Matt Lauer said the right thing. Was it for the wrong reason?
Discussing on this morning's "Today" with Tim Russert the current wrangling between the Bush administration and the Dem congress over a bill to fund the Iraq war and the Dems' attempt to include a "date certain" for troop withdrawal, Matt Lauer said:
"Robert Gates, the Defense Secretary, has said that sometime next month that the funding for troops on the ground will run out. So now we've got a very high stakes game of political chicken. And can you imagine the Democrats getting to a point where they actually stop the funding for troops on the ground? That would be a disaster, wouldn't it?"
There were two Iraq polls released on Sunday. One is guaranteed to be headline news. The other will likely be totally ignored.
In fact, one of the polls was already referenced by George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “This Week,” as well as reported by USA Today and CNN.
Know what the difference is between these surveys, both of which rather compelling as they asked questions of Iraqi citizens? Well, one painted a rather dire picture of conditions in the embattled country, while the other found a very optimistic people who don’t believe their nation is in a civil war.
As the American media will likely focus all of its attention on the more pessimistic survey, here is the contrary view nobody other than Fox News is likely to cover as reported by the Sunday Times (emphasis added throughout):
This USA Today piece from Wednesday is a pretty important one. That's because it showcases so much of what is wrong with the FORMERLY Mainstream Media, and why the uppercase letters in FORMERLY will almost undoubtedly become larger in the coming years.
You see, many, if not more, reporters in the FORMERLY Mainstream Media don't seem to want to do their basic jobs any more. Their main tasks should be to:
First, objectively decide what is worthy of coverage.
Second, go and observe what happens, and where needed, ask questions about what's happening (the old who, what, where, when why).
Third, take thorough notes of what you have found, observed, and discussed.
Finally, tell your audience what happened in a complete, accurate, thorough, and yet engaging manner.
Anyone who thinks that the above four tasks are "easy" probably isn't doing the job well.
Even though doing the job a reporter should be doing is anything but easy, it would appears that it's too boring. Today's reporters want the excitement of being "advocates":
"Your chances of being stuck on a stuffy airliner for hours on a taxiway – like passengers on recent JetBlue flights – are slim, the government reported yesterday," the Associated Press reported on March 6.
That was the very same day USA Today emphasized that "588 flights sat for more than two hours on taxiways before taking off in January," and highlighted "calls for federal regulation to prevent recurrences."
Joining the media ranks of Helen Thomas and Keith Olbermann, in his regular Friday column in USA Today Al Neuharth, the founder of the nationwide daily, proclaimed George W. Bush to be the worst ever President. Announcing a “mea culpa,” Neuharth recalled how “a year ago I criticized Hillary Clinton for saying 'this (Bush) administration will go down in history as one of the worst.'” At the time, he declared her “wrong,” explaining: “I rated these five Presidents, in this order, as the worst: Andrew Jackson, James Buchanan, Ulysses Grant, [Herbert] Hoover and Richard Nixon. 'It's very unlikely Bush can crack that list,' I added. I was wrong. This is my mea culpa. Not only has Bush cracked that list, but he is planted firmly at the top.” Neuharth fretted that “Bush didn't learn the value or meaning of mea culpa (acknowledgment of an error) during his years at Yale,” but “Bush admitting his many mistakes on Iraq and ending that fiasco might make many of us forgive, even though we can never forget the terrible toll in lives and dollars.”
U.S. Tax Revenues Up 9.7% Through Four Months, Deficit Down 57%; U.S. Media Outlets Mostly Ignore the News
There's a good chance you didn't hear about this (original US Treasury report is here):
Both Brian Wesbury at FT Portfolios and yours truly have to confess to being wrong so far this year on revenue growth. We both have been thinking (Wesbury here, BizzyBlog here) that it’s going to come in at 9%, but as you see, through four months it’s actually pushing 10%.
As reported by NewsBusters here and here, there is a battle going on between liberal bloggers and a conservative radio station in San Francisco, California.
Though arriving at the party somewhat late, USA Today covered this story on Wednesday: “In a dispute between the ‘new media’ of the Internet and the ‘old media’ of broadcasting, liberal bloggers and conservative talk-radio hosts are accusing each other of trampling the First Amendment's guarantees of free speech.”
