Local journalists covering Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy's case stress he is no victim and is breaking the law, regardless of conservative media's sympathy for his defiance of government orders to remove cattle from federal land.
Those reporters and editors -- some who have been covering the case for 20 years -- spoke with Media Matters and said many of Bundy's neighbors object to his failure to pay fees to have his cattle graze on the land near Mesquite, NV., when they pay similar fees themselves.
"We have interviewed neighbors and people in and around Mesquite and they have said that he is breaking the law," said Chuck Meyer, news director at CBS' KXNT Radio in Las Vegas. "When it comes to the matter of the law, Mr. Bundy is clearly wrong."
Bundy's case dates back to 1993, when he stopped paying the fees required of local ranchers who use the federally owned land for their cattle and other animals. Local editors say more than 85 percent of Nevada land is owned by the federal government.
Bundy stopped paying fees on some 100,000 acres of land in 1993 and has defied numerous court orders, claiming the land should be controlled by Nevada and that the federal government has no authority over it.
Last year a federal court ordered Bundy to remove his cattle or they would be confiscated to pay the more than $1 million in fees and fines he's accumulated. The confiscation began earlier this month, but was halted because the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) had "serious concerns about the safety of employees and members of the public" when armed militia showed up to block the takeover.
But for local journalists, many who have been reporting on him for decades, that image is very misguided.
"He clearly has captured national attention, among mostly conservative media who have portrayed him as a kind of a property rights, First Amendment, Second Amendment, range war kind of issue," Meyer noted. "That's how it has been framed, but the story goes back a lot longer and is pretty cut and dry as far as legal implications have been concerned."
He added that, "Cliven Bundy and his supporters are engaged in a fight that has already been settled. There are a number of people around these parts who have strong reservations about Bundy's actions."
Las Vegas Sun Editorial Page Editor Matt Hufman said depicting Bundy as a victim is wrong.
"The BLM had court orders against him in the 90s telling him to get off federal land," Hufman said. "He's got a bunch of these arguments about state's rights, it's not federal land, blah, blah, blah. All of the arguments have been knocked down."
Today marked the seventh straight year that The Wall Street Journal has not won a Pulitzer Prize for reporting. It also marks the seventh straight year the newspaper has been owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation.
Does one have anything to do with the other? Perhaps.
During my time at Editor & Publisher magazine from 1999 to 2010, I covered the Pulitzer Prizes each year, corresponding with members of the juries to determine who would win the awards and why.
Anyone who knows the Pulitzers can tell you it is a fierce competition. Failing to take home the prize in no way suggests one's reporting was unworthy.
But for the Journal, which has garnered dozens of the awards during its celebrated history, that stretch of failure cannot go unnoticed. In the history of the Pulitzers, only The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post and Associated Press have won more.
And during the past seven years as the Journal has remained winless, those four news outlets have won a combined 33 reporting Pulitzers.
While the newspaper has won two Pulitzers since Murdoch took over, they were for editorial writing and commentary. The heart and soul of any news operation, its reporters and photographers, have been repeatedly denied in the competition that remains the most prestigious award in journalism.
With today's winners ranging from The Tampa Bay Times to Reuters, the Journal's name is sorely missed by many, its staff likely as much as anyone.
A look at the Journal's history finds the paper's great journalism winning acclaim and top awards, all pre-Murdoch.
From its first reporting award in 1961 for uncovering problems in the timber industry to its last two in 2007 for digging into the scams of backdated stock options and the negative impact of China's growing capitalism the Journal had never gone more than five years without a win, with that stretch in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In the five years before Murdoch's purchase, the paper won Pulitzers for public service and international reporting and two each for beat reporting and explanatory journalism.
The Pulitzer Prize is not the ultimate judgment of a newspaper. And many in the industry often criticize editors who appear to assign stories specifically with the goal winning a Pulitzer in mind.
But for a newspaper of the Journal's size and stature, such a long stretch may be a sign of its goals. Murdoch has reportedly made clear that he does not prioritize the kind of in-depth, long form journalism that often wins these awards.
