“Wal-Mart Enlists Bloggers in Its Public Relations Campaign," by Michael Barbaro in Tuesday's New York Times, concerns the discount giant feeding newsbits to bloggers to help its public relations. It tops Tuesday’s business pages, complete with the banner of a pro-Wal-Mart blog that's Barbaro’s main target. Yet Barbaro himself cowrote a story last month based on tips from an anti-Wal-Mart website.
“Under assault as never before, Wal-Mart is increasingly looking beyond the mainstream media and working directly with bloggers, feeding them exclusive nuggets of news, suggesting topics for postings and even inviting them to visit its corporate headquarters.
The editor of the liberal American Prospect magazine used an AP story on Bush allegedly being warned about levees being breached in New Orleans before Hurricane Katrina touched down as a jumping off point to seethe with wrath against Bush, calling him stupid and a liar and his conservative supporters “sociopaths.”
The next day, the AP story was “clarified” in a way that completely undermined both its and editor Michael Tomasky’s point.
(Update: A reprint of Tomasky's piece tops CBS's Opinion page today, which is even less excusable, given that the underlying AP story was knocked down two days ago.)
Have a great weekend, Democrats: Sen. Hillary Clinton has a “widely respected record,” Republican “attacks” are backfiring, and she’s still no liberal.
Friday’s front page is dominated by Patrick Healy’s “Clinton Challenger Pulled From Reagan-Era Hat,” on the newest Republican candidate challenging Sen. Hillary Clinton for the Senate this year.
Sen. Clinton’s opponent, whoever it turns out to be, is in for an uphill battle. But the Times doesn’t give Kathleen T. McFarland any shot at all (check out that dismissive headline, which seethes with a sense of Republican flop-sweat). Her name isn’t even mentioned until the fifth paragraph.
What issue will doom Congressional Republicans in 2006? In February, it was Abramoff, while the month of March is shaping up as the UAE ports controversy.
This morning, the Times once again insists that the Republicans will face trouble in the 2006 elections. Last month it was ethics scandals and Jack Abramoff. This month’s Times-selected Republican killer is shaping up to be the ports deal with United Arab Emirates.
A story by Carl Hulse and Scott Shane, “Doubts Back Home Fuel G.O.P. Worries About Ports Deal,” drives that idea hard.
“Senator Jon Kyl, a staunch supporter of President Bush who faces a potentially difficult re-election fight this year, is hearing a lot from constituents in Arizona about the plan to allow a Dubai company to operate shipping terminals at Eastern ports. Most think the deal should be stopped.”
Or, to be accurate, the “right-wing bias” that the Los Angeles Times apparently held before the “provincial” paper moved to the left and garnered “respect.”
NY Times Obituary writer Jonathan Kandell remembers Los Angeles Times Publisher Otis Chandler in Tuesday's edition.
“Otis Chandler, who inherited The Los Angeles Times from his parents and then, as its publisher, transformed it into one of the most respected, widely read and profitable newspapers in the United States, died yesterday at his home in Ojai, Calif. He was 78 years old.”
Kandell discovers political bias in the media, as Chandler guided the paper from "right-wing bias" to respectability.
Last Wednesday, sports columnist Harvey Araton wrote about the Olympian feud between U.S. speedskaters Chad Hedrick and Shani Davis, with Hedrick starring as Bush and Davis as John Kerry:
“…at the root of the conflict is Davis's belief that Hedrick has been attempting to swift boat him here at the Olympics, use him as a prop as he wraps himself, Texas-style, in the flag, for the purpose of increasing his commercial appeal, while claiming that the feud has elevated their skating and is good for the sport.”
Araton, of course, took Davis’s side.
Araton, who posts his email address with his column, relies on an unexpected surge in reader feedback to fill his Saturday follow-up on the Hedrick-Davis imbroglio.
Sports columnist Harvey Araton ventured onto thin ice with an anti-Bush metaphor on Wednesday while relaying the simmering feud between Olympic speedskaters Chad Hedrick and Shani Davis:
“And at the root of the conflict is Davis's belief that Hedrick has been attempting to swift boat him here at the Olympics, use him as a prop as he wraps himself, Texas-style, in the flag, for the purpose of increasing his commercial appeal, while claiming that the feud has elevated their skating and is good for the sport.”
To translate Araton's esoteric comparison: Hedrick is President Bush (they both hail from Texas, you see), and Davis is a stand-in for John Kerry, unfairly attacked by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. We think.
The Times finds the burgeoning property rights movement (set in motion by the Supreme Court’s controversial decision in Kelo vs. New London upholding a broad interpretation of eminent domain) worthy of a Tuesday front-page story by John Broder, “States Curbing Right to Seize Private Homes.”
That negative headline reads as if the paper takes for granted that overturning property rights is something a government has a right to do, a “right” that’s now at risk of being “curbed.”
