The New York Times legitimized a discredited study from the Progressive Policy Institute claiming that net neutrality could cost American consumers up to $15 billion annually -- a claim that has been widely debunked for relying on "fuzzy math" and "significant factual error[s]."
In a February 20 Bits blog, The New York Times reported that a bipartisan group of senators "presented legislation that would permanently ban taxes on high-speed Internet service to American homes," under the Internet Tax Freedom Act of 1998.
The Times blog cited research from the Progressive Policy Institute (PPI) to claim that implementing the stricter net neutrality rules proposed by FCC chairman Tom Wheeler to protect consumers from paid prioritization of Internet access would cost "$15 billion a year," and the recently presented bipartisan legislation would lower the cost to $11 billion.
Buried in a single paragraph at the bottom of the blog, the Times noted that FCC spokesperson Kim Hart has asserted Wheeler's plan "'does not raise taxes or fees. Period.'" Left unsaid was the fact that PPI's net neutrality cost estimate has been thoroughly discredited. In a January 16 blog, The Washington Post's Fact Checker shattered PPI's net neutrality cost estimate, awarding the claim that utility-style net neutrality regulation could cost $15 billion "Three Pinnochios," for what it called "significant factual error[s] and/or obvious contradictions." And as the nonpartisan Internet advocacy group Free Press pointed out, PPI's claim is based on a critically flawed methodology that overstates the worst-case scenario tax burden by nearly 75 percent.
Furthermore, Congress passed a moratorium last year banning states from imposing new taxes on internet access through October 2015, regardless of any new FCC regulations.
Media are recycling old news that The Clinton Foundation accepts foreign donations when neither Bill nor Hillary Clinton hold political office to fearmonger over "ethical concerns" surrounding the donations, ignoring the fact that it is not unusual for foundations to receive foreign donations and that Clinton's record as Secretary of State makes clear that she was not politically influenced by previous donations to the Foundation.
David Carr, the New York Times media critic, was a giant in our world of people who monitor, report on, and evaluate media.
Carr, 58, died suddenly last night after collapsing in the Times newsroom.
All of us who report on or monitor media have Carr to thank as one of those who broke ground on the beat, offering harsh, direct, and fair coverage.
David Carr was a king of the honest, in-depth report and not afraid to show it (many today are passing around his devastating 2010 report on the Tribune Company). But I also remember him as very calm, professional, and even low-key.
As a lover of the craft, Carr could heap praise on the Times' long-time rivals, writing in October of The Washington Post, "The once-embattled newspaper is in the middle of a great run, turning out the kind of reporting that journalists -- and readers -- live for."
Carr could also challenge his own employer when he thought it justified, stating just last December that the company was among the media giants facing tough times in 2015:
"At the Times, more than half the revenue now comes from consumers, not advertisers, and fully half of the digital consumers arrive via mobile devices. But just 10 percent of digital advertising derives from mobile, a disconnect that will create big problems if it lingers ... declines in print advertising and circulation have created holes in revenue that a recent round of buyouts and layoffs can't begin to fill."
He was one of the few on the media beat who was equally adept at judging the quality of news and programming, as well as the business side of the story - delivering in-depth reporting and crisp writing on them both.
Did he make mistakes? Sure. We all do. He even wrote a great book about his own battles with crack cocaine, The Night of the Gun, not fearing to expose his demons and troubles in a way that likely helped him get past it and offered hope to others.
I wasn't lucky enough to be one of the many who considered themselves Carr's friend. But whenever I was able to speak with him, either on or off record, he was always pleasant and educational. He treated me as much an equal as anyone in our business whether it was during my time at Editor & Publisher or my current work at Media Matters.
Whether we were chatting at an awards event or seeking comment from each other for a story -- more often me seeking his views -- Carr was a pro.
At a time when much of today's media criticism is based on a slanted effort to attack those with whom one disagrees, Carr was focused on the nuts and bolts of a profession that is paramount to our democracy. The real failing of today's media in many ways is the lack of resources as news outlets cut costs and seek to expand audiences through fear, anger, and misleading attacks rather than reporting, in-depth understanding, and honesty.
When too many on the right will assume a left-leaning bias in journalism and use that to allow their own right-leaning bias pass as objective news, the coverage of Carr's passing has included praise from both the right, Breitbart News, and the left, Huffington Post.
