Fox News Picks Republican Debaters

Here’s an interesting turn of events. Fox News will be hosting the Republican Party’s presidential primary debate in South Carolina next month. The terms of the agreement call for a process of validation to determine which candidates will participate. The interesting part is that Fox gets to play a role in the decision. There is a set of criteria which has not been disclosed other than that it includes a requirement to have…

“…garnered at least 1 percent in recent state and national polls leading up to the registration deadline, as determined by Fox News Channel and the South Carolina Republican Party.”

I couldn’t care less who Fox wants to allow to play in the Republican sand box. But if there are still any unconvinced critics of the Democrats who objected to Fox hosting their affair, this should conclude the debate on the debates.

It should be clear now that Fox is not a neutral player. Republicans consider them a partner and grant them broad privilege in producing their partisan events. Can you imagine what would have ensued if Democrats had gone through with the proposed Fox-sponsored debate in Nevada?

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The Assault On Bill Moyers Has Begun.

The PBS debut of Bill Moyers Journal’s “Buying the War”, has provoked the media’s preeminent bully into a veritable frenzy. We can almost certainly expect Bill O’Reilly to air a post-broadcast rant on the dangers of the secular-progressive, far-left, presentation of committed left-wing loony, Moyers, because nothing is more terrifying to O’Reilly and his ilk than the truth.

And, as we know, the truth has a well known left-wing bias (h/t Colbert).

But in fact, Bill didn’t even wait for the program to air. Borrowing from Bush’s playbook, Bill O’Reilly has been attacking preemptively:

Bill Moyers. Wednesday night, he’s going to take a big shot at the press on PBS. We know he’s in bed with Soros.

The absurdity of that non-sequitor illustrates just how unhinged O’Reilly has become. He sees enemies around every corner, probably trying to pollute our precious bodily fluids.

More from O’Reilly:

…and Bill Moyers at PBS. – In fact, as president of the Shoeman [sic] Center Foundation, Moyers oversaw at least a $500,000 transfer of money to Media Matters.

Of course, that is a lie that Bill had to acknowledge the following night – although without troubling himself to apologize.

And there’s this:

Tomorrow, PBS will broadcast a documentary by committed leftist Bill Moyers that charges the American media, especially the conservative media, gleefully embraced war with Iraq and smeared anyone who disagreed with the action.

Moyers takes a special pride in denigrating FOX News and talk radio in his presentation. Now I supported the action against Saddam because the Secretary of State Colin Powell, former Secretary of Defense under Bill Clinton, William Cohen, the CIA, British intelligence, and a variety of other intelligence agencies all told me Saddam was making dangerous weapons in violation of the first Gulf War cease-fire. We did our own original reporting here.

Now I based my decision on the best available information, not on any ideological belief. I was wrong in my assessment, as was everybody else. But it was an honest mistake.

O’Reilly is just admitting that he is dolt – believing the same lies from the same administration shills, then asserting that that was a demonstration of “original reporting.” How is swallowing propaganda from government lackeys even remotely connected to journalism? And his contention that everyone believed the same thing ignores the millions of people worldwide who took to the streets to defiantly object to the lies and the policy that was supported by those lies. Finally, he issues a disingenuous mea culpa that hardly makes up for all the death and misery that ensued as a consequence of his “honest mistake”.

But I think I know what’s stuck in Bill’s craw. A couple of years ago, Bill exposed the festering wound that has become an infected mass of puss and bile:

…he [Moyers] wins another big award announced today. A Polk Award. So he got a Peabody and a Polk. They just love him.

Do you think Bill-O is just a bit jealous? He had to lie about getting a Peabody, then lied again saying that he won Polk (for a program that he had left two years earlier). The envy is palpable, and has been stewing for years.

Keeping things in perspective it must be noted that clear majorities of the American people will agree with Moyers that the press was pathetically inadequate and criminally negligent, in the run-up to the war in Iraq. But just to be on the safe side, we should let Moyers and PBS know that there is an appreciation for courageous, responsible journalism, and we will vote with our dollars, our eyeballs, and our hearts, to ensure that there is more of it. Send your thoughts here:

Bill Moyers Journal: Feedback

Rupert Murdoch on George W. Bush

Michael Milken’s 10th Annual Milken Institute Global Conference in Los Angeles hosted some of the media’s top executive honchos, including News Corp overlord Rupert Murdoch, who was in a talkative mood. Following are a few choice quotes.

