Over the past 10 years or so, one of the most commonly asked questions in media circles is why the public seems to be increasingly tuning out and unsubscribing from America's establishment media.
Various reasons have been offered, including the emergence of interactive media, increased work hours, more commuting - all of which aren't without merit. One explanation that usually isn't discussed is that, just maybe, the public is sick of the media picking and choosing what they think is news.
And while it is amusing to see journalists who oppose government media intervention on behalf of the public (FCC) arrogating that privilege to themselves, we'd all be better off without the laughs because the hypocrisy is frustrating the national discourse. Instead of reporting the news, far too many journalists have now taken it upon themselves to protect the public from it.
If the idea of the Fairness Doctrine bringing government control of broadcasted speech wasn't bad enough, there's also a possibility that its oversight powers could spill over onto the Internet and control Web content.
Yesterday, in a stinging indictment of his Old Media colleagues' la-la-la treatment of the story of John Edwards's affair with Rielle Hunter, Los Angeles Times columnist Tim Rutten asserted that Edwards "may have ended his public life but he certainly ratified an end to the era in which traditional media set the agenda for national political journalism."
I'll get to Rutten's mostly perceptive points in a bit.
That's because recent developments indicate that Edwards may still be believe he can eventually re-enter public life, and they are relevant to Rutten's assertion:
Self-censorship toward radical Muslims continues to be a problem in corporate America. The latest casualty: a book by author Sherry Jones about Aisha, the favored wife of Islam's founder Mohammed, whom he is said to have betrothed when she was less than ten years old.
Writing in today's Wall Street Journal, Asra Q. Nomani tells how the book, "The Jewel of Medina," got canceled by would-be publisher Random House thanks to a politically correct professor of Islamic studies named Denise Spellberg:
In an interview about Ms. Jones's novel, Thomas Perry, deputy publisher at Random House Publishing Group, said that it "disturbs us that we feel we cannot publish it right now." He said that after sending out advance copies of the novel, the company received "from credible and unrelated sources, cautionary advice not only that the publication of this book might be offensive to some in the Muslim community, but also that it could incite acts of violence by a small, radical segment."
After consulting security experts and Islam scholars, Mr. Perry said the company decided "to postpone publication for the safety of the author, employees of Random House, booksellers and anyone else who would be involved in distribution and sale of the novel."
If these allegations are true, the danger isn't their potential to gather secrets. Instead, it's their ability to quietly shape opinion and influence public policy on Cuba through powerful academic groups, frequent media statements and slanted analyses as they maneuver within elite academic-think tank circles--and even brief government agencies and the military.
Now that the government has signed off on a $25-billion bailout of home mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the obvious question is: What next?
Steve Forbes, editor-in-chief of Forbes magazine, thinks breaking up is hard to do, but necessary. "The Bush Administration should vigorously push to have Fannie and Freddie recapitalized and broken up into 10 to 12 companies, with their ties to the government completely severed," as he explained in the August 11 edition.
According to Forbes, getting 10 to 12 smaller private companies involved in mortgages "will help revive and reinvigorate that sector."
So the Big 3 networks sent their evening news anchors on the road to follow Barack Obama around last week on his Excellent Overseas Adventure.
If the nets' managements harbored any hopes that doing so might significantly increase their overall audience, or meaningfully increase the number of viewers in the key 25-54 demographic, those hopes were dashed when last week's ratings were released Tuesday (Source for all ratings info in this post - Media Bistro Newser: July 21, 2008; July 14, 2008; July 23, 2007; July 16, 2007):
It's still nearly a year away but the television industry is buzzing about what will happen when "Tonight Show" host Jay Leno is forced out of his position at the end of May next year. More than likely, as the New York Post's Adam Buckman points out, Leno will jump ship to ABC which will force some schedule changes at that network:
With Leno, ABC has a once-in-a- blue- moon opportu nity to suddenly seize the lead in late- night after decades of play ing also-ran to NBC and CBS.
But what of "Nightline" and Jimmy Kimmel, you ask? They will have to get out of the way.
And it won't matter to the higher-ups at Disney if the news-di vision suits get their noses out of joint over losing their half- hour in late-night after 29 years.
Nothing against "Nightline" - it's a fine show, better and livelier these days than it was in the last years of the Ted Koppel era.
Vanity Fair magazine thought it amusing to have artist Tim Bower work up a mock magazine cover that lampoons the now-infamous satirical depiction of Sen. Barack Obama as a Muslim and his wife as a gun-slinging leftist radical (h/t Marc Ambinder). In Bower's cartoon, McCain clutches a walker while his wife waits with vials of prescription medicine. A George W. Bush portrait hangs above the fireplace in which the U.S. Constitution is ablaze. Hmm, sounds really familiar for some reason.
