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.
A top broadcast labor union that represents many BSkyB employees is criticizing the British government's handling of News Corp.'s bid to take over the company and blasting News Corp. for engaging in "unethical practices on a grand scale."
BECTU, an independent media labor union, also expressed concerns about how News Corp. might treat BSkyB employees in the wake of News Corp.'s decision to abruptly shut down News of the World. News Corp. has continued to employ Rebekah Brooks, who was News of the World's editor during part of the hacking scandal, and Les Hinton, who was Brooks' boss.
"I think it's safe to say that neither News International nor News Corp will be winning any prizes for fostering good industrial relations given their decision last week to close the News of the World," Sharon Elliott, BECTU communications officer, said in an e-mail Tuesday. "Our experience is that any company which is part of the Murdoch empire is wholly pragmatic; they operate in terms of the best interests of the business and not of their people."
In the past, BECTU had unsuccessfully urged Conservative culture and media secretary Jeremy Hunt to refer the News Corp./BSkyB deal to the Competition Commission for review -- an action that would have considerably slowed down approval of the deal. After the latest phone-hacking revelations, however, News Corp. itself forced the issue to be referred to the Competition Commission, a move apparently aimed at preventing the government from blocking the deal altogether.
"This is what BECTU called for from the outset, but the [referral to the Competition Commission] now in the face of the seismic developments of last week appear more focused on helping the government to save face given its previous complacency on these critical issues," Elliott told Media Matters in another e-mail Tuesday. "Murdoch too would appear to see the [referral] as a way of keeping the bid alive given the exposure of unethical practices on a grand scale which make the preferred, more cosy arrangement with the UK government a non-runner."
BECTU does not formally represent staffers at the non-union BSkyB for purposes of collective bargaining. But Elliott said British law allows staffers to seek representation from the union for grievances and labor-related issues on an individual bases.
BECTU has opposed the News Corp. takeover of BSkyB for months with several strong statements and actions aimed at stopping the effort and warning of its potential effects.
A group of News Corp. shareholders led by Amalgamated Bank has sued the media company claiming several of its business decisions, as well as the recent phone-hacking scandal at News of the World, have adversely affected shareholder interests.
The lawsuit claims, among other things, that "News Corp executives are ... grossly overpaid, ensuring their loyalty to Murdoch and his personal initiatives," later stating that Murdoch is "larding the executive ranks of the Company with his offspring."
Among the lawsuit's complaints: the company's purchase of Elisabeth Murodoch's Shine Group has harmed the shareholder value; the board as it is comprised has numerous conflicts of interest; and the phone-hacking scandal has hurt the company's reputation and investor value.
"In sum, these acts will cause a direct harm to News Corp shareholders by diluting their ability to influence the Company through the exercise of the shareholder franchise because a greater percentage of the Board will be completely beholden to Rupert Murdoch's wishes," the lawsuit, filed Friday, stated in part. "In contemplating, planning, and/or affecting the foregoing conduct, Murdoch and the other Defendants were not acting in good faith toward News Corp shareholders, and breached or will breach their fiduciary duties owed to them. As a result of these actions, News Corp shareholders have been and will be damaged."
The 94-page lawsuit seeks unspecified monetary damages, a determination that News Corp. board members "breached their fiduciary duties to the Company," and to block the appointment of Elisabeth Murdoch to the News Corp. board, claiming that would also be a violation of fiduciary responsibilities.
"News Corp.'s behavior has become an egregious collection of nepotism and corporate governance failures, with a board completely unwilling to provide even the slightest level of adult supervision," Jay Eisenhofer, co-managing director of Grant & Eisenhofer and co-lead counsel on the lawsuit, said in a statement.
England's top press watchdog agency appears to be facing a shutdown after Prime Minister David Cameron criticized it for failing to respond adequately to the recent phone hacking scandal.
The Press Complaints Commission of London, which is charged with reviewing complaints against the press, earlier this week renounced a report it issued in 2009 that had essentially cleared News of the World from having misled the agency in a previous review.
That admission in the wake of recent claims that the newspaper hacked into voice messages of crime victims and non-celebrities as far back as 2002 drew more scrutiny of its work.
On Friday, Cameron criticized the agency in a speech in which he essentially called for it to be dismantled and replaced, according to The Guardian.
