Veteran news ethicists and observers are criticizing CBS News and pollster Frank Luntz for failing to disclose Luntz's financial ties to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor during an appearance on CBS This Morning today to discuss Cantor's surprise primary defeat.
Luntz, a CBS News political analyst, said during the interview that Cantor's defeat was "a great loss not just for Virginia, but for the country." But at no point did CBS News or Luntz disclose that Luntz's firm, Luntz Global, had received more than $15,000 in consulting fees since 2012 from Cantor's congressional campaign.
CBS News spokeswoman Sonya McNair claimed the network had provided adequate disclosure during the broadcast, telling Washington Post reporter Erik Wemple: "His work as a strategist for Republicans was disclosed on the broadcast."
That explanation doesn't satisfy veteran media critics and reporters. They slammed CBS in interviews with Media Matters, saying that the specific Cantor connection should have been revealed.
"I think it is a classic case of a conflict of interest and CBS was remiss in not knowing it," said Alex S. Jones, former media writer for The New York Times and director of the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University. "If CBS did know it and didn't mention it, then they are bad journalists. If they did know and agreed not to mention it as a condition for getting Luntz on the show, then they were not only bad, but corrupt."
Andy Alexander, former Washington Post ombudsman, agreed.
"It's Journalism 101. Anything that could impact the credibility of the person being interviewed should be disclosed," he said in an email about Luntz. "It's a matter of being honest and transparent with your audience."
Ken Auletta, media writer for The New Yorker, said such non-disclosures are becoming too common: "He should have disclosed he got paid and CBS should have disclosed he got paid," Auletta said in a phone interview. "This is very common now in television to have political consultants as talking heads."
David Zurawik, The Baltimore Sun television writer, called the lack of disclosure "outrageous."
"I can't imagine how anyone would think it is ok NOT to clearly explain that conflict of interest," he said via email. "And CBS wants to sell this show as somehow being the journalistically solid viewing choice."
For Alicia Shepard, former NPR ombudsman, such action is a form of deception by CBS: "When CBS viewers learn -- and they will -- that Luntz worked for Cantor, they will feel deceived. None of us likes that feeling. CBS loses nothing by acknowledging that Luntz worked for Cantor. Why not be transparent? "
Kevin Smith, chair of the Ethics Committee of the Society of Professional Journalists, offered a similar thumbs down: "This constant parade of pundits and analysts on network TV with insider interests needs to stop. Clearly, CBS and others are not willing to be forthcoming about these conflicts and share them in a transparent manner with the viewers."
This isn't the first time CBS has had disclosure problems with Luntz, who has been an analyst for the network since 2012. The GOP strategist appeared on CBS in October and November of that year to discuss Republican vice presidential candidate and Rep. Paul Ryan without disclosing Luntz Global had received money from Ryan's congressional campaign.
The National Organization for Women is urging The Washington Post to drop George Will's column after he downplayed the prevalence of campus sexual assault and suggested some college efforts to curb it "make victimhood a coveted status."
Will has received harsh criticism over his June 7 syndicated column, in which he cited the response to "the supposed campus epidemic of rape, aka 'sexual assault'" as an example of how when colleges "make victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges, victims proliferate."
The column has drawn complaints from numerous women's rights groups and prompted National Organization for Women President Terry O'Neill to call for Will's ouster Tuesday.
"George Will needs to take a break from his column and The Washington Post needs to take a break from his column, they need to dump him," O'Neill told Media Matters in a phone interview Tuesday afternoon. "It is actively harmful for the victims of sexual assault when that kind of man writes a piece that says to assault victims, 'it didn't happen and if it did happen you deserve it.' That re-traumatizes victims. I can't believe that Mr. Will has had this experience if he would put out such a hateful message."
"We want him to back off and we want The Washington Post to stop carrying his column."
O'Neill later added, "That is absolutely the kind of further attack on victims that just does such extraordinary harm ... The media blaming women for the horrific rape of violence against women and sexual assault it is really shameful."
NOW's request follows a similar call for Will's departure from the women's rights group UltraViolet, which launched a petition drive to remove Will.
Post Editorial Page Editor Fred Hiatt defended Will's column, issuing this statement to Media Matters:
George Will's column was well within the bounds of legitimate debate. I welcomed his contribution, as I welcome the discussion it sparked and the responses, some of which we will be publishing on our pages and website. This is what a good opinion site should do. Rather than urge me to silence a viewpoint they disagree with, I would urge others also to join the debate, and to do so without mischaracterizing the original column.
