Incoming New York Times Public Editor Margaret Sullivan says she believes that "newspapers must be truth vigilantes" and that such a focus is "a clear part of our mission."
Sullivan, whose appointment to the position was announced Monday, will take over the post from current public editor Arthur Brisbane on Sept. 1, 2012.
Brisbane drew criticism for a January 12 report in which he posed the question, "Should the Times Be a Truth Vigilante?" In his piece, he said he was "looking for reader input on whether and when New York Times news reporters should challenge 'facts' that are asserted by newsmakers they write about." As Adam Clark Estes observed at The Atlantic Wire, "The immediate answer, everyone we follow [on Twitter] seemed to agree, was a resounding YES."
In a follow-up post, Brisbane said he had been misunderstood, and that his "inquiry related to whether The Times, in the text of news columns, should more aggressively rebut 'facts' that are offered by newsmakers when those 'facts' are in question." He added, "I consider this a difficult question, not an obvious one." Responding to his original post, Times executive editor Jill Abramson wrote that "[t]he kind of rigorous fact-checking and truth-testing you describe is a fundamental part of our job as journalists" and that "[w]e do it every day, in a variety of ways."
In an interview with Media Matters, Sullivan, currently editor of The Buffalo News, said she agrees with the contention that newspapers must challenge facts presented by sources or news subjects if they are found to be in dispute, a position she said put her in step with both her predecessor and Abramson.
"I think that possibly what came out of that was that we all know and Arthur Brisbane knows and Jill Abramson knows and every one of us knows that newspapers must be truth vigilantes and there never really was any question about that I don't think," she said Monday. "Certainly that's a value that we all share and that's not really in question. It's a clear part of our mission, to ferret out the truth. What else are we here for?"
Asked Monday if accepting answers from subjects and sources at face value is not enough, Sullivan added:
"For any newspaper, for any news organization, I don't think it's nearly enough, we have to be much more searching. I think that challenging facts and getting to the bottom of statements is central to the mission of journalism. To me, it's a very clear cut kind of thing."
Sullivan, 55, comes to the Times post after 13 years as editor of The Buffalo News and an employee of that paper since 1980.
On how she plans to approach the job -- and perhaps differently from her four predecessors -- Sullivan said, "I think that ... the difference is that we live in a very different era right now. It has changed a whole lot in just the past couple of years."
"We are so immersed in digital culture and the Public Editor's role needs to respond to that. I see this as a way of aggregating the comment and criticism and discussion that's out there into a probably daily or close to daily blog, getting reader comment going in a real time basis and have a true sort of ongoing online conversation with the Times readers about the New York Times," she added.
The union representing most newsroom staffers at The Wall Street Journal is telling workers to seek "every dime" they earn in reaction to recent cutbacks and increased workload.
In a fiery email sent to 1,500 union members Wednesday, Steve Yount, president of the Independent Association of Publishers' Employees Local 1096. noted that 62 employees of parent company Dow Jones were laid off this year, including 31 in late June alone.
IAPE represents journalists at the Journal, Dow Jones Newswires, Barron's, SmartMoney, SmartMoney.com, MarketWatch, and all sales, support, and technical staff within those outlets, Yount said.
The email goes on to urge staffers to seek any additional compensation -- such as comp time, vacation time, and holiday pay -- they earn, a practice that had not always been followed to the letter. According to Yount, "The company is counting, as always, on your willingness to work for free: stay late or work weekends and never charge the company," but "Those days of free labor have to end."
The email states:
Since the first of the year, Dow Jones has laid off 62 of your co-workers (31 of them in the last week of June) and once again senior management is telling you "we simply have to do more with less." That means they get more and you get less.The company is counting, as always, on your willingness to work for free: stay late or work weekends and never charge the company.
Those days of free labor have to end.
Not everyone is eligible for overtime (most reporters aren't eligible for overtime, but all are eligible for, at least, comp time) and everyone is eligible for holiday pay and a premium for working on a scheduled day off. From now on, you have to file for every dime the contract says that the company owes you. We have to clearly demonstrate that we're tired of "Doing More With Less" and that there's No More Free Labor from Dow Jones employees. I promise you that IAPE will aggressively pursue each and every claim. If you have any problems or questions, let me know or reach out directly to union organizer Tim Martell.
IAPE CWA 1096
Dow Jones reported on many of the most recent layoffs last month when it announced the shutdown of SmartMoney's print production.
Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones officials did not respond to requests for comment Thursday.
When Idaho state legislators proposed a seemingly uncontroversial bill to ban access to commercial tanning beds by minors earlier this year, IdahoReporter.com took up the issue with force.
The state news website, an affiliate of the conservative Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity and overseen by the free market Idaho Freedom Foundation, posted six stories on the proposal between Feb. 16 and March 22, when the bill was voted down in a state Senate Committee.
The Franklin Center is a multimillion-dollar organization whose websites and affiliates provide free statehouse reporting to local newspapers and other media across the country. Funded by major conservative donors, staffed by veterans of groups affiliated with the Koch brothers, and maintaining a regular presence hosting right-wing events, the organization boasts of its ability to fill the void created by state newsroom layoffs.