Cameron stated in the speech today:
Let's be honest: the Press Complaints Commission has failed.
In this case - in the hacking case - it was, frankly, completely absent.
Therefore, we have to conclude that it is ineffective and lacking in rigour.
There is a strong case for saying it is institutionally conflicted, because competing newspapers judge each other.
As a result, it lacks public confidence.
So I believe we need a new system entirely.
PCC leaders issued the following statement Friday in response to Cameron:
The Press Complaints Commission has noted the Prime Minister's statement today.
We welcome that there will be a fair and open, evidence-based inquiry. We are confident that such an inquiry will recognise the considerable successes of the Press Complaints Commission, to which the Prime Minister himself referred some weeks ago.
We do not accept that the scandal of phone hacking should claim, as a convenient scalp, the Press Complaints Commission. The work of the PCC, and of a press allowed to have freedom of expression, has been grossly undervalued today.
However, as the PCC has said consistently, it believes that the outcome of phone hacking should be a more independent PCC. It is confident that it is precisely what the Prime Minister's inquiry will also have to conclude. There should be fundamental reform of the system, as we have already recognised and called for. But the PCC can, in the final evaluation, play its part in this. It is already doing so, and this can inform the work of the inquiry.
Now, it is for the newspaper and magazine industry itself to make the case for their continued independence from Government.
Meanwhile, the dedicated staff of the PCC will continue to serve the public (a service that effectively helps thousands of people every year), and uphold the ethical standards enshrined in the Code of Practice.
8 July 2011
In a statement issued today, the Press Complaints Commission of London unanimously condemned News Corp.'s News of the World over the phone-hacking scandal that has sparked outrage across the country.
The PCC, which is charged with reviewing complaints against the press, also renounced its 2009 report on phone hacking that had found News of the World had not misled the commission in an earlier 2007 review of the issue.
The statement is below:
Statement from the PCC on phone hacking following meeting today
At its regular meeting today, the Press Complaints Commission discussed the admissions of the News of the World of its involvement in the hacking of the telephone of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler in 2002. There have been similar claims made in regard to other victims of crime and tragedy.
The Commission's members, both public and editorial, were unanimous in their condemnation.
The Commission was very clear that this conduct was unacceptable and self-evidently undermined assurances given to the PCC by News International in the past. It, therefore, recognises that it can no longer stand by its 2009 report on phone hacking and the assertions made in it.
At the beginning of this year, the PCC established a Phone Hacking Review Committee. It will continue to work actively, and will establish protocols across the industry to improve standards in the future.
The PCC readily accepts its responsibility, shared with others, to ensure that events of this sort should never happen again. To that end, it agreed that public members of the Commission will lead a review of all aspects of press regulation in its current form, which will be designed to ensure that public confidence is enhanced. The Commission will wish to review its own constitution and funding arrangements, the range of sanctions available to it, and its practical independence.
The Chairman of the PCC today said:
"We welcome the announcement by the Prime Minister of his proposed inquiries. The PCC is determined to identify necessary reforms that will guarantee public confidence in press regulation. Already, the PCC provides a free public service that helps thousands of people every year.
There is currently a major police investigation, which has the necessary powers of investigation and resources to identify the perpetrators of these criminal acts. However, the Commission is determined to play its part in bringing to a conclusion this shocking chapter, which has stained British journalism, and to ensure that good comes out of it."
As regard to the debate in Parliament today, the Chairman added:
"The status quo is clearly not an option, and we need to identify how the model of an independent PCC can be enhanced best to meet these challenges. Hence the action we have taken today".
Former News Corp. President Peter Chernin admits in a new TV special on Rupert Murdoch that some Fox News shows are not meant to be "factual."
The newest episode of Bloomberg TV's Game Changers, slated for 9 p.m. ET Tuesday, profiles News Corp. Chairman Murdoch, whose media empire includes Fox News, and interviews several former News Corp. employees. Promotional material for the program quotes Chernin as saying of Fox News:
"There's news on Fox News, which I happen to believe is very neutral and moderate and presented fairly. And then there's the talk and opinion shows which no one ever pretends are news and factual. And Bill O'Reilly or Sean Hannity are clearly people on the right side of the spectrum but they are always presented as such."