The author of Sons of Wichita, the new biography of the Koch brothers, never got the interviews he wanted with the archconservative billionaires. But he says the family nonetheless kept a close eye on his research, deploying the "very aggressive P.R. operation" they have used for years to silence media criticism.
"I had a senior person at [Koch Industries] basically tell me, 'Yeah, that is our strategy, we hit back and over time because of doing this the mainstream press has sort of learned a lesson to be careful about what they say about us,'" said Daniel Schulman, the book's author and a senior editor at the progressive Mother Jones magazine. "I would describe it as pugilistic, [which] is often their style in general."
Despite the lack of support from its subjects, Schulman's book is a fascinating portrait of the often bitter relationships between the four brothers -- Charles, David, Bill, and Frederick -- whose sprawling political empire has become a dominant force in the right-wing movement.
Schulman said the company's efforts to find out about his research and stop some from cooperating is not unusual, noting the Koch brothers and Koch Industries, the company at the root of their vast wealth, have a history of both intimidating reporters and seeking to counter negative coverage.
"People in the media certainly have what they would call their war stories dealing with Koch Industries," Schulman said in a lengthy interview with Media Matters. "There is a range of experiences. They have a very aggressive P.R. operation." He added, "I should also say that I like a lot of people I was in communication over there, they were nice people. But they were aggressive."
Schulman, whose book was published last week, said he began his research by writing a formal inquiry letter to each of the four brothers. He said only Frederick, the least involved in the company, would meet with him -- and then said he would only discuss his family if he received veto power over any third-party source material. Schulman declined.
At Koch Industries, which is headed by David and Charles, initial reaction was curious and somewhat cooperative, Schulman said. But it never amounted to any access to the two top executives.
"At one point they flew out to even talk to the publisher," Schulman recalled about a Koch executive. "They wanted to make sure this was going to be a fair book, they saw Mother Jones and immediately thought the worst. I was speaking to people there throughout the process, but they would never give me access to David or Charles, which I think was unfortunate because I do think that they had not much to lose and a lot to gain. I think these guy are all very interesting and should have their stories told."
But Koch Industries' interest did not end there, Schulman said
"I certainly got the sense that there were ... certain people [to whom] they were probably saying, 'don't talk to him.' I definitely got that impression," Schulman said. "I definitely talked to people who said, 'yeah, I spoke to Charles and he said he would prefer that I don't speak to you.'"
The Koch concerns about the book went even further, Schulman said.
As the newspaper world scrambles to figure out why New York Times Executive Editor Jill Abramson was forced out this week, her ouster has drawn attention to another mystery: Why are there so few women running America's largest newspapers?
With Abramson's departure, only two of the top 25 circulation daily papers in the U.S. -- as listed by the Alliance for Audited Media -- have women as their top editors. Newsday's Debbie Henley and the Houston Chronicle's Nancy Barnes are the exception rather than the rule.
And with Abramson gone, replaced by Dean Baquet -- the paper's first African-American executive editor -- none of the top 10 daily papers have a woman at the helm. That's unusual since at least half of those papers have seen female newsroom leadership in recent decades.
Along with the Times, the New York Daily News, New York Post, Chicago Tribune, and USA Today were led by women during the past 15 years.
Among the remaining top 25 daily papers, at least eight had women as the top newsroom bosses during the same time span. Today, only two, Barnes and Henley.
"There was this time where there were quite a few of us. It was a nice list," said Ann Marie Lipinski, who was editor of the Chicago Tribune for seven years before resigning in 2007 and being replaced by a man, Gerould Kern. "One by one, all for varying reasons, most of that group just dissipated. I can't tell you what all of that means, each story is very different. The sum of it is a fairly depressing lack of female leadership in major newsrooms."
Susan Goldberg, a former top editor at The Plain Dealer in Cleveland and the San Jose Mercury News, said, "it's terrible that half of the jobs aren't filled by women. There certainly are tons of qualified women who are ready and able to lead newsrooms, whether those are print or online newsrooms."
Goldberg, who recently became the first female editor-in-chief of National Geographic magazine, said things were on the rise for women editors, but the trend has reversed. "We made progress for a while, then it seemed to plateau," she said. "Then the [financial] upheaval in the industry came and that may be part of it. There have not been the line of women to replace the ones who left. I'm sorry to see that there hasn't been a deeper bench of women who can step into these roles when they are vacated."
