Despite some of the optimism that has been expressed in a number of recent media reports leading up to Thursday’s historic elections in Iraq – in particular, the great job that ABC News has been doing the past few days with its “Iraq: Where Things Stand” series – CBS’s “The Early Show” stayed quite glum this morning (video link to follow). Julie Chen introduced the segment stating, “President Bush says progress is being made, but many Iraqis have other ideas.” Lara Logan reporting from Baghdad then played a numbers game that created the appearance that there have been more American deaths in Iraq than is the case:
“Some 18,000 Americans have been killed and injured since the start of this war. But 94% of those casualties occurred after the fall of Baghdad.”
While conservative talk radio blazed this week over DNC chair Howard Dean's comments on Iraq, that the idea we're going to win is "wrong," an important question arises: did the average American who does NOT listen to talk radio, but relies on network morning or evening news, hear the same uproar? Are the aware of the brouhaha? Don't bet on it. A quick search of the name "Howard Dean" in Nexis from Sunday to Friday showed no Dean mention on ABC. None on CBS. NBC had this snippet on Wednesday morning from Kelly O'Donnell: "The president dismissed comments from Democratic Party Chair Howard Dean, who compared Iraq to the Vietnam war." That's the closest the networks came.
What if you live in fly-over country and read the national papers online, or bought copies across the country of USA Today, or the New York Times? If you read USA Today last week, you'd know nothing of Dean's comments. The New York Times mentioned them in an A-5 story by Sheryl Stolberg on Wednesday headlined "Democrats Still Search for Plan on Iraq." Dean surfaced in paragraph 13. The Washington Post was rare for putting the story front and center on Tuesday, in a story by Jim VandeHei and Shailagh Murray headlined "Democrats Fear Backlash at Polls for Antiwar Remarks" featuring Dean's comments in paragraph two, on the front page. How about National Public Radio?
E! Online (via Yahoo) reports that the upcoming second season of ABC's "Dancing With the Stars" will feature "original 'Access Hollywood' host" Giselle Fernandez, better known inside the MRC as a former CBS News and NBC News reporter. (She's not the only journalist tapping toes: ESPN anchor Kenny Mayne is also in the cast.) The story features the TV writer's academic omnipresence, professor of pop culture Robert J. Thompson, cracking on ABC's lack of star power.
But ah, Giselle! She was rather unforgettable a decade ago, when she was hosting the weekend "Today" show. On May 20, 1995, she sounded like she was at a Young Democrats meeting when she asked Labor Secretary Robert Reich: "Why are we leaving such critical decisions up to the Republicans? Why didn't we come up with another more, perhaps, realistic deficit reduction budget plan?"
After a month of hounding President Bush for low poll numbers, Thursday’s “Early Show” on CBS ignored their own network's poll showing President Bush’s approval rating has improved by five points over the last month. But a month ago, when a CBS poll found lower ratings for the President, the “Early Show” mentioned it two days in a row. CBS’s Bill Plante was quick to point out that among modern Presidents; only Richard Nixon was lower at this point in his second term. The next day, Thalia Assuras touted how “the President’s poll numbers are defining a new low.” However, CBS's polling partner, the “New York Times”, found President Bush’s rising poll numbers important enough to put on their front page above the fold Thursday morning under a headline reading “Economy Lifts Bush’s Support in Latest Poll,” and the poll was also featured on last night's "CBS Evening News” with Bob Schieffer.
If you’re old enough, you may remember the howls of media protest in the fall of 1981 over a never-adopted bureaucratic rule that would classify ketchup as a vegetable for purposes of calculating the nutritional value of a school lunch. Liberals went into campaign mode, holding up the proposed change as somehow symbolic of the Reagan administration’s lack of concern for the poor.
The October 2, 1981 New York Times provides a window into the media mindset of the time, with a reporter posing this question to President Reagan at a press conference the day before:
“The style of your Administration is being called millionaires on parade. Do you feel that you are being sensitive enough to the symbolism of Republican mink coats, limousines, thousand-dollar-a-plate china at the White House, when ghetto kids are being told they can eat ketchup as a vegetable?”
