How To Be A Media Magnet: Cutting Through The Clutter

The state of contemporary journalism is widely regarded as defective by consumers and critics representing a broad diversity of opinion. It seems that the media has no constituency defending its professional lethargy and its reliance on sensationalism and melodrama.

The past few weeks have provided comprehensive instructions on how to be an utterly frivolous and ineffective news industry. When Americans are desperate for information about pressing issues concerning jobs, the economy, health and Medicare, and national security, they are left wanting as the major news enterprises dump loads of salacious gossip, celebrity gaffes, and lurid tales of criminal miscreants. Just trying to be heard over the caterwaul of crapola that passes for news is an Olympian feat. If it isn’t a lewd lawmaker (Anthony Weiner) flooding the airwaves, it’s a murderous mom (Casey Anthony), one of thousands of murderers, but the only one that seems to garner any attention.

Recent surveys have shown that the media is not covering the issues that the people are most interested in. The audience has made its preference clear: they want substance, not sleaze. But the media tone-deafness was demonstrated exquisitely when all three cable news networks cut away from Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic Leader of the House of Representatives, after she informed them that she would only be addressing questions regarding jobs and the economy, and not Rep. Weiner. As is becoming routine, a non-news personality summed it up best by playing a video clip of CNN’s Wolf Blitzer expressing his reluctance to cover the titillating trivialities of the day:

Wolf Blitzer: We’ve covered these kinds of stories, It’s not a pleasure for us. It’s not something we look forward to. I’d much rather be discussing economic issues, jobs, the future of Medicare, national security issues, than talking about this.

Jon Stewart: [Incredulously] What’s stopping you?!

In an effort to enhance the public’s access to the stories that actually impact their lives, I am offering this tutorial on how to get appropriate coverage of the critical matters that face our nation. It is not enough to be brilliantly articulate about a position or to make a coherent case for a policy. You must grab the attention away from the media whores and their enablers in the press corps. Here is how to do just that in a handy shareable infographic guide:


Now get out there and make some news.

Andrew Breitbart Is Offended (And Offensive)

The New York Times interviewed Andrew Breitbart about the Anthony Weiner affair on Saturday. He attempted to strike a non-partisan tone saying that…

“I am as offended when John Ensign acts like an idiot, when Chris Lee acts like an idiot.”

However, the Times failed to note that Breitbart’s BigGovernment blog did not publish a single story about the travails of either Ensign or Lee. Not one single story. How offended was he?

Compare that to his obsession with Weiner that produced 17 separate stories and consumed every single headline on his masthead (except for the plug for his lame book), and that was four days after the story broke.

Obviously Breitbart was not as offended by the sexcapades of Ensign and Lee as he was about Weiner. He was lying as usual. And as usual the Times, our so-called liberal mainstream media, was clueless and unable to set the record straight. That’s how Breitbart gets away with being a dishonest slug and propagating his horse manure brand of pseudo-journalism.

[This is partially excerpted from an article I wrote for Alternet:
10 Reasons Andrew Breitbart Should Apologize (Or Just Shut Up and Go Away)]

House GOP Lawyer Is News Corp Board Member

Earlier this year the White House announced that they would cease to defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), believing that it was, in fact, unconstitutional. That stirred up a frenzy of Fox News fury over the audacity of the President refusing to enforce the law of the land. Of course, that utterly dishonest characterization distorted the fact that the administration was only declining to defend constitutional challenges, but would continue to enforce the law.

Not to be appeased, last week, Speaker John Boehner’s office announced that House Republicans would hire their own attorney, for $520 per hour, to litigate the GOP’s support for DOMA. The attorney they hired was former Bush Solicitor General Paul Clement of King & Spaulding.

Now ThinkProgress is reporting that King & Spaulding has dropped the case and Clement has resigned from the firm. King & Spaulding released a statement saying that they “determined that the process used for vetting this engagement was inadequate.” However, speculation is that the firm, which has a strong track record with gay issues, acceded to complaints from gay advocates and concluded that this case was not consistent with its mission.

In the meantime, Clement announced that he would continue to represent Boehner’s pro-DOMA case with his new law firm Bancroft PLLC. Bancroft’s lead partner is Viet D. Dinh, a former high ranking official in the Bush Justice Department. More interesting is that Dinh is also a member of the Board of Directors of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., the parent company of Fox News. This raises the question as to how Fox News will cover this constitutional controversy.

Fox has already taken a radical position with contributor Newt Gingrich warning that Obama could be impeached, saying that “clearly it is a violation of his constitutional oath.” Anchor Megyn Kelly said much the same thing, and contributor Monica Crowley went further, portraying the President as a dictator: “That is Mubarak Obama. You can’t just pick and choose which law you’re gonna enforce.”

If this is what we have presently with Fox News aggressively asserting its opinion on the matter of equality, what can we expect going forward when the counsel for House Republicans is working for a member of the Board of Directors of News Corp? Clearly, the legal ethics at Fox News is no better than their journalistic ethics.

Watch Out Fox News: FTC Seeks To Halt Fake News Sites

Fox NewsFrom the Federal Trade Commission,
April 19, 2011
:

“The Federal Trade Commission is requesting federal courts to temporarily halt the allegedly deceptive tactics of 10 operations using fake news websites [...] According to the FTC, the defendants operate websites that are meant to appear as if they belong to legitimate news-gathering
organizations, but in reality the sites are simply advertisements aimed at deceptively enticing consumers…”

Fox News is not one of the ten operations cited in this action, but given the description of the violations, could they be far behind? The FTC is taking aggressive steps toward reigning in deceptive practices that “attempt to portray an objective, journalistic endeavor,” says David Vladeck, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Almost everything about these sites is fake.”

If that is the basis for this action, then Fox News ought to be the next target of the FTC’s investigative unit. They blatantly endeavor to portray themselves as a legitimate news-gathering organization while deliberately deceiving viewers. They employ anchors who openly advocate for political issues and candidates despite claiming to be “fair and balanced,” a slogan that in itself violates the FTC’s truth-in-advertising statutes. In fact, some of their paid contributors are actually candidates themselves.

