This morning, Politico published a story, the premise of which appears to be that Republican senators are mad at Al Franken for having proposed an amendment - which passed two months ago - banning federal contracts from being awarded to companies who require their employees to use their firms arbitration process - rather than the courts - for workplace discrimination claims. Why was this article published? I have no idea.
A Franken press release sent out after the amendment passed stated that Franken had been "inspired" to offer the amendment by the story of Jamie Leigh Jones, "a 19-yr-old employee of defense contractor KBR (formerly a Halliburton subsidiary) stationed in Iraq who was gang raped by her co-workers and imprisoned in a shipping container when she tried to report the crime" who subsequently "learned a fine-print clause in her KBR contract banned her from taking her case to court, instead forcing her into an "arbitration" process that would be run by KBR itself."
According to the Politico article, the amendment has - horror of horrors! - "spawned attacks like the satirical website RepublicansforRape.org." And so, the Republican senators in the article are complaining that Franken has been excessively partisan, demanding that he come out and say that opponents of his amendment are not effectively pro-rape, and claiming that until that happens, Franken's ability to work with Republicans in the future will be undermined.
Why has the Politico decided to let Republicans like John Cornyn - the head of the Republican National Senate Committee, i.e., the chief Republican partisan in the Senate - decide what constitutes excessive partisanship? No idea.
Does the Politico think it's somewhat unusual for Senators to be criticized for the votes they cast, and respond by complaining? Sure looks like it.
Why is the article running now, two months after Franken's amendment passed? Dunno.
But I'm sure it has nothing to do with this blog post, in which a different Politico reporter complains that Franken won't talk to him in the halls.
Remember how the media flipped out when Rep. Alan Grayson said the GOP's health care plan was: "Don't get sick, and if you do get you do get sick, die quickly"? NBC Nightly News covered it, with anchor Brian Williams calling the comment "incendiary" and noting that Republicans wanted him to apologize. Politico's Roger Simon said Grayson is "like a guy on crack who is always searching for a bigger high."
CNN's Howard Kurtz claimed Grayson benefitted from a "media double standard" -- that Grayson's comment drew less criticism than GOP Rep. Joe Wilson's outburst during President Obama's address to congress.
Well, if Kurtz is right about media double standards, there should be a huge media firestorm over Republican Sen. Tom Coburn's statement yesterday that under the Democratic health care plan, seniors will "die sooner." Seems pretty unlikely to me, but we'll see.
From Kenneth P. Vogel's 738-word November 20 Politico article:
Glenn Beck, the controversial Fox News television host, is planning on becoming more active in the populist conservative movement he spawned, according to sources familiar with his thinking.
At a rally Saturday at a massive retirement community in Central Florida, Beck is planning to unveil what he has billed as a "big plan" for 2010, which is expected to involve the 9.12 Project, the group he started earlier this year and named for the day after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, when he says the nation was unified.
"Coming this January, my whole approach changes on this program," he hinted cryptically on his Wednesday show. "This next year is going to be critical, and I think it's going to change and I think we are going to set it right, at least set our course right. And if that means the Democrats or the Republicans are destroyed along the way, well, good. Good."
Beck's Saturday rally, which is set for 3 p.m., is timed to coincide with the kickoff of a tour promoting his new book, "Arguing with Idiots."
Washington Post reporter Michael Shear explains his paper's wall-to-wall coverage of Sarah Palin's new book:
Why do we spend so much time on Palin? And is it too much? Perhaps. There's a danger that we are overdoing it -- four stories in today's paper may have reached that point. On the other hand, there seems to be an insatiable demand from our audience -- liberals and conservatives -- and at the end of the day we have to, and should, respond to that.
Really? There's an "insatiable demand" from Washington Post readers for coverage of Sarah Palin's book? How does the Post know this? The book just came out -- has the paper's switchboard been flooded with demands that for all-Going-Rogue, all the time? Are Post editors getting angry emails insisting that three articles in one day's paper just won't do -- a fourth is absolutely necessary, though still not sufficient?
I doubt that very much.
I don't mean to single Shear out here. You see this kind of thing all the time -- reporters justifying something they can't justify on the merits by asserting public demand they can't (or won't) quantify.
