Olsen finds it remarkable that the Times found this particular IRS investigation worthy of coverage, given the flood of complaints filed from both sides of the political spectrum from election season 2004:
Fox News Channel on Sunday will air, albeit with a disclaimer, a one-sided documentary on global warming featuring liberal environmental activist Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
A Fox News Channel documentary on "global warming," set to air Sunday night, provides only the liberal take on the controversial issue and was approved after environmentalist Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. reportedly "dragged" Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes to a lecture by former Vice President Al Gore, "kicking and screaming."
Julie Chen in the 8:00 a.m. EST half hour of The Early Show hyped "sky-high" gas prices which led to "record profits" for oil companies in a brief anchor-mention on the Senate Commerce hearings today on oil and gas prices, illustrating that a myth debunked in a Free Market Project (FMP) study released last Thursday is still being promoted by CBS News [parts in bold are my emphasis]:
Gas prices haven’t topped inflation-adjusted highs. NBC’s Anne Thompson and other journalists continued to claim “American consumers have suffered through months of record-high gas prices” even as prices dropped.
One of the common themes for gasoline reporting all summer was to claim "record prices," even though the reality was much different. Inflation raises overall prices over time, causing the raw number to go up.A gallon of gas might have cost 25 cents decades ago. That's why inflation-adjusted prices are the only accurate way to compare costs from one decade to the next.
According to the Energy Department, the inflation-adjusted high for a gallon of regular gas is $3.11, set in 1981. But Katrina and Rita sent the media scurrying for stories, and "record highs" were mentioned at least eight times.
CBS was especially fond of the term. It appeared three times during the CBS stories. Anchor Bob Schieffer of the "CBS Evening News" said incorrectly that gas prices had peaked "at a record $3.07 a gallon after Hurricane Katrina" during the October 24 broadcast.
Staff writer Marcia Davis is glowing from the start, excusing an episode of depraved indifference to marine life to liberal Alliance for Justice chief Nan Aron's dogged but failed pursuit of derailing Chief Justice John Roberts's nomination earlier this year:
Nan Aron lost the fish this summer.
Aron, the founder of the Alliance for Justice, one of the liberal armies in the war over the judiciary, has lived in her Woodley Park rowhouse for 30 years. There's a small brick pond in the front yard and, much to the delight of the neighborhood children, she filled it with fish over the summer, about 20 goldfish and koi. But summer was also the start of a season of high-stakes judicial battles.
While Aron and her allies were working long hours trying to defeat the confirmation of now Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., her fish disappeared.
"The problem was I was responsible for the fish," Aron says with a bit of self-deprecating humor. "My one responsibility at home was to feed the fish, talk to the fish and protect their safety, and I'd come home and start counting" and realize that there was trouble.
The casualties of war. But when you come from a family of social activists, you can look into an empty pond and find the positive.
"We'll start again next year and hopefully I'll be a little more attentive," Aron says.
Second-degree fishslaughter aside, however, Aron is portrayed by Davis as a sharp, intelligent, workaholic aggressively pursuing the cause of justice, and deeply revered by not only left-wing allies but conservative critics like former Reagan Justice Department official Bruce Fein for her work ethic, all well and good for a Style section profile, I suppose, but it's the closing that's the kicker:
I just came across this today while purusing the Christianity Today (CT) website: Ted Olsen in the CT weblog last Friday tackled bias in a liberal Austin, Texas newspaper in "Who Brought Up the Klan?":
The Austin (Tex.) American-Statesman has a story today on 30 pastors rallying to support the state's marriage amendment. It's got the five W's, but given the point of the story, the most important question is never answered.
The title: "Pastors gather in Austin to back marriage amendment."
The deck: "Group careful to distance itself from KKK, which also supports Prop 2."
Of the 298-word story, 126 words are devoted to the Klan:
While supporting the amendment on Tuesday's ballot, several Austin-area pastors said they wanted to distance their message from that of the Ku Klux Klan, which is planning a rally on Saturday to support the amendment.
"We have nothing in common with the Ku Klux Klan," said Michael Lewis, the president of the Austin Area Pastors Council. "As Christians, we have to distance ourselves, particularly on racial issues. We're separate from them."
