ABC, CBS, and NBC's morning and evening newscasts have so far punted on reporting the strong critique of the Obama administration's "disturbing retreat from democratic practices" with regard to the freedom of the press, according to Reporters Without Borders. The U.S. fell 13 places in the international group's annual "World Press Freedom Index" for the federal government's "increased efforts to track down whistleblowers and the sources of leaks."
The organization spotlighted the controversial leaks from Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden as examples, but also included the Department of Justice's seizure of the Associated Press' phone records as a "reminder of the urgent need for a 'shield law' to protect the confidentiality of journalists' sources at the federal level." Fox News' Shannon Bream devoted a brief to the Reporters Without Borders report on Wednesday's Special Report: [MP3 audio available here; video below the jump]
On Tuesday, the Associated Press (AP) reported that smokers may not be subject to new tobacco-use penalties built into the Affordable Care Act, due to a “computer system glitch” that could take more than a year to repair. The AP claimed that some see the stumble as part of “an emerging pattern of last-minute switches and delays” for President Obama’s signature health care law, citing the administration’s recent postponement of the so-called “employer mandate” until 2015. [See video below. MP3 audio here.]
But you wouldn’t get that sense from the mainstream media, as most major outlets have devoted little or no time to the story since it broke early Tuesday morning. The Tuesday morning shows (Today, Good Morning America, and CBS This Morning) ignored the development, save for a 10-second mention from Today’s Natalie Morales.
Scott Pelley chided House Speaker John Boehner on Tuesday's CBS Evening News, indicating the Republican leader was largely to blame for the imminent sequester: "You said that the President didn't have the guts to do what needed to be done on the budget. Today, you said the Senate has to get off its ass. Those don't sound like the words of a man seeking to bring people together to compromise."
Pelley had already pointed the finger at Boehner for the impasse over the federal budget back on the February 12, 2013 edition of the evening newscast, mere hours before the State of the Union:
For the second straight day, CBS This Morning on Wednesday promoted a liberal comedian attacking a prominent Republican. ABC's Jimmy Kimmel denigrated former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as a "crazy moose lady" on his late night program the previous evening. Despite this insult, Kimmel hinted that Palin was still better than current GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney. [audio available here; video clip below the jump]
The CBS morning newscast featured the insult during their regular "Eye Opener" segment just after the top of the 7 am Eastern hour. On Tuesday, the same segment publicized Stephen Colbert likening Romney's tenure at Bain Capital to the cannibalistic Donner Party.
On Friday's Early Show, CBS's Betty Nguyen used the Statue of Liberty as a live backdrop to play up how "visitors would miss out on the Smithsonian and its 19 museums...even the National Zoo" if the federal budget impasse leads to a government shutdown. Nguyen also highlighted that the "Cherry Blossom Festival...[is] set to wrap up this weekend, but the parade may not march on if the government shuts down."
Fill-in anchor Rebecca Jarvis introduced the correspondent's report, which ran 10 minutes into the 7 am Eastern hour, by outlining that the cost of a shutdown might be $8 billion a week "because there are so many government employees who won't be working, agencies that will shut down, and there are costs to restarting them, including our country's national parks, which is where we find...Betty Nguyen at Liberty State Park, in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty, with more on the expected impact at those locations."
NBC's Anne Thompson, on Monday's Today, covered the Climategate story only to essentially dismiss it in a nothing-to-see here, move along fashion. CBS's The Early Show had a brief mention of it, and ABC's Good Morning America did nothing. Thompson, reporting live from Copenhagen, opened her piece declaring that delegates determined "this could be their last best chance to deal with the consequences of climate change," but then added "overshadowing all of this is a scandal involving some stolen e-mails that has skeptics, once again, questioning the whole idea of global warming."
Thompson went on to air criticism from Professor Ian Plimer, of the University of Adelaide who charged, "There's data being massaged," but then devoted the rest of her piece to confirming the existence of climate change, even allowing a Penn State scientist, who appeared in the e-mail exchange, to defend the use of the term "trick," by a colleague as he claimed: "What the person meant was it was a clever approach to the problem."
On The Situation Room today, CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer made a surprising admission to, of all people, real estate entrepreneur Donald Trump:
BLITZER: What do you think of his (Obama's) decision to pick Joe Biden as his running mate?
TRUMP: I really don't know Senator Biden but I know one thing. He's run a number of times for president. He's gotten less than 1 percent of the vote each time. And that's a pretty tough thing. You know, he's also been involved in pretty big controversy like plagiarism in college and various other things. That's a pretty big statement. So perhaps you change over a period of time. But when you plagiarize, that's a very bad statement. That hasn't been brought up yet, but I'm sure at some point it will. I'm sure that Sarah Palin will bring it up in a debate or somebody's going to bring it up.
BLITZER: Are you talking about plagiarism when he was running for president?
TRUMP: No, I'm talking about when he was a college student as I understand it, and this was a big issue originally but he supposedly plagiarized as a college student. That's a pretty serious charge.
BLITZER: I don't remember that. We'll check it out. But maybe you obviously have a better memory about that.
On CNN's American Morning today, White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux reported on Barack Obama's campaigning in Virginia. Afterwards, anchor Kiran Chetry had a question:
CHETRY: All right. And Suzanne, what's on tap for the campaign today? And please tell me it's not lipstick again.
MALVEAUX: Let's hope not. He's going to be in Norfolk, Virginia. That is in southeast Virginia, and it's home to the world's largest Naval base. It's one of the most competitive areas that the Democrats and Republicans are fighting over. It's a critical piece of property, piece of land there with folks in Virginia, and they want those voters.
Following the tragedy at Virginia Tech, the media found someone other than Seing-Hui Cho to blame -- legal businesses like Roanoke Firearms, Glock and eBay.
Roanoke Firearms' owner John Markell was treated as an accomplice to the horrific crime by ABC's Brian Ross:
“The Roanoke Firearms store where Seing-Hui Cho bought his murder weapon has a history of selling guns involved in murders. It is the fifth time a gun sold in this store has been used in a homicide, according to gun shop owner, John Markell,” said Ross on the April 18 “Good Morning America.”
CBS is in trouble for a "48 Hours" story that changed the front page photo of a Missouri newspaper. The original front page photo from the Columbia Daily Tribune showed convicted murder Ryan Ferguson wearing an orange prison jumpsuit. CBS altered the newspaper's front page by putting in a different picture but representing it as from the newspaper. The new picture showed Ferguson wearing a suit and tie.
The story, entitled "Dream Killer," questions whether Ryan Ferguson was convicted unjustly.
"48 Hours" executive producer Susan Zirinsky says it "was an egregious oversight for us not to know it," although "we don’t feel it changed the editorial value of the story, per se."
The Columbia Daily Tribune interviewed Bob Steele on the ethics of CBS' actions. Steele teaches ethics at the Poynter Institute, a journalism training center in Florida.