Professional golfer Jerry Kelly isn't pleased with the media's coverage of the Iraq war. Neither is a U.S. soldier with whom Kelly spoke while the Madison, Wisconsin-based pro, along with fellow PGA tour members Corey Pavin, Howard Twitty, Frank Lickliter, and Donnie Hammond, recently spent eight days in Iraq under the auspices of the USO.
Kelly was interviewed about the trip by Milwaukee Journal Sentinel golf writer Gary D'Amato, whose story ran in Saturday's paper. Highlights:
The golfers visited 14 bases in Iraq, entertaining the troops with golf exhibitions and swapping stories with soldiers in conversations that stretched into the early morning hours...
In advance of his lecture last week at Montreal's McGill University, left-wing journalist Seymour Hersh, now best known for reporting on the Iraq war for the New Yorker, gave an interview to the weekly Montreal Mirror:
"I mean, Americans are pretty f---ing ignorant. What we don’t know is pretty huge. You could never accuse Americans of learning from history or learning from past mistakes...What we don’t know is just breathtaking in my country. To call this ignorance wilful as opposed to general ignorance, I don’t know. On any issue, Americans can display an incredible lack of information. I doubt if there’s a society which has paid less attention to the facts than any else."
The following analysis by author and former Bush 43 White House speechwriter David Frum, which he posted Thursday in his blog on National Review Online under the title "The Cry Baby Party," may express what plenty of NewsBusters readers have sensed during this election campaign (bold-type emphasis has been added):
Let me see if I understand the rules of American politics in 2006:
It's in bounds to write a deliberately deceptive voter initiative to try to inscribe embryo-killing research into a state's law.
It's in bounds for a likeable and suffering celebrity to suggest that such research is poised to deliver a cure that will help him - despite the utter absence of evidence for any such claim.
Camille Paglia, cultural scholar and maverick liberal Democrat, has given a politically themed interview to the left-wing online magazine Salon in which she touches on some media issues. (HT: National Review Online's Hot Links.)
Previously, Paglia has readily acknowledged that liberal media bias exists, and that it's hardly a new phenomenon; she's said that Barry Goldwater was the target of a "vicious media assault" during the 1964 presidential campaign.
In the Salon interview, Paglia argues that the media and Democrats were guilty of "gargantuan overkill" in their treatment of the Mark Foley matter, but that the excessive coverage actually wound up being a "tremendous boon" to President Bush because it distracted the public from the Iraq war.
Whenever a writer for one of America's most influential newspapers states his or her opinions about liberal media bias, it should be brought to the attention of NewsBusters readers (unless, of course, said writer merely offers some variant of the lame, threadbare "we get complaints from both the right and the left, which tells me our coverage is balanced" argument).
Washington Post humor columnist Gene Weingarten also occasionally writes long pieces for the paper's Sunday magazine. In a Monday web chat concerning Weingarten's admiring profile of Doonesbury's Garry Trudeau, a questioner charged that the Post ran that story and others in order to help the Democrats in the upcoming midterm elections. In today's chat, when the same questioner posted a good-humored follow-up, Weingarten addressed media bias in general terms (emphasis added):
Eric Burns, host of Fox News Channel's Fox News Watch, recently gave an interview to Bill Steigerwald of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Following are two large portions of the Q&A, with emphasis added. What Burns has to say in the first will annoy much of the left, but some of his comments in the second presumably won't sit well with NewsBusters readers. Portion one:
Q: You don't give away much on the air. You're pretty good at playing the middle - the centrist. Can you tell us what your politics are, generally?
A: No. I won't do that because that's not what I'm paid for at Fox. There are a lot of people who do give their political opinions on the air. And I make it a point - and a point of pride - to have people not know my politics. I don't think they are relevant to a show that analyzes the news, so I prefer to keep them to myself off the air, as I do on.
Dan Rather, who may have been out to rain on Katie Couric's parade, promote his return to TV news, or both, talked at length the other day to Rebecca Dana of the New York Observer, and the result is in the Observer's new issue. Highlights:
--Starting October 24, the hour-long Dan Rather Reports will air Tuesday nights on the high-definition channel HDNet, whose boss, Mark Cuban, has, in Dana's words, "promised [Rather] complete editorial control of the program." Rather also will do a documentary for HDNet every so often.
