Media Matters

Media Matters

The Sins of Elizabeth Lauten

By 12.3.14

Elizabeth Lauten, communications director for a GOP congressman, committed a cardinal sin in politics last weekend: posting on Facebook about a couple of aggravated teenagers forced to endure their dad’s turkey-pardoning ceremony, during a space of time where little to nothing of note was happening on the national scene. Thankfully, our esteemed fourth estate immediately seized on her transgression against the cult of personality inhabiting the White House, and badgered her and her under-the-radar Republican boss until she was forced to publicly apologize, resign, and pack up her things from her Hill apartment and return to that segment of flyover country from whence she came. The media may not know how to handle more pressing matters facing their industry, like whether they should report accurately on a Missouri grand jury investigation so as not to further inflame community tensions, but they sure know how to make a girl cry.

Media Matters

The Media’s Pivot

By 11.5.14

Anticipating dismaying election results, the media downplayed the races as much ado about “nothing.” But historians will certainly find meaning in them. It will no doubt strike them as staggering that a president as “historic” and celebrated as Obama found himself a political orphan in his second term, with some Democrats refusing to disclose whether or not they even voted for him.

Obama rose to prominence in 2004 by casting himself as a transcendent figure who could turn red states blue. He didn’t believe in “blue states or “red states” but in the “United States of America.” He is no longer speaking in those terms. On election day this year, in a preemptive attempt to reject the coming defeat as a repudiation of his presidency, he spoke of the intractability of red states.

“There’s no doubt that, when you look at the Senate races, because of the fact only a third of the Senate is up at any given time, it tends to be a little bit arbitrary which seats are really going to be contested and which aren't,” he told the press. “So, for example, in this election cycle, this is probably the worst possible group of states for Democrats since Dwight Eisenhower.”

Media Matters

Predatory Journalism at the New York Times

By 10.21.14

The New York Times is again on the warpath against what it calls “predatory lending.”

Just what is predatory lending? It is lending that charges a higher interest rate than people like those at the New York Times approve of. According to such thinking — or lack of thinking — the answer is to have the government set an interest rate ceiling at a level that will be acceptable to third parties like the New York Times.

People who believe in government-set price controls — whether on interest rates charged for loans, rents charged for housing, or wages paid under minimum wage laws — seem to think that this is the end of the story. Yet there is a vast literature on the economic repercussions of price controls.

Whole books have been written just on the repercussions of rent control laws in countries around the world.

Media Matters

The Hit Job on Fox News

By 9.30.14

It was a hit job. Sixty veterans signing a much publicized “Open Letter to Fox News” — yet the signers were mysteriously never identified beyond the military branch in which they served.

No wonder. I have been through the list of sixty, and it is filled with Obama campaign workers, one ex-Obama White House aide, liberal activists, Democratic Party congressional candidates, Democratic Party state legislators, and more. The letter was sponsored by the Truman Project, a ten-year-old think tank with a focus on national security. Its board of directors includes Hunter Biden, the son of the Vice President. None of which was even whispered in the haughty “Open Letter” that was distributed to a media all too eager to go along with an attack on Fox News and two of the co-hosts on the Fox show The Five — Eric Bolling and Greg Gutfeld. Instead the letter was presented as a source of genuine outrage from average, non-partisan American veterans — while keeping the real identity of the signers secret.

And you wonder why Americans are cynical about politicians?

Media Matters

When Journalists Commit Domestic Violence

By 9.23.14

Lo and behold, it seems that the media itself has a domestic violence problem. Ten cases discovered at first Google. Which is twice as many, to be specific, as the five cases that have had the media in such a frenzy over domestic violence in the National Football League.

Where are these ten cases to be found? Two cases at ESPN, with the rest spread out over affiliates of ABC, CBS, NBC and, yes, the New York Times. And there are others for television stations not affiliated with the major networks. With all this massive focus on what the Wall Street Journal calls “moral preening” in the media about domestic violence in the NFL — isn’t it a tad curious that the same “moral preening” is absent, that the camera never swings around to the media itself?

Media Matters

Newspapers Line Up for Liberal Censorship

By 6.25.14

Last week, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch decided to stop carrying George Will’s column after Media Matters for America and the National Organization for Women furiously objected to his piece on the federal government’s disregard—justified by dubious statistics—of due process for students accused of sexual assault.

Earlier this month, the Chicago Sun-Times took down a piece by Kevin Williamson of National Review on the transgender actor who had just appeared on the cover of Time. His premise fit inside the headline, “Laverne Cox is Not a Woman.”

There are two possibilities. 1) The editors at those papers failed to detect all the hatey awfulness in those articles before publication, and should resign in shame. 2) They found the articles reasonable, even provocative, but abandoned their commitments to free speech when the pressure got too great.

Media Matters

George Will Meets the Clerisy Media

By 6.24.14

The Clerisy Media strikes again. This time the target is longtime conservative columnist George Will, who was dispatched by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch over a column on rape. But before that? The Los Angeles Times refused to publish letters to the editor from what the paper called “climate change deniers.” The Arizona Daily Sun has done the same.

A while back it was National Public Radio firing Juan Williams for comments made on Fox News about Muslims.

Media Matters

No One Cares About Jill Abramson

By 5.16.14

At the New York Times building in Manhattan two days ago, the entire staff was assembled at a meeting in front of publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. The ashen-faced Sulzberger then made the announcement that would shake the underpinnings loose from the surface of our world: Jill Abramson, the executive editor of the Times, had been fired.

The news settled slowly over America’s journalists, creeping into their bones and leaving them in a state of flabbergasted paralysis. For years they’d covered the Great Recession in which 8.7 million people lost their jobs. Now it had finally happened to someone important.

Media Matters

Words at Play

By 4.21.14

Datelined “Los Angeles,”  the news story began, “Social media has been buzzing for weeks...” Has they? I thought. Who would use the word “media” as if it were singular? The answer, of course, was anyone who had not been taught the difference between the two words, both derived directly from Latin (“media” is plural — always; a “medium” is  singular). For example, Facebook and Twitter are social media; Facebook by itself is a social medium.

As for those who were not taught the difference it is probably a large number of people, inasmuch as few public schools today teach spelling and word definitions, let alone grammar and sentence structure. In this case, though, the article was written by an Associated Press reporter who should know better. If not, his or her copy editor should have caught it. Either the writer or the copy editor are probably graduates of a journalism school. Alas, those schools seem indifferent to whether their students become proficient in English language usage.

Media Matters

Colbert to Cable

By 4.16.14

The world of late night television been through upheaval lately, none of which seems specifically designed to make it funnier. First, Jay Leno retired and ushered in Jimmy Fallon, who has all the late-night charisma of a slice of Steak & Shake Texas toast. Not to be outdone, Fallon replaced himself with SNL alum Seth Meyers who was mostly notable for making SNL less funny. And not to be outdone by his NBC competitors, David Letterman will be replaced by Stephen Colbert, who is not a late-night talk show host or stand-up comedian, but a caricature of a Fox News talk show host last popular in 2004.