The MSM seems to be focusing on the replacement of Katie Couric's producer as a story about her poor ratings.
Six months after Katie Couric's much-ballyhooed debut as "CBS Evening News" anchor, the network signaled on Thursday an overhaul of her flagging newscast by hiring one of the industry's most experienced hands to oversee her program.
But despite Couric's ratings being at the predicted "bottom of the toilet bowl" range, it appears there's something else behind this move. The new producer is Rick Kaplan. He's being billed as:
"...among the most experienced, and most traveled, producers in TV news, having worked for ABC News, CNN and MSNBC as well as CBS over a 35-year career.
Over at TVNewser, Brian Stelter has posted an MP3 of a song that is apparently being played today on WPLJ in New York City, ridiculing the poor ratings performance of the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric, with lyrics offering several suggestions for Ms. Couric and her producers. Safe to say it's a bit on the cruel side, especially the line about "if you want big success....find Dan Rather's home address."
Here’s a link to the audio file, and what follows is my transcription of the song’s lyrics (although you need to hear the tune to get the full effect):
As noted Thursday morning on NewsBusters, CBS News has hired Rick Kaplan, a former Executive Producer of ABC's World News Tonight and Nightline who later ran both CNN and MSNBC, to serve as Executive Producer of the ratings-challenged CBS Evening News with Katie Couric.
As documented in a Thursday MRC CyberAlert posting reprinted here, Kaplan has had a long record of friendly relations with former President Bill Clinton, advising Clinton on how to respond to the Gennifer Flowers scandal in 1992 and blocking anti-Clinton stories from appearing on Nightline. Kaplan has also been hostile to conservatives and once even declared that disgraced CBS anchor Dan Rather's "legacy" was "the gold standard journalists today have struggled to live up to."
My headings over excerpts, see below, from a 1998 Vanity Fair magazine profile of Kaplan: "Clinton Cries on Kaplan's Shoulder/Kaplan Hired Hillary," "Helped Clinton Play Media to Overcome Flowers," "Donaldson Says Kaplan's Pro-Clinton Bias Showed" and "Kaplan Called Hillary the Night Foster Died."
NBC had some "horror stories" to share with its audience on March 7, according to "Nightly News" anchor Campbell Brown. Brown introduced the report by Lisa Myers that told the story of Wesley Wannemacher, a man who's $3,200 credit card debt ballooned to $10,700 after interest and penalties.
Wannemacher's plight also featured prominently in similar segments on ABC "World News with Charles Gibson" and CBS "Evening News" for the same day. [continued after jump]
Apparently it's not much to CBS "Evening News" which promoted California's solar power initiative to "get people to think green by giving them some green," according to anchor Katie Couric on March 6.
Reporter John Blackstone argued that families who choose solar power do not suffer and "get something priceless. By living under one of California's million solar roofs they're helping the earth while helping themselves."
But the panels still costs at least $18,000 after the state and federal rebates and a Washington Post article said they actually cost $5,000 more initially than CBS said.
Blackstone also explained that Californians use less electricity per capita than other states, but left out how expensive energy is in California. You can find Dan Gainor's full story from the Business & Media Institute here.
The media love a "green" story. As Al Gore and Hollywood celebrities champion the practice of carbon offsetting -- donating money toward an energy-saving project while still taking your vacation -- the media buzz in agreement.
"If more people do it over time, it's a good thing," said CBS reporter Russ Mitchell during a carbon offset story on the February 22 "Early Show."
Carbon offsetting is hypocritical because it allows the extremely wealthy, like Al Gore, to still use enormous amounts of energy (1 million miles of global air travel in 2005 and more than 20 times the national average of power usage in 2006), while telling everyone else to conserve energy to save the planet from climate destruction.
The broadcast network evening newscast coverage Tuesday night, of the guilty verdicts for perjury and lying found against Lewis 'Scooter' Libby, painted the case through the prism of administration opponents who presumed a nefarious scheme led by Vice President Cheney against the heroic Joe Wilson. Though the legal status of Valerie Plame remains in dispute, ABC anchor Elizabeth Vargas and CBS's Gloria Borger described her as an “undercover” CIA agent. And while ABC's Pierre Thomas noted how Plame “had been outed as a CIA operative in a column by Robert Novak,” neither Thomas, nor reporters on CBS or NBC, ever pointed out how Novak learned of Plame's identity from then-Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, a war opponent outside the Cheney/Karl Rove circle.