The Fox network is notorious for making false claims that misinform viewers and produce tangible harm. For instance, they spent weeks promoting heavily edited videos that defamed the community service organization, ACORN. They served as the PR agency for Tea Party interests and events. They disparaged health care reform as socialistic. During that debate a memo from Fox’s Washington managing editor instructed his staff to refrain from using the term “public option” because focus group testing had proven that “government-run” would produce a more negative response.

Even with routine reporting that is objectively factual, Fox purposely manipulated their broadcasts. They reported falsely that President Obama spent $2 billion on an overseas trade mission. They invented stories about the Department of Justice declining to prosecute civil rights cases if the plaintiff was white (and then failed to report that those allegations were proven false by an independent Congressional study). And on more than one occasion their anchor scripts and on-screen charts reversed the numbers for polling to show that the President, or the Democratic position, was disfavored by respondents when the actual poll result was the opposite.

To be clear, the FTC actions in the announcement above were taken in response to complaints levied about companies marketing acai berries for weight loss. But are the allegations really that different? If there is an institutional objection to fake news operations selling dubious nutritional products, wouldn’t it be even more critical to police fake news operations selling lies that could influence legislation and elections that impact millions of lives?

I don’t expect to see the FTC halting fake news operations like Fox any time soon. But it would be nice if they could prohibit the word “news” from being used in conjunction with such an operation. And if phony programs that misrepresent weight loss can be regulated to protect consumers, then why not phony programs that misrepresent news?

Fox News Demonstrates How NOT To Make A Correction

Faux PasOn February 24, Fox News published an article by their in-house pseudo-liberal, Juan Williams. Like any good Fox News Democrat (FND), Williams pretended to advance a liberal viewpoint while attacking what he and Fox regard as a liberal target.

That’s standard operating procedure for Fox. What makes this occurrence worse is that Williams badly mangled the facts that were the whole premise of his attack. (Actually, that’s pretty standard for Fox as well). The Williams article began by stating…

“This week The Washington Post released a stunning poll. But the news did not make its front page.” [...] “The poll done by The Washington Post, the Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard University was buried in The Post’s Sunday business section…”

As it turns out, the poll in question was actually printed front and center, section A, page 1, of the Sunday Post. Fox was alerted to this glaring error, but they ignored it for nearly six weeks. Finally they posted this correction on April 5:

EDITOR’S NOTE: The results of the poll referred to in this article were in fact reported on the front page of the Feb. 20 editions of the Washington Post. Mr. Williams regrets the oversight to the Post, and maintains the study’s findings deserved more prominent coverage in other media outlets.

Why did Fox take so long to correct the error? Could it be that they wanted to wait until the story became stale so that few would ever see the correction? And why did Williams temper his “regrets” with a defense of his conclusions that were based on his false reporting? He was inappropriately using a correction notice to pursue an argument he had already lost.

On the other hand, Fox News commits errors far worse than this on a daily basis without ever acknowledging them, so I suppose we should be grateful that Fox bothered to issue a correction at all.

Glenn Beck Fundamentally Transforms Into A Fox News Has-Been

It’s been a long time coming. The indisputably most bizarre festival of conspiratorial dementia ever to be broadcast is nearing its end. That’s right – The Glenn Beck Acute Paranoia Revue will “transition off of” Fox News later this year.


The press release:

FOX NEWS AND MERCURY RADIO ARTS ANNOUNCE NEW AGREEMENT(New York, NY) Fox News and Mercury Radio Arts, Glenn Beck’s production company, are proud to announce that they will work together to develop and produce a variety of television projects for air on the Fox News Channel as well as content for other platforms including Fox News’ digital properties. Glenn intends to transition off of his daily program, the third highest rated in all of cable news, later this year.

Roger Ailes, Chairman and CEO of Fox News said, “Glenn Beck is a powerful communicator, a creative entrepreneur and a true success by anybody’s standards. I look forward to continuing to work with him. Glenn Beck said: “I truly believe that America owes a lot to Roger Ailes and Fox News. I cannot repay Roger for the lessons I’ve learned and will continue to learn from him and I look forward to starting this new phase of our partnership.”

Joel Cheatwood, SVP/Development at Fox News, will be joining Mercury Radio Arts effective April 24, 2011. Part of his role as EVP will be to manage the partnership and serve as a liaison with the Fox News Channel. Roger Ailes said: “Joel is a good friend and one of the most talented and creative executives in the business. Over the past four years I have consistently valued his input and advice and that will not stop as we work with him in his new role.” “Glenn Beck” is consistently the third highest rated program on cable news.

For the 27 months that “Glenn Beck” has aired on Fox News, the program has averaged more than 2.2 million total viewers and 563,000 viewers 25-54 years old, numbers normally associated with shows airing in primetime, not at 5pm. “Glenn Beck” has dominated all of its cable news competitors since launch.

Glenn Beck and Fox News are portraying this as an amicable separation with sloppy wet kisses abounding, but a television network doesn’t hack off a healthy limb for no reason. Nor does an egomaniacal wannabe Messiah abandon a broadcast perch with national reach voluntarily. We may never know the details of this severance, but we can be certain that it was not as lovey-dovey as the parties are pretending.

We know that Beck’s audience has been eroding rapidly. The past quarter showed more than a third of his viewers skipped out. What’s more, when he has been on vacation his numbers barely budged, proving that he was not a particularly indispensable component of his own show. He has the distinction of having driven away more than 300 advertisers who refuse to have their products and services associated with his hostile, hateful rhetoric.

From Fox’s perspective, they could air traffic at a Roach Motel and make more money if just half of the prodigal advertisers return. (Plus, the Roach Motel Hour would provide more intelligent content and attract a smarter audience). Fox may also have an incentive to distance themselves from the more extreme meanderings of Beck’s perverse imagination as the 2012 election cycle ramps up. More and more conservative politicians, pundits, and planners have become fearful that Beck’s derangement is scaring voters away.

