You gotta love network blogs, if for nothing more they bring out those hidden gems of bias you otherwise wouldn't get from the people behind the camera. Like Ed Deitch, one of the men behind the curtain as it were.
Deitch, a senior producer for the NBC "Nightly News" expressed
bemusement recently on the NBC News "Daily Nightly" blog at the notion that there's opposition to a Bangor, Maine,
ban on smoking in cars with children.
NBC's Thursday night comedy "30 Rock" took some good-natured potshots at "NBC Nightly News" anchor Brian Williams in a scene that depicted his office as rife with liquor bottles, dirty underwear, pornography ("Junk in the Trunk") and wall graffiti declaring "Katie Couric Sucks." (h/t TVNewser.com)
So when are the Big Three Networks going to do something about their hopelessly outmoded and out-of-touch evening-news dinosaurs?
The 2006 report on The State of the News Media from Journalism.org, which covered 2005 results, showed that the Big 3 Networks' evening news audience that year averaged 27 million (the exact number is not noted, but inferred from reading the graph at the link; if anything, the actual number may have been slightly higher).
Rounding up slightly, that's a total of 24.3 million -- not exactly the disaster yours truly thought might occur this summer after a particularly bad week for evening news viewership, but a pretty steep decline nonetheless. On average during 2006, over 200,000 fewer people each month tuned in to see NBC's Nightly News (currently anchored by Brian Williams), ABC's World News Tonight (currently with Charles Gibson), or the CBS Evening News (with Katie Couric).
Eyeballing the following graph from last year and looking at the 2006 numbers above, it looks like NBC was down about 14%, ABC about 11%, and CBS about 6%:
Back in the United States from Baghdad, NBC News correspondent Jane Arraf, who joined NBC last year after eight years with CNN, conceded that life in Iraq “isn't entirely what it seems” from the constant media focus on bombings. In studio with Brian Williams on Friday's NBC Nightly News, she acknowledged how journalists are “really good at getting across the relentless bombing and the violence, but it's really a lot harder for us to portray those spaces in between. I mean, for us, we live in the city. It's as secure as it can be, but we wake up to the sound of car bombs. We feel the mortars sometimes. And in a horrible, inevitable way, it becomes sort of like the weather, and it's kind of the same for Iraqis. Unless they're in the middle of it, life looks amazingly normal."
Williams noted how “we get asked all the time....where's the good news we know is going on there?" Arraf conceded there's “a piece of good news that's out there every day that's really hard for us to get at,” and that's how “there are children walking to school, there are girls and boys, there are Iraqi girls who are walking to school, and it's that wonderful sign of resilience that is the fabric, the background of life there.” But, “to go out and do that story....we'd probably be putting those children in danger because that is the nature of television.”
Brian Williams on NBC Nightly News, probably seeking to recover from anger on the left, is again raising the global warming alarmism. Williams spoke of the Antarctic landscape "where a catastrophe is unfolding slowly but surely." Williams then punted the story to ITN reporter Lawrence McGinty reporting from the barren landscape of Antarctica.
McGinty took the viewers for a tour of Antarctica and scientists on the ground examining samples from deep in the ice shelf. The scientists test for carbon dioxide levels which McGinty adamantly states are "the main cause of global warming" and "the levels of carbon dioxide today suggest we’re in for another [big melting]."
ABC’s Dr. Timothy Johnson leveled the harshest criticism,
telling anchor Charles Gibson that President Bush was "misleading" about his
government medical research, which he lamented had actually been "cut" last
Johnson’s liberal complaint about inadequate spending isn’t
surprising. The Business & Media Institute (BMI) has previously documented
Johnson’s advocacy of government-run health care and higher tobacco taxes.
The announcement Wednesday from Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) would now approve of surveillance actions under the “Terrorist Surveillance Program,” prompted a return to the bad network habit of describing as “domestic spying” and “domestic eavesdropping” the effort to monitor communication between people inside the United States and suspected terrorists abroad. With “Domestic Spying” on screen, ABC World News anchor Charles Gibson cited “a major reversal today by the Bush administration in the war on terrorism. Two years ago, you may recall, the administration maintained it had the right to spy on people in the United States, without court approval. Today, however, the Justice Department said there will be no such surveillance of people in this country without court approval.” (A look at CBS and NBC follows)
Just as when Democratic Senator Barack Obama said he was considering a presidential campaign last October, his announcement Monday -- via a Web video that he has set up an exploratory committee -- unleashed media excitement. The CBS Evening News treated it as one of the two big stories of the day: “I'm Katie Couric. Two major stories tonight: A vicious attack in Baghdad....And Senator Barack Obama takes a big step toward running for President. He says it's time for a change.” After that tease, Couric announced: “Hi everyone. He's generated a lot of excitement. And now it looks like Senator Barack Obama is, indeed, jumping into the presidential race. We'll have more about that in a moment.”
