The recent unveiling of the Pulitzer Prizes had more of the same politicized whiff that the Oscars oozed earlier this year. Merit is taking a back seat now to "edginess" in both the news and entertainment media. "Speaking truth to power" is in vogue, even if it’s not true and even if it’s not in the public interest.
The roster of Pulitzer winners had an unmistakeable get-Bush smell to them, especially Dana Priest’s exposing secret prisons in Europe for terrorists in the Washington Post, and James Risen’s and Eric Lichtblau’s NSA-surveillance exposure in the New York Times. The Pulitzers have a prize for Public Service, but these leaks in the War on Terror might better deserve an award for Public Endangerment. As Bill Bennett put it, many Americans think it’s odd that on these stories, "the leaker can be prosecuted, but the person who wrote it down, told every citizen about it, and told every enemy of every citizen of this country gets a Pulitzer Prize."
On to promote his new children's book Billy Crystal couldn't resist taking a shot at the President on this morning's Today show. Crystal, opening to an illustration of a grandfather in his book let this zinger fly: "So we try to make them, [the] guy look like an everyman but look at this, if you can get in close, doesn't he look like President Bush?"
Lauer: "He does. He really does."
Crystal: "Just telling this little baby you have a $9 trillion dollar debt you can't pay off. Isn't that nice?"
When things got a bit contentious this morning between conservative Jim Pinkerton and liberal Ellen Ratner on Fox & Friends Weekend's 'Long & the Short of It' segment, Pinkerton proposed a peace plan that other warring parties might well wish to adopt: "let NewsBusters.org sort this out."
The bone of contention was just what what it was that President Bush declassified - some would say leaked - and that Scooter Libby is in turn alleged to have provided to the press - presumably in the person of Judy Miller of the NY Times.
Ratner: "This was a Nixon bad-list kind of trick [presumably a reference to Nixon's 'enemies' list] to get . . . "
Host Kiran Chetry [back from maternity leave - and beautiful as ever, I might add]: "Why?"
Completely off-topic but since it's a weekend, here goes. It seems as though the "Star Wars kid," a roly-poly French Canadian boy whose awkward copying of a light saber fight made him into an ironic web celebrity, apparently wasn't happy with being made the object of fun. (Or was it that the petition to get him into the third SW prequel failed?)
In any case, Ghyslain Raza, now 18, reached a settlement with three former schoolmates who put out the video which has since spawned scads of derivative works. The deal, whose terms are not known, averted a lawsuit that was supposed to go to trial Monday. Canada's Globe and Mail has the story:
Lawyers for the three schoolmates had suffered a setback after they
were not allowed to introduce as evidence a transcript of a phone
conversation Mr. Raza had with a blogger, Jishnu Mukerji.
The blogger had posted a transcript of the exchange on the Internet.
Conducted a month after the video and parodies of it began
circulating, the conversation has Mr. Raza calling the spoofs
"interesting" but not expressing much distress. [...]
In the transcripts, Mr. Raza said the experience left him unable to attend school.
"It was simply unbearable, totally. It was impossible to attend class," Mr. Raza said.
Is there something in the water at NBC/MSNBC? Laughing gas in the ventilation system, perhaps? Earlier today, I posted the photo below, showing Matt Lauer dissolving in laughter on this morning's Today show. It happened when Katie made her momentous announcement that she was leaving for CBS. Matt pretended to take it totally in stride, making to move right on, intoning "also coming up in this half-hour" in his best canned host-voice before bursting out.
This evening, it was Chris Matthews' turn to double over in laughter. Now granted, Matthews had a better excuse - his guest was the daffy Howard Dean. Matthews managed to keep a straight face when Dean first claimed that the Democrats "want to bring this country back together again so everybody is respected," and then proceeded to lash out at every Republican within arm's reach.
Edited out of the two-page opus of little ersatz Notable Quotables for April Fools Day were two entries satirizing Chris Matthews and his tendency to burp movie citations about every five minutes of "Hardball." Geoff Dickens, who is the official watcher of "Hardball," weaved real MSNBC sentences with imagined ones:
Matthews: "Howard, this President is trying to distract the public from the images they see every day in Iraq by faulting the media, the good guys! But, I mean, this reminds me of that old Groucho Marx gag: Who are you going to believe, me or your eyes? But, seriously, what does the President need to do to stop his slide in the polls before the elections?
Howard Fineman, Newsweek: "Chris, as the midterms approach, what Bush can't do is run as Tom Cruise any more, not run as Top Gun. That's not going to work any more, I think. He's trying to run as Jack Bauer on domestic security."