"I am particularly concerned about the Ku Klux Klan and other rogue groups that are supporting the passage of Proposition 2," said Steve Washburn, the senior pastor at First Baptist Church in Pflugerville. "But their language is laced with hate, and we want all who are listening to know we are here out of love."
So here's the question: Who brought up the Klan? Did American-Statesman reporter Lilly Rockwell ask Lewis and Washburn what they thought about the Klan's support of the amendment? Or did they just start talking about the Klan?
If Rockwell brought it up, that's an unconscionable smear and a severe violation of journalistic ethics.
If Lewis and Washburn brought it up, they're foolish, and they're wrong to suggest that the Klan has such significant political power that it's an important part of the story.
CBS's The Early Show ran a positive story set in Iraq today which cast the work of American troops in a positive light and showed CSI: New York star Gary Sinise airing criticism of negative media coverage. The story by correspondent Hattie Kauffman, however, was a gimmicky plug during "CSI Week" on the Tiffany network's morning show to plug new episodes of the trio of highly-watched CBS crime dramas.
Towards the end of her report on Sinise's charity, Operation Iraqi Children, Kauffman set up Sinise's criticism of the media: "In addition to his performances on the USO tour, Sinise continues to stay in touch with the troops in Iraq. From them, he hears the good news that he complains is overlooked in press coverage."
Sinise: "I get another side of the story that we don't hear through the media, and it's, you know, more positive things happening than you would think."
Kauffman agreed: "The news reports are a bomb, a car bomb, a suicide bomb."
Sinise continued: "It's always about a bomb or a suicide bomber or somebody getting killed. And, of course, that's dramatic and all of that. But on a day-to-day basis, there's a lot of improvement. There's a lot of hope. There's a lot of kids that are going to school that never got to do that before."
Brian Montopoli at Public Eye, the media blog for CBSNews.com, today notes that the left-leaning reaches of the blogosphere are virtually ignoring the riots in Paris which have continued unabated for nearing two weeks now. After excerpting some conservative blogger commentary on the troubles in France, Montopoli closes:
Stories like this are interesting in part because they show just how much what people consider news, and how we explain it, is influenced by our political views. Conservatives think this is a huge story, one that shows the failure of liberal ideology. They see the riots as the result of bad policymaking on the part of the left-leaning French government. (And it never hurts, from a conservative perspective, that France looks bad.) Liberal bloggers, for their part, have mostly ignored what seems a pretty significant story.
It reminds me why it's a mistake for anyone to pay attention to just one side or the other – and to accept the conventional wisdom of one's ideological brethren without questioning the beliefs through which it is filtered.
Eight days ago, Steve Gilliard, a liberal blogger critical of Lt. Governor Michael Steele (R-MD), a black conservative seeking the Republican senatorial nomination in his state, altered a photograph of the candidate to portray a minstrel in blackface, and accompanied it with the caption, "I's Simple Sambo and I's running for the Big House."
[Gilliard has since removed his original artwork, but blogger Charles Bird saved the image before Gilliard took it down and documents it on redstate.org, a conservative team blog.]
Understandably, this set off a storm in the blogosphere, with many conservative and some liberal bloggers decrying the racist post as beyond the pale. As I blogged last week, even the Washington Post reported it in their Metro section. Well, the story has evolved a bit more. While the Maryland Democratic Party also issued a statement criticizing it, lately, some elected Maryland Democrats including a white Democrat vying for Governor, have excused the attack on Steele as valid owing to Steele's affiliation with the GOP.
So far there has been no coverage of this new development in the mainstream broadcast media.
Former President Jimmy Carter has a new book and is making the morning show rounds. He appeared on American Morning with Soledad O'Brien via satellite from Washington, DC, and in an excerpt of a taped interview with Rene Syler aired in the 7:00 a.m. half-hour of CBS's The Early Show. Syler's full interview will air at a later date, but if today's excerpt is any indication, it won't be a tough interview with balanced questions.
