Three weeks into her new job as executive editor of The New York Times, Jill Abramson is set to ratchet up the paper's 2012 campaign coverage with a big meeting this weekend.
"I am going to Washington next Sunday for a big kick-off meeting," she told Media Matters by phone this week. "We're getting a lot of our main politics reporters together in Washington to begin. We have already been knee-deep in the coverage ... We stay very much on top of what's going on. We definitely stay away from minutia, the kind of stuff that would only appeal to the hardest core political junkie. But of course, we have offerings for them as well. That's part of our audience, too."
Abramson, the former Washington bureau chief and managing editor who replaced Bill Keller on September 6, shared her views on political coverage, newsroom organization, and leading a newspaper that is both a journalistic icon and a target for claims of liberal bias.
"I do think it's a misunderstanding," she said, disputing claims that the paper's liberal editorial page bleeds into its news reporting. "And I think as an editor I've always gone out of my way to guard against reflecting any viewpoint and emphasize to our reporters that when they begin their reporting they should not have their conclusions already in mind about what the story is or what it should say. It's true that the ... Times editorials often reflect the liberal viewpoint. But I also worked for 10 years at The Wall Street Journal where the editorials reflected a very conservative viewpoint and the news report was straight at the Journal. I feel that that's what we aim to be, too."
Asked how the Times competes with other news outlets that spew slanted, inaccurate or rumor-plagued coverage, Abramson said such approaches help the Times standout.
"There is a lot of noise out there, but in some ways I think it makes The New York Times' place in the media eco-system all the more important because of our accuracy and authority and the fact that when you read it in the Times you can depend on it. I think that's why we remain the biggest newspaper web site and we have a loyal readership like no other."
She criticized the focus by some news outlets on the "minutia" of the campaign, stating: "My word for some of that news is 'scooplets.' They are not really, they are kind of evanescent."
Former Fox Business executive producer Terry Baker contends he was fired last fall in part because of his objections to controversial host Eric Bolling, whom calls a "fame whore" and someone who could damage the network.
"I think he's a complete loose cannon and his only desire is to be a star," said Baker, who last week signed on with Current TV as executive vice president of production. "He just says stuff to be inflammatory and I don't believe that he has any real knowledge of any of it. He's just saying whatever he can say to get attention."
Bolling is among the regulars on Fox News' The Five, the roundtable show that replaced Glenn Beck's program in July.
On both networks, Bolling has gained a reputation for controversial comments. Just last week, he said that the American hikers recently released from Iran were spies and that Iran "should have kept them." This spring, Bolling used his Fox Business show to push conspiracy theories about President Obama's birth certificate. He has also made a series of racially charged comments, for example teasing a segment about Obama hosting the president of Gabon by saying: "Guess who's coming to dinner? A dictator. Mr. Obama shares a laugh with one of Africa's kleptocrats. It's not the first time he's had a hoodlum in the hizzouse."
"My belief when I was there was that at some point he's going to harm the network because he doesn't care about what he says," Baker, 55, added about Bolling. "He would happily be called names by the rest of the world if that got him hits on the Internet; he's a complete fame whore."
In a lengthy interview with Media Matters, Baker, who spent three years at Fox Business, said his concerns about Bolling were often ignored by higher-level executives.
Baker also weighed in on the future of Fox Business, predicting it will likely seek a closer link to The Wall Street Journal when the Journal's arrangement with CNBC ends in 2012. But he speculated that closer ties could cause friction inside the Journal newsroom.
He also said Fox News' image as a conservative outlet made it difficult to book many liberal or Democratic guests on Fox Business. Baker described being fired by Ailes as a "badge of honor."
John Fund is denying reports that he is assisting Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann with her forthcoming book.
On June 16, The New York Times reported that Bachmann's book "is tentatively expected to be released this fall" and that Fund -- then a columnist at The Wall Street Journal -- "will assist with the writing of the book."
But the story soon seemed to disappear -- until Monday, when the AP reported that Bachmann's publisher, Sentinel, "declined comment on reports that Wall Street Journal columnist John Fund co-wrote the memoir."
Later that same day, the AP published an updated article, this time saying that Fund denied the story:
Sentinel declined comment on whether Bachmann had assistance on the book. Former Wall Street Journal columnist John Fund said reports that he worked on it were wrong. He said that he had no involvement with the book.
Contacted by Media Matters, Fund said Tuesday, "I'm not working on the Bachmann book. ... What The New York Times said is I might be providing an assist to her. That was the wording, and that was inaccurate."
According to Fund, the Times did not contact him prior to publishing its June story.
Fund said that soon after the Times story appeared, he "requested a clarification or correction" from the Times, adding, "It didn't come forth."
Asked about Fund's comments, Times reporter Julie Bosman, who wrote the June 16 story, said in an email to Media Matters that she never received a correction request from Fund. "John Fund did not contact me for a correction," Bosman wrote. "This is the first I've heard of it."