On Comedy Central's South Park cartoon Wednesday, the world's environment is threatened by the impossible smugness of those driving hybrid cars. (The smug clouds are biggest over San Francisco, naturally.) The danger passes only when the people of South Park mash their hybrid cars into little aluminum cubes. And, just for fun, the animators named their hybrid the "Pious," a knock on Toyota's "Prius."
Funny enough, but the very next morning on NBC's Today, reporter Tom Costello was lauding the wonders of efficient, low emission hybrid cars (as opposed to those awful SUVs) when he showcased a smug driver who sounded like a South Park gag. MRC's Geoff Dickens caught this part of NBC's report:
Tom Costello: "Betsy Rosenberg didn't always drive a hybrid car but after getting fed up with 15 mpg in her SUVs she traded them both in for a Toyota Prius and 50 mpg."
Betsy Rosenberg: "I decided this was something that I would do to protect my kid, my country, my planet and be patriotic. I think that's the patriotic thing to do is to use less gas and not more."
Some might say it wasn't necessarily my finest moment at NewsBusters when, back in December, I speculated that, reporting from a chilly Rockefeller Plaza, Today's Matt Lauer might have been wearing a Palestinian 'solidarity scarf.' See Keffiyeh-Gate?
At the time, I noted that:
So-called "Palestinian support scarves" have become items of radical fashion chic. Check out this web-site, which advertises "Palestinian support scarves," explaining:
"The traditional Palestinian headdress has become a symbol of support for the Palestinian people against the Israeli occupation. From political rallies to talk shows, supporters of the Palestinian cause have begun donning this traditional scarf as a show of solidarity." [emphasis added]
Nothing biased here, I just found it amusing as an evangelical Christian who has examined the mainstream media's aversion to religion.
Going through the morning papers today, I noticed this teaser atop the the Sports section for USA Today: "Christ the King No. 1." The corresponding story on page 7C was about the private New York school topping the USA Today Super 25 list for high school girls basketball.
A few days prior, The New York Times headlined a sports article on the same girls team with "Christ the King Lives Up to National Reputation."
Comedy Central star Stephen Colbert’s nightly conservative/O’Reilly-mocking show "The Colbert Report" invited on MSNBC host Keith Olbermann Tuesday night to double up on the O’Reilly bashing. It started predictably, before the word "Nazi" came out:
Colbert: "Why do you have a problem with my hero, papa bear Bill O'Reilly? You guys have been going at it, hammer and tongs."
Olbermann: "Well, Stephen, he's an idiot."
Colbert: "You say that like it's a bad thing. I think he sees the world simply, okay? Without all your complicated facts."
Olbermann: "We're both saying the same thing. He's an idiot."
AP reports that actor and legendary soul singer Isaac Hayes has left the role of Chef on the snide adult cartoon "South Park" because he cannot abide its mockery of religion. One of the show's co-creators, Matt Stone, was quick to attack the singer's sudden departure after eight seasons:
Stone told AP he and co-creator Trey Parker "never heard a peep out of Isaac in any way until we did Scientology. He wants a different standard for religions other than his own, and to me, that is where intolerance and bigotry begin...This is 100 percent having to do with his faith of Scientology... He has no problem — and he's cashed plenty of checks — with our show making fun of Christians." Last November, "South Park" aired a Scientology-mocking episode where the child Stan is thought to be the second coming of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, and Hollywood celebrities come to visit. When Stan mocks Tom Cruise, the actor locks himself in Stan's closet, allowing the writers to make endless gay jokes about Cruise refusing to come out of the closet.
In Washington Post humor columnist Gene Weingarten's weekly online chat this past Tuesday, a poster asked Gene to assess "the George Will [column that] made the claim that conservatives have happier lives than liberals."
I think [Will] was right, though I wouldn't have quite as smug about it as he was.
I think it is easier to be a conservative. You do not have to think as much, beause issues are more black and white. That delivers a sense of general contentment, because the world seems more orderly.
In Friday's daily Washington Post online chat on politics, Dana Milbank cracks wise about his trip to the woodshed over wearing a hunter-orange getup to mock Dick Cheney on MSNBC, but won't answer the simple question debated in the Sunday column of ombud Deborah Howell, whether he's an opinion columnist or some other kind of columnist, as this questioner discovers:
Washington, D.C.: Do you buy all the talk going on around you saying Dana Milbank doesn't have an "opinion column" or offer an ideology?
Slate "Press Box" columnist Jack Shafer has a pictoral essay up today on "TV's Aryan Sisterhood," where he mocks the hair of anchor-babes from Paula Zahn to Katie Couric to Diane Sawyer. (He links to an old MRC page for a pic of Katie the Brunette.) This page (5 of 9) cracked me up:
I imagine that at one point in her life, the 60-year-old Diane Sawyer of ABC News was an honest blonde, but is there any middle-aged woman alive whose hair naturally looks like this? A relatively late arrival to the blond gang is NBC's Andrea Mitchell, 59, who looks like an Earl Scheib paint and body shop hosed her hair down with a gallon of Gold Leaf Metallic Clearcoat.