Syler lets Carter make unsubstantiated claims without asking him for evidence, particularly Carter's assertion that the President always intended to start a war with Iraq, well before 9/11, and his hinting that there is likely a sinister explanation for faulty intelligence before the Iraq war. Syler didn't ask Carter about his fellow Democrats, including former President Clinton, who had similar intelligence from the CIA and made equally alarming claims about the threat from Hussein with weapons of mass destruction in years past.
It's not every day a major al Qaeda figure with a huge bounty on his head gets captured, so when that happens, you'd expect it to lead the news. But apparently not at CBS, where the Early Show led instead with President Bush's latest poll numbers and the Lewis "Scooter" Libby court appearance today.
First, the teasers from the opening credits tipped off the readers to which story the Early Show found more important:
Hannah Storm, co-host: "The Vice President's former chief of staff, Lewis 'Scooter' Libby will be arraigned today in the CIA leak case. This as President Bush's approval rating hits an all-time low. We'll get the latest from the White House."
Harry Smith, co-host: "I'm Harry Smith. In the war on terror, one of America's most wanted men, a key al Qaeda leader with a $5 million bounty on his head has been captured in Pakistan. We'll have details."
CBS News's legal analyst Andrew Cohen let loose a label-laced column on CBSNews.com today on President Bush's rendition of trick-or-treat (to liberals and conservatives respectively) in naming Samuel Alito to succeed Justice Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court.
Alito was painted as "a rock-ribbed conservative jurist who is not afraid to get out in front of the curve when it comes to" the "social issues" which get "the president's base foaming at the mouth."
Cohen finds himself gun-shy with a label for partial-birth abortion however, using an uncomfortable syntactical jumble to hint that Alito may have an impact on the Court's rulings on abortion:
Matthew Mosk of the Washington Post today reports on a racist attack lodged by a liberal blogger on Maryland Lt. Governor Michael Steele (R), an African-American, who is the front-runner in the Republican primary for US Senate in 2006. Mosk also notes how this controversy has touched a Democrat seeking statewide office in Virginia.
A racially charged image of Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele on the Web site of a liberal blogger brought recriminations from both Democrats and Republicans yesterday.
The doctored photo of Steele (R) as a minstrel, and accompanying slurs, prompted Virginia gubernatorial candidate Timothy M. Kaine (D) to pull an ad from the site, stevegilliard.blogspot.com . Kaine's campaign had purchased the space through a broker that put his advertising on numerous liberal-leaning blogs.
CBS News legal analyst, Andrew Cohen, today relays a conspiracy theory some have cooked up regarding the Miers nomination: Miers was never intended to sit on the Court, but rather to be a "sacrificial lamb" whose botched nomination would make it harder for liberals to sink her more conservative replacement.
Cohen himself finds the notion "only mildly paranoid when you think about it," adding:
Can this be? Why not. Anyone who has read those suck-up notes that Miers wrote to President Bush (they’ve been published and posted everywhere, in case you are wondering) wouldn’t have too hard a time believing that she would be wiling to sacrifice her own professional reputation for all eternity to further the political goals of the man to whom she has long hitched her star.
The Miers withdrawal having not yet broken and indictments in the Plame investigation still uncertain, the Early Show focused primarily on Hurricane Wilma in their first half hour's coverage. They seem to have gone for the "government response is painfully slow while people suffer" angle, casting doubt on FEMA and state disaster relief agencies as millions are still without power and face long lines for gas, food, and water.
First co-anchor Rene Syler led off at 7:05 EDT, tossing to Trish Regan live from Miami:
"President Bush visits southern Florida today, where there is growing frustration over relief efforts in the wake of Hurricane Wilma. There are shortages of food and fuel, and some four million people remain without power. CBS News correspondent Trish Regan is live in Miami with more on this. Trish, good morning."
Regan opened: "Good morning, Rene. Well, people are growing increasingly frustrated, they're waiting sometimes five hours in line for basic things like food, water, and ice. I can tell you this morning, already, the gas lines have started. The biggest issue here for people is their lack of power."
CBS's David Martin filed a report on today's Early Show on the sacrifice paid in Iraq by small towns across the country as 25 percent of the Iraq war dead are from rural areas compared to 20 percent of the military as a whole hailing from rural America. Martin focused on the July death of Sergeant Victor Anderson in his story. Anderson was a reservist from Ellaville, Georgia, a town with a population of 2,000, which Martin noted in the closing of his report, the same number of US deaths in Iraq.
