Today's New York Times report of the Jack Abramoff plea agreement is headlined: GOP Lobbyist to Plead Guilty In Deal With Prosecutors. The Times story twice refers to Abramoff as a "Republican" lobbyist and, off course, it brings in Rep. Tom DeLay. The story never mentions the word "Democrat” or names any of the Democrats who received money from Abramoff's lobbying firm
Abramoff didn't work just with Republicans. He oversaw a team of two dozen lobbyists at the law firm Greenberg Traurig that included many Democrats. Moreover, the campaign contributions that Abramoff directed from the tribes went to Democratic as well as Republican legislators.
New York Times reporter Katharine Seelye reports that the old saying, "Never pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel," is no longer valid.
For decades, subjects of news stories who felt they were mistreated "were unlikely to take on reporters or publishers, believing that the power of the press gave the press the final word."
But now things have changed.
Subjects of newspaper articles and news broadcasts now fight back with the same methods reporters use to generate articles and broadcasts - taping interviews, gathering e-mail exchanges, taking notes on phone conversations - and publish them on their own Web sites. This new weapon in the media wars is shifting the center of gravity in the way that news is gathered and presented, and it carries implications for the future of journalism.
Most journalists don't like the new empowerment of average citizens.
Intelligence reporter James Risen co-wrote the Times’ December 16 front-page scoop about government spying on terror suspects in the U.S. without first obtaining search warrants. As was later revealed by Drudge (but not by the Times), the story seemed rather conveniently timed to coincide with his upcoming book, “State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration”).
Risen’s book is out now, and Katie Couric interviewed him for the Today show Tuesday morning, where he said of his many anonymous sources:
“…many of these people had grown up in the environment of knowing that in order to get to listen in on Americans you had to get a court order and they saw something was happening in which that was not being done. That there were, that the courts were being skirted, the Congress, that the laws had not been changed. And they believed that for whatever reason the Bush administration was skirting the law. Now that'll be something that we can all debate about whether or not they did skirt the law? But that was the reason the people came forward. They believed that something was going wrong."
It’s been more than two weeks since the New York Times broke the National Security Agency eavesdropping story, and despite a media barrage on this subject, it appears the nation doesn’t feel the Bush administration is doing anything wrong. A survey released by Rasmussen Reports last week identified:
“Sixty-four percent (64%) of Americans believe the National Security Agency (NSA) should be allowed to intercept telephone conversations between terrorism suspects in other countries and people living in the United States. A Rasmussen Reports survey found that just 23% disagree.”
Despite the media’s efforts to paint a picture that this program is something newly hatched by the current administration, Americans aren’t buying it:
Katie Couric's just-completed interview with NY Times Reporter James Risen, who broke the NSA surveillance story and is now publishing his book on the matter, 'State of War,' offered a window on the MSM view of the matter. For her questioning of Risen, give a gentlelady's 'C' to Couric, who earned the bulk of her grade by asking:
"Did [the leakers] have any sympathy or understanding about this new climate this country finds itself in and the criticism the Bush administration took prior to 9/11 for not putting the pieces together and figuring out that a terrorist attack was imminent? In other words, did they acknowledge that tough times may call for tough measures?"
Who needs a publicist to promote your book when the AP will do it for free? The AP is shilling for James Risen's new book, State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration. In an article titled, "CIA Ignored Info Iraq Had no WMD", posted on yahoo.com, the AP states that the book "describes secret operations of the Bush Administration's war on terror". The articles cites an instance of the CIA sending an Iraqi-American MD to Iraq to talk to her brother about Iraq's nuclear weapons programs. Despite reports of a nuclear weapons program that ended years before, the article reports "In October 2002, a month after the doctor's trip to Baghdad, the U.S intelligence community issued a National Intelligence Estimate that concluded Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear program". According to the article, "New York Times reporter James Risen uses the anecdote to illustrate how the CIA ignored information that Iraq no longer had weapons of mass destruction.
