From the November 6 edition of CNN's New Day:
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The Washington Post editorial board condemned the list of demands compiled by several presidential campaigns for media organizations sponsoring Republican primary debates, predicting that the stipulations "could harm the integrity of the debates." The board called the GOP letter "a threat" that "responsible journalists will ignore."
Following conservative backlash against the October 28 CNBC moderators for their alleged liberal bias, GOP presidential candidates rallied to seek greater control over future debate formats. Republican lawyer Ben Ginsburg distributed a list of demands to media sponsors, including a commitment to not "ask the candidates to raise their hands to answer a question" and to "provide equal time/an equal number of questions to each candidate." Several media outlets have mocked the GOP for "whining" and drafting a "ridiculous manifesto" of unnecessary demands, with one journalist calling it an effort to "bully the press."
On November 3, The Washington Post editorial board warned that there is great "potential for harm" in the debate demands and that "future moderators may now feel pressure to pull their punches." The board stated that "Republicans [choosing] to debate before conservative-friendly media organizations" with the goal of "replac[ing] perceived liberal bias among moderators with explicit and purposeful conservative bias" could be "the largest danger to the [debate] process":
Three debates into the Republican presidential contest, the candidates are staging a revolt. Piling onto CNBC for its mediocre -- but hardly scandalous -- moderating last week, several campaigns are drawing up demands for the media organizations sponsoring debates during the rest of the nominating season. Others are issuing demands on their own. Their discontent has already led to real-world changes: The Republican National Committee reshuffled staff in response.
A staff reshuffle is one thing.Anything that could harm the integrity of the debates, on the other hand, must be rejected.
Some of the changes on the table are virtually irrelevant to the public at large. It won't matter much to anyone other than micromanaging campaign staff if TV networks keep debate halls below 67 degrees or decline to televise empty podiums. At least one suggestion -- that all debates be live-streamed online -- would, in fact, be helpful to those who don't have cable connections.
But the potential for harm is much greater. Candidates appear to want to ban questions that require them to raise their hands or to give yes-or-no answers, on the pretext that such questions don't allow for substantive discussion. At times, that's certainly the case. At others -- such as when, in the 2012 nominating cycle, the Republican candidates raised their hands in opposition to a 10-to-1 budget deal in the GOP's favor -- binary questions can produce illuminating results.
The same goes for the push to ban candidate-to-candidate questioning, or to allow campaigns to vet graphics and candidate biographies flashed on screen. Journalists should be vetting that material, not campaigns seeking soft treatment. Another potential demand -- for 30-second opening and closing statements so that the candidates can recite generally unenlightening prepared remarks -- is a plainly terrible idea.
The largest danger to the process, though, is that this controversy might lead Republicans to choose to debate before conservative-friendly media organizations instead of outlets more likely to offer questions out of line with right-wing orthodoxies. Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.) suggested that irresponsible ideologues Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin or Sean Hannity moderate the GOP debates. Carly Fiorina wants the RNC to organize future debates with fringey networks such as the Blaze and One America News. The goal, it seems, is to replace perceived liberal bias among moderators with explicit and purposeful conservative bias.
Even if that doesn't happen, future moderators may now feel pressure to pull their punches, particularly if their networks want to keep hosting debates that draw high ratings. A draft letter to television networks warns that "the quality and fairness of your moderators' questions" will determine "whether the candidates wish to participate in your future debates." This is a threat. Responsible journalists will ignore it.
Media commentators criticized the Republican presidential candidates' demands to media sponsors for future presidential primary debates, noting that because debates are "a chief means for Americans to hear and weigh the ideas of the candidates," they're "too important to be guided" by a "ridiculous manifesto" of demands from candidates.
From the November 2 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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From the October 30 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Sean Hannity Show:
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On the October 9 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly and Fox Business host Stuart Varney attacked Media Matters, labeling the organization a "hate site" and a "hate-filled propaganda machine." Media Matters has spent years chronicling rampant misinformation spread by the Fox hosts:
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From the September 25 edition of NPR and WNYC's On the Media:
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The Associated Press recently updated its Stylebook by instructing AP writers to avoid using the term "denier" to describe those who reject the firmly-held scientific consensus on climate change. The AP's Stylebook change was celebrated by several well-known climate science deniers, but criticized by prominent scientists and journalists who say the new AP-approved term "climate change doubters" grants undeserved legitimacy to those who refuse to acknowledge the consensus.