Melanie Sill, former editor of The Sacramento (CA.) Bee and the News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C., called the trend "definitely something to be concerned about."
"It is something that I have wondered about," added Sill, now executive editor of Southern California Public Radio. "It is part of a larger reverse trend in diversity in news in general. We've lost some ground in terms of ethnic and gender diversity."
News veterans and journalism ethicists are urging CBS News to reopen the investigation into the discredited 60 Minutes Benghazi report following new questions about correspondent Lara Logan's actions and concerns that an earlier internal review did not do enough to reveal all the facts.
CBS was forced to launch an internal review into its discredited 2013 story after it was revealed that former security contractor Dylan Davies, whose claims were featured prominently in the report, had lied about his actions on the night of the attacks. 60 Minutes came under fire for failing to adequately fact-check Davies' claims, and not disclosing that a related book he had written had been published by Threshold, an imprint owned by CBS' parent company.
The internal review by CBS News resulted in Logan and producer Max McClellan being placed on indefinite leave, but it included no independent reviewers and no change in 60 Minutes personnel. Speculation has arisen that Logan could return to the program later this year.
But this week, New York magazine uncovered new internal details about the report and how it got on air, several of which were inconsistent with what was found in CBS' internal review and revealed more questionable reporting tactics by Logan. According to New York, Logan relied heavily on a highly partisan source, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, when crafting her report, while internal CBS office politics allowed the story to air without standard vetting - neither of which were disclosed by the initial internal review.
Such new disclosures have prompted demands by longtime broadcast journalists for a further review, including several who suggested bringing in an independent outsider to investigate. They also raised new questions about whether Logan could ever return to 60 Minutes. Media Matters chairman David Brock sent a letter to CBS executives earlier this week calling on the network to reopen its investigation into the botched report.
"I think that the questions that have been raised in the New York magazine piece are pretty devastating stuff," Lawrence Grossman, former NBC News president from 1985 to 1988, said in a phone interview. "I think CBS ought to take a look, as they probably are, and reevaluate particularly now that the whole Benghazi thing is surfacing again. And their role in what they have to do to come out to their viewers and say they made a mistake or that their emphasis was wrong or however they want to handle it. It's definitely worth reconsidering."
Asked if CBS News should bring in an outsider to investigate, Grossman said, "It certainly would be preferable I think, but if they put a bunch of major inside people on the case and were transparent about the findings, anything like that would be helpful ... I probably would just put together a panel to look into the whole thing and come up with recommendations."
Kevin Smith, chair of the ethics committee of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), agreed.
"Yes, I think CBS would be best at reviewing this again," he said via email. "I think they owe it to the public to not just correct the mistakes but be transparent about how this unfolded and who was involved. It's a painful, but necessary first step in recovering its credibility."
For David Zurawik, TV and media critic at the Baltimore Sun, more review is the best option.
"Transparency, transparency, transparency," he said in an interview. "What does it hurt to bring someone in, what does it cost you? If I was [CBS News Chairman Jeff] Fager, I would absolutely, unless I knew there was something I had to hide, I would find a stellar unimpeachable retired journalist to come in."
Health care policy experts are speaking out against Dr. Ben Carson's proposal to replace the Affordable Care Act with a healthcare savings account and $2,000 annual federal stipend, calling it "near worthless" and a plan "for the very rich."
Carson, a retired neurosurgeon and Fox News contributor, is beloved by conservatives for his vitriolic attacks on Obamacare. He has received a raft of recent media attention due to the strong fundraising totals posted by the independent National Draft Ben Carson political action campaign, which promotes a Carson 2016 presidential run.
In an interview with Politico Magazine, Carson says that he supports eliminating Obamacare and that under his plan, "The only responsibility of the government would be providing $2,000 per year for every American citizen -- around $630 billion annually, about 20 percent of what we currently spend on health care -- to provide everyone with a health savings account."
Carson says the current health care system has created "generation upon generation of people who just live that way, waiting for government handouts."
But as Politico Magazine notes, while Carson's celebrated medical record "puts weight behind his criticisms of Obamacare," his acknowledged skill as a surgeon "does not imply an elevated or even rational perspective on health-care policy."