Before the new work year really kicks in, one little thing that caught my eye in between holidays. The PBS show "Charlie Rose" had a panel of film critics on to discuss the year in movies on December 21: Richard Corliss of Time, A.O. Scott of the New York Times, David Denby of The New Yorker, and Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly. (For cultural conservatives, consider this fact: an hour-long show on the year in movies and no mention of "The Chronicles of Narnia.") The perfect moment of taxpayer-funded liberal unanimity came in discussing George Clooney's movies "Syriana," and more specifically, the CBS-boosting "Good Night and Good News."
LISA SCHWARZBAUM: "Obviously he's telling a story that we can all feel much happier about. This is about how journalism spoke up to power and how they stared back at a bully. And It comes out at a time when the media wants to think about whether we need to stand up further to, you know, to pressures brought to bear. But I'm fascinated that Clooney is using this kind of charming, you know, "Ocean’s 12/13/14" kind of fame that he has in order to make these movies of what he takes as political importance. I think that's a very valuable use of his celebrity."
New York Times Public Editor Byron Calame agrees that the refusal to answer a single question about the spy story is "woefully inadequate."
I e-mailed a list of 28 questions to Bill Keller, the executive editor, on Dec. 19, three days after the article appeared. He promptly declined to respond to them. I then sent the same questions to Arthur Sulzberger Jr., the publisher, who also declined to respond. They held out no hope for a fuller explanation in the future.
With the top Times people involved in the final decisions refusing to talk and urging everyone else to remain silent, it seemed clear to me that chasing various editors and reporters probably would yield mostly anonymous comments that the ultimate decision-makers would not confirm or deny.
Keller's response to me: "There is really no way to have a full discussion of the back story without talking about when and how we knew what we knew, and we can't do that."
The New York Times syndicated cancer has an editorial about the NSA spy story that hit some newspapers today. This time they have outsourced the dishonesty to James Bamford, author of The Puzzle Palace, a 23 year old book on the NSA.
For the agency to snoop domestically on American citizens suspected of having terrorist ties, it first must to go to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, or FISA, make a showing of probable cause that the target is linked to a terrorist group, and obtain a warrant.
As we all now know, that is flat out untrue. But who even said the calls intercepted were American citizens? This NSA program looks at calls to terror states or terrorist suspects. How does Mr. Bamford and the NYT know the person placing that call is a US citizen rather than a visitor from abroad?
Picking up where we left off, here are the judges' picks for worst Quote of the Year during the Slick Willie era.
Onward, Christian Mouth-Breathers, 1993: "Corporations pay public relations firms millions of dollars to contrive the kind of grass-roots response that Falwell or Pat Robertson can galvanize in a televised sermon. Their followers are largely poor, uneducated, and easy to command." -- Washington Post reporter Michael Weisskopf, February 1 news story.
Hurray, Grown Men Can Weep, 1994: "Around the global village, women cheered and grown men wept. At his press conference, [Gold medal-winning speed skater Dan] Jansen paused to take a call from the President, the man who's made America safe again for tears." -- Newsweek Senior Writer David A. Kaplan, February 28 news story.
Once again in 2005, the New York Times provided a bounty of material to choose from, whether it was a pattern of biased coverage -- Hurricane Katrina, Cindy Sheehan -- or a single bizarrely biased story, like one from Sarah Boxer on a pro-U.S. blog in Iraq.
Here are some samples fromTimesWatch's top 3 examples of the worst from the liberally slanted year of coverage.
#3 Relaying Reckless Leftist Charges Against Pro-U.S. Bloggers in Iraq
Reporter Sarah Boxer achieved instant notoriety in blogging circles for an irresponsibly speculative piece January 18 on a pro-U.S. blog run by Iraqi brothers. Boxer began in a breathless style that probably helped her story garner the top slot of the Arts front page: "When I telephoned a man named Ali Fadhil in Baghdad last week, I wondered who might answer. A C.I.A. operative? An American posing as an Iraqi? Someone paid by the Defense Department to support the war? Or simply an Iraqi with some mixed feelings about the American presence in Iraq? Until he picked up the phone, he was just a ghost on the Internet. The mystery began last month when I went online to see what Iraqis think about the war and the Jan. 30 national election. I stumbled into an ideological snake pit." But her story was rooted entirely in the speculative postings from a far-left group blog called Martini Republic.
