Harry Smith, co-host of CBS’s "The Early Show," has spent the last few days reporting from Baghdad. On Friday, he reported the security situation was such that he couldn’t go out and get ice cream. But today, he decided to look for a success story. He found one, but he proved that while he can report a bad news story without mentioning any good news, he can’t report a success story without finding negative items to talk about. Reporting from Baghdad, Harry Smith began his piece, which profiled the work of the U.S. Army 4th Infantry Division’s work in the town of Sababor, talking about the violence in Iraq: "Yeah, good morning. I'll tell you what, just an illustration of how much bad news there is here. A friend of mine here in Iraq told me the other day 'the busiest people in this town are the terrorists.'" Later, he talked of a bombing in Sababor which occurred a month ago: "It hasn't been easy. Just a month ago, a bomb here killed 15 people."
And at one point, "The Early Show" co-host appeared surprised to learn that people in Sababor view Americans positively. And Smith seemed even more shocked when one of the boys told him his name was "Bush" after Smith had an apparent James Bond like moment in introducing himself to the boy.
Video clip of exchange between Iraqi kid who called himself "Bush" and Smith (21 seconds): Real (700 KB) or Windows Media (825 KB), plus MP3 audio (125 KB)
What is he afraid of? Vicente Fox, the president of Mexico, announced that he would be taking "no questions" during his trip to the U.S. Is he afraid the media will ask him why Bush is being so cruel to illegals?
A news conference that was scheduled in Utah was canceled, as well as reporters' questions at five other events in the state. Events in Seattle and California will also bar reporters' questions. One organizer of the Utah events, Joe Reyna, says, "President Fox is not giving any exclusives (to anyone) in Utah, Seattle or California due to the heated ... debate over immigration."
The media will no doubt not make an issue of his ducking them, as they sympathize with his plight and understand the trying times he is in, with incessant attacks from his northern neighbors.
On May 22, the Federal Trade Commission released a report finding no systemic price gouging resulting from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The following day, USA Today -- which has carried a "nation's gas gauge" item in its front page sidebar for a few weeks now -- assigned the story below-the-fold treatment in the Money section.
Another story, on how average gas prices have dropped 6.4 cents in the past week, was relegated to the sidebar of the Money section page as well.
For my article on televised coverage of the story, click here.
In 2003, country music stations around the country boycotted the music of the Dixie Chicks, a group of three women that originated as a country ensemble. One of the members, Natalie Maines, told a London group in 2003 that she was ashamed to be from the same state as President Bush because of his starting of the Iraq war.
The group is facing the same problem with its latest album.
Since NewsBusters first broke the story about Google News capriciously terminating its relationship with conservative e-zines and web journals, and followed (with the help of writer and software developer Marc Sheppard) with a detailed analysis of the ramifications of such unrestrained power, the blogosphere has been abuzz with this issue.
One of the key players in this sad tale, Frank Salvato of The New Media Journal, posted an interesting response to Google’s banishment at his website that included a list of competing search engines as well as his opinion on the issue: “Google News and Google Search Engine are on a campaign of political correctness that sees them denying access to their service to any website - be it news, opinion or a hybrid of both - that dares to address the subject of radical Islam.” Salvato continued:
Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Tom Hallman apparently has a hard time nailing down the truth. In a profile of math guru Mark Provo, Hallman took vast liberties with the truth without actually picking up a phone to verify any of it. The subject of the story has listed about 30 facts that are not actually factual.
Hallman paints wild pictures of non-existent hills, phantom hotel rooms, even the thoughts that run through people's heads. He writes about the subject "glancing at the clock" and how "in that moment the turmoil of his past would disappear" which were both complete fabrications. As Provo correctly points out, these are the things of screenplays and novels. These are not accurate representations of the truth.
You can still win a Pulitzer Prize for writing a fictional play, so why do these reporters even bother with journalism? And why do newspapers fail to mention that falsities and fabrications paint their pages?
The monthly magazine Vanity Fair is still a Hollywood-crazed chronicler of the rich and famous, but in the past few years it's also become an increasingly shrill anti-Bush voice -- sort of a more elegantly written, hard-copy version of the Huffington Post.
Writer Marie Brenner, a frequent contributor to VF, sounded a little shrill herself this past weekend, claiming that "the atmosphere against the press right now is as onerous as I can ever remember it," and that judicial demands for reporters to reveal confidential sources may result in a comeback for "the anti-press hysteria of the Nixon years."