Martin's piece put a face on the 2,000 benchmark and used the number to illustrate the loss of life in the Iraq war already as equal to that of a small tight-knit, patriotic Southern town. But in August, the Atlanta Journal Constitution gave its readers a fuller look at Anderson as a person, a Reservist who worked hard to lose weight and pass physical muster to be shipped out to Iraq rather than work a desk stateside:
[An update to my colleague Tim Graham's posts on Good Night and Good Luck co-star and director George Clooney found here and here.]
CBS Early Show host Harry Smith today interviewed George Clooney in the last half hour of the program. At one point Smith---who apparently from the interview really liked the film---notes he saw a screening of the film in New York City, with other journalists and asks Clooney for the reaction he received from his colleagues:
Harry Smith: "I saw it at a screening here in New York. Every newsperson in the city was in the room. You were there. What did they tell you afterwards?"
[Clooney: "...for us, it was quite something to have Morley Safer or Walter Cronkite or Tom Brokaw, any of the guys come over and tap you on the shoulder and say, 'you got it right.'"]
Smith: "Got it right, got it right. It's interesting because the battle in the newsrooms. We think of that time back then as being simpler in some way, because here is Murrow who is clearly on a crusade. But he's fighting with his bosses, he's fighting with Bill Paley. Let me run this clip, and it shows that, were it ever thus. Things never change. Take a look at this."
Smith went on later in the interview to lament the lack of modern day Murrows willing to "sacrifice" what Murrow was when airing the McCarthy documentary:
The first half-hour of today's Early Show featured a brief anchor read by Hannah Storm on the 1,998th and 1,999th American deaths in Iraq, followed two segments later with a Bill Plante segment on the Valerie Plame leak investigation (sandwiched between was an obituary for civil rights icon Rosa Parks who died yesterday). At the end of Plante's piece, he suggested the upcoming 2000-fatality benchmark is just the cherry on top of the problems the White House is having with the Miers nomination and the Plame investigation:
Adding to the President's problems, of course, the fact that the U.S. death toll in Iraq will soon pass 2000, and that links directly back to the argument at the heart of the leak investigation, the justification for the war. Hannah?
Yet the particular political tussle which sparked the leak and hence the investigation---the assertions of Valerie Plame's husband Joseph Wilson--- has since been discredited or severely questioned in a bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee report, a fact Plante doesn't mention but was reported prominently at the time, including Susan Schmidt of the Washington Post on July 10, 2004:
In "Bushies Feeling the Boss' Wrath" Thomas M. DeFrank, the New York Daily News Washington bureau chief portrays President Bush as "frustrated, sometimes angry, and even bitter" of late.
And in case you don't get DeFrank's drift from his litany of setbacks for the Bush administration interspersed with anonymous administration sources, the editors at the Daily News were kind enough to offer this unflattering photo of the President, available here.
You'll note the filename 906-w_scowl.jpg. I guess the first 905 takes just wouldn't do?
Filing a report from the White House lawn shortly after 7:30 this morning on CBS's Early Show, White House correspondent Bill Plante described Vice President Cheney's chief-of-staff Lewis "Scooter" Libby as both high-profile and little-known:
Fitzgerald has turned out to be more thorough than just about anyone has anticipated. He has focused on two of the President's highest-profile aides: Karl Rove and Lewis "Scooter" Libby. Both of whom talked to reporters about the Valerie Plame case and her husband Joseph Wilson. Libby is the Vice President's chief-of-staff and his national security adviser. A little-known but key analyst and confidante. A major proponent of the war in Iraq, Libby was reportedly enraged by Valerie Plame's husband Joseph Wilson's criticism of the war. His testimony to the grand jury about what he said and when may be at odds with that of some reporters.
Of course, Rove has been a source of mainstream media fascination as well as a left-wing bogeyman since President Bush took office. Lewis Libby, however, has not had the same cachet. A search in Nexis of "Karl Rove" in CBS News transcripts from January 20, 2001 (President Bush's first inauguration) to October 1, 2005 produced 178 hits while a search for "Lewis Libby" in the same time frame produced only 25 hits, with all but six of them occurring since June 2004. A search for "Scooter Libby" produced 17 hits, some of which were duplicates of the "Lewis" search.