As 2005 winds down, it's a good time to recall some of the worst journalistic moments of the year. The Media Research Center polled 52 distinguished media experts -- talk show hosts, columnists, journalism professors and other keen observers -- who generously supplied their picks for The Best Notable Quotables of 2005.
A few of the highlights:
Newsweek's Managing Editor Jon Meacham won the "Madness of King George Award for Bush Bashing" for recoiling when the current President toured the former captive nations of Eastern Europe and apologized for the deal FDR made with Stalin back at Yalta in 1945: "It’s like he stuck a broomstick in his wheelchair wheels," Meacham complained on MSNBC.
New York Times congressional reporter Carl Hulse's Friday "news analysis" is devoted to Congress departing for its Christmas break amid the usual hectic end-of-session machinations ("A Messy Congressional Finale"). And it's all Republicans' fault.
"In the end, Republicans largely have themselves to blame for the muddled and haphazard finale of the Congressional session....At nearly every crucial turn in recent weeks, it was a group of Republicans, painfully aware of President Bush's decline in popularity, who broke from the White House and the party leadership in the House and Senate and forced concessions in major legislation or stalled it until the bitter end."
New York Times writer John Leland reviews the growing phenomenon of Christian film criticism -- and how it now both evaluates the artistic and moral content. While it's nice to see the Times notice and even publicize conservative cultural efforts, Leland still employs the notion that the permissive liberal critics represent the "mainstream" of the media. They love the gay-cowboy flick "Brokeback Mountain," while the conservatives are cooler to it:
"Brokeback Mountain" has received overwhelming acclaim from mainstream critics, but elicited a different reaction from conservative Christian media: respectful and often laudatory, but finding biblical fault with the film's content."
The Wall Street Journal’s Stephanie Kang and the New York Times’s Michael Barbaro today used similar language to describe the retail shopping season as so-so. But buried deeper in Kang’s story were facts which undercut her argument and Barbaro admittedly relied on “anecdotal reports,” mainly from recently transit-strike-plagued Manhattan, to sell his story.
Barbaro opened his December 27 article noting that “Many retailers hoping for a big finish to the holiday season instead had lighter-than-expected crowds over the long Christmas weekend, according to anecdotal reports, leaving stores to rely heavily on the next few days to pump up December sales.”
WASHINGTON, Dec. 23 - The National Security Agency has traced and analyzed large volumes of telephone and Internet communications flowing into and out of the United States as part of the eavesdropping program that President Bush approved after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to hunt for evidence of terrorist activity, according to current and former government officials.
Yes, we know we already reported this exact story, but you didn't return the outrage against Bush we were looking for. Actually, his poll numbers are up (thank you Big Media brother Jersey Journal for finding a way to paint a negative - localize, newspapers, localize.) Let's all just take another shot at this. We'll add a few technical words like "switches", some anonymous sources that may or may not be the same anonymous sources from last time, and it will seem like a whole new article. All the usual suspects can then write hundreds of articles about this article, we'll talk about it on the Sunday talk shows, and with all of your determined help, we can bring down this evil conservative and the majority of Americans who recently elected him. again.
Michael Tomasky, executive editor of the American Prospect, has written a column for the liberal magazine's web site urging the dismissal of his counterpart at the New York Times, Bill Keller, for Keller's alleged mishandling of both the Judith Miller matter and the NSA wiretap story. The piece is worth mentioning mostly for this paragraph, which builds to an overheated climax:
There are reasons for liberals (at opinion magazines, at blogs, etc.) to tread a little carefully these days with regard to criticism of the Times. Those of us who work at smaller shops don’t appreciate how difficult it can be to run large institutions (here at TAP, we sometime have trouble running this institution, of 20-whatever people). The pressure of simply being The New York Times is enormous. And, of course, every piece of flesh ripped from the paper’s body by the liberal opinion-blog world serves, ultimately, as another plate of hot victuals for the vultures of the right, circling above, counting the hours until the newspaper of record is a flayed, and inconsequential, carcass.