In her column today in the Sunday "Outlook" section, Washington Post Ombudsman Deborah Howell expressed official dismay at Post reporter/columnist Dana Milbank's decision to wear hunter garb as a Dick Cheney gag on MSNBC's "Countdown with Keith Olbermann." The Post's AME for National News, Liz Spayd, apparently handed out some discipline:
Spayd said she felt Milbank "crossed the line" on his TV appearance. "What he intended as a playful joke was viewed by many as mocking and unprofessional, and understandably so." Suffice it to say that he has been taken to The Post's version of the woodshed and told not to do that again.
In the wake of the Cheney flap in which the MSM vented its fury over the Veep's failure to disclose facts rapidly enough to suit their taste, and in where even dark cover-up theories were floated, isn't it ironic that an MSM icon has refused to reveal her age, even though that fact was very relevant to the story she was covering?
Barbara Walters has been guest-hosting on Good Morning America this week, and this morning conducted a segment on an index that has been developed that with good accuracy predicts the likelihood of death within four years for people 50 and older.
Walters' guest was GMA Medical Contributor Dr. David Katz. The good doctor had run the index on Barbara, and the happy news is that she is very likely to be with us for some time to come.
Editor and Publisher reports that liberal political cartoonist Ted Rall is not happy about remarks made by conservative commentator Ann Coulter. At the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, Coulter stated, "Iran is soliciting cartoons on the Holocaust. So far, only Ted Rall, Garry Trudeau, and The New York Times have made submissions."
Garry Trudeau, creator of "Doonsbury," does not want to sue, but Ted Rall said on his blog that if enough people vote in favor of it on his online poll, and if readers give him $6000 for court costs, he'll sue Coulter in New York.
Carsten Juste, the editor of the Danish newspaper that set off an international kerfuffle by publishing cartoons of the founder of Islam was interviewed in yesterday's edition. An excerpt from the Q&A:
There were some journalists here at the paper, including some who write regularly about Muslims, immigration, and integration, who strongly advised us not to do it. It was quite a discussion. Personally I thought the cartoons were harmless - very much in fitting with our Danish tradition for caricature. If some of the cartoons had been cruder - if an illustrator had given us Mohammed pissing on the Koran, for example - then it would have been pulled. The same way I've pulled a lot of cartoons over the years that devout Christians might have found insulting. Or others because they were too vulgar or too crude. I didn't feel that these were, and so we went ahead.'
While the TV-news world buzzes over whether Katie Couric brings her powdered perkiness to the "CBS Evening News" throne of Dan Rather, her current morning job still makes her look quite silly, more "That Girl" than "Evening News" anchor/icon. Drudge today is wondering whether she was "discharged" upon as she fed pigeons in Milan on camera shortly after 8 AM Eastern. Our views of the video today show no visual evidence of the number-two (and Katie later denied it happened*), but a surplus of dopey jokes about it, with Couric remarking on "sometimes you're the pigeon, sometimes you're the statue," and then claiming she might be needing "Purel" to clean her hands after the pigeons fed there. She makes CBS anchor Connie Chung reporting from Tonya Harding's ice rink look like the essence of hard news. Windows Media Player or Real Player
Perhaps the dumber Olympics-related "Today" moment came last Thursday, as MRC's Geoff Dickens sent along the transcript:
As noted previously on Newsbusters, the violent Muslim protests against the publication of cartoons lampooning Islam has clearly put The New York Times in an uncomfortable position. The rioters, while to the Times an embattled minority in the West, are attacking free speech. Not good. But their most vocal critics are conservatives. Indeed, the Times describes the paper that first ran the cartoons as “conservative.” Can’t side with them.
In today's “Critic’s Notebook” piece, headlined "A Startling New Lesson in the Power of Imagery" and featuring a photo of children holding a sign "Danish People Not Welcome Here," writer Michael Kimmelman unwittingly describes the paper’s dilemma halfway through his meandering 1,396-word item:
In his web chat today, Washington Post humor columnist Gene Weingarten stated that there was "nothing wrong" with Tom Toles' now (in)famous amputee cartoon -- a cartoon which, in Weingarten's words, "is deeply critical of a callous administration that deserves deep criticism."
Here's the Q&A from the chat:
Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C.: Gene - You are the arbiter of all that is funny. What are your thoughts on the recent controversy over Tom Toles' cartoon depicting a soldier who had lost both arms and legs in Iraq? Does it cross the line, as the Joint Chiefs of Staff are claiming?
