Media Scandals

By Tom Blumer | September 25, 2010 | 10:20 AM EDT
Jonathan KleinNews consumers of America owe a debt of gratitude to Jonathan Klein. Really.

Yesterday, NB's Noel Sheppard noted the ignominious end of Klein's nearly six-year term as head of CNN/US.

If there is an example of anyone who has overseen a bigger audience decline and loss of competitive position and survived so long, I don't know who he or she is. Fox News, which first passed CNN in total viewers in January 2002 (interesting how this basic factoid is not at Fox's Wiki entry), now routinely trounces CNN and CNN Headline combined by a factor of 1.5 to 1 or more. On Thursday, Fox's primetime audience of 574,000 was 75% greater than the CNN pair's combined total of 329,000.

But before he arrived at CNN to do his damage, Klein inadvertently did the nation a service.

By Tom Blumer | September 19, 2010 | 10:22 PM EDT
MarcAmbinderIn a September 15 post-primary item at the Atlantic ("An Epic End to the Primaries: What It Means"), politics editor Marc Ambinder presented seven "different ways to look at the primaries of September 14, 2010."

His final item reads as follows (bold is mine):

7. The media is going to help the Democratic Party's national messaging, which is that the GOP is a party full of Christine O'Donnells, a party that wants to take away your Social Security and your right to masturbate. Well, maybe not that last part, but then again, the implicit message of the party is that the GOP is about to elect a slate of hard social rightists to Congress.

The bolded text is an obvious point to anyone with even the most rudimentary powers of observation, but it's a pretty interesting admission nonetheless. That's especially true because Ambinder is a bona fide member of the media. Indeed, he's a self-admitted Journolist member who despite (or perhaps because) of that involvement has a specific assignment involving covering this fall's elections.

On August 27, CBS announced its 2010 campaign coverage team. Marc Ambinder is on that team (HT Media Bistro):

By Tim Graham | September 13, 2010 | 8:04 AM EDT

The Washington Post has repeatedly featured a full-page ad in recent days for a Get Motivated! Business Seminar in Washington in October. One of the big names at the event (alongside Colin Powell, Steve Forbes, and Rudy Giuliani) is disgraced former CBS anchor Dan Rather, teaching "How to Communicate Effectively." Then the ad copy gets ridiculous:

Dan Rather, Legendary News Anchor and Journalist, has covered every major story of the last 50 years, with distinction and a fierce dedication to hard news. He is always ready to deliver the truth the way it is! [Emphasis mine.]

Hello, Better Business Bureau? Someone's misleading the public about Dan Rather's record of "distinction" in trying to sell fraudulent documents about President George W. Bush's military service in the fall of 2004. His "fierce dedication" wasn't to hard news. When his story was exposed as phony, he refused to admit he'd mangled the truth.

By Tom Blumer | September 4, 2010 | 10:18 AM EDT
APlogo0409What follows indicates that at least one limit has been found to the establishment press's willingness to serve as this government's official apologists.

Not surprisingly, it relates to Iraq. The press obviously and bitterly opposed the war from the start, to the point of doctoring photographs, making stuff up, pretending that its sources knew what they were talking about when they didn't, and ignoring enemy atrocities and Saddam Hussein's mass graves for years, while often having their journalistic failures and biases exposed by milbloggers and bloggers. So if one were to have guessed ahead of time where a clear break might occur, Iraq would have been a leading choice.

That break comes in an AP email to staff from "Standards Editor" Tom Kent. He must have or at least should have known that its contents would get out. Jim Romenesko at Poynter Online (HT Legal Insurrection) appears to have posted it first, about 16 hours after Kent hit the "send" button:

Subject: Standards Center guidance: The situation in Iraq

Colleagues,

... we should be correct and consistent in our description of what the situation in Iraq is. This guidance summarizes the situation and suggests wording to use and avoid.

By Tim Graham | September 3, 2010 | 7:10 AM EDT

The Poynter Institute welcomed disgraced former CBS anchor Dan Rather to share his thoughts on his long career and on the media in general this week. In an interview with Poynter's Mallary Tenore, he complained "So often, particularly covering politics, enterprises that describe themselves as journalistic enterprises, and journalists who describe themselves as journalists, in fact just become transmission belts."

That's exactly what Poynter's interview was, a transmission belt for Rather's lamest hits, including how the press needs a "spine transplant" and his shameless insistence that his phony-documents Texas Air National Guard story is still true. If Poynter cared about the reputation of journalism, why continue to entertain and spread doubt about the falsehood of Rather's most atrocious "scoop"?

The only thing fresh here is Rather's growing socialism, as he insists (just like Bill Moyers) that money is corrupting politics and the government needs to break some alleged media monopoly where only four mega-corporations distribute most of America's news:

August 19, 2010 | 4:10 PM EDT
In an unusual move, the Associated Press has publicly released an advisory memo to its reporters on how to cover the Ground Zero mosque story - and the first rule is that journalists must immediately stop calling it the "Ground Zero mosque" story.

"We should continue to avoid the phrase ‘Ground zero mosque' or ‘mosque at ground zero' on all platforms," reads the advisory, which was issued by the AP's Standards Center.

Instead of the "Ground Zero mosque," AP recommends that reporters use the terms "mosque 2 blocks from WTC site," "Muslim (or Islamic) center near WTC site," "mosque near ground zero," or "mosque near WTC site."

The AP suggests that it might "useful in some stories to note that Muslim prayer services have been held since 2009 in the building that the new project will replace." In addition, the news service offers a "succinct summary of President Obama's position" on the mosque, but doesn't include the positions of any other politicians.