Brenner, whose 1996 VF piece on Jeffrey Wigand was the basis for the 1999 movie The Insider, spoke at a journalism conference in San Antonio. Excerpts from a story by Sheila Hotchkin in the San Antonio Express-News:
Former Democratic vice presidential nominee Lloyd Bentsen has died. The ex-Senator from Texas was Secretary of the Treasury (under Bill Clinton), a World War II veteran and, in 1988, the running mate to Michael Dukakis. But take a look at what ABC chose to include in their two-line "Breaking News" headline announcing his death on ABCNews.com (as of today at 11:42AM EDT):
"Former U.S. Senator, Vice Presidential Candidate Lloyd Bentsen–Famous For Telling Dan Quayle ‘You’re No Jack Kennedy’–Has Died"
I guess no matter what you accomplish, if you zing a conservative or a Republican, that’s what the media will always remember. Also, in July of 1992, NBC’s Tom Brokaw noted that Bentsen’s famous verbal body slam may not have been, in the strictest sense, accurate:
"It was Lloyd Bentsen who said to Dan Quayle `I knew John Kennedy, and you're no John Kennedy.' It was one of the electrifying moments of the campaign. At the Kennedy Library, just outside Boston, they went through all the files. They couldn't see much evidence Lloyd Bentsen knew John Kennedy very well. But it certainly was an effective campaign ploy for him." -- Tom Brokaw in convention coverage, July 16, 1992.
ABC News has officially picked Good Morning America co-host Charles Gibson to shore up World News Tonight. Is that good news for conservatives? Well, when he hosted the 2004 town-hall style debate between President Bush and John Kerry, Gibson chose a balanced set of questions that equally represented liberal and conservative concerns. Good for him -- that’s a balancing act that previous town hall moderators, like PBS’s Jim Lehrer and ABC’s Carole Simpson, failed to do.
But as a frequent fill-in on World News Tonight and on Good Morning America, Gibson has rarely tinkered with the media elite’s liberal template:
Sometimes you just want to throw up your hands. Interviewing another big oil exec this morning, Katie Couric's proposed solution to high gas prices was to repeal the laws of supply and demand . . . just a little bit.
Whereas Matt Lauer took a while in his interview of another oil exec to get around to his price-cutting point, Katie wasted no time. Interviewing Shell Oil President John Hofmeister, Katie's opening salvo was
"I am just wondering, you and many other oil companies are posting record high profits, of course. And while the average consumer is hurting. I am wondering, Mr. Hofmeister, would it help the long term reputation and value of your company and shareholders if you could feel the pain that consumers were feeling and decrease the wholesale value of gasoline? Is that something you would ever consider?"
Beware of supposedly objective scientists and their not-so-secret political opinions. At the tail end of "Today" on Monday, MRC's Geoff Dickens found that one Louisiana scientist had a two-faced moment on Hurricane Katrina. Al Roker asked: "We had historian Douglas Brinkley here and his book The Great Deluge and he suggested that, that Homeland Security's Michael Chertoff should resign. What's your take on that?"
Ivor Van Heerden, author of a new book simply titled "The Storm," seemed to agree that Chertoff should go, as NBC showed a photo of Chertoff and former FEMA boss Michael Brown: "I think that if you do not have disaster experience, you shouldn't be in these positions of leadership. You need to have folk who have been through the fire, so to speak to understand all the complexities of dealing with a disaster. It, it's wrong to bring in folk who do not have that experience." But experience wasn't everything when it came to Ray Nagin:
Gloria Borger concluded her Monday CBS Evening News story on the FBI’s weekend confiscation of cash from a freezer in Louisiana Democratic Congressman William Jefferson’s home by declaring a pox on both parties: “At a time when 77 percent of the American public believes that all members of Congress take bribes, Congressman Jefferson's troubles help no one in either party.” Unlike ABC anchor Elizabeth Vargas and NBC anchor Campbell Brown who noted Jefferson’s party affiliation in their story introductions, CBS’s Bob Schieffer managed to set up Borger’s report without identifying Jefferson’s party: "The government says FBI agents videotaped Louisiana Congressman William Jefferson taking $100,000 in cash from an informant and later found $90,000 in his home freezer.” Borger did subsequently identify Jefferson as a Democrat. (Partial transcript follows)
In one fell segment, Chris Matthews pulled back the curtain and revealed his view of America's foreign policy intentions as fundamentally pernicious. For him, far from the liberator of Iraq, the United States is no better than a 'colonial master.'
Matthews' guest on this evening's 'Hardball' was John Batiste, one of the former generals calling for Donald Rumsfeld's removal as Secretary of Defense. Not long ago, the Today show accorded Batiste a platform to make his Rumsfeld-must-go pitch. The topic at hand tonight was the failure to anticipate the insurgency with which we have been been faced in Iraq.
Describing the miscalculation, Matthews said: "It's like the British coming in to New York at the beginning of the Revolution and saying they weren't going to face any resistance."
