Huffington Post Treading On Drudge Territory

An article on the Huffington Post seems to be reaching into the tabloid press for guidance on journalistic practice. The author, Sam Stein, a recent Dartmouth graduate, has compiled a catalog of innuendo so flimsy it’s inconceivable that any seasoned editor would allow it to be published.

Unfortunately, the editors at the Huffington Post did publish it. And all it amounts to is an unverified and salacious attack on John Edwards. What’s worse is that this is not the first time that this drivel was posted. Just two weeks ago, essentially the same story, with the same factual emptiness, was posted at HuffPo. If I had the reportorial lack of ethics that Stein has, I would accuse Arianna of having it in for Edwards.

The premise of the column is that there is something suspicious about expenditures by Edwards on a film production, as well as his relationship with the producer. The problem is that Stein only has questions, but no answers. That’s enough for him to make sly suggestions that have no basis in fact. For example:

What Stein Says Why Stein Fails
“…shortly after Edwards declared his White House aspirations, the footage all but disappeared from public view.” Stein does not bother to explain what might have happened or why i’s important. He has no statement from Edwards. He just leaves the empty assertion dangling.
“Little was known about Hunter as well.” And Stein does little to elucidate us.
“The Huffington Post has uncovered a deleted website that formerly belonged to Hunter […] there is little indication as to what Hunter did professionally.” So HuffPo found an old web site that has nothing to do with any of this and Stein tries to inject some nefarious meaning into that.
“…the 44-year-old Hunter (formerly known as Lisa Druck) discusses her former hard partying days, her search for enlightenment, and her issues with drugs and debt.” Stein reveals here that an actress, who may have a stage name, has lived through a rowdy and imperfect youth, something no one else has ever done. And this is relevant, how?
“So why was Hunter’s website – which had no material related to her work with Edwards or the Edwards’ campaign – taken down?

Emails and calls to Midline Groove Productions went unanswered.”

Stein doesn’t bother to answer this question. He just posits it with a raised eyebrow and casts further aspersions with images of unanswered emails.
“…why did Edwards choose someone with limited film experience to document his behind-the-scenes campaign presence

The Senator’s campaign, likewise, did not return calls requesting comment.”

Why did the Huffington Post choose someone with limited reporting experience to document, or more correctly, fail to document, a non-story that is devoid of facts?
“…was the more than $100,000 spent by Edwards’ One American Committee – itself dedicated to fighting poverty and lifting Americans into the middle class – worth it?” Gee, I don’t know. And apparently neither does Stein because he does next to nothing to find out or provide authoritative context.

This is uncommonly shoddy work that Arianna Huffington should find unacceptable and embarrassing. It is already having a Drudge-like effect in the media echo chamber. On Tucker Carlson’s program today, his guest, Ann Coulter, alluded to a story from the National Enquirer about John Edwards having an affair. That story is equally lacking in substance, as is to be expected from the Enquirer. Are the items related? I can’t say, but the dates match up [oh great, now I’m doing it].

Even if the only connection to these stories is that they both represent the worst in journalism, there is still an important distinction. The National Enquirer has worked hard for decades to establish its reputation for unreliability and falsehood. Until now, I would have suspected that that is not the goal of the Huffington Post. But when the first version of this article appeared last month, the comments were inundated with indignation at how such a poorly written and sourced article could get online. Why on earth would they repeat such an egregious error? I hope they will take the appropriate measures to assure that they do not travel further down this road, but in case they need help…

You can help steer them in the right direction. E-mail Addresses:
The Huffington Post
Sam Stein

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Fox Business: The Business Friendly Business Network

Robert Greenwald and Brave New Films has a new video announcing the launch of the Fox Business Network (FBN):

Remember, we’re talking about the network whose chairman promised to make it a more “business friendly” business network. Its managing editor, Neil Cavuto, has already compiled an impressive collection of rosy-hued Foxaganda.

Fox Attacks is soliciting headlines from the public that reflect Fox’s unique slant on the news. Here are some of my predictions for the sort of stories we are likely to see on FBN:

  • Relentless Bombings In Iraq: An Opportunity For Kuwaiti Building Contractors?
  • Bush Vetoes SCHIP Bill: A Boost For Insurance Companies’ Profits?
  • Commerce Secretary: Dem Flag Lapel Pin Boycott Hurts Trade With Chinese Pin Manufacturers.
  • Health Care Crisis: Time To Buy Stock In Forest Lawn?
  • Democrat Bill Restricts Lobbyists: Former Congressmen Headed For Welfare?
  • Global Warming: Do Environmentalists Aid Terrorists By Keeping Climate Comfortable In Desert Hideouts?

