Last year, Washington Post education reporter Bill Turque made clear what he thought of how his paper's editorial board covered then-Washington, D.C., schools chancellor Michelle Rhee.
In a blog post, Turque wrote that the Post's editorial support for Rhee had been "steadfast, protective and, at times, adoring."
The item was quickly removed from the Post's website, but Turque is hardly alone in his views.
Two of the Post's journalists covering education recently shared with Media Matters their own concerns about the way the paper's editorial page has covered Rhee.
Jay Mathews, a 40-year Post scribe who writes the Class Struggle blog and a weekly column, pointed to editorial writer Jo-Ann Armao's coverage of recent allegations of potential cheating on standardized tests. Mathews noted that Armao is his former boss and praised her work on education in general, but he said that on the testing issue, he could not "understand why her reporting instincts have failed her." Mathews criticized what he called Armao's "failure to address seriously what seems to me are problems that cannot be overlooked," later adding, "Her failure to see that, I find troubling and puzzling given my great respect for her as a person and a journalist."
Valerie Strauss, who pens the Post's Answer Sheet blog, told Media Matters:
"I didn't agree with very much of the editorial stance when it came to the Rhee era. But certainly, as an editorial board, it had a right to take a stand and stick to it. That's what editorial boards do." She added, "There were times when they could have been more critical, they could have looked harder and been more even-handed about how they presented information."
Rhee's tenure at the helm of D.C.'s schools -- from 2007 to 2010 -- was contentious. She implemented a controversial reform program designed to improve achievement. She angered some parents and education officials and fired hundreds of teachers. (Rhee reportedly once invited a PBS camera crew to film her firing a principal.)
Rhee had something to show for her work -- gains in student achievement. The Post editorial page -- along with other Rhee supporters -- has pointed to rising test scores as evidence of her success.
CNN business correspondent Alison Kosik, whose recent tweets referred to Occupy Wall Street protesters as whiners and interested in "smoking weed," now regrets at least one of the postings, according to a CNN spokesperson.
Asked to respond to the tweets that have drawn criticism from media critics and journalism veterans, CNN emailed this short statement:
Alison regrets the tweet and took it down.
That statement was in reference to a Twitter exchange Kosik had in which she described the "purpose" of Occupy Wall Street protests "in 140 [characters] or less" as "bang on the bongos, smoke weed!"
Another Kosik tweet, in response to a question about the list of demands from protesters, stated: "the list of whines is too long already."
Both Twitter comments were captured by NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen. Kosik has removed the "smoke weed" posting, but the "whines" item remained up as of Friday afternoon.
Several media writers and news instructors said Kosik crossed the line when she offered such opinions on Twitter while also covering the growing story as a CNN reporter.
"What is her job? Is she a straight news reporter?" Eric Deggans, media critic of the St. Petersburg Times, asked sarcastically. "And if she is considered a straight news reporter, it crosses the line because she is revealing contempt for the protesters before she even gets there."
Media critic David Zurawik of The Baltimore Sun said Kosik needs to understand the power of her tweets.
"It's public record. You can say 'I'm doing it in a different forum, it is not in the story or the post or the report,' but you are still making a public utterance about this story," Zurawik said. "I think this is really a management problem at CNN New York. I don't think their standards are there. You have what is really an important story, literally on your doorstep and you go out and make fun of it."
Radio Host Neal Boortz's attempt to compare President Obama's presidency to the tragedy of September 11 drew harsh criticism from several relatives of people who died on that day.
Boortz, appearing on Fox News' Hannity program Thursday night, stated: "Barack Obama is a bigger disaster to this country than 9-11."
For some of those who lost loved ones that day, the comparison is an insult.
"One of the most unsettling aspects of the aftermath of 9-11 has been the politicization of it," said Donald Goodrich, whose son, Peter, died in the attacks.
"It is a sad commentary on our democracy that the loss of nearly 3,000 innocent civilians of every political persuasion and religious conviction is used to demonize a president of this great country."
Timothy Sumner, whose brother-in-law was a firefighter killed on September 11, said he is no fan of Obama. But he criticized Boortz's comparison
"I think it's a ridiculous comment, it is so far off the topic, how can you emote from that?" Sumner said. "It is not even related to 9/11.
"I have issues with Barack Obama. But when you make comments like that, it is so over the top and out of context it is hard to do anything but laugh at the comment, it seems idiotic."
For Nancy Aronson, whose sister-in-law, Myra, was killed on September 11, the response was shock.
"Oh my God!" she said. "That's just ridiculous. It's politicizing an international tragedy. People from 53 countries died on September 11. Even linking Obama with that, it's just a non sequitur."
Herb Ouida's son, Todd, was killed in the North Tower on September 11. Ouida said the comparison to and criticism of Obama are both wrong.
Judith Miller's criticism of a Poynter Institute online course on Islamic issue reporting, which she claimed urged "political correctness," drew a harsh rebuttal from the journalism training outlet.
Kelly McBride, a Poynter senior faculty member, told Media Matters: "I think she's crazy. The course urges journalists to be smart, accurate and contextual when it comes to reporting on Islam in America. It suggests that when you are reporting about deaths caused by Islamic terrorists that you not descend into fear mongering and instead put the threat of terrorism in proper context.
"It is a sound, solid journalistic course, it's based on the values of accuracy and fairness and context and independence in minimizing harm."
At issue is an online column Miller posted at Fox News' website Friday about the free Poynter online course: Covering Islam in America.
Poynter's News University presents the course in conjunction with Washington State University and the Social Science Research Council.
Miller wrote that she took the course and objected to its suggestion that Islamic terrorism might be getting disproportionate coverage in relation to other deadly issues such as AIDS or world hunger:
The professors offer these helpful comparative death tolls to give the 9/11 death toll "some context," they say.
But the implicit message of the course seems obvious enough: 3,000 dead Americans, (and they might have looked up the actual death toll) have been over-covered. Why don't journalists spend more time covering malaria, or hunger, or especially HIV/AIDS, which the last time I checked, was hardly being ignored by the nation's media?
For that matter, why aren't the media investigating bathtub deaths, since according to "Overblown," John Mueller's attack on what he regards as the government's obsessive focus on terrorism, more Americans die in bathtub accidents each year than in terrorist attacks?
The answer should be fairly obvious to such an august institution as Poynter: just as the press covers murders rather than traffic fatalities, which far outnumber killings in America each year, it covers terrorism intensively because motive matters.
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?