The Washington Post Style section front page features a front-page Howard Kurtz report today on the furor caused by the Tom Toles cartoon featuring Donald Rumsfeld calling a quadruple-amputee "battle hardened." Here's the official Post quotes in the story:
In an interview, Toles called the letter "an understandable response" but said he did not regret what he drew. In thinking about Rumsfeld's remarks, he said, "what came soon to mind was the catastrophic level of injuries the Army and members of the armed services have sustained . . . I thought my portrayal of it was a fair depiction of the reality of the situation.
"I certainly never intended it to be in any way a personal attack on, or a derogatory comment on, the service or sacrifice of American soldiers."
As for the Joint Chiefs' letter, he said: "I think it's a little bit unfair in their reading of the cartoon to imply that is what it's about."
Fred Hiatt, The Post's editorial page editor, said he doesn't "censor Tom" and that "a cartoonist works best if he or she doesn't feel there's someone breathing over their shoulder. He's an independent actor, like our columnists." Hiatt said he makes comments on drafts of cartoons but that Toles is free to ignore them.
Asked about Sunday's cartoon, Hiatt said, "While I certainly can understand the strong feelings, I took it to be a cartoon about the state of the Army and not one intended to demean wounded soldiers."
I do wish Kurtz would have asked the question: so Toles has never been "censored," or has there never been an occasion where editors have successfully talked Toles out of a cartoon idea?
From her USA Today's piece on the Alito confirmation, check out this gibberish (3rd paragraph as it appeared at 12:15 PM; obviously it could be corrected at any moment or taken down; NOTE--USAT updated and fixed in their 1:54 PM update; see related comment below):
Alito, 55., who has compiled a mostly conservative record during 15 years on the bench, becomes the 110th. justice to serve on the high court. He succeeds retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor,who has provided a deciding vote in favor of maintaining a woman's right to end her pregnancy and other controversies women's right to terminate their pregnancies, among other controversial matters.
So is Ms. Kiely obsessed, or is it just a glitch? Given that abortion is the first legal issue mentioned in her report, my money is on "obsessed."
Watching a TV talking head or reading a article, sometimes one wonders at how much a journalist is willing to sell him/herself. Apparently in the UK, the price is about $59.
That may seem an unusual thing to say but this eBay auction for a "used" editorial staff of a southwestern English newspaper is hardly something you see every day.
Apparently, the staff of the Western Daily Press is about to be the subject of a downsizing as its parent company prepares to sell the paper and several others. To get around this, the Press's editorial staff is offering interested buyers the "the right to employ every redundant member of staff to produce the newspaper of your choice."
"This could be the start of your media empire," the listing reads, later offering a "FREE guarantee of dedication to our prospective new employer" with a promise that the staff is willing to work unpaid overtime hours.
Friday morning, NBC Today show reporter Natalie Morales was covering the snow fall in Central Park. Upon completing her report, at 7:54AM EST, the camera pulled back to reveal two ice sculptures of co-hosts Matt Lauer and Katie Couric. (Ice portraits might be a more appropriate term -- the ice was carved with images of Lauer and Couric from approximately the waist up.) [Audio available here]
Lauer remarked, "No harm intended to the fine artists, but they look a little like our tombstones."
A short time later, the camera showed a small dog suspiciously trotting around the two blocks of ice. With mock horror, Lauer yelled, "Oh, no you don’t!" Returning at 8:00AM, after a local break, Morales revealed: "The dogs have really taken a liking to the ice sculptures. And Katie, they seem to have a particular liking for your ice sculpture, if you know what I mean. A yellow snow issue."
Couric understood what had been done to her image: "I know, I know."
It’s long been known that NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams dropped out of the George Washington University in 1979 to intern in the Carter White House’s correspondence office sorting letters. But in the 7:30 half hour of Thursday’s Today we learned that 13 years earlier, in a 1966 letter to President Lyndon Johnson, he had proclaimed his commitment to the “Democret” party. Williams came aboard the Today show to plug a National Geographic book for which he wrote an introduction, Dear Mr. President: Letters to the Oval Office from the Files of the National Archives. As viewers saw Williams’ 1966 handwritten letter to Johnson, Lauer noted how the seven-year-old Williams “signed off the letter ‘one of your young Democrets,' not Democrats." Williams quipped: “You know, I was a young sycophant is what I was. And yeah, we've done Democrets. I think that's a chewing gum product. We've looked it up. It is no political party and for a registered independent it's now very embarrassing." Lauer razzed him: "Independart, you mean." Williams replied: "Oh, very funny." (Full text of the letter follows.)