Sadly, the identity of the person who posed this particular question was not reported in the Times, but this was a spin heard in various forms throughout the media landscape in the early 1980s.
A recent report published by the Gallup Organization stated:
“a majority of U.S. investors continue to describe the current economy as being ‘in a slowdown’ or ‘recession’ as opposed to being ‘in a recovery’ or ‘sustained expansion.’”
Regardless of continuously strong economic reports, such bearish assessments have been regularly portrayed by public opinion polls for several years. During this period, economists and politicians – including the Bush administration – have wondered what is responsible for this disconnect between perception and reality.
A detailed look at how unemployment numbers are shared with the public by mainstream media outlets gives us some clues. The Labor Department on Friday announced very strong employment gains for the month of November. In fact, this was the largest number of job creations since April. However, this news was reported to the public in a fashion that largely downplayed its significance. A 3.2 percent annual increase in wages was characterized as employees “basically treading water.” Although energy prices have been steadily declining since September, jobs market stories included references of this still being a “huge concern.” Other news accounts referred to the unemployment rate being “stuck at 5 percent,” as if a 5 percent unemployment rate is a bad thing, while one cable news outlet told viewers to take the numbers “with a grain of salt.”
Vaughn Ververs of the CBS News blog “Public Eye” critiqued a NewsBusters post today concerning a report made by the “CBS Evening News” last night about the former 9/11 commission’s newly released report card on the government’s response to homeland security issues. Ververs apparently asked correspondent Robert Orr and producer Ward Sloane for their opinions on the NewsBusters analysis: “The ‘news’ in the former 9/11 Commission's briefing was not that the U.S. is doing a very few things right, but rather that four years after the attacks, the U.S. government is largely failing in its very expensive $100 billion attempt to prevent another one.”
Although this might indeed be what the mainstream media perceived as the “news” in this briefing, the reality is that there were a total of 41 categories that the former commission graded the government on, and this CBS News report only shared some of the the “D’s” and the “F’s,” while totally ignoring all of the “C’s,” “B’s,” and “A’s” that the government received. Aren’t these grades “news” as well? Shouldn’t the public be informed as to what the government is doing properly to protect them from terrorist attacks, or are only the failures “news?”
Yesterday, CBS Early Show co-host Hannah Storm asked White House aide Dan Bartlett about how most Americans think the economy is tanking: "Finally Dan, quickly, I know you came on to talk about the economy today, the President is going to address this today, there are some positive numbers but we have Americans shopping at discounters, they spent their money on gas this summer, they're worried about heating costs. What can you tell the majority of Americans who actually feel that the economy is getting worse?"
The three broadcast networks all did segments this evening on the former 9/11 commission’s report card released today. Though all three focused on the negatives, only the "CBS Evening News” ignored the good grades given by the commission, while also failing to mention that a key problem highlighted in this report is already being addressed by legislation pending in Congress (video link to follow).
Bob Orr quickly gave a rundown of the “F’s” and the “D’s” given by former commission members for the government achieving a set of priorities they deemed necessary to avert another terrorist attack. However, as can be seen in the full report card, Orr chose not to mention any of the 12 “B’s” given by the commission, or the “A-” obtained for “Terrorist Financing.” Orr also reported:
One real moment in the Bozell-Mapes interview on C-SPAN2 was when Mapes said Al Gore's Vietnam record was "a perfectly legitimate story," so Bozell asked, did you do it? "I did not." But she thinks that sometime, somewhere at CBS, somebody did it. Bozell says mmm, no. No investigative piece. You may wonder: how did CBS cover Al Gore's mysteriously brief tenure in Vietnam as a military journalist? I covered that for National Review Online last year. Paw around in Nexis, and you get next to nothing, vague mentions for a few seconds, and never any sign of curiosity about the hows and whys of young Al's machinations:
In 2000, CBS had next to zero interest in Al Gore's mysterious history during his brief service in Vietnam, including his discussions with old CBS nemesis Gen. William Westmoreland. In 1999, Newsweek's Bill Turque found a Gore friend who said Gore "met twice that spring with the former commander of U.S. forces in South Vietnam to discuss Gore's options. Westmoreland guaranteed no cushy deals, according to Gore's friend, but left him with one sweeping assurance: 'I believe he will be watched,' the general said. 'He will be cared for.'" Later, Turque added: "The two met during the general's visit to [Fort] Rucker in 1970, and Gore has intimated over the years that the general encouraged him to go. According to Michael Zibart, a Nashville friend, Gore said that Westmoreland told him he 'would be making a grave error if he didn't serve in Vietnam.'"