Stating the obvious, Murdoch accurately critiques our President’s prowess at incoherence:
“I’m a supporter of President Bush, but I do believe he is a bad, inadequate communicator. He seems to freeze whenever a television camera appears.”

But this doesn’t dim the glow of his schoolboy crush:
“…whereas he is the most persuasive and strong and articulate person when you meet him. This is really a problem.”

Addressing fellow maven, Paul Gigot of the Wall Street Journal, Murdoch commiserates their isolation in the media world and seems confused as to why everybody else doesn’t worship Bush as much as they do:
“Apart from your newspaper and mine (the New York Post), there’s a sort of monolithic attack on (Bush) every day of the year. People want to destroy him.”

Murdoch suspects that the animosity towards Bush is rooted in religious persecution (America is notoriously anti-Christian) and or resentment for having perverted democracy. It certainly couldn’t be for waging a disasterous and unnecessary war and presiding over the most corrupt administration in history:
“They don’t like him, whether it’s because of his religious conviction or whatever, or the outcome of the 2000 election. He has a history of things there which seem to have built up the situation where, in Washington today, the atmosphere is absolutely toxic.”

But there is some good news:
“You can’t really expect anything to be achieved in the next 18 months (of his presidency). That is a very serious, sad problem of this country.”

VA Massacre: Video Games Did It

In their desperation to come up with a sensationalistic scenario with which to exploit the tragedy in Virginia, the media are wallowing in a “blame something (anything)” cesspool of speculation. This is just another example of how shallow the media’s analysis can be.

This time the culprit is video games. The San Francisco Chronicle is reporting that Jack Thompson, an anti-video game zealot, has been making the rounds of the cable news nets promulgating his theories on the threat of gaming to civilization. With regard to VA Tech, he told Fox’ Bill Hemmer:

“To be able to pull this off, with this high body count, Bill, one has to have rehearsed it in able to do it.”

In subsequent appearances on NBC he flatly declared that Cho was a player of Counter-Strike.

The only problem with this is that, as Chris Matthews pointed out, Thompson has no evidence that any of his assertions true. In fact, there is substantial evidence, supported by first hand witnesses, that Cho never played video games at all during his time at VT.

But I guess the media can’t let facts get in the way of a juicy narrative when they are trying to squeeze a few more days of ratings frenzy from a very real human tragedy.

Los Angeles Times Book Festers

On April 28-29, The Los Angeles Times will hold its 12th annual Festival of Books. The event is one of the largest book fairs in the country and features over 400 authors and almost 100 panels on subjects ranging from “Food Fight: When Did Eating Get Controversial?” to “Sands of Strife: The Middle East .”

But in the realm of media, the festival features two events that seem to be stacked in favor of the media’s Dark Ages, despite the fact that these panels purport to be about the future. Take a look at the forward thinkers the Times has assembled for these discussions:

Topic: The Future of News
Moderator: Marjorie Miller – L. A. Times foreign editor.

Mark HalperinPolitical analyst for ABC News.
Halperin co-wrote a “memo” for ABC’s The Note that itemized, “How the (liberal) Old Media plans to cover the last two weeks of the election.” It appears to be transcribed directly from the mind of an acutely paranoid Neocon. He also told Bill O’Reilly that…

“if you want to thrive like Fox News Channel, you want to have a future, you better make sure conservatives find your product appealing.”

Jim O’SheaEditor, L. A. Times.
O’Shea took over the editor’s desk when Dean Baquet was fired for refusing to go along with more draconian staff cuts. Publisher David Hiller, who replaced Jeff Johnson (who was shown the door for the same reason as Baquet), brought O’Shea in from the Chicago hive, Tribune’s headquarters that also spawned Hiller.

James TarantoEditor of the Wall Street Journal’s OpinionJournal.
Taranto’s web site has made his view of new media exceedingly clear with the words of featured columnist Joseph Rago :

“The blogs are not as significant as their self-endeared curators would like to think. Journalism requires journalists, who are at least fitfully confronting the digital age. The bloggers, for their part, produce minimal reportage. Instead, they ride along with the MSM like remora fish on the bellies of sharks, picking at the scraps.”

Topic: New Media: Blogging & Beyond
Moderator: RJ Smith – Sr. editor, Los Angeles Magazine.

