Oct
21
2009

Climate Change Chapter Is Not the First Fakery From Freakonomics

Fans of Freakonomics economist Steven Levitt (and his journalistic partner, Stephen Dubner) might well have been surprised to hear about Climate Progress blogger Joe Romm's devastating debunking (10/12/09) of the climate change nonsense in the duo's new book, Superfreakonomics. Romm points out wacky assertions in the bestselling authors' sequel, like this passage they quote approvingly from former Microsoft executive Nathan Myhrvold: The problem with solar cells is that they're black, because they are designed to absorb light from the sun. But only about 12 percent gets turned into electricity, and the rest is reradiated as heat–which contributed to global warming. […]

Oct
21
2009

Conservatives 'Work the Refs,' Chapter Eleventy Billion

Following the 1992 GOP convention, FAIR's magazine Extra! (11/92) highlighted remarks made by Rich Bond in which the then-Republican national chair explained the strategy behind the right's relentless charges of liberal media bias: There's some strategy to it. I'm the coach of a kids' basketball team and Little League Teams. If you watch any great coach, what they try to do is "work the refs." Maybe the ref will cut you a little slack next time. In a recent appearance on MSNBC's Hardball With Chris Matthews (10/19/09), Pat Buchanan gave a first-hand account of how the strategy paid off for […]

Oct
20
2009

How Much Would It Take to Endow Nonprofit Journalism?

In their analysis of what ails the journalism business (CJR.org, 10/19/09), Leonard Downie, Jr., and Michael Schudson seem to pooh-pooh the idea that newspapers could be turned into non-profits funded by endowments, "as though they were museums." "It would take an endowment of billions of dollars to produce enough investment income to run a single sizeable newspaper," Downie and Schudson write, "much less large numbers of papers in communities across the country." But would it really? At another point in the article they note that the Baltimore Sun is down to 150 reporters–but it seems like you'd still have to […]

Oct
20
2009

WP Healthcare Shocker: Public Opinion Unchanged

The Washington Post reports today (10/19/09)on its new poll on healthcare reform. The headline is straightforward enough: "Public Option Gains Support: Clear Majority Now Backs Plan." But it's not clear there's much news here. The public option has 57 percent support in the new poll. In the last poll (one month ago–9/10-12/09), it got 55 percent support. As the story points out further down, support was at 62 percent before all the town halls. It's a reminder that while the media have given a whole lot of time to critics of public insurance options in general, the public remains surprisingly […]

Oct
19
2009

Know Your Enemy

Politico (10/14/09) published a list of top topics on Glenn Beck's Fox News show, based on a search of Nexis transcripts since the show's January 2009 debut. It's instructive to look at the placement of some individuals, groups and places in the news as an indication of Beck's sense of whom and what his audience should be informed about: ACORN: 1,224 Van Jones: 267 SEIU: 259 Afghanistan: 97 Iraq: 95 Valerie Jarrett: 52 Mark Lloyd: 50 Al-Qaeda: 50 Bill Ayers: 46 John Holdren: 43 Jeremiah Wright: 42 Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: 41 Osama Bin Laden: 40 Taliban: 38

Oct
19
2009

Sarah Palin, Health Policy Expert

A bit of NBC Nightly News last night, from reporter Mike Viqueria: But now Mr. Obama faces more friendly fire. After a key committee passed a plan to pay for reform with a tax on high-cost policies, major unions, normally Obama allies, took out full-page newspaper ads complaining that the tax will hit labor hardest and vowing that, without changes, they say, "We will oppose it." And late last night opposition from a more familiar foe, Sarah Palin posting on her Facebook page and echoing insurance industry claims that the latest plan will mean higher premiums, writing, "Unintended consequences always […]

Oct
19
2009

You'll Never Advertise in This Town Again

The American Medical Association Alliance issues periodicreports on depictions of smoking in popular movies. The group seemed to come up with agoodway to publicize their findings–that is, until corporate reality intervened: In May, the organization, working with the Los Angeles Department of Public Health, announced that the studio found to be the biggest smoking offender would be publicly shamed on nearby billboards. But billboard vendors throughout Los Angeles–which the alliance said are heavily dependent on entertainment industry advertising–refused to run the ad, according to Ms. Kyler. "It's a sad day when movie studios can promote smoking to youth, but public […]

Oct
19
2009

Bon Jovi Is News?