Once the shock over this terrible surprise wears off, the Times will have a tough time replacing Carr, if they ever can.
Mitt Romney's decision to not seek the Republican Party's presidential nomination set off a cavalcade of commentary regarding the political repercussion. One popular angle was that Jeb Bush would benefit because of his appeal as a moderate. At least what he is according to the Beltway press.
The day Romney dropped out of consideration CNN's Wolf Blitzer explained Bush's positioning as a "right of center, moderate Republican." The next day, NPR's Ron Elving suggested Bush had more room to run on the "the center-right moderate establishment side." This week, The Christian Science Monitor labeled Bush "the moderate former Florida governor," while the New York Times suggested he was "out of touch" with the Republican Party because of his moderate ways, and that Bush would fit a pattern of Republicans selecting "relatively moderate presidential nominees."
Note that for years, "moderate" has been media shorthand for candidates who enjoy national appeal; the ones with enough fortitude to stand up to elements of their own party and forge a path to the middle.
The Bush narrative had been in the works for months. "Jeb Bush Charts Moderate Path to the White House," read a December headline at MarketWatch, the same month the Times announced Bush would seek the coveted "middle ground" with his possible candidacy. Yahoo News columnist Matt Bai tagged Bush as a "moderate Republican" last month, while NBC stressed his "centrist" path to the nomination.
The narrative for the former Florida governor is easy to follow: Eager to run as his own man, Jeb Bush the candidate won't abandon his core, common sense beliefs (i.e. he won't "bow down"). Instead, he stands ready to battle far-right cranks within his party.
It's true that on a vast array of issues, including taxes, climate change, abortion, repealing Obamacare (it's "clearly a job killer"), civil rights, right-to-die, gun control, relations with Cuba, legalizing marijuana, and crime, among others, Bush remains a far-right politician. (He once bragged he was "probably the most pro-life governor in modern times.")
And that's why veteran Bush watchers in Florida remain confused by the "moderate" chatter. "A lot of the politicos and lobbyists and long-term reporters are kind of baffled by this idea that he is a centrist or a moderate," Matt Dixon, a reporter in the Scripps-Tribune capital bureau and former statehouse reporter for the Florida Times Union of Jacksonville, told Media Matters' Joe Strupp. "His record as governor reflects some conservative and really Republican philosophies."
Yet according to D.C. media elites crafting the 2016 storyline, Bush yearns for the "middle ground" of American politics. If this heavy-handed Bush branding sounds familiar -- complete with the softened edges -- it should. Think back to 2000.
Interviewing Environmental Protection Agency administrator Gina McCarthy late last year about the Obama administration's historic climate change agreement with China, MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell asked how the administration would handle Republican critics of the deal. Mitchell wondered what the White House plan was to deal with GOP "climate deniers" firmly entrenched against the carbon emissions agreement.
On the eve of the 2016 presidential season, Mitchell and the rest of the Beltway press face a similar query: How will journalists deal with Republican climate deniers on the campaign trail? The question goes to the heart of informative political reporting and the importance of holding candidates accountable.
Political jockeying over climate change was elevated last week when the U.S. Senate, for the first time in eight years, cast votes on the topic. On January 21, the Senate voted 98-1 to approve a resolution stating, "climate change is real and not a hoax." Then the Senate rejected a second amendment that stated climate change is real and is significantly caused by humans.
"Man can't change the climate," Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), announced. "The hoax is there are some people so arrogant to think they are so powerful they can change the climate." Republicans, including possible White House candidates Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), voted overwhelmingly against the second resolution, even though the scientific evidence is nearly unanimous that human activity is the dominant cause of climate change.
Meanwhile, the flood of scientific warnings continue and the issue gains urgency. (Tuesday's New England blizzard was the latest example of severe weather that may have been exacerbated by warming seas.) In 2012, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney did not address climate change one time during their three televised debates. But just two years later during the midterm cycle the topic came up "in at least 10 debates in Senate and governor's races" across the country, according to the New York Times. If that trend continues, climate change could well be a cornerstone topic of the next general election campaign season.
For years though, the political press' handling of Republican and conservative climate deniers has been troubling, as journalists politely make room in the debate for fact-free claims about the lack of human involvement. The pending campaign season raises the stakes in terms of holding politicians accountable. But is the press up to the challenge?
New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen Tweeted last week, "This train -- climate change denialism -- is coming directly at the campaign press and they have no clue how to deal."