Bosman did not address our question about Fund's contention that he was never contacted before her story ran.
James Desborough, the former U.S. editor of News of the World who was arrested Thursday in London in connection with the widening phone hacking scandal, described himself last month as a "victim" of the situation.
Contacted by phone on July 11, just one day after News of the World was formally shut down in the wake of the scandal, Desborough was asked by Media Matters what he thought of the newspaper closing and the hacking allegations.
He stated: "I'm afraid I'm one of the recent people, I'm one of the victims of the cull, you know."
He declined to speak more on the record, saying he might be more forthcoming in two weeks.
"I'm still working for the company at the moment and I can't really say anything," Desborough told Media Matters. "I just wanted to ring you back to be polite."
According to The New York Times:
The reporter, James Desborough, worked for the tabloid in Britain for five years before being sent to Hollywood in 2009. It is not clear when the actions he is being accused of -- essentially illegally hacking into other people's voice-mail messages -- took place or whether they occurred while he was at the tabloid. Before he was hired there in 2005, he covered celebrity culture for The People, a Sunday tabloid owned by Trinity Mirror.
Desborough told Media Matters that at the time he was the lone U.S. staff journalist for News of the World, though he noted that the paper did work with stringers.
RightNetwork, the conservative media outlet that launched less than a year ago with great fanfare -- and investors that included actor Kelsey Grammer -- appears to have stalled for more than a month.
RightNetwork President Kevin McFeeley claims it is "business as usual," an answer he gave several times when asked specifically about a lack of new programming and web items, as well as about the status of the network's future funding.
But from the looks of the site, launched Sept. 8, 2010, things appear to be at a standstill.
The most recent videos on RightNetwork's website appear to be several Father's Day messages from soldiers posted on June 17.
The top of RightNetwork's website still features an episode of Drive Thru History, a video series produced by Dallas-based ColdWaterMedia, that was posted May 31.
I also want to thank Right Network for hosting me these last 6 months.
Asked why RightNetwork's website hadn't been updated in more than a month, McFeeley -- who spoke with Media Matters Aug. 4 -- said: "Our social media guy accepted an offer somewhere else, so, you know, we're trying to replace him. But, It's just business as usual."
When pressed on the issue, McFeeley insisted that while RightNetwork's Twitter feed hadn't been updated, the network had released new videos since late June, adding, "And like I said, the guy who was tasked with that responsibility left us about a month ago."
Several veteran business editors and reporters have criticized press coverage of the Standard & Poor's downgrade and its financial fallout since Friday.
Those who spoke with Media Matters had concerns with everything from the panic approach taken by some news outlets to the inadequate explanation of what the change means.
"It is a little bit of Chicken Little - 'the sky is falling'," declared Marty Steffens, chair in business and financial journalism at the University of Missouri School of Journalism and former editor of the San Francisco Examiner. "You are still very safe in holding American securities ... there have been a lot of good stories about how it is not terrible. What happens is journalism gets responsible in a lot of things, but it doesn't dominate the chatter in the headlines."
Several other veteran business journalists agreed, though none singled out specific news outlets.
Paul Steiger, former managing editor of The Wall Street Journal and currently editor-in-chief of ProPublica.org, said the ratings of S&P and others should not be taken as seriously as the have been:
"To get too exercised about what (ratings agencies) do or don't do is a waste of time," he said. "Ratings agencies lead and they also follow.
"My view is to never get very excited about actions by ratings agencies because they are just one voice." He later added, "...and the record isn't great."
Steiger was referring to some ratings agencies' past history of mistakes, such as their failures in the run-up to the financial crisis and economic scandals that include Enron and WorldCom.
New York Times columnist and Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman offered his own such criticism earlier this week in a piece that stated:
[I]t's hard to think of anyone less qualified to pass judgment on America than the rating agencies. The people who rated subprime-backed securities are now declaring that they are the judges of fiscal policy? Really?
In light of Pat Buchanan's recent column that gave credence to the views of Norway mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik, Media Matters asked editors who've published his column about their view of the conservative writer.
What emerged were few editors willing to praise him and others who have either dropped his column or find his approach lacking or diminished in quality
As we reported earlier, at least two papers declined to run the Breivik column due to its content, while others weighed in on Buchanan's decreased standing in the syndicated op-ed world. Some also criticized his writing.
"I think he's a nut job, personally," said Janie Ginocchio, editor of the Paragould (AR.) Daily Press. She said she declined to run the Breivik column, but not because of content.
"We run him occasionally but not on a regular schedule," she said. "It's to change up our line-up of syndicated columnists, if [he] is the only thing available."
Ginocchio, who joined the paper three years ago, said she stopped using Buchanan as often as her predecessor did.
"When I saw the (columnist) list, I kind of cycled him out," she said, adding that his column had run weekly.