I'm not sure if its because leftists lack originality or Vanity Fair doesn't read West Coast publications, but the parody heavily cribs from Seattle Post-Intelligencer David Horsey's July 15 illustration.
MRC Director of Media Analysis and NewsBusters Senior Editor Tim Graham appeared on FNC's "Your World w/Neil Cavuto" earlier this evening. The topic: modern liberal campaign bias and how the public often goes against the media's favorites. [audio available here]
"Notice they're not attacking Obama, they're attacking Obama's biggest base of support," Graham noted of the latest John McCain Web videos about Sen. Obama, which lampoon the media's love affair with the Illinois Democrat.
You need "go back no further than four years ago" to find a similar political love affair that backfired, Graham added of the MSM's support of Sen. John Kerry in 2004.
Even so, this election cycle reminds Graham of Clinton '92, one occasion where the media's favorite won, even though he "barely skated by" to election, helped in part by a strong third-party ticket.
A visit to the Vanderbilt TV News archives (no link; registration is required) reveals that on September 20, 1996:
GOP presidential candidate Bob Dole was trying to make up lost ground against incumbent President Bill Clinton, while Ross Perot was filing a Federal Elections Commission complaint over being excluded from televised presidential debates.
It was disclosed that Unabomber suspect Ted Kaczynski had kept a journal in which he admitted to all 16 bombings he was accused of.
There was a "change in the FBI's working theory that TWA Flight 800 was brought down by a bomb," based on a "revelation that plastic explosives were placed on the plane a month before as part of a training exercise for bomb-sniffing dogs." The plane had crashed shortly after takeoff from New York's Kennedy Airport in July, killing all 230 aboard.
Following the November elections, Brit Hume, longtime host of "Special Report" on Fox News Channel and one of its guiding lights, will step down from his anchor post and as managing editor for the Washington bureau.
The news broke this afternoon via Washington Post media writer Howard Kurtz who reports that Hume will not be leaving the channel entirely--he will be retaining his role as a panelist on "Fox News Sunday."
No decision has been made by FNC chief Roger Ailes about the future of "Special Report."
So if you're in index funds, this has not been the best of times (but, on the "bright" side, to the extent your 401(k) or other retirement investments are index funds, your current contributions are buying more shares).
Nonetheless, be thankful if you're not directly or indirectly invested in newspaper stocks.
Newsosaur reported today (HT to commenter dscott) that seven newspaper stocks hit record intraday lows in today's trading before recovering a bit before the close:
Yes, it's unscientific and it is a Web poll, so it should be taken with a grain of salt, but a Time.com survey today finds 61 percent of respondents think that, yes, America is a nation of whiners.
The screen grab at right was taken shortly before 12:45 p.m. EDT. Around 12:30, when I first saw the poll, the numbers were similar: 60-40.
Here's how the question was worded: "As Phil Gramm suggests, is America a 'nation of whiners'?"
I'd suggest a follow up Web poll: "Is the mainstream media collectively a profession of whiners?" For more on that, see my colleague Scott Whitlock's post on how the media refuse to take responsibility for their role in hyping doom and gloom to make America's economic woes seem worse than they objectively are.
The hiring of Howard Wolfson as a political contributor to Fox News has resulted in the ritual outrage from blue blogs and Fox haters. When they aren't smearing Wolfson ("sell-out", "right-wing Zionist", etc) the alternate tactic is used: diminish Fox by lying about its influence and reach.
Howard Wolfson has become the latest prominent Democrat to join forces with Fox News Channel during the general election, hailing it for its "comprehensive and fair and evenhanded" coverage during the primaries.
That's quite an endorsement coming from one of the Democratic party's biggest communications mavens, and not one known for being especially soft-gloved. It's the equivalent of MSNBC suddenly getting endorsed by the likes of Mary Matalin or Ari Fleischer, something which is far less likely to happen. New York Times reporter Jim Rutenberg broke the story:
Howard Wolfson, who was a top strategist for the presidential campaign of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, is going where some Democrats were unwilling to go during the early days of the election season: the Fox News Channel. [...]
Mr. Wolfson is joining a network that Democrats shunned for a time, complaining that its coverage was unfair. But aides to Mrs. Clinton came to view Fox News as distinctly fair to her in a news media climate that they believed favored Senator Barack Obama.
Leave it to radio star Martha Zoller to sum up the need for radio independence this Independence Day. Zoller, writing a timely piece for the Business & Media Institute, gives a brief history of the rise of talk radio and a true free market of ideas.
Thanks to the left and people like Nancy Pelosi, our ability to have media outlets give other than the liberal party line is jeopardized. It is one of the greatest threats to our freedom this July 4th.
Rush Limbaugh's new deal with Clear Channel, as flashed by Drudge (also covered or addressed here and here at NewsBusters; here at the New York Times; and here in a very long New York Times magazine article), is north of $400 million for the next eight years.
