• How bad is WH reporting?

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Let Sheryl Gay Stolberg at the New York Times provide today's answer. (Hint: It's really bad):

    On the theory that every little bit helps, Mr. Obama convened the first cabinet meeting of his presidency on Monday and said that in an effort to make the government "as efficient as possible" and to ensure that "every taxpayer dollar is being spent wisely," he was challenging department heads and agency chiefs to come up with ways to save $100 million over the next 90 days.

    Budget analysts promptly burst out laughing. A reporter declared at the White House briefing that the initiative would become fodder for late-night talk show hosts. The Republican Study Committee, a group of fiscal conservatives, put out a news release with the headline "Obama's 0.0025% spending cut."

    The key is that second paragraph, so let's walk through it and see how dreadful the journalism is being produced at the WH.

    A) You'll note Stolberg used the plural in her reporting, claiming "analysts" were "laughing" at the Obama plan. Yet Stolberg only quoted one analyst in the entire article and that analyst is a conservative from the hyper-partisan Heritage Foundation. So to be accurate, Stolberg should have reported, "A Republican budget analyst" promptly burst out laughing. (Even though there's no evidence he did.) Instead of doing that, Stolberg just made stuff up about lots of analysts ridiculing the Obama plan.

    B) Who cares if a WH reporter predicted late-night comedians might make fun of the initiative? I mean that literally; who cares? And on what planet would that kind of pointless WH press room chatter possibly qualify as news? Just amazing.

    C) The GOP press release gives away the whole story. i.e. Odds are it was their mocking press release that set in motion the WH press chatter about the $100 million initiative (all the cool kids in the press room thought it was lame), which then lead to Stolberg making stuff up about "analysts" laughing at Obama and turning that into her belittling lead.

    Behold your liberal media.

  • Andrew Malcolm spins Gallup poll results

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Yesterday, Gallup released poll results that show public concern about "big business" at the highest level it has ever been, aside from an uptick in 2002 in the wake of the Enron scandal. Meanwhile, public concern about the threat posed by "big government" is lower than it has been for almost all of the past 20 years.

    Here's how former Laura Bush press secretary Andrew Malcolm portrayed Gallup's findings on his LA Times blog:

    [A] substantial majority (55%) still see big government as the larger threat; 32% see big business as the biggest threat, up slightly from 25% three years ago.

    A "substantial majority"? Perhaps -- but less substantial than at any point in the past 20 years, except the post-9/11 period. Meanwhile, the percentage of Americans who see big business as the bigger threat is "up slightly" only if you consider a 28 percent increase "slight." And, of course, Malcolm ignores the fact that numbers for big business are the second-worst they have ever been in the 40+ years Gallup has been asking this question.

    Regular readers of Malcolm's work will probably not be surprised to learn that he used his business-friendly portrayal of the Gallup results to argue that the Republicans "message" may "resonate" in next year's congressional elections:

    The results provide at least a possible blueprint for beleaguered Republicans struggling in disarray that their message of too much spending-too much government may resonate by the time of the 2010 midterm elections.

    But, as Gallup noted:

    Gallup's history of asking this question dates back to 1965. Since that time, Americans have always viewed big government as posing the greatest threat of the three institutions tested, although the percentage naming it has varied over time.

    A glance at Gallup's chart makes clear that the gap between the percentage of Americans who see "big government" as a threat and those who see "big business" as a threat is smaller than it has been at nearly any point in the past 25 years -- a fact that pretty thoroughly undermines Malcolm's spin that the poll presents good news for the GOP.

  • Who cares what Newt Gingrich thinks, cont'd

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    As long as Politico keeps trumpeting Gingrich's anti-Obama tirades as breaking news, we'll keep asking the simple question: who cares what Newt Gingrich thinks? We're hoping at some point Politico tries to answer the question.

    In the meantime, here's the latest installment, where Politico, stuck in its Gin Blossoms `90's mode, pretends Gingrich is still Speaker of the House:

    Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich tore into President Barack Obama Monday for his friendly greeting of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, saying Obama is bolstering the "enemies of America."

    As we mentioned before, not only was Gingrich essentially driven from Congress more than ten years ago, but we can't think of a single Bush initiative from this decade that had Gingrich's fingerprints on it. Now, Newt can't be bothered with running for office, nor does he seem to represent any larger institution.

    He's just a partisan talking head, which is fine. So why has the D.C. press corps, and Politico in particular, carved out a special niche for what's-Newt-thinking-today coverage?

  • Barstow wins Pulitzer for military analysts story; will networks notice?

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    New York Times reporter David Barstow has won a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on the conflicts of interest of "military analysts" used by television networks.

    The networks have given scant attention to the military analysts story; maybe now that the story has won a Pulitzer for Barstow, they'll pay attention.

    Networks continue to ignore NY Times' military analyst story, but all find time for Hannah Montana

    Networks reportedly refused to appear on PBS' NewsHour to respond to NY Times' military analysts story; several continue blackout

    Multiple choice: Of the following, which outlet covered two recent major national security stories -- NBC, CBS, NPR, PBS, or ... Comedy Central?

  • WaPo's Bacon: Universal health care is a "tired" idea

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Perry Bacon:

    If you watch the Sunday shows, the Obama people are no longer arguing the GOP has "no ideas." Now it's they have "no ideas" or "the same old tired ideas." I don't know what's more tired, Republicans calling for tax cuts or Democras for expensive health health care programs, and I suspect voters just want something to help them get through this recession, whether the idea is tired or not.

    Well, let's see ... we've implemented the GOP's tax cut proposals - many, many times - with somewhat limited success. We haven't tried universal health care. So it should be pretty obvious which is the "more tired" idea, shouldn't it?