Go to Fox Attacks and contribute your own headlines.

Michelle Malkin: Fox News Not Patriotic Enough

The Fox television network is sponsoring a workshop with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) to help young Muslim artists aspiring to work in TV and film. Hollywood 101 is described as an event to…

“…introduce aspiring Muslim writers, directors and actors to the entertainment industry. The event, held at FOX Studios in Century City, was also designed to help promote a positive change in Hollywood’s portrayal of Muslims and Arabs.”

Fox News has previously been taken to task by CAIR for “anti-Islamic bigotry.” The Fox Entertainment Group, under separate management, deserves some credit for making an effort to enhance understanding and opportunity. But this program, emanating from Fox’s “Diversity Department,” makes Michelle Malkin “cringe:”

“‘Diversity Department?’ How about a Patriotism Department? How about reaching out to the brave Muslim/ex-Muslim critics of jihad and sharia?”

Malkin, who is currently on a campaign to smear a 12 year-old victim of a catastrophic car accident, is taking a bold position against diversity. What’s more, she is actually castigating Fox for not being patriotic enough. The network with the ever-present flag logo waving on-screen, mandatory lapel pins, and an editorial policy that brands dissent as treason, is in need of a corporate department to advocate patriotism, according to Malkin. This is the same network whose PR spokeswoman Irena Briganti said in response to Christiane Amanpour’s charge that the media “muzzled itself” during the Iraq war:

“Given the choice, it’s better to be viewed as a foot soldier for Bush than a spokeswoman for al-Qaeda.”

The current philosophy at Fox is that if you practice responsible, probing journalism, you are on al-Qaeda’s team. They believe that it is an appropriate role for the press to fall in line behind the president. And both Fox and Malkin believe that patriotism is best expressed by abandoning journalistic independence and the First Amendment. And all of this in the name of denying opportunities to minority communities and quashing diversity.

Giuliani: Artists’ Constitutional Interest Minimal

Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani has a record of authoritarian positions on crime, foreign policy and terrorism. His tendency toward dictatorial rule extends even to the arts. In 1997 he argued a case against street artists in New York saying:

“An exhibition of paintings is not as communicative as speech, literature or live entertainment, and the artists’ constitutional interest is thus minimal.”

All America needs now is a president who doesn’t think that art is communication or that it is protected by the Constitution. Welcome to the Dark Ages.

Democrats And Media: Battered Party Syndrome

A newly released Gallup poll reveals a national trust gap with regard to the media. Amongst its findings is that less than half of respondents (48%) report having either a great or a fair amount confidence in the accuracy or fairness of the news media. The only thing surprising about that number is that it isn’t much lower.

What is truly surprising is the distribution of views along partisan party lines. Republican’s trust threshold bottoms out at 33%. Democrats, however, have a curiously high satisfaction with the media at 66%. What’s more, the ferocity of the Republicans disdain for media dwarfs that of Democrats. 77% of Republicans consider the media to be too liberal, while only 22 % of Democrats view it as too conservative. 66% of Democrats trust the media, while only 33% of Republicans are similarly inclined.

It’s difficult to imagine why Democrats are so content in a media atmosphere that is so blatantly hostile. The number one cable news network is an unapologetic apologist for the White House and an unabashed basher of Democratic policy and personage. The other networks feature conservative program hosts like Lou Dobbs, Glenn Beck, Tucker Carlson, etc., but there is only one identifiably progressive host on any network – Keith Olbermann on MSNBC’s Countdown. So why do 66% of Democrats trust the media?

The same conservative dominance exists in newspapers where virtually all of the major publishers have had to apologize for their sycophantic cheerleading that led up to the war in Iraq. Now they are repeating the pattern with drumbeats for war with Iran. Even the so-called liberal papers like the New York Times promoted their most conservative voices for most of the past half dozen years; voices like the disgraced Judith Miller, and Michael Gordon. So why do 66% of Democrats trust the media?

It hardly seems necessary to bring up radio, where conglomerates like Clear Channel own 1,000 stations with wall-to-wall rightist programming like Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, Hugh Hewitt, Michael Savage, Laura Ingraham, etc. So why do 66% of Democrats trust the media?

Coverage of the presidential campaign is illustrative of the conservative media slant. Where in the coverage of Republican candidates is there anything like the stories that have hammered Democrats? Stories like haircuts, or where they went to school when they were six, or cleavage, or style of home, or laughter, or lapel pins. So why do 66% of Democrats trust the media?

