Fake News

By Clay Waters | October 26, 2009 | 3:30 PM EDT

One could almost predict the desperately "current" New York Times editor/columnist Frank Rich would devote his Sunday column to try and make Balloon Boy an anti-Republican symbol of something or other, and he doesn't disappoint.

The result, "In Defense of the ‘Balloon Boy' Dad," is even more silly than Rich's usual fare, playing devil's advocate for storm-chasing father Richard Heene. Rich found "some poignancy in [Heene's] determination to grab what he and many others see as among the last accessible scraps of the American dream....If Heene's balloon was empty, so were the toxic financial instruments, inflated by the thin air of unsupported debt, that cratered the economy he inhabits." Rich is being serious.

Certainly the "balloon boy" incident is a reflection of our time -- much as the radio-induced "War of the Worlds" panic dramatized America's jitters on the eve of World War II, or the national preoccupation with the now-forgotten Congressman Gary Condit signaled America's pre-9/11 drift into escapism and complacency in the summer of 2001. But to see what "balloon boy" says about 2009, you have to look past the sentimental moral absolutes. You have to muster some sympathy for the devil of the piece, the Bad Dad.
Nine months into Obama's presidency, everything is still officially about Bush:
Next to the other hoaxes and fantasies that have been abetted by the news media in recent years, both the "balloon boy" and Chamber of Commerce ruses are benign. The Colorado balloon may have led to the rerouting of flights and the wasteful deployment of law enforcement resources. But at least it didn't lead the country into fiasco the way George W. Bush's flyboy spectacle on an aircraft carrier helped beguile most of the Beltway press and too much of the public into believing that the mission had been accomplished in Iraq.
By Tim Graham | October 25, 2009 | 8:17 AM EDT

Disgraced former CBS anchorman Dan Rather continues to make the rounds, trying to rehabilitate his image and paint himself as a man wronged by an overcorporatized, politically neutralized media structure. That's no longer surprising. But why would schools of journalism gloss right over his embrace of fabricated National Guard records in 2004? Viviana Aldous at The Daily Texan reported on Rather's Thursday appearance at the University of Texas in Austin:

“Journalism continues to weather its profound changes as it transits into its digital future,” said Tracy Dahlby, director of the School of Journalism. “Rather has spent six decades getting the job done, telling people things they need to know about their world they otherwise wouldn’t. He’s done it with courage, style, wit and occasionally the controversy that [often] comes [with being a] journalist.”

Is Tracy Dahlby really expressing an opinion, or just taking politeness to an embarrassing extreme? But at least Dahlby didn't call Rather the "world's best journalist," as odd as that sounds:

By Ken Shepherd | October 20, 2009 | 5:39 PM EDT

<p>MSNBC's David Shuster declared yesterday's fake Chamber of Commerce presser at the National Press Club the &quot;Best prank of [the] week&quot; on <a href="http://twitter.com/DavidShuster/status/5027772978" target="_blank">his Twitter page</a> shortly before 5:30 p.m. EDT today. He added a link taking readers to the left-leaning blog <a href="http://tpmlivewire.talkingpointsmemo.com/2009/10/video-real-chamber-spox... target="_blank">Talking Points Memo</a>.</p><p>A group of liberal environmentalist activists punked some journalists by throwing a press conference claiming to represent the Chamber of Commerce. In the fake presser, the pranksters claimed that the Chamber was reversing its opposition to so-called cap-and-trade legislation.</p><p>In a follow-up Tweet,<a href="http://twitter.com/DavidShuster/status/5027823977" target="_blank"> Shuster added:</a></p><blockquote>