Over on ABC's World News, which devoted more than four minutes to the topic, anchor Kate Snow trumpeted how “Democratic rising star Barack Obama takes a major step toward a run for the White House.” She soon trumpeted how “the presidential race got a major jolt today. The man who could become the first African-American President took a major step toward becoming a candidate.” Snow even spun a negative into a positive: “His political resume is rather thin, but in the 2008 race, that could be a plus.” NBC anchor Brian Williams teased “a big step tonight for Barack Obama” before touting how “a bit of political history was made today, kind of, when Illinois Democratic Senator Barack Obama almost declared his candidacy for President.”
NBC’s Brian Williams quickly breezed through news of a court ruling in Mississippi pertaining to Hurricane Katrina insurance claims. But unlike coverage of the case in the Associated Press and The New York Times, the “Nightly News” anchor cast the ruling only as a victory for storm damage victims, without looking at how it could harm the insurance industry or gum up courts by encouraging lawsuits.
Williams told viewers of the January 11 program about “A big legal victory today for a Biloxi, Miss., couple who sued State Farm Insurance for refusing to pay” their Hurricane Katrina damage claim. The ruling could prove helpful to “hundreds of other victims in that region” who could “benefit as a result,” the anchor insisted. All told, Norman and Genevieve Broussard walked out of court with nearly $3 million, Williams added.
Responding to a handful of liberal complainers, Monday’s NBC Nightly News basically repudiated a Friday evening story in which a NOAA meteorologist blamed the recent warmer-than-normal weather in the Northeast on an El Nino, an area of warmer than normal water in the Pacific Ocean that forms every five years or so.
After some mean-spirited comments on NBC’s “Daily Nightly” blog site, where writers attacked anchor Brian Williams as a tool of big business for not taking the opportunity to blame global warming, Nightly News flip-flopped. Monday’s newscast showcased a brand new expert, and he argued the El Nino cycle was being exacerbated “by humans using the atmosphere as a free place to dump our tailpipe wastes.” Reporter Robert Bazell suggested that “even the heavy snow in the Rockies this year might be partly caused by global warming.”
Is there no bridge too far for Joe Scarborough to cross in defending charges of liberal bias against his NBC/MSNBC employers? On last night's Scarborough Country, Joe adopted a position so sycophantish, even Keith Olbermann might have been embarrassed by it.
Scarborough suggested that NBC News had done the right thing in assembling a panel on the Iraq surge composed exclusively of experts hostile to the President Bush's proposal. Scarborough's suggestion came in the course of a segment on Bill O'Reilly's revealing interview with Andrea Mitchell last week, during which he confronted her on NBC's liberal bias. Video: Real (4.3MB) or Windows (5MB) PlusMP3 (795 KB)
It was hard to tell what was making Andrea Mitchell angrier: Bill O'Reilly's assertions that NBC has a liberal bias, or his repeated and perhaps ungentlemanly references to the lady's "30 years" of experience. In any case, the look on Andrea's face was unmistakable: she was not the happiest of campers.
Mitchell appeared on this evening's Factor for purposes of touting her new book. But kudos to O'Reilly for taking the occasion to directly confront a leading NBC light with the network's undeniable leftward tilt - which Mitchell proceeded to flatly deny.
This is must-see video, which you can see here, but let me entice you with these two tidbits.
NBC's Martin Savidge began a Friday story, on the rising murder rate in New Orleans, by pointing out how “in the last week more Americans have died in New Orleans than in Iraq.” Savidge explained in his NBC Nightly News piece: “Since December 29th, there have been eight military deaths. In the Big Easy, there have been 14 murders. Among the latest victims, Helen Hill, a 36-year-old mother shot in her home in front of her husband and two-year-old.” Savidge bemoaned how the Crescent City “killers are growing more brazen, striking in broad daylight, using assault rifles, even with police just 30 yards away. And witnesses are refusing to talk.”