Media coverage of climate change may have a hand in making the public apathetic towards acting on climate, according to two recent studies. But one study also details how the media can improve.
A new study from the policy think tank Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives found that the media can breed cynicism about climate change when reporting emphasizes "the failures of climate politics." The study, titled "News Media and Climate Politics: Civic Engagement and Political Efficacy in a Climate of Reluctant Cynicism," concluded that such news stories can "intensif[y] feelings of political alienation, despair and cynicism."
The study's findings go hand in hand with another study by researchers at Rutgers University, which examined how four major U.S. newspapers frame their reporting on climate change. That study, published in Public Understanding of Science, found that The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and USA Today often include "negative efficacy" (framing climate change actions as unsuccessful or costly) as opposed to "positive efficacy" (framing climate actions as manageable or effective). The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times in particular framed climate action as ineffective more often than effective:
The Canadian study also found that consuming stories about political activism and individual actions -- "especially news that featured a local focus, a compelling narrative and an accessible 'everyday hero'" -- can have the opposite effect on readers. Study participants who read and discussed such stories reported "much greater enthusiasm and optimism for political engagement."
But according to the Rutgers study, these types of stories are rarely reported, at least at the national level. The study found that for non-opinion climate change articles in four major national newspapers from 2006 to 2011, just 9.7 percent discussed behavior change and just 13.6 percent discussed political advocacy.
Taken in tandem, the two studies paint a bleak picture of how mainstream newspapers' coverage of climate change can breed cynicism among its readership. Indeed, Lauren Feldman -- the lead author of the Rutgers study -- said to Media Matters that while the studies "can't establish a definitive causal relationship between media coverage and public cynicism toward climate," the two combined "are certainly suggestive of the role of mainstream media in breeding pessimism about climate change."
And Shane Gunster -- a co-author of the Canadian study -- agreed with Feldman, telling Media Matters that there is "a strong connection between both studies" and that they show how "decisions which news media make about how to frame climate change have a significant impact upon how or if the public engages with the issue." Gunster, a professor at Simon Fraser University's School of Communication, added:
The efficacy emphasis is especially important given how easily one can otherwise be overwhelmed by the magnitude of climate change as a problem. And if one thinks of journalism as playing a crucial role in facilitating public engagement with the critical issues of the day, a much greater focus upon how efficacy can be cultivated and strengthened is in keeping with that mandate.
But Gunster said that one of his study's goals was "to move beyond simply criticizing media for their failures and shortcomings," and identify "constructive suggestions about how journalists could approach this topic differently." These include, among other things: "[s]uccess stories about climate politics"; "stories of entrepreneurial activism and everyday heroism"; "localized information about the causes and consequences of climate change"; and "[i]nformation about how to engage politically."
Gunster summed up his study's findings to Media Matters as follows: "There is a strong desire for a different kind of news about climate change, which provides people with inspiring and compelling stories about how others just like them are becoming active and engaged in climate politics."
He also pointed to a previous paper he published in 2011, illustrating that such reporting exists, though it may not be not the norm. That paper, which examined media coverage of the United Nations' climate change conference in Copenhagen, found that alternative and independent media often frame climate change in ways that can promote political agency and efficacy, offering "a much more diverse and optimistic vision of climate politics as a place in which broad civic engagement on climate change can challenge and overcome institutional inertia as well as model democratic and participatory approaches to the development of climate policy." Gunster wrote that such stories "can affirm our sense of how effective news media could be in motivating broader civic engagement with climate change." From the report:
[I]t is equally important to explore existing media institutions and practices which are communicating about climate change in a more effective and engaged manner. Just as success stories about (some) governments getting climate politics right can invigorate our sense of political efficacy, success stories about (some) media getting climate politics right can affirm our sense of how effective news media could be in motivating broader civic engagement with climate change. Identifying best media practices can also sharpen the critique of mainstream media insofar as it provides concrete evidence that a more radical approach to environmental journalism is not simply idealistic speculation, but, rather, already being actively practiced.
The New Hampshire Union Leader has hired Grant Bosse, a former researcher at a think tank funded by the Koch brothers, to be the new editor of the paper's editorial page. In his previous role as a columnist for New Hampshire's Concord Monitor, Bosse defended the Koch brothers and once wrote that progressives who believe the billionaire industrialists are trying to control the Republican Party subscribe to a "conspiracy theory."
