Jul
16
2012

How Campaign Strategists Turned Reporters Into Brain-Picking Zombies

Political strategists

In the if-you-like-sausage category, the New York Times' Jeremy Peters has a piece today (7/16/12)  about a new trend in journalism: Political sources demanding–and receiving–final control over what they are quoted as saying in news stories. Quote approval is standard practice for the Obama campaign, used by many top strategists and almost all midlevel aides in Chicago and at the White House–almost anyone other than spokesmen who are paid to be quoted. (And sometimes it applies even to them.) It is also commonplace throughout Washington and on the campaign trail…. Romney advisers almost always require that reporters ask them for […]

Jul
16
2012

Paul Krugman Reads the New York Times

Paul Krugman

Paul Krugman writes today (New York Times, 7/16/12) on media's failure to factcheck campaign claims: Perhaps in a better world we could count on the news media to sort through the conflicting claims. In this world, however, most voters get their news from short snippets on TV, which almost never contain substantive policy analysis. The print media do offer analysis pieces–but these pieces, out of a desire to seem "balanced," all too often simply repeat the he-said-she-said of political speeches. Trust me: you will see very few news analyses saying that Mr. Romney proposes huge tax cuts for the rich, […]

Jul
13
2012

George Zimmerman Was Never Violent–if You Don't Count Domestic Violence…

George Zimmerman's mugshot

Rarely has a story contradicted its lead like Lizette Alvarez's New York Times piece on George Zimmerman today (7/13/12). Here's the first sentence: A wide-ranging investigation of George Zimmerman, who is charged with second-degree murder in the killing of Trayvon Martin, found a man not prone to violence or prejudice and who moved easily between racial and ethnic groups–a "decent guy," "a good human being." No, he's not prone to violence–except, as we learn after four paragraphs about what a great guy he is, that time that he slapped his ex-girlfriend: During an argument with his ex-fiancée, a stylist he […]

Jul
13
2012

The Third-Party Lock Out

Jill Stein, Green Party presidential candidate

The New York Times has a long profile (7/13/12) of presumptive Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein. Though I could have done without some of it ("ever polished in bright scarves and slim pantsuits"), reporter Susan Saulny gives readers a good–and rare–look at a third party political candidate. Stein actually debated Mitt Romney in the 2002 gubernatorial race, and Saulny notes that many viewers thought she'd won. ("It's easy to debate a robot," as she put it.) Barring a miracle, she's not going to get another chance to beat the robot. The Times tries to explain why: She longs to […]

Jul
12
2012

The Broken Link Between OWS and a Murder

NY Post: "OWS Murder Link"

"OWS MURDER LINK." That's how the New York Post's front page (7/11/12)  announced a report that DNA from a 2004 crime scene had supposedly been matched with DNA from a chain used to hold open a subway gate in an Occupy Wall Street protest. Inside, under the headline "OWS Link to '04 Gal Slay," the paper had 37 paragraphs on the story, along with three large photographs with a caption asserting that "DNA from a March Occupy protest (above) has been linked to the murder" of Juilliard student Sarah Fox. The New York Daily News, for its part, had "OWS […]

Jul
11
2012

Fast & Furious Conspiracies: Not Just at CBS

The "Fast & Furious" scandal has been a staple of right-wing media, where it is either evidence of a White House dodging accountability (a  legitimate argument) or a plot to create chaos in order to pass more stringent gun laws (a bizarre and nonsensical conspiracy theory). But a recent Fortune investigation (6/27/12) showed that the central claim at the heart of the scandal is flawed. Was there an ATF program to "walk" guns into Mexico in order to catch drug lords on the other side of the border? No. The problem, as the story documented, was that prosecutors were reluctant […]