CNN and Fox News repeatedly reported on the Keystone XL pipeline without connecting it to a major oil spill near the pipeline's proposed route. By contrast, MSNBC and others in the media have reported on the spill, which occurred in the Yellowstone River in Montana, in the context of concerns about Keystone XL's environmental risks.
Oil Pipeline Leaked 50,000 Gallons Of Crude Into Yellowstone River. On January 17, an oil pipeline owned by Bridger Pipeline Co. spilled 1,200 barrels of crude oil -- or about 50,000 gallons -- into the Yellowstone River, prompting the governor to declare a state of emergency. Reuters reported:
A small but heavily subscribed pipeline that transports 42,000 barrels a day of crude oil from North Dakota's Bakken region is expected to remain closed on Tuesday after a weekend breach that spilled 1,200 barrels of crude into the Yellowstone River near Glendive, Montana.
Montana Governor Steve Bullock declared a state of emergency in the state's eastern Dawson and Richland counties on Monday while towns and cities downstream, including Williston, North Dakota, are monitoring their water systems in case of contamination.
However the water supply of Glendive, the town of 5,000 about 10 miles (16 km) downstream of the spill, has already been tested and found to have elevated levels of hydrocarbons. Water intakes in the river for the city have been closed, according to the EPA. The company, EPA and other agencies are trying to get other drinking water supplies for Glendive, the EPA's Mylott said. [Reuters, 1/20/15]
How long will the press remain allergic to Hillary Clinton polling data?
It's weird, right? For decades, pundits and reporters have worshiped at the altar of public polling, using results as tangible proof that certain political trends are underway, as well as to keep track of campaign season fluctuations. And that's even truer in recent years with the rise of data journalism. Crunching the political numbers has been elevated to a new and respected art form.
But that newsroom trend seems to be losing out to another, more powerful force as the 2016 cycle gears up. No longer viewing their job as reporting the lay of the campaign land, more and more journalists seem to have embraced the idea that their role is to help tell a compelling story, even if that means making the narrative more interesting, or competitive, than it really is.
The press "desperately wants to cover some Democratic story other than the Clinton Coronation," Bloomberg's David Weigel reported last year. NBC's Chuck Todd conceded it's the Beltway "press corps" that's suffers from so-called Clinton fatigue. The Atlantic's Molly Ball was among those suggesting that Clinton's candidacy is boring and that the American people are already "tired" of the former Secretary of State.
A Washington Post/ABC News poll this week provided little in terms of narrative excitement, but it was newsworthy nonetheless. It showed Clinton with a commanding 15-point lead over former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and a 13-point lead over former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, two of the best-known Republicans considering White House runs.
Nobody should think that polling results 20-plus months before an election signals certainty. But in terms of context, when the Washington Post and ABC began hypothetical polling in 2011 for Obama's re-election run, its survey showed the president enjoyed a four point lead of Romney at the time. (Obama went on to win by four points.) Today at a similar juncture, Clinton's lead over Romney stands at an astounding 15 points.
And so what kind of media response did the Clinton poll produce this week? Mostly shrugs; the press didn't seem to care. The morning the poll was published, NBC's daily political tip sheet, First Read's Morning Clips, omitted any reference to Clinton's enormous advantage in their laundry list of must-read articles for the day. On cable news, the coverage was minimal. Or put it this way, CNN mentioned the Clinton poll once yesterday, while CNN mentioned "Tom Brady" nearly 100 times, according to TVeyes.com.
"Clinton Enjoys Enormous Lead" is just not a headline the press wants to dwell on. So polling data is often tossed in the dustbin, clearing the way for pundits and reporters to form whatever storyline they want about Clinton and her possible 2016 run. (Hint: She's in trouble! Her book tour was a "disaster"!)
Many news outlets are uncritically touting the State Department's conclusion that building the Keystone XL pipeline would not significantly worsen climate change without noting that this determination was based on an expectation of high oil prices. Some media outlets, however, have reported the significance of the recent plunge in oil prices, such as the Associated Press, which noted that "[l]ow oil prices could make the pipeline more important to the development of new oil sands projects in Canada than anticipated by the State Department ... and therefore is more likely to increase emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases linked to global warming."
Audrey Cooper does not believe it should have taken a century and a half for the San Francisco Chronicle to name its first female editor-in-chief.
And she should know. She's that editor.
Cooper, who was named to the top post at the Chronicle on Wednesday, said a glass ceiling still exists at news organizations and she's personally had experiences where she felt she wasn't treated equally because of her gender.
"Obviously there is (a glass ceiling)," Cooper said. "I think all of the coverage of [New York Times editor Jill Abramson's 2014] departure laid bare a lot of things that other female editors felt but hadn't really articulated. They're much more subtle than people might think. Sexism in general is a lot more subtle than it used to be 20 years ago. Yes, I've had the experiences that I think that I was not treated the same as men based on my gender."
But Cooper praised her supervisors at the Chronicle and parent company Hearst for giving her initial promotions during her career there, noting, "I was eight months pregnant when I had my interview to become (Chronicle) managing editor."
Cooper also pointed to problems news organizations have retaining working mothers.
"I think the news business in particular has a really difficult time retaining young women or 30-something women because so far we are the only ones who can have babies," said Cooper, 37, who has been at the paper in different roles since 2006. "And it is difficult to be in a job that you do 24 hours a day and can be called at any time and also have a child. I think that's just a reality, it is difficult to keep people in a job like that."
A married mother of a two-year-old boy, Cooper added that, "I don't plan to have a second one because I love my job and it would be too difficult."
It is notable that she is the first woman to lead the paper as it approaches its 150-year anniversary on Friday.
"Yes, I think 150 years is a really long time not to have a woman in this position," she said. "I think it is an interesting historical fact that I am the first at the Chronicle and I look forward to the day when women across industries, particularly ours, can rise to the top of them and not have it noted so frequently that they're the first."
But such change may be difficult given that the number of female editors at top papers has dwindled. Media Matters noted last year that just two top editors among the top 25 circulation daily newspapers were women: Deborah Henley at Newsday and Nancy Barnes at the Houston Chronicle.
"When I got into this industry, there was a lot more discussion about diversity in the newsroom than you have now on a national basis," she said. "I think that's because shortly thereafter we really, really hit the skids and everybody was having serious problems and laying people off and it wasn't the top concern anymore. Now that I think a lot of publications are stabilizing you start to see this emerge again."
The New York Times broke its own glass ceiling in 2011 when it hired Abramson as executive editor, but fired her last spring.
Along with the Times, the New York Daily News, New York Post, Chicago Tribune, and USA Today are top 10 papers that 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.
From the January 14 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe:
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2014 was a year of eye-popping media numbers, from millions of dollars' worth of coverage devoted to a trumped-up scandal to mere seconds devoted to historic news. Here are some of the most important -- and most surprising -- figures from the year.
The New York Times omitted key facts it had previously reported to dishonestly accuse Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration of selling political favors to an Ecuadorean family in exchange for campaign donations. Excised from the Times reporting is the fact that prominent Republicans, including Sen. Marco Rubio, have the exact same relationship with the donors that the Times is now portraying as a problem for Democrats.
"Ecuador family wins favors after donations to Democrats," the Times headline claimed. The article detailed the decision to grant a travel visa to a "politically connected Ecuadorean woman," and argued that the decision to do so was connected to "tens of thousands of dollars" the family of the woman, Estefania Isaias, has given to Democratic campaigns.
According to the Times, "the case involving Estefania could prove awkward for Mrs. Clinton," based on the fact that she was Secretary of State when members of Congress were advocating for travel visa for the relative of two Florida residents seen as fugitives by the Ecuadorean government.
The Times fixated on political donations given by the Isaias family to Democrats as if it were news, but the Times already reported on the money the Isaias family has given to elected officials in a March 11, 2014, article. Moreover, that prior article noted that potential Republican presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio and Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen had also aided the Isaias' at the same time their political campaigns received donations linked to that family -- facts absent from the more recent piece.
In March, the Times made clear that the family gave significant campaign contributions to Florida Republicans, including Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who "acknowledged trying to help the family with immigration troubles." The Republicans sent letters -- in one case directly to Clinton herself -- inquiring into the immigration issues surrounding members of the family or advocating on their behalf.
"The family gave about $40,000 to Ms. Ros-Lehtinen, whose district members live in," the Times reported then. "Last month, she acknowledged to The Daily Beast that while she was chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee she sent four letters to top American officials, including Hillary Rodham Clinton, then secretary of state, advocating on behalf of three members of the Isaias family who had problems with their residencies. She called it 'standard practice' for constituents."