At 8:00pm Eastern, C-SPAN2 will air an interview that the MRC's L. Brent Bozell conducted with Mary Mapes, the fired CBS News producer who was behind the story that led to last year's Memogate scandal.
Use this thread to comment on "After Words" following its broadcast.
UPDATED with video, 3am EST Sunday. Video excerpt #1 (2:39 in length): Real (4.4 MB) or Windows Media (5.2 MB). Video excerpt #2 (3:44 in length): Real (6 MB) or Windows Media (7 MB).
Reminder: The entire hour-long show will re-air twice Sunday on C-SPAN2/Book TV. By time zone: EST: 6 and 9pm; CST: 5 and 8pm; MST: 4 and 7pm; PST: 3 and 6pm.
The media’s pessimistic holiday shopping forecasts fail to register with reality.
Don't miss my latest at the Free Market Project: Contrary to the media’s pessimistic forecasts for the Christmas shopping season reported by the Free Market Project in late October, strong retail sales this Thanksgiving weekend got the annual end-of-the-year buying bonanza off to a bang. In fact, the economic data available prior to this weekend looked so strong that the National Retail Federation, the world’s largest retail trade association, actually raised its sales forecast for 2005 holiday shopping from a 5 percent year-over-year increase to 6 percent.
Regardless of this upgrade in expectations by retailers themselves, and the fabulous start to the shopping season, the media continued to rain on everybody’s parade.
"This week on 'After Words' journalist Mary Mapes explains her investigative story on George W. Bush's National Guard record that aired on 60 Minutes II. Her new book about the experience is titled Truth and Duty: The Press, The President, and the Privilege of Power. Ms. Mapes tells her version of the controversy over the segment, and the ensuing internal investigation at CBS that led to Dan Rather's resignation as anchor of "CBS Evening News," and her own dismissal. She is interviewed by Brent Bozell, founder and president of the Media Research Center."
The hour-long session, taped Thursday afternoon, airs Saturday, December 3 at 8pm EST and repeats Sunday at 6pm EST and 9pm EST on C-SPAN2. We'll have a live thread Saturday night. UPDATE, 3am EST Sunday: See this node for two video clips.
After rejecting overtures from CBS earlier this year, Katie Couric is being actively courted by new CBS News president Sean McManus, the L.A. Times reports:
While the 48-year-old morning host is contemplating the offer, sources
said, it's unclear whether she can formally negotiate a new job until
her NBC contract expires in May.
NBC News President Steve Capus said the network hopes to hold on
to Couric, who has been the face of the "Today" show for almost 15
years. He called the growing speculation about her next step
CBS Chairman Leslie Moonves had unsuccessfully tried to lure Couric
away last spring when Dan Rather left the anchor desk. Since then,
veteran Washington correspondent Bob Schieffer has served as interim
anchor of the evening newscast, a stint he expected would only last a
few months, while network executives pondered how to remake the show.
When McManus replaced news President Andrew Heyward in October, he
announced that one of his immediate goals was to court new talent to
the network. Couric has been his top priority, sources said, with the
news president offering her "the moon" to come aboard.