Hugh HewittRadio talk show host.
What can I say about Hewitt that he can’t embarrass himself with on his own? At least he is an active blogger and an advocate of the medium. But he is also a highly partisan activist who believes that…

“liberal media has destroyed the necessity of the left having to debate, having to reach a message across, because you guys [the press] have always papered over the weakness of their arguments.”

Jill LeovyL. A. Time crime reporter.
Leovy’s online Homicide Report is not much more than a list documenting the city’s fatal obsessions. Poynter Online reviewed the site saying…

“While comments are allowed, this blog really isn’t about conversation between blogger and community. Leovy focuses on traditional reporting, and doesn’t seem to respond to comments so far.”

Kevin RoderickEditor, LAObserved.
Roderick’s LAObserved is actually a pretty good example of the thoughtful use of modern online communications. The site covers local news and culture with diverse subjects and good sources.

If it was the goal of the Times to impanel credible experts on the “Future of News” and “Blogging & Beyond” they failed pitifully. Most of the speakers above are sorely lacking in expertise on these subjects. On the contrary, they would be better suited for historical panels on Dinosaur Media. And for good measure, most represent a predominantly right wing perspective that fits nicely with the slant of the Times. This is an embarrassingly light-weight line-up that is unlikely to cast any light on these important issues.

Presidential Debates Online: A Virtual Reality

The presidential primary debate calendar just got a virtual boost with the addition of the first online-only candidate forums. The events will be sponsored by the Huffington Post, Yahoo, and Slate, and will be held this fall. There will be debates for both the Democratic and Republican parties.

To say that this was inevitable would be an extraordinary understatement. The Internet has become an inescapable component of modern politics. In many ways it is supplanting the conventional media. Whereas past campaigns kicked off with televised speeches before a cheering hometown throng, many of today’s leading candidates opted to announce their entry into the race via their web sites. Television and newspapers used to be the exclusive outlet for candidate alerts, attacks, and adorations, but now YouTube has emerged as an unparalleled cyber-promotions vehicle. And fund raising, for which conventional media was no more than a perch from which to beg for change, has been forever transformed by the Internet’s ability to act as a real-time ATM that collects donations 24/7.

The Internet is also the home of tens of millions of the most engaged citizens and activists. In these early days of Campaign ’08, while most Americans are oblivious to the nascent electioneering, the netroots are abuzz with a vibrant dialogue. So where better to hold the early debates? It allows the candidates to address what is perhaps the most active and well informed constituency amongst voters. These are the people who, once taking sides, will be the volunteers, contributors, advocates, and foot soldiers of the campaigns as they mature.

Credit must be given to the debate’s sponsors for stepping forward with this initial effort. Whether or not it meets expectations rests with the execution. The candidates will be appearing from remote locations, which leverages one of several unique characteristics of online communications. Another is the ability for viewers to participate by asking questions and blogging the answers as quickly as they come.

But will the sponsors introduce any innovations that exploit the revolutionary advantages of new media? For instance, a connected community can produce instant reactions to candidate statements. The conventional media might use such a facility as another in a series of trivial insta-polls. But new media could have this information displayed for candidates who could then be called upon to react to the real-time pulse of the audience. Also, questions submitted online could be analyzed and sorted so that the subjects of most interest to the audience are addressed. If the subjects that rank highest are displayed for the candidates, they could provide answers even if the host fails to introduce the question. In effect, the universe of viewers usurps the role of a unitary host.

This may not be desirable in all circumstances. There are certainly occasions when a talented journalist can construct a probing question that elicits more candid and revealing responses. I’m not sure the host selected for these debates, Charlie Rose, fills that description. My personal opinion of Rose is that he asks overly long questions that seem designed to showcase himself rather than his guest. But effective interviewers do exist and there will be plenty of opportunities for that sort of encounter when the conventional media holds their debates.

Overall, the debut of new media as a player in the debate debate is positive, encouraging, and timely. But it must also be viewed as an experiment. Whether it is looked back upon as a success, a failure, or something in between, should not be a hard-coded judgment, but a set of observations that can be employed when modeling the next phase of the experiment. I look forward to the research, and I hope that the sponsors open up the process to the blogiverse and incorporate our interests and creativity.

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White House Correspondents Celebrity Soiree

The White House Correspondents Association held their annual gala this evening and it was an affair to remember. Following on last year’s uneventful snoozefest with that Colbert guy, the WHCA scored a coup lassoing comedy legend Rich Little to headline the evening’s fare.

