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  • What's Howard Kurtz's point about Obama coverage?

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    In the WaPo he's got a big piece today about how the press has gone overboard covering the Obama victory. Kurtz seems unnerved by the excitement that the win has caused and suggests journalism guidelines have been violated in the process.

    His examples though, seem pretty thin. For instance, Kurtz points some opinion writers who used too many "eye-popping superlatives" to describe the Obama win. But a) They're opinion writers. And b) They backed Obama, so their excitement and lofty rhetoric shouldn't surprise anyone.

    Kurtz also seems gravely concerned by these instances of Obama coverage:

    "The Obamas' New Life!" blares People's cover, with a shot of the family. "New home, new friends, new puppy!" Us Weekly goes with a Barack quote: "I Think I'm a Pretty Cool Dad." The Chicago Tribune trumpets that Michelle "is poised to be the new Oprah and the next Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis -- combined!" for the fashion world.

    There's absolutely nothing wrong, or even exceptional, with any of those examples. The Obamas have clearly crossed over into the world of pop culture and the media reflect that. So what.

    In terms of actual news reporting, Kurtz can't, or doesn't, cite any example of the press pulling its punches for Obama. On that key front, all Kurtz can do is speculate.

    But what happens when adulation gives way to the messy, incremental process of governing? When Obama has to confront a deep-rooted financial crisis, two wars and a political system whose default setting is gridlock? When he makes decisions that inevitably disappoint some of his boosters?

    Howie, when you find example of the press actually doing something wrong, of not doing its job, or becoming lapdogs for the new Obama administration, be sure to let us know.

  • Reporting done right.

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Our former colleague Dennis Yedwab has long insisted that sports reporting is significantly better -- or at least more accurate -- than political reporting. Here's some anecdotal evidence in his favor, courtesy of Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight:

    I have written for perhaps a dozen major publications over the span of my career, and the one with the most thorough fact-checking process is by some margin Sports Illustrated. Although this is an indication of the respect with which SI accords its brand, it does not speak so well of the mainstream political media that you are more likely to see an unverified claim repeated on the evening news than you are to see in the pages of your favorite sports periodical.

  • Why did Sunday talk shows this week revolve around the GOP's future?

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    It struck us as very odd. Twelve days after Democrats posted big election gains, one of the themes on almost every Sunday talk show this week was, how does the GOP recover; how does it map out a new future? The topic actually seemed to overshadow the rather obvious, and more newsworthy, issue of the emerging Obama administration.

    Specifically, we were struck by the appearance of Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota on Fox News Sunday, and Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana on Face the Nation. Both are Republicans, both were reportedly on John McCain's VP short list, and both have already been mentioned as possible GOP players for the 2012 contest. Meaning, both were invited because they're considered overtly political players with presidential aspirations.

    Throw in Newt Gingrich (Face the Nation) and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (This Week) into the mix, and it was like one big bull session for Republicans. (This Week's topic: "Reviving the GOP.")

    Why is the Beltway press right now so worried about the state of the GOP? And when the Dems were on the outside looking in, did the media ever show this kind of concern?

    UPDATE: What Amato said.

  • Solving liberal bias in the media

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    It's really quite simple and we were reminded of it today after reading WaPo ombudsman Deborah Howell's hand-wringing column, in which she frets about conservative complaints about liberal bias. Howell lists some rather comical examples of allegedly biased Post campaign stories that drew conservative complaints. (And no, Howell never ponders for a moment that the conservative complaints about bias might part of a political campaign that the GOP has been waging against the press for four decades.)

    But anyway, Howell is deeply troubled and quotes Tom Rosenstiel, who directs the Project for Excellence in Journalism. He agreed with Howell that the conservative complaints were troubling:

    "The perception of liberal bias is a problem by itself for the news media. It's not okay to dismiss it. Conservatives who think the press is deliberately trying to help Democrats are wrong. But conservatives are right that journalism has too many liberals and not enough conservatives. It's inconceivable that that is irrelevant."