Like when Howard Kurtz defended obsessive cable news coverage of a balloon that was not carrying a little boy by writing "The ratings, forgive me, must have soared." Must have? Well ... Did they? Or when Politico's Mike Allen asserted that "Fox executives are relishing" their recent fight with the White House because "ratings at Fox are through the roof" -- without actually providing the ratings to back up that claim. As Eric Boehlert has explained in detail, Fox's ratings spike is a myth.
It's bad enough when journalists suggest that the news media should simply report what the public to see. That isn't journalism -- and if we go too far down that road, it won't be long before NBC Nightly News consists of nothing more than cat videos and B-list celebrity sex tapes. But it's even more frustrating when they make decisions about what to cover based on baseless assumptions about what the public wants.
For years, local news producers have led their stations in a race to the bottom, driven by the prevailing belief that "eyeball grabbers" and "soft news" are the only hope for local news in an era of declining TV audiences.
But a 2004 study* argues that they might want to rethink their approach. In "The Local News Story: Is Quality a Choice?" political science professors Todd L. Belt and Marion Just conclude that sensationalistic news does not lead to sensational ratings.
Belt, assistant professor at the University of Hawai'i, Hilo, and Just, a professor at Wellesley College and the Joan Shorenstein Center on Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University, argue that the prevailing worldview in the nation's newsrooms has it all backward: Good, solid journalism, not tawdry, tabloid-style content, keeps viewers tuned to their TVs.
What Belt and Just found certainly goes against industry conventional wisdom.
"The data show quality journalism produces commercial success," they write. Newscasts that posted high scores on the quality index nabbed higher ratings than their mediocre counterparts. The finding held true for both the early and late evening news time slots. It also held for lead stories, suggesting that the old TV news mantra - "If it bleeds, it leads" - might be in need of revision.
Although local news viewership as a whole fell during the period covered by the study - 1998 to 2002 - the data nonetheless show that those stations that produced high-quality newscasts did better in hanging on to their audience.
BUCHANAN: When I went into New Hampshire, I went down to a basement store, and they said "Get rid of the Florsheim shoes and the blue suits and the red ties. We're gonna go get you what we call North Country Clothes: brand-new sweaters that look very old and all that stuff." You saw me up there, Andrea.
MITCHELL: I know, you were authentic, Pat.
Old sweaters are not more "authentic" than Florsheim shoes and blue suits. Nor are they less "authentic." They're both just clothes. Yet Andrea Mitchell thinks that Pat Buchanan wandering into a New Hampshire store and, on the advise of some unspecified "they," discarding his typical outfit in favor of new sweaters that are designed to look old was a mark of authenticity.
(It goes without saying that if Al Gore told precisely the same story Buchanan told, he would not be praised as having been "authentic.")
And just a few minutes ago, Politico's Andy Barr was on MSNBC, talking about the AP fact-checking Sarah Palin's new book:
This fight with the AP she's got going on is kind of funny ... It seems like they really took that slam from her personally, and in that fact-check they're really maliciously going after her, kind of point by point.
"Maliciously"? This is the state of modern political journalism: When a news organization fact-checks false claims by prominent Republicans, a reporter calls it "malicious."
Me? I'd call it "journalism."
Huffington Post's Sam Stein reports (emphasis added):
The New York Post editor fired after speaking out against a cartoon depicting the author of the president's stimulus package as a dead chimpanzee has sued the paper. And as part of her complaint, Sandra Guzman levels some remarkable, embarrassing, and potentially damaging allegations.
Guzman has filed a complaint against News Corporation, the New York Post and the paper's editor in chief Col Allan in the Southern District Court of New York, alleging harassment as well as "unlawful employment practices and retaliation."
As part of the 38-page complaint, Guzman paints the Post newsroom as a male-dominated frat house and Allan in particular as sexist, offensive and domineering. Guzman alleges that she and others were routinely subjugated to misogynistic behavior. She says that hiring practices at the paper -- as well as her firing -- were driven by racial prejudices rather than merit.
And she recounts the paper's D.C. bureau chief stating that the publication's goal was to "destroy [President] Barack Obama."