CBS and NBC managed to connect Libby to the Reagan years. “Guilty,” Katie Couric teased at the top of the CBS Evening News, “the highest ranking White House official found guilty of a felony since the Iran-Contra scandal." Over on the NBC Nightly News, Kelly O'Donnell echoed: "What happened here today makes Lewis 'Scooter' Libby the highest-ranking White House official convicted of a felony since the Reagan era and the Iran-Contra scandal.”
CBS's Gloria Borger ominously concluded: "The prosecutor said there was a cloud over the Vice President's office. And today he said it's still there. Only now, Katie, it may be darker." Bob Schieffer soon piled on: “I think it's going to hurt the administration because it's going to raise new questions about their credibility when they already have more problems on their plate than they can really handle right now." On ABC, Vargas picked up on how “Joe Wilson...said today he wants Karl Rove fired from the White House. Do you think that might happen?" George Stephanopoulos rationally retorted: "No. It ain't going to happen.”
Avuncular he might be, but Bob Schieffer can sling Dem spin like a Shrum.
Appearing on the CBS Evening News to comment on the Libby verdict, not only did Katie Couric's predecessor in the anchor chair paint things in
the grimmest possible terms for Vice-President Cheney, he took things an unsolicited
step further. Katie Couric asked Schieffer "how badly does this reflect on Mr. Cheney in your view?"
Schieffer: "Very badly, and it's hard to conclude otherwise."
Checking in on Friday's CBS Evening News with how the administration is reacting to the Walter Reed scandal, White House correspondent Jim Axelrod gratuitously brought up Katrina as he asserted that “the White House is well aware of the PR nightmare that it faces. The last thing this administration can afford is another Katrina.”
Following the lead story on how Secretary of Defense Gates forced the resignation of Secretary of the Army Francis Harvey, and then replaced Harvey's choice to take over as commander of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC, in the wake of controversy over dilapidated conditions in an outpatient housing building, Couric went to Axelrod on the White House lawn. He delivered a brief report:
“A former Pentagon official close to the situation says the President's so angry, quote, 'his hair is on fire.' Mr. Bush learned about the resignation of the Secretary of the Army this morning at 8:35 in the White House Situation Room. He was told by Secretary Gates. On the day this story broke, he told Gates to quote, 'fix it.' But the decision to fire the Secretary of the Army was apparently made by Gates, not the President. Still, Katie, the White House is well aware of the PR nightmare that it faces. The last thing this administration can afford is another Katrina.”
On February 22, Tongsun Park became "the first person convicted by a jury in the United Nations Oil for Food
scandal," noted CBS "Primary Source" blogger Phil Hirschkorn in a February 24 blog post. Park, who "once acted as a secret backchannel between Saddam Hussein and the United Nations" was sentenced to five years in a federal prison.
But a search of CBS News in Nexis turns up no stories on Park's sentence on February 22, nor anytime since then. Anchor Katie Couric did, however, find time on February 22 to air a minute-and-a-half story by correspondent Kelly Cobiella on the custody hearing held to determine who would get to bury Anna Nicole Smith.
After leading with the terrible toll of deadly “super-cell” storms with tornadoes which struck Missouri and Alabama on Thursday, CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric's mind turned to global warming as the potential cause. She asked “CBS News weather analyst” Bryan Norcross, working out of the network's Washington bureau: “Bryan, I understand people have been asking you this all day” -- probably CBS News staffers in the DC bureau -- “Does this have anything to do with global warming?”
Norcross, a “hurricane specialist” for the CBS-owned Miami station WFOR-TV channel 4, rejected the premise: “No, I don't think so. This is just part of this extreme situation we've had this winter -- very warm, very cold -- and so the extreme weather continues and it turns out the United States is just about the only spot in the world that has a lot of these kinds of super-cells, just not normally this time of year.”
Late Night with David Letterman hasn't aired since August of 1993, when Letterman moved his show to CBS, where it was re-named Late Show with David Letterman. But in reporting on Thursday's CBS Evening News about how John McCain announced on Letterman's show Wednesday night that he is running for President, Couric led into a clip of McCain by relating: “John McCain is in. As first reported here last night, the Senator made it official during the taping of Late Night with David Letterman.”
The Late Night show title remains the property of Couric's employer for nearly two decades ending last year, NBC, with Conan O'Brien's name attached for the past 13-plus years -- as in Late Night with Conan O'Brien. BTW: CNN's Anderson Cooper will be one of O'Brien's guests Thursday night and ABC's Bob Woodruff will be on the Late Show with David Letterman.