As Matt Welch noted in Reason Magazine after the eminent domain decision was handed down, the Times editorial page was one of the few and definitely the most enthusiastic supporters of the 5-4 decision upholding a Connecticut town’s right to condemn private homes to make way for private development. The chilly title of the Times editorial: “The Limits of Property Rights.”
The front page of the Times Sunday Business section is dominated by reporter Landon Thomas Jr.’s profile of conspiracy-mongering author John Perkins (“Confessions of an Economic Hit Man).”
In “Confessing to the Converted -- How a Book Tries to Tap Into Fears of ‘Corporatocracy,” Thomas begins:
“It is standing room only in Transitions, a New Age bookstore in Chicago, and John M. Perkins, the author of ‘Confessions of an Economic Hit Man,’ is describing to his audience the quandary that faces Evo Morales, the recently elected president of Bolivia. Leaning low into the microphone, Mr. Perkins affects a deep conspiratorial whisper as he sets the scene for the imagined encounter between the new president and the representative of the multinational corporate interests Mr. Morales had vilified during his campaign.”
Last week, the New York Times haughtily washed its hands of the controversial Mohammad cartoons, saying it had no intention of printing them because it was the paper’s policy to avoid “gratuitous assaults on religious symbols.” (Though that didn't prevent the paper from running a photo of "The Virgin Mary" painting clotted with elephant dung). Besides, the editorial sniffed, “the cartoons are so easy to describe in words.”
But while the Times may have passed on defending free expression in order to avoid protests from Muslims, it’s apparently not concerned about stoking Muslim opinion against the United States and the war in Iraq, judging by its decision today to run a three-year-old photo of a prisoner at Abu Ghraib.
In David Sanger’s “Political Memo” for the New York Times on Wednesday, “Handling of Accident Creates Tension Between White House Staffs,” Sanger predictably uses the incident to symbolize what he sees as the unprecedented secrecy of Vice President Cheney.
“When the White House press secretary, Scott McClellan, came to the press room just before 10 a.m. Tuesday and suggested he was wearing an orange tie to avoid a stray shot from Vice President Dick Cheney, it seemed to signal an effort to defuse the accidental-shooting story with a laugh.
“But by midday, it was clear that the staffs of the president and the vice president had failed to communicate. Just after arriving at work around 7:45 a.m., Mr. Cheney learned that the man he had shot, Harry M. Whittington, was about to undergo a medical procedure on his heart because his injuries were more serious than earlier believed, Mr. Cheney's spokeswoman said.
Former NY Times executive editor Joseph Lelyveld lovingly profiles “staunch conservative” Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska in a cover story for the Sunday magazine. If Hagel, a frequent critic of Bush and the Iraq war, does run for president in 2008, he may give media favorite Sen. John McCain a run for the cherished “maverick” label.
On the cover of the magazine, Hagel is called a “war-criticizing, anti-abortion, slash-the-deficit, multilateralist conservative.” In the table of contents, he’s “A war hero and staunch conservative.” (Incidentally, Sen. Hillary Clinton has never been called a “staunch liberal” in the Times.)
Lelyveld insists on Hagel’s strong conservatism in the text itself:
Lizette Alvarez reports from Denver Thursday on the Army’s drive to recruit more Hispanics in “With Charm and Enticements, Army Is Drawing Hispanic Recruits, and Criticism.”
She paints the drive in a negative light:
“In Denver and other cities where the Hispanic population is growing, recruiting Latinos has become one of the Army's top priorities. From 2001 to 2005, the number of Latino enlistments in the Army rose 26 percent, and in the military as a whole, the increase was 18 percent. The increase comes at a time when the Army is struggling to recruit new soldiers and when the enlistment of African-Americans, a group particularly disillusioned with the war in Iraq, has dropped off sharply, to 14.5 percent from 22.3 percent over the past four years.
But the Mohammad cartoons are “gratuitous assaults on religious symbols” and won’t be run by the paper.
Just yesterday, the Times wrote, in an editorial on the Danish cartoons of Mohammad, that “The New York Times and much of the rest of the nation's news media have reported on the cartoons but refrained from showing them. That seems a reasonable choice for news organizations that usually refrain from gratuitous assaults on religious symbols, especially since the cartoons are so easy to describe in words.”
Apparently the Arts pages didn’t get the memo, because it runs a photo of Chris Ofili’s dung-clotted “Holy Virgin Mary” painting in Wednesday’s Arts section story by Michael Kimmelman, who also calls the Danish cartoons “callous and feeble.”
Although the Times didn’t join the Philadelphia Inquirer in actually publishing the most controversial cartoon (Mohammad with a bomb for a turban), its tentative stand for free speech is nonetheless braver than the editorial page of the NYT Co.’s subsidiary paper, The Boston Globe.