The New York Times reported (10/15/09) that rocker Jon Bon Jovi has arranged an unusual deal to become an "artist in residency" on NBC, appearing across the network's various shows to promote an upcoming album. The deal is all the more striking because it includes a segment on NBC Nightly News–part of the show's "Making a Difference" series–topromote Bon Jovi's philanthropic pursuits. The idea apparently originated with Bon Jovi, who took it to NBC.The financial arrangements behind the deal don't appear to be available, but the network already seems devoted to the idea:"NBC indicated that it intended to make the […]

Oct
13
2009

Fox Commentators Guarding Bias Henhouse

In a 2001 study, FAIR found that in its regular one-on-one interviews, Fox News' flagship news show Special Report With Brit Hume favored Republican guests over Democrats by a greater than 8-to-1 ratio. After the FAIR report, Hume told the New York Times (7/2/01) that if the data warranted, he would rectify the bias: "If it is a reasonable question, and we find that there is some imbalance, then weâ┚¬Ã¢”ž¢ll correct it." A 2002 follow-up study (Extra!, 7-8/02) showed some improvement–a mere 3-to-2 bias in favor of GOP over Democratic guests–but by 2004, FAIR showed, the ratio had crept back […]

Oct
13
2009

Is Engel Too Opinionated–or Does He Have the Wrong Opinion?

When NBC chief foreign affairs correspondent Richard Engel recently returned from Afghanistan, he told MSNBC's Morning Joe, "I honestly think it's probably time to start leaving the country." Engel added, "I really don't see how this is going to end in anything but tears." Engel's comments caused Washington Post media reporter Howard Kurtz (10/12/09) to raise an eyebrow at a reporter stating an opinion: "That sounds awfully opinionated for a working reporter," wrote Kurtz. But we had to wonder if what really attracted Kurtz's scrutiny was Engel's stating of an opinion, or the opinion itself? After all, for years FAIR […]

Oct
09
2009

NYT: Gaza War Worked

Isabel Kershner writes a piece in the New York Times (10/9/09) that starts out as a profile of an Israeli artist who makes flowers out of Qassam rocket pieces. The main point, though, is to discuss thechanged reality in southern Israel, thanks to the invasion of the Gaza Strip late last year that killed over 1,000 Palestinians: Israel said its three-week offensive was intended to change the reality in the south. Since January, when the military campaign ended, the rocket fire has significantly fallen off and residents here are trying to accustom themselves to a kind of normalcy amid the […]

Oct
09
2009

CJR's Bogus 'Liberal Media' Evidence

Tom Edsall argues on the Columbia Journalism Review website (10/8/09) that the mainstream media should just own up to the fact that they're liberal. This comes as a response to the notion that the elite press missed out on the ACORN and Van Jones stories–a dubious premise. But Edsall doesn't make much of a case. He writes that before 1965, "reporters were a mix of the working stiffs leavened by ne'er-do-well college grads unfit for corporate headquarters or divinity school." Since then, however,the elite press"is composed in large part of 'new' or 'creative' class members of the liberal elite." Edsall's […]

Oct
08
2009

NYT's Murky Cold War History

Kudos to the New York Times for publishing a front-page article (10/8/09) about the U.S. advisers and lobbyists who have been working (in one form or another) on behalf of the coup government in Honduras. But the piece glosses over the U.S. history in the region. Reporters Ginger Thompson and Ron Nixon write that the coup government "has also drawn support from several former high-ranking officials who were responsible for setting United States policy in Central America in the 1980s and '90s, when the region was struggling to break with the military dictatorships and guerrilla insurgencies that defined the cold […]