Last night, "Nightly News" and "Evening News" chose to inject a negative reference to the housing market into economy stories following Tuesday's stock market drop to make it look worse to viewers.
Both programs mentioned the 16.6 percent decrease in new home sales for January calling it the biggest drop in 13 years. But both networks also left out positive data for the same month available from the National Association of Realtors.
NBC reporter Carl Quintanilla even provided viewers with what he termed a "nightmare scenario: that home values plummet, more Americans default on their mortgages and stop spending."
The entire Business & Media Institute story can be found here.
On Wednesday's CBS Evening News, anchor Katie Couric highlighted how “according to a new government report out today” the problem of homelessness “is worse than we knew. On any given day, as many as 754,000 people in this country are homeless. As Cynthia Bowers tells us, one-third of the homeless are families with children." As viewers saw a mother with two kids, and with “Faces of Despair” on screen, Bowers framed the story in the most empathetic way, “This may be the most heartbreaking face of today's findings: the homeless children in America. Like six-month-old Mariah, or one-year-old Erin, innocent victims caught up in their parents' problems.”
Though the report, from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), found that two-thirds of the homeless are men, Bowers focused on the minority, asking the mother: “What would you say to Americans who think the stereotypical homeless person is a guy on the streets with a bottle in his hands?” The woman ludicrously responded: “Most Americans are just a paycheck away from being on the streets or being in a shelter like this.” Bowers proceeded to relay how the report “suggests there are 300,000 more homeless people than beds in shelters and transitional housing, more than three-quarters of a million on any given night,” which is, Bowers helpfully illustrated, “nearly the population of South Dakota.”
Last night, ABC "World News with Charles Gibson" and CBS "Evening News" devoured a recent report from the food police: Center for Science in the Public Interest. The CSPI report charges casual dining restaurants with serving high calorie and high fat appetizers, entrees and desserts and promotes federally mandated nutrition information on menus.
While both programs did include restaurant spokesmen, the meat of both stories came straight from the CSPI release which is not surprising since CSPI experts frequently appear in network news stories -- most recently on February 20, 21, 22, 23 and then in the "extreme eating" stories on the 26th.
On "Couric & Co.," her CBSNews.com blog, Katie Couric warned Monday that while Gore was greeted "as a secular saint" for his Oscar win, she worried about a backlash from the Bush team or conservatives or those rare scientists -- "many on the payrolls of big companies" -- who disagree with Gore's global warming alarmism. Couric said the social consensus is here, and "my fervent hope is that Hollywood’s embrace of Al Gore doesn’t give people an excuse to condemn and mock the effort — and oppose taking steps that we as a society need to take to deal with the issue of climate change. Some people find anything trendy repugnant, but this is a trend that’s really important."
Right after pronouncing her opinion that movie star Penelope Cruz was best-dressed at the Oscars, Couric proclaimed:
Fill-in anchor Russ Mitchell teased Friday's lead story on the CBS Evening News by citing “a new move to try to stop the war. Senate Democrats want to take back the authorization they gave the President to invade Iraq.” That is new, but a few minutes later Mitchell set up another story by touting how “there is new opposition to the war tonight, and it comes from the very Americans fighting it -- men and women in uniform.” Mitchell explained: “Hundreds of them are very publicly asking Congress to stop it. Lara Logan has this exclusive 60 Minutes report.” The “new opposition,” however, is hardly “new” by daily broadcast journalism standards.
Logan previewed her 60 Minutes story about a relatively minuscule number of servicemen who have signed a petition from an organization called “Appeal for Redress,” a group formed last year and which delivered some petitions to Congress way back on January 16. Logan announced how “over a thousand servicemen and women have done something normally unthinkable for the military: protest the war they're in the middle of fighting....They've all sent a petition called 'Appeal for Redress' to their individual members of Congress letting them know that 'staying in Iraq will not work,' and it's 'time for U.S. troops to come home.'" Logan's piece featured soundbites from three soldiers, but none were identified by her or on screen. The CBSNews.com page previewing the story, however, includes names.
Ripping a line straight from a TV infomercial, CBS reporter Kelly Wallace downplayed the true cost of "emergency elder home care" provided by Freddie Mac with one little phrase:
"Just $15 a day."