Dana writes that Rather "declined to say whether he himself hoped to pursue the mysterious National Guard documents that formed the basis of the [Memogate] report. Instead, he outlined three areas of coverage that he plans to focus on...the lives of soldiers and their families; the shrinking of the middle class (“although I don’t like to talk in terms of class; it’s a European term”); and the relationship between money and political campaigns...All three are topics that he believes are under-covered by the broadcast and cable news operations..."
RadarOnline.com is reporting that Mary Mapes, the driving force behind what became CBS News's Memogate scandal, has reunited with her old pal Dan Rather. (Hat tip: Jonah Goldberg in the Corner.)
From the Radar item:
Good news, phony document fans! The team that gave you Memogate is back in action.
Former CBS News producer Mary Mapes has rejoined her old running partner Dan Rather at Mark Cuban's HDNet channel. Rather, 74, is starting all over at hi-def cable network with a weekly one-hour show that will translate the day's events into awkwardly-worded homespun similes. It debuts in October...
Robert Christgau, whose title, "the dean of American rock critics," was self-bestowed but nonetheless widely accepted, was one of eight staffers let go last week at the Village Voice. In a note posted on Gawker.com, Christgau announced, "Since I have no intention of giving up rock criticism, all reasonable offers [will be] entertained." (HT: Romenesko.)
The 64-year-old Christgau has published two books' worth of essays and, since 1969, a monthly Consumer Guide column, which in its classic form during the 1970s and '80s offered dense-but-readable one-paragraph reviews and A-plus-through-E-minus letter grades for roughly twenty albums per installment.
Christgau's politics, left but not hard-left, often cropped up in his writing. He summarized his leanings a few years ago to RockCritics.com: "I want to see a radical redistribution of wealth and an end to racism, sexism, and homophobia. But that won't make me pretend there's anything inherently communist or socialist about rock and roll -- at its inception, it was an expression of democracy at its American best and capitalism at its entrepreneurial best...Revolutionaries tend to be puritans. Rock and rollers tend not to be. I prefer rock and rollers. And I've always argued that one reason revolutionaries start so few revolutions is that puritans are a pain in the ass."
On this long holiday weekend, let's take a short break from looking at the media's political bias and instead examine the possibility of their sports bias. In the past month, two columnists for ESPN's web site have suggested that when the sports media cover the steroid issue, they tend to come down considerably harder on major-league baseball than they do on the NFL. In early August, ESPN.com baseball columnist Jerry Crasnick wrote that
with the continued fallout from the BALCO scandal, baseball is receiving a huge -- and some might say, disproportionate -- share of attention as the whipping boy for performance enhancing drugs. While the stray Floyd Landis or Justin Gatlin might seize the headlines temporarily as sports' resident cheater du jour, it's a virtual lock that the focus will eventually drift back to baseball.
Just for fun, we Googled the words "Bud Selig" and "steroids" and came up with 263,000 matches. A similar search for departing NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue yielded a mere 33,900 matches...
Some have speculated that the "a--holes" CNN anchor Kyra Phillips referred to in her ladies'-room chat might have been President Bush and other Republicans. The folks at the liberal group Media Matters for America, however, don't view Phillips as a GOP-basher. In fact, Media Matters has posted on its web site several items taking Phillips to task for supposed conservative bias. For example:
July 12, 2005: "...Philips [sic] responded to a call by Democratic senators for President Bush to fire White House senior adviser Karl Rove for his alleged role in the outing of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame by saying [that there is] 'definitely a major smear campaign going on [against Rove].'"
According to a new biography of Dan Rather, one longtime CBSer -- no, not Rather himself -- believes what most NewsBusters readers believe: that incoming CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric is in the tank for Hillary Clinton.
In his review of Alan Weisman's Lone Star, Dave Shiflett of Bloomberg News writes that
[f]ormer [CBS] congressional correspondent Phil Jones tells Weisman that Couric is "a liberal Democrat who is so in love with Hillary Clinton'' that it could pose a problem if Clinton runs for president.
We're left believing that Rather's critics will soon be pining for the good old days when straight-shooting Dan ruled the CBS roost.
Previous NewsBusters posts (this one, for example) have dealt with the racial elements of Bryant Gumbel's Tagliabue/Upshaw/leash remark, but what about its substance? Is it true, as Gumbel contends, that NFL players have been shortchanged by weak union leadership? Two prominent columnists -- one white, one black, and, incidentally, both politically liberal -- aren't buying it.