By Tom Blumer | July 29, 2010 | 5:54 PM EDT
column_rogersimonRoger Simon's Wednesday morning column ("Journolist veers out of bounds"), an item Rush brought up on his show this afternoon, may be one of the most delusional items ever written by a journalist attempting to defend his profession.

Rich Noyes at NewsBusters covered one aspect of Simon's column on Wednesday, namely the deliciously hypocritical outrage of NBC/MSNBC reporter Chuck Todd over how the Journolist scandal "has been keeping him up nights, and he's especially frustrated that 'the right' would use it as 'a sledgehammer' against everyday journalists, 'those of us who don't practice advocacy journalism.'"

I'll suggest that Simon's rendition of journalistic history is at least as offensive as Todd's reaction, in that it's laughably and obviously false on so many fronts (numbered tags are mine):

... when I became a reporter, it was almost a holy calling. (1)

July 29, 2010 | 12:49 PM EDT
The Daily Caller released a new JournoList scoop today, and this one's a doozy. It confirms that reporters on the liberal media listserv did in fact collaborate with political operatives and campaign officials to spin media coverage in favor of Barack Obama.

The latest piece further debunks JournoList founder Ezra Klein's claims - also taken on by this humble blogger - that the email list did not include campaign or government officials, and was not used to manufacture talking points.

In fact, two members of the Obama campaign, Jared Bernstein and Jason Furman, were JournoList members during the race. Jeff Hauser reportedly signed a number of JournoList emails "Campaign Manager, Shulman for Congress," while he worked on New Jersey Democratic congressional candidate Dennis Shulman's campaign.

And talking points were a much-discussed issue. "JournoList’s greatest challenge is to make sure an actual win by Obama translates into winning the battle for political impact," Houser stated on one occasion. It doesn't get more explicit than that.
July 28, 2010 | 4:44 PM EDT

UPDATE: Louis's retort considered - and debunked - below. UPDATE II: Louis makes a pretty outrageous claim on his twitter account. Details below.

Here's a helpful tip if you ever run for federal office: make sure to curry favor with journalists so that if you're ever charged with multiple ethics violations, those journalists won't ask you difficult questions. It works - just ask Charlie Rangel!

The New York congressman, chairman of the House panel in charge of the tax code, will likely be charged in a number of violations of the ethics code. Among the alleged violations is a charge that he extended a $500 million tax loophole to an oil executive in exchange for donations to the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service at City College of New York.

No matter, says New York Daily News columnist Errol Louis, who admitted to refraining from asking Rangel any tough questions in an interview. His reason: Rangel has "been a friend to my show and he's given us a lot of good inside information."

By Brent Bozell | July 28, 2010 | 12:50 PM EDT

Managing Editor's Note: What follows is an open letter from NewsBusters publisher Brent Bozell to Washington Post executive editor Marcus Brauchli about the controversial [now defunct] e-mail listserv JournoList, founded and operated by the Post's Ezra Klein.

The JournoList scandal is getting worse every day and The Washington Post is at the center of it. Blogger Ezra Klein ran the operation and at least three other staffers were members. (Blogger Greg Sargent claims he wasn't a member after he joined the Post.) In addition, at least one member of Slate and two from Newsweek, also owned by Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive, were members.

The almost constant revelations of political activism and journalistic conspiracy raise an enormous number of questions about Post policies, professionalism and ethics. As a conservative, and therefore a member of the movement JournoListers sought to demonize, I feel Post readers are owed full disclosure.

Any understanding of the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics makes clear this list and the Post's involvement violate a number of ethical guidelines. In fact, much of the code seems to have been ignored. Here are just a few examples from the code.

Journalists should:

By Brent Bozell | July 27, 2010 | 10:17 PM EDT

Tucker Carlson's website The Daily Caller has unearthed a treasure trove of liberal journalists talking (nastily) to themselves in a private e-mail list about how they should use their media power to remake the world in their image.

The funniest thing about this expose of “JournoList” was witnessing journalists say it was unfair to leak these e-mails when reporters had an “expectation of privacy.” More than 90,000 pages of secret documents on Afghanistan have been leaked and journalists are tripping over each other in a mad stampede to cover the story. Everyone should laugh heartily at leak-devouring journalists getting a fistful of their own bitter pills.

The saddest thing about all this is the confirmation (as if it were necessary) that liberal journalists really aren't journalists first. They're political strategists. They pretend to be the Hollywood version of Woodward and Bernstein, the brave sleuths digging out government malfeasance and corruption. But in reality they're the Woodward and Bernstein who plotted how to get Richard Nixon impeached and ready the way for pacifist and socialist “Watergate babies” like Chris Dodd and Henry Waxman to take seats of power. Ethics are only relevant if they’re a weapon.

July 27, 2010 | 6:08 PM EDT

Barely a month after Dave Weigel resigned from the Washington Post, he has been hired by…the Washington Post.

Well, to be more specific, by Post subsidiary Slate Magazine. Michael Calderone tweeted the news this evening, and Weigel confirmed shortly thereafter.

Weigel's resignation came after it was revealed he had made derogatory and highly offensive comments towards prominent conservatives on the liberal media listserv JournoList. Those included suggesting that Matt Drudge should set himself on fire, wishing death on Rush Limbaugh (incidentally, he wasn't the only JournoLister to do so), and dubbing Newt Gingrich an "amoral blowhard."

It wasn't the first time Weigel got in trouble for offensive comments. It wasn't the first time he took heat over comments made about Matt Drudge. He also called gay marriage opponents bigots, sparking outrage from some on the right.

Since Weigel had been hired to cover the political right, most conservatives believed he would be a counterweight to Ezra Klein, who covers the liberal beat on his own WaPo blog. Weigel's comments confirmed (though anyone who had read his work already suspected) that he would not bring that hoped-for balance.