Not to worry. Beck was prepared for this. He previously advised his congregation that…

“They can take my job and they can take my wealth but that’s okay…even if the powers to be, right now, succeed in making me poor, drum me out, and I’m just a worthless loser…which I’m just about that much above that now…I will only be stronger for it. I will use American ingenuity and my ingenuity to pull myself up, and I will find another way to get my message out on a platform that will be a thousand times more powerful!”

I always wondered why, if he had a platform that was a thousand times more powerful, why wasn’t he already using it? He never mentioned what it was. I suppose we’ll find out now. Last year, in response to a series of health issues, Beck also assured his disciples that…

“Things are changing and there is no bad news here. Because what I am feeling in myself, and what is happening to my physical body, to some extent, and what is happening to me mentally, is not a depression, is not a death. It is a transformation. It is a transcendence. It is a reaching out of the slime and pulling yourself out. So it is not bad news. It is just a transition period.”

Personally, I think that what is happening is the wrath of God. After all, it is written plainly in Deuteronomy 28:27-29 that if you fail to heed God’s law…

27: The LORD will smite thee with the botch of Egypt, and with the emerods, and with the scab, and with the itch, whereof thou canst not be healed.
28: The LORD shall smite thee with madness, and blindness, and astonishment of heart.
29: And thou shalt grope at noonday, as the blind gropeth in darkness, and thou shalt not prosper in thy ways: and thou shalt be only oppressed and spoiled evermore, and no man shall save thee.

So how is that working out? We hardly need to speak of Egypt and how badly Beck botched that. The emerods (or hemorrhoids) he has already had, and it nearly killed him. The potential blindness he announced tearfully last year. The madness is self evident.

And now the third curse attacking his prosperity is upon him as he is cast into the television ether by the Pharisees of Fox. And he shouldn’t rest too comfortably on his radio career either, as in that realm he has lost seven stations in just the first three months of this year – including major markets like New York and Philadelphia.

Soon the talk will turn to who will succeed Beck. Ironically, I came into possession of a leaked Fox News memo on April 1st that sheds some light on this question. And as for Beck’s future, he hysterically floated the idea of his own cable network. Lookout Oprah. I think he would be far better off exploiting his natural gifts as a combined televangelist/infomercial barker. Imagine the possibilities of merging Beck’s smarmy Jimmy Swaggert impersonation with the marketing zing of a ShamWow prayer cloth pitch.

Fox News should know that jettisoning Beck does not absolve them of responsibility for all the brazen disinformation they have been peddling. He was just an hour long island in a sea of red-faced lies. They still have Bill O’Reily, Sean Hannity, Megyn Kelly, Steve Doocy, and a battalion of conniving contributors delivering their propaganda. Fox News will be no closer to legitimate journalism after Beck’s departure. But they will be a little less shrill.

Sarah Palin’s Canceled Reality Show Gets Millions In Government Subsidies

Sarah PalinSarah Palin, the Alaskan governor most famous for sinking the GOP’s presidential campaign and quitting half way through her term, is in the midst of yet another controversy. This one pits her against Tucker Carlson’s Daily Caller in a Fox News contributor’s cat fight.

It seems that the company that produced “Sarah Palin’s Alaska” was the beneficiary of over a million dollars in tax credits that were made possible by a law that Palin signed while still governor. When news of this got out, many conservatives took Palin to task for the apparent hypocrisy. As a Tea Party leader, and possible Republican candidate for president, Palin has been a vocal advocate of small government, so this legislation should be as repugnant to her as say…funding for NPR.

Chris Moody of the Daily Caller posted an article on the swirling debate amongst conservatives who found Palin’s position to be inconsistent with her public stance. Palin called the article “ludicrous” and accused Moody of “spinning” the story to give a false impression.

Palin: The accusation hinges on the notion that I signed the legislation into law knowing that it would personally benefit me. That’s absurd.

That is absurd. Because that is clearly not what that accusation hinges upon. The accusation addresses the hypocrisy of opposing big government intrusions on the free market except when they are used to advance her television career. And Despite recently declaring that she was through whining about the media, she opens her Facebook defense by saying…

“Goodness, cleaning up the sloppiness of reporters could be a full time job. In response to The Daily Caller’s online inquiry, I gave them a statement that the writer buried on his story’s second page (which most people won’t even notice – I didn’t even notice it)…”

First of all, what does it say about Palin that she didn’t notice the bright red text immediately following the article that said “NEXT PAGE: Read Palin’s full statements on the tax credit.” Is that her idea of “buried?” Is she really so lazy that, in an article about herself, she fails to observe such an obvious link? Secondly, the statement she gave was a lengthy 671 word defense that was 35% longer than the article to which she was responding.

Ironically, I agree with Palin that the state is justified in providing incentives to boost business. Many states offer tax credits for production companies in order to persuade them to bring their projects and checkbooks. The problem here is that Palin doesn’t agree with Palin. She is an adamant evangelist for small government and regards these sort of initiatives as outside the role of the state.

What’s more, the Alaska measure takes into account the likelihood that an out-of-state film production company may not have significant tax liabilities in Alaska, making the tax credits of little value. So they permit the producer to profit by selling his tax credits to other Alaska-based firms. That means that local oil companies or foresters or fisheries can acquire the deductions at a discount and reduce their contributions to Alaska’s treasury. So the visiting producer and some big corporations are benefiting at the expense of Alaska’s citizens.

Nice work, Sarah.

Broadcast Media Ignores Major Fox News Scandal

What does it take to get the attention of the media when a corrosive scandal erupts that they don’t seem to want to cover?

This past week a prominent and powerful public figure was implicated in a searing and salacious controversy. It involves sex, felonious criminal conduct, corporate intrigue, political shenanigans, and personal betrayal. This is either the scoop of the year or the best damn plot of “Days of our Lives” in decades.


The central figure in the controversy happens to be one of the most powerful media executives in the world, Fox News CEO Roger Ailes. It is alleged that Ailes tried to coerce a News Corp colleague, Judith Regan, to lie to federal investigators about her affair with Bernard Kerik, President Bush’s nominee to head the Department of Homeland Security. Ailes wanted to shield his friend Rudy Giuliani, who had sponsored Kerik, from an embarrassing episode as he was attempting to launch a campaign for president. Kerik presently resides in federal prison on tax fraud violations.