The most outrageous charges, however, involve Allan. According to the complaint:
"On one occasion when Ms. Guzman and three female employees of the Post were sharing drinks at an after-work function. Defendant Allan approached the group of women, pulled out his blackberry and asked them 'What do you think of this?' On his blackberry was a picture of a naked man lewdly and openly displaying his penis. When Ms. Guzman and the other female employees expressed their shock and disgust at being made to view the picture, Defendant Allan just smirked... [N]o investigation was ever conducted and the Company failed to take any steps to address her complaints."
Guzman's complaint goes on:
"On another occasion, upon information and belief, Defendant Allan approached a female employee during a party at the Post, rubbed his penis up against her and made sexually suggestive comments about her body, including her breasts, causing that female employee to feel extremely uncomfortable and fearing to be alone with him."
And finally: "... [W]hile serving as the top editor at the Post, Defendant Allan took two Australian political leaders to the strip club Scores in Manhattan..."
Guzman alleges that while at the paper, misogynistic and racist behavior was directed at her specifically. According to the complaint, she was called "sexy" and "beautiful" and referred to as "Cha Cha #1" by Les Goodstein, the senior vice president of NewsCorp. After doing an interview with Major League Baseball star Pedro Martinez, she says Allan asked her whether the pitcher "had been carrying a gun or a machete during the interview" -- a line Guzman said was racist and offensive.
When she would walk by certain offices at the paper, Guzman alleges, editors would routinely sing songs from West Side Story -- a nod to her Hispanic heritage -- including the tune: "I want to live in America."
Guzman also makes the following allegations to supplement her case that the Post harbored an environment that was offensive to women and minority employees.
"A White male senior editor sexually propositioned a young female Copy Assistant, telling her that 'If you give me a blowjob, I will give you a permanent reporter job.'"
"The last five employees who were recently terminated by Paul Carlucci, the Publisher of the Post.... Have all been black and/or women of color."
Read Stein's entire piece and the compliant in full here.
Politico's Ben Smith picks up an interesting angle to the story:
The New York Post and New York Daily News, for a time, complemented their fierce competition for circulation with bitter attacks on each other's staff and on their owners, Rupert Murdoch and Mort Zuckerman.
But Murdoch and Zuckerman, as has been reported, reached a truce of sorts, and they've been reported to be in sporadic talks about some sort of merger of -- at least -- the paper's back ends. And the clearest signal I've seen in a while of that rapprochement came this week, when a fired Post employee, Sandra Guzman, filed suit against the paper and its brawling Australian editor, Col Allan.
The Daily News offered a sanitized version of the story: "A New York Post editor sacked after complaining that a cartoon likened President Obama to a monkey sued the paper on Monday, claiming rampant racism and sexism in the newsroom," but detailed none of the actual allegations.
Conservative media outlets including The Washington Times and Fox News have pushed the claim that health care reform proposals under consideration by Congress are unconstitutional. However, legal scholars -- including one who recently served as a special counsel to Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) during Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation proceedings -- have pointed out the flaws in conservatives' arguments, including the facts that regulation of the health care sector falls under Congress' broad power to regulate interstate commerce and that Congress has repeatedly passed laws regulating health care and health insurance.
Following the release of the House Democrats' health care reform bill, the leaders of the House Republican caucus repeatedly stressed the length and size of the bill during an October 29 press conference. Numerous media figures and outlets have followed in lockstep, with the Politico's Jonathan Allen asserting that the bill "comes out to about $2.24 million per word," and Sean Hannity claiming that "if you can't put this down in 30 pages or less, it proves that this is a complicated, you know, bunch of bureaucratic garbage."
Right-wing media have run with the Politico's Jonathan Allen misleading calculation that the House's recently announced health care reform legislation costs "about $2.24 million per word." In fact, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that the America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009 "would result in a net reduction in federal budget deficits of $104 billion"; therefore, using Allen's formula, the bill would actually save $260,000 per word.
Politico is trying to make a scandal out of a "defaced flag" video submitted to an Organizing for America health care video contest. Why? Because someone who entered the contest is bitter about not being named a finalist. No, really: that's the whole story.
