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  • Las Vegas Review-Journal Editor Resigns Citing Adelson Ownership Of Newspaper

    Mike Hengel: "I think my resignation probably comes as a relief to the new owners."

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    CNN Money reported that Las Vegas Review-Journal editor Mike Hengel was offered and accepted a buyout and will step down as editor of Nevada's largest newspaper.

    Hengel's decision comes after the Review-Journal was purchased by an unnamed person later discovered to be top Republican donor and casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. The purchase has concerned many of the reporters at the paper who feared a loss of editorial control in deference to the new owner. Prior to stepping down, Hengel had instructed reporters to begin working on identifying the long list of "perceived conflicts of interest" that were likely to surround the paper and their new owner.

    CNN Money's December 22 article reporting his resignation said Hengel "thought his relationship with the Adelson family would be 'adversarial' and that it was best to let them pick their own editor."

    Mike Hengel, the top editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, is stepping aside, less than two weeks after the family of casino mogul Sheldon Adelson took control of the newspaper.

    One reporter said the newsroom was "stunned" by the announcement, which Hengel made on Tuesdayevening in the midst of a turbulent period for Nevada's biggest newspaper.

    Wednesday's edition will include a message from the Adelson family on the front page. It says "we pledge to publish a newspaper that is fair, unbiased and accurate." It describes plans for "new investments" and the establishment of an ombudsman.

    Retaining the trust of readers will be difficult for the paper, especially if other veteran journalists follow Hengel to the exit.

    A round of end-of-the-year buyouts were initiated before Adelson purchased the paper on December 10. Hengel was originally not eligible. But the eligibility rules were apparently changed for him.

    According to tweets and people who were present for the announcement, Hengel told his staffers that he did not ask for a buyout, but that he was offered one shortly after the change in ownership. He did not say who made the offer. But he said he thought his relationship with the Adelson family would be "adversarial" and that it was best to let them pick their own editor.

    "I think my resignation probably comes as a relief to the new owners, and it is in my best interest and those of my family," Hengel said, according to reporter Neal Morton.

    Hengel did not respond to a request for further comment.

    The owners' letter in Wednesday's paper said managers "will appoint an interim editor and will immediately begin a search for the next permanent Review-Journal editor."

    Hengel's departure comes at a time of widespread unease about what the new owners intend to do.

    Longtime Review-Journal columnist John L. Smith, who was once sued by Adelson, wrote over the weekend that "Adelson is precisely the wrong person to own this or any newspaper."

  • Media Highlight How GOP "Carping" Secured Hugh Hewitt's CNN Debate Moderator Gig

    ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    Media outlets have called out CNN for selecting conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt as a moderator of the December 15 Republican primary debate, noting that the inclusion of this "highly [...] partisan" conservative media figure is the result of Republican Party "carping." The Republican National Committee (RNC) has pressured networks to include conservative media figures as debate moderators, a move received with criticism from former debate moderators and network executives.

  • Washington Post Editorial Board Slams The GOP's Debate Demands

    Blog ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    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 Mock The GOP's "Ridiculous Manifesto" Of Presidential Debate Demands


    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.

  • Experts Criticize Associated Press For Disavowing Term "Climate Change Denier"

    Scientists And Journalists Say AP's Stylebook Change Legitimizes Those Who Reject Scientific Fact

    ››› ››› DENISE ROBBINS

    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.

  • This New Study Shows How The Media Makes People Climate Change Cynics -- And What They Can Do Differently

    Author Explains How Stories Emphasizing Action, Agency Can Inspire Political Engagement

    Blog ››› ››› DENISE ROBBINS


    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 TimesThe Wall Street JournalThe 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:

     WSJ chart

    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 NH Union Leader Just Hired A Disciple Of The Koch Brothers To Run Its Editorial Page

    ››› ››› DANIEL ANGSTER

    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."

  • Bill Sammon Is The "Secret Weapon" Shaping The Fox News Debate

    Network's Washington Managing Editor Is Right-Wing Ideologue With History Of Deception


    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.