Can you just imagine what would have happened if the head of CNN or CBS had been the subject of such assertions? First of all, Fox News would have made it their lead story at the top of every hour. It would have been repeated ad nauseum with remotes from the network’s offices. Their primetime pundits would have spun it into a conspiracy that enveloped President Obama, George Soros, Muslim radicals, and protesters from Egypt to Wisconsin.

Instead, there has been a virtual blackout on the broadcast news networks. Not a single one has done a story about Ailes and the newly uncovered legal documents that contain sworn testimony as to his behavior. Of course, I wouldn’t have expected any reports from the Fox News Channel or Fox Business Network as their corporate mission is to lie and obfuscate even when the story doesn’t involve their leader. But what’s the problem with CNN, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, and NBC? How is it possible that someone with the public profile of Roger Ailes is getting a free pass by every major television network? Does Ailes have compromising photos of his counterparts at the other networks? Or are they just frightened little hacks with no journalistic integrity whatsoever?

This is not an insignificant story. And it isn’t just the criminal allegations that define its importance. Ailes is still the chief executive of the network despite his apparent attempts to intervene on behalf of a political pal. So this goes straight to the question of his fitness to run a news enterprise and to be fair and balanced while doing so. In recent weeks leaked memos have revealed the institutional bias of Fox News. There has been documentary evidence that Fox is indeed the PR arm of the GOP, just as most objective analysts had already surmised. And the Ailes affair puts an exclamation point on that.

So what’s wrong with the other broadcast news organizations? Why are they protecting Ailes? If the situation were reversed Ailes would be pummeling them. In fact, Fox News already pummels their competitors on a nightly basis without even having a scandal as a starting point. This is a competitiveness issue. Can anyone imagine that if Reebok discovered that the CEO of Nike had approved harmful materials for use in his footwear products, that Reebok would keep its mouth shut? Yet that’s what Fox’s competitors are doing now, and have been doing for years.

First and foremost, the other networks have an obligation to inform the public, and they are failing utterly in that. But, shockingly, they aren’t even willing to advance the truth when it would benefit them competitively against the biggest player on the cable field. Do they want to always be also-rans behind Fox News? That suggests either some dastardly compact has been drawn up surrendering the lead to Fox, or an Olympian dose of incompetence.

Tell the networks to do their job and report this news now!
Contact: [ CNN ] [ ABC ] [ CBS ] [ NBC/MSNBC ]

Zero Tolerance? Fox News Foxed Up Again

Fox News Faux PasIs there a more incompetent news network on the air than Fox News? This is an operation that has screwed up so often that the management had to issue a memo warning employees to stop screwing up. Apparently it didn’t do much good because the “errors” are still rampant.

This morning on Fox and Friends, Brian Kilmeade sought to slam down a Democratic guest who asserted that the public was standing with the unions against Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.

In rebuttal Kilmeade referenced a poll in USA Today that showed that 61% of respondents favored legislation that would strip unions of their collective bargaining rights. He also presented the graphic to the left to illustrate his point.

There’s just one problem with that. The numbers are the reverse of what was shown and said. In reality, 61% oppose stripping unions of their collective bargaining rights. Forty-four minutes later, in the final minute of the program, Kilmeade apologized for the error and displayed a corrected version of the poll graphic. However, this was not a typo. During the debate Kilmeade was ready to rebut the Democrat with what he said were the poll results. So he had the same numbers as the botched graphic in his program notes. Kilmeade was able to falsely argue that the public was behind the governor during the debate segment, but the correction came at the end of the show with no further discussion.

Isn’t it odd how every time Fox News makes a mistake like this it favors their right-wing slant? Numbers are reversed; criminal Republicans are identified as Democrats; maps are mislabeled. I’m sure it’s just a coincidence.

The brass at Fox News, however, is not amused. After a spate of embarrassing errors over the past couple of years, a memo was issued to all employees warning that there would be a “Zero Tolerance” policy for such shoddy performance:

“Mistakes by any member of the show team that end up on air may result in immediate disciplinary action against those who played significant roles in the ‘mistake chain,’ and those who supervise them. That may include warning letters to personnel files, suspensions, and other possible actions up to and including termination.”

So who is going to get the axe over this one? If I were a Fox News employee I wouldn’t be too nervous. There have been numerous foul ups like this since the memo went out and no known repercussions for any of them. Apparently the memo was just window dressing to make it appear as if Fox was taking steps to forestall these mistakes. But with no follow through it can only be assumed that they weren’t mistakes to begin with.

This is policy at Fox News. They deliberately disinform viewers during lengthy “news” segments, then issue brief corrections later in the day, far removed from the original discussion. And sadly, their peers at other networks continue to defend them as a news enterprise.

Why Won’t Glenn Beck Say Lara Logan’s Name?

In the past couple of days, Glenn Beck has latched onto a gruesome story about CBS correspondent Lara Logan. While covering protests in Egypt she was the victim of a brutal sexual assault by an unidentified mob.

The story was widely broadcast by many news outlets on TV, radio, and print. But there was only one place where it received a peculiar treatment that served to dehumanize the victim.

Glenn Beck raised the subject on his television program on Wednesday, not to empathize with Logan’s suffering, but to confirm his belief that the worst isn’t over in Egypt:

“While everyone was saying, ‘Oh listen, this is great,’ in this crowd, we found out today, that an American woman was being sexually assaulted – sexually assaulted – by 200 men in this crowd.”

And later he tried to tie Logan’s ordeal to progressives in the U.S. by insinuating that they were all responsible for the repulsive remarks of an individual in New York:

“I told you about a woman who is being raped in that crowd. On Friday, a woman who has sexual assault, an American. How is that tied to the universities? Well a fellow at NYU has stepped down now, after the sexual assault of the American in Egypt that we mentioned earlier.”

Today Beck again referred to “an American woman” who was sexually assaulted in Egypt. That was at least the fifth time that Beck referred to Lara Logan without ever mentioning her name. He would only refer to her as the American, the woman, or the American woman. He never even noted that she was a reporter working on a story, nor her position as Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent for CBS News.