But wait a minute ... that comes out to $5,475 a year for the employee who needs this benefit for an aging parent. The 'Evening News' segment from February 21 blatantly advocated for companies to provide elder care assistance to employees, scolded those that do not and urged workers to ask for these programs. Read the full Business & Media Institute article here.
CBS's Bob Schieffer just can't resist making analogies to Vietnam, especially when it comes to a setback in Iraq. In the wake of British Prime Minister Tony Blair's decision to start withdrawing his nation's troops from Iraq, which CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric paired with Denmark's decision to withdraw its 400 soldiers to form her lead story Wednesday night about “the shrinking U.S.-led coalition in Iraq,” Bob Schieffer came aboard via satellite from Washington, DC to compare the Iraq situation to Vietnam: “I think what we're seeing here, Katie, is what happened back during the Vietnam era when things were going badly and the crusty old Senator from Vermont, George Aiken, said 'there's only one way out there, that's to declare victory and just leave.'”
Schieffer often sees the world through the prism of Vietnam. This was at least the third time just this year he has raised the comparison:
Diamonds don't cause conflicts in Africa, bands of armed thugs do. But you wouldn't know that if you followed the media's slant on "conflict diamonds," which, much like stories on gun control, often blame the object instead of the evil person misusing it.
Several MRC employees have encountered a new pamphlet on the subway system in the Washington D.C. area called the "CBS Evening News Report" with a big picture of Katie Couric on the cover. (It also promotes the local CBS news on Channel 9.) Inside the 14-page pamphlet are articles by Dr. Jonathan LaPook, Armen Keteyian, Byron Pitts, Steve Hartman, and Jim Axelrod.
But it's mostly promoting Katie. In the front, "A Word From Katie" carries the usual messages with exclamation points selling the magazine. "Hi everyone!...We hope it'll serve as an appetizer, and maybe entice you to try out the main course!...We'll do our best to keep you on track. Meantime, thanks for taking us along for the ride!" Showing the pamphlet's age, though, is a two-page article with Katie recounting her "remarkable conversation with a remarkable man," embryo-destruction spokesman Michael J. Fox -- in October.
On Monday’s "Evening News" on CBS, anchor Katie Couric asserted a common talking point among feminists and that is that women make 76 cents for every dollar a man does, which is a misleading statistic. In a series entitled "The American Spirit," Couric profiled Janet Hanson, the founder of a women’s networking group called 85 Broads, which is dedicated to helping women get ahead, as Hanson doesn't seem to believe a woman can make it on her own:
Katie Couric: "Women earn only 76 cents for every dollar a man earns, and that really hasn’t changed much over the last 30 years. Why?"
Janet Hanson: "Women have to learn how to become better negotiators for themselves, which is hard to do. So they need to see other women doing that successfully, and the whole mission behind this network is that women cannot succeed if they don’t leverage each other’s intellectual firepower."
Yet, an article on CNN Money, written by a woman, argues why the 76 cent statistic is misleading:
In her latest "Couric & Co." blog entry to support quotas (oops, "affirmative action") and whisper "Hillary for President" between the lines, Couric cheered Drew Gilpin Faust, the new female president of Harvard and jeered outgoing Lawrence Summers. She also mourned the loss of feminist Harriett Woods, best known to political junkies as the Democrat who almost beat Sen. John Danforth in 1982:
Harvard, the nation's first university, is NOT the first to put a woman at the head of the class. Princeton, Brown, and Penn all beat Harvard to the punch. But nationwide, less than a quarter of colleges and universities are run by women.
Harriett Woods, head of the National Women's Political Caucus, died last week. She pushed to elect women and to name them to powerful positions. Bill Clinton once called her a "bean counter." But sometimes, bean counting really counts.
A new CBS News poll, released Monday night, determined that Americans are almost exactly evenly split on whether Congress should “pass a non-binding resolution against sending additional troops to Iraq” with 44 percent in favor and 45 percent opposed. But in highlighting how the Senate on Tuesday “will begin a three-day debate on a non-binding, symbolic resolution stating its disapproval of President Bush's Iraq troop build-up,” CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric ignored that finding of an evenly-divided nation. Instead, she focused on how “a total of 53 percent say Congress ought to block funding for additional troops or for the war entirely.”