As this issue has surfaced coincident with liberal members of Congress proposing a media reform bill that would require, amongst other things, conservative talk radio stations to give equal time to opposing viewpoints during their broadcasts, doesn’t this raise quite a compelling hypocrisy inherent in what the left sees as free speech?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released its monthly report on "mass layoffs" yesterday. It also included annual totals and an eleven-year chart of mass layoff history.
A "mass layoff action" involves "at least 50 persons from a single establishment." Since 1988, employers have been required to give 60 days notice of "covered plant closings and covered mass layoffs." The BLS Mass Layoffs report compiles those notices.
Now that 2006 is in the record books, here is that eleven-year chart:
As you can see, the total number of "layoff events" in 2006 came in at the lowest on record (BLS began compiling these statistics during the second quarter of 1995), while the number of people who filed unemployment claims as a result of those layoffs was the lowest in 10 years. On a percentage-of-workforce basis, the number of unemployment claims filers in 2006 was also, along with the layoff events, the lowest in the 11 full years BLS has reported on this information.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics released what it calls its Usual Weekly Earnings Report for the Fourth Quarter of 2006 on Friday.
This is one of the more important reports the BLS releases because:
It looks at the earnings of full-time wage and salary workers, excluding part-timers, business owners, and the self-employed.
It looks at individuals, not households or families.
Unlike most reports, it tells us median earnings, the point at which half of workers are earning more and half earning less. Other reports covering "average" results may be distorted by the impact of high earners bringing up the reported average while a "typical" person at the median might not be making any progress.
It specifically compares nominal earnings increases at the median (i.e., before inflation) to inflation that occurred during the same time period. It therefore tells us whether the "typical" (as opposed to "average") worker has gotten ahead or has fallen behind during the period covered.
So it was very heartening to read the first paragraph from Friday's Usual Weekly Earnings report:
Median weekly earnings of the nation’s 106.9 million full-time wage and salary workers were $682 in the fourth quarter of 2006, the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor reported today. This was 3.5 percent higher than a year earlier, compared with a gain of 1.9 percent in the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) over the same period.
Gas prices and oil prices have been slipping lately, just not at the same rate. And that's a "real scandal" to some liberal, self-styled consumer advocates like Judy Dugan of The Foundation for Taxpayer & Consumer Rights. That's all well and good, of course, except when the media parrot the complaint and don't explain the group's biases.
That's exactly what we found from USA Today's front page treatment of sliding oil prices in its January 16 edition.
You can fill up here or read below the jump to top off the tank:
In an article Wednesday about organized labor's legislative goals for the 110th Congress, USA Today's Sue Kirchoff mischaracterizes a law that would move the union organizing process away from secret-ballot elections, and makes it sound like an improvement in representative government (bold is mine):
The AFL-CIO ..... is looking ahead to a second bill that sponsors call the "Employee Free Choice Act."
The bill would make it easier for unions to gain representation through an open process in which workers sign cards, in addition to secret ballot elections. Currently, the National Labor Relations Board oversees a secret ballot after a union or employer meets requirements to seek one. An employer can also recognize a union if a majority of workers sign authorizing cards.
With President Bush presumably about to announce a surge of troops into Iraq, what better time for CNN to run a segment . . . likely to put a damper on recruiting? In theory, there was nothing wrong with a segment aired at 10:30 ET this morning, geared to providing useful information to potential recruits. As discussed during CNN host TJ Holmes' interview of Gina Cavallaro of the Military Times [owned by Gannett, the folks who bring you the liberal USA Today], recruits do need to understand that they are entering into a contract with the military, that they have bargaining power, that it's possible to negotiate, that it's wise to get things in writing, etc.
Well and good. But all that information was provided against the backdrop of a recurring theme: that recruiters are likely to distort or even lie to potential recruits.
Holmes introduced the segment this way: "Between the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, military recruiters are feeling more pressure to meet their goals. They are overstating the benefits of enlisting right now, is the word. What should you know before your son or daughter signs on the dotted line?"
Holmes' first question to Cavallaro: "The [recruits] you talk to who were just getting into it or have been in for a little bit, do you hear much saying they didn't really know what they were getting to? Did their impressions turn out to be true once they were enlisted?"