Don't miss my latest writing for the Free Market Project: Media claims about a “housing bubble” are nothing new. Since before the 9/11 terror attacks, the media have been calling the housing market a “bubble” while predicting an imminent, devastating decline. Not only have they been wrong in forecasting such a top, they have thoroughly mischaracterized what an investment bubble is. Now that the market for homes has finally slowed a bit, the media are declaring the bubble has burst.
A Bubble?: Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan has denied the existence of a national housing bubble for several years, but the media have used the term repeatedly.
Strong Gains: The increase in real estate values the past five years has not resembled the rapid rise typically seen in a bubble. In 2000, the national median existing-home value was $139,000. This grew to $215,900 by the third quarter of 2005 – a 55-percent nominal increase but a 34-percent inflation-adjusted gain.
Home Sales Still Going Up: New home sales jumped another 13 percent in October. While sales of existing homes were down 2.7 percent from September, the median national price rose to $218,000, a 16.6 percent increase since October 2004.
"The experts have spoken, this hurricane season will go down as the biggest, baddest, deadliest, and costliest of all time," Jim Acosta ominously intoned opening his report on the November 29 edition of the CBS Evening News. Yet while the loss of life and livelihood from Hurricane Katrina was horrific, the loss of life in the 2005 season was not record-breaking.
Over 20,000 died in the Great Hurricane of 1780, Hurricane Mitch in 1998 killed over 11,000* in Central America, and the Galveston hurricane of 1900 killed 8,000. [see link]
See my article with more detail at FreeMarketProject.com
* NOAA's Chris Vaccaro gave me a more conservative 9,000-total death toll figure over the phone, which I included in my article. At any rate, the death toll from these hurricanes far surpasses the death toll for Katrina.
Strong "Black Friday" showings across America were given short shrift by the Washington Post this "Cyber Monday" which buried the story in a four-paragraph blurb on page A10 in the District and Maryland home edition.
But not only were the numbers good in comparison to last year, they far surprassed the expectations of the National Retail Federation (NRF), the industry group which analyzes and forecasts the performance of the American retail industry.
It’s probably not the first time it has happened, but with the exception of ABC’s George Will – who, of course, has been a regular on that network’s “This Week” for many years – the networks’ Sunday political talk shows had no established conservative guests to participate in their weekly panel discussions. Joining George Stephanopoulos and George Will this morning were Democratic political strategist Donna Brazile, TIME magazine’s Jay Carney, and ABC’s Claire Shipman. NBC’s “The Chris Matthews Show” featured Katy Kay of the BBC, Michael Duffy of TIME magazine, Norah O’Donnell of MSNBC, and Terry Neal of the Washington Post. CBS’s “Face the Nation” did its annual Thanksgiving “historians” program.
The most left-leaning of the panels was on NBC’s “Meet the Press” where Tim Russert invited Judy Woodruff, formerly of CNN’s “Inside Politics,” David Broder of the Washington Post, Eugene Robinson also of the Washington Post, and David Gregory of NBC News. While the “This Week” and “Matthews” panels actually engaged in a comparatively well-rounded discussion, the “Meet the Press” group spent the bulk of its half-hour talking about the “disaster” in Iraq. For instance, Robinson said, “I think that there's general agreement now that there will be a mess in Iraq when U.S. troops finally withdraw and it certainly won't be an Athenian democracy, as the administration said it was out to create.” Gregory agreed, “And unfortunately, perhaps the only outcome is a kind of low-level civil war that's akin to the Arab- Israeli situation with U.S. soldiers in the way.”
Woodruff then joined in by paraphrasing a recent article in the Atlantic Monthly:
Comments are a wonderful thing and truly one of the best features of blogging. I say that because a particular comment on the CBS News "Public Eye" blog is worth highlighting here at NewsBusters now that axed CBS News producer Mary Mapes has come under increasing fire from her former employer. This raises a question for PE commenter "Neuro-con." (Unfortunately, CBS's software does not allow direct linking to a comment so you'll have to search or scroll a bit.)
Mapes' book was newsworthy, in that it confirmed that she has an
extremely distorted notion of truth. CBS is implicated in maintaining
such an individual on the payroll for 15 years.