It seems like a common pattern lately. A mainstream media outlet publishes a bombshell story, and within days, the whole thing unravels quicker than a cheap sweater swarmed by kittens. Such is beginning to look like the case for The New York Times’ eavesdropping controversy, which is showing a lot of wear and tear for its age.
Wednesday wasn’t a very good day for the ongoing health of this story, or for members of the media hoping that the recent revelations concerning National Security Agency espionage tactics could lead to impeachment proceedings against President Bush.
The day started with a former member of the Clinton White House voicing strong words of support for the Bush administration’s behavior. In a Chicago Tribune op-ed entitled “President Had Legal Authority to OK Taps,” former associate attorney general John Schmidt refuted media protestations concerning the illegality of the National Security Agency eavesdropping on American citizens who are in contact with known members of al Qaeda without a court order allowing it to do so:
The current issue of the New York Observer includes Gabriel Sherman's report on the back-and-forth at the New York Times regarding the paper's NSA-wiretap story.
Highlights from Sherman's piece:
...Multiple Times sources said that the story had come up more than a year ago—specifically, before the 2004 election. After The Times decided not to publish it at that time, Mr. Risen went away on book leave, and his piece was shelved and regarded as dead, according to a Times source.
Ever since Hurricane Katrina made landfall in late August sending oil prices to $70 per barrel and gasoline above $3 a gallon, the media have been in a panic over a return of ’70s-style inflation. Such concerns reached a fevered-pitch in October when a gauge of consumer prices rose by the largest amount in 25 years. Yet, when the Labor Department released numbers last week showing that inflation had declined by the greatest percentage in 56 years, rather than using this data to ease the public’s concerns about rising prices, the press either downplayed the report or totally ignored it.
The New York Times reporter whose National Security Agency eavesdropping article last Friday started a national debate about this issue didn’t appear as concerned with such espionage tactics when Bill Clinton was in the White House.
As reported by NewsBusters on Monday, an intricate international communications espionage network, codenamed Echelon, has been in existence for many years. Yet, a LexisNexis search of the word “Echelon” and the name “James Risen” produced only one result. The article, entitled “The Nation: Don’t Read This; If You Do, They May Have to Kill You” appeared in the Times on December 5, 1999. By contrast to last Friday’s article condemning NSA eavesdropping, this 1999 one by Risen almost praised it:
The Times has two lame follow-up stories to its supposedly explosive scoop that the Bush administration is eavesdropping, without prior court approval, on people in the U.S. communicating with people abroad with al-Qaeda ties.
First, reporters James Risen and Eric Lichtblau have a damp squib ("Spying Program Snared U.S. Calls -- Some Exchanges Are Said to Be Purely Domestic") in pursuit of their overhyped story from Friday on domestic terrorist surveillance by the Bush administration.
"A surveillance program approved by President Bush to conduct eavesdropping without warrants has captured what are purely domestic communications in some cases, despite a requirement by the White House that one end of the intercepted conversations take place on foreign soil, officials say. The officials say the National Security Agency's interception of a small number of communications between people within the United States was apparently accidental, and was caused by technical glitches at the National Security Agency in determining whether a communication was in fact 'international.'"
There’s an old saying: What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. When it comes to mainstream media reporting, nothing could be further from the truth.
No finer example of a media double standard has been recently evident than in the furor that has evolved over revelations of National Security Agency eavesdropping. To be more precise, the press response to The New York Times report on this subject last Friday is in stark contrast to how they reacted in the ’90s when the Clinton administration was found to be engaging in extraordinarily similar activities.
A perfect example surfaced in a Washington Postarticle written yesterday by Charles Lane. In it, Lane referred to changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act under former President Clinton after the Aldrich Ames affair. For those unfamiliar, Ames was a CIA agent that was convicted in 1994 of working for the former Soviet Union:
From promoting the "socially conservative instincts" of Sen. Hillary Clinton to lamenting the lack of gas rationing in support of the Iraq War, there was no shortage of bizarre bias in the New York Times in 2005. To celebrate the year in slant, Times Watch presents a selection of the absolutely most biased quotes from Times reporters and writers.