Beck certainly knows who Lara Logan is. He even identified her and her affiliation with CBS News on his radio program. But she was invisible on his TV show. It wasn’t enough for Beck to merely demonstrate overt disrespect for an accomplished professional journalist, he went further to deny her humanity by refusing to acknowledge her identity. This information was not private. CBS had issued a press release outlining the details of the assault. But Beck decided to wrap Logan in a metaphorical burka and ignore her suffering and the risk she took on for her work.

Why would he do this? Why would he repeatedly refer to her cryptically as “the American” when he knew her name and used it on the radio earlier the same day? Was he hesitant to give her publicity because she was on a competing network? I don’t know. I just know that it was curious and jarring to hear him struggle so mightily to hide Logan’s face from his viewers.

Censorship In America: Al-Jazeera And PBS

At a time when some of the most consequential news stories are emanating from the Middle East, America’s cable companies are almost uniformly refusing to carry Al-Jazeera English, the news channel best equipped to cover events on the ground in their native territories.

Al-Jazeera has received high marks from a broad spectrum of analysts for their coverage of the uprising in Egypt. And with similar protests emerging in places like Algeria, Yemen, and Iran, they have insured that these important stories are being told throughout the world. American news organizations often pick up the Al-Jazeera feed for re-broadcast. This includes Fox News, whose pundits have harshly criticized Al-Jazeera even while their editors have incorporated the Al-Jazeera feeds into their programming.

Yesterday the Boston Globe published an op-ed by Juliette Kayyem, Assistant Secretary for Intergovernmental Programs at the Department of Homeland Security. She said in part that…

“Not carrying the network sends a message to the Arab world about America’s willingness to accept information, unfiltered, from the very region we spend so much time talking about.”

Kayyem proposed that Al-Jazeera be made available so that Americans can make their own decisions about its content. Cable companies ought not to be the arbiters of what constitutes legitimate news. Reaction to that op-ed was swiftly expressed by right-wing media including Fox Nation who linked to a post on the hysterically misnamed American Thinker. The item stated that AL Jazeera…

“…is filled with anti-American propaganda. It is also awash in anti-Semitism. The material broadcast stokes terror and violence.”

And that it is…

“…a channel that cannot help but inflame tensions and anger and one that is not known for unbiased accuracy.”

That sounds more like a description of the Glenn Beck Program. If that’s to be the standard for carriage of news networks on American cable, then Fox News should be immediately banned and removed from all systems.

It’s ironic that the conservative objections to Al-Jazeera come as they are also attempting to defund PBS and NPR. The right likes to complain about imagined assaults on free speech when they control one of the largest media conglomerates in the world and their domination of talk radio is nearly universal. But they simultaneously work to suppress the free speech of those with whom they disagree – or more correctly, those who report honestly, which generally serves to refute the lies propagated by the rightist press.

If you have cable you should immediately call your provider and demand that they carry Al-Jazeera. And while you’re at it, ask them to carry Current TV as well and place it in their basic package.

Also, call your representatives in Washington and demand that they support Public Television and Radio. There are bills that may be coming up for votes this week and we need to present a united front in favor of these invaluable resources. Several organizations are mobilizing support for PBS and NPR. Please visit each of them and sign on to save unbiased, corporate-free news.

PBS: 170 Million Americans for Public Broadcasting
MoveOn: Save NPR and PBS
Free Press: Don’t Let Congress Silence NPR and PBS

Fox News Producer Won’t Deny That Fox Makes Things Up

This is classic:

Last week Media Matters published an interview with a former Fox News “insider” who revealed, among other things, that Fox News is a “propaganda outfit” that “makes things up.” So ThinkProgress sent Ben Armbruster to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) where he ran into O’Reilly Factor producer and “ambush” interviewer, Stuttering Jesse Watters. The result is this video that shows Watters completely unresponsive in his smarmy effort to evade a simple question: Do you think that Fox News just makes stuff up?

Watters weaved and dodged without even approaching a coherent response. Rather, he attempts to school Armbruster on the finer points of ambushing. But what’s truly hilarious is that Watters can’t even muster a denial that Fox News makes things up. That’s about as close to an admission as we’re likely to get.

Equally funny is the spin that Fox Nation puts on this event:

Yesterday at CPAC in Washington DC, a liberal blogger from a Soros-funded smear site attempted to “ambush” Fox News’ Jesse Watters, who was covering the conservative conference for FoxNation.com and whose “ambush” interviews are frequently featured on The O’Reilly Factor. It was an embarrassing disaster for the little left-wing blogger. We’re surprised he posted the video because it was such a failure, but thrilled he did. Watters, who’s been “ambushing” judges, politicians and journalists for years, playfully mocked the “ambush attempt” while it went down, critiqued it “you can’t ambush with a camera phone”) and breezed away smiling.

The Fox Nationalists are actually proud of Watters performance, calling it “an embarrassing disaster for the little left-wing blogger.” That approaches a new level of oblivious for the Murdoch-funded smear site. How can they view this as a victory when their hero is seen in full retreat, ultimately ducking into an elevator to escape? And he couldn’t even defend the accusation that Fox manufactures lies and presents them as news? All he had to say was “No.” Perhaps he has a little integrity after all and couldn’t bring himself to deny the truth?

Nah, he’s just a douchebag.

Fox News Reporter’s Guide: Think Like An Intolerant Meathead

Fox NewsMedia matters has published an interview with a former Fox News “insider” who reveals the inner workings of a modern propaganda operation. Some of the revelations have been obvious for years. Some of them will just infuriate you. Here are some highlights:

“I don’t think people would believe it’s as concocted as it is; that stuff is just made up.”

“It is their M.O. to undermine the administration and to undermine Democrats. They’re a propaganda outfit but they call themselves news.”

“You have to work there for a while to understand the nods and the winks. And God help you if you don’t because sooner or later you’re going to get burned.”

“[A]nything that was a news story you had to understand what the spin should be on it. If it was a big enough story it was explained to you in the morning [editorial] meeting. If it wasn’t explained, it was up to you to know the conservative take on it.”