In his introduction, George Bush somberly stated that, due to the tragedy at Virginia Tech, he would not try to be funny. Little misunderstood and assumed the pledge applied to him as well. After thoughtfully warning the audience that he was just a “nightclub performer who does a lot of dumb, stupid jokes,” he wasted no time proving that. He was, however, generous in explaining each punch line for the often bewildered crowd. There was an abundance of opportunity to do so in the space where other performers would have been waiting for the audience’s laughter to subside. Little didn’t have that problem.

But the big treat of the evening was the star-studded guest list that included Morgan Fairchild, Teri Hatcher and at least two American Idol rejects. You know that a professional journalist’s organization has come of age when it can bring together such luminaries as George W. Bush and Sanjaya Malakar. If you wonder what these two celebrated talents have in common, just think about it for a moment and it will all become clear.

Time Warner Seeks to Squash Small Publishers

The Postal Service recently announced that they will be raising rates for magazines and periodicals. That news by itself is not exactly earth shattering. But there’s more.

The original proposal from the Postal Commission recommended a fairly routine increase of approximately 12% across the board. That would be consistent with historical rate structures that spread the costs fairly to all publishers, from the smallest indie press to the biggest print empire.

But that didn’t sit well with some of the entrenched monopolists at Time Warner. Raising objections to the plan, TW proposed their own that, predictably, favored big corporations by awarding huge discounts for massive bulk mailings. The TW plan would result in increases for themselves that were as little as 10%, but their smaller rivals’ rates could balloon up as much as 30%. Through the strength of their wealth and political influence, TW succeeded in strong-arming the Postal Service to adopt its scheme.

For anyone who thinks that it is only fair that large publishers who ship higher quantities should enjoy higher discounts, you should know that this was never the intention of the Postal Service’s rate policy. For over 200 years it has been part of their mission to have the big players partially subsidize costs for new and independent media. Indeed, it has played a large role in our country’s commitment to a free and diverse press. Journalism professor and FreePress founder, Robert McChesney, recognizes the problem and warns of the consequences:

“What the Post Office is planning to do now, in the dark of night, is implement a rate structure that gives the best prices to the biggest publishers, hence letting them lock in their market position and lessen the threat of any new competition. The new rates could make it almost impossible to launch a new magazine, unless it is spawned by a huge conglomerate.”

Scared? You should be, because in addition to the threat that this policy poses to independent media, the plan is being rushed through with almost no opportunity for public comment. In fact, Monday, April 23, is the last day that the people can have any say.

FreePress is making it easy for you weigh in on this vital issue. Go to where you can send an email to the Postal Board of Governors and your congressional representatives. But…

You Have To Do This NOW!

This window is shutting very soon and action that is put off will not be able to be taken at all in a couple of days. Don’t let Time Warner and their cabal of corporate conspirators stomp out the most vibrant, provocative, and honest reporting and commentary our country has to offer. This is literally a matter of life or death for many small publishers. Your voice can help save theirs.

Chris Wallace: A Hen In The Fox House

Chris Wallace, host of Fox News Sunday, was interviewed by Stephen Battaglio of TV Guide. His performance reveals an ineffectual spokesperson struggling to embrace his network’s prejudices. Many of the questions dealt with the Democrats’ rejection of Fox News as a host for their presidential primary debates. If Wallace’s answers represent the Fox viewpoint, Democrats should consider rejecting appearances on his program as well – though not because they would have anything tangible to fear.

Some excerpts:

TVGuide: Why do you think the Democratic candidates for president have pulled out of the debates cosponsored by Fox News?
Wallace: I think there is a sense of empowerment on the part of the Democrats. They won [the House and Senate] and they’re feeling their oats. In addition, I think the left wing of the party – and I’m talking about the “net roots” – have decided to try to put Democratic candidates through a kind of loyalty test.

Wallace doesn’t bother to explain how rebuffing Fox’ invitations translates into either loyalty or a demonstration of empowerment. The only way for his assertions to make sense is if he is conceding that Fox deserves their reputation for bias. Why else would there be a benefit for Democrats to snub the network? And while his answer includes a baseless swipe at the party’s “left wing/net roots,” he nimbly avoids stirring any substance into his response. For instance, admitting that Democrats may have an aversion to handing over their intra-party debate to an overtly hostile network.