Opposition to virulent conservative columnist Ted Nugent's appearance at an event sponsored by The Blade of Toledo, OH, is growing, with the president of the paper's Newspaper Guild speaking out against Nugent and an anti-gun violence group launching a petition to stop the concert.
"As the president of the Guild and more importantly as an individual, I do not support Mr. Nugent's political views," Deborah Riley-Jackson, president of the Newspaper Guild of America Local 34043, which represents Blade newsroom employees, told Media Matters via email. "Freedom of speech requires one not to engage in recklessness."
At issue is The Blade's sponsorship of the upcoming Northwest Ohio Rib-Off, a four-day August food and music event the newspaper has been running for four years.
The Blade announced last week that Nugent, a rock musician, columnist for conspiracy site WND, and National Rifle Association board member whose offensive comments about President Obama and other leaders have drawn criticism, will play the festival on August 8.
Riley-Jackson said she did not believe Nugent's appearance would hurt her members' credibility, but stressed, "I do believe that [the] event itself may suffer. The Rib-Off is a family event that a lot of people look forward to, enjoying good food and entertainment. The people will decide if it was a good idea to have included in the lineup of entertainment."
The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, meanwhile, has launched a petition urging organizers to remove Nugent from the concert line-up.
The petition states, in part, "The Northwest Ohio Rib-Off webpage brags that 'nothing goes better with savory BBQ than jamming, rib-bone in hand, to a rocking band.' Certainly, nothing goes worse with good food than the virulently racist rhetoric of a man who has no regard for the dignity or rights of others."
Mike Mori, The Blade's sales director and Rib-Off event director, told Media Matters last week that he had already received "quite a few" calls from readers objecting to the appearance.
"It surprised me how many calls I got," he said. "I'm listening to the people and I probably will do something different next year if I can."
Former Connecticut Gov. John Rowland, who resigned last week from his radio talk show, was indicted Thursday on seven counts of illegal campaign contributions, falsifying records, and conspiracy.
The alleged counts indicate Rowland was receiving illegal campaign payments and engaging in deceit by aiding a Republican congressional campaign during his time as a radio talk show host on WTIC-AM, a CBS Radio affiliate in Farmington, CT.
The indictment, handed up by a federal grand jury in New Haven, detailed emails between Rowland and others in the alleged conspiracy that included former Republican congressional candidate Linda Wilson-Foley, her husband, Brian, and three unnamed co-conspirators.
Rowland, who served as governor from 1995 to 2004 -- when he resigned and subsequently went to prison for corruption -- was hired by WTIC in September 2010 and resigned last week.
A federal investigation had been underway for months into allegations that he received hidden financial support from Wilson-Foley, one of the 2012 candidates for Connecticut's 5th Congressional seat, and did not disclose it on the air as he attacked her primary opponent.
The situation worsened for Rowland last week when Foley and her husband, Brian, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor campaign violations.
According to Thursday's indictment, the Foleys had hired Rowland as a consultant from September 2011 to April 2012 and funneled $35,000 in payments to him through Mr. Foley's nursing home, and other entities, to avoid reporting them to the Federal Elections Commission and hide the payments from voters.
The indictment states:
The purpose of the conspiracy was to conceal from the FEC and the public that Rowland was paid money in exchange for services he provided to Wilson-Foley's campaign for election to the U.S. House of Representatives.
WTIC did not respond to requests for comment, while a spokesperson for CBS Radio declined to offer an opinion.
The director of a summer event sponsored by the The Blade of Toledo, OH, says the scheduled appearance of Ted Nugent is sparking a backlash from members of the community who take issue with the conservative commentator and musician's virulent commentary.
"All things being equal I wouldn't bring in a guy who is aggravating people, that is not my intention," said Mike Mori, The Blade's sales director, who is also event director for the Northwest Ohio Rib-Off, a four-day food and music event the newspaper has been running for four years. "It seems like this thing has kind of ballooned in the last couple months. I will probably think long and hard about inviting him next year."
The Blade announced today that Nugent, whose offensive comments about President Obama and other leaders have drawn criticism, will play the festival on August 8.