Brian Williams introduced Savidge's report by showing the headline on the front page of Friday's New Orleans Times-Picayune: “Killings bring the city to its bloodied knees.” (PDF image of the front page)
The passing of President Gerald Ford drew a dignified, even warm farewell from the national press. There was near-consensus that he would be remembered for his decency and the risk he took, pardoning Richard Nixon from Watergate prosecutions in an effort to heal the nation. It is proper that the press is kind today. It ought to be remembered, however, that the press was not of this opinion when Ford took office.
For example, Time magazine’s cover story on the pardon in September 1974 declared that "Ford's first major decision raised disturbing questions about his judgment and his leadership capabilities, and called into question his competence." The cover carried suggestive sub-headlines like "Squandered Trust" and "Premature and Unwise." Such was the media’s mood toward this man’s actions in office.
Retired NBC anchor Tom Brokaw spoke for eight minutes at President Ford's memorial service today in Washington, but the most memorable lines offered thanks for how Ford welcomed the media as friends, not enemies, unlike Richard Nixon. He also praised Ford for supporting his wife as she spoke out on issues that weren't "politically correct."
“As a journalist I was especially grateful for his appreciation for our role even when we challenged his policies and taxed his patience with our constant presence and persistence. We could be adversaries, but we were never his enemy, and that was a welcome change in status from his predecessor’s time."
It should never amaze media watchers when a press member finds fault in justice being doled out to the clearly guilty, even when the party in question is a genocidal despot. With that in mind, it didn’t take long for NBC to question the integrity of Saddam Hussein’s hanging, and espouse to viewers a downside for America as well as the country the tyrant once ruled with an iron fist.
Adding insult to injury, correspondent Richard Engel so editorialized on the final “Nightly News” of 2006 (video available here):
It was a major public relations blow for the US administration and the Iraqi government which have been trying to show the world that Saddam Hussein received impartial justice. Now with this brief video, that's being called into question as today Saddam was laid to rest.
At the site of Saddam’s burial, Engel chose to first interview a grieving Hussein loyalist even though Iraq is dominated by Shia Muslims who passionately despise the former dictator:
On NBC's "Daily Nightly" blog, anchor Brian Williams explained that he was a big fan of Jerry Ford, and has a pile of handwritten letters from Ford in his later years. You can read between the lines the respect and nostalgia liberals have for a moderate Republican in a much more liberal era:
The truth is Jerry Ford was a nice man. He was decent, courageous, honest...and a loving and faithful partner to his wife, a wonderful and trail-blazing woman. By today's political standards he just might be a liberal. By today's standards he is an anachronism of a kind of cooperative, deal-making and dare I say much more bipartisan brand of politics.
The liberal encomiums for a more bipartisan time do seem to omit that the Democrats held the House by a majority of about 145 after the post-Watergate sweep in 1974, so bipartisanship was pretty much mandatory, even if it was a natural fit for Ford.
The AP obtained the November 4, 2005 report from the Inspector General of the National Archives and in a dispatch late Wednesday led with how “President Clinton's national security adviser removed classified documents from the National Archives, hid them under a construction trailer and later tried to find the trash collector to retrieve them, the agency's internal watchdog said Wednesday.” But despite the colorful details about how Sandy Berger cut the documents, about the Clinton administration's reaction to terrorist threats in 1999, into small pieces, the broadcast networks weren't interested Thursday morning or evening even though the report discredits Berger's claims he simply accidentally mishandled the documents.
The evening newscasts, which all began with the bad weather in the Rocky Mountain states and how four Marines were charged with murder for the alleged massacre in Haditha, didn't utter a syllable about Berger's apparent efforts to cover up an aspect of how the Clinton White House responded to a terrorist threat. Yet they made room for more frivolous topics even before the usual end of the newscast human interest piece. ABC's Charles Gibson allocated a full story to the recovery of race horse “Barbaro” and 30 seconds to how "a public health advocate" reported how much exercise it takes to work off holiday calories, such as 37 minutes of walking to "burn off" a gingerbread cookie. CBS devoted to a two-part Katie Couric interview, consuming nine minutes of air time, to the widow of the mountain climber found dead on Mt. Hood. NBC's Brian Williams had time to highlight how the Governor of New Jersey signed a civil unions law and NBC ran a full story on how “the first Muslim elected to Congress comes under attack by a colleague over religion.”
As if political tradeoffs and deal-making isn't how politics works every day in the nation's capital, on Wednesday night NBC News Pentagon reporter Jim Miklaszewski delivered a nefarious take on President Bush's willingness to increase the size of the military, at least the Army and Marine Corps. Picking up on Bush's comments during his morning news conference, NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams noted how “a lot of Generals have been asking for this for a long time, as recently as last week on Capitol Hill."