“My internal compass was to think like an intolerant meathead. You could never error on the side of not being intolerant enough.”

“[Y]ou have to buy into the idea that the other media is howling left-wing. Don’t even start arguing that or you won’t even last your first day.”

Media Matters has much more. Check it out. It is fascinating getting this info from an insider. Very few people associated with Fox ever speak out, even after they have left. A couple of exceptions include Eric Burns, former host of Fox News Watch, and Jane Hall, former Fox News contributor. Both cited Glenn Beck as the reason for their departure. More notable was former Fox reporter David Shuster who said:

“At the time I started at Fox, I thought, this is a great news organization to let me be very aggressive with a sitting president of the United States (Bill Clinton). I started having issues when others in the organization would take my carefully scripted and nuanced reporting and pull out bits and pieces to support their agenda on their shows.”

“With the change of administration in Washington, I wanted to do the same kind of reporting, holding the (Bush) administration accountable, and that was not something that Fox was interested in doing.

“Editorially, I had issues with story selection. But the bigger issue was that there wasn’t a tradition or track record of honoring journalistic integrity. I found some reporters at Fox would cut corners or steal information from other sources or in some cases, just make things up. Management would either look the other way or just wouldn’t care to take a closer look. I had serious issues with that.”

It’s time that more people with knowledge speak out about the damage that Fox News is doing every day to the practice of journalism. We need more people like Howell Raines who asked some pertinent questions to his colleagues about their appeasement of Fox. (Too bad he waited until after he had left the NYT). And we need more insiders like Matthew Freud, the husband of Rupert Murdoch’s daughter Elisabeth, who said that he was “…ashamed and sickened by Roger Ailes.”

Fox News provides more proof every day that they are not a credible news enterprise. Today, as all hell was breaking loose in Egypt, Fox cut away to air their regularly scheduled broadcast of Glenn Beck. Glenn Beck!?! Is that what a news channel would do?

Keith Olbermann Warming Up To Al Gore? [Update] YES!

A press release this afternoon revealed that Keith Olbermann would be announcing his next career move Tuesday morning in a conference call with the press. That release served as the starters pistol for a pack of media dogs to try to figure out what was up before the appointed time.

The New York Times appears to have won the race with a story that quotes anonymous sources saying that Olbermann will announce a pact with Al Gore’s Current TV. The details are sketchy, but they include an on-air presence for MSNBC’s former star attraction, as well as an equity stake in the company.

Current has had trouble getting traction as a network whose brand identity is rather mysterious. The network certainly didn’t take on the role that many had expected when it was first announced that Al Gore was starting a cable channel. Many assumed that it would be a liberal answer to Fox News, but that never transpired. Instead, it attempted to invent a new genre that melded television and the Internet.

This could be an interesting arrangement. If Olbermann is coming aboard to launch a news division (Current Affairs?), he could restore some of the original excitement that buzzed around the network when it launched. It would not have to be a wholesale reorganization. They could just add a couple of personalities and, if I had my way, a media analysis program that reviewed the other broadcast and cable news outfits (Alternating Current?). And there’s a place for comedy as well. Any of these programming options would work within Current’s current ambiguous identity.

Current TV is presently seen in about 65 million U.S. homes. That’s about 20% less than MSNBC. For Olbermann this might look like a step backwards, but for Current it could be the catalyst that would help them break through to the upper tiers of cablecasting. They could leverage his star power to get more carriage and better channel positioning. And Keith would be able to extend his presence to the Internet with a full service news and entertainment site along the lines of the Huffington Post. Speaking of which, now that HuffPo has accepted gobs of cash to be part of a bigger media corporation, the Internet is in need of a new independent source for progressive news. And HuffPo’s sale demonstrates the potential value of the genre.

The Olbermann FactorNeedless to say, this is all wildly speculative. Tomorrow morning’s announcement may surprise everyone and have nothing to do with Current. Or it may involve Current but in ways not expected. We’ll know soon enough. But there is one scenario that I think we can safely rule out. Olbermann will not be returning to Fox. Rupert Murdoch recently said that he doesn’t want to fire him twice. But you really have to question Murdoch’s judgment when it is Olbermann whom he has called “crazy,” not Glenn Beck.

The news is official. Olbermann will be joining Current TV and bringing Countdown with him. In addition to that he will assume the title of Chief News Officer, implying a larger role in the production of news programming for the network. That is what I proposed above and it looks like they took my advice (leave me to my fantasies). Now, hopefully they can put together a compelling schedule and push the network onto more cable systems and into more homes.

On AOL Acquiring Huffington Post

The announcement last night that Huffington Post is being bought by AOL has already generated a cyber-boatload of analysis, criticism, and speculation – mostly speculation.

I have long had an ambivalent view of HuffPo. While it gives opportunities to some progressives voices who are often shut out of the broader media, it also hosts some reactionary conservatives whose views are unproductive and dishonest. They have also taken a lot of heat for their gossipy celebrity content which I simply ignore.

AOL, although independent from TimeWarner for a little over a year, is still a giant corporation with many of the same principals and shareholders as prior to the separation. And therein lies my pessimism about the future of the HuffPo/AOL alliance.

The last thing independent media needs is more consolidation. By forming ever larger organizations, they fall into the same traps that Big Media always face. Their business mission ends up suppressing whatever aspirations they have for incisive journalism. They pander to advertisers and seek out stories that titillate rather than educate.

Arianna Huffington is predictably excited about the new arrangement. Why wouldn’t she be? The deal puts a value of over $300 million on her six year old venture. And she will become the head of all of AOL’s media properties. But she should be careful. She is also going to have a board of directors to which she will have to answer. And the obligation to appeal to a much broader audience could result in a dilution of any personality. Like other big news enterprises, she will have to cater to the lowest common denominator.

That’s why independence in the media is so precious. It allows for diversity of opinion and is the single best way to produce reporting that challenges the status quo, rattles societies gatekeepers, and enhances accountability. Those are the things we lose as media enterprises get more bloated and reliant on corporate infrastructure.