Mori said he has already received "quite a few" calls from readers objecting to the appearance. "It surprised me how many calls I got," he said. "I'm listening to the people and I probably will do something different next year if I can."
But Mori told Media Matters if he cancels Nugent's appearance this year, he still has to pay him the full fee, which he declined to reveal but said is more than $50,000.
"I have to pay him that even if it rains," Mori said. "I wish the guy would just not say the things he does, he brings a big audience, he's from Michigan, he packs the place. If everyone hated him, nobody would come. He does have a following, it's a tough situation. I try to have a diverse type of a line-up."
Mori, who stressed that he is "not a fan of the guy's politics," said he had signed Nugent to play the event in October 2013, before the latest uproar. He added that Nugent played the Rib-Off festival in 2012 without incident.
Mori said the festival pays most of the major acts about $50,000, adding that many big names want double or triple that amount. He said the fee is lower to keep down ticket prices, which run $6 to $12 depending on the performer.
Blade President and General Manager Joseph Zerbey did not respond to requests for comment, while Blade Editor Kurt Franck declined to offer an opinion.
"I try to make a mix of music, I try to stay out of politics, I'm in a tough position," Mori said. "I don't agree with what the guy says."
Cokie Roberts said she was surprised to hear women comprised less than 30 percent of guests last year on Sunday morning broadcast political talk shows like her former program, ABC's This Week. But she did not believe that disparity was a problem, stating, "there are plenty of women there."
According to data compiled by Media Matters, the four major broadcast Sunday shows hosted men at least 72 percent of the time in 2013, with women guests making up less than 30 percent on each program.
Those numbers haven't changed since Media Matters examined the programs in 2008. And women were even less likely to be chosen for the coveted solo newsmaker interviews, receiving no more than 15 percent of time devoted to such appearances.
"I didn't even notice it," Roberts said during an appearance at a bookstore in New Jersey Tuesday to promote her children's book, Founding Mothers, which is about the unsung women of early American history. "I'm surprised at that because there seem to be a lot more than there were when I started."
Asked if she believes it is a problem to have such a low ratio of women guests, Roberts, who co-anchored ABC's Sunday morning political talk show from 1996-2002 and has been a regular guest in the years since, sought to defend the process the shows used.
"It seems to me that the attempt is always to have a little of this, a little of that," she said. "Someone just has to balance whatever, whether it's a conservative slot that needs to be filled or a minority slot that needs to be filled. It's the luck of the draw how any given week goes."
Still, she said the gender gap had not been apparent to her.
"I haven't noticed it," she said. "I am surprised to have you even say it. It doesn't look that way to me. It is always better to have more women, but to me in thinking about the shows there are plenty of women there."
Below are charts showing the gender diversity on the four broadcast Sunday shows, as well as similar programs on CNN and MSNBC:
Former Connecticut Gov. John Rowland, who has come under scrutiny regarding his second career as a talk radio show host, resigned from his program Thursday evening after months of speculation about his role in an illegal campaign funding scheme.
The resignation, which the Republican former governor announced near the end of his daily show on WTIC-AM in Farmington, comes days after Rowland was further implicated in an ongoing investigation into a 2012 congressional campaign.
Rowland told listeners on Thursday, "Today will be my last show as I'm leaving the station to take care of some personal issues." He also added, "It's been a great experience and we'll take it from there, and God bless you all."
A story about the resignation posted on WTIC's website included a statement from program director Jenneen Lee that said, in part, "We accept Mr. Rowland's decision to step down at this time."
Rowland could not be reached for comment Friday, while WTIC did not respond to requests for comment. CBS Radio declined to comment on the reason for the resignation, but stated in an email, "As you know John Rowland announced he would be leaving the station to take care of some personal issues. We accept Mr. Rowland's decision to step down at this time."
A federal investigation has been underway for months into allegations that the afternoon drive time host and former GOP rising star received hidden financial support from one of the 2012 candidates for Connecticut's 5th Congressional seat, Republican Lisa Wilson Foley, and did not disclose it on the air as he attacked her primary opponent.
