New MRC Report: How the Networks (and Even Newspapers) Spiked or Skimped on Damaging New Media Scoops

Brand new at MRC.org today: a new Special Report titled "Omitting for Obama: How the Old Media Deliberately Censored New Media Scoops in 2009."

A few weeks of digging into just how little the Old Media covered these stories -- and how they often tried to explain them away as distractions caused by Obama's enemies -- showed me that conservatives who are very well-versed in New Media scoops might fail to understand just how little these stories may not have penetrated into the news seen by less politically committed Americans who rely on "objective" Old Media.

The converse may also be true: that Old Media bosses assume that if they haven't covered a New Media story damaging to their liberal heroes, it hasn't really penetrated into the political culture in a way they cannot manipulate. 

Here's a quick summary of the report's findings: 

The Obama administration was embarrassed by a series of revelations about its most radical actions, assumptions, and associations in 2009. While Fox News and the conservatives on talk radio and the Internet broke and developed these stories, Americans following only the "mainstream" media would never have heard these reports. Instead of acting as government watchdogs holding the people in power accountable, the nation’s broadcast news networks deliberately suppressed and de facto censored embarrassing scoops – at least until President Obama or Congress took action and made them impossible to ignore.

In many cases, this resistance to real news extended even to newspapers like the Washington Post and the New York Times, which are supposed to be more substantive and thorough than highly-paid TV news talking heads or unpaid bloggers. A Media Research Center study of four such stories highlighted by the New Media in 2009 that were damaging to the Obama "brand" found that the news was not only slow in arriving, it was fast in disappearing:

# Van Jones. On September 3, blogger Jim Hoft reported that Obama "green jobs" guru Van Jones had signed a petition in 2004 demanding a probe into charges the Bush administration "deliberately allowed the September 11th attacks to occur." Fox News Channel jumped on the story. But it didn’t draw a single story on ABC or NBC until after Jones resigned his office at the very start of September 6. CBS filed one, and ABC five. NBC never devoted a single full story to Jones (just mentioned him as a distraction in eight pieces). They noticed a few outrageous Jones remarks like suggesting a black child would never shoot up a school, but never noticed Jones calling himself a communist. Even the newspapers were stubborn in their avoidance: the Washington Post failed to publish a story until the morning before Jones resigned, and the New York Times failed to publish a story until after he resigned.

# ACORN. On September 10, the website Big Government exposed with shocking hidden-camera footage how the leftist Association of Community Organizers for Reform Now (ACORN) in Baltimore advised a man and woman posing as a pimp and a prostitute how to shelter their illegal income from taxes, even as they claimed they were bringing in under-age girls from Latin America to be their sex workers. While the video aired heavily on Fox News, the broadcast network evening news shows stayed silent for five days until Congress moved to deny the group’s millions in federal funding. (ABC broke the network blackout on Saturday morning, September 12 to briefly note the Census Bureau cut off ties to the group.) While the journalists kept releasing videos from ACORN offices – in Washington D.C., Brooklyn, and San Diego – in the end, ABC and CBS aired only one full story, NBC three. As the rest of the country was laughing at Jay Leno ACORN skits, the networks didn’t find it a laughing proposition when President Obama claimed to George Stephanopoulos: "Frankly, it’s not something I've followed closely," adding he had not been aware that ACORN received much federal money. None noted the comment or Obama’s long relationship with the group in Chicago, working as an ACORN trainer and even as ACORN’s attorney in court.

# Obama’s Aide and Mao. After White House communications director Anita Dunn slammed Fox News Channel as either "the research arm or the communications arm of the Republican Party" in October, Glenn Beck’s FNC show unearthed video of her speaking at a 2009 graduation where she lightly declared that mass-murdering Chinese communist dictator Mao Zedong was "one of my favorite philosophers." This speech clip was completely ignored by ABC, CBS, NBC, NPR, Time, Newsweek, USA Today, and the New York Times.

# Climategate. In late November, the New York Times reported that hacked e-mails from climate researchers at the University of East Anglia in England exposed how the scientific experts cited so often by the media on global warming called their opponents "idiots," proposed censoring them from scientific journals, and twisted scientific data to support their policy agenda. This would be a bombshell if the hacked e-mails came from an oil company manipulating data, calling their opponents idiots, and proposing they be censored. The scandal threatened to ruin President Obama’s campaign to push for drastic energy-reduction goals at a summit in Copenhagen. The networks ignored it for two entire weeks, and then when they decided to cover it, ABC, CBS, and NBC each only gave these revelations two full stories, which denigrated the scandal’s political or scientific importance. Compared to those six stories, the Big Three devoted 57 full stories and interviews during the same two weeks to the less substantive White House "gate crasher" scandal after the first Obama state dinner.

The report concludes that the Old Media are in danger of losing even more audience members as long as they refuse to acknowledge news until after Democrats in Congress or the White House decide it’s news. As much as the Old Media has suggested the New Media are guilty of a lack of credentials or professionalism, their performance in 2009 suggests that providing political protection for Obama means more than professionalism to the media establishment.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis