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Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR)'s Visual Map

  • Tax-exempt leftist “media watchdog” organization
  • Noam Chomsky was keynote speaker at its 15th Anniversary party.

Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) is a tax-exempt "media watchdog" organization founded in 1986 by radical activist Jeff Cohen, who regards the Democratic Party as "right wing." FAIR's position, as summarized in a 2004 article co-authored by its senior analyst Steve Rendall and staffer Anna Kosseff, is that, contrary to the claims of conservatives, the mainstream media in America are biased to the right, not to the left.

As evidence for their claim that the establishment media were conservative, Cohen and FAIR cited as evidence the relatively scant coverage and few interviews the media gave to radicals. Political programs typically pitted moderates-labeled-as-liberals against conservatives, argued Cohen, while "dissidents like Noam Chomsky and [unilateral nuclear disarmament advocate] Helen Caldicott never appeared once."

As FAIR became more widely known in media circles, Cohen rose from being an irregular guest to a regular pundit on television. From 1992 until 1997 he co-wrote a syndicated column, "Media Beat," with FAIR executive Norman Soloman, who continued to write it solo thereafter. In 1994 Cohen and Solomon began a continuing tradition of giving annual FAIR awards called "The P.U.-litzer Prizes" for examples of what they deemed right-wing or capitalist bias in media.

Among the guests at FAIR's 15th Anniversary party (which was broadcast worldwide by Free Speech TV) in January 2002 was  longtime TV talk show star Phil Donahue. Another was journalist Laura Flanders, former host of FAIR's syndicated radio show Counterspin, which according to FAIR's website is currently "heard on more than 125 noncommercial stations across the United States and Canada." (These include some stations affiliated with National Public Radio (NPR) or owned by Pacifica Radio.) The guest of honor and keynote speaker was Noam Chomsky. The threads linking Chomsky and FAIR are extensive. When musicians Bonnie Raitt, Pearl Jam, and REM planned to make a CD that combined their music with readings of Chomsky's work, they agreed that the proceeds of that album would go to fund FAIR.

In recent years, FAIR has been in decline. Solomon departed for San Francisco, siphoning off foundation money (some of which would, in prior years, have gone to FAIR) for his new Institute for Public Accuracy (IPA). The new bankrollers of the left such as billionaire financier George Soros have channeled their millions into other leftist organizations closely tied to the Democratic Party.

FAIR has also burned many bridges by attacking not only conservative and moderate media but also traditional allies and comrades of the left. Steve Rendall's and Anna Kosseff's 2004 article titled "I'm Not a Leftist, But I Play One on TV" and other FAIR writings have impugned such left and liberal allies as the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), National Public Radio, Cable News Network, The New Republic, Democratic consultants James Carville and Paul Begala, and many others, accusing them of being centrist sellouts unfit to represent the left in national media. Even radical Pacifica Radio stations were alienated on FAIR's radio show Counterspin.

In 2004 during the Republican National Convention in New York City, FAIR and Paper Tiger TV (both of which have tax-exempt status as non-partisan, non-profit organizations) staged a joint "March on the Media" to preemptively discourage any positive reporting about Republicans by the establishment media.  

FAIR's Advisory Board includes actors Edward Asner, John Cusack, Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon; journalists Ben Bagdikian, Barbara Ehrenreich, Susan Faludi, Katha Pollitt [of The Nation], and Studs Terkel; musician Jackson Browne [a supporter of the Sandinista dictatorship]; and feminists Eleanor Smeal and Gloria Steinem. Asner, Ehrenreich and Steinem are members of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), which describes itself as "the principal U.S. affiliate of the Socialist International."

FAIR receives financial support from the CarEth Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Rockefeller Family Fund, the Samuel Rubin Foundation, the Schumann Center for Media and Democracy, the Stewart R. Mott Charitable Trust, the Streisand Foundation, the Tides Foundation, Working Assets, and others. Such grants account for approximately 30 percent of FAIR's annual operating revenue, the rest coming from the donations of 56,000 supporters and subscribers to FAIR's magazine Extra!

rom 1998 through 2005, the Ford Foundation made grants to FAIR totaling at least $450,000. It gave another $200,000 to Laura Flanders, the founder of the "Women's Desk" at FAIR who also served as a producer-host on Working Assets Radio. Flanders is the older sister of the Clinton administration speechwriter Stephanie Flanders and is the niece of neo-Marxist CounterPunch Editor Alexander Cockburn.



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