One of the 20 finalists in health care video contest run by Barack Obama's campaign arm features a mural of an America flag splattered with health care graffiti until it's covered completely by black paint.
In the video - which is accompanied by the sound of a heart monitor pumping and then flat-lining - words such as "pre-existing conditions," "homeless" and "death panel" ultimately obliterate the flag, which reappears on screen seconds later with the words "Health Will Bring Our Country Back to Life" on the blue field where the 50 stars usually are.
According to the Organizing for American Web site, the 20 finalists in the "Health Reform Video Challenge" were chosen by a panel of "qualified" Democratic National Committee "employee judges."
A contestant whose video didn't make the final-20 cut complains that a video "defacing the flag" won't do much to help President Barack Obama or the Democrats sell health care reform.
"They should never pick that," said the contestant, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "It makes the Democrats look really, really bad."
That's literally all it takes to get a Politico hit piece these days: an anonymous complaint from a contest loser. And a fairly tepid complaint, at that.
I'm not sure what's more pathetic -- that Politico published this obvious (and so far unsuccessful) bit of Drudge-bait, or that it took two people (Jonathan Allen and Daniel Libit) to write it.
But you have to wonder why Politico thought this nonsense was newsworthy after having ignored the blatantly racist photo hosted on the RNC's Facebook page.
UPDATE: Looks like -- in this case, at least -- Politico isn't too dumb for Drudge, after all; he finally gave this "story" a link.
Politico's Manu Raju and Glenn Thrush join the lengthy list of reporters who have quoted Joe Lieberman's stated reasons for opposing health care reform that includes a public option without noting that those reasons appear to be, as TNR's Jonathan Chait put it, "babbling nonsense."
Raju and Thrush quoted Lieberman arguing: "To put this government-created insurance company on top of everything else is just asking for trouble for the taxpayers, for the premium payers and for the national debt. ... I don't think we need it now."
But they didn't mention that, as Media Matters noted yesterday, "while Reid has yet to release details of the compromise Senate legislation, every other proposed bill with a public option so far has required the costs of the public plan to be covered by the premiums of those who enroll in it."
Later, the Politico reporters wrote that among Democrats "there is much lingering ill will over Lieberman's perceived lack of loyalty."
In the past three years, Lieberman has run against the Democratic nominee for his seat, endorsed the Republican presidential candidate, attacked Barack Obama during a speech at the Republican National Convention, and campaigned for Republican Senate candidates. When President Obama and the Senate Democratic caucus let him keep his committee chairmanship anyway, he repaid their kindness by announcing his intention to join Republicans in filibustering health care reform.
What does he have to do to get Politico to drop the "perceived"?
This Politico headline tells you pretty much everything you need to know about the article that follows: "Palin offers calm critique of Baucus bill." Politico's Andy Barr goes on to cut-and-paste from Palin's Facebook post about the Baucus health care bill, pausing occasionally to describe the post as "tough but wonky," tout her citation of an actual economist to "make her argument" and marvel that Palin's approach was "more tempered" than her "Death Panel" claims earlier this year.
Not mentioned: Whether Palin's "calm critique" is accurate and fair, or whether anyone disagrees with anything she wrote.
"He said/She said" journalism is bad enough. But this is worse: This is just "She said."
Over the weekend, a major story broke about the Washington Post's efforts to sell access to its reporters to corporate interests. When the story first broke earlier this year, Post executive editor Marcus Brauchli told at least two different reporters at two different news organizations -- the New York Times and Politico -- that he had been unaware that the events were being promoted as off-the-record. But over the weekend, it was revealed that Brauchli wrote a letter to a former Post marketing executive acknowledging that he had known about it all along.
On Saturday, Brauchli refused to talk to Michael Calderone, the Politico reporter he seems to have misled earlier, instead talking only to Post reporter Howard Kurtz -- who happens to work for Brauchli, and who omitted any mention of Brauchli's earlier comments to Politico. Kurtz did, however, include in his article Brauchli's claim that the Times simply misunderstood him -- a claim that is seriously undermined by Calderone's reporting for Politico.
