ABC's World News separated itself from the media pack Thursday night. Though ABC's coverage was keyed to how e-mails supposedly show that Karl Rove was at “the center” of early 2005 discussions about replacing all 93 U.S. attorneys, anchor Charles Gibson pointed out how “these U.S. attorneys do serve at the pleasure of the President. He can fire them at any time. So did anything really get done that was wrong?” Jan Crawford Greenburg answered, in a broadcast network evening newscast first, by informing viewers of how “President Clinton, in fact, fired all the U.S. attorneys when he came into office from the previous Republican administration.”
Meanwhile, NBC and CBS continued the obsession on the story for the third night in a row. NBC Nightly News anchor Campbell Brown breathlessly teased her lead, “The prosecutor purge: Did the idea of firing all U.S. Attorneys start with inner circle adviser Karl Rove? If so, what now?” The CBS Evening News led with two stories on the subject, starting with Jim Axelrod on Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher's call for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to resign. Next, Bob Orr looked at how Gonzales “was tangled in controversy" before becoming AG. “As the President's chief lawyer, Gonzales sanctioned the widespread use of warrant-less wiretaps,”Orr thundered, thus “allowing the government to snoop on Americans without court orders.” Plus, “he also approved the so-called 'torture memo'” and “under Bush-Gonzales policies, prisoners were allowed to be held indefinitely at Guantanamo Bay with no access to U.S. courts,” policies reflecting an “attitude,” Georgetown law professor David Cole charged, in Orr's words, which “led directly to the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib.”
Before I started as NewsBusters managing editor, I finished up a study of the media's bias when it comes to reporting on prescription drugs. The study was released on March 14.
After the page break are some findings from the executive summary. Here's a link to the PDF version of the study.
Even when one new drug was hailed as a “major advance in combating
breast cancer” and a “major medical breakthrough,” its manufacturer was
given only a passing mention on one network. BMI looked at 132 stories
on prescription or over-the-counter drugs from the ABC, CBS, and NBC
evening newscasts between January 1 and Sept. 30, 2006.
How many networks does it take to change a lightbulb? Two.
CBS "Evening News" and ABC "World News with Charles Gibson" both ran segments on a coalition supporting a ban on incandescent light bulbs in order to save money and save the planet through decreased energy consumption.
“Brian Castelli is part of a growing coalition that wants to ban your standard bulb and replace it with compact fluorescents (CFLs). Advocates say it’ll cut greenhouse gases, save electricity and money,” said CBS technology correspondent Daniel Sieberg.
Both networks left out the anti-regulation perspective that if compact fluorescent bulbs are really more efficient and will save consumers money in the long run there is no need for a mandate from the government.
CBS legal analyst Andrew Cohen seems to indirectly respond to my March 14 blog post with a March 15 salvo over at CBS's "Couric & Co." blog. [Scroll below for a NYT story from March 1993 that noted that it was unusual for the AG to be involved in the holdover resignation process]
Some cyber folks, trying to attack the credibility of eminent
professors Stanley Katz and Stanley Kutler, took the time to research
their campaign contributions. I do not know, and don’t necessarily
care, where the two professors I interviewed choose to spend their
Cohen may not care what their political leanings are, but the point is that he was citing these "eminent professors" to give an air of scholarly detachment to a decidedly antagonistic view of the attorney general. As such, it's legitimate to see if those sources are relatively non-partisan scholars dedicated solely to integrity and excellence in the legal profession, or if their political leanings might color their analysis. [continued...]
When the Clinton administration in 1993, in a then-unprecedented decision, gave all 93 U.S. Attorneys ten days to leave their offices, including Jay Stephens who was in the midst of investigating House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dan Rostenkowski, ABC's World News Tonight and the CBS Evening News didn't utter a syllable about it. But on Wednesday night, the evening newscasts on both networks led with Republican Senator John Sununu's call for the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales as both highlighted different U.S. Attorneys who were amongst the eight replaced late last year by the Bush administration, painting both as victims of nefarious political maneuvering.
