• Vanity Fair overstates Limbaugh's political influence

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    From VF's Michael Wolff in the new issue:

    Indeed, for 20 years, three hours a day, nothing in radio has so moved the audience to action as Rush: the Republican base both buys the pre-owned cars he suggests ought to be bought and champions the causes he's hot on. Nothing in politics, or the news cycle, is as direct and powerful as this. In seconds, he can move an awesome tide, unleashing e-mail, telephone calls, and scary Web-site rage.

    People sure have short memories. Because it was just 13 months ago that Limbaugh led the conservative revolt against candidate John McCain. It was Limbaugh out in front of the pitchfork crowd demanding that McCain not be the GOP nominee for president, saying that McCain wasn't sufficiently conservative to carry the Republican mantle into the general election.

    So what did Republican voters nationwide do in response? They awarded McCain with an easy primary-season victory and pretty much handed him the nomination on a silver platter.

    Not much of an "awesome tide" there.

  • HuffPo: The Return of the Western Journalism Center

    Blog ››› ››› KARL FRISCH

    Terry Krepel, a senior web editor at Media Matters and founder and editor of ConWebWatch, has a great piece up at Huffington Post about the reemergence of the Western Journalism Center. Be sure to check out the entire piece.

    Here's just a taste:

    How is Barack Obama's birth certificate like Vince Foster?

    To answer that, we must go back to the very beginning. After leaving the Sacramento Union in 1991, Joseph Farah and former Union publisher James Smith founded the Western Journalism Center -- under whose aegis Farah later founded WorldNetDaily. (After WND was spun off as a for-profit subsidiary in 1998, the WJC's share of of it was gradually transferred over the years to Farah.)

    Farah likes to peddle the story that the WJC was founded "to fill a growing void in my industry's commitment to investigative reporting" and that its "mission was not ideological." In fact, the WJC didn't do all that much actual investigating; its main function was to attack the Clinton administration by promoting conspiracy theories surrounding the death of deputy White House counsel Vince Foster -- it accepted $330,000 in donations from then-Clinton-hater Richard Mellon Scaife toward that end, and other conservative foundations contributed as well -- and it went dormant as soon as Clinton left office.

    Now that there's a Democrat in the Oval Office again, guess who's back?

    The first hint of the WJC's resurrection came last August with a WorldNetDaily commentary by Andrea Shea King touting Jerome Corsi's factually dubious anti-Obama book, asserting that the book contains "legitimate questions about Obama that the author meticulously documents in the book's nearly 700 footnotes." The article contained the tagline, "This column was commissioned by the Western Journalism Center."

    After undergoing a slight name modification -- it now prefers to call itself the slightly more highfalutin'-sounding Western Center for Journalism -- the WJC website is functional again, if only as a blog linking to other articles trashing President Obama and the so-called "liberal media" in general while offering no original commentary. According to its archives, blog posts began sporadically last September, but the blogging efforts have ramped up over the past few months. All posts thus far are anonymous.

    Continue reading...

  • Bill O'Reilly's Ambush "Journalism" in 87 Seconds

    Blog ››› ››› KARL FRISCH

    Crooks & Liars has a great new video up on Bill O'Reilly's ambush "journalism." Be sure to check it out:

    Bill O'Reilly's ambush tactics reached new lows when Jesse Watters, King of the Ambushing Producers chased down blogger Amanda Terkel at Think Progress while she was on vacation. What makes these tactics even more despicable is the fact that Bill O'Reilly is sending his minions to his victims' homes, vacation spots, parking lots -- you name it -- just to fulfill the odious mission of being smear mercenaries.

    And his motives are all too clear: REVENGE. He even violates his own 'ambush policy' regarding these intimidation practices.

    Of course, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann has provided a hands on training for dealing with an ambush from O'Reilly should you ever face one yourself.

    And don't forget Jon Stewart's recent take on O'Reilly's ambushiness from Comedy Central's The Daily Show:

  • Conservative media split over Obama Derangement Syndrome

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    That's ODS, or the continued, and completely unhinged, reaction to the new Democratic administration from the GOP Noise Machine.

    From the extremely far-right FrontPageMag, David Horowitz laments:

    I have been watching an interesting phenomenon on the Right, which is beginning to cause me concern. I am referring to the over-the-top hysteria in response to the first months in office of our new president, which distinctly reminds me of the "Bush Is Hitler" crowd on the Left.

    And from the equally far-right site Little Green Footballs:

    Good for David Horowitz; his latest column for FrontPage makes many of the same points I've been hammering away at since Barack Obama was elected (leading to a series of meltdowns in our comment threads, and a barrage of hate mail that shows no sign of letting up). Horowitz is on the mark when he says way too many on the right are now suffering from Obama Derangement Syndrome.

    Pssst, Michelle Malkin, I'm pretty sure they're talking about you.

  • Democratic voices all but absent from WaPo profile of Michelle Obama

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    It turns out that despite the media's yammering about Michelle Obama, she's quite popular - popular enough that the Washington Post devoted nearly 1,400 words to the topic today. But the paper apparently had trouble finding any Democrats to talk to - here's a list of everyone the Post quoted:

    "Maxine Furlong, a Republican from Upstate New York who initially was not a fan:"

    "Democrat Nancy Thompson"

    "Bill Mazzilli, a Florida independent who voted for John McCain."

    "Randy Levensalor, an independent from Colorado who leans Republican"

    Bill O'Reilly

    Michelle Obama

    David Axelrod

    "Lynne Klaczak, a Florida Republican"

    "Beverly Watson, 61, a Tennessee Republican"

    "Kelly Lavalle, a 30-year-old financial adviser from Connecticut, is a Republican who voted for John McCain"

    "New York Republican Maxine Furlong"

  • Howard Kurtz plays dumb about...Howard Kurtz

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Keep in mind, his day job is being a media critic.

    That said, here's Kurtz crowing today:

    I took some heat a few weeks ago for quoting a radio industry analyst as saying that Rush Limbaugh's ratings had surged during his vociferous battle with the White House. Now Brian Maloney at Radio Equalizer has the numbers to show that my piece was on target.

    The heat came courtesy of yours truly. And according to Kurtz's convenient telling today, he was right about Limbaugh's ratings and I was wrong to question his work. Except that Kurtz--a media critic by profession--leaves out all kinds of pertinent information and misleads readers about what he actually wrote.

    This is what he wrote on March 6. It was the first sentence of his news report [emphasis added]:

    By one measure, Rush Limbaugh is a clear winner this week: His ratings have nearly doubled since his feud with the White House burst into the media limelight.

    Note that Kurtz did not, as he insists today, claim Limbaugh's ratings had "surged." That's what he should have written. Instead, Kurtz stated as fact that Limbaugh's ratings had nearly doubled; that they were up 80-90 percent nationwide. I jumped all over that because there was simply no proof; no proof in the article (the referenced "industry analyst" simply gave Kurtz a guesstimate), and no proof within the radio industry since syndicated ratings for shows like Limbaugh's aren't turned around that fast. Indeed, the very next day, Kurtz's Post colleague wrote an article explaining why nobody really has any idea what Limbaugh's ratings are.

    That's the back story, and please note how Kurtz a) isn't accurate about what he previously wrote re: Limbaugh's ratings and b) doesn't provide a link so readers can see what he wrote. It's up to CF to explain what's going on.

    Now, back to the current ratings. Kurtz says he's vindicated because a conservative blogger posted some ratings information for a handful of major market stations where Limbaugh is broadcast and where the stations enjoyed a big jump in audience size. Kurtz quotes from Maloney's cheerleading piece and cites five markets where Limbaugh is up; five out of the 300+ stations Limbaugh is reportedly heard on. But in those five markets, there's not one in which Limbaugh's show has "nearly doubled" its ratings. Not one. But today Kurtz claims he was right all along.

    And is it just me, or is it odd that a media writer for the Washington Post is reporting about radio ratings that he doesn't even have access to? As far as I know, conservative blogger Maloney is the only one who's published the Rush numbers. (A gift from the show?) Are the numbers accurate? I'll assume they are. But when was the last time Kurtz turned to a partisan blogger to confirm hard ratings information? Shouldn't Kurtz wait until he, or someone else at the Post, can independently go over the ratings info instead of just assuming that a partisan blog is speaking the unvarnished truth about Limbaugh's audience growth?

    UPDATE: Maybe I should claim vindication as well, since on March 9, I wrote, "Have Limbaugh's numbers spiked in recent weeks? I'd be shocked if they hadn't given the extraordinary publicity he's received."

    See, just like Kurtz, I had it right all along.

    UPDATE: The Media Bloodhound has some more on Kurtz woes.

  • Doesn't anyone think quality matters?

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    A week ago, Politico editor/co-founder John Harris wrote a peice for CJR about Politico, now and in the future, in which he wrote a lot about Politico being a "major player" -- but ignored little things like ensuring they focus on important stories ... and that they get the stories right.

    Now the Washinton City Paper names Harris and his colleague Jim VandeHei DC's best and second-best editors, respectively. And, once again, the concept of "quality journalism" doesn't even seem to cross anybody's mind, as the City Paper focuses on business models and publicity.

    I understand that the news media, like plenty of other industries, faces an uncertain future. It's only natural that those who work in the media give some thought to profitability. But it's striking that they don't bother to even pay lip service to the idea that their jobs should involve producing accurate, thorough, meaningful journalism about important topics.

  • Because suicide is funny, right Drudge?

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    The Drudge Report is mocking the Obama administration with this banner headline:


    The Drudge item details how, reportedly, the White House will roll out an online initiative to help people spot the early signs that "warn of depression, suicidal thinking and other serious mental illnesses. It will raise warning flags for: Persistent sadness/crying; Excessive anxiety; Lack of sleep/constant fatigue; Excessive irritability/anger."

    According to Drudge this is supposed to be a hoot and we're sure conservatives will join in the hilarity and make fun of government for trying to help hard working Americans deal with the difficult strains that have accompanied our drastic economic downturn.

    Because, y'know, suicide today is such a funny topic. And the idea that today's economy might be leading people to do deranged and violent things, well that's just a liberal, big government myth, right?

    UPDATE: No More Mister Nice Blog wonders where Drudge was during the Bush years when the federal government offered up similar type of "Nanny State" initiatives.

  • Facing bankruptcy, Philadelphia newspaper execs got massive bonuses

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Among other things, this serves as a useful reminder that the people who ultimately call the shots in major news organizations are wealthy elites. From Philadelphia magazine:

    Though the company teetered on the verge of bankruptcy at the time, this past December Philadelphia Media Holdings awarded bonuses to CEO Brian P. Tierney, vice president of finance Richard Thayer and Daily News publisher Mark Frisby.

    PMH board chair Bruce Toll confirmed bonuses of $350,000 for Tierney and $150,000 each for Thayer and Frisby in a phone conversation on Friday. Reached by phone, Frisby told Philadelphia, "The numbers are wrong. But I'm not going to give you a number."


    PMH filed for bankruptcy in February. Toll, of the homebuilding Toll Brothers company, confirmed that the PMH board knew the company¹s fiscal situation was dire. "The financial condition of the papers was obviously not good," said Toll. "We knew what was going to happen sooner or later."

    So why give out $650,000 in bonuses? "We thought it was deserved," he said. "But we can't get into the details because we're involved in bankruptcy proceedings."

    It had earlier been revealed that Tierney received a raise in December, just before Christmas, boosting his pay roughly 40 percent to $850,000. The company initially defended the raise, which was revealed in its bankruptcy filing, by saying that Tierney had taken on extra responsibilities since his initial deal had been struck.

    Tierney gave up the raise shortly after it was revealed. Frisby and Thayer simultaneously gave back smaller raises. Now comes news of the bonuses, which were awarded just two months after the company's unions voted to postpone $25-a-week raises for each of its members at the request of PMH.

    UPDATE: Atrios has more.