Jul
10
2012

NYT: Tax Factchecking Is for the Editorial Page

The New York Times has a piece today (7/10/12) that pairs Obama's tax announcement with Republican attempts to kill Obamacare, presenting both as "politically charged proposals." It's hard to see how the two are at all similar, but the Times attempts to make the connection, noting that "lawmakers worry about alienating people who like expanded health coverage or tax cuts." That actually confuses matters even more. The vast majority of people would get a tax cut under the Obama plan. Repealing Obamacare would do a lot more harm to a lot more people–i.e., the ones "who like expanded health coverage." […]

Jul
09
2012

The Future of the Planet? Get Over It

You would think–or maybe hope–that journalists who have to appear alongside climate change deniers would find it a bit awkward. It used to be that media were faulted for creating false "balance" in coverage of climate change–quoting reality-based scientists in roughly equal measure with non-scientists who either don't think there's a problem or don't think human activity has anything to do with it. That doesn't seem to be as much of a problem anymore (though it made a comeback after "Climategate"). But ABC has a built-in climate problem: The network's Sunday morning show regularly includes right-wing climate denier George Will, […]

Jul
09
2012

Keystone Pipeline: When Industry Ads and Industry-Friendly Coverage Collide

This is the sort of awkward juxtaposition that newspapers usually try to avoid. In today's Washington Post (7/9/12), a story about the Keystone pipeline appears above a Chevron ad: Awkward. Then again, maybe not. Juliet Eilperin's article is all about what supporters of the pipeline project in the state of Montana are saying. Politicians, academics and labor leaders are all behind the project. One critic–a farmer–is heard from ("Not everyone in Montana has embraced the pipeline…"), but she says she'd support the pipeline if it was exclusively for the benefit of a local oil field. Is Keystone really the kind […]

Jul
06
2012

O'Reilly as Paul Revere: The Disabled Are Coming

Bill O'Reilly complained last night (7/5/12) that there are too many disabled people in America: Twenty years ago in June 1992, there were 3,300,000 Americans receiving federal disability payments. Today, 20 years later, that number is a record 8,733,000 workers on disability. O'Reilly's not buying it for a second: Why has the disability rate increased more than 100 percent? I'll tell you why. It's a con. It's easy to put in a bogus disability claim. And according to O'Reilly, who compares himself to Paul Revere, this is a big sign that that "the country is in steep decline": More than […]

Jul
05
2012

Shamir Remembered–With Selective Amnesia

In death, the U.S. media remembered the late Yitzhak Shamir as "a political hard-liner who served two terms as Israeli prime minster" (CNN, 6/30/12), "the hawkish Israeli leader who balked at the idea of trading occupied land for peace with the Palestinians" (MSNBC, 6/30/12) and "a man of iron will and simple tastes" (Washington Post, 6/30/12) who prided himself on his hard-line views, his relentless determination to hang onto every square inch of what he considered the Land of Israel, and his championing of Jewish settlements in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, defying the demands of Israel's most […]

Jul
03
2012

Getting Iran Sanctions Wrong

Much of the media analysis of Iran at the moment dwells on the punitive economic sanctions targeting Iran's economy. An additional round of more restrictive sanctions took effect at the beginning of this month, drawing renewed attention from the press. The clear message from that media coverage is this: If Iran were to come clean about its nuclear program, they could get relief from the sanctions that are starting to wreak serious havoc on the country's economy. That is one of the primary assumptions in the coverage of the Iran crisis. But is it correct? Mostly not. Here's the New […]

Jul
03
2012

Corporate Media Untells the ALEC Story

Independent media outlets have basically owned the ALEC story over the past few years. The American Legislative Exchange Council is a corporate-sponsored "bill mill" that works with state legislatures to pass the kinds of laws corporations want. Thanks to investigations in Mother Jones, the Nation, Extra! and continued attention from the likes of AlterNet and ThinkProgress, a group that prefers to work in the shadows has been exposed to a harsh spotlight. And the group doing much of the hard work to expose ALEC–the Center for Media & Democracy–has pushed many of the group's corporate backers to bail out. So […]