Jun
29
2012

Public TV's Narrow Debate on Supreme Court and Obamacare

PBS NewsHour host Judy Woodruff introduced a panel discussion on the Supreme Court's Affordable Care Act decision (6/28/12) as a chance to get "some reaction and assessment from those who will deal with the law or had worked to overturn it." That set-up sounded like it a pretty narrow discussion was to follow–and it did. At the table was Karen Ignani, president of the insurance industry lobby America's Health Insurance Plans. So was former Republican Florida attorney general Bill McCollum, who sued the White House over the law. There was one advocate of Obamacare–Ron Pollack  of Families USA, a group […]

Jun
29
2012

Is Limbaugh Sure He Wants Lying to Be a Crime?

The Supreme Court decided on Thursday that lying about medals and military service, while "contemptible," is protected under the First Amendment's free speech clause. The court said the federal "Stolen Valor" law was overly broad and imposed a chilling effect on free speech. This news enraged Rush Limbaugh, who responded on is radio show with disdain, facetiously wondering, "I don't know if they legalized pedophilia or not." An interesting non sequitur, but back on point: Limbaugh's comprehension of freedom of speech has always been a crabbed affair, pretty much limited to the view that he and his conservative allies–people who enjoy […]

Jun
29
2012

The Race to Be First to Be Wrong at the Supreme Court

In corporate media there is always a race to be first to report a breaking story seconds before your competitors. It means nothing to the rest of the world–we're talking a matter of seconds, much of the time–but it's a point of pride in the news business to be first. Being right is more important, by several miles, and on that score a few prominent outlets failed spectacularly yesterday at the Supreme Court, telling viewers that the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act had been struck down. The prime offenders on cable were Fox News (photo by @jasonkeath)  and […]

Jun
28
2012

Newsweek's 'New Media' List Resembles Old Media

The new issue of Newsweek magazine is full of lists. This is a surefire way to generate buzz, since people are bound to disagree with who's on your list– and then write about it. Which is exactly what I'm doing. But one of the lists really jumped out. The magazine selected the top "Opinionists," who are apparently the "best online writers at war with the obvious." The first thing you notice is that two of the five judges are Newsweek-affiliated columnists: conservative David Frum and the right-leaning Andrew Sullivan. And who made the list of top opinion writers? Frum and […]

Jun
26
2012

This Just In: Hillary Clinton's Scrunchie

Take my word for it. Diane Sawyer, ABC World News (6/21/12): And now to the ongoing master class in letting your hair down, by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.These past few months, we've been watching her swig a beer, brandish a scrunchie without apology, and makeup free and telling everybody she doesn't care what they think. And today, donning wing-tipped purple glasses at the swearing in of a new assistant secretary whose favorite color just happens to be purple. Proof that nobody does unplugged quite like the secretary of state, who is leaving office by the end of the year. […]

Jun
22
2012

NYT Discovers the Other Side of Spending Cuts

It's been said (by me!) that the big spending cuts set to hit the federal budget next year–so-called "sequestration"–are not created equal, at least in the eyes of the corporate media. The cuts, as designed, hit the military budget and non-military spending in roughly equal measure. The political calculation was that Republicans would object to the military cuts while Democrats would object to cuts in social spending. But in the corporate media, those non-military cuts hardly ever get any attention–perhaps because there are not powerful lobbyists and Cabinet officials complaining loudly about how the safety of the country is at […]

Jun
22
2012

When 'Factchecking' Means Telling Your Colleagues They're Liars

Factchecking ought to be an everyday part of each journalist's job, but instead it's relegated to a specialty feature. Maybe lack of regular practice explains why those side efforts are so disappointing. Take Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post's piece (6/21/12) on Barack Obama's latest ad critical of presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney. Kessler gives the ad "four Pinocchios"–reserved for the most deceptive statements: "On just about every level, this ad is misleading, unfair and untrue, from the use of 'corporate raider' to its examples of alleged outsourcing." Kessler was defiant when Talking Points Memo (6/22/12) asked him how he […]

Jun
21
2012

Aaron Sorkin, Media Critic

Screenwriter and TV producer Aaron Sorkin's upcoming HBO show The Newsroom apparently follows a cable news host who decides to stop playing it safe; he follows his conscience and starts doing shows about things that actually matter. (It's fiction, in other words.) In an interview with USA Today (6/20/12), Sorkin reveals that he's been thinking about the role of the media: "I don't see the liberal bias—and I'm trying to—that I hear about," he says. "What I do see is a bias toward fairness, a bias toward neutrality, a bias toward false equivalency. That if a Republican has lied, it's […]

Jun
21
2012

ABC: European Elections Matter, Mostly to American 401(k)s

Parliamentary elections in Greece saw the conservative-leaning New Democracy party win a narrow victory over the left-wing anti-austerity Syriza coalition. This was good news for an array of major players who prefer Greece to stick to the current punishing bailout plan arranged by European countries. ABC World News showed which angle mattered most when anchor Diane Sawyer led a report (6/18/12) on the election results this way: And now we move on to your money and the momentary sigh of relief for every American with a 401(k). The voters of Greece this weekend decided to stay the course in Europe, […]

Jun
19
2012

Turning Down a Free Palace for Everyone Requires a Very Good Reason

Imagine an amazing new invention that allowed anyone to duplicate any existing building, using no resources. However, the law requires you to pay for such instant buildings, at about the price of those made the old-fashioned way, on the grounds that allowing everyone to live in their ideal home for free would make it hard for architects to make a living. Relatively little of the money paid for the new houses, though, goes to architects–or even to their great-grandchildren, many of the actual architects being long dead; most of it, rather, goes to builders and real estate agents, even though […]

Jun
18
2012

Pakistan's Weird Media

Pakistan has seen a television revolution over the past decade or so, opening up the political dialogue and in some cases giving voice to pro-democracy demonstrators. But there's been a downside, as the New York Times noted: But the television revolution has also, in some respects, been bad news for Pakistan. Some shows have given an unchallenged platform to extremists like Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, the founder of the militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, for whom the United States has offered a $10 million bounty. Conservative clerics have used the airwaves to reinforce prejudice and even urge violence against minorities. Editorial independence is […]

Jun
18
2012

Nuclear Power and the Not-So-Divided Japanese Public

The news that Japan will re-start some nuclear power facilities gives us this headline in the New York Times (6/17/12): Japan Public Still Divided as 2 Reactors to Be Opened But the lead by reporter Martin Fackler almost immediately contradicts the "divided" headline: TOKYO — Brushing aside widespread public opposition to avoid feared electric power shortages, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda ordered the reactivation of two nuclear reactors at a plant in western Japan on Saturday. If there's "widespread public opinion," can people really be divided? It turns out this is not just a problem with a headline writer. The article […]

Jun
15
2012

Millionaire Pundit: Public Sector Pensions Are the Real Threat

CNN host and Time columnist Fareed Zakaria is no doubt a wealthy guy. He reportedly gets paid $75,000 for one hour speeches. Who has that kind of money? As CJR recently noted: Over the years, he has been retained for speeches by numerous financial firms, including Baker Capital, Catterton Partners, Driehaus Capital Management, ING, Merrill Lynch, Oak Investment Partners, Charles Schwab and T. Rowe Price, according to the website of the Royce Carlton speakers bureau. All of which brings us to his new column in Time magazine, where he rails against the cushy pensions of public sector workers and slams […]