Today, Brauchli held a previously-scheduled online Q&A session with Post readers. I noted this morning that the Post had subtly changed the way it was promoting the session, seeming to limit the topic to exclude questions about Brauchli's honesty.
And, sure enough, Brauchli continued ducking tough questions.
Brauchli took questions about the new format for bylines on Post articles, a request that the Post "capitalize the headlines," a question about page number formats, a complaint that the Post doesn't just leave its layout the same, and a positive comment about the paper's font choices.
And he responded to a comment (not even a question) about the Awesome Washington Post's Awesome Awesomeness:
Alexandria, Va.: You did a real nice job with the redesign. I opened the Post this morning to find a refreshing and better design. Reminded me a lot of the WSJ! No surprise. I also want to comment that it seems recently the news sections have got a little richer. Maybe more stories, but not sure. All in all, I think the Post is really doing a lot to build a great product.
From, a subscriber of 21 years.
But Brauchli ducked questions about the weekend revelations that he apparently lied to two different reporters at two different publications about his role in the Washington Post's efforts to sell access to its reporters until the end of the Q&A, then chose questions that he could easily dismiss.
Incidentally, I know Brauchli received and ignored tough questions because I submitted some so the Post could not claim Brauchli was asked only about fonts and bylines.
Here's a question I submitted about the weekend revelations:
You say the New York Times misunderstood you, and that you did NOT tell them you were unaware the Post's controversial corporate dinners were being promoted as "off the record."
But Politico reporter Michael Calderone has reported that you said the same thing to him, and that he interpreted it the same way the Times did.
Are we supposed to believe that two different reporters at two different news organizations misinterpreted two different interviews with you in precisely the same way?
And is this why you refused to talk to Calderone yesterday, but did talk to your own employee, Howard Kurtz -- who failed to mention Calderone's reporting in his story about this matter?
Brauchli didn't take that question. Nor did he take this question about his recent comments to Post Ombudsman Andrew Alexander:
You told the Post's ombudsman that the paper needs to be more responsive to conservatives. Would you care to reconcile that position with the paper's abusive treatment of Al Gore during the 2000 election and with the paper's reporting on the Bush administration's Iraq war claims, which countless Post employees past and present have acknowledged was deeply flawed and insufficiently critical?
Nor did Brauchli take this question about the massive conflict of interest he allows Kurtz to work under:
Post media critic Howard Kurtz repeatedly gave CNN President Jonathan Klein a pass during Kurtz's reporting for the Post on CNN's Lou Dobbs and his promotion of the Birther conspiracy theory. Klein defended Dobbs' reporting and attacked his critics -- but Kurtz never mentioned Klein's defense, despite their clear news value, and despite his repeated reporting on the Birther story.
Oh, and Howard Kurtz happens to be employed on the side by CNN.
Why does the Post tolerate this conflict of interest? Are you investigating Kurtz' handling of this story? Do any of your other reporters have financial relationships with those they are assigned to cover for the Post?
I guess Brauchli just didn't have time for questions like those after dealing with hard-hitting questions about how great the Post is and how wonderful the new font is. And a comment from a reader about how much her husband likes the Post's redesign.
Brauchli did take two questions (at the very end of the Q&A) that touched on the salon dinner controversy -- but they didn't mention reporting by Politico's Calderone that undermines Brauchli's claim that he told the truth about his own role. Here's the first, which makes no mention of Brauchli's role:
Rochester, NY: Obviously, you won't take this question, but I'd like to ask: isn't there a problem when the same reporters who were to be part of your health care "salon" are now essentially repeating insurance industry claims about the health care bill?
I'm referring specifically to Ceci Connolly. I write as a regular reader and fan of your paper -- are you aware how much credibility you have lost as a result of the salons?
Marcus Brauchli: Actually, I will take this question, because it comes with a silly premise that needs knocking down.
First, there were no salon dinners. They were planned and they were canceled. Second, Ceci Connolly, who is an absolutely first-rate, independent-minded reporter, was simply asked who might be worth inviting to a roundtable discussion on healthcare. There is no reason she should be taken off of this story. Third, while we appreciate your visiting with us on this chat, you should read what we write. We have scrutinized the insurance industry's claims about healthcare legislation extensively, including in a lengthy piece last week by Alec MacGillis. Finally, yes, I realize that the salon dinner episode was embarrassing and damaging to our credibility, but I would say to you: judge us by our journalism.
