• The Drudge collapse, cont'd

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Remember how Drudge recently applied maximum spin to the news that his liberal counterpart, the Huffington Post, was getting a $15 million injection by suggesting the investment represented a "bailout" and that HuffPo was on "life support"?

    Turns out, it's even worse for Drudge. The HuffPo, which doubled Drudge online traffic during the height of the campaign, actually is pocketing a $25 million investment, which will be used to further expand the online enterprise.

    With the new funding can HuffPo triple Drudge's traffic? Let's watch and see.

  • That's how they think at MSNBC

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Following Obama's unveiling of new administration players today:

    Chris Matthews: "Clearly [the team] has the picture we're looking for. The many faces of Benetton or whatever you want to call it. But clearly representative of America more than previous administrations..."

    Joe Scarborough: "We were talking on the set here and we decided they had to split up the white guys up there to make it look more like America."

    (h/t CJR)

  • Does Rupert Murdoch really "despise" Bill O'Reilly?

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    That's the bullet point from Michael Wolff's new "star-struck" Murdoch bio, due in stores this week, and the "despises" claim is getting lots of media attention. But I couldn't help notice when reading the book passage in question, "despises" doesn't come from Murdoch, it comes from the author:

    "It is not just Murdoch (and everybody else at News Corp.'s highest levels) who absolutely despises Bill O'Reilly, the bullying, mean-spirited, and hugely successful evening commentator," Wolff wrote, "but [Fox News chief executive] Roger Ailes himself who loathes him. Success, however, has cemented everyone to each other."

    Murdoch absolutely despise O'Reilly? Ailes loathes the host? It seems if those kind of sensational chargers about a conservative media civil war are aired, than the words ought to come straight from the players involved, and not the writer who does it second-hand.

    In another section of the book, Wolff tries to cement the deal about Murdoch's supposed hatred of O'Reilly [emphasis added]:

    "The embarrassment can no longer be missed. [Murdoch] mumbles even more than usual when called on to justify it. He barely pretends to hide the way he feels about Bill O'Reilly."

    This seems to border on biographer-as-mind-reader territory. Murdoch is asked about O'Reilly and because he "mumbles," the biographer concludes he's hiding is true feelings? I think if Murdoch really did such a bad job hiding his feelings than Wolf would have a direct quote from Murdoch about how much he dislikes Murdoch. But I haven't seen that yet. (It's possbile direct quotes from Murdoch re: O'Reilly are buried in the book. But none have been made public yet.)

    Again, it's very possible that Murdoch doesn't like O'Reilly, and from a purely ideological point of view that would make me quite happy. But it's also very possible that Murdoch likes O'Reilly. The job of a journalist in this case is to confirm the facts, not speculate or fictionalize media relationships.

  • Los Angeles Times, please define "challenge"

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Is it just us, or are reporters just bending over backward trying to find some sort of conflict and tension as the new Obama administration is being put together.

    The latest to try the trick is the LA Times, whose headline claims "Obama's picks challenge party." Sounds bad, right?

    Nut graph:

    President-elect Barack Obama's speed in naming Cabinet nominees and top White House staffers has drawn praise from many within his party, but it also has left a series of likely vacancies that could endanger Democratic electoral prospects in the coming months and reduce diversity within party ranks.

    But once again, there's hardly any there there. The only real evidence of the vacancy challenge is that Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, who is set to become the head of Homeland Security, may be replaced by a Republican in Arizona. That hardly stands out as unusual in terms of transition teams.

    As for diversity, the Chris Cillizza piece claims, "In picking New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson as Commerce secretary, Obama has removed the country's lone Latino governor."

    Of course, the other way of thinking of that is by picking New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson as Commerce Secretary, Obama has elevated a Latino to one of the highest ranking positions in government.

    Guess it's all in the way you spin it. And right now, the press seems anxious to spin dire scenarios for Democrats.

  • NYT, please define "tough"

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    At the newspaper's blog, Sharon Otterman writes about Hillary Clinton's upcoming SoS confirmation hearings. The headline: "Clinton May Face Tough Confirmation Questioning."