Miklaszewski, however, stressed how “some military officials are highly suspicious of the President's sudden turnaround on the issue” since “they believe that he's dangling that offer out there in an effort to buy the military's support for the option to surge additional American troops into Iraq -- as if it's some kind of tradeoff.” Those military leaders “that we're talking to,” Miklaszewski relayed, “still oppose a surge, they still believe it won't work and will put more Americans at risk.” He concluded: “As one senior military official put it today, it'll be like throwing kerosene on a fire." It may be unwise to “surge” troops, but a President giving in one area to get what he wants in another is hardly unusual. Normally the press corps laud such “compromise.”
When Santa came to Wall Street this year, the media cried and pouted.
With the Dow Jones Industrial Average at an all-time high and commodities markets experiencing one of their best years in decades, Wall Street firms were feeling especially merry this year. The media responded as if they had seen Jacob Marley’s ghost.
NBC’s John Seigenthaler gloomily downplayed Wall Streeters’ good fortunes by stating:
On Saturday's NBC Nightly News, while filing a story on the "mind-boggling" bonuses going to those who are "striking it rich" on Wall Street, correspondent Mike Taibbi downplayed the strength of the current economy in comparison to the "Clinton years," and also pointed out the "struggle" of "working Americans." While Taibbi argued that his reference to the "Clinton years" was a "chronological, not political distinction," he praised that period for "lifting more boats" while finding fault in the present. Taibbi: "But to many, today's version of the haves and have-nots feels different. In the boom of the Clinton years -- and I'm talking a chronological, not a political distinction -- the rising tide of that bull market truly did lift all boats, or at least a whole lot more of them." (Transcript follows)
On Thursday’s NBC Nightly News, anchor Brian Williams highlighted how, earlier in the day, First Lady Laura Bush “placed the blame squarely on the news media" for why so few support the President on Iraq. But instead of addressing her contention about how “there are a lot of good things that are happening that aren't covered and I think the drumbeat in the country from the media...is discouraging" as she hoped for “more balanced coverage” in the future, Williams applied a non sequitur to dismiss her assessment of the news media. He noted how “the recent report from the Iraq Study Group, however, specifically found that there has been significant under-reporting of the violence in Iraq." But that’s about the accuracy of U.S. military data collection and categorization, not the accuracy of news media coverage of the situation in Iraq. (Transcript follows)
A very bizarre “conference” convened in Iran yesterday, hosted by despicable despot Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who called together some of the world’s foremost anti-Semites to debate whether the systematic mass murder of millions of Jews took place during World War II. Maybe even more astounding, as the CBS “Evening News” reported on this event, neither anchor Katie Couric, nor correspondent Elizabeth Palmer, chose to take issue with the theme of this conference. Couric began:
Iran's president is no friend of Israel or the Jewish people. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has called for the destruction of the Jewish state, and he's called the Holocaust a myth. Today he convened a conference to debate that issue, whether there actually was a Holocaust. How does Iran's Jewish community live in such an atmosphere? From Tehran tonight, here's Elizabeth Palmer.
Imagine for a moment that a sex scandal involving pages had forced a Democrat Congressman holding a safe seat to resign in disgrace weeks before crucial midterm elections, while also reflecting badly on other members of his Party in tight races across the country. A month after the votes had been tallied, and the Democrats had surrendered control of both chambers of Congress in a stunning defeat, a House ethics panel released a report on the subject containing the following information:
The leaks to the press concerning this matter had come from the communications director for the House Republican Caucus
A high-ranking staff member for the head of the National Republican Congressional Committee had been informed of the misdeeds of the Democrat Congressman almost twelve months before they were revealed by the press
Now assume that this head of the NRCC had declared four weeks prior to Election Day that nobody in his office was aware of the Democrat Congressman’s sexual indiscretions before they were revealed. Would the contradictory findings of this panel be headline news the day they were reported?
The House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct released its report concerning the Mark Foley page scandal on Friday, and the media banged the predictable drum about this all being a Republican cover-up. However, what was ignored or downplayed by virtually every press outlet was the revelation that the offensive e-mail messages between Foley and male pages were leaked to the media by the communications director for the House Democratic Caucus. Also absent from such reports was the possibility that high-ranking Democrat Rahm Emanuel of Illinois might have been aware of these electronic transmissions even though he told ABC News on October 8 that he hadn’t heard anything about them until the story broke (video available here, hat tip to Gateway Pundit).