NPR’s Nina Totenberg claimed that the United States was becoming East Germany on the program "Inside Washington" which airs on some PBS affiliates, and in the Washington D.C. market on News Channel 8 as well as the local ABC affiliate.
Host Gordon Peterson, opened a discussion segment regarding a report by ABC News Investigative reporter Brian Ross, who asserted that a federal law enforcement officer advised him and his producer to get new cell phones because the government was tracking the phone numbers dialed in an effort to root out confidential sources. Peterson wondered what effect this would have on reporters:
"He says the official told him ‘it's time for you to get some new cell phones quick.’ Reporters are going to start functioning like al Qaeda operatives? Go to a pay phone if the can find one?"
LegalTimes.com has a problem with Alberto Gonzales saying: "It has been estimated that, at any given time, 50,000 predators are on the Internet prowling for children."
Where did it come from? NBC's "Dateline" used it in their reporting of online predators. What's the problem? The source of that number is about as tangible as the black smoke on the TV show "Lost."
Hansen’s source, according to the “Dateline” report: unnamed “law enforcement officials.” Asked who those law enforcement officials were, Hansen told Legal Times that “this is a number that was widely used in law enforcement circles,” though he couldn’t specify by whom or where... “Was it just a WAG — a wild-assed-guess?” he says. “It could have been.”
Right up there with "dog bites man," the news that Mel Gibson doesn't like "The Da Vinci Code" should come as no surprise. The creator of the film "The Passion of the Christ" thinks it could mislead some.
Mel Gibson has slammed The Da Vinci Code for attacking his religious beliefs.
The Aussie actor is concerned that people may take both the book and the recently released film as fact.
"I'm not angry, per se, that it refutes everything I hold sacred, the foundations of my beliefs," Gibson said. "The Da Vinci Code is an admitted work of fiction but it cleverly weaves fact into maverick theories in a way that will appear plausible to some."
As keynote commencement speaker, New York Times Publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr."apologized" to graduates at the State University of New York at New Paltz on Sunday for the failure of his generation to stop the Iraq War and to sufficiently promote "fundamental human rights" like abortion, immigration, and gay marriage.
Paul Kirby of Kingston's Daily Freemanquoted from Sulzberger's address, which he began with a facetious "apology" to the class for being part of the generation that let them down due to insufficient liberal activism.
"'I will start with an apology,' Sulzberger told the graduates, who wore black gowns and hats with yellow tassels. 'When I graduated in 1974, my fellow students and I ended the Vietnam War and ousted President Nixon. OK. OK. That's not quite true. Maybe there were larger forces at play.'"
AR15.com notices that ABC News used a former Salon.com writer and former employee of Handgun Control Inc. to cover the National Rifle Association
You may have noticed the byline on ABC News recent story covering the NRAs pledge to ask mayors and police chiefs to sign a petition stating they will uphold their legal duties not to confiscate weapons from law-abiding citizens during time of crisis a la Katrina.
New NRA Campaign Asks Lawmakers to Pledge Not to Confiscate Guns in Times of Crisis
Ad Campaign Begins Tomorrow, NRA Reacts to Hurricanes Katrina, Rita
By JAKE TAPPER and AVERY MILLER
Hmmmm, you mean the Jake Tapper who used to write for Salon.com? I wonder what happens if we google his name and the words "NRA"...
Democratic political consultant and longtime Fox News contributor Susan Estrich responds to charges by Bob Cesca on the Huffington Post that Fox News encourages the "white power" movement.
Cesca had said:
Last week, Fox News Channel's John Gibson urged white people to make more babies in order to counter the growing Latino population in America. Watch Stephen Colbert present Gibson's ridiculousness here.
Next up... Tony Snow, former Fox pundit and current White House press secretary, blurted out "squeezing the tar baby" in his first official press conference.
Times music critic Jon Pareles thinks the anti-Bush country group The Dixie Chicks were right all along in Sunday’s front page Arts & Leisure feature, "The Dixie Chicks: America Catches Up With Them"
"The Dixie Chicks call it 'the Incident': the anti-Bush remark that Natalie Maines, their lead singer, made onstage in London in 2003. 'Just so you know, we're ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas,' said Ms. Maines, a Texan herself.
"It led to a partisan firestorm, a radio boycott, death threats and, now, to an album that's anything but repentant."
What Pareles doesn’t mention: It also got them cover stories on several news magazines and newspapers back then, and they’re still milking their profile in courage -- Time Magazine this week has them on the cover in a typically favorable article (they apparently have "The Biggest Balls In American Music," apparently because it's just so courageous to stand up in front of an anti-war audience and bash Bush).