Cavallaro took it from there: "I hear people saying, 'my recruiter lied to me. I'm not where I said I would be. I didn't know I would be in Korea for a year.' You definitely hear those things."
Outsourcing and the Internet are helping "microbusiness" owners to thrive, USA Today reported in a recent edition. That’s funny. As Lou Dobbs would have us believe, outsourcing does nothing but turn middle class Americans into economic cannon fodder for major corporations.
"Competitiveness, productivity, and efficiency are nothing more than code words for 'cheaper labor,'" Dobbs complained in the "Exporting America" chapter of his latest book "War on the Middle Class."
By "finding cheaper labor all over the world," major corporations have created a level playing field all right, "they obviously mean to cut the American standard of living down to the level of the third world," snarked the Harvard-educated business anchor.
But far from being reduced to eating beans and rice and living in sodden hovels, American entrepreneurs have coupled outsourcing with ingenuity and made successful businesses based on the Internet.
"Fed up with rising labor costs, a new generation of entrepreneurs is launching millions of tiny companies" without hiring any full-time employees. At some 20 million workers they comprise one-sixth of the civilian non-government labor force, USA Today reporter Jim Hopkins noted in his December 11 Money section story.
Another exasperating storyline from the MSM: the economy may be just fine overall but its screwing over 20-somethings who have to live with mom and dad.
My colleague Dan Gainor wrote up a review of the media's reheating the tired old storyline:
In the November 26 “World News Sunday” story “Young & in Debt,” anchor Dan Harris talked up the story about twentysomethings “forced to move back in with their parents.” ABC and USA Today each told stories of young men and women facing mountains of debt from school, credit cards and more.
Rather than focus on how self-made those debt mountains were – up to $165,000 in the USA Today story – both reports dwelled on how twentysomethings were “struggling to pay” for their living expenses.
ABC’s John Berman introduced viewers to Todd Townsend, who moved in with his mother because of $50,000 in debt, "mostly from student loans." "But he's not living there because he wants to," Berman said. He then explained to viewers the horrors of that choice, including living in two bedrooms next door to one another and even sharing a bathroom. "You share a bathroom with your mother?" asked Berman incredulously.
Berman wasn’t finished. "Moving back home can provide some financial relief; you get free food and laundry. But there are some pretty serious drawbacks." According to Townsend, who didn’t like to admit he lived with his mother when he met women, "it's not sexy."
If it's that unsexy, why go on national TV so even more young women know the answer to "my place or yours?"
In a fitting Veterans Day tribute, this morning’s USA Today recognizes America’s “21st Century Heroes,” a relatively small group of U.S. military servicemen who received our country's highest honors for their valor in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Good for USA Today. There hasn’t been much coverage of America's military heroes — indeed, back in June the Media Research Center noted that a three-week time period saw three times more network TV coverage of allegations of military misconduct than coverage of America’s top military heroes over a five year period.
This morning’s USA Today story, by Gregg Zoroya and Oren Dorell, helps restore some much-needed balance. “As the nation observes Veterans Day, America is witnessing a new generation of combat heroes from the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq," they write. The front-page of the paper carries a November 2004 photo of Marine Sgt. Maj. Bradley Kasal being carried out of a firefight in Fallujah, where his heroism earned him the Navy Cross. An excerpt:
Imagine if you will that a month ago, a major newspaper, in combination with a major polling organization, had pronounced that the Republicans were ahead by 23 percentage points in voter preference for the upcoming midterm elections. Further imagine that just two weeks ago, this lead had been trimmed to thirteen. And, just for argument’s sake, with two days to go before the pivotal elections, the Democrats had cut this lead to only seven points. Do you think the opening paragraph in the article on this subject by this major, left-leaning newspaper might address this?
Well, USA Today just posted an article at its website (hat tip to The Strata-Sphere) concerning a new poll done with the Gallup Organization (this author is waiting with baited breath for the full results to be published!), and the most important finding of the survey didn’t come until the sixth paragraph (emphasis mine): “What's more, President Bush's last-ditch push for votes and Sen. John Kerry's comments that seemed to denigrate the education level of U.S. forces in Iraq have helped energize GOP voters. A Democratic advantage of 23 percentage points a month ago and 13 points two weeks ago is now down to 7.”