    You can see where this is going, right? "More conservatives in newsrooms" would help, Howell writes. And then this:

    Editors hire not on the basis of beliefs but on talent in reporting, photography and editing, and hiring is at a standstill because of the economy. But newspapers have hired more minorities and women, so it can be done.

    Rosenstiel said, "There should be more intellectual diversity among journalists. More conservatives in newsrooms will bring about better journalism."

    To that, our response is simple: Who's stopping conservatives from being hired in newsrooms? Honestly. If Newsbusters can document how scores of qualified College Republican grads were passed over by local newspapers to poorly paying jobs to cover local zoning commission jobs simply because the applicants were conservative, we'd love to hear about it. Because right now there's nothing stopping young conservatives from joining newsrooms and working their way up from the bottom just like everybody else in media does. They just don't want to do it.

    Put another way, If newsrooms tilt so tragically to the left, why don't conservatives try to get jobs in newsrooms? Why don't they jump at the chance to become poorly paid reporters in a dying industry? The answer: Conservatives would rather be partisan pundits and complain about the press and hope that people like Howell blame journalism.

  • Why can't MoDo quit the Clintons?

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Leave it to Maureen Dowd to perfectly capture everything that's wrong with opinion journalism today. In a way, her Sunday Clinton-hating column (she's really expanding her repertoire) does everybody involved a favor because she unintentionally pulls back the curtain and reveals what's eating away at portions of the Beltway press: Clinton Derangement Syndrome. More on that later.

    First, let's just note that it's been less than 72 hours since reports first surfaced that the new Obama administration could include Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, and within those 72 hours the press, and especially the pundit class, has managed to embarrass itself multiple times.

    My hunch is that the emotional, and often irrational response, is because some in the press are furious that Clinton has not been sufficiently vanquished and humiliated in the wake of Obama's victory. For many in the press, that seemed to be the whole point of the election cycle.

    Here, for me, is the key Dowd passage. Once you get past the stunning misogyny at the top of the column (i.e. Clinton felt "entitled" to run for U.S. Senate and for president because her husband cheated on her), you come to the source of Dowd's complaint:

    There are Obama aides and supporters who are upset that The One who won on change has ushered in déjà vu all over again. The man who vowed to deliver us from 28 years of Bushes and Clintons has been stocking up on Clintonites.

    Think back to the campaign and try to recall a single instance during his 20-plus months on the trail when Barack Obama ever promised to rid the country of the Clintons. I remember plenty of references from Obama about doing away with the failures of Bush. But Clinton? I can't recall a single example and my guess is that's because that's not how Obama felt. I never got the sense that his candidacy was driven by animosity towards the Clintons. (Indeed, he's been tapping scores of former Clinton aides for jobs in his new administration.)

    I think it's inconceivable to suggest that Obama ran for president because he wanted to rid the country of Clintons. But the pundits? Based on Dowd's writings, that's absolutely how they interpreted Obama's campaign and they simply attached their Clinton hatred onto his candidacy. And now, some in the press are furious that Obama's non-existent promise has been broken. They're furious that Obama has made clear, yet again, that he respects and admires Hillary Clinton. They're beside themselves that Clinton may soon be viewed as a very important player on the national and international stage. They can't stand the idea of her succeeding.

    And that is the working definition of Clinton Derangement Syndrome.

  • A run on post-election gun sales? cont'd

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    This week we noted some of the holes in a Los Angeles Times article about the supposedly spike in gun sales following Barack Obama's win on the Election Day. The Times reported that some gun owners said they were preparing in the event of a "race war." But the newspaper's report was built mostly on interviews with a couple of Texas gun owners, not with lots of conclusive factual information about gun sales.

    Now Slate's Jack Shafer takes a look at the even larger press explosion in gun sales stories, many of which carry an election theme, and finds all kinds of problems with the reporting.

