Oct
22
2009

Feeding the World: The Expert's Burden

In today's New York Times article, "Experts Worry as Population and Hunger Grow," there's some Green Revolution mythology propagated about how the policies "staved off famines affecting millions." As has been pointed out, though food production did increase, hunger actually increased as well just about everywhere affected by the Green Revolution; the reason the overall numbers showed hunger down was because China, as part of its own revolution including land reform, managed to reduce hunger dramatically. But the overall framing of the article is what bothers me more–the idea that it's "scientists and development experts" who are responsible for "feeding […]

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
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 […]

Oct
07
2009

Working the Refs: The Right, the Media and ACORN

If you want a lesson in how right-wing pressure on corporate media works, look no further than the ACORN story. Right-wing talkshow hosts have targeted the community organizing group for years, primarily on charges of vote fraud. Then two conservative activists produced some embarrassing videos of ACORN workers at some local offices giving tax advice advice to a couple passing themselves off as a pimp and a prostitute. From there, the story turned to right-wing gloating–and complaints about the media being too slow (and of course too liberal) to pick up on the right's anti-ACORN crusade. And some in the […]

Oct
06
2009

FTC Fights the Blog Schwag Menace

The New York Times reported (10/6/09) that the Federal Trade Commission was planning to establish new rules for bloggers: The FTC said that beginning on December 1, bloggers who review products must disclose any connection with advertisers, including, in most cases, the receipt of free products and whether or not they were paid in any way by advertisers, as occurs frequently…. For bloggers who review products, this means that the days of an unimpeded flow of giveaways may be over. More broadly, the move suggests that the government is intent on bringing to bear on the Internet the same sorts […]

Sep
14
2009

NYT 'Fact Checks' Obama

The New York Times (9/13/09) attempted to fact check a Barack Obama speech on healthcare. By all appearances, this is in the regular, non-satirical edition of the paper: Mr. Obama opened his 40-minute speech with what he called "disturbing news": a report from the Treasury Department that, he said, "found that nearly half of all Americans under 65 will lose their health coverage at some point over the next 10 yearsâ┚¬Ã‚ and that 'more than one-third will go without coverage for longer than one year." In fact, that is not precisely what the department found when it analyzed data from […]

Sep
14
2009

Yes, It Is Possible to Exaggerate How Hated Obama Is

"It is difficult to overstate President Obama's unpopularity in most of Louisiana," writes Campbell Robertson in a front-page New York Times article (9/11/09). Yet Robertson managed to pull it off. Robertson continues: "He lost handily to Senator John McCain here, picking up only 14 percent of the white vote. (The state is roughly two-thirds white.)" Fourteen percent? Wow, that is unpopular! But given that black and other non-white people have been able to vote in Louisiana for several decades now, wouldn't it make sense to give the actual share of the vote Obama received? That would be 40 percent, which […]

Sep
14
2009

TV Sports' 'Little, Teeny-Tiny, Super Cute White Hope'

Intern Katy Kelleher at the Jezebel.com blog (9/9/09) has made a worthy attempt at "unpacking all the different levels of sexism and racism that are operating subtly behind the scenes" in recent coverage of professional women's tennis. On the new stardom of relatively diminutive and white Melanie Oudin, Kelleher remarks that "her accomplishments are definitely praiseworthy, but there is something off about the way she is being celebrated": She has been called the "darling" of the U.S. Open, America's "sweetheart," a "pint-sized, freckled-faced blonde from Georgia," the "tiny little savior of women's tennis," everything it seems, save tennis' "Great White […]

Sep
02
2009

'Personal Responsibility' Over 'Legacy of Racism'

Printing a letter to the editor from Leila McDowell (8/26/09), the New York Times has "Another Look at Obama's Speech to the NAACP"–from the group's on vice president of communications. McDowell starts with the fact that the "Times distinguished itself from most major media by virtually ignoring the 100th anniversary of the NAACP, which was started in New York"–and then, "when the Times finally did send a reporter…the resulting article ("Obama Gives Fiery Address at NAACP," July 17) focused on personal responsibility," even though "that was the least prominent part of Mr. Obama's speech": What was noteworthy was his discussion […]

Sep
01
2009

Legal Transparency Another Victim of Ailing MSM

Adam Liptak of the New York Times (8/31/09) says that we can thank Riverside, California's Press-Enterprise for having "fought ferociously" in multiple Supreme Court battles ensuring "the press and the public have nearly an absolute constitutional right to attend jury selection in criminal cases." According to Liptak, "news organizations used to consider those kinds of lawsuits a matter of civic responsibility": "For the last four decades, maybe longer, citizens have been able to rely on small, medium and large news organizations, mostly newspapers, to fight their access battles on their behalf," said Lucy Dalglish, the executive director of the Reporters […]

Aug
28
2009

NYT Stands Up for the Little Insurance Company Employee

It's about time someone stood up for the poor insurance companies! The New York Times today delves into what it's like to be "Dealing With Being the Healthcare 'Villains,'" eliciting sad stories from nice people who work for big insurance companies and feel they're under attack. Times reporter Kevin Sack tells us, "Some workers said that unlike other contributors to the country's healthcare problems–the doctors who overprescribe, the hospitals that fail to control infection, the consumers who do not take care of themselves–insurance companies are faceless, impersonal and distant." Sack and the NYT to the rescue! Let's put a face […]

Aug
24
2009

The Debate Over Afghanistan–Newspapers Are Full of It

In his Week in Review piece wondering if Obama's Afghanistan policy is akin to LBJ andVietnam, New York Times reporter Peter Baker notes that the public mood is seeping into the media: That growing disenchantment in the countryside is increasingly mirrored in Washington, where liberals in Congress are speaking out more vocally against the Afghan war and newspapers are filled with more columns questioning Americaâ┚¬Ã¢”ž¢s involvement. Newspapers are filled with what now? It doesn't feel that way to me, but surely Baker must havesome evidence. Which he does: The cover of the latest Economist is headlined "Afghanistan: The Growing Threat […]

Aug
21
2009

NYT Love Letter to Longtime NYT Food Critic

Eater blog editor Amanda Kludt (8/20/09) has a sneak look at an embarrassingly fawning New York Times review of a new book by their own recently resigned food critic, Frank Bruni–and, "according to a tipster with a copy (not yet online), it's a looooovefest": Exhibit A: His writing has always been muscular and clear. Now that I have devoured his memoir, I hold him in even greater estimation, not only for his discernment and his accomplished prose but for his bravery. OK, Dominique Browning, so you're impressed. But how about sending some more kisses Bruni's way? Exhibit B: The love […]