The situation worsened for Rowland on Monday when Foley and her husband, Brian, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor campaign violations, according to The New York Times. The Times also reported Rowland had been described in court papers as one of four unindicted co-conspirators.
According to court documents, the Foleys had hired Rowland as a consultant from September 2011 to April 2012, but funneled some $35,000 in payments to him, through Mr. Foley's nursing home, and other entities, to avoid reporting them and hide the payments from voters, the Times reported.
Local journalism veterans and one of the candidates who ran against Wilson Foley in the 2012 race criticized Rowland in February as the investigation drew attention and Rowland hired an attorney.
In the wake of the shooting that left four dead, including the gunman, several conservative media figures are urging the Pentagon to change its policy that typically bars the carrying of concealed weapons or side arms by soldiers who are not involved in law-enforcement activities.
Conservative radio host Mark Levin asked "how many more deaths" it will take before service members are "allowed to have weapons." TownHall.com editor and Fox News contributor Katie Pavlich tweeted, "Should we stop giving soldiers guns? Oh wait, already did that. Result? mass shootings in gun free, defenseless military bases." Fox News host Martha MacCallum suggested that it's "highly possible" lives could have been saved at Fort Hood "if other people had been armed on that base."
But those who have commanded military bases and served as officers disagree, citing the concerns about increased violence and potential danger to innocent bystanders.
"My own personal feeling is that I would be against that. I don't think that's an appropriate solution to what we have seen at Fort Hood," said retired Lt. Gen. Edward Anderson, a 39-year Army veteran and West Point graduate. "This has to be very, very carefully thought out. The implications of what that would result in. There are other means by which you can enhance security on installations than arming everyone -- increasing security patrols, let's take a look at all the options."
He added that a broader access policy might not have stopped the Fort Hood shooter: "The person who shot the folks down there would have been able to have the weapon. You could make the case they would have gotten him; maybe yes, maybe no. But then you have a Wild West situation there. It is just not the right thing to do."
Paul Eaton, a retired Army major general and former commander at Fort Benning, Ga., stressed that anyone on military bases who carries weapons, such as military police, receives extra training.
"We train our military police to a higher standard, they are trained first as infantry and then additional training in law enforcement and how to handle situations like a law enforcement officer," he said.
Asked about the idea of expanding weapons access to all soldiers and even allowing concealed weapons on bases, Eaton stated, "I am not in favor of that."
Jamie Barnett, a former Navy rear admiral and 32-year veteran, called more weapons "a bad idea."
"We already have lots of weapons on base," he said in an interview. "We have great law enforcement personnel, we have great military personal who can protect us. It seems to me that the real focus should be on people who have some type of mental or emotional problem, we should concentrate on that."
Asked what the negative impact of more weapons access would be, Barnett stated, "It seems like it would interfere with the legitimate law enforcement function. It does not increase safety. The more weapons you have, the more potential to have them stolen, get out of hand."
Jon Soltz, chairman at VoteVets.org and an Iraq War veteran, said adding weapons to military personnel on bases would add danger.
Chevron is now running a local "news" website in a California city where it caused a massive, toxic fire in 2012, continuing a disturbing history of using propaganda disguised as news to promote its corporate efforts.
Chevron launched the Richmond Standard in January 2014 and promotes it as a community news site covering Richmond, Ca., where the company's Chevron Richmond refinery has been located since 1902.
While it discloses that it is owned by Chevron Richmond, the site purports to "provide Richmond residents with important information about what's going on in the community."
The stories that populate Richmond Standard -- posted by former Bay Area newspaper reporter Mike Aldax -- largely avoid any in-depth or investigative reporting. Recent articles include things like highlighting McDonald's offering free small coffees to customers.
The site enters murkier ethical territory in its occasional coverage of corporate parent Chevron. One section is apparently devoted to the company's position on issues, dubbed, "Chevron Speaks."
There are only two articles on "Chevron Speaks." The first announced that the Richmond Standard would be "dedicated to shining a light on the positive things that are going on in the community." The second, from February of this year, targeted an allegedly "misleading" article in an alternative weekly that was critical of Chevron's planned refinery modernization project.