Gregg Easterbrook, in this week's Tuesday Morning Quarterback column on ESPN.com, wrote:
As to the substance of Gumbel's claim, he's way off...Baseball long-term has had the most confrontational labor relations of the major sports, so let's compare MLB player pay with NFL player pay since the onset of the NFL salary cap in 1994. Adjusting for inflation, the average pro baseball player's pay has risen 71 percent since 1994, while the average pro football player's pay has risen 132 percent. NFL player pay increases have dwarfed all other team sports, which hardly sounds like the union is on a leash...
Remember the facile, early-'90s notion that Michael Moore was the left wing's answer to Rush Limbaugh? True, both used humor to attack their political adversaries, and both were fat, and...well, that was pretty much it. Still, the comparison was popular for a while, at least until Rush lost a lot of weight at about the same time that Al Franken started to make Limbaugh-bashing a cottage industry.
Whatever lefty author/columnist/blogger Eric Alterman thought of the old Moore-Limbaugh formulation back in the day, he certainly doesn't care for it now. As far as he's concerned, the leftist counterparts to the likes of mainstream conservative figures such as Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, and Jonah Goldberg aren't Moore or Noam Chomsky, but rather hardcore, fringe ideologues. From Alterman's Tuesday MSNBC.com blog post (emphasis added):
It appears that the leftist investigative-reporting duo of Donald Barlett and James Steele now will publish its numbingly long articles in Vanity Fair. Katharine Seelye writes in Monday's New York Times that B&S "have accepted an offer from Graydon Carter, [VF's] editor, to sign a multiyear contract, agreeing to write two articles a year. Both will have the title of contributing editor at the glossy monthly."
Barlett and Steele have been a reporting team since 1971, first at the Philadelphia Inquirer and then at Time magazine. They probably are best known for their 1992 book, America: What Went Wrong? The book, based on a series of stories the two had written for the Inquirer, sought to portray the economic boom of the 1980s as a case of the rich prospering at the expense of the middle class and the poor. (Brent Baker explores B&S's methodology here.)
According to a newspaper story this past weekend, the Los Angeles Times, which the Tribune Company has owned since 2000, is not for sale. One must assume the report is accurate, given that it appeared in the Times itself, under the byline of two of the paper's staff writers.
The story also indicates, however, that Tribune's position on unloading the Times may have changed from "no" to "not yet." Moreover, it states that three longtime Democratic moneybags -- David Geffen, Ron Burkle, and Eli Broad, each of whom lives in the L.A. area -- have asked Tribune if it might sell the Times. (Forbes magazine estimates the combined wealth of the three at $12.6 billion.)
The July 31 issue of the Nation includes Lakshmi Chaudhry's piece, pegged to last month's Yearly Kos shindig in Las Vegas, asserting that "the media rage on the left--at least among those politically active online--now matches that on the right."
To her credit, Chaudhry provides some valid insights regarding left-wing critics of the MSM, e.g.:
At least part of [lefty bloggers'] rhetoric is less about the press itself than about bolstering the bloggers' self-identity as outsiders, which offers the emotional comfort of victimhood. "The notion of the press being in the pocket of the Bush Administration is definitely overdrawn, but it feels good," says [NYU journalism professor Jay] Rosen. "This way you can feel even more marginalized."
Philadelphia Inquirer TV columnist Gail Shister notes today that Dan Rather, the new public face of HDNet's news coverage, will be a panelist for the next two installments of Chris Matthews' syndicated half-hour weekend show. (Hat tip: Romenesko.)
Not a few NewsBusters readers probably will salivate over the liberal bias to come after reading the following from Shister's column:
"We assume he'll be fabulous," says Matthews, who's been looking to book Rather for months. "Now that he's not constrained by the anchor role, he can say what he thinks. We don't know how far he's going to go."
First topic: the role of presidential power. "I'm sure he has an opinion on the rise of President Bush," Matthews says. "The topic will provoke his passions."