Imagine you're a newswire editor writing the headline for a story in which former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has accused Pres. Bush of 'religious absolutism.' What would be a fair headline? Something like:
Albright Accuses Bush of 'Religious Absolutism'
Now consider Reuters' actual headline:
Albright Critical of Bush's Religious Absolutism
Note the not-so-subtle difference. We've moved from Albright accusing Bush of religious absolutism, to Reuters effectively reporting Bush's absolutism as a fact, of which Albright is simply critical. Not even a set of quotation remarks around 'religious absolutism' to clarify that the words are Albright's, and not unquestioned fact.
Something frighteningly ominous has been happening on the Internet lately: Google, without any prior explanation or notice, has been terminating its News relationship with conservative e-zines and web journals.
At first blush, one can easily ignore such business decisions by the most powerful company on the Internet as being routine. However, on closer examination, such behavior could give one relatively small technological corporation (when measured by the size of its workforce) a degree of political might that frankly dwarfs its current financial prowess.
Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) appeared on CBS' The Early Show this morning, along with several others, to discuss winning the JFK "Profiles in Courage" award.
During the interview, Murtha went on an anti-War rant, to which The Early Show's co-anchor Julie Chen said nodded in agreement and said "absolutely":
MURTHA: And I said there's not only no progress, it's worse than it was pre-war. This thing has been mishandled so badly. The american people need to hear. We're spending $450 billion on this war by the end of the year, $9 billion a month, and so we need to change course.
"Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty." JFK Inaugural Address, 1961
"We can do just as much by withdrawing our troops." John Murtha, Winner, Profile in Courage Award, 'Today' show, 5/22/06
The Kennedys have come a long way since JFK gave his inaugural speech. Pres. Kennedy was a cold warrior, not only in the words of that speech, but in action. He stared down the Kremlin over the Soviets' installation of nuclear missiles in Cuba, and with his Cuban embargo took the world the closest it has ever been to the brink of nuclear war.
It's a spicy set of covers on the news magazines this week. U.S. News asks how low Bush can go in the polls. Newsweek is having another agnostic's crush on Mary Magdalene. But Time magazine wins the liberal-bias award for promoting the Dixie Chicks on its cover with the words "Radical Chicks." (Cover copy: "They criticized the war and were labeled unpatriotic.") Josh Tyrangiel's cover story begins predictably by hailing the lead singer:
Natalie Maines is one of those people born middle finger first.
As a high school senior in Lubbock, Texas, she'd skip a class a day in an attempt to prove that because she never got caught and some Mexican students did, the system was racist.
In the aftermath of Memogate, Rather's relationship with his fellow CBSers completely disintegrated. Years of pent-up frustration at Rather's autocratic management style and personnel control of CBS News came to an abrupt end as remnants of the old Cronkite guard and new-school suits coalesced to throw Rather from the anchor's chair and cast him as an occasional reporter on "60 Minutes."
It seems now that Dan may have had enough of the demotion, and that CBS is just fine with cutting the cord. Rumors are starting to spread that Rather, whose contract with CBS expires in November, is not coming back to the network. And that it's a mutual decision. CBS head Les Moonves, having succeeded in revamping his entertainment division long wanted to turn his attentions to news, only to be stymied by the prickly pear Rather, who loudly and publicly declaimed any attempts to rein him in as "destroying hard news."
Maybe fiction is dead after all. Several hundred literary worthies were gathered up by the New York Times and asked to name the best work of fiction over the past 25 years, and the winner was – Toni Morrison, that is, her book “Beloved.” Books by John Updike, Philip Roth and Don DeLillo got most of the votes after that for literature’s version of MVP.
I’m only half kidding about Morrison being the death of fiction because I only read half her book. This happened over at the local library when I found myself browsing “Beloved” and found it quite okay, but not sensational. So I read about half. I couldn’t finish because I can’t seem to go for sentences that refuse to stop. It’s called style, I guess, or maybe it’s called Faulkner.
The New York Times seems to be quite confused by all this DaVinci Code stuff. All this focus on religion must be too much for them. The latest is a May 21st article by Laurie Goodstein titled “It's Not Just a Movie, It's a Revelation (About the Audience)” that claims, among other misleading things, that Gnosticism is said to be somehow new on the Christian religious scene.
Goodstein seems to imagine we live in “an era in which many Christian believers have assimilated a whole lot of new and unorthodox ideas, as well as half-truths and conspiracy thinking, into their faith, while still seeing it as Christianity.” She has decided to call it “Da Vinci Christianity.”
But, like too many in the media, Goodstein thinks she has discovered something “new” when she is merely seeing something that has been around for time immemorial.