One would hope and expect a liberal newspaper like the New York Times to have the meager virtue of consistency on matters of freedom of expression, particularly in defense of another newspaper. As the world now knows, the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published twelve cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad last September, considered taboo (though not always recognized as such) by Muslims.
But Times reporter Craig Smith apparently found the cartoons themselves far more inflammatory than he did the actual rioting of Muslims burning embassies in Syria and Lebanon. Even the headline to his Sunday Week in Review story suggests the Danish newspaper's exercise of free speech was somehow irresponsible, likening it to pouring fuel on a flame: “Adding Newsprint to the Fire.”
The wounding in Iraq of ABC anchorman Bob Woodruff and cameraman Doug Vogt spurred New York Times Metro columnist Clyde Haberman to talk Friday (TimesSelect required) about the 61 journalists killed in Iraq.
“On the list are only two American journalists: Michael Kelly, who wrote for The Atlantic Monthly and The Washington Post, and Steven Vincent, a freelancer from New York. Mr. Kelly was in a Humvee that turned over after coming under fire in the war's early days. Mr. Vincent was kidnapped last summer, probably by Islamic extremists, then beaten and shot, his body dumped in the street.”
Haberman uses the death toll to mock bloggers for not doing similar dangerous work:
“Christian ministers were enthusiastic at the early private screenings of ‘End of the Spear,’ made by Every Tribe Entertainment, an evangelical film company. But days before the film's premiere, a controversy erupted over the casting of a gay actor that has all but eclipsed the movie and revealed fault lines among evangelicals.”
Banerjee talks to Rev. Jason Janz, who posted comments on sharperiron.org about actor Allen’s gay activism.
Give the Times a little credit for covering, in a mostly straightforward manner, an obscure topic of interest to social conservatives. But in the middle of the story, apropos of nothing, comes this sidelight, apparently meant only to cast the Christian side of the debate as extremist:
“To spotlight his priorities, President Bush invited ordinary people -- a teacher, a physicist, an Afghan politician, the family of a fallen soldier -- to the State of the Union address on Tuesday. But a Democratic congresswoman turned the tables on Mr. Bush by inviting a guest of her own: Cindy Sheehan, the antiwar protester who has dogged Mr. Bush from his Texas ranch to the White House. Ms. Sheehan's presence loomed large in the House chamber, though she was not there. Capitol Police arrested her before the speech began, ejecting her from the gallery after they discovered her wearing an antiwar T-shirt. A police spokeswoman said Ms. Sheehan was charged with unlawful conduct, a misdemeanor.”
The teaser sentence: “The vote is a triumph for President Bush and conservatives who have longed to tilt the balance of the court to the right.”
Stout’s text emphasizes Alito’s conservatism again and again:
“Samuel A. Alito Jr., who has been widely praised for his intellect and integrity but both admired and assailed for his conservative judicial philosophy, was sworn in today as the 110th justice in the history of the Supreme Court. The ceremony, at the Supreme Court, came shortly after Justice Alito was confirmed by a sharply divided Senate, which voted 58 to 42, largely along party lines.”
New York Times reporter James Dao reports Friday on a study suggesting most of New Orleans’ displaced black population may not return, and dips briefly and non-critically into Mayor Ray Nagin’s Martin Luther King day remarks about the future racial makeup of New Orleans. He even leaves off the most controversial part -- Nagin’s incendiary preference for a “chocolate New Orleans.”
“The study, financed by a grant from the National Science Foundation, was released Thursday, 10 days after the mayor of New Orleans, C. Ray Nagin, who is black, told an audience that ‘this city will be a majority African-American city; it's the way God wants it to be.’”
Eric Lipton’s New York Times article on the congressional investigation into the White House’s initial response to Hurricane Katrina suggests that President Bush was foolhardy in thinking New Orleans had dodged the Katrina bullet on Monday, August 29, a day before the levees broke and plunged the city underwater.
“That night, after the storm passed, a report sent to the White House warned of a quarter-mile breach ‘in the levee near the 17th Street Canal’ and that ‘an estimated 2/3 to 75 percent of the city is underwater.’ Yet Mr. Bush and the homeland security secretary, Michael Chertoff, in interviews after the storm hit, said they never expected the levees to be breached. They said that after the storm had passed Monday, they were convinced that the city had survived without catastrophic damage.
The New York Times makes a point to cast the Canadian election as a non-ideological victory for the Conservatives on Wednesday. Canada-based reporter Clifford Krauss marks the country’s groundbreaking election of a Conservative government over a headline seemingly meant to reassure the Times’ timorous liberal readership: “Canada’s Shift: To the Right, Gently – Harper Defeated Liberals More Over Scandals Than Policies.”