From the August 28 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Bill Sammon, Fox News' vice president of News and Washington managing editor, is reportedly the "secret weapon" helping to develop the questions moderators will ask at the network's August 6 debate. Internal emails and critics within Fox have exposed Sammon's history of deception and his efforts to use his position at Fox to slant the network's news coverage to the right.
From the July 24 edition of Fox News' Happening Now:
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Bloomberg Politics co-managing editor Mark Halperin is scheduled to conduct a "Sunrise Pilates" session co-hosted by Ann Romney at a retreat for wealthy Republican donors.
His official biography says Halperin "leads Bloomberg's political and policy coverage, including news, analysis, commentary, narrative, data analytics and more across all platforms."
According to Time, Halperin is listed on the official schedule to lead the session with Ann Romney on Saturday, June 13, at the The Chateaux at Silver Lake at Deer Valley Resort in Park City, Utah. Time describes the event, put together by former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, as "Club Med for the political mega-donors."
Time adds that "the event offers high-profile and high net-worth individuals the opportunity to gather in picturesque Deer Valley, Utah, and the chance to meet with at least six presidential candidates." The Time piece included a reproduced copy of the event itinerary, showing Halperin's scheduled session.
According to an AP report, Yahoo news anchor Katie Couric is also scheduled to be a guest at the event, but isn't listed as engaging in any activities with the candidates, donors, or their spouses.
Halperin's past work includes a column suggesting that a racially based attack on Barack Obama was a viable strategy for Republicans in 2008, while another advised Republicans on how to win the 2010 midterm election. In 2011, Halperin was suspended by MSNBC for calling President Obama a "dick."
The bad news just keeps coming for conservative talker Rush Limbaugh.
Which bulletin was worse, though? The news in April that he was being dropped by WIBC in Indianapolis, a booming talk powerhouse that played home to Limbaugh's radio show for more than two decades, or the news this week that the talker's new address on the Indianapolis dial is going to be WNDE, a ratings doormat AM sports station that has so few listeners it trails the commercial-free classical music outlet in town?
The humbling, red-state tumble is just the latest setback for the conservative talker who has seen his once-golden career suffer a steady series of losses recently.
Divorced from successful, longtime affiliates in places like New York, Los Angeles, Boston, and Indianapolis, Limbaugh's professional trajectory is heading downward. That's confirmed by the second and third-tier stations he now calls home in those important media markets, and the fact that when his show became available, general managers up and down the dial passed on it. Apparently turned off by the show's hefty price tag, sagging ratings, and disappearing advertisers, Limbaugh continues to be a very hard sell.
It's a precipitous fall from the glory days when the host posted huge ratings numbers, had affiliates clamoring to join his network, and dictated Republican politics. All of that seems increasingly distant now. With his comically inflated, $50 million-a-year syndication deal set to expire next year, Limbaugh's future seems uncertain. "Who would even want someone whose audience is aging and is considered toxic to many advertisers," asked RadioInsight last month.
For Limbaugh, the troubles were marked by key events from 2012 and 2013. The first came in the form of Limbaugh's Sandra Fluke implosion, where he castigated and insulted for days the graduate student who testified before Congress about health care and access to contraception, calling her a "slut" and suggesting she post videos of herself having sex on the Internet. The astonishing monologues sparked an unprecedented advertiser exodus.
The following year, as the host struggled to hang on to fleeing sponsors, radio industry giant Cumulus Media decided to negotiate its Limbaugh contract in public, making it clear through the press that the company was willing to cut ties with the pricey host in major cities where Cumulus owned talk radio stations. In the end, Limbaugh stayed with Cumulus stations, but the company sent a clear signal to the industry: Limbaugh was no longer an untouchable and general managers weren't clamoring to hire him. Since then, the talker's fortunes have only faded.
Another looming problem? Conservative talk radio is a "format fewer advertisers are interested in buying because of its aging audience," noted radio consultant and self-identified Republican Darryl Parks. Limbaugh himself recently conceded a generational disconnect: "Now that I've outgrown the 25-54 demographic, I'm no longer confident that the way I see the world is the way everybody else does."
That disconnect may be fueling Limbaugh's waning political influence. Once a mighty player whose ring was constantly kissed by Republicans, this campaign season seems to be unfolding with Limbaugh on the sidelines, his clout and his ability to drive the conversation seemingly surpassed by other conservative media players.