The combined AOL/HuffPo is still not as big as Fox or Comcast/NBC, and if they struggle mightily they may be able retain some independent identity. But on the whole this is not a promising development, and it is contrary to the direction that media should be heading.

Rachel Maddow Attacked By Rightist Media Machine

Rachel MaddowEarlier this week Rachel Maddow broadcast a story that contained a reference to a satirical web site that Maddow and/or her staff took to be real. It was embarrassing, to be sure, but Maddow owned up to it the same day without reservation:

Maddow: Props to them for a brilliant piece of satire, shame on us for believing them. But in a world where China taking over New Zealand is what passes for real analysis on the situation in Egypt, how do we know that’s not satire too?

The latter half of that comment was obviously intended to be ironic and humorous. However, since the professional conservative bashing society has no sense of humor, they laid into Maddow with accusations that she was blaming others for her mistake. For example:

  • NewsBusters: Maddow Blames Beck and Other Conservatives for Her Getting Duped by Satirical Website
  • Fox Nation: Maddow’s Excuse for Reporting Spoof Story as Fact: It’s Beck’s Fault!
  • Pajamas Media: Rachel Maddow gets suckered by Palin hoax, blames Beck
  • David Horowitz’s NewsReal: River in Egypt: Rachel Maddow blames Glenn Beck for her own stupidity

On Glenn Beck’s radio show, sidekick Pat Gray went on an extended rant wherein he called Maddow an idiot and said that she was…

“So deceptive. So deceitful. Such Liars. Rachel, take responsibility for your own actions. Man up. Or woman up, whatever the case may be.”

For Beck and his crew to accuse others of being deceitful is its own kind of irony. Especially when Gray was being deceitful in this very rant. He asserted that Maddow spent three and a half minutes of a five minute segment blaming Beck for her error. In fact, Maddow spent only a minute and a half of an eight minute segment on the subject, and thirty seconds of that was consumed in replaying the original video of her mistake.

These critics should also be aware that Maddow is not alone in getting hooked by a hoax. Fox Nation posted a fake story about Obama emails, without attribution, by the satirists at The Onion. Several right-wingers, including Fox, posted a fake story about a global warming activist who had allegedly frozen to death. Fox, Rush Limbaugh, and others posted stories about a fake college thesis by Obama. Fox & Friends aired a bogus story about jetpacks being purchased by the Los Angeles Police Department. And this doesn’t even count the hoaxes that are invented by Fox, Andrew Breitbart, Sarah Palin, Glenn beck, et al.

It should also be noted that, but for the errant reference to the satirical site, Maddow was making a valid point. At times it really can be difficult to separate satire from reality with regard to right-wing conspiracies. The other examples she used in the segment were that China was taking over New Zealand (Beck), that Obama supports annihilation of Israel (Atlas Shrugged), and that the turmoil in Egypt was a plot hatched by unions (RedState). Those are all real, and all delusional. It’s a shame that the point is being obscured because of the one item she included that was phony.

That is not an excuse for making editorial mistakes. The problem isn’t that there are satirical commentaries that sound too much like actual events. The problem is that conservative analyses of actual events sound too much like satire.

CNN Sinks Lower Into The Tea Party Swamp

CNN Tea PartyAfter the State of the Union speech by President Obama, every network will broadcast the official Republican response that will be delivered by Wisconsin representative Paul Ryan.

CNN, however, will also broadcast a response by the chair of the House Tea Party Caucus, Michelle Bachmann. So Democrats will have one speech on the air and Republicans will have two rebuttals. This is CNN’s idea of fair and balanced. Ironically, Fox will not be airing Bachmann’s response.

So why would CNN go out on limb to give the farthest right element of the GOP an additional platform to bash the president and his policies? One word: RATINGS!

CNN is wearing their desperation of their sleeve as they seek to manufacture controversy that they hope will result in drawing in curious viewers. This is the modus operandi of the current network leadership. This one fact goes a long way toward explaining this bonehead move on the part of CNN:

CNN’s new president, Ken Jautz, is the man who gave Glenn Beck his first job in television!

That needs to be repeated relentlessly and shared with the world. Jautz is an unrepentant sensationalist who cares more about ratings than ethical journalism. He knows that the Tea Party is not a serious political player, but he believes the drama they generate will produce viewers.

Jautz is also responsible for CNN’s recent partnership with Tea Party Express, a racist and disreputable enterprise that was expelled from the Tea Party Federation. That’s the organization that Jautz thought would be a good partner to host an upcoming Republican presidential primary debate.

After taking criticism from all sides on this decision to fluff Bachmann and her Tea Bagger Brigades, CNN issued this defense of their move:

“The Tea Party has become a major force in American politics and within the Republican Party. Hearing the Tea Party’s perspective on the State of the Union is something we believe CNN’s viewers will be interested in hearing and we are happy to include this perspective as one of many in tonight’s coverage.”

That mirrors their lame defense of the Tea Party Express deal. And it still doesn’t make any sense. Poll after poll shows that the Tea Party is an insignificant segment of the population and that their views are wildly out of touch with the American mainstream and even the Republican Party. There is no justification for giving them this free promotional airtime. And it is notable also that CNN has not offered to give the Democrat’s Progressive Caucus equal time.

Everyone who who cares about ethical media and fair elections should let CNN know that this is inappropriate and unprofessional. You can use this form on CNN’s web site to tell them that they should not be partnering with Tea Party Express or any right-wing wing PAC (or left-wing for that matter). You can also Tweet them at http://twitter.com/cnn. Use the hashtag #NoCNNTP.

[Update] Bachmann’s address was surreal. She never looked into the camera. It was like she was talking to an invisible person to her right (as if that’s possible) the whole time. She also brought up the debunked (and hilarious) assertion that the IRS is hiring thousands of agents to “enforce” ObamaCare. What’s more, the Minneapolis Tea Party (from her home state) is protesting that Bachmann does not speak for them. Even her GOP colleagues are criticizing her speech. All in all, a massive fail.