CBS has an ethical obligation to (at least) make public a list of her previous pieces for 60 Minutes, along with transcripts.
The NY Times and The New Republic, when confronted with a
pathological liar on the payroll, went back and re-reported every
single one of their stories. In both cases, a pattern of behavior was
Vaughn [Ververs, PE's editor], please answer this question: Why does CBS hold itself to a much lower standard than the NYTimes or The New Republic?
Washington Post TV critic Tom Shales also has a regular column in Television Week magazine, and now he's coming to the aid and support of disgraced (Shales calls her "highly respected") CBS producer Mary Mapes. The article chides CBS "uber-boss" Les Moonves for his hostility toward CBS News, since Mapes claims Moonves once "half-jokingly" said he'd like to "bomb the whole building." He brings up the George Clooney CBS-glorifying hatchet job "Good Night and Good News" to claim that maybe today, Congress will reopen the case not to investigate Joseph McCarthy, but to "lambaste 'the media' and how they covered the story." This is where it gets interesting. Shales complains about Vanity Fair being mean to Mapes:
In the New York Times Sunday book review, Newsweek Senior Editor Jonathan Alter checks out "Truth and Duty," the apologia from Mary Mapes, the disgraced former CBS News producer of "Memogate" infamy, in which she blames right-wing bloggers and everyone but herself for how her "expose" of Bush's National Guard duty blew up in the face of her network.
The liberal Alter is highly critical of Mapes and CBS, but makes a rather paranoid and over-the-top claim about "Buckhead," the Atlanta attorney who originally questioned the fake documents used by CBS's "60 Minutes II" to attack President Bush's Texas Air National Guard service record.
"Buckhead"'s posting on the right-wing FreeRepublic website began the blogosphere's speedy evisceration of the forged memos, but Alter has this novel spin: "The blogger's anonymous assertion, within hours of the broadcast, that the proportional spacing and type font of the Killian memos did not exist in those days was only one of many falsehoods spread by political hit men."
The American media are giving President Bush low marks and mixed reviews regarding his just ended trip to China. Here are some of today’s headlines:
Bush’s China Visit Fails To Narrow Differences (Reuters via Boston Globe)
China Mostly Aloof to U.S. Priorities (Chicago Tribune)
U.S., China Seem to be Worlds Apart (Newsday)
Bush Skirts Rights Issue (LA Times)
CBS’s “Early Show” this morning began its segment on this issue: “The president is getting mixed reviews for his Asia trip after little was accomplished in his meetings with China.”
Yet, the Chinese media were much more positive about Bush’s trip. For example, People’s Daily Online offered the following headline, “Media: Bush's China visit sends "positive signal" to China-US relations.” It conveniently gave a recap of opinions being expressed by other newspapers and websites with links:
CBS News Iraq correspondent Kimberly Dozier filed a video report only found on the Internet where she declares that "commanders have told us that they're going to have fewer members of the media along with their detection teams as a way to save American lives."
Said the Iraq correspondent:
"Now, when it comes to roadside bombs, I almost don't know what else to say and commanders don't know what else to do. We have almost said it all before and they've tried it all before.
"They have wrapped all of their soldiers in armor when they go out on the streets, soldiers you see now have heavily armored vehicles, they have Kevlar head to toe just about.
CBS’s “The Early Show” began this morning’s program with Congressman John Murtha’s (D-Penn) call for the removal of American troops from Iraq yesterday (video link to follow). Much like the way the networks ignored Rep. Murtha’s past statements against the war in their evening news broadcasts yesterday, Rene Syler began the segment by referring to him as “an influential Democratic congressman with close ties to the military.” Bill Plante called him “a pro-defense Democrat who voted for the war.” Once again, no reference to Murtha having changed his view of the Iraq war back in September 2003 as reported by NewsBusters here.
