Jul
30
2012

Pundit Accountability: What an Idea!

Writing in Newsweek, Peter Beinart has a pretty good idea: America's foreign-policy debate desperately needs some measure of accountability. I'm not suggesting that politicians and pundits who got Iraq wrong be banished from public life. (This standard would leave me looking for other work.) But neither should they be able to flee the scene of the disaster. Imagine if every time Joe Biden or Hillary Clinton or John Bolton or John McCain or William Kristol was interviewed about military intervention in Iran or Syria, the interviewer began by asking what they've learned about the subject from their experience supporting the […]

Jul
30
2012

The Toll of Drone Wars…on U.S Pilots

There are plenty of worthwhile things media could try to tell us about U.S. drone wars. But does the world need another uncritical piece about the difficult life of a drone pilot? Apparently someone at the New York Times thought so, and so readers get a story (7/30/12) headlined "A Day Job Waiting for a Kill Shot a World Away." Reporter Elisabeth Bumiller (perhaps best known for a testy C-SPAN appearance where she explained that New York Times reporters "can't just say the president is lying") gives us a glimpse into the struggles of the pilots who spend hours–even days–tracking […]

Jul
30
2012

Never Maverick McCain Back to Still Not Being Much of a Maverick

Political reporters, for whatever reason, have always had a lot invested in John McCain. Reporters were enthralled by McCain the "maverick" 2000 presidential candidate, advancing the campaign's theme that McCain was a different kind of Republican. There was never much to this act; McCain had a solidly conservative record before being lionized as a maverick. He briefly tacked to the middle after losing the Republican nomination in 2000, then was soon back to being one of the most reliably conservative Republicans in Congress. But the press that made the maverick storyline stick is stuck with it, and every so often […]

Jul
27
2012

Remembering Alexander Cockburn

Alexander Cockburn with his niece Laura Flanders.

The July 27 CounterSpin noted the passing of one of media criticism's greatest writers: FAIR was saddened to hear of the death of radical journalist Alexander Cockburn. He was one of the writers to whom FAIR is most indebted, inspiring a revival of hard-hitting political media criticism with the Press Clips column in the Village Voice, which he launched in 1973, and then with Beat the Devil in the Nation, starting in 1983. Part of his appeal was simply how well he wrote: He had a voice that could not be imitated–effortlessly stylish, boundlessly informed, savagely funny and unapologetically left. […]

Jul
24
2012

Obama Stoops to Convincing Voters Not to Support the Other Guy

bain-ad

Thomas Byrne Edsall on the New York Times' Campaign Stops blog (7/23/12) accuses Barack Obama of "the politics of anything goes." His evidence: The Obama campaign is running ads attempting to persuade voters not to vote for Mitt Romney. The logic here is sort of hard to follow. First Edsall quotes Obama telling "those who are preparing to divide us" in 2008 that "there's not a liberal America and a conservative America; there's the United States of America." Then he points out that Obama's 2012 campaign (like, undoubtedly, his 2008 campaign) identifies various demographic groups for messaging. I know, shocking. […]

Jul
20
2012

Objectivity and Its Opposite, 'Objectivity'

Whigs vs. Tories

One of the most confusing terms in the media discussion is "objectivity." In philosophy, it refers to a belief in a reality independent of the conscious mind, generally one that can more or less be known and meaningfully discussed. In journalism, on the other hand, it means "don't scare away any potential customers." "Objective" journalism emerged as newspapers realized that they were alienating potential readers by positioning themselves as a paper that saw the world through the lens of a particular party. Why be a Whig paper or a Tory paper, in other words, when you could be an independent […]

Jul
20
2012

Blaming Iran for Bulgaria Bombing: Assertions Before Evidence

Right after news of a suicide bombing attack in Bulgaria that killed five Israeli tourists, Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu pointed the finger squarely at Iran. For media outlets that are supposed to evaluate claims based on evidence, this could have been a problem. But many outlets took these claims at face value–and in some cases actually bolstered his case. "Five Israelis Killed in Bulgaria; Netanyahu Blames Iranians," read a New York Times headline (7/19/12). There was no evidence to support this, but look at how the Times' Nicholas Kulish and Matthew Brunwasser worked to shore up the claims: Iran had […]

Jul
20
2012

Action Alert: CBS's Climate Change Denying Weather Expert?

FAIR's most recent Action Alert shows how CBS "severe weather" expert David Bernard is a climate change denier. Does this seem like the right kind of expertise to give viewers about the most important science story of our time? If you're writing a letter to CBS, please feel free to paste in the comments section below.

Jul
19
2012

Local TV News–Now With Ice Cream!

A new survey from the Radio Television Digital News Association reveals that we're getting more local TV news: For the fourth year in a row, the latest RTDNA/Hofstra University Annual Survey found that the average television station set a new record for the amount of local news aired. Over those last four years, the average amount of weekday news has gone from 4:36 to 5:00 to 5:18 last year. This year, it's up another 12 minutes to five-and-a-half hours per weekday. Of course, the distinction between quantity and quality matters a great deal. Local television news rarely distinguishes itself when […]

Jul
18
2012

Another 'Palestinian Gandhi' Ignored by U.S. Media

In recent years, corporate media pundits like Tom Friedman and Nicholas Kristof have expressed deep concern over what they claim is a lack of peaceful elements within the Palestinian resistance to the 44-year  Israeli occupation.  Where is the "Palestinian Gandhi" who could inspire the violent Arab masses to lay down their weapons and pursue a more virtuous path to freedom (FAIR Blog, 2/17/12)? Either the many examples of Palestinians successfully using nonviolent direct action to confront their occupiers have gone unnoticed or are being deliberately ignored in mainstream reports.  Another amazing victory for peaceful resistance occurred last Tuesday, when Palestinian […]

Jul
17
2012

David Gregory Makes a Romney Campaign Ad

On Sunday (7/15/12), Meet the Press host David Gregory caught Barack Obama in a big-time flip flop on taxes. At least, that's what he seems to think. Gregory said: What the president would like to do is extend the Bush tax cuts for those making less than $200,000, or $250,000, as a family, and then taxes would go up on people above that. Back in 2010, when this issue first came up, this is what President Obama said back then. And then Gregory played this clip from Obama: I am just listening to the consensus among people who know the […]

Jul
17
2012

Mitt Romney Swift Boats Himself

The criticism of Mitt Romney's time at Bain Capital doesn't appear to be leaving the headlines.  And thus some political reporters are, as Jamison Foser notes, drawing an unusual comparison: Romney is being Swift Boated. The latest example comes from Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen (7/17/12): In a sense, Romney deserves the Swift Boating he's now getting from the Obama campaign and the president himself. In case you missed the 2004 campaign: The Swift Boat Veterans for Truth was formed to cast doubt on John Kerry's Vietnam War record. TV commercials were cooked up to expose Kerry as a fraud […]

Jul
17
2012

David Gergen Factchecks His Friends—and Financial Partners—at Bain

There are some pretty intense factchecking fights over what is true and not true about the Obama campaign's claims about Romney's record at Bain Capital. Media outlets are struggling with how to render a verdict; most seem to think Obama has exaggerated. But one outlet has found a voice willing to deliver a judgment. CNN has published a column (7/16/12) by veteran pundit David Gergen headlined: Facts don't support Obama's charges against Romney This is, for Gergen, pretty strong stuff; he's a talking head whose head mostly talks about campaign strategy and the like. He's not one usually to call […]