  • Does Time have a problem with the gays?

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Two weeks ago, the weekly warned readers about the encroaching powers of the "secretive" and "stealth" "Gay Mafia," and now it's trumpeting the gays' "Enemies List."

    Hmm, the Mafia and Nixon, that's quite a portrait Time is painting.

    To review, it tuns out the Gay Mafia is basically a group of wealthy and influential gay men, dubbed the Cabinet, who have teamed up to raise millions of dollars to give candidates running against anti-gay opponents, and to give to organizations and PAC's that are politically aligned with the men's agenda. So readers can rest easy about that.

    But what about this new "Enemies List"? That sounds just as threatening as the Mafia.

    The full headline to the Time piece by Alison Stateman reads, "What Happens If You're on the Gay "Enemies List."" The article is about the on-going protests in the wake of California's Prop 8 passage which outlaws gay marriage. Specifically, gay rights activists are targeting donors who gave money to the pro-Prop 8 initiative. The key quote:

    "My goal was to make it socially unacceptable to give huge amounts of money to take away the rights of one particular group, a minority group," says Fred Karger, a retired political consultant and founder of Californians Against Hate. "I wanted to make the public aware of who these people are and how much they're giving and then they could make a decision as to whether or not they want to patronize their businesses."

    That's pretty much it. Opponents of Prop 8 are upset it passed and are increasing their activism. So what's up with the foreboding "Enemies List" talk, which conjures a particularly dark period from the American past?

    Please note that Time put "Enemies List" in its headline and put it in quotes. Also note that the phrase "Enemies List" does not appear anywhere in the article. Meaning, Time editors simply pulled that catch phrase out of the air and assigned to the gay community.

    Suggestion to Time: Change the misleading headline.

  • The guy who predicted the financial crisis was laughed at on cable news

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    In case you had any doubts about the economic cheerleading that went on for years on places like CNBC and Fox News and then Fox Business, take a look at the how Peter Shift was practically laughed on sets in 2006 and 2007 when he started talking about the deep, looming recession when consumers were going to stop spending, or when he warned about the coming housing collapse.

  • The NYT's woeful Minnesota recount reporting, cont'd

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    We noted earlier the several blotches that appeared in the Friday Times article about the Al Franken/Norm Coleman recount. We didn't' like the way the article was heavily favored in terms of quoting and referencing Coleman supporters, and how the Times gave a platform to the GOP claim (completely unsubstantiated) that the race was being "stolen." And how the newspaper even quoted Sean Hannity, as if his propaganda had any relevance in the recount.

    Now we find out that a person quoted in the Times piece and presented as sort of an Everyman Minnesota voter (who, by the way, came down on the side of Coleman), actually has close ties to the GOP. Worse, the Everyman voter says he explained his GOP connection to the Times reporter and that even the Everyman voter was surprised when his GOP ties were not mentioned in the Times article.

    Go read more here. It's not pretty folks.

  • The Strib and Al Franken, cont'd

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Just before Election Day, we noted that the editor of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, in preperation for the final showdown between Al Franken and Norm Coleman, ordered the paper's local columnists, whose work appeared in the news pages, to "refrain refrain from partisan political commentary in their columns on the news pages, at least until after the election."

    The editor was quite clear:

    For the duration of the campaign, we will not run any columns on the news pages that support or attack one candidate or the other or take a strong partisan stand.

    We thought that was a bit odd (aren't pundits supposed to opine about campaigns?), but if that was the ground rule set down, so be it. But the question now is, does the edict still stand? Because technically, the election is not over since Minnesota is about to begin a lengthy recount of the hyper-close race.

    And if the Strib editor didn't want to overly influence the public's perception of the campaign, wouldn't that still apply during the contentious recount process?

    We ask because we saw that Strib's in-house Dem critic, Katherine Kersten, just published a column critical of Minnesota's Democratic Secretary of State who is oveseeing the recournt. Does the Strib have its thumb on the scale?