Instead of leading with that important information, the reader had to wade through the following:
On this morning's Meet The Press, Tim Russert tried to pass off the editorial in the "Army Times" and sister publications calling for Donald Rumsfeld's noggin as having some special significance. RNCC Chairman Tom Reynolds didn't let him get away with it. Reynolds exposed those so-called "military newspapers" as nothing more than cogs in the Gannett chain, a member-in-good-standing of the MSM whose flagship paper is the reliably-liberal USA Today.
Russert flashed the panel of the editorial shown here, and asked Reynolds:
In another grand example of "journalistic" integrity, USA Today has declared the Iraq war a total failure even as we are still in the middle of it all. With that "truth" reported, I'd like to have their crystal ball to get the next lottery numbers, too.
Now, it is absolutely true to say that the peace in Iraq has been hard to win. It is a fair assessment to say that the Bush administration has made many mistakes in re-building and nation building in Iraq. But, it is not fair to say the efforts in Iraq have been a failure. This project the Bush administration has undertaken will not only take many, many years to develop but it will be many decades to see the full range of effects that the effort at democracy building in Iraq (as Bush duly warned us when he began it all).
“The John Kerry flap may have been the major political story yesterday, and even today,” Brit Hume accurately noted in his Wednesday “Grapevine” segment since, indeed, the ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts led with it both Tuesday and Wednesday night. But he observed, “you might not have known that from the newspaper coverage. Not a single front-page headline in the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal or USA Today. The Times cast it as a chance for the President to attack Kerry. Not until the 15th paragraph, on page 18, does a reader learn what Kerry actually said.” Hume also picked up on how ABC framed the story: “On ABC News, the Kerry flap was described as quote, 'an object lesson in how in this day and age an idle political remark gets seized upon.'" A late Tuesday night NewsBusters posting, "ABC's Gibson: Kerry's Dumb 'Get Stuck In Iraq' Merely an 'Idle Political Remark,'" distributed in Wednesday's MRC CyberAlert, highlighted the characterization by World News anchor Charles Gibson.
And Hume relayed how ABC News Political Director Mark Halperin, on the Hugh Hewitt's radio show, “says well over 70 percent of the people working on his network's political coverage are liberal, and would vote Democratic.”
Can't be because this is 6 days before an election, right?
At any rate, it seems even a liberal pundit cited in the cover story isn't falling for the Lou Dobbs lament that the halcyon days of the middle class are behind us:
“Looking back” with nostalgia “to a golden age of the middle class doesn’t wash,” the USA Today reporter wrote, citing Jason Furman of the liberal Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. “Overall health care is better now, for example, and far fewer people a generation ago expected to go to college,” Waggoner conceded.
While some tabloids capture the drama of John Kerry's uneducated-people-stuck-in-Iraq joke ("KERRY KALAMITY," says the New York Daily News), the nation's biggest newspapers have headlines draining the drama out of the story, and certainly leaving the contents of the "joke" out of the headline:
Boy, it didn’t take long for Katie Couric to go from media darling to whipping girl, did it? You’d think the perky one did something really obscene, like stating that she was voting for a Republican in the upcoming midterm elections. Yet, there it was in large type at USA Today: “Couric Fails to Keep CBS News on Top for Long” (hat tip to TVNewser). In reality, that might be the kindest statement in this article about Couric which began (emphasis mine throughout):
USA Today took another swipe at the produce packaging industry in today's Money section.
Reporter Julie Schmit buried an expert in her story who called the industry "superb" at processing vegetables to be safe and germ-free for consumers.
“The industry does a superb job of washing,” said Christine Bruhn of the Center for Consumer
Research at the University of California, Davis.
In fact, said Bruhn, “the bagged product is safer” than washing produce at home that has been purchased unpackaged at the grocery store.
Yet rather than put this point of view near the top of her article, Schimt buried these quotes at the end, long after sounding an alarming tone about the safety of pre-packaged produce.
In an otherwise balanced story yesterday on conservative and libertarian efforts to limit a 2005 Supreme Court ruling expanding eminent domain, USA Today reporter Martin Kasindorf concluded his story with a swipe at anti-Kelo v. New London activists by quoting a Georgetown University legal expert.
