opportunity to raise questions about blowback -- and about whether our actions in Afghanistan today will once again produce negative future consequences.
Needed: More American reporters in Afghanistan
COMMENTARY | August 12, 2011
Striking reports by the New York Times and other news organizations after the shoot-down of a helicopter with 30 American troops and eight Afghans aboard show how important it is to have reporters on the scene in Afghanistan, or as close to the scene as they can get.
The war without end is a war with hardly any news coverage
COMMENTARY | August 10, 2011
The American print press is almost totally absent from Afghanistan, leaving the reporting to a handful of news organizations. TV coverage averages 21 seconds per newscast for NBC and not much more for ABC and CBS. One critic says the lack of sustained American TV reporting of Afghanistan is 'the most irresponsible behavior in all of the annals of war journalism.'
Coulda, woulda, shoulda coverage of antiwar protests
COMMENTARY | July 25, 2011
Looking back, the Washington Post editor in charge of covering demonstrations says newsworthy stories have been left uncovered. He needn't feel lonely; The Post has lots of company in ignoring stories of dissent. The New York Times, for one, has its own spotty record.
At least 1,400 arrests for antiwar dissent, but who’s counting? Not the press.
COMMENTARY | July 22, 2011
The national news media almost totally ignore homefront protests of the Afghanistan war, killer drones, torture, and more, regardless of their newsworthiness. By its lack of coverage, isn’t the press thus helping perpetuate an endless war?
The Afghanistan war and Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal
COMMENTARY | July 06, 2011
One of the thorniest issues in an American troop pullout is concern over Pakistan's nuclear weapons falling into the hands of terrorists. Does the U.S. have to keep a strong presence in Afghanistan to ward against that – or is it, as some experts argue, a wrongheaded concern? It's a new domino theory and, writes John Hanrahan, the press needs to do a better job describing it to the American people.
A cold calculation: How much is too much to spend on Afghanistan?
COMMENTARY | June 15, 2011
Some in Congress are pushing legislation that would require a tally of the true financial and human costs of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. It’s clear that even the enormous appropriations – $1.28 trillion over the past ten years – are dwarfed by the actual costs. If the real costs were known, would that prompt Congress to demand the speedier removal of American troops?
Nearing the tipping point in the United States?
COMMENTARY | June 09, 2011
With Tahrir Square in mind, activist groups and individuals, some of them well known, are planning ongoing, nonviolent protests in Washington, D.C., starting in October. Their goal is to end the war in Afghanistan and work for sharp change in domestic policies. The mainstream media are not seen as friends, exactly.
Bagram prison, bigger than Guantanamo, its prisoners in limbo, cries out for some news coverage
COMMENTARY | May 31, 2011
Some 1,700 detainees are being held with no charges, no trial, no way to prove their innocence despite a Marine Corps general's 2009 report saying many should be released. In addition, there has been almost no in-depth news coverage of practices that, if widely known, would no doubt add to the call for removal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan and criticism of the government’s conduct of the war.
Why stay in Afghanistan if the reasons for being there no longer exist?
COMMENTARY | May 16, 2011
The core assumption for having U.S. troops in Afghanistan is that by keeping al Qaeda out, we block a national security threat to America. It's time the press challenged that assumption because it is very, very vulnerable -- and likely flat-out wrong, as John Hanrahan reports in an interview with Paul Pillar, a leading intelligence community expert. This is the first in a new Nieman Watchdog series, 'Reporting the endgame.'
Stiglitz’s view of the economy and how to fix it
COMMENTARY | May 04, 2011
The Nobel laureate rejects GOP austerity proposals, offers wideranging plans to reduce the deficit, put people back to work, and halt growing economic inequality. Step No. 1 would be to increase revenues.
More jobs, that’s good. By the way, what do they pay?
ASK THIS | March 06, 2011
The press dutifully reports jobs-gained, jobs-lost figures. But that’s only part of the story – and too many reporters and editors miss the rest of it. As Robert Reich points out, unemployment may decline, but so will pay and benefits of most Americans – they are getting a smaller and smaller piece of the pie.
Poverty keeps growing in the U.S. but the press is almost blind to it
COMMENTARY | November 30, 2009
Jeffrey Sachs, a leading figure on world poverty, says the American press follows the lead of politicians by zeroing out coverage of poverty at a time when ‘the U.S. has the greatest income inequality, highest per capita prison population and worst health conditions of all high-income countries.’
World poverty: so important but so little coverage
COMMENTARY | December 03, 2009
There are very few reporters who write about poverty, says Jeffrey Sachs, who lists Nicholas Kristof, Celia Dugger and Bob Herbert, all of the New York Times, as exceptions. But it is anti-poverty programs, not military action, that enhance American national security, Sachs maintains.
How much have today’s wars weakened the economy?
COMMENTARY | November 15, 2009
Jobs programs of the 1930s cut deeply into Depression unemployment and World War II then put almost everybody to work, often at more than one job. Not so with today’s wars. Only the oil companies and military and security contractors have made real gains from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, says Harvard economist Linda Bilmes.