  • Define "elite" and "pro-gay," please

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder, responding to Steve Schmidt's call for the GOP to drop its opposition to gay rights:

    AMBINDER: I know that there are many Republicans who support gay rights, and that most members of the Republican elite are pro-gay, and that the business wing of the party could care less about the issue. ... But I also know that the possibility that the Republican coalition will find some way to organize itself without social conservatives is a ways of a way off. Schmidt's concerns may be valid, but urging the GOP top adopt a tolerance platform WITHOUT figuring out how to declamp itself from the social conservative hook -- that's not terribly realistic. That's why so many Republican strategists, even as they're sympathetic to gay rights (and virtually ALL of them are), don't advise their clients to so much as acknowledge the dignity of gay people."

    According to Marc Ambinder, "virtually ALL" Republican strategists are "sympathetic to gay rights," and "most members" of the Republican "elite" are actually "pro-gay." And yet they don't advise their clients to even "acknowledge the dignity of gay people." And they participate in campaigns that do pretty much the opposite of acknowledging the dignity of gay people.

    It seems to me that some definitions are in order here. Who exactly are the "elite" Ambinder is talking about? Elected officials? Donors? Consultants and campaign workers? And what does Marc Ambinder think it means to be "pro-gay"? Based on the context, it seems he thinks it means "privately feeling badly about publicly participating in the denigration of and denial of rights for gay people." That doesn't seem very "pro-gay," though, and Ambinder should explain and defend his use of that phrasing.

    See, at some point in the not-so-distant future, the GOP is going to start claiming it likes gay people just fine, and all that discrimination stuff was a loooong time ago. It is going to try to whitewash its history of anti-gay policies and rhetoric. We've seen this happen with other demographic groups the Republicans no longer finds political advantage in explicitly attacking. Few people want to be seen as the last bigot standing in the schoolhouse door.

    Reporters like Marc Ambinder shouldn't be in the business of helping that whitewashing along. They shouldn't do people the favor of insisting that they are "pro-gay" when they are actually participating in anti-gay campaigns and using anti-gay rhetoric. Not only does that help people avoid accountability for their positions, it delays progress. If silently feeling bad about denouncing gay marriage is accepted by the media as "pro-gay" behavior, gay people are going to have to wait a little longer for their legal rights than they otherwise would.

  • The Red Scare Index: 306 (Last Week)

    Blog ››› ››› KARL FRISCH

    Here is today's daily Red Scare Index -- our search of CNN, CNN Headline News, Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, MSNBC and CNBC for uses of the following terms: Socialism, Socialist, Socialists, Socialistic, Communism, Communist, Communists, Communistic, Marxism, Marxist, Marxists, Fascism, Fascist, Fascists and Fascistic.

    Here are the numbers for last week, April 13-17, 2009:

    TOTAL: 306
    Socialism, Socialist, Socialistic: 139
    Communism, Communist, Communistic: 104
    Marxism/Marxist: 1
    Fascism, Fascist/s, Fascistic: 62

    By Network:

    CNN: 43
    Socialism, Socialist/s, Socialistic: 6
    Communism, Communist/s, Communistic: 27
    Marxism, Marxist/s: 0
    Fascism, Fascist/s, Fascistic: 6

    CNN Headline News: 22
    Socialism, Socialist/s, Socialistic: 1
    Communism, Communist/s, Communistic: 19
    Marxism, Marxist/s: 0
    Fascism, Fascist/s, Fascistic: 2

    Fox News Channel: 103
    Socialism, Socialist/s, Socialistic: 50
    Communism, Communist/s, Communistic: 35
    Marxism, Marxist/s: 0
    Fascism, Fascist/s, Fascistic: 18

    Fox Business Network: 69
    Socialism, Socialist/s, Socialistic: 33
    Communism, Communist/s, Communistic: 3
    Marxism, Marxist/s: 0
    Fascism, Fascist/s, Fascistic: 33

    MSNBC: 58
    Socialism, Socialist/s, Socialistic: 42
    Communism, Communist/s, Communistic: 13
    Marxism, Marxist/s: 11
    Fascism, Fascist/s, Fascistic: 2

    CNBC: 15
    Socialism, Socialist/s, Socialistic: 7
    Communism, Communist/s, Communistic: 7
    Marxism, Marxist/s: 0
    Fascism, Fascist/s, Fascistic: 1

    The above numbers are the result of a power search for these terms on these networks.

  • The White House press corps is the problem

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Writing in the WashPost, Ana Marie Cox suggests the White House press beat oughta be ditched, or at least drastically reconfigured by news orgs, because WH reporters rarely break news. Instead, they sit around and wait to repeat doled out WH info.

    Facing a paucity of real news, reporters turn to trivia, claims Cox:

    Here are some stories that reporters working the White House beat have produced in the past few months: Pocket squares are back! The president is popular in Europe. Vegetable garden! Joe Biden occasionally says things he probably regrets. Puppy!

    But then Cox, anxious to not offend her fellow Villagers, goes astray [continuing directly]:

    It's not that the reporters covering the president are bad at their jobs. Most are experienced journalists at the top of their game.

    That circle doesn't square. If WH reporters are wasting their time writing too much about nonsense like pocket squares and puppies and wardrobes and on and on, than they are, by definition, bad at their job. So why won't Cox say so?

    Cox also ignores the fact that this never-ending trivial pursuit by the press under Obama is an entirely new, and completely voluntary, phenomena. i.e. WH reporters have routinely been locked out of juicy stories for decades, yet managed to not embarrass themselves the way they do today.

    WH journalists are most definitely not at the "top of their game." And that's the real problem with beat.