By Ken Shepherd | September 29, 2009 | 3:55 PM EDT

<p><img src="/static/2008/07/2008-07-20-SYN-CMS-Rather.jpg" vspace="3" width="240" align="right" border="0" height="180" hspace="3" />From <a href="http://www.mediabistro.com/tvnewser/cbs/rather_case_against_cbs_dismisse... target="_blank">TVNewser</a>:</p><blockquote><p><b>Breaking</b>: The New York State Supreme Court's Appellate Division has thrown out <b><a href="http://www.mediabistro.com/Dan-Rather-profile.html">Dan Rather</a></b>'s $70 million lawsuit against his former employer, CBS Corp. &quot;We find the complaint must be dismissed in its entirety,&quot; reads the decision. The Appellate court found that the motion court &quot;erred in denying the defendants' motion to dismiss the claims for breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty.&quot; </p></blockquote><p>Of course, unfazed, Rather (file image at right above) has <a href="http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/showtracker/2009/09/dan-rather-vows-to-a... target="_blank">vowed to appeal</a> (h/t <a href="http://hotair.com/archives/2009/09/29/breaking-appeals-court-tosses-rath... target="_blank">Hot Air</a>):</p><blockquote>

By Terry Trippany | September 10, 2009 | 10:16 PM EDT

At first I thought it must be an article from The Onion. Surely this couldn't be a legitimate news story.

Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.), who shouted "you lie!" at President Obama during his Wednesday night address to Congress, admitted to regularly consuming caffeine pills in 2007.

It is unclear if Wilson still takes NoDoz, a brand of pill that contains 200 milligrams of caffeine a pop. By comparison, a seven ounce cup of drip coffee contains 115 to 175 milligrams of caffeine.

Sadly this is someone's idea of news. The above excerpt is the startling revelation that appeared in The Hill's Blog Briefing Room under the ominous headline "Wilson regularly took caffeine pills in 2007". (h/t The Jawa Report)

By Tom Blumer | June 13, 2009 | 11:07 PM EDT

Sometimes the numbers in a wire service report are so ridiculous, you just know that they're bogus.

On Wednesday, June 11, a duo of Associated Press reporters, Chris Kahn and Sandy Shore, with an assist from Tali Arbel, reported on a study "green jobs" study released by the Pew Charitable Trusts. In "The Clean Energy Economy: Repowering Jobs, Businesses, and Investments Across America," Pew made the growth in "clean energy" appear more impressive than it is by vastly understating job growth in the rest of the economy during the past decade -- by a factor of three.

None of the three AP "journalists" involved, and none of the alleged layers of fact-checkers and editors at the wire service, had the intuitive sense to detect an error by Pew so pathetically obvious that anyone following the economy at all -- and that includes the folks at Pew -- should have known the figure involved was false.

Here are the first few paragraphs of the AP story (bold is mine):

By Mike Sargent | March 20, 2009 | 1:07 PM EDT

This morning, MSNBC’s Alex Witt was in full damage control mode, working whatever apologist explanations she could find into her reluctant coverage of last night's teleprompter-free “Tonight Show” appearance by the president. [audio available here]

Obama was doing quite well at staying on message, when he made the following comment in reaction to Jay Leno's question about his infamous lack of bowling ability:

JAY LENO: I imagine the bowling alley has been burned and closed down.
President BARACK OBAMA: No, I've been practicing.
LENO: Really?
OBAMA: I bowled a 129. I had –
LENO: Oh, no, that's very good. Yeah. That's very good, Mr. President.
OBAMA: This is sort of like Special Olympics or something.
By Clay Waters | February 25, 2009 | 4:57 PM EST

It's official: The New York Times got pranked by the girls of "Dating a Banker Anonymous," referred to in a fizzy Times profile last month as a "support group" dedicated to women whose "monthly Bergdorf's allowance has been halved."Linda Holmes, blogging at National Public Radio, was dubious from the start: "Isn't it totally obvious that this is a put-on?" She dismissed the idea of a "support group" and figured the people behind the blog were angling for a book deal. The Times responded to Holmes, defending the piece and snottily concluding:

I'm not sure what is thought might be fake about this. Ravi did talk to some of the men to verify the relationships and get their side.