In a piece posted Thursday night, Jack Shafer, media critic for the Washington Post-owned online magazine Slate, ponders the current tension between the Bush administration and the press over the latter's reporting of some of the former's anti-terrorist methods. Shafer posits that Bush and company's angry reaction to said reporting
signal[s] the breakdown of the traditional comity—I wouldn't call it "trust"—that has existed between the White House and the press. Since the end of WWII, the press has sought White House input whenever its reporters bumped up against issues of national security, and if the press has erred it's mostly erred in favor of the government position. For a good summary of recent instances in which the [New York Times and Los Angeles Times] and the Washington Post have held stories or deleted sensitive information at the administration's request, see [NYT editor Bill] Keller and [LAT editor Dean] Baquet's joint op-ed...defending publication of their SWIFT stories.
David Remnick, the editor of the New Yorker and a Washington Post reporter from the early 1980s until the early '90s, has written a commentary for his magazine's July 10 issue in which he asserts that the Bush administration's criticism of stories such as Dana Priest's secret-prisons piece in the Washington Post and the New York Times' recent terror-finance-tracking story is insincere and politically calculated. Excerpts (emphasis added):
...More than any other White House in history, Bush’s has tried to starve, mock, weaken, bypass, devalue, intimidate, and deceive the press, using tactics far more toxic than any prose devised in the name of Spiro Agnew.
Q: Where is approximately 380,000 votes "the narrowest of leads" in an election?
A: In the New York Times, but only when the leftist candidate is trailing.
From James C. McKinley Jr. and Ginger Thompson's dispatch on the Mexican presidential race (emphasis added):
MEXICO CITY, July 4 — The Mexican electoral crisis deepened Tuesday, as the leftist candidate demanded a vote-by-vote recount and election officials acknowledged that up to three million votes had not been tallied in the preliminary results.
The ballots counted so far showed the conservative, Felipe Calderón, with the narrowest of leads, fewer than 400,000 votes, over his leftist opponent, Andrés Manuel López Obrador.
The uproar over last week's New York Times expose' of the Terrorist Finance Tracking Program still isn't cacophonous enough for National Journal media columnist William Powers:
Watching the story play out, I've found myself hoping...that the conflict will get hotter and uglier and eventually wind up in court...Why? Because this country needs to have a great, big, loud, come-to-Jesus argument about the role of the press in a time of war, terror, and secrecy.
...A poll...conducted by the McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum in Chicago recently found that Americans know more about The Simpsons than they do about the First Amendment -- a lot more.
The first clause of one sentence in a Tuesday MSNBC.com blog entry: "Folks, we need to pause here and really examine just how derelict the MSM has become..."
That certainly sounds promising, but, alas, here's the second clause: "...and just how entrenched the entire corporate media enterprise is in terms of allowing the Republican party to dictate coverage on key political issues." The blogger in question, who's specifically talking about last week's Iraq debate in the Senate, is Eric (Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush) Boehlert, filling in for Eric (What Liberal Media?) Alterman.
Boehlert goes on: "The fact that the lapdog press allows it to happen on behalf of a historically unpopular president just boggles the mind. (And yes, the USA Today poll confirmed Bush's much-anticipated June bounce was non-existent.)" You'd think that if the media really were in the tank for Bush, they'd rig the poll in his favor, thereby manufacturing a bounce, but...whatever.
The primary goal of the Daily Show is, of course, to entertain, but it's safe to say that Jon Stewart and company also would like to push (or is it pull?) American politics to the left.
A new study, however, indicates that the program may in that sense be at odds with itself. Specifically, it suggests that the mocking, condescending tone of the Daily Show may result in diminished voter turnout among its viewers -- almost all of whom, as you probably assumed, are non-conservatives.
Richard Morin, in today's Washington Post, reports:
Two political scientists [have] found that young people who watch Stewart's faux news program...develop cynical views about politics and politicians that could lead them to just say no to voting.
It's not especially newsworthy that Connie Chung and Maury Povich's Saturday program on MSNBC, which debuted in January, has been canceled. Perhaps no more newsworthy, but definitely more amusing, is that on the show's final episode this past weekend, Chung, as she danced on top of and around a piano, bade her audience farewell in song, to the tune of "Thanks for the Memories." (Hat tips: Drudge and NRO's The Corner.)
To be fair, Chung sings better than Elaine Benes danced. That said, watch this and you'll appreciate Bob Hope (not to mention Michelle Pfeiffer in The Fabulous Baker Boys) more than you ever did before. (Monday's New York Post printed some of her lyrics.)