TVGuide: Why do you think they are trying to marginalize Fox News? It really seems like some of the party activists are trying to make Fox News seem less legitimate.
Wallace: I don’t think it’s the presidential candidates. Frankly, I think they are pandering to that constituency […] It will end when they need us. They’ll need us when we get closer to the general election and [they] are going to want to reach the independents, moderate Republicans and Democrats who watch Fox News routinely and form the majority of our audience.

First of all, it is Fox News that is making Fox News seem less legitimate, not Democrats. And in support of that effort, Wallace makes an utterly absurd declaration as to the composition of the majority of the Fox audience. Democrats do not need Fox and the evidence of that was documented in this poll by the Mellman Group who found that…

“Fox News viewers supported George Bush over John Kerry by 88 percent to 7 percent. No demographic segment, other than Republicans, was as united in supporting Bush. Conservatives, white evangelical Christians, gun owners, and supporters of the Iraq war all gave Bush fewer votes than did regular Fox News viewers.”

TVGuide: Do you think they have a case, in terms of feeling that Fox News Channel has been unfair to them?
Wallace: No more than I think Republicans have a case in saying that the mainstream media has been unfair to them.

There are three very profound revelations in that brief response. First, just who does Wallace think the “mainstream media” is when Fox News is the #1 cable news network in the country and its parent, News Corp., additionally owns multiple newspapers, magazines, Internet sites and TV and radio stations? Secondly, it should be noted that Wallace is not making a distinction between Fox News and some other news entity. He is positioning Fox against all other news entities that he ambiguously labels mainstream. That confrontation illustrates his perception of Fox as a beleaguered outcast amongst its journalistic peers which means, by extension, that it espouses a unique (i.e. biased) point of view. Thirdly, he doesn’t actually answer the question as to whether Democrats’ objections to Fox are justified. He merely insinuates that the other kids do it too.

TVGuide: Do you think the popularity of Fox’s conservative commentators overshadows the straight news reporting?
Wallace: The people who want to misunderstand Fox will use some of the prime-time conservative commentators as an excuse.

Of course they can also use Brit Hume, Carl Cameron, Jim Angle, Neil Cavuto, and the former Fox anchor, Tony Snow, who has since been transferred to the Fox division at the White House. The premise of the question assumes facts not in evidence – i.e. that Fox is capable of “straight news reporting.”

Wallace (cont’d): Over the last three years we’ve had Hillary Clinton, Ted Kennedy, Howard Dean repeatedly – I think they are able to distinguish between Fox News and the opinion shows. We don’t have a problem booking Democrats at all. It didn’t work out the way anyone expected, but we had Bill Clinton in September.

It’s rather astonishing that Wallace actually brings up, without any hint of irony, the Bill Clinton interview, of which the highlight was Clinton’s withering accusations of bias on the part of Wallace and Fox. However, he fails to grasp that Democrats, by not participating in Fox-sponsored debates, are not engaging in a boycott of all appearances on the network. There is big difference between routine media availability and party-specific events.

In the end, I suppose we all should be grateful for Wallace’s inadvertent transparency. It makes it that much easier to prove that Fox really does deserve to be marginalized as an illegitimate news source. Thanks, Chris.

The Media’s Take on Alberto Gonzales

These are the headlines from Google News the evening after Alberto Gonzales testified before the U. S. Senate to explain the firing of U. S. Attorneys:

GOP Senator Calls for Gonzales to Resign – Forbes, NY
GOP Senator Calls for Gonzales to Resign – FOX News
Gonzales losing GOP support – Dallas Morning News
On a very hot seat with little cover and less support – Int’l Herald Tribune
Gonzales Endures Harsh Session With Senate Panel – New York Times
Gop Senator Calls For Gonzales To Resign – Guardian Unlimited
Gonzales losing GOP support – Houston Chronicle
Gonzales Rejects Call For His Ouster – Guardian Unlimited
White House says attorney gen’l has Bush’s ‘full confidence’ – MarketWatch
Gonzales Struggles to Sway Skeptics – ABC News
Gonzales rejects call for his ouster – Boston Globe
Gonzales’s Candor, Judgment Questioned by Senators – Bloomberg
Gonzales can’t sway skeptical senators – San Diego Union Tribune

Which of these things is not like the other? And how long will it be before Bush tells Gonzales that he’s doing, “a heckuva job?”