Indeed, several experts who have studied and formulated health care reforms told Media Matters that the plan, if implemented, could have devastating consequences for millions of Americans.
"For a person who has serious health problems or for a person who has a low income, a $2,000 health care savings account is worthless, or near worthless" said Timothy Jost, professor of law at Washington and Lee University who specializes in health care regulation and law. "It would not either allow them to buy health insurance or allow them to afford health care or anything other than very routine primary care and some medications."
"I wouldn't mind the government giving me $2,000 for a health savings account because I have great health insurance from my employer," Jost added. "I'm sure if you are a doctor at Johns Hopkins, this is a great idea. You have $2,000 in your pocket. But if you are from the wrong side of Baltimore, it is not going to help very much. It is not going to help you get insurance and not cover more than basic primary care."
Jonathan Gruber, a health economics expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who advised both Gov. Mitt Romney and President Obama on their health care plans, echoed Jost's concerns, calling Carson's approach "just a plan for the very rich who would not be discriminated against by the insurance market."
"It's not really insurance," he added. "It is leaving you self-insured for any risk above $2,000. The typical heart attack in the U.S. can cost about $100,000. This is typical of the poverty of ideas on the right on health care right now."
Carolyn Engelhard, assistant professor of public health sciences and director of the Health Policy Program at the University of Virginia, agreed.
Local journalists covering Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy's case stress he is no victim and is breaking the law, regardless of conservative media's sympathy for his defiance of government orders to remove cattle from federal land.
Those reporters and editors -- some who have been covering the case for 20 years -- spoke with Media Matters and said many of Bundy's neighbors object to his failure to pay fees to have his cattle graze on the land near Mesquite, NV., when they pay similar fees themselves.
"We have interviewed neighbors and people in and around Mesquite and they have said that he is breaking the law," said Chuck Meyer, news director at CBS' KXNT Radio in Las Vegas. "When it comes to the matter of the law, Mr. Bundy is clearly wrong."
Bundy's case dates back to 1993, when he stopped paying the fees required of local ranchers who use the federally owned land for their cattle and other animals. Local editors say more than 85 percent of Nevada land is owned by the federal government.
Bundy stopped paying fees on some 100,000 acres of land in 1993 and has defied numerous court orders, claiming the land should be controlled by Nevada and that the federal government has no authority over it.
Last year a federal court ordered Bundy to remove his cattle or they would be confiscated to pay the more than $1 million in fees and fines he's accumulated. The confiscation began earlier this month, but was halted because the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) had "serious concerns about the safety of employees and members of the public" when armed militia showed up to block the takeover.
But for local journalists, many who have been reporting on him for decades, that image is very misguided.
"He clearly has captured national attention, among mostly conservative media who have portrayed him as a kind of a property rights, First Amendment, Second Amendment, range war kind of issue," Meyer noted. "That's how it has been framed, but the story goes back a lot longer and is pretty cut and dry as far as legal implications have been concerned."
He added that, "Cliven Bundy and his supporters are engaged in a fight that has already been settled. There are a number of people around these parts who have strong reservations about Bundy's actions."
Las Vegas Sun Editorial Page Editor Matt Hufman said depicting Bundy as a victim is wrong.
"The BLM had court orders against him in the 90s telling him to get off federal land," Hufman said. "He's got a bunch of these arguments about state's rights, it's not federal land, blah, blah, blah. All of the arguments have been knocked down."
Today marked the seventh straight year that The Wall Street Journal has not won a Pulitzer Prize for reporting. It also marks the seventh straight year the newspaper has been owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation.
Does one have anything to do with the other? Perhaps.
During my time at Editor & Publisher magazine from 1999 to 2010, I covered the Pulitzer Prizes each year, corresponding with members of the juries to determine who would win the awards and why.
Anyone who knows the Pulitzers can tell you it is a fierce competition. Failing to take home the prize in no way suggests one's reporting was unworthy.
But for the Journal, which has garnered dozens of the awards during its celebrated history, that stretch of failure cannot go unnoticed. In the history of the Pulitzers, only The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post and Associated Press have won more.
And during the past seven years as the Journal has remained winless, those four news outlets have won a combined 33 reporting Pulitzers.
While the newspaper has won two Pulitzers since Murdoch took over, they were for editorial writing and commentary. The heart and soul of any news operation, its reporters and photographers, have been repeatedly denied in the competition that remains the most prestigious award in journalism.