My colleague, NBC analyst Geoff Dickens, earlier noted the Today show ruminating on the 2000 casualty-benchmark which may soon be reached in Iraq. CBS's Early Show also featured a story on this theme in their first half-hour. Unlike the Today show, however, the casualty story was not linked with unrelated political stories like the Plame investigation, indeed, the Early Show treatment of that came in the next half hour. Another difference: the Early Show's Syler did ask for positive news (see portion in bold below), from Baghdad-based correspondent Kimberly Dozier on the constitution referendum:
Rene Syler in New York Early Show studio @ 0708 EDT: "In Iraq, the US military approaches a painful milestone. Nearly 2000 American troops have been killed since the war began. Again, today, insurgents are on the attack. CBS News correspondent Kimberly Dozier is live in Baghdad. Good morning, Kim."
Washington Post staff writer Michael Powell has been covering the Dover, Pennsylvania intelligent design (ID) federal lawsuit since it opened in September. The challenge was filed by teachers and parents with the aid of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania (ACLU) and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. The controversy surrounds a single paragraph that teachers were required to read to students alerting them to the existence of the intelligent design critique of Darwinism and suggesting it as an alternative theory which wouldn't be learned in class, but could be researched by the students in their own spare time.
When the trial began in late September, the ACLU went first, bringing their witnesses to the stand. Powell's articles on those testimonies were placed on page A3 on successive days (September 27-28). Now that the trial has progressed to the point where the respondents, the Dover, Pennsylvania school board, is calling its witnesses, and the story centered on the testimony of an ID defender is placed on page A13.
James O. Clifford, Sr., a retired reporter and editor with UPI and the Associated Press, has an interesting guest column, "Cardinal Law Was Looking For Media Sin In The Wrong Places," in this month's edition of the conservative Catholic magazine, New Oxford Review. Clifford argues that while the national media have rightfully reported aggressively on systemic abuses and coverups among the Catholic hierarchy regarding priestly sexual abuse of children, the media have played down similar concerns within the teaching profession about nationwide problems with student-teacher sexual misconduct in American public schools.
The article can be found teased here, featuring the first five paragraphs. There is a $1.50 charge for reading the full article.
So a preacher, a comedian, and a scientist walk into a bar...
Okay, I'll spare you that joke, but all of the above comprised Harry Smith's theological roundtable in the second half hour of today's Early Show. The question for Jerry Falwell, Andy Borowitz, and Bill Nye "the Science Guy," was, "Is God mad at us," given all the natural disasters---tsunami, hurricanes, earthquakes, mudslides---that have beset the planet since last December.
It's an odd theological panel to have, and a relatively unserious segment given the makeup of the panel. If Smith's intent were to have a theological discussion, he'd have been better served by having perhaps a Catholic priest, Falwell, a Jewish rabbi, and an Islamic imam to showcase theological opinions from those four faiths. Instead the audience was served an odd mishmash of Falwell expounding on Christian doctrine, Bill Nye plugging global warming, and Andy Borowitz jokingly blaming Paris Hilton for flooding in the Northeast.
The free weekly tabloid Washington City Paper recently started a new feature, Service Industry, its purpose, "rating D.C.'s houses of worship." Religious readers, however, may sense a bit of condescension, intended or not, in the notion of rating a church service much like it were a play, concert, or film, especially if the church rated by the City Paper's reviewer seems to give it bad marks for its conservative or traditional Christian theology.
This week's entry, "The Church in the Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Faith Inc." in Anacostia garnered a poor 1.5 stars (out of a 5 possible). The reviewer gave high marks (4 stars) for "congregational fervor" but was non-plussed by the lack of "food for the body" after the service (0 stars) and was not too keen on Deacon Larry Mathis's anti-evolution sermon (1 star) nor the church's teachings forbidding female preachers.