How much did Rahm Emanuel know about disgraced Rep. Mark Foley's e-mails to a former House page? In an Oct. 8 interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos, Emanuel, a Democratic congressman from Illinois, was asked if he or his staff knew anything about the e-mails or instant messages between Foley and former pages "before they came out." "No - Never saw them," Emanuel said. Asked if he was "aware of them," Emanuel repeated, "We never saw them. No involvement." But on page 46 of the new House Ethics Committee report on the scandal is testimony that at least one senior member of Emanuel's staff did know about them.
My latest article at the MRC's Businessandmedia.org touches on a $7-billion omission on last night's evening newscasts.
"Fannie Mae took another step toward resolving its accounting fiasco by announcing a restatement of results that reduced retained earnings as of June 30, 2004, by $6.3 billion," The Wall Street Journal’s James Hagerty reported on page A4 of the December 7 paper.
The same day, The Washington Post and The New York Times devoted business section stories to the mortgage broker’s accounting errors.
The Fannie Mae story is hardly Wall Street’s garden variety profit revision.
NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams ended his newscast from Amman Thursday night with "a confession." Williams acknowledged: "We got something wrong. It wasn't just us. It was everyone in the news media and the folks in the federal government who are supposed to be the experts at predicting hurricanes. You may recall the dire predictions." Williams showed a clip from May of himself worrying about whether New Orleans was "ready" for another hurricane. He then reminded viewers of how the forecast was for "between eight and 10 hurricanes and half of those would be major, we were told, meaning at least Category 3."
Williams pointed out: "Well, the season officially ended today back home, and we are happy to report, what did happen, turns out, wasn't even close. There were only nine named storms, not 16 of them. Five hurricanes, none of them making landfall in the U.S. And only two of the storms, Gordon and Helene, were strong enough to be called anything close to major."
The other networks are not quite ready to jump on NBC's "civil war" bandwagon. "Secretary of State Matt Lauer" (according to Howard Kurtz) and other NBC reporters have decided to declare the situation in Iraq a civil war, a move that is praised by some in the MSM and denounced by others. Reports the New York Observer:
“It was their decision to make and their process,” said Jon Banner, the executive producer of ABC’s World News. “We constantly discuss editorial matters here—all the time, every day. How that decision got made there I have no idea, nor do I want to guess.”
“To be honest with you, I think it’s a political statement, not a news judgment,” said Rome Hartman, the executive producer of the CBS Evening News. “We deal with the events of the day, and we decide the best way to describe those events based on the news of the day, not by—never mind, I’m not gonna go there.”
Then he did.
Asked by a reporter about how “President Bush today blamed the surge of violence in Iraq on al Qaeda,” incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi responded with a disjointed answer about how “the 9/11 Commission dismissed that notion a long time ago and I feel sad that the President is resorting to it again." Though al-Qaeda is clearly in Iraq and responsible for deadly bombings, and the 9/11 Commission conclusion was about links before September 11th, on Tuesday's NBC Nightly News reporter David Gregory treated Pelosi's off-base retort as credible and relevant. Without suggesting any miscue by her, Gregory segued to Pelosi's soundbite with a bewildering set up of his own about how “incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi disagreed, warning that such rhetoric about al Qaeda will make it harder for Democrats to work with the White House."
On FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume, after panelist Mara Liasson characterized Pelosi as “confused” and Morton Kondracke suggested she was just “mixed up,” Fred Barnes maintained that “she clearly screwed up here. The question was absolutely clear. 'President Bush today blamed the surge in violence in Iraq.'” Barnes argued the media wouldn't let a Republican get away with such a flub, telling Kondrake: “If some Republican had done this, if Bush had done this at a press conference, if Newt Gingrich had said it, if John Boehner had said it, if Roy Blunt had said it, you'd have been all over it. It would be inexcusable."
Amid all of the media excitement of NBC’s choice to grandly pronounce the ongoing violence in Iraq a “civil war,” some (like MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann) are gleefully touting NBC’s editorializing as a “Walter Cronkite moment,” referring to the then-CBS Evening News anchor’s 1968 editorial declaring that the U.S. had become “mired in stalemate” in Vietnam.
In their desire for a U.S. retreat in Iraq, journalists had previously pronounced Cindy Sheehan’s protesting in Crawford, Texas and Democratic Congressman John Murtha’s calling for a withdrawal of troops to be “Cronkite moments” of the Iraq war, each time apparently hoping that the weight of the media's pessimism finally forces a change in U.S. policy.