With today's winners ranging from The Tampa Bay Times to Reuters, the Journal's name is sorely missed by many, its staff likely as much as anyone.
A look at the Journal's history finds the paper's great journalism winning acclaim and top awards, all pre-Murdoch.
From its first reporting award in 1961 for uncovering problems in the timber industry to its last two in 2007 for digging into the scams of backdated stock options and the negative impact of China's growing capitalism the Journal had never gone more than five years without a win, with that stretch in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In the five years before Murdoch's purchase, the paper won Pulitzers for public service and international reporting and two each for beat reporting and explanatory journalism.
The Pulitzer Prize is not the ultimate judgment of a newspaper. And many in the industry often criticize editors who appear to assign stories specifically with the goal winning a Pulitzer in mind.
But for a newspaper of the Journal's size and stature, such a long stretch may be a sign of its goals. Murdoch has reportedly made clear that he does not prioritize the kind of in-depth, long form journalism that often wins these awards.
Opposition to virulent conservative columnist Ted Nugent's appearance at an event sponsored by The Blade of Toledo, OH, is growing, with the president of the paper's Newspaper Guild speaking out against Nugent and an anti-gun violence group launching a petition to stop the concert.
"As the president of the Guild and more importantly as an individual, I do not support Mr. Nugent's political views," Deborah Riley-Jackson, president of the Newspaper Guild of America Local 34043, which represents Blade newsroom employees, told Media Matters via email. "Freedom of speech requires one not to engage in recklessness."
At issue is The Blade's sponsorship of the upcoming Northwest Ohio Rib-Off, a four-day August food and music event the newspaper has been running for four years.
The Blade announced last week that Nugent, a rock musician, columnist for conspiracy site WND, and National Rifle Association board member whose offensive comments about President Obama and other leaders have drawn criticism, will play the festival on August 8.
Riley-Jackson said she did not believe Nugent's appearance would hurt her members' credibility, but stressed, "I do believe that [the] event itself may suffer. The Rib-Off is a family event that a lot of people look forward to, enjoying good food and entertainment. The people will decide if it was a good idea to have included in the lineup of entertainment."
The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, meanwhile, has launched a petition urging organizers to remove Nugent from the concert line-up.
The petition states, in part, "The Northwest Ohio Rib-Off webpage brags that 'nothing goes better with savory BBQ than jamming, rib-bone in hand, to a rocking band.' Certainly, nothing goes worse with good food than the virulently racist rhetoric of a man who has no regard for the dignity or rights of others."
Mike Mori, The Blade's sales director and Rib-Off event director, told Media Matters last week that he had already received "quite a few" calls from readers objecting to the appearance.
"It surprised me how many calls I got," he said. "I'm listening to the people and I probably will do something different next year if I can."
Former Connecticut Gov. John Rowland, who resigned last week from his radio talk show, was indicted Thursday on seven counts of illegal campaign contributions, falsifying records, and conspiracy.
The alleged counts indicate Rowland was receiving illegal campaign payments and engaging in deceit by aiding a Republican congressional campaign during his time as a radio talk show host on WTIC-AM, a CBS Radio affiliate in Farmington, CT.
The indictment, handed up by a federal grand jury in New Haven, detailed emails between Rowland and others in the alleged conspiracy that included former Republican congressional candidate Linda Wilson-Foley, her husband, Brian, and three unnamed co-conspirators.
Rowland, who served as governor from 1995 to 2004 -- when he resigned and subsequently went to prison for corruption -- was hired by WTIC in September 2010 and resigned last week.
A federal investigation had been underway for months into allegations that he received hidden financial support from Wilson-Foley, one of the 2012 candidates for Connecticut's 5th Congressional seat, and did not disclose it on the air as he attacked her primary opponent.
The situation worsened for Rowland last week when Foley and her husband, Brian, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor campaign violations.
According to Thursday's indictment, the Foleys had hired Rowland as a consultant from September 2011 to April 2012 and funneled $35,000 in payments to him through Mr. Foley's nursing home, and other entities, to avoid reporting them to the Federal Elections Commission and hide the payments from voters.
The indictment states:
The purpose of the conspiracy was to conceal from the FEC and the public that Rowland was paid money in exchange for services he provided to Wilson-Foley's campaign for election to the U.S. House of Representatives.
WTIC did not respond to requests for comment, while a spokesperson for CBS Radio declined to offer an opinion.