    Sounds intriguing, right? Like a real political showdown is brewing. Well, there might be, but the Times provides no evidence to suggest there is. Instead, the blog post quotes Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN.) who appeared on a Sunday talk show and who said he would vote to confirm Clinton for SoS, and that there would be "legitimate questions" asked about Bill Clinton's post-presidential activities. (Lugar never used the word "tough," or anything like it.)

    Talk about anti-climatic. Instead of "tough" questions, Lugar thinks senators will simply ask "legitimate" ones, which means Clinton's SoS confirmation hearings, at least according to Lugar, will be pretty much be like every other cabinet confirmation hearing.

    Good to know.

  • Honestly, who writes the Politico headlines?

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    And is the stated purpose there to be as misleading as possible? Because it's become something of an epidemic.

    Here's the latest: "Latinos unhappy with Obama picks."

    Now, if you're a Politico novice, you might see that headline and think the article, written by Gebe Martinez, will detail how Obama's early key picks for his new administration have angered Latinos and that the article will include relevant quotes to back up the headline's crystal-clear claim.

    But if you're a Politico veteran, you understand that headlines often have little to do with the article's content and that specifically in recent days/weeks headline that try way too hard to gin up conflict regarding the new Obama team usually fall flat.

    Well, add this "Latinos unhappy with Obama picks" article to that pile because there is virtually nothing in the piece to justify the headline. Zero.

    No joke, this is as close as the article comes to substantiating the "unhappy" headline [emphasis added]:

    But at this early stage in the appointments process, there is a trickle of disappointment running through the Latino community.

    We understand that in the click-through world headlines can make or break a story. But is maintaining some semblance of journalistic guidelines when hyping stories asking too much?

  • NBC's military analysts

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    The NYT's David Barstow returned Sunday and updated his April blockbuster story about how the Pentagon, during the run-up to the war with Iraq and for years after that, worked closely with retired military officers who became TV talking heads. The Pentagon did that by, among other things, treating the analysts to special briefings and taking them on guided tours of Iraq. But this wasn't simply a fact-finding initiative. According to the Times, when at least one of the analysts began to criticize the war, he was promptly suspended from the Pentagon program.

    According to Media Matters' research, the Pentagon pundits were quoted more than 4,500 times on broadcast networks, cable TV, and NPR.

    Among the participants in the Pentagon program were NBC and MSNBC, which threw open their studio doors to the Pentagon pundits without ever disclosing their closed-door prep sessions with the pro-war administration. In the wake of the Times' expose, none of the TV news outlets implicated in the story reported on the revelation, despite the fact the article prompted Congressional hearing.

    In the latest installment, Barstow focused on Gen. Barry McCaffrey, who is still featured on NBC News despite his substantial, albeit undisclosed, financial conflicts of interest.

    Here's Glenn Greenwald's take:

    Worse than mere suppression, NBC and Brian Williams have just outright ignored this scandal, continuing to use McCaffrey as an analyst without requiring that he sever -- or even disclose -- his numerous conflicts, allowing him to continue to use NBC News to propagandize for the military policies from which his affiliated companies benefit. Now that Barstow has added substantially to the set of incriminating facts, it remains to be seen whether NBC will finally be forced to tell its viewers about what happened with its own involvement in the Pentagon's program and/or to take corrective action.

    Question: When Barstow wins a Pulitzer next April for his series on the TV generals, will television news still boycott the story?

  • WSJ's Kimberley Strassel: Cliché machine

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Not only is Strassel about 15 days late to the topic (did you hear Hillary might be SoS??), but she manages to pile up like boxes every conceivable CW cliché on the topic.

    1. How can Obama "fire" Clinton?

    2. Bill Clinton has "baggage"

    3. Bill Clinton will be "co-secretary of state"

    4. If still in the Senate, Hillary Clinton would try to "gum up" Obama's domestic agenda

    5. Obligatory mention to Bosnian sniper fire

    6. Clinton might "go rogue" as SoS

    7. "Ugly internal disputes" will erupt between State Dept. and White House

    8. Bill Clinton is hiding the "conflicts" of the Clinton Foundation

    So basically, in her column Strassel repeats everything that every pundit has already said and does it two weeks later. And oh yeah, Strassel doesn't waste one word on what Clinton might actually do substantively as SoS. Great work, WSJ.