“The pressure on the Attorney General of the United States to resign is growing,” ABC anchor Charles Gibson trumpeted, “for the first time, a Republican Senator has said Alberto Gonzales must go.” Focusing on the fired U.S. Attorney for San Diego, Carol Lam, reporter Pierre Thomas suggested she was removed for pursuing a case against a GOP Congressman and relayed how “Democrats pointed out that most of the eight fired U.S. attorneys had excellent performance reviews.” On CBS, Sandra Hughes delivered a “CBS News Exclusive” about how “John McKay was fired in December for reasons he now believes had nothing to do with the way he did his job, but very much to do with Washington politics.” Hughes passed along how “it was what he didn't do that McKay believes got him fired. In the 2004 gubernatorial race in Washington state, the Democratic candidate won by just a couple of hundred votes. McKay didn't call a grand jury to investigate questions of voter fraud.” But as Wall Street Journal editorial on Wednesday noted, McKay ignored very real evidence of voter fraud.
"A new drug that proved to be so effective so quickly, the approval process was sped up," lauded CBS "Evening News" anchor Katie Couric on March 13.
Couric and other reporters had reason to praise the newly FDA-approved drug Tykerb. The drug is approved for treatment of a specific kind of breast cancer, called HER-2 positive, and is showing tremendous promise.
Cancer patient Marsha Brekke told ABC "World News with Charles Gibson" that the drug was her last chance. Brekke has been cancer free for more than a year.
But what all three networks, ABC, CBS and NBC, left out of the evening newscasts on March 13 was any mention of the company that developed this breakthrough drug.
Last night, ABC "World News with Charles Gibson," and CBS "Evening News" both blamed increased foreclosures on lending companies and mentioned tightened regulation instead of discussing the issue of personal choice. NBC "Nightly News" was the only network to bring individual choice into the story on March 13.
"Mortgage companies were lending to people with questionable credit," said ABC's David Muir.
But it is not as if lending companies run around just handing out money to bad credit risks, people actually have to apply for home loans because they want to buy a home. Both ABC and CBS missed that.
Instead Muir's "World News" report pitied one couple "fighting to hold on."
The broadcast network evening newscasts, which didn't care in 1993 about the Clinton administration's decision to ask for the resignations of all 93 U.S. attorneys, went apoplectic Tuesday night in leading with the “controversy,” fed by the media, over the Bush administration for replacing eight U.S. attorneys in late 2006 -- nearly two years after rejecting the idea of following the Clinton policy of replacing all the attorneys. Anchor Charles Gibson promised that ABC would “look at all the angles tonight,” but he skipped the Clinton comparison. Gibson teased: “New controversy at the White House after a string of U.S. attorneys is fired under questionable circumstances. There are calls for the Attorney General to resign.”
CBS's Katie Couric declared that “the uproar is growing tonight over the firing of eight federal prosecutors by the Justice Department” and fill-in NBC anchor Campbell Brown teased: “The Attorney General and the firestorm tonight over the controversial dismissal of several federal prosecutors. Was it political punishment?” Brown soon asserted that “it's a story that has been brewing for weeks and it exploded today” -- an explosion fueled by the news media.
...among other format changes under the new Rick Kaplan era.
PublicEye editor Brian Montopoli passed along the usual talking points senior management in broadcast news outlets always give when they are trying to save a sinking ship. You know the drill. "This time, more hard news. We swear!"
Unfortunately Montopoli left out some hard news in his own March 12 blog post:
CBS anchor Katie Couric contended Monday night that the “self-evident” truths in the Declaration of Independence -- “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” -- are denied by the lack of health insurance for many Americans. Introducing a piece on a doctor at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City who treats the poor of Harlem, Couric adopted a very liberal definition of basic rights as she added “good health” and asserted on the CBS Evening News:
“More than 46 million Americans have no health insurance. So when it comes to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and good health, all men are not created equal. A doctor here in New York City learned that lesson early in his career. He's spent the last 40 years trying to level the playing field for the poorest of patients.”
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.