But Chevron's corporate spin isn't restricted to the "Chevron Speaks" section. Another page titled "Community Views" claims to give readers a place to submit their own content. The only posting mentioning Chevron quotes from a local union member's remarks at a town meeting offering support for Chevron's refinery modernization project. The post includes glowing praise of Chevron's impact in the community:
It's my job as community activist to say to you, our city leaders, that Chevron is a participant not just a provider. They provide for nonprofits all over this community. And also they are the main player of Richmond. Without Chevron we'd be like Vallejo - broke. So can't we all just get along? If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything. Our community is tired of falling for anything.
Other stories invoking Chevron include a post from February which apparently sought to assuage potential concerns about clouds hanging over the local Chevron refinery. The post explained that the clouds were "only steam," and cited a Chevron employee laying out how the clouds were "similar to what you might see coming out of a tea kettle."
Another highlights a "much-anticipated" environmental impact report about the company's refinery modernization project and cites a Chevron spokesperson to claim that the "project is a win-win for Chevron and the community."
Mike Aldax's news credibility is questionable. While he spent several years in journalism as a reporter for the San Francisco Examiner and other local publications, he is writing Richmond Standard posts as an employee of Singer Associates, a prominent Bay Area public relations firm.
The Washington Times is defending its opinion editor's practice of offering personal political endorsements to Republican candidates, which media observers and editorial page editors at others papers say violates journalistic ethics.
Since joining the Times in 2013 after a career in conservative politics, David Keene has endorsed several Republican senators for reelection, either on his own behalf or on behalf of the National Rifle Association, on whose board he sits. Reporting on the endorsements, Politico's Dylan Byers noted that such endorsements are unheard of for editorial page editors at major newspapers since it would be regarded as a "violation of ethics."
But asked to comment on the endorsements, Times editor-in-chief John Solomon defended Keene, saying the opinion editor's actions were in keeping with the paper's "set of rules to maintain the highest ethical standards for the opinion department" that he and Keene hammered out upon Keene's hiring.
Keene, a former president of the NRA and chairman of the American Conservative Union, says that his endorsements raise no ethical questions because he won't participate in a Times endorsement discussion of the candidates his organizations support.
"As a practical matter, I would not participate in a WT discussion re an endorsement of someone whose NRA endorsement I had previously delivered," Keene told Media Matters via email Tuesday. "The important thing, in my mind at least, is to remember what 'hat' one is wearing and when. For example, I am also still on the ACU Board and ACU through its PAC endorses candidates that neither the WT or the NRA might endorse or even support. Therefore it is incumbent upon me or [anyone] else involved with multiethnic organizations to avoid mixing the roles. I have always endeavored to make certain I avoid that temptation."
Keene has presented the NRA's endorsement of Sen. Mike Simpson (ID) and personally endorsed Sens. Pat Roberts (KS) and Lamar Alexander (TN). But Keene contends his outside endorsements raise no ethical red flags because they are for candidates the Times would not endorse.
"We would not be endorsing someone to whom I had delivered an NRA endorsement in my capacity as a former NRA President and Board member," Keene stated. He added that the NRA's endorsements are made by its lobbying arm, not the organization's board, and that he had presented the NRA's endorsement to Simpson because he was "in Idaho for other reasons."
Keene's actions appear consistent with the lax standards the Times has established for him. Earlier this year, Solomon told Media Matters that Keene had been hired with the understanding that he would continue his advocacy work for the NRA but would recuse himself from editing Times pieces about that organization.
Solomon reiterated that statement in an email to Media Matters today, writing of the paper's ethics rules:
They are simple, straightforward and consistent with the best practices of journalism aimed at mitigating perceived conflicts and creating transparency. David recuses himself from editing any pieces in his department that are focused on the NRA. He is free to write about the NRA in his personal weekly column as long as he discloses to the reader in that column his continuing role with the organization. When he acts in his role as NRA board member, such as delivering the group's endorsement, he does so solely in his role as an NRA member.