That detail is absent from this week's Times article.
Here's the Times in March: "Mr. Rubio, whose political action committee received $2,000 from Luis Isaias, also made 'routine constituent inquiries' into immigration matters for two family members, his office said." In December, Rubio's advocacy vanished from the Times.
Additionally, while the article suggests in its opening paragraph that Estefania Isaias was given permission to enter the country in 2012 in direct response to the donations from her family, she reportedly received the same access on six prior occasions dating back to the first restrictions on her movement in 2007 under the Bush Administration. Indeed, the Times reported in the 23rd paragraph of its article that a spokesperson for Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) said the senator's office had gotten involved with the Isaias case because "because Ms. Isaías had previously been allowed to travel to the United States six times despite the ban, and the decision to suddenly enforce it seemed arbitrary and wrong."
Conservative media are exploiting the Times' shoddy reporting -- reporting that doesn't stand up to basic scrutiny in light of what the Times itself has previously reported.
"Clinton State Dept Pulled Strings for Menendez in Pay-to-Play Deal with Dem Donor," the Washington Free Beacon headline claimed. "Controversial Ecuadorian Family Donated About $100,000 to Obama ... and the State Department Returned the Favor," is the take over at The Blaze. The Daily Caller: "Sen Menendez Pushed Hillary Clinton To Grant Visa For Daughter Of Ecuadoran Bank Fugitive."
Taking The New York Times' lead, Rubio's and Ros-Lehtinen's advocacy on behalf of their donors is nowhere to be seen.
The New York Times overlooked the millions of dollars in campaign contributions spent by lobbyists and special interest groups that benefitted from the provisions added to the omnibus spending bill passed by Congress last week.
Media coverage of an omnibus spending bill that rolled back key financial services regulations ignored the amount of money the financial services industry spent helping elect members of Congress in 2014. In fact, the industry lobbying to eliminate the regulation spent $436 million on federal candidates during the midterm elections.
Buzzfeed reported that the emails, released after a hacker group broke in to Sony's computer systems, detailed a series of exchanges between Dowd, Pascal, and Pascal's husband Bernard Weinraub, a former Times reporter, for a March 2014 column Dowd was writing about the declining percentage of women in the film industry.
The emails show Dowd promising Pascal she "would make sure you look great" and Weinraub warning Pascal not to tell anyone that he was "seeing the column before its printed." From Buzzfeed:
But the leaked documents show that when Dowd emailed Pascal on March 3 for the column -- which would run online the next night and in print on March 5 -- Dowd told Pascal "i would make sure you look great and we'd check it all and do it properly."
Before Pascal actually interviewed with Dowd for the column, she talked to Weinraub.
"I said the rap that you jus like to make womens films is unfair amnd sexist," Weinraub said in an email to Pascal on March 4. "You made all these "women's movies ===league of their own, 28 days,,,the nora Ephron films...zero dark.... but you also do spifderman... denzel....Jonah hill.....bad teacher etc etc."
Pascal responded, "IM NOT TALKING TO HER IF SHE IS GONNA SLAM ME. PLEASE FIND OUT."
Weinraub assured her, "you cant tell single person that I'm seeing the column before its printed...its not done...no p.r. people or Lynton or anyone should know."
After the column was published later that night, Pascal emailed Dowd, saying "I THOUGHT THE STORY WAS GREAT I HOPE YOUR HAPPY "
Dowd responded: "I hope you're happy! Thanks for helping. Let's do another." Pascal replied, "Your my favorite person so yes" and Dowd finished the conversation with "you're mine! you're amazing"
Dowd denied that she had given anyone an advance look at her column in a statement released to several reporters, as Politico reported:
In an email though, Dowd says she "never showed Bernie the column in advance or promised to show it."
"Bernie is an old friend and the Times' former Hollywood reporter, and he sometimes gives me ideas for entertainment columns. In January, he suggested a column, inspired by a study cited in the L.A. Times, about the state of women in Hollywood. Amy is a friend and I reassured her before our interview that it wasn't an antagonistic piece. She wasn't the focus of the story, nor was Sony," Dowd said. "I emailed with Bernie and talked to him before I wrote the column in March, getting his perspective on the Hollywood old boys' club and the progress of women. But I didn't send him the column beforehand."