There is a little good news in the survey. The percentage of Americans that view the media as “too conservative” has increased from 11% in 2001, to 18% today, according to this poll. That’s not a tectonic shift, but it does suggest that a bit of light is starting to get through to the population at large. What it does not explain is why 66% of Democrats trust the media?

Earlier this year, the Project for Excellence in Journalism released a study that showed that the media devoted more time to Democrats than to Republicans. The problem is that most of that time was spent disparaging Democrats:

“..conservative talkers, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Michael Savage were the most Democratic focused of all – 75% of their time on Democrats and only 13% focused mainly on Republicans.”

And yet, 66% of of Democrats still trust the media. What will it take for people to see through the myth of the “liberal” media? The disparity is glaringly obvious to anyone paying the least bit of attention. Part of the problem is that the facts that comprise the reality of conservative bias would have to be distributed to the people by the media. The very same media that wants to disguise their bias; that wants to preserve their rightist influence; that wants to maintain their relationships with political leaders and regulators; that wants to expand their corporate reach through consolidation and market manipulation.

Until Democrats and progressives stand up to the abusive behavior of a hostile press; until they recognize the obstacles that the media repeatedly and purposefully drop in their paths, it will be very hard to overcome the prejudices that are becoming ingrained in our culture. Do they want to continue to be portrayed as tax-and-spenders, despite the fact that it is Republicans who spend us into record deficits in each of their administrations? Do they want to be characterized as soft-on-defense, despite the fact that it is Republicans that have mired us in an Iraqi quagmire while ignoring the real terrorist threats in the world? Do they want to be cast as anti-economy, despite the fact that the Dow Jones average performs better during Democratic administrations than Republican?

If not, then they need to stop being complacent about a media that is determined to undermine them at every opportunity. They need to stop appeasing the most serious perpetrators of their abuse. They need to stop appearing on Fox News in any capacity. And they need to start to engage in a realistically aggressive counter-assault on the elements in the media that want to do them harm.

Democrats had better come to terms with the truth: Their batterer does not love them and is not doing it for their own good. And they must finally realize that it is foolish and destructive to profess love for your abuser. There is no excuse for 66% of Democrats trusting the media.

The Fox Frame: Distorting Reality

For lack of a better hobby, I collect Fox News screen grabs that demonstrate their unfaltering commitment to obfuscation, misrepresentation, propaganda, and plain old garden variety lies. These were all snagged last week from “Your World” with Neil Cavuto. Cavuto has been tapped to be the managing editor of the new Fox Business channel which debuts October 15. This should give you all a pretty good idea of what to expect from the new network which claims that it “Means Business.”

In a discussion of the Free Flow of Information Act of 2007, Neil Cavuto and company described the bill as shielding “leakers” rather than reporters.

CBS News: The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday advanced a bill to shield reporters from being forced to reveal their sources in federal court.

The Cavuto Crew implies that a Hillary Clinton presidency should scare Wall Street. They apparently don’t know that Wall Street traditionally performs better during Democratic administrations.

“…the Dow Jones industrial average has returned an average of 6.4% under Republican presidents and 9.1% under Democrats since 1901.”

Are Democrats using kids as props? Gee, I Don’t know. Let’s ask President Bush who has made a habit of it throughout his presidency.

And Fox wants people to take them seriously as a news network? How many viewers will take this sort of twisted proselytizing seriously. For rightwingers who so often complain about activist judges, they obviously aren’t too concerned about activist journalists.

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The O’Reilly Fear Factor: Collected Verses

Bill O’Reilly has gone over the edge. He is literally descending into madness on our very own TV screens. Those of you who actually don’t slow down on the highway to see gruesome accidents may want to avert your eyes.

[See also They’re Coming To Take Me Away for detail on O’Reilly’s meltdown]

When asked to elaborate, O’Reilly said

“I can no longer sit back and allow communist infiltration, communist indoctrination, communist perversion and the international communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids.”

Ann Coulter’s Pipe Dream

nullIn her latest attempt to manufacture controversy on the eve of a new book release, Ann Coulter gave an interview in which she said:

“If we took away women’s right to vote, we’d never have to worry about another Democrat president. It’s kind of a pipe dream, it’s a personal fantasy of mine, but I don’t think it’s going to happen.”

For those of you who might be wondering about how this might affect her own voting rights, and why she doesn’t seem worried, I have just two words: Adam’s Apple.

Clear Channel Refuses VoteVets Ad

Radio giant Clear Channel Communications is refusing to air an ad by VoteVets, a veterans group protesting Rush Limbaugh’s recent assertion that vets who oppose the war in Iraq are “phony soldiers.”