Plante, while not suggesting that Murtha’s statements yesterday were at all partisan, referred to the White House’s response as “sharply partisan.” In addition, Plante positioned the announcement of a proposed South Korean reduction of troops in Iraq as a “polite protest” of the war by that country, “a decision the White House insisted wasn’t final.” Yet, Plante’s own network is reporting at its website: “The Defense Ministry said it plans to include the troop reduction plan when it seeks parliamentary approval for extending the deployment in Iraq, as it is required to do each year.” As such, it isn’t final.
What follows is a full transcript of this report, and a video link.
As reported by the Media Research Center’s Brent Baker, the network evening news broadcasts tonight all lead with Congressman John Murtha’s (D-Penn.) call for the removal of American troops from Iraq. Yet, they seemed disinterested in focusing much attention on Rep. Murtha's “denouncement” of the Iraq war more than a year ago. (Please see a May 10, 2004 CNN story stating, “Rep. John Murtha, D-Pennsylvania, in a news conference with Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, said the problems in Iraq are due to a ‘lack of planning’ by Pentagon chiefs and ‘the direction has got be changed or it is unwinnable.’") Maybe most important, the networks totally ignored the fact that Rep. Murtha has been expressing disgust with the Bush administration’s prosecution of this war since six months after it started.
Rep. Murtha first voiced his displeasure with how things were going in Iraq on September 16, 2003, when he called for the immediate firing of President Bush’s defense leadership team. The network news organizations this evening chose not to inform their viewers of this, and, instead, implied that Rep. Murtha was a "hawk" that has always supported this war, and that his statements today were recent revelations.
Quite the contrary, the New York Times reported on September 17, 2003 (link courtesy of Common Dreams.org):
Here’s a technical question for the folks at the CBS website Public Eye: Can you really call a feature "Outside Voices" and then feature a pile of former and present CBS employees? (They’ve featured former CBS man Leroy Sievers, and Craig Crawford, who’s presently paid by CBS to do spots on "The Early Show." How "outside" is that?) The latest feature comes from liberal-bias legend Eric Engberg, who sparked the entire lucrative Bernard Goldberg book career with his obnoxious attacks on Steve Forbes. The CBS website touts how we can all look forward with anticipation to "Expect to see more of him on Public Eye." CBS touts Engberg: "He was known as one of the most dogged and irreverent reporters in Washington, with one of the great b.s. detectors in the business." That’s CBS-speak for "bashed conservatives with unrestrained glee." See an old review of Engberg’s oeuvre here.
MRC analyst Mike Rule reported the liberal commentary of actress/comedienne Nancy Giles appeared again on CBS's Sunday Morning with that old reliable liberal target, the Rev. Pat Robertson. (I doubt Ben Stein will appear on CBS for a rebuttal on this topic.) To Giles, there were only two approaches to teaching evolutionary theory: teaching Science, or "dumbing down young minds" with a little time exploring the intelligent-design theory:
"According to Pat Robertson, televangelist,God got mad when those good citizens of Dover, Pennsylvania voted out their school board for wanting to teach intelligent design as an alternative to evolution in the school's science classes. Those citizens decided they want science taught in those science classes, not religious theory. So Pat Robertson says, no more God in Dover, and he beamed that message on his show, 'The 700 Club,' to an audience of about 1 million people in the United States and in 70 different languages around the world. Nice. Why does Pat Robertson's God want to keep American students way behind the world in learning Science? Dumbing down young minds in an area in desperate need of bright, innovative thinking."
CBS’s Thalia Assuras did a piece on “The Early Show” this morning (video link to follow) about President Bush’s falling poll numbers. In it, she took a snippet out of an interview that Bob Schieffer did with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz) yesterday on “Face The Nation” to indicate that the senator was “concerned” about these polls and what they are currently suggesting. However, the sentences after this fragment that were not included in Assuras’s report qualified McCain’s concerns.
For example, Assuras stated, “The latest poll shows his support remains at its lowest ever, and that’s causing concern in his own party.” Then came McCain’s quote: “As a loyal Republican and a person who’s loyal to this president I am of course concerned. These numbers are not good.”
However, what CBS chose not to show the viewer were McCain’s next sentences (from caption dump):