That last line is hilarious coming from someone who just spent a whole online Q&A ducking questions about the Post's journalism in favor of talking about fonts and byline formats.
And the second:
Philly, Pa.: If you know a reporter has reported something about you which is inaccurate, are you not obligated to publicly correct the record?
I'm sorry, sir, but I lost all respect for you after reading the letter you sent to your former colleague. You knew that it was reported that you claimed to have no knowledge of the off-the-record promises, and you chose to allow that to stand. You scapegoated an employee, and misled the public. Of course, that version is being generous, and its every bit as likely that you just lied to the NYT's reporter, hoping not to get caught.
You lied to your readers. You lied to your employees.
I hope your retirement is happy and fruitful, and I hope it starts very soon.
Marcus Brauchli: When these events were planned, we intended that the information from them would inform and shape our coverage, without attribution. That is not, under our rules, off the record.
They were later promoted as "off the record," and I knew that before July 2.
As I have said repeatedly since then, I failed to reconcile the language and the intentions, which I should have done.
The notion that I lied to the New York Times "hoping not to get caught" is absurd.
Notice that Brauchli chose to answer questions that didn't mention Calderone's report, while ducking a question that did.
Imagine how the Washington Post would react if, say, John Edwards invited them to a press conference, then took only pre-screened questions about how great he is, refusing to allow anyone to ask about his affair and his false statements about it. That's essentially what Marcus Brauchli did today. It shows nothing but contempt for Post readers, and makes a mockery of the concepts of transparency and accountability.
Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz spent much of the summer demonstrating that he can't be trusted to report impartially for the Post about CNN, which also employs him.
Now he seems intent on establishing that he can't be trusted to report impartially about his bosses at the Post, either.
Kurtz wrote for today's Post about yesterday's revelations that the paper's executive editor, Marcus Brauchli, seems to have misled the New York Times about his involvement in and knowledge of the Post's attempt to sell access to its reporters to corporate interests. Over the summer, Brauchli told the Times that he had been "explicit" with the Post's marketing team that the events would not be off the record. Yesterday, the Times, Politico, and The New Republic reported the existence of a letter in which Brauchli had in fact known that the events were being marketed as off the record.
Brauchli claimed in the letter that the Times had simply misinterpreted his comments. But Politico's Michael Calderone then wrote that Brauchli had also told him that he did not know the events were being promoted as off the record. Calderone sought comment from Brauchli for his story yesterday, but a Post spokesperson told him "The letter speaks for itself."
But it turns out Brauchli wasn't refusing all requests for an interview. He gave a comment to Howard Kurtz, who just happens to work for him:
Brauchli said Saturday: "I have consistently said that my intention was that Post journalists only participate in events if the content could be used to inform our journalism. . . . I was aware, as I have said since July 2, that some materials described the proposed salon dinner as an off-the-record event. As I have also said before, I should have insisted that the language be changed before it surfaced in any marketing material."
Kurtz also quoted Brauchli's claim that the Times reporter misunderstood him. But he include any indication that he pressed Brauchli on that claim -- and he didn't mention Calderone's statement that he got the same impression from Brauchli as the Times reporter, which seriously undermines the notion that Brauchli told the truth but was misinterpreted.
Kurtz' article, in other words, omits crucial information that makes his boss look less than honest. No wonder Brauchli talked to him but not to Calderone.
Following the Nobel Committee's announcement that it would award the Nobel Peace Prize to President Obama, conservative media figures have launched numerous attacks on Obama and the award, asserting, for instance, that Obama won the prize "for trashing America," in Sean Hannity's words, or that the prize is an "affirmative action Nobel," as Pat Buchanan and RedState's Erick Erickson asserted. In the latest attempt to discredit Obama's Nobel Prize, conservatives have claimed that his acceptance of the award violates the emolument clause of the Constitution, despite the fact that previous sitting officials have accepted foreign awards in the past.