Staff writers Robert E. Pierre and Hamil Harris report today in the Metro section of the Washington Post on Louis "Farrakhan's Message of Defiance and Unity"* in his march planned for tomorrow in Washington, D.C., commemorating the 10th anniversary of the Million Man March.
Pierre and Harris bury Farrakhan's conspiracy theory rhetoric about the government bombing the levees in New Orleans deep into the article, and they completely ignore Farrakhan's charge that the federal government was involved in 9/11. As reported by CNSNews.com's Marc Morano yesterday:
At a National Press Club news conference Thursday, Farrakhan said his weekend Millions More Movement was intended to put a stop to the "lies, to thieves, to murderers in the name of government.
"When you have people who politically feel that they get their advantage by killing people and blaming it on somebody else, then it makes us wonder what really happened to the Twin Towers (in New York City)," a reference to the terrorist strikes against the U.S. four years ago that brought down the World Trade Center.
"Was the heat from fuel from two airplanes sufficient to compromise the steel in that building? (sic) People had said they heard explosions and the buildings came down like we see old buildings in Vegas or in Florida or in other places, implode," Farrakhan said. "So who was the victor there? Who got the advantage there? It wasn't the American people.
In August, I blogged about CBS reporters using the medical term "fetus" to describe an unborn child, even in stories where the child was a "planned and wanted child" as former Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders was wont to say.
The Early Show's Rene Syler continued the practice today in setting up a report on a Pennsylvania woman accused of attempting to remove an unborn baby from her eight-months pregnant neighbor, to claim the baby as her own. But the correspondent Syler introduced, a reporter for the local CBS affiliate KDKA in Pittsburgh, used the term "unborn baby" and noted that one of the charges the suspect faces is "assault on an unborn child."
Rene Syler: "As we mentioned, there was a horrible attack on a pregnant woman near Pittsburgh. A woman is in custody for allegedly beating her neighbor and then trying to steal her fetus. Ralph Iannotti of our Pittsburgh station KDKA reports."
Washington Post columnist Tina Brown today took the opportunity to mark the 80th birthday of Margaret Thatcher, Britain's first female prime minister, with a scathing attack on Harriet Miers.
In, "You've Come a Long Way, Ladies," Brown begins:
The healthiest aspect of the Harriet Miers nomination is that women haven't rallied to her cause. Ten years ago, there would have been a lot of reflexive solidarity about keeping the Sandra Day O'Connor spot on the Supreme Court from reverting to male type. But every female lawyer I've spoken with in the past week skips right past the sisterly support into a rant about Miers's meager qualifications or her abject obeisance to power. The good news is that for women, it seems, Miers's nomination is like the moment for blacks in Hollywood when it was suddenly okay to cast an African American actor as something other than a perfect hero. The Sidney Poitier phase is definitively over.
CBSNews.com's blog, Public Eye, has a post today on their Early Show viewer demographics, broken down by half-hour block. They show that two-thirds of the audience are women throughout all four half-hour blocks of the show, but that the first half-hour is younger and has more male viewership.
As such, CBSNews officials admit, they tend to stick the hard news in the first half hour, with features dominating the later half hour blocks, but feel they still leave enough hard news scraps to go around in the news briefings in the other half hours:
The first hour is geared more towards the transitional audience, and the second hour includes programming designed for people who are sticking around.
That doesn't mean people who stay at home only want soft features, says Katie Boyle, a senior producer with the CBS "Early Show." She points out that the "Early Show" runs newsblocks on the hour and half-hour, and says that there is a mix of stories so the same topics aren't covered over and over. "In a two hour morning show you want some variety," she says. And the fact that the proportion of women is slightly higher in the second half of the program, she adds, doesn't mean they don't care about hard news. "Women are watching morning television, period, at the beginning and at the end, when there's hard news and soft features," she says. "They want it all."
Now with David Brancaccio on PBS last Friday was a special treat for conservative taxpayers. Brancaccio conducted a fawning interview with Kurt Vonnegut, a novelist who spent most of his time either attacking the Bush administration or more generally whining about life.
After a half-hour of failing to challenge Vonnegut's nuttier statements, Brancaccio gushingly declared: "Well, I think it's easy to notice that some moments with you Mr. Vonnegut add up to I think a magic moment. Thank you very much."