Colin Powell Gets It (almost) Right

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday and addressed the “nastiness” in our public dialogue:

“There has crept in our society and our public dialogue, a coarseness, a nastiness, an attack of people who don’t share the same views as you do,” he said. “All sorts of nastiness. And it is not just politicians who are doing this to each other, and, frankly, politics has always been a contact sport in this country, but with all of the cable channels and talk radio and blogs, especially blogs, where people can be anonymous with their nastiness, I think has caused a level of coarseness in our society that we’ve all got to think about.”

Especially blogs? That was a gratuitous dig that doesn’t really advance the point he was making. Blogs don’t have nearly the influence that politicians and national television and radio commentators have. Their contribution to the coarseness in public dialogue is tiny by comparison.

I’m glad to hear that Powell agrees that violent rhetoric directed toward political adversaries has escalated beyond reason and can result in potential harm, but did he really have to shift the responsibility from the media to anonymous commenters on blogs? That just diminishes the message and lets characters with millions of followers, like Glenn “Shoot them in the head” Beck, and Rush “Don’t kill all the liberals” Limbaugh, off the hook.

Keith Olbermann To Launch Internet Venture?

Not 24 hours has elapsed since Keith Olbermann shocked the cable news world by announcing that Countdown has reached ignition and been lifted off the MSNBC schedule. And due to the vague explanations offered by the principals, the public is left to their imagination as to what happened.

Today The Wrap is reporting that the move was entirely driven by Olbermann’s desire to become an Internet media baron:

“With two years left on his $7 million a year contract, Olbermann was seeking a full exit package but he really has his eye on creating his own media empire in the style of Huffington Post.”

Why not? It seems like everybody’s doing it.

Back in the day Matt Drudge, a small-time scandal monger, began publishing his conjecture-laden tabloid, The Drudge Report. Then his spawn, the terminally choleric Andrew Breitbart, followed with his BigWhatever network of outright lie sites. Tucker Carlson, the Biggest Loser (who may hold the Guinness record for the number of times he’s been canceled) launched his Daily Caller. Former MSNBC chief Dan Abrams founded Mediaite. Even Glenn Beck jumped on the bandwagon and lit up The Blaze, an appropriate masthead for a purveyor of incendiary rhetoric.

Still the leader in this parade of personality-driven press is The Huffington Post. If Olbermann chooses this model for an online presence it could be profoundly rewarding. He has a built-in following that already resides in cyberspace. He would have no problem attracting investors. He could cover the issues that interest him most and would be free to appear on any television network to discuss the stories he breaks online.

One minor point, last year Tucker Carlson boasted that he had acquired the domain name, keitholbermann.com. It was a typically puerile act on Carlson’s part that was also brazenly hypocritical. Read the whole sordid story here. Olbermann may have to retrieve his name from Carlson, but that shouldn’t be difficult under the current regulations of the World Intellectual Property Organization, the agency governing such matters.

I, for one, would be thrilled to see the launch of the Olbermann Observer Online. But as with everything else that has been written about his future since the surprise announcement, this story is not verified by any authoritative source. Howard Kurtz is saying the separation was the inevitable result of frayed relations between Olbermann and MSNBC management (i.e. the reprehensible Phil Griffin). And the suggestion that Olbermann initiated the departure doesn’t square with his statement that he was “told” that last night was “going to be the last edition” of his show.

MSNBC has already announced schedule changes to shore up the Olbermann hole. Lawrence O’Donnell is moving up to Olbermann’s 8:00pm slot. Ed Schultz will go to primetime to replace O’Donnell at 10:00pm. And Cenk Uygur will fill in for Schultz at 6:00pm.

If it were up to me I’d make additional daytime adjustments as well. There is no reason for two episodes of Chris Matthews’ Hardball in the afternoon. His ratings certainly don’t warrant the real estate. I’d let him have 7:00pm and give the 5:00pm slot to recently retired congressman Alan Grayson, where he would be on opposite Glenn Beck. That’s a ratings war I’d love to see.

An Open Letter To Julian Assange

Dear Julian,

Few stories last year were more dramatic than the WikiLeaks document dump. It exposed both the internal workings of American diplomacy and the weaknesses of its infrastructure. The impact of it was so great that you were even on the short list for Time’s Person of the Year.

Subsequent to the tsunami you created there was a backwash of attacks from critics and legal authorities. I was one of those who defended you as a journalist who was doing what any journalist would do after coming into possession of controversial documents that had a clear value to the public. I saw no difference between your actions and those of Daniel Ellsberg of the Pentagon Papers fame.

I was encouraged to hear that you regarded yourself as journalist and proudly asserted the rights and privileges of the profession. However, you cannot assert those rights selectively.

Recently you announced that you were in possession of documents that you were holding as “insurance” in the event that anything happened to you or WikiLeaks. You made it known that included in that batch were cables referencing Rupert Murdoch and News Corp.

The description of these documents as insurance implies that if they were to be released they would cause some discomfort to the subjects. So you are confessing that you have damaging information about Murdoch that you are deliberately keeping secret.

This violates the code of journalistic ethics to which you are lately claiming to be signatory. It is wholly inappropriate to use such documents as a bargaining chip for your own personal benefit. The information you are hoarding belongs to the people. What’s more, Rupert Murdoch, in his role as the planet’s chief propagandist and media baron, is doing tangible harm to the world and to the practice of journalism. If you have information that, if released, would diminish Murdoch’s grip on the press, you have an obligation to release it now. It does not belong to you. It is not your “get out of jail free” card.

By stashing these papers away for your own purposes you weaken your case for being a journalist. But worse than that, you make yourself culpable for every evil thing Murdoch does. If you have the ability to diminish his influence and refrain from acting, then you share responsibility for whatever he does until you do act.

That is why I am calling on you to release what you have on Murdoch now. If it has public value then it belongs to the public. Murdoch’s secrets have no special grant to be kept secret. Ellsberg didn’t squirrel away batches of data to blackmail his adversaries and neither should you. And remember this, if Murdoch had any damaging information about you he wouldn’t hesitate for a second to broadcast it far and wide.

Set it free, Julian. And if you do not I certainly hope someone at WikiLeaks leaks the info despite you. It would really be a shame if let your paranoia turn you into the thing you have been fighting against.