Good tax planning too: Maharushie will get his reported nine-figure signing bonus this year before a possible President Obama does his hundreds of billions in damage. Limbaugh's tax savings, if the bonus is $100 million and Obama gets everything he wants, would be a hair under $17 mil (12.4% Social Security on all but $148,000, plus the 4.6% planned increase in the top rate).
One conclusion you can reach, based on what newspaper industry watcher Newsosaur told us earlier this week, is that Old Media covering the Limbaugh story is like zombies covering the living (link in excerpt was in original):
You can win in a court of law and still get attacked in the court of public opinion. That's what former New York Stock Exchange Chairman Dick Grasso would have learned from MSNBC's "Morning Joe" July 2.
Host Mika Brzezinski called Grasso a "poster child for Wall Street excess" in reporting a New York State Supreme Court ruling allowing Grasso to keep his $187.5 million pension payout.
"There you go, a little justice there," Brzezinski said. "Jack Welch calls it justice; I call it a very large pay package. It's a lot of money, Jack."
The Times clearly adores this theme, and is constantly checking for signs that the reign of right-wing news is over and that CNN and MSNBC, whose liberal leanings are never admitted to in the paper, have overtaken Fox among this or that particular viewer segment. The only problem is, those cable rivals never quite seem to stay ahead of Fox News.
When prime-time cable news ratings for the second quarter of 2008 are officially released next week, they will show that Fox News reclaimed the top spot among viewers in their mid-20s through mid-50s, those of greatest interest to news advertisers, according to estimates from Nielsen Media Research.
During the first three months of the year, by contrast, CNN drew so many viewers on big Democratic primary nights and for several presidential debates that it vaulted over Fox News for the first time in six years.
The Chicago Tribune has lurched to the left of Sen. Barack Obama, at least on gun rights, marking the latest point in its evolution from a historically moderate-to-conservative paper to a reliably left-wing broadsheet.
That's how MRC Director of Media Analysis characterized the Trib's decision to issue an editorial last Friday calling for the repeal of the Second Amendment. The editorial board's writers whined that the Constitution's Framers "could have used an editor" in writing the Bill of Rights. [audio available here]
Below is a transcript -- h/t MRC intern Peter Sasso -- from Graham's appearance on the June 30 "O'Reilly Factor" with guest host John Kasich:
Exit poll after exit poll in election after election shows the Democratic Party is staunchly supported by an overwhelming majority of African-American voters, many of whom are much more socially conservative on issues like abortion than their party leadership. The Democratic Party is also staunchly supported in primary battles and in fundraising drives by hard-core pro-choice liberals -- we're talking the same people who fought tooth-and-nail the federal ban on Partial-Birth Abortion.
So when a group of black ministers conducted a protest march in Washington, D.C., last week to raise awareness of its criticism of Planned Parenthood, media outlets had the recipe, instantly, for stories about possible conflicts that could divide the Democratic Party coalition on substantive, hot-button issues.
To perhaps no one's surprise here at NewsBusters, while the media covered the much hyped "Unity" rally in New Hampshire, the cable networks failed to even show up to shoot B-roll of Thursday's pro-life march on the DNC and RNC headquarters. Washington Times staffer Julia Duin covered the march and found no TV cameras present to record it:
MRC President Brent Bozell appeared on the June 24 "Hannity & Colmes" to comment on a trend in Iraq reporting that conservatives have known for a while and the New York Times is only now catching on to: the media love to report negative developments from Iraq, while downplaying or ignoring positive developments such as the succeess of the surge or the exonerations of the Haditha "massacre" Marines.
Here's an excerpt of Bozell from the segment:
BRENT BOZELL, MRC President: There's a terrible adage in journalism: good news is no news, bad news is great news. And that's the coverage that we've seen in Iraq. Countless studies have been done, we've done studies on this, showing that as things got worse and worse, you had more and more coverage. But suddenly the surge came around and as the surge took off and was successful, the coverage went down. You see just the other day where the military announced that violence is down 89 percent, and yet NBC and CBS didn't think that was news. Now, they didn't need to send a reporter to Iraq to report that one, they could have done that from their bureaus.
Staffers for the Detroit Free Press are now in the clear when it comes to cutting campaign contributions for politicians, reports NewsGuild.org, the Web site for The Newspaper Guild, a print journalists union. (h/t Business & Media Institute's Dan Gainor; emphasis mine):
An arbitrator's decision voiding a Detroit Free Press ban on political contributions by editorial employees has implications for other publishers attempting to control what their employees can do off the job-provided those employees are protected by an appropriately worded collective bargaining agreement.
In his May 27 decision, arbitrator Paul E. Glendon ruled that the Free Press cannot ban any particular activity of its editorial employees without documenting that the activity is compromising the paper or the employees' work. Without such documentation, Glendon wrote, the company could not justify its "unilateral incursion" against contractual safeguards.