The group's editors claim that their "professional journalism" work is walled off from the organization's more nakedly political operations and say that their "pro-taxpayer, pro-liberty, free market perspective" doesn't compromise their accuracy or independence. But many journalism professionals - even newspaper editors who reprint the work of Franklin Center affiliates in their own pages - speak warily of the group's ideological bent.
More than half of all public broadcasting stations would be put "at risk" if federal funding to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting were eliminated, according to a new report commissioned in response to attacks from conservatives that put the funding in jeopardy.
The report stated: "Ending federal funding for public broadcasting would severely diminish, if not destroy, public broadcasting service in the United States."
The study, released June 20 from Booz & Company Inc., reviewed alternative funding options for public broadcasting if federal funding is removed. It found that trying to replace such funding -- which accounts for about 15% of CPB's operating budget -- with advertising and other revenue would be detrimental as well.
In 2011, a House vote to defund National Public Radio was supported by numerous conservative commentators, many spouting false claims of liberal bias and citing alternative sources that could be used to replace the federal dollars -- many of which the CPB report finds ineffective.
"There have been a lot of suggestions that public broadcasters could just turn to commercial broadcasting, but this report shows that is not possible," said Tim Isgitt, senior vice-president for communications and government affairs at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. "The most surprising thing that comes out of this report is that advertising would significantly limit our other funding sources; foundations provide funding because it is a public good and mission driven. They wouldn't do that if we were a commercial model, and individual members would be less likely to give money to an entity that is commercial."
The study was commissioned at the request of the Conference Report accompanying the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2012 (H.R. 2055). The report states that "the conferees requested that CPB provide a report to House and Senate Committees on Appropriations within 180 days of enactment of the Act on alternative sources of funding for public broadcasting stations in lieu of federal funding."
The report states, in part:
A reduction or elimination of CPB funding will put 63% (251) of radio stations and 67% (114) of television stations in the public broadcasting system at risk:
19% (76) of radio stations and 32% (54) of TV Stations that currently operate at a minimum practical cost level, and would be at a high risk of closing.
44% (175) of radio stations and 35% (60) of TV stations have a history of operating deficits and would suffer reduced effectiveness or closure under increased financial pressure.
The president of the White House Correspondents Association criticized Daily Caller reporter Neil Munro for repeatedly interrupting President Obama today during an event, calling it "discourteous" and "not the way reporters who cover the White House conduct themselves."
Caren Bohan, a Reuters White House correspondent and current WHCA president, made the comments in a phone interview with Media Matters this afternoon.
"It was discourteous and it's not the way reporters who cover the White House conduct themselves," Bohan said in the interview. "I've covered a number of events where the president has spoken and there are times when we need to shout a question to him. But typically reporters wait until he has finished speaking."
Bohan also said that Munro is an associate member of the WHCA, not a regular member.
According to the WHCA website, an associate member "must be employed on the editorial staff of a newspaper, magazine, wire service, radio, TV, cable TV or other broadcast organization or newsgathering organization that reports on the White House. Associate members may not vote or hold elective office."
Asked if Munro's membership would be affected by this incident, Bohan said such decisions are up to the WHCA executive board.
Three former WHCA presidents, meanwhile, also weighed in on the situation.
Ed Chen, a former Bloomberg White House correspondent and WHCA president during the 2009-2010 term, said in an email that Munro: "Betrays a shocking disrespect for the office. He owes the president a written apology." Chen also described it as "Rude. Forgot the manners he must have been taught once upon a time."
Ron Hutcheson, a former McClatchy White House correspondent and WHCA president in 2004-2005, stated: "Aggressive journalism serves our democracy. Rudeness serves no useful purpose. This was rudeness."
C-SPAN host and political editor Steve Scully, a former WHCA board member and former president, told Media Matters that Munro's actions were unusual.
"Anytime the president is delivering remarks from The White House, there has been a long standing tradition for the POTUS to make his statements, almost always followed by questions by the press corps," Scully said in an email. "It was indeed unusual for the president to be interrupted by a reporter during the middle of his remarks and clearly it caught President Obama off-guard, simply because it doesn't happen that often."
Steve Thomma, a current McClatchy White House correspondent who has been on the beat since the Clinton administration, called Munro's behavior "counterproductive."
"I think it's possible to be civil and persistent, they don't have to be mutually exclusive. You don't have to yell. There is nothing wrong with asking a question, but there is nothing wrong with waiting until the president finishes a statement," he said. "It seems counterproductive. If you are really trying to get an answer, you can wait. He might have answered it. I would not interrupt the president's statement to ask a question."
Veteran investigative reporters are objecting to claims that a string of stories about internal national security operations are the result of a White House problem with leaks, saying such journalism is just the usual in-depth investigative reporting.
One Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist described the stories as the result of "classic investigative reporting" and said the reporters involved "don't do their work by sucking up to politicians."
Among the stories being cited are The New York Times' uncovering of a U.S. cyberattack targeting Iran's nuclear program and the Obama administration's secret "kill list" for its campaign of drone strikes.
The cyberattack story, by the Times' David Sanger, has drawn much of the attention, with information for that article coming from research Sanger did for his recent book, Confront and Conceal: Obama's Secret Wars and Surprising Use of American Power.
Despite the fact that Attorney General Eric Holder last Friday directed two federal prosecutors to open investigations into the issue, many conservatives