She said Buchanan is one of several conservative writers she runs less: "Pat Buchanan, Michelle Malkin and Thomas Sowell. I just think the quality of their writing is poor, their presentation is poor and they certainly don't do much to try to defend their arguments. I don't see much value in putting that on my opinion page."
Asked what kind of feedback Buchanan's columns have gotten recently, she cited his July 14th column, Black America vs. Obama, in which he stated that a disproportionate number of African-Americans are receiving government paychecks and other aid:
...not only are African-Americans disproportionately the beneficiaries of federal programs, from the Earned Income Tax Credit to aid for education and student loans, they are even more over-represented in the federal workforce than they are on state payrolls.
Ted Nugent would rather talk about his 'I Still Believe' concert tour than his history of controversial rhetoric.
But as anyone familiar with both his concerts and his views knows, the two are strongly intertwined. In fact, the name of his current tour is also the name of his seminar at the National Rifle Association conference.
So when Nugent's tour was set to come to New Jersey, where I live, last week I sought to set up an interview.
I wanted to ask the NRA board member about: his view that health care reform supporters are pigs; calling the Muslim community "rude and stupid"; and his statement that those who even say "gun control" should go to jail.
And of course his comments during a 2007 concert that described then-Senator Barack Obama as a "piece of shit" and referred to then-Senator Hillary Clinton as a "worthless bitch."
But after initially agreeing to an e-mail interview, his publicist rejected our questions, claiming in an e-mail:
Unfortunately due to the nature of the questions in your e-interview with Ted Nugent, management has declined commentary from our client in an effort to ensure the press surrounding the date is focused on the music and not political statements.
It all began two weeks ago when his assistant, via e-mail, responded to my initial request for a live or phone interview with this e-mail:
Ted is conducting print interview via email
at this time. I have attached background to assist,
and will be sending hi res art.
You are welcome to submit your questions to
Assistant to Mr. Nugent
Fox Television's demand for affiliates to pay retransmission fees has forced at least one broadcast chain to begin cutting its Fox ties this year.
Nexstar Broadcasting of Texas owns and operates 36 television stations in 16 states. At the beginning of 2011, 15 of the stations were Fox affiliates.
But since May, three of the Nexstar Fox affiliates dropped their Fox affiliation and became independent, with a fourth becoming an ABC affiliate. A Nexstar spokesman said the company would not pay the fees Fox demanded.
"Nexstar and Fox could not come to terms on Nexstar remitting to Fox some portion of the station's retransmission compensation," said Nexstar Spokesman Joe Jaffoni. "Fox believed they were entitled to some portion; that is sort of their mantra."
Local cable and satellite providers pay most affiliates a fee for use of their programming on their pay systems.
Each major broadcast network beginning last year began demanding a portion of those fees from their affiliates, with Fox's fees higher than any others, according to media journalists who said only Fox has lost affiliates because of the new requests.
Fox announced in 2010 it would require affiliate retransmission fees in 2011. The proposed fee schedule sought retransmission fees of 25 cents per subscriber per month in 2011, 35 cents per month in 2012, 42 cents per month in 2013, and 50 cents per month in 2014, according to those involved in the talks.
"It is a very big deal, in this day and age, when you are trying to save money, you are risking losing affiliations," Marc Berman, Adweek's longtime media writer, said about Fox's demand.
He added that Fox can hurt itself, too, if it drives away affiliates: "Particularly the way the prime time climate is now, you can lose audience and that can hurt your stations in the long run. If you are a station with viewers who are used to watching Fox on a certain channel, and you switch, that can be a problem."
The first Nexstar station to drop its Fox affiliation because of the fees was WTVW-TV in Evansville, Ind., which made the move in mid-May to be independent.
A North Carolina newspaper that often runs Pat Buchanan's work declined to publish his July 25 column that sought to give credence to the views of Norway mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik.
"It was just radioactive I thought. I don't think it really moves the ball forward in this discussion," said Jim Buchanan, editorial page editor of the Asheville Citizen-Times. "Pat kind of circled back around and tried to pin this on immigration. His reasoning seemed to be flawed in this column. Pat's blaming the victim here."
In the column, Buchanan (no relation to the editor) stated:
As for a climactic conflict between a once-Christian West and an Islamic world that is growing in numbers and advancing inexorably into Europe for the third time in 14 centuries, on this one, Breivik may be right.
The editor said his paper runs about one out of three Buchanan columns, but did not run this one because of the content.
"This guy was an opponent of multiculturalism," he added. "And Pat is seeming to say multiculturalism is the problem."
Also declining to run the column is Opinions Editor J.J. Guidry of The Tampa Tribune, which often publishes Buchanan's work. Asked about this column, Guidry e-mailed the folllowing:
We did not run the column and do not plan to. Buchanan's view of multiculturalism is something we would publish, but despite Buchanan's efforts to take care, the discussion here, immediately after the murders, could be misinterpreted by some readers as a rationalization or even justification for the massacre. Some surely would find it offensive. I'd think it would be better addressed at another time.