Last May, the Canada-based Krauss assumed the liberal view that international treaties and gay marriage laws were signs of political virtue and tolerance: "Canadian cities are among the most ethnically diverse and safest in the world. Canadian tolerance took real form during the past two years with the extension of marriage rights to gays and lesbians in most of the country."
David Boaz of the libertarian Cato Institute spotted an undeniable pattern of media unease in the network and newspaper coverage of the nomination of conservative Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court, compared to how those same outlets treated Bill Clinton's 1993 nomination of liberal ACLU lawyer Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Cato's executive vice president asked rhetorically, in an article last Thursday for Reason Magazine:
"Remember all those news stories in 1993 about how the nomination of former ACLU lawyer Ruth Bader Ginsburg to replace conservative Justice Byron White on the United States Supreme Court would 'tilt the balance of the court to the left?' Of course you don't. Because there weren't any. In the past three months, the major media have repeatedly hammered away at the theme that Judge Samuel Alito Jr. would 'shift the Supreme Court to the right' if he replaced retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. According to Lexis/Nexis, major newspapers have used the phrase 'shift the court' 36 times in their Alito coverage. They have referred to the 'balance of the court' 32 times and 'the court's balance' another 15. 'Shift to the right' accounted for another 18 mentions. Major radio and television programs indexed by Lexis/Nexis have used those phrases 63 times.
The Times again looks for holes in the strong U.S. economy, this time on the front page of Sunday’s special Job Market section, in a report by Eduardo Porter, “Pockets of Concern Slow a Strong U.S. Economy.” The caption to an accompanying chart emphasizes “A Weak Jobs Recovery.”
Times readers may find the article’s tone familiar. Here’s Porter from Sunday:
“If you believe most statistics, the national economy is doing quite well. Corporate profits are soaring. Consumer spending and business investment have been growing at a healthy clip. In the third quarter of last year, output expanded at an annual pace of about 4.1 percent. And private-sector economists are expecting growth above 3.5 percent this year. Yet, amid the vim and vigor, there is a weak spot that does not quite mesh with these readings. More than four years since the economy emerged from recession in November of 2001, businesses are still not hiring much. Employment grew by a mere 3.5 million jobs, or 2.7 percent, in 49 months' worth of this economic expansion. Last year, the job market grew by 1.5 percent.”
The NYT's chief political reporter Adam Nagourney was ultra-sensitive to any sign of harsh Republican rhetoric during the 2004 campaign, and he’s no less raw about it a year later, using strong terms to describe Karl Rove’s speech to the Republican National Committee in a front-page story Monday. But what about Howard Dean calling Rove "unpatriotic"?
“With a campaign of high-profile national security events set for the next three days, following Karl Rove's blistering speech to Republicans on Friday, the White House has effectively declared that it views its controversial secret surveillance program not as a political liability but as an asset, a way to attack Democrats and re-establish President Bush's standing after a difficult year.”
Israel-based Steven Erlanger gets page 3 play Friday for his interview with the family of a Palestinian suicide bomber in Nablus (“Into the West Bank Abyss: From Student to Suicide Bomber”).
“Sami Antar, 21, in his second year of physical education studies at An Najah University here, left the apartment at 8 a.m. Thursday. In the afternoon, he blew himself up on behalf of the militant group Islamic Jihad in Tel Aviv, in a zone of shops and restaurants, but killed only himself. About 20 Israelis, ordinary people going about their daily business, were wounded, one of them seriously.”
Next comes Erlanger’s entry for bad metaphor of the year:
No liberal conventional wisdom here! The back page of Sunday’s special Academy Awards section lists the “ideal slate of Oscar candidates” from the top three movie critics at the Times, Manohla Dargis, A.O. Scott and Stephen Holden, each of whom have revealed liberal sympathies in their film critiques.
The only movie that makes all three lists for Best Picture? The GLAAD-approved “Brokeback Mountain,” which tops all three lists, presumably being each critic’s favorite flick.
“Brokeback” actor Heath Ledger also tops each list for Best Actor nominee, and actress Michelle Williams is nominated by the Times trio as Best Supporting Actress. The movie also gets the top nod from all three for Best Adapted Screenplay.
Two days after Sen. Hillary Clinton stood in front of a black church audience on Martin Luther King Day to claim Republicans were running Congress like a “plantation,” the Times devotes a large front-page story to her by Hillary-beat reporter Raymond Hernandez.
Does the Times use the quote as a jumping-off point for an investigation to unmask the liberal agenda behind Clinton’s careful centrist public persona? Does it use the inflammatory remark to round up past controversial statements from Clinton, to suggest she’s not ready for her seemingly inevitable presidential run in 2008?
Not quite. Although a Republican would no doubt get that treatment, the “plantation” controversy is disposed of in a single sentence in “Senator Clinton Makes Her Run While Tiptoeing Around 2008.”