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.
As reported by NewsBusters here, the media’s current fascination with Rep. John Murtha (D-Pennsylvania) completely ignores the decade of the ’90s when the congressman was a leading pork-barrel spender. Yet, maybe more curious, this love affair is thoroughly dismissing some rather recent earmarking that made the papers before Mr. Murtha became the media’s favorite anti-war spokesman.
Not the least of these articles was a front-page, 2,200 word expose in the June 13, 2005 Los Angeles Times by Ken Silverstein and Richard Simon. The headline set the tone: “Lobbyist's Brother Guided House Bill; A family member's ties to special interests raise questions in the case of Democrat John Murtha.” The crux of the article is that Murtha’s brother is a senior partner in a company called KSA Consulting. Said consulting firm received $20.8 million in defense contracts in 2004 (Times link expired):
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:
Newsweek’s Howard Fineman, in a new article entitled “Bush at the Tipping Point,” joined an expanding list of media representatives that have not only completely ignored statements made by Rep. John Murtha (D-Pennsylvania) concerning his disappointments with the Iraq war that came before his Thursday call for troop withdrawals, but also thoroughly misrepresented the level of support that Murtha gave to the initial war resolution back in October 2002:
“Murtha was the one-man tipping point. Initially a strong supporter of the conflict, he had voted for it and the money to pay for it. But on his last trip to Iraq, he had become convinced not only that the war was unwinnable, but that the continued American military presence was making matters far worse.”
As reported by NewsBusters here, Congressman Murtha first voiced dissent for this war in September 2003, and then again in May 2004. However, maybe most important, the record before the war resolution passed on October 11, 2002 shows Murtha as having initially been against invading Iraq, and only getting onboard when a revised resolution was proposed on October 2. Prior to those revisions authored by Democrats in the House to assuage dissenters like Murtha, the Congressman was quite vocal against an invasion:
Add the Los Angeles Times to the list of media outlets trumpeting an incomplete portrait of Rep. John Murtha's announcement yesterday.
Splashed across page one, above the fold, of today's Times is a largecolor photo of Murtha (see it) next to the headline, Democratic Hawk and War Veteran Wants U.S. Troops Out of Iraq Now."
The title of the caption in the color photo is "About-face," and the article itself also references an "about-face" by Murtha, even though Murtha began expressing criticism of the Bush administration's handling of Iraq within six months after the invasion, as documented by this Noel Sheppard Newsbusters post and this Tim Graham Newsbusters post (in reference to Murtha's 2004 Ted Koppel appearence).
Media Wrong About Dollar: As the frequency of pessimistic reports increases, their accuracy seems to decline.
Since the stock market’s collapse between March 2000 and October 2002, the Free Market Project media have continually been making gloomy and bearish economic forecasts, from predictions of a housing bubble implosion to gasoline prices heading to $5 per gallon and even an economic downturn due to Hurricane Katrina. As The Free Market Project has reported, none of these have panned out.
Other examples of media gloom and doom that ended up being inaccurate were the press’s opinions of the falling dollar at the end of last year, and what they believed were the likely consequences. Tom Fenton of CBS News went so far as to link the decline to the start of the Bush presidency. “Since the end of the Clinton administration – or to put it another way, since the beginning of the Bush administration – the dollar has been heading south at an alarming rate,” he argued in a Dec. 6, 2004, piece.
The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation released results of a new study yesterday indicating that the number of sexual scenes on television has nearly doubled since 1998. A Google search indicated that there have been upwards of 400 articles and Internet postings on this subject. For the most part, these articles have been at least moderately disturbed by these findings, while trying to offer some explanations for the increase. As a perfect example, please see how the Los Angeles Times’ Jube Shiver, Jr. reported this.
By contrast, Lisa de Moraes’s article in today’s Washington Post seemed to express disappointment that more acts of sex aren’t shown more regularly on television. For example, her second paragraph (which I won’t copy here in respect for those like myself who have children that frequent this site to get informed about the news of the day) used the word “sex” nine times while graphically describing such acts to the reader. In three sentences.
After informing the reader about the increase in sexual scenes on television since 1998, de Moraes made a joke about it:
Olsen finds it remarkable that the Times found this particular IRS investigation worthy of coverage, given the flood of complaints filed from both sides of the political spectrum from election season 2004:
Regardless of economic data, press accounts are typically negative and pessimistic.
The economy has been growing at a very strong clip since October 2001. Real estate prices are at their highest levels in history, as are homeownership and Americans’ average net worth. Unemployment also is lower than the average during any of the past three decades. Yet Americans are very down, and one third even think the economy is in a recession. Is consistently negative media coverage influencing public attitudes? Might headlines like “Job growth less than expected” and “Jobs come up weak” have something to do with the gloom being felt across the country?