Wars may end but spending on them doesn’t
COMMENTARY | November 13, 2009
There are fundamental flaws in the way the press deals with the costs of war, says Linda Bilmes. She, along with her colleague Joseph Stiglitz, put the cost of Iraq and Afghanistan at more than $3 trillion — an enormous drag on the economy — in addition to the personal loss to families and communities of injured and dead troops.
A need to 'dig beneath the corporate surface'
COMMENTARY | November 10, 2009
Simon Johnson of MIT says reporting like Ida Tarbell's of 100 years ago is badly needed today. One suggestion: the press should take on the financial institutions that helped cause the financial collapse, and are even benefiting from it.
Imposing rules on the big financial firms
COMMENTARY | October 26, 2009
There’s wide agreement that the largest institutions need to be regulated but differing views on how to do it. Harvard economist David A. Moss calls for creating a new regulatory agency and having the big firms insure themselves for billions of dollars in coverage to protect themselves from failure.
What the press can learn from its failure to report the housing bubble before it burst
COMMENTARY | October 19, 2009
Reporters and editors need to evaluate arguments for themselves and get officials and economists to back up their statements, not just make assertions. That’s advice from someone who suspected early on that there was a bubble about to burst and did research that confirmed his suspicions.
Where’s the reporting on the fraud that led to the crash?
COMMENTARY | October 15, 2009
The mortgage-related crash was the product of wide-scale criminal fraud, says economist James Galbraith, and people should be going to prison. Instead, he says, the press has pretty much ignored that aspect of it, treating the issue as boys-will-be boys.
Story ideas, from an expert
COMMENTARY | October 14, 2009
Economist Dean Baker becomes assignment editor for a day, and asks for stories on deficits, on the mathematical basis for figuring the right size of a stimulus program, and the set-up by which banks borrow money from the Federal Reserve at 0 percent and re-lend it to the Treasury at 3-1/2 percent.
Patent system adds hundreds of billions every year to health care costs
COMMENTARY | October 13, 2009
Economist Dean Baker says drug and medical device patents drive up costs enormously but are seldom if ever mentioned in the debate over health care reform. Drugs and equipment that could be sold profitably for a few dollars may instead sell for thousands.
Galbraith: Deficits are the solution, not the problem
COMMENTARY | October 12, 2009
Economist James Galbraith sees most of the news media as taking “confused and ignorant positions” on deficits; says we need more recovery bills “to reflect the true scale of the emergency.” These views, explained in everyday language, make for an excellent primer for reporters and editors on the deficit issue.
As joblessness rises, reporters need to focus on calls for a second stimulus.
COMMENTARY | October 09, 2009
Economist Dean Baker sees a new, large stimulus as urgent. He has an alternate plan, also: Give companies tax credits to reduce workers’ hours (but not their pay) and put on new staff to take up the slack.
Rein in entitlements? No. Increase them, says James Galbraith.
COMMENTARY | October 08, 2009
It's time the press stopped falling for false, ongoing efforts to portray Social Security and Medicare as going broke, says economist James Galbraith. To the contrary, increases in entitlement program benefits would provide a major boost to economic recovery. For reporters and editors Galbraith's message is: Separate propaganda from facts.
How deep is the candidates’ faith in the Constitution?
COMMENTARY | September 04, 2008
John Hanrahan writes that the moderators in the presidential debates need to ask a question like this one, first posed by reporter Charlie Savage: “Is there any executive power the Bush administration has claimed or exercised that you think is unconstitutional? Anything you simply think is a bad idea?” And they need to follow up so that the candidates answer it. (Second of two articles)
How deep is the candidates’ faith in the Constitution?
COMMENTARY | September 04, 2008
What are McCain’s and Obama’s views on separation of powers? On the Bill of Rights? On the imperial presidency? It’s time for the press to ask, and the candidates to tell. (Second of two articles)
Forget flag pins. Ask about assaults on the Constitution
COMMENTARY | September 03, 2008
Bush and Cheney grabbed more power than almost anyone could have imagined. After their excesses—unchecked by Congress—reporters and debate moderators need to ask tough questions to help determine Obama’s and McCain’s views and intentions. (First of two articles)
Questions for the Times and Judith Miller
ASK THIS | October 19, 2005
The newspaper of record needs to set the record straight on its own involvement in the Plame investigation – and the run-up to war in Iraq.
If the FBI works to shut down independent journalism Web sites that are critical of U.S. policy, isn't that news?
COMMENTARY | October 14, 2004
Journalists' organizations outside the U.S. are up in arms, but there's been hardly a peep here.
Ronald Reagan died June 5th. Anybody think the early coverage was a little distorted? A little overdone?
COMMENTARY | June 11, 2004
First-day stories reflected more myth than reality, leaving out or burying anything unpleasant. It's not as though editors didn't have time to prepare.
Missing before the war: Journalism 101 questions
COMMENTARY | May 07, 2004
With a few exceptions, tough reporting was nonexistent in the months leading to the invasion
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