"The property rights advocates have exploited Kelo to advance a broader anti-government agenda," Kasindorf quoted "John Echeverria of Georgetown University Law Center."
Actually, Echeverria is head of the Georgetown Environmental Law & Policy Institute, and his bias in favor of Kelo and work with the liberal Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), went unmentioned. In doing so, the reader is left with the impression Echeverria is a dispassionate legal observer, or at least one uninvolved in Kelo-related controversies.
Yet on November 4, 2005, Echeverria told New York state legislators, "I firmly believe the U.S. Supreme Court decision" in Kelo v. New London "was correctly decided."
I didn’t believe it when I saw it, nor did I believe a NewsBusters member when he/she referred to it in our comments section. But, there it was in USA Today: “Gas Price Decline May Spur Inflation.”
Can’t be, right? After all, even if you’re not an economist, you are intelligent enough to realize that inflation is typically caused by higher energy prices. Such was certainly the case in the ’70s, and has been the case in the past twelve to twenty-four months as oil and gasoline prices have skyrocketed. Isn’t that what the media have been claiming since Hurricane Katrina hit last year – higher oil and gas prices are going to lead to inflation?
Yet, this USA Today article had the gall to suggest that declining gas prices were a bad thing because they would spark inflation. If you don’t believe me, read it for yourself:
If you look hard, you can see the Democratic optimism about the fall elections fading, off the front pages of the newspapers. On the bottom of the front page of a separate "Campaign 2006" section of The Washington Post today (they call it page A23), you can read the account by Jim VandeHei and Chris Cillizza about Democrats getting worried about superior GOP turnout programs. (I can't guarantee you won't be sickened by the GOP establishment siding aggressively against the conservative in this race.)
Raymond Hernandez reported in the New York Times that giddy Democratic optimism about wresting four or five House seats from the GOP in New York state is fading fast...
“Identify sources whenever feasible. The public is entitled to as much information as possible on sources' reliability,” the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) advises its members.
That’s not how USA Today reporter Stephanie Armour’s September 5 story on “living with the minimum wage” appeared in the paper. The full-page story and photo essay told how
hard it is to live on a paycheck close to Florida’s minimum wage of $6.40 an hour. It
left out that the star of the piece – depicted simply as a “low wage” worker
who makes $6.55 an hour – was an activist for a group that advocates a wage
In a classic “Do as I Say, Not as I Do,” the leader of the new cult the Global Warmingists, Al Gore, appears to not practice what he preaches. A USA Today op-ed by author Peter Schweizer reported Wednesday evening (hat tip to Drudge with emphasis mine):
Graciously, Gore tells consumers how to change their lives to curb their carbon-gobbling ways: Switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs, use a clothesline, drive a hybrid, use renewable energy, dramatically cut back on consumption. Better still, responsible global citizens can follow Gore's example, because, as he readily points out in his speeches, he lives a "carbon-neutral lifestyle." But if Al Gore is the world's role model for ecology, the planet is doomed.
Shhhh. Wait. It gets better (coffee cups down, kids!):
Here's an excerpt from an excellent editorial by Gary Witzenburg, a former auto engineer who helped design the GM EV1, the early '90s electric car that left-wing conspiracy theorists think the big ol' meanies at Big Oil killed. Suffice it to say, Witzenburg was nowhere to be found on the taxpayer-funded infomercial for "Who Killed the Electric Car" on the June 9 edition of "Now with David Brancaccio."
Here's an excerpt of his August 8 "Another View" editorial in "USA Today":
Widespread acceptance of battery-powered EVs will not happen until someone develops battery technology competitive with a tank of gas (or diesel) in every way. It must be absolutely safe, long-term durable, capable of operating reliably in extreme weather and temperatures, mass-producible at low cost, able to carry comparable energy in a package of comparable size and weight, and able to be quickly recharged. None comes remotely close.
Readers of these columns might have noticed that I occasionally include at the foot the fact that I live in 'the liberal haven of Ithaca, NY.' To give you a flavor for what I'm talking about, consider today's op-ed page in my hometown daily, the Ithaca Journal. The Journal is a Gannett newspaper. That's the chain [led by USA Today] that, as I've documented, chose as a news editor someonewho believes calling VP Cheney 'Satan' makes for the best commencement speech ever.