Peter Boyer's profile of Keith Olbermann in the June 23 New Yorker magazine, “One Angry Man,” contained a bunch of noteworthy revelations, such as:
♦ Olbermann wanted to be more vulgar in his “shut the hell up” insult of President Bush than TV allows. Boyer on Olbermann's May 14 “Special Comment” rant: “Phil Griffin, the senior vice-president in charge of MSNBC raised the matter of tone. Why did Olbermann need to end his commentary by telling the President of the United States to 'shut the hell up'?” Answer: "Because I can't say, 'Shut the f**k up.'”
♦ A focus group for CNN found “audiences didn't like him.” Shortly after Olbermann returned to CNN in 2003, “Griffin ran into an old colleague at CNN, who told him that that network had considered hiring Olbermann, but focus-group tests showed that audiences didn't like him.” (In fact, Olbermann did fill-in work for CNN in late 2001 through 2002. See screen shot from January 24, 2002.)
♦ After Olbermann delivered his first Special Comment in August of 2006 denigrating Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld as a “quack” pushing “fascism,” Boyer learned: “His bosses loved it. 'I think we're onto something,' the President of NBC News, Steve Capus, told me. 'That's what we keep hearing from the audience, more and more, is that they appreciate that we have people who are actually speaking truth to power...'” Olbermann wrote his diatribe after “downing 'a couple of screwdrivers'” while waiting for a plane at LAX.
Like most media outlets, Broadcasting & Cable magazine is wowed by Barack Obama. Introducing its cover story/interview with the candidate/savior, reporter John Eggerton declared Obama earned his nomination with "a profound appreciation of the media’s great possibilities." Or Obama profoundly appreciates the way the media’s always making his great ascent to power more possible. Is it possible Obama could say something critical about a media that’s been so uncritical of him?
When B&C asked him about the negative effects of media consolidation, Obama whispered softly into the ears of left-wing activists at Free Press and Common Cause and the Media Access Project:
The ill effects of consolidation today and continued consolidation are well-documented -- less diversity of opinion, less local news coverage, replication of the same stories across multiple outlets, and others. We can do better.
Few candidates have ever benefited from "less diversity of opinion" in the media as much as Obama. The nation’s political reporters resembled a nearly unanimous pack of enthusiastic Obama super-delegates. Surely this isn’t the opinion Obama’s talking about.
I noticed this photo accompanying an unrelated and relatively straightforward AP story at MSNBC.com about Barack Obama's electoral strategy. As you can see, it falls into the Obama-as-messiah mold, albeit a little more subliminal and requiring more biblical literacy than previous still shots:
Photo by Alex Brandon/AP. Caption: "Sen. Barack Obama walks to the pulpit to speak at the Apostolic Church of God service about fatherhood in Chicago on Sunday."
As you can see from the photo, the background is a brick wall with the text "Jesus Christ Is Lord" emblazoned beneath a depiction of a descending dove. Depicting Obama beneath it evokes to the biblically literate reader the account of the descent of the Holy Spirit as a dove upon Jesus after his baptism, as recorded in all four gospel accounts.
A few moments ago, NBC News reported that "Meet the Press" host Tim Russert passed away this afternoon. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Russert family and his extended family at NBC News.
MRC President and NewsBusters Publisher Brent Bozell has issued the following statement:
Whenever I’ve been asked to give examples of a fair, balanced and honest journalist, Tim Russert’s name was the first name that came to mind. This was a view shared by everyone and the ultimate testimony to his professionalism. As a moderator he was in a league of his own, always knowing when to speak and when to let his guests do the talking. As an individual he was an absolute class act, and always a gentleman. The world of journalism is vastly diminished today.
Media Research Center (MRC) President and NewsBusters Publisher Brent Bozell joined lawmakers and a conservative radio host today in calling for an up-or-down vote on the Broadcast Freedom Act, which would drive a stake through the so-called Fairness Doctrine, which, if resurrected, would threaten conservative talk radio.
ALEXANDRIA, VA - Media Research Center President L. Brent Bozell joined with House Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-MO), Congressmen Mike Pence (R-IN), Greg Walden (R-OR) and Trent Franks (R-AZ), syndicated radio talk show host Laura Ingraham and President of Americans for Tax Reform Grover Norquist in declaring this July 4th to be Radio Independence Day, and called for Congress to allow a full up or down vote on the Broadcaster Freedom Act (BFA).
The BFA will kill once and for all the Fairness Doctrine, the onerous governmental policy that served to stifle free speech on the radio airwaves for four decades. Twenty-one years since its repeal, conservatives have flourished on the air, and liberals have been seeking to again silence them with the reinstatement of the Fairness Doctrine.
The BFA is currently stuck in committee. A discharge petition has been started to allow it to the floor for a full vote, but it has only 194 of the needed 218 signatures.