The Labor Department announced unemployment numbers for October on November 4, and despite a decline in this rate and an addition to payrolls, the media reported the gains as “surprisingly meager,” “stalled,” “damped,” and “disappointing.”
On NBC’s “Meet The Press” this morning, host Tim Russert stocked his panel with three left-of-center journalists – Nina Totenberg of NPR, Ron Brownstein of the Los Angeles Times, and David Gregory of NBC News – to discuss the events of the week. When they got to the nomination of Samuel Alito to replace retiring justice Sandra Day O’Connor, Russert mentioned that when Bill Clinton was president, both Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer, despite obvious Liberal leanings, were approved by a strong majority of both Democrats and Republicans. “And they say, ‘Why can't we have the same courtesy to conservative jurists under President Bush?’"
In response, Totenberg said: “If you look at the Ginsburg nomination, for example, she'd been a judge, I think, for 12 years. She'd been, actually, a pretty conservative liberal judge, if you can be such a thing.” This could be the first time that anyone has referred to the former general counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union as being “pretty conservative.”
As the discussion ensued, Totenberg expressed frustration with the president’s second choice to replace Sandra Day O’Connor:
Yesterday (Friday November 4, 2005), the Labor Department announced that the national unemployment rate dropped from 5.1% to 5.0%.
Good news, right? Well, some media outlets did not seem to think so.
In the 3pm PST news updates on ABC News radio and CBS News radio on Friday, anchors made the employment picture sound dim. They highlighted that the net job gain in October of 56,000 jobs was "not as many as expected." Although CBS News tagged their story with the fact that the unemployment rate had dropped, ABC News radio made no mention of this at all!
The Los Angeles Times followed suit today (Saturday November 5, 2005). The (very) bold headline on the front page of their Business section blares the negative, "Job Report Falls Short of Forecasts." You have to go well below the fold to learn of the drop in the unemployment rate.
While the mainstream media have focused attention on President Bush’s new Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito being an extreme Conservative (as reported by NewsBusters here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here), David G. Savage and Henry Weinstein of the Los Angeles Times actually did some real investigative journalism, and identified that people who have worked with Alito don’t agree with this right-wing depiction:
“Samuel A. Alito Jr. was quickly branded a hard-core conservative after President Bush announced his nomination, but a surprising number of liberal-leaning judges and ex-clerks say they support his elevation to the Supreme Court.
"Those who have worked alongside him say he was neither an ideologue nor a judge with an agenda, conservative or otherwise. They caution against attaching a label to Alito.”
Savage and Weinstein continued by citing and/or quoting a list of colleagues’ opinions on this issue:
[Judith Miller] knew early on that Libby was using the media to punish former U.S. Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV for exposing President Bush's false claim that Iraq sought nuclear material from the African nation of Niger.
The words I want to examine here are "punish" and "false claim". If there was information given to a reporter, it wasn't to punish Joe Wilson, it was to expose him. By the time he went to Niger, he had a long history of not just being against the war, but being against a regime change in Iraq. This was no impartial panel to examine evidence. This was one guy going over there without even being paid, lying about who sent him [Cheney], to [his words mind you] "drink sweet tea and meet with people." Did he look at spy sat imagery? No. Did he examine hardware with a Geiger counter? No. Did he meet with CIA HUMINT informants? No. He simply asked a dozen people if they were selling yellowcake to Saddam. What would you answer if the U.S. asked you that?
And in the end, Joe Wilson didn't even say it definitely didn't happen. His finding was "that it was highly doubtful that any such transaction had ever taken place." Do you read that caveat in newspaper articles?
Meanwhile, the IAEA, an organization that does more than ask people questions, determined that yellowcake was found in scrap metal originating from Iraq. What does Joe Wilson have to say about that?
The report indicated that there was enough intelligence to make a “well-founded” judgment that Saddam Hussein was seeking, perhaps as late as 2002, to obtain uranium illegally from Niger and the Democratic Republic of Congo (6.4 para. 499). In particular, referring to a 1999 visit of Iraqi officials to Niger, the report states (6.4 para. 503): “The British government had intelligence from several different sources indicating that this visit was for the purpose of acquiring uranium. Since uranium constitutes almost three-quarters of Niger's exports, the intelligence was credible.”
Back to the claim that Bush made a "false claim". Given that we have intelligence and physical evidence that contradict Joe Wilson, as well as a solid foundation for Joe Wilson's motive, what is this "false claim" Bush made based on?
Last week four Christian Indonesian girls who were on their way to their Christian high school were attacked by hooded attackers who successfully beheaded three of the girls. However, what most people would consider an outrage, The Washington Post and the the LA Times doesn't even consider newsworthy.
The Washington Post spent most of their ink dealing with the bird flu epidemic, and the LA Times gives this tragic story a two sentence blurb and doesn't even mention that the girls were Christians, thus implying the persecution of Christians isn't important.