In offering up that number, which combined two answers, she obscured the poll question’s real news: A piddling 8 percent wish to “block all funding” for the war in Iraq. As an on-screen graphic showed, to get to 53 percent Couric and CBS producers combined the 8 percent with the 45 percent who want to “block funding for more troops” -- a percent only slightly higher than, and within the three-point margin of error, the 42 percent who want to “allow all funding.” CBS’s graphic did not include the 42 percent result.
On Wednesday evening, CBS became the first of the broadcast networks to cover the controversy over House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's efforts to acquire access to a larger jet than what her predecessor used. CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric relayed that Pelosi's request for a "big travel upgrade" was coming at a time when "they're cracking down on congressional perks." After pointing out that Pelosi "finds herself on the defensive" as military officials are "grumbling," correspondent Sharyl Attkisson gave attention to House Republican Whip Roy Blunt's concern that the extra seats on such a large aircraft might be used for fund-raising purposes. According to a Nexis search, the only mentions of the controversy on the cable news networks have come several times this week on CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight and once on MSNBC's Tucker. (Transcript follows)
Sometimes media bias can be found in what the networks don’t say. On Tuesday, Wal-Mart suffered a major blow when the liberal 9th Circuit Court in California ruled that a class action lawsuit claiming sex discrimination could proceed against the company. All three evening newscasts reported the story, with ABC and CBS noting that a "federal appeals court" had sided with the female plaintiffs. Over on NBC, "Nightly News" anchor Brian Williams simply used the phrase "federal court."
However, the 9th circuit isn’t just any court. This is the group of judges that ruled the Pledge of Allegiance unconstitutional. And, according to a report by the Center for Individual Freedoms, 32 percent of the reversals by the United States Supreme Court in 2003 came from the 9th Circuit. And yet, none of the network anchors thought this a pertinent point. "World News" anchor Charlie Gibson instead chose to hype the enormity of the case:
Charles Gibson: "It is a lawsuit so large in scope and size, that it staggers the imagination.A federal appeals court ruled today that a gender bias suit against Wal-Mart can proceed in what is known as a class-action suit. That means a million and a half to two million women would-be plaintiffs arguing, as a group or class, that Wal-Mart discriminated against them in providing promotions and in paying them less than male employees. Here's our senior law and justice correspondent, Jim Avila."
CBS's news judgment: Monday's CBS Evening News devoted a first segment story to, as anchor Katie Couric put it, the “irony” that the Senate debate over resolutions on the Iraqi surge occurred “four years to the day” after Colin Powell made his presentation at the UN which “became an embarrassment.” Couric asked and answered: “And how's this for irony? Today's Capitol Hill confrontation began four years to the day after then-Secretary of State Colin Powell made a dramatic speech at the UN to make the case that Iraq was hiding weapons of mass destruction. It was a brilliant performance, enough to sell the Congress and the nation on going to war. But before long, it became an embarrassment.”
Of course, at the time nearly everyone believed what Powell believed, as evidenced by former U.S. weapons inspector David Kay who told CBS News Pentagon reporter David Martin that he was impressed with Powell's presentation. Martin moved on to other misguided assumptions, asserting “the intelligence about Iraq was not all wrong. On the eve of the invasion, CIA analysts, including Paul Pillar, warned the aftermath could get ugly." Martin also, however, pointed out that “bad intelligence about WMD started the war, but it can't be blamed for all that has happened since." Former CIA analyst John Brennan explained: “We would still have the same bloodshed, instability and destruction even if we did uncover those treasure troves of purported weapons.” So, the fourth anniversary of Powell's presentation about WMDs really isn't relevant to the current situation, but that didn't deter CBS from bringing it up.
For TV news watchers, the most interesting Super Bowl ads were CBS promoting itself. Not the ads for its sleazy sitcoms like "Two and a Half Men," or its dark, gory dramas like "Criminal Minds," but more incessant ads for Katie's Evening News. Earth to CBS: the last $10 million didn't work either. I didn't see a single plug for Super Bowl coverage on "The Early Show,' but lots of Katie talking about what's great about America: "We hear a lot about what’s wrong with America. But there are so many examples of America’s can-do spirit. Good people doing great things on the CBS Evening News."
Katie's promoting the newest ratings gambit for the Katie-cast: a segment on "The American Spirit." This could be flagged as false advertising. They might try a feel-good story pandering to patriotism in a sweeps period, but on most nights, CBS will tell you America is ruining Iraq and hurtling the planet toward a global-warming catastrophe. And they'll consider anyone with an opposing opinion as hopelessly delusional or certainly bribed.