VoteVets received a letter explaining that the ad would not run because:

“Airing anti-Rush Limbaugh ads during the Rush Limbaugh Show on WJNO would only conflict with the listeners that have chosen to listen to Rush Limbaugh.”

Once again, Clear Channel has taken it upon itself to stifle public debate and restrict the free flow of information. In refusing to air this ad, they are stepping on the free speech rights of the veteran activists at VoteVets. Clear Channel’s offer to air the ad at other times or on other stations denies VoteVets the opportunity to counter Limbaugh’s rantings in context. They fail to recognize the importance of directing the response to the audience that was subjected to Limbaugh’s insulting diatribes in the first place. And Clear Channel also makes the mistake of assuming that there aren’t any listeners who disagree with Limbaugh.

Clear Channel’s justification of their censorship on the grounds that it would create conflict is beyond absurd. This is the Rush Limbaugh Show we’re talking about. Conflict is part and parcel of the program’s mission. If Clear Channel is concerned about conflict, why do they let Limbaugh air audio of Democrats for the explicit purpose of denigrating them and thus, creating conflict? Why do they allow Limbaugh to take phone calls that have the potential to produce further conflict? Why do they let Limbaugh express any opinion at all at the risk of creating conflict wiht the many listeners who do not share his views?

To its credit, WJNO has a fairly balance schedule. Their weekday roster presents Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Randi Rhodes, Ed Schultz, and Sean Hannity. The problem is that Rhodes and Schultz are likely to address the VoteVets matter on their own. It’s the Limbaugh audience that most needs exposure to contrary arguments. I would have no objection to the GOP front group, Vets For Freedom, running ads on Schultz’s show. But I assume that Clear Channel would also think that that’s a bad idea too. What are they afraid of?

VoteVets is an advocacy group that supports soldiers and veterans. Unlike Rush Limbaugh, they fought for the rights enumerated in the Constitution, including free speech. But that right is being denied to them today.

You can call Clear Channel in Palm Beach at 561-616-6600 and tell them to air the VoteVets ad. Tell them that our veterans deserve the right to heard. Tell them that, as a listener, you don’t necessarily agree with everything (or anything) Limbaugh says. Tell them that you’re capable of enduring whatever conflict such an ad subjects you to. But what you are not capable of enduring is a giant media corporation infringing on the rights of citizens.

UPDATE: On his show today, Rush suggested that VoteVets run their ad on his program. Either he’s not talking to his ad sales people, or they’re not listening to his show.

When CNN Presents Actual News…

A little over a year ago, I noted the success that CNN had with a program on Osama Bin Laden that was part of its “CNN Presents” series of long-form news. The program was number one in its time period and was one of the few occasions that CNN bested its arch-rival Fox. At the time I asked:

“What are the odds that the editors at CNN will correctly analyze what happened here? […} will they figure out that there is a news vacuum in America that is crying out to be filled?”

Apparently not. In the past year, CNN has barely budged its place in the cable news net rankings. It actually declined 9%. In the same span of time, MSNBC has increased its viewership 53%, led by the Olbermann locomotive with a 73% rise. For the record, Fox News Channel was down 10%.

Now, the question I asked last year needs to asked again. In the latest report (pdf) for the the 3rd quarter of 2007, the number one program in the 25-54 demo is CNN Presents. It is also number two in total viewers, and is one of only two programs in the top 10 that is not from Fox (the other is CNN’s Larry King Live at #8).

Will CNN now recognize that the best way to compete with Fox’s tabloid coverage of car chases, missing white girls, and bashing Democrats, is to give the audience substance in the form of news that is accurate and relevant to their lives? Why is this such a difficult lesson to learn? Week after week, the networks competing with the Fox Propaganda Channel seem to be in a race to the bottom of the journalism barrel. Their meager attempts to emulate the worst of all possible role models cannot help but fail. Not only because it is a poor strategy, but because they can’t hope to woo viewers away from Fox’s authentic garbage with their own brand of contrived garbage.

Americans are thirsting for honest journalism that informs and enlightens. They want their news to be placed in a context that respects the integrity of the subject matter and the intelligence of the audience. When this is done, the networks get viewers and advertisers, as this quarter’s CNN Presents demonstrates. When it is not done they get Glenn Beck and Tucker Carlson. Carlson, by the way, came in dead last in the 3-net beauty contest.

So pay attention CNN, and any other wannabe responsible news organizations. Try as you might with the likes of Nancy Grace or Lou Dobbs, the only time you come out ahead is when you give the people what they’re clamoring for. Honesty, integrity, and a commitment to ethics and excellence, is the path to success. CNN Presents is not a fluke. It is the only program that has prevailed against Foxic waste, and it has now done so twice. Are you getting the message?