The headline in Wednesday's Los Angeles Times is, "U.S. Death Toll in Iraq Hits 2,000." It is accompanied by another front-page Iraq piece with the title, "Deadly Surge." These articles continue inside to three full pages which include a large, half-page graph ("A Mounting Toll"), a large half-page map of the U.S., and color photos under the banner "U.S. Military Deaths in Iraq."
In all, there are three stories about U.S. deaths in Iraq covering 4,228 words. They are accompanied by a total of nine color photos.
Meanwhile, the Times takes the major historical event, "Iraq Charter Ratified by Big Margin in Final Tally" ... and puts it on page A6. And for this, they give readers 1,056 words with one black-and-white photo and a map of Iraq.
Roe is quickly becoming legally irrelevant. The number of abortions in the United States has fallen dramatically in the last two decades ...
"Fallen dramatically"? Let's look at the same numbers (link) that Planned Parenthood sees, per the Alan Guttmacher Institute (AGI). In 1985, there were a reported 1,588,600 abortions. In June of this year, AGI reported that there were about 1,290,000 abortions in 2002 (the most recent data available (pdf file)). That is a difference of approximately 18.8%. Is that really "dramatic"?
No matter how much she gets for her state, it’s never enough.
Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) was unhappy last Friday night. After sparring with Senate Republicans, including her counterpart from Louisiana, Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), she didn’t get what she wanted – $15 billion in hurricane-related loans to her state without any strings attached.
Now, don’t get me wrong, she did get some money -- $750 million to be exact. But the recipients are going to have to pay it back, and that’s not what Landrieu wanted. She felt that given everything Louisianans have gone through, these loans should have been totally forgivable, meaning that if the recipients didn’t want to reimburse America’s taxpayers, they didn’t have to.
An article in today’s New York Times depicted a grim picture of the future of America’s newspaper industry. Stung by declining circulation rates, most of the nation’s major dailies are laying people off:
“Such rethinking is sweeping newsrooms across the country as the industry faces a wave of job cuts, among them 700 announced since May at The New York Times Company, including its business operations and the various media properties it owns, and 14 at The Hartford Courant. Most recently cuts have been announced at The Boston Globe (a division of the Times Company), The San Jose Mercury News, The Philadelphia Daily News, The Baltimore Sun and Newsday, and over the last few years The Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post have also moved to eliminate jobs.
“Industrywide, ad revenue is flat, costs are up and circulation is eroding.”
The article went on to discuss how ad revenues at the major newspapers have stopped growing as major retailers have refocused their marketing dollars into other channels such as cable television and, of course, the Internet:
September employment was little-changed despite predictions of 500,000 job losses.
Remember all those reports filed by the mainstream media predicting doom and gloom right after Katrina devastated New Orleans? Well, the first significant piece of economic data to be released since the hurricanes hit suggests that these media prognostications – as predicted by the Free Market Project on September 6 – had no basis in fact.
This morning, the Labor Department released employment numbers for the month of September, and they were much stronger than forecast. In fact, they were so strong that the U.S. dollar rallied against most of the world’s currencies in expectation that the Federal Reserve might raise interest rates further than many economists had hoped.
To refresh everyone’s memory, here is a sampling of what the media were saying about the economy after Katrina first made landfall:
Once upon a time, Editor and Publisher, as "America’s Oldest Journal Covering the Newspaper Industry," had a certain degree of respectability. These days, conspiratorial speculation and advocacy are every bit as important as fact, and the byline "By E&P Staff" means that anything to follow needs to be parsed very carefully to distill facts from wishful, often overtly partisan projection. A prime example of this concerns this August 6, 2001 AP Photo as seen in this MSNBC article.
On its front page Tuesday, The New York Times published a photo of new U.S. Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers going over a briefing paper with President George W. Bush at his Crawford ranch "in August 2001," the caption reads. USA Today and the Boston Globe carried the photo labeled simply "2001," but many other newspapers ran the picture in print or on the Web with a more precise date: Aug. 6, 2001.
Shortly after yesterday’s announcement of Rep. Tom DeLay’s (R-Tex) indictment for alleged campaign finance violations, the mainstream media began doing reports on the subject with largely similar content. A memo written by Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean posted at the Democratic Party’s website almost immediately after the announcement was made contained virtually the same “hotbuttons” as those subsequently raised in media accounts of the story.
What follows is a copy of that memo, along with comparisons to what has since been reported by leading media outlets on this subject:
"The New Orleans Times-Picayune on Monday described inflated body counts, unverified 'rapes,' and unconfirmed sniper attacks as among examples of 'scores of myths about the dome and Convention Center treated as fact by evacuees, the media and even some of New Orleans' top officials'....