On Tuesday morning, the network morning shows all began with full stories on the New York City transit strike (no doubt involving dozens of struggling network employees). As I remarked today to Mark Finkelstein on his strike blog post, the New York-based media has an annoying tendency to elevate itself into the center of the news universe on local issues. (Put the same event in San Francisco or Seattle, and the national media would barely whisper.) And now, an example: merely a few weeks ago, at Halloween time, Philadelphia also had a transit strike. As Rich Noyes pointed out to me, it drew an 800-word story in the November 1 New York Times headlined "400,000 Hit by Philadelphia Transit Strike." Major morning show hubbub? Of course not.
The folks over at The New York Times must be laughing their heads off. With the President’s poll numbers on the rise, a fabulous election result in Iraq, and the potential extension of a key antiterrorism bill that the administration holds dear, the Times stole Christmas from the White House last week with the release of one carefully-timed article.
After some pretty horrible months in September and October, President Bush has been fighting his way back up from a virtual poll abyss. The economy—regardless of left-wing protestations to the contrary—has been humming. Energy prices—regardless of, well, you get the point—have been plummeting. And, the Sunnis, who largely boycotted the past two elections in Iraq, were giving signs that they would participate in Thursday’s elections in very large, enthusiastic numbers.
All the President needed to make this holiday season a truly joyous one was a relatively safe, incident-free day at the Iraqi polls Thursday, and the Patriot Act to be extended before Congress adjourned for the year on Friday.
The Grinch…err., I mean, the Times had something else in mind.
Ex-CBS producer Mary Mapes still has her liberal blinders on, judging by the letter that appeared in the New York Times Book Review yesterday. Responding to an unfavorable review of her book by Newsweek's Jonathan Alter, Mapes nevertheless credits Alter for being right about the anti-CBS jihad from "the right."
"A thousand times, yes! The bogus questions about typeface used to 'discredit' CBS's Bush/Guard story were a fraud, as Jonathan Alter wrote in reviewing my book, 'Truth and Duty' (Nov. 20). He's also right that the so-called independent panel was a legalistic/ corporate inquisition against the news division I love. I guarantee you that, given the chance, Dick Thornburgh, his firm's lawyers and Lou Boccardi would find even Alter's work sadly lacking. Despite the millions that CBS paid, the panel got a lot wrong and still won't answer for it, just as the president has never explained his aborted military service. CBS panicked over the blog attack and strained to appease the right, whose tactics against us were the same as with Wilson, Plame, Clarke and other administration 'critics.'
Travel caused me to miss Friday's big lead scoop in the New York Times on domestic spying by the National Security Agency ("Bush Lets U.S. Spy on Callers Without Courts"), but the rest of the blogosphere took the story on from multiple angles, questioning the pieces timing, agenda, even its newsworthiness.
The Times article no doubt had the effect the paper intended, throwing the White House on the defensive and causing the renewal of the Patriot Act to be thwarted, a long-time goal of the Times editorial page.
But is this sort of terrorist surveillance truly a new and troubling thing? The government's Echelon spy program was reported on during the Clinton administration, in a 2000 report on CBS's "60 Minutes." In words that ring familiar, host Steve Kroft intoned:
Unlike the other major broadcast network Sunday talk shows (as reported by NewsBusters), NBC’s “The Chris Matthews Show” led with Thursday’s historic elections in Iraq, while mentioning the surveillance scandal raised in a New York Times article Friday as almost an afterthought. Then, after the break, Matthews began on another topic that is likely much more of a concern to Americans than the legality of wiretaps on terrorists, illegal immigration.
After introducing his guests – Joe Klein of TIME, Andrea Mitchell of NBC News, David Brooks of The New York Times, and syndicated columnist Kathleen Parker – Matthews went right into Thursday’s Iraqi elections. With the notable exception of Klein, the panel seemed in agreement that this was an historic event on Thursday, and that democracy in Iraq now seems possible. Mitchell stated, “I think there is a better chance than we have ever before seen of Iraq actually creating a government of these people working together, and of this country not blowing apart.” Matthews agreed, “I think it's the most amazing week in this whole war this week.”