Here's one of those stories that sounds weird but may make perfect sense. According to Saturday's New York Times, Dan Rather is "seriously mulling" an offer to "develop and be the host of a weekly interview program on a high-definition television channel known as HDNet."
The Times' Jacques Steinberg also reports that "in addition to the one-hour interview program, which could eventually include '60 Minutes'-style investigative reports that he would prepare, Mr. Rather said he had been asked to commit to deliver at least two documentaries a year to HDNet."
Rather told Steinberg that the offer to join HDNet came from none other than the channel's co-founder Mark Cuban, who's been on TV quite a bit himself lately during ABC's coverage of the NBA finals between the Cuban-owned Dallas Mavericks and the Miami Heat.
Dan Bobkoff, who covers Massachusetts for Albany, N.Y.-based WAMC/Northeast Public Radio, has written a piece for CBS News's Public Eye blog in which he offers ideas for reform of the broadcast networks' evening newscasts. (Hat tip: Romenesko.) Bobkoff, a former intern for ABC's World News Tonight, opines:
...I think the shows should try to become as different from one another as possible.
The first step toward originality would be to turn off all the TV's in the newsroom. Producers love watching the "competition" on a row of monitors while they work, and will note with glee if they air an important story five minutes before another network. But watching each other doesn't create a better product; it creates sameness.
After they turn off the TV’s, they should cancel their subscriptions to The New York Times. The paper's great, but it shouldn't be TV's job to read the paper and then steal the feature stories for that evening’s newscast (unusual baby names, ABC?)
With nothing to copy off the TV or from the papers, the newscasts then could think about broadening what they cover...
The political and cultural coverage in "alternative" weeklies such as the Village Voice tends to be even more left-leaning than that of the MSM, but the Voice, probably America's best known alt-weekly, is likely to become less tendentious under its incoming editor, Erik Wemple.
Wemple, who takes the helm at the Voice in late July, has been the editor of Washington City Paper since early 2002. (The politically eclectic City Paper long has been one of the exceptions to the left-wing alt-weekly rule.) He recently told the New York Times, "My ideology...preaches loyalty to the great story. I really don't care if a story begins with leftist sympathies, and I really don't care if a story begins from a more conservative set of sympathies. If it's a great story, we're going to report it out."
A book about the semi-retired Dan Rather (remember him?) would seem to be a tough sell at this point, even if it carried a catchy title like The Da Rather Code. That said, a biography to be published right around the time Katie Couric takes over the CBS Evening News does juicily report that Rather endorsed the bumping-off of a prominent CBS colleague.
Here's part of today's New York Post Page Six item on the book:
In "Lone Star," an unauthorized bio of Rather out this September, Alan Weisman writes that [Morley] Safer "has not been a friend of Rather's for years, since their days in Vietnam." The final straw came when Rather took over for Safer not long after Safer's jolting report about the burning of a Vietnam village by a platoon of U.S. Marines.
In his cover story on Oprah Winfrey in the June 12 New Republic, Lee Siegel asserts that Oprah, whose TV show is syndicated by CBS-owned King World, is somewhat of a kingmaker in the political world:
In 1986, human nature in America started to change. That year, "The Oprah Winfrey Show," based in Chicago, became nationally syndicated, and the country entered the beginning stages of a quiet cultural revolution. It took awhile for the transformation to take hold, but, four years later, the effects were unmistakable. Do you really think George H.W. Bush, who presided over the spectacularly successful Gulf war, lost to Bill Clinton in 1992 because of a sagging economy? It was Oprah, stupid. It was Oprah behind Clinton in 1992 and also in 1996; and it was Oprah behind George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004, electoral shenanigans notwithstanding.
It's safe to say that, with her parade of afflicted guests, Oprah helped along the perception of Clinton's childhood wounds as evidence of authentic character. With her emphasis on imperfect self-presentation as proof of genuine intention--she has appeared on the air in her bathrobe, without makeup--she also helped create an atmosphere that turned Al Gore, and then John Kerry, into fabricated con men who were too handsome (Kerry had his lanky Jimmy Stewart allure), articulate, and privileged to be trusted or true. Bush, on the other hand, was so inarticulate, awkward, and funny-looking that, when you thought of his own super-privileged background, you felt that at least he had something going for him. And all that unconcealed imperfection made him real--or at least electable.