"Journalists and officials who have reviewed the Katrina disaster blamed the inaccurate reporting in large measure on the breakdown of telephone service, which prevented dissemination of accurate reports to those most in need of the information. Race may have also played a factor.
Los Angeles Times' media critic Tim Rutten has long had a somewhat troubled relationship with reality (for just a few examples, see here, here, and here). He also has never been shy about letting his liberal political views get in the way of doing what he actually should be doing: Analyzing the media in a fair and objective way.
However, his liberal slams on conservative media reached a new low in his weekly column, "It's hard to feel bad for Geraldo" (Sat. Sept. 17, 2005) (reg. req'd), which begins as follows (emphasis mine):
"IT would be comforting to believe that Geraldo Rivera is inexplicable.
"Sadly, when we consider Rupert Murdoch's ceaseless schemes for global domination and the venal blood lust that pulses through Fox News, Geraldo is easy to explain — which makes him simply inexcusable.
"Seeing him descend bright-eyed and sweaty on wretched New Orleans, as he did in Hurricane Katrina's aftermath, was like watching a vulture on crystal meth. The word that came to mind was not 'reporting,' but 'feeding.'"
"Ceaseless schemes for global domination"? "Venal blood lust"? Vultures on crystal meth? Is Rutten talking about a television network or a murderous, communist dictatorship?
America’s media are, once again, predicting economic doom and gloom as a result of a natural disaster. Such predictions have been wrong before and, in the case of Hurricane Katrina, will likely turn out wrong again.
These predictions fly in the face of strong economic data reported by the Labor Department on Friday – including an August unemployment rate of 4.9 percent that is now the lowest in four years. America’s press decided to play down the positives by focusing on the threat to jobs and the economy as a result of Katrina.
Edmund L. Andrews of The New York Times took a negative outlook with this:
A Los Angeles Times article suggests that NBC made a mistake during last night's "Concert For Hurricane Relief" when it edited from its West Coast feed rapper Kanye West’s assertions that “George Bush doesn’t care about black people”:
By censoring Grammy-winning rapper Kanye West's remarks critical of President Bush during its West Coast feed of the program Friday night, the network violated the most moving and essential moment in an otherwise sterile, self-serving corporate broadcast.
WHO DIED AND left Cindy Sheehan in charge? We put her in charge the press, the politicians, the people. We put her in charge not just of her own message and her mission, which is all she had asked for, but we cranked up her voice to equal volume with the man she's calling out: POTUS himself, George W. Bush.
Let me get this straight... We, the people, "cranked up her voice" equal to the President of the United States? Huh. What edition of the LA Times do I run? Because I've got some immigration and UN corruption stories I'd like to run.
One of the more worrying ongoing stories is the arrest of several men for involvement in a conspiracy, hatched in California's Folsom prison to attack Jewish sites and synagogues around the state. What's worrying is that one of the men apparently converted to a radical form of Islam while in prison.
For obvious reasons, some attention has been focused on the California Penal system's system for vetting clergy. The LA Times carried two stories on the subject yesterday, and as usual, the story is the dog that didn't bark. In this case, the dog that didn't ask questions about who was speaking to it.
One hot and humid weekend this past July, America’s leading Democrats -- including some of the early favorites for their party’s 2008 presidential nomination such as Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY), Senator Evan Bayh (D-IN), Governor Tom Vilsack (D-IA), and Governor Mark Warner (D-VA) -- gathered in Columbus, Ohio at a conference hosted by the centrist Democratic Leadership Council.
Predictably, the press had a hard time controlling its glee when Senator Clinton was announced as the point-person to lead the DLC’s new political offensive -- code name “American Dream Initiative” -- to define the party’s agenda for 2006 and 2008.
The appointment solidified the identification of Clinton, once considered a champion of the party's left, with the centrist movement that helped propel her husband to the White House in 1992. It also continued her effort, which has accelerated in recent months, to present herself as a moderate on issues such as national security, immigration and abortion.
Unfortunately, Mr. Brownstein -- much like the rest of the mainstream print media as far as I can tell -- chose not to be completely honest with his readers -- or the American public for that matter -- concerning just how far to the right Mrs. Clinton was going by affiliating herself with this organization, and, maybe most important, what was actually in this “Dream Initiative”. (cont'd...)
In a surprising role reversal, Hollywood is about to deliver bad news to the Los Angeles Times and The New York Times and, to a lesser extent, other big-city dailies around the country. Every major movie studio is rethinking its reliably humongous display ad buys in those papers because those newsosaur readers are, to quote one mogul, “older and elitist” compared to younger, low-brow filmgoers — so it makes no sense to waste the dough.
Wait, it gets worse: I’ve learned that at least two Hollywood movie studios have decided to drastically cut their newspaper display ads as soon as possible.