But Holmes's skepticism has been vindicated, based on the "Editor's Note" in Wednesday's Times admitting the January 28 article by freelance reporter Ravi Somaiya was overblown:

By Brad Wilmouth | January 12, 2009 | 12:21 PM EST

Add NBC to the list of news organizations that have shown a clip of two doctors, one of whom is the controversial pro-9/11 Norwegian doctor, Mads Gilbert, supposedly trying to revive a deceased Palestinian boy at Shifa Hospital in Gaza – a scene which some critics charge appears staged. Last week, on the Sunday, January 4, NBC Nightly News, correspondent Richard Engel filed a report in which he recounted the story of a 12-year-old boy, Mahmoud Basrowi, the brother of "Ashraf, a Gaza-based television producer contracted by NBC News," as Ashraf claimed his brother was killed while playing on his family’s roof "when the house was hit by an Israeli shell or rocket."

Narrated Engel:

But in the Gaza Strip now, streets are mostly empty, fuel is running out and there's no electricity. Hospital officials say at least 430 Palestinians have been killed, 30 just today, including 12-year-old Mahmoud Basrowi. His family says the boy was playing on his rooftop with a cousin when the house was hit by an Israeli shell or rocket. Two doctors, one a volunteer from Norway, tried to save Mahmoud. Wrapped in a white funeral shroud, Mahmoud was taken by his brother Ashraf, a Gaza-based television producer contracted by NBC News.

By David Gerstman | January 12, 2009 | 5:39 AM EST

Yesterday, the Public Editor of the New York Times, Clark Hoyt defended his coverage of Israel's war against Hamas. Unsurprisingly, he took the "since both sides criticize us we must be correct" approach. Surprisingly, his attempt, "Standing between Enemies," was marred by a particularly stupid mistake.In order to show that the Times shows diligence in ferreting out fake news, Hoyt wrote:

Witty and his colleagues are frustrated because Israel has barred journalists from entering Gaza, and although The Times has two photographers in the region ready to go, it must rely on pictures taken by Palestinian photographers. "When I can't have my own person there, I have to question every picture that comes in -- to an obsessive degree," he said. Last summer, Witty unmasked as a fake a photo of an Iranian missile test that ran on many other front pages.
By Tom Blumer | January 9, 2009 | 11:27 PM EST

CNNvidIntroFrame0109.jpgThis post follows up on last night's NewsBusters post ("They Never Learn: CNN Withdraws Apparently Faked Video of CPR Attempt on 'Dead' Palestinian Child").

CNN has reposted a video it withdrew yesterday. That video purports to show the death and hasty burial of a cameraman's 12 year-old younger brother, one of two children allegedly killed on the roof of their home in rocket fire from an Israeli drone.

Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs, Ed Morrissey at Hot Air, Bob Owens of Confederate Yankee, and several NB commenters yesterday all questioned the credibility of the video. Johnson, Owens, and Morrissey still believe it was staged.

Here are some excerpts from CNN's explanation for re-posting the video, and why it believes it to be genuine (the video itself is here):

By Tom Blumer | January 9, 2009 | 1:46 PM EST

GazaDestructionWithBushPic0109Correction (Feb. 10, 2009): Corrected from original reporting attributing AP and Getty with the photo editing. In fact it was ABCNews.com, not AP or Getty Images that overlaid the Bush photo on the Gaza rubble photo. AP and Getty Images supplied the respective photos.  Thanks to the folks at StinkyJournalism.org for pointing out the error.

I guess, since flat-out fauxtography as practiced in 2006 in the Middle East has become so difficult, and has been shown as likely to be detected, that the press has decided to go with "creative" image placement to do the dirty work that must be done to create sympathy for Hamas and antipathy towards President Bush and the United States.

For "some reason," the editors at ABCNews.com placed President Bush's image at its bottom right. The photo compilation (shown above) accompanied a report by Miguel Marquez and Simon McGregor-Wood that appears to have also run on the network's "World News" program.

The wreckage in the photo purports to be "the destroyed house of Hamas leader of Nizar Rayan following an Israeli air strike the day before in Jabalia in the northern Gaza Strip" (given the state of reporting out of the region, one never knows for sure).

There is no good reason for Mr. Bush's picture to be included, since: