USA Today Supreme Court Reporter Joan Biskupic penned an article today titled "O'Connor's legacy fading on reshaped court." For this particular title, "reshaped" is code for "conservative." Biskupic's article laments several recent conservative decisions of the court, and she frames these decisions as a blow to the legacy of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. Biskupic literally builds up O'Connor as a national hero.
When retired justice Sandra Day O'Connor visited Capitol Hill recently to speak publicly about her husband's Alzheimer's, she was greeted as a national hero. Senators lauded her historic place as the first woman on the Supreme Court and the justice whose opinions often set the nation's law.
O'Connor, who was frequently the tie-breaking vote in close cases, is further praised for her "middle-ground" practical approach in her decision making. But things have changed since O'Connor's retirement from the high court.
With HBO's 'Recount' movie (airing Sunday and Monday night at 9 PM EDT/PDT) sure to rekindle claims that Al Gore would have won if only the U.S. Supreme Court had not “stopped the counting,” a reminder that both recounts conducted by major media outlets in 2001 determined George W. Bush would have won anyway. Two stars of the film have fueled the re-writing of history with actor Kevin Spacey, who plays Gore operative Ron Klain, charging that “the Bush people were trying to stop votes from being counted and the Gore people were just trying to get votes counted” while Laura Dern, who plays Katherine Harris, recalled that the U.S. Supreme Court ruling left her “devastated because there were uncounted votes.”
George W. Bush would have won a hand count of Florida's disputed ballots if the standard advocated by Al Gore had been used, the first full study of the ballots reveals. Bush would have won by 1,665 votes -- more than triple his official 537-vote margin -- if every dimple, hanging chad and mark on the ballots had been counted as votes, a USA TODAY/Miami Herald/Knight Ridder study shows. The study is the first comprehensive review of the 61,195 "undervote" ballots that were at the center of Florida's disputed presidential election....
That look was followed in November by an analysis by a consortium of media outlets, including the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, CNN and AP. It determined that George W. Bush still would have won under either legally possible recount scenario which could have occurred: The Florida Supreme Court ordered recount of undervotes statewide or Gore’s request for a recount in certain counties. The New York Times led its November 12, 2001 front page article, “Study of Disputed Florida Ballots Finds Justices Did Not Cast the Deciding Vote,” by reporters Ford Fessenden and John M. Broder:
In early May, Richard Wolf at USA Today tried to make a big deal over a very small statistic, and wrote one of those "signs of hard times" pieces that have become all the rage these days in Old Media (previous examples are here and here).
Wolf's piece was hampered by a possibly excusable math error, courtesy of the data supplied. But he also showed no curiosity as to why there have been such wide variations in state-by-state changes in the number of those receiving "welfare" (now known as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF).
Here's how his report began:
States' welfare caseloads starting to rise
State welfare rolls, which declined for more than a decade after a 1996 overhaul of the nation's cash-assistance program, are beginning to rise, due in part to the struggling economy.
"Of course, real life never matches up exactly with the theory's assumptions. But they represent, economists say, a useful way of making sense of a complex world," Lynch wrote.
"To Soros, the conventional approach is rubbish. Instead of a world of near-identical actors, coolly assessing their economic interests and acting with clear-eyed precision, he sees a world (and markets) governed by passion, bias and self-reinforcing errors," Lynch wrote. "Because fallible human beings are both involved in, and trying to make sense of, this world, they inevitably make mistakes. Those mistakes then feed on themselves in ‘reflexive' ways that, when taken to extremes, result in situations such as the now-deflating U.S. housing bubble."
"Average gas prices set record at $3.72 a gallon" reads the teaser headline on the USAToday.com Web site. Yet the photo (by Justin Sullivan, Getty Images) accompanying the teaser on the front page shows a gas marquee with gasoline at $4.09-a-gallon.
Old Media business reporters have a definitionally-incorrect habit of labeling single industries or economic sectors as being "in recession," when the term, as defined here, can only describe national economies or the world economy. Two examples of this are New York Times reporter David Leonhardt's description of manufacturing as being in recession in February 2007 (laughably incorrect, in any event), and the Times's employment of the term "housing recession" 25 times since October 2006, as seen in this Times search (with the phrase in quotes).
But if I wanted to be consistent with this routine form of journalistic malpractice, I would characterize the newspaper business -- at least in terms of the top 25 in the industry's food chain -- not as being in recession, but instead as going through a deep, dark, painful, protracted depression.
The unemployment rate in most states has gone up from September 2007 to March 2008. In states where the rate has gone down, none has shown an improvement like that seen in the Sooner State -- not even close.
Why is that?
What has happened in Oklahoma that hasn't happened elsewhere?
Well, this time the AP has really done it. Dateline Custer County, Oklahoma: Sheriff Mike Burgess resigns after authorities charged him with running a sex-slave operation out of his jail using female inmates he bribed for the purpose. So, which party did the AP tell us our crafty entrepreneur was from? Well, they seem to have forgotten to mention it... shocking, I know.
Ken Shepherd of NewsBusters posted Tuesday on Editor and Publisher's March 11 article listing the four-year circulation changes at the nation's top 20 newspapers, concentrating on the 20% loss at the Los Angeles Times during that period.
What's also compelling is that the Top 20 really has three winners and 17 losers during that four-year time frame, as the chart that follows demonstrates:
In 1,760 words, Tuesday's front page USA Today article on New York Governor Eliot Spitzer never identified him as a Democrat, not even in photo captions, though the online version was updated with his party affiliation, yet described Senators Larry Craig and David Vitter as Republicans in the first mentions of their names in the story. Here's the lead of the hard copy edition delivered to the MRC's offices Tuesday morning:
New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer was the brash Wall Street corruption buster who made ethics his trademark. He was on many lists of future presidential contenders. On Monday, he apologized after he was accused of meeting a high-priced prostitute in a Washington, D.C., hotel last month.
However, in the online “print edition” posting (not the updated throughout the day USAToday.com site) of the March 11 newspaper, “he” was updated to “the Democrat” so the online version begins:
New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer was the brash Wall Street corruption buster who made ethics his trademark. He was on many lists of future presidential contenders. On Monday, the Democrat apologized after he was accused of meeting a high-priced prostitute in a Washington, D.C., hotel last month.
Remember all those articles last year about how ski resorts were going to go bankrupt, and that folks with vacation homes near such areas were going to take a bath as global warming significantly reduced snowfall levels?
Well, ski enthusiasts and investors around the country should rest assured that this media hype was just as accurate as all those hurricane forecasts in 2006 and 2007.
NewsBusters has on numerous occasions reported how media are trying to frighten Americans into radically altering their lives or else suffer irreparable harm at the hands of the liberal bogeyman global warming.
At times in the past couple of years, the scare tactics have been akin to a 1950s horror movie, including somewhat hysterically a film being released wherein oil workers in Alaska were actually killed by Mother Nature supposedly rising up to defend herself from climate change.
On Wednesday, USA Today added giant snakes to the equation, using the frightening imagery of Burmese pythons -- which can grow in size to 20 feet and 250 pounds -- roaming America if citizens don't immediately change their wicked carbon dioxide emitting ways (emphasis added, h/t NBer Brau):
In his weekly Friday column, USA Today founder Al Neuharth hailed Fidel Castro for how “he outfoxed 10 consecutive U.S. Presidents” and, recalling a meeting with him 20 years ago, Neuharth wrote that he found him “brilliantly briefed” with a “quick, slick comment” after Neuharth told him that profits from Gannett’s other papers subsidized losses at USA Today: “Aha, your company and my country are both socialistic!” Neuharth’s reaction to the oppressive communist dictator's contention:
I paused, said “touche” and lifted a glass of Cuban rum. Then we talked capitalism and socialism and sports until 3:55 a.m.
"Blame it on the price of wheat," said ABC correspondent Sharon Alfonsi. "Demand for alternative energy has farmers planting less wheat and more corn - the key ingredient of ethanol. Add the growing appetite for wheat from developing countries and the supply is strained.
Reporting what global warming skeptics have been saying for years, several media outlets on Friday acknowledged that biofuel production could do more harm than good when it comes to fighting "global warming."
Two new scientific studies suggest clearing land to produce biofuel ingredients will contribute more to warming than sticking with fossil fuels because of the removal of carbon-consuming trees for farmland.
That's not a shock to anyone who's been paying attention. Biofuel has been criticized as an inefficient pollutant that negatively affects even grocery prices. The shocker is that some in the media are actually paying attention to it!
The findings "could force policymakers in the United States and Europe to reevaluate incentives they have adopted to spur production of ethanol-based fuels," The Washington Post's Juliet Eilperin reported February 8.
In the February 4 USA Today, Richard Wolf treated news of Bush's last budget proposal by alternating between liberal Democrats attacking the president and Wolf's own stark language in characterizing the spending blueprint. What's more, Wolf cited two Democrats attacking the spending plan, compared to one Republican depending reductions in spending in the final Bush budget.
USA Today's Emily Bazar wrote a long article Wednesday ("Strict immigration law rattles Okla. businesses") on the early impact of Oklahoma's recently-passed immigration reform legislation, apparently now well-known as "1804," or "House Bill 1804, the Oklahoma Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act of 2007, arguably the nation's toughest state law targeting illegal immigrants," which became effective November 1.
Bazar's report is dominated by plenty of downbeat anecdotes and dire warnings to relay to her readers from employers and others. Here are a few:
..... workers at the sprawling Greenleaf Nursery were prepping for deadly frosts. They needed to ship plants, erect greenhouses and bunch trees together to protect them against the cold.
But in late October, about 40 employees disappeared from the 600-acre nursery about an hour's drive from Tulsa. "Some went to Texas, some went to Arkansas," nursery President Randy Davis says. "They just left."
Why did the workers, all immigrants, flee? "Those states don't have 1804," Davis says.
It's unfair to say all lawyers are greedy scum robbing our nation of needed wealth and destroying the things that made America great. OK, not all the lawyers. But USA Today gives a good place to start with its front-page piece on the money sought by trial lawyers and "victims" of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
According to the paper, there were 247 individual filings against the Army Corps of Engineers for more than $1 billion. "One claim alone seeks $3 quadrillion in damages," wrote Brad Heath. You heard that right. That's "a 3 followed by 15 zeros - about 250 times the nation's gross domestic product." That even tops John Edwards' kind of money.
Erick at Red State reports that USA Today reporter Jill Lawrence distorted what she reported Saturday on a statement made by Fred Thompson to a Burlington, Iowa audience.
Here, per Erick, is how Thompson actually responded to the question, "Do you want to be President?" --
The first place, I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t. I wouldn’t be doing this. I grew up in very modest circumstances. I left government and I and my family have made sacrifices to be sitting here today. I haven’t had any income for a long time because I figured to be clean, you’ve got to cut everything off. I was doing speaking engagements and I had a contract to do a tv show. I had a contract with ABC radio…and so forth. A man would have to be a total fool to do all those things and to be leaving his family which is not a joyful thing if he didn’t want to do it.
I am not consumed by personal ambition. I will not be devastated if I don’t do it. I want the people to have the best president they can have.
Bill Theobald of Gannett News Service has been following Republican Fred Thompson around Iowa. In a dispatch today from Burlington, Bill quotes the former Tennessee senator as saying he doesn't like modern campaigning, isn't that interested in running for president and "will not be devastated" if he doesn't win.
This makes it appear as if Thompson is just going through the motions, doesn't it?
Here is the kind of story that really proves how little the MSM bothers to research things, how they often simply print glorified press releases without doing any real "journalism," and how the defective end product gets picked up and regurgitated like it is suddenly a "fact." In this one we have the story of "the Lakota Sioux Indians" announcing that "they" have withdrawn from agreed upon treaties with the US government and that they are now a sovereign nation, no longer to be called citizens of the USA. Problem is "the Lakota Sioux Indians" that have made this announcement are just an unaffiliated group of Indian activists the leader of whom does not represent the official Lakota tribe leadership! Yet here is the news media reporting this story as if all "the Lakota Sioux Indians" have banded together and quit the union.
Although just 30% of those polled give Democrats in Congress good marks, they favor the party by a 53%-40% margin in next year’s elections. That represents a silver lining for Democrats, who achieved only a fraction of their ambitious agenda after taking over Congress.
It’s odd because Wolf doesn't indicate how many of those polled gave Republicans in Congress good marks. It's even odder that the 53%-40% election margin Wolf cited is nowhere to be found in the survey detail. Also, neither the article nor the survey detail have an external link to information relevant to this margin.
But the survey detail does tell us that 26% give Republicans in Congress good marks, only 4 points fewer than the Dems. Wolf "somehow” managed not to mention that.
Viewers of ABC's World News on Tuesday night learned of good news in the Pentagon's latest quarterly report on conditions in Iraq, but the positive developments went unnoted on CBS while NBC, the New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, AP and McClatchy all stressed the negatives in the status report. ABC anchor Charles Gibson pointed out that “in the past, these reports have offered a brutally negative assessment” but the new one “shows real progress, across the board. On security, the report says weekly IED attacks have dropped 68 percent since June. The number of U.S. troop deaths from IEDs fell to the lowest level since January 2006.” Gibson proceeded to cite lower inflation and a boost in electricity production.
Wednesday's New York Times turned that into: “Pentagon Says Services in Iraq Are Stagnant.” USA Today headlined an AP dispatch in Wednesday's edition, “Pentagon: Transition to Iraqi security forces lags.” The Washington Post's story: “Iran Continues to Support Shiite Militias in Iraq, Pentagon Says.” The Washington bureau of McClatchy Newspapers, which infamously headlined an October story, “As Violence Falls in Iraq, Cemetery Workers Feel the Pinch,” headlined a Tuesday story: “Despite drop in violence, Pentagon finds little long-term progress in Iraq.” The Los Angeles Times provided an exception to the downbeat spin with an article which echoed what ABC stressed: “Pentagon reports security gains in Iraq.”
"The Golden Compass" did not produce box-office gold during its first weekend.
While ranked #1 for the weekend, the movie which opened in 3,528 theaters, was lavishly produced and promoted, only took in in $26.1 million, according to Boxofficemojo.com. Studio New Line Cinema was hoping for returns in the $30 to $40 million range.
"Compass" drew the ire of many Christians because the movie is based on the first book in a trilogy called "His Dark Materials" by avowed atheist Philip Pullman, who has said publicly that his books are about killing God. In "USA Today," Rolf Mittweg of New Line Cinema conceded that the "religion controversy might have had an effect."
Who is the biggest climate sinner? Not China, says the AP.
The Associated Press reported November 7 an interest group's findings that Saudi Arabia and the United States are the worst "climate sinners" for not taking drastic attempts to cut carbon emissions. But it accepted the group's "relatively positive" assertion that China's emission growth will slow in the future.
The news wire story picked up by USA Today reported that Saudi Arabia was the biggest sinner because its policies block attempts to curb greenhouse gases and the U.S. was second because it refuses to sign the Kyoto Treaty.
On Saturday, State Representative Carla Blanchard Dartez (D-La.) lost her re-election bid to Republican challenger Joe Harrison in a heated and controversial run-off. Yet the largest newspaper in Louisiana, The Times-Picayune (TP), chose to bury it as an afterthought in its coverage of the statewide election results. The Times-Picayune online edition, NOLA.com, placed this paragraph at the end of its story.
The only two incumbent lawmakers to lose in either chamber were Democrats. Chris Hazel dispatched Rep. Rick Farrar of Pineville in the 27th District primary. Challenger Joe Harrison topped Rep. Carla Blanchard Dartez of Morgan City to claim the 51st District seat in the runoff.
The TP made no mention of the 'Buckwheat' racial slur or the other controversies which surrounded this incumbent Democrat. Why is that?
In a move that must be causing Excedrin headaches at the New York Times and other Old Media outlets, USA Today reports that the Wall Street Journal's new owner expects to tear down its subscription wall:
News Corp. (NWS) Chairman Rupert Murdoch said Tuesday he intends to make access to The Wall Street Journal's website free, trading subscription fees for anticipated ad revenue.
"We are studying it and we expect to make that free, and instead of having 1 million (subscribers), having at least 10 million-15 million in every corner of the earth," Murdoch said.
News Corp. has signed an agreement to acquire Dow Jones (DJ), and the deal is expected to close in the fourth quarter. A special shareholders meeting is scheduled for Dec. 13 in New York.
Murdoch said he believes that a free model, with increased readership for wsj.com, will attract "large numbers" of big-spending advertisers.
It is understandable, but not forgivable, that business reporters at Old Media newspapers might think that the economy is in bad shape. They first have to get past how poorly most of their employers are doing. The industry as a whole has not been doing well, and it's been that way for quite some time.
This table illustrates that point (September 30, 2007 figures are at this post, which originally came from this Editor & Publisher article, which will soon disappear behind its firewall; March 31, 2005 figures were estimated in reverse using annual percentage changes reported as of March 31, 2006, because older data I thought would remain available no longer is):