Using race card hinders our freedom of the press

Friday, March 7, 2003 at 1:00am

In this very turbulent time, Americans are still distrustful of the media that they are dependent upon for vital information. A brand-new Gallup Poll says 60 percent of Americans believe the media is biased; 45 percent think the media too liberal; 15 percent say it is too conservative.

But take it from someone who has been a "media type" for almost 30 years: Ideology is not the main problem. The primary problem with the press is a lack of courage.

While some newspapers and TV networks do impose an ideological filter on story selection and placement, most editors are far too busy to push a candidate or even a philosophy consistently outside of the editorial page. But there is constant pressure on editors not to cover certain situations and stories, and this is an enormous disservice to the American people.

All over the country, pressure groups, armed with political Web sites, have sprung up to challenge and in some cases intimidate the media. If you get on the wrong side of these groups, watch out.

Three specific examples: First, the "hip-hop industry" is angry with your humble correspondent for criticizing rappers like Ludacris and Jay-Z for their pernicious lyrics. It is my contention that glorifying the "gangsta" lifestyle and the antisocial behavior it incorporates does tremendous damage to unsupervised and impressionable kids.

Because of my analysis, a hip-hop magazine has labeled me a "racist," even though white rappers like Eminem and "Insane Clown Posse" have come under my fire. Because I believe the rap industry is doing some harm, I have been racially demonized by some in that business who have a lot to lose if it goes south.

Second, my analysis of the chaotic border situation has resulted in my being labeled anti-Mexican, even though I have also focused on the Canadian border and blamed much of the problem on Presidents Clinton and Bush. No one disputes that the porous borders are dangerous in this age of terrorism. Yet the fact that I would call for the military to back up the Border Patrol makes me an enemy of an entire ethnic group.

Three, as you may know, my television program was instrumental in breaking the Sami al-Arian story nationally a year-and-a-half ago. During that time, I was routinely described as being anti-Muslim. And even after al-Arian was arrested on terrorism charges, the two television critics working for Tampa Bay newspapers attacked me as being unfair and using McCarthy-like tactics.

Now, I can take the heat. I dish out plenty of commentary and have to expect backlash. But the personal attacks that are launched by special interest groups in this country have reached critical mass

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