Presswatch

Presswatch

No Cameras, Please

By From the May 2014 issue

Before this year i never had much of an opinion on the perennial debate over cameras in the U.S. Supreme Court. I had a vague aversion to the idea, but no clear argument to back it up.That changed in February, after the court heard oral arguments in Octane Fitness v. Icon Health and Fitness, a patent dispute. It was the sort of case that would normally make no headlines outside specialty publications. But the proceedings were interrupted when a spectator, Noah Kai Newkirk, rose and allegedly delivered a “harangue or oration” in violation of federal law. (He entered a not-guilty plea the next day.)In the alleged harangue, Newkirk denounced the court’s 2010 free-speech ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission and demanded that the justices rule in favor of the government in the then pending case of McCutcheon v. FEC, which challenged certain statutory limits on campaign contributions. (McCutcheon won, as it so happens.)
Send to Kindle

Presswatch

CINs of Omission

By From the April 2014 issue

It was an idea so frail, it quickly died from exposure. The Multi-Market Study of Critical Information Needs—or CIN, pronounced “sin,” for short—was the brainchild of Mignon Clyburn, a Democratic member of the Federal Communications Commission and daughter of Rep. James Clyburn, the lone Democrat in South Carolina’s congressional delegation. Tim Cavanaugh, then of the Daily Caller, reported CIN’s existence in October, but it was a February 11 op-ed in the Wall Street Journal that gave the study national prominence. The latter article’s author, Republican-appointed commissioner Ajit Pai, explained:The purpose of the CIN, according to the FCC, is to ferret out information from television and radio broadcasters about “the process by which stories are selected” and how often stations cover “critical information needs,” along with “perceived station bias” and “perceived responsiveness to underserved populations.”
Send to Kindle

Presswatch

Duck Soup

By From the March 2014 issue

Phil robertson makes duck calls, but nobody can accuse him of using dog whistles. “He’s got lots of thoughts on modern immorality, and there’s no stopping them from rushing out,” Drew Magary observed in a profile of the Duck Dynasty patriarch for the January issue of GQ.In an interview with Magary, Robertson bluntly expressed his bewilderment about male homosexuality: It seems like, to me, a vagina—as a man—would be more desirable than a man’s anus. That’s just me. I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying? But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical. “What, in your mind, is sinful?” Magary asked, to which Robinson answered:Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men.
Send to Kindle

Presswatch

Circular Writing Squad

By From the January-February 2014 issue

Everyone loathes the media, including the media. In late November, as the Obamacare disaster continued to unfold, there was so much blame to go around that even journalists who aren’t conservative started directing some of it at other journalists. Appearing on Fox News’s The O’Reilly Factor, Mark Halperin of Time told guest hostess Laura Ingraham: “There is no doubt that the press failed to scrutinize this program at the time of passage and during the context of the president’s re-election. I think any reporter who would argue otherwise would be putting their head in the sand.”Although that’s a familiar critique to readers of this column, it’s a surprising one coming from Halperin, a journalist who is not known to be conservative and thus can be assumed to be at least somewhat leftish. But there was a critique of Obamacare press coverage from the left as well, offered the day before Thanksgiving by Paul Waldman, on the website of The American Prospect, of which he is a senior editor.
Send to Kindle

Presswatch

Now They Tell Us

By From the December 2013 issue

The disastrous October 1 launch of Healthcare.gov surprised even those of us who expected Obamacare to fail. The economics of the law are impossible, but who’d have thought just building a functional computer system would prove an insurmountable challenge?

As it turns out, Henry Chao, the project’s “chief digital architect,” had grave doubts months earlier. The New York Times reported on October 13 that in March, Chao “told industry executives that he was deeply worried about the Web site’s debut. ‘Let’s just make sure it’s not a third-world experience,’ he told them.”

The Times story, written by Robert Pear, Sharon LaFraniere, and Ian Austen, was titled “From the Start, Signs of Trouble at Health Portal.” It turns out the reporters, like Chao, were aware of the impending problems long before October 1:

Send to Kindle

Presswatch

Hit Piece Journalism

By 1.1.14

Front-page editorials, disguised as news stories, have become such familiar features of the New York Times that it should have been no surprise to discover in the December 28th issue a front-page story about a professor of finance at the University of Houston who has been a paid consultant to financial enterprises.

Since professors of all sorts have been paid consultants to organizations of all sorts, it is questionable why this was a story at all, much less one that covered an entire inside page, in addition to a central front-page opening, under the headline "Academics Who Defend Wall St. Reap Reward."

Do academics who attack Wall Street, as consultants to government agencies or other organizations, not get paid?

Like the corrupt French official in the movie classic "Casablanca," the New York Times is "shocked, shocked" to discover that consultants get paid defending the kinds of people that the New York Times attacks.

Send to Kindle

Presswatch

Dull Jazeera

By From the October 2013 issue

NEW YORK TIMES media reporter Brian Stelter greeted the August 20 debut of Al-Jazeera America by gushing that it was “the most ambitious American television news venture since Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes started the Fox News Channel in 1996.” Conservative columnist Diana West lamented that “a 24/7 Muslim Brotherhood channel is now beaming into living rooms across the country.” But when I tuned in for some of the network’s inaugural programming, I found myself unable to muster either enthusiasm or alarm. West’s supposition about Al-Jazeera America’s ideological slant was based, of course, on the history of the original Arabic-language Al-Jazeera, which first hit the airwaves November 1, 1996, just three and a half weeks after Fox. The Qatar-based Al-Jazeera was not all bad. It was known for its willingness to air dissenting views, a rarity in the repressive Arab world, and it even broadcast interviews with Israelis.
Send to Kindle

Presswatch

The Journalist as Apparatchik

By From the September 2013 issue

YOUR HUMBLE MEDIA critic came in for some media criticism over the summer. Its source: Kelly McBride, a senior faculty member at the Poynter Institute, the nonprofit journalism school that owns the Tampa Bay Times. McBride wrote on the institute’s website: “The Wall Street Journal…ran an opinion piece by editorial board member James Taranto, who argued that efforts to stop sexual assault in the military show ‘signs of becoming an effort to criminalize male sexuality’ and is [sic] a ‘war on men.’ Taranto’s view was torn asunder by critics here and here.”

The first “here” linked to a post on the feminist website Jezebel.com. The item’s author, Katie Baker, wrote: “I’m not interested in engaging with Taranto, because he’s a cockroach.” The second went to a response to my piece by Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri, whom I had faulted for placing a “permanent hold” on the promotion of General Susan Helms. The general had reversed the court-martial sexual assault conviction of an officer under her command, and McCaskill aimed to retaliate.

Send to Kindle

Presswatch

Monica Media

By From the November 1998 issue

Out of the mouth of a babe: a shrewd insight into the media. Monica Lewinsky said she wanted to be an assistant producer in TV, or an assistant account executive in PR, or else do "anything at George magazine." The "wish list" she gave Vernon Jordan made no distinctions. Monica had decided that what qualified her for the one job qualified her for either of the others, and she wanted to enjoy a "comfortable living" in New York. As it happened, Jordan never quite came through for her, although there was nothing wrong with her appraisal. If she could make it in PR, she could make it in TV, and if that didn't work, she could always try a glossy magazine. Obviously she had learned a thing or two in the White House. She knew the difference between the press and the media.

Send to Kindle

Presswatch

We Don’t Need No Stinking Badges

By From the July-August 2013 issue

IT WAS an appeal to his political base from a Democratic president mired in scandal. “Journalists should not be at legal risk for doing their jobs,” Barack Obama said in a May 23 speech at the National Defense University. “And that’s why I’ve called on Congress to pass a media shield law to guard against government overreach.”

The president added that “I’ve raised these issues with the attorney general, who shares my concerns.” That was rich. The next day it was revealed that Eric Holder had personally signed off on the decision to seek a search warrant for the personal emails of Fox News reporter James Rosen. In 2012, Holder’s department also subpoenaed phone logs for 20 phone numbers, including personal ones, of Associated Press reporters as part of a national security leak investigation. (Holder told Congress he had recused himself from that decision.)

But it would be a mistake for Congress to respond to the Obama overreaches by expanding the power of the press. To understand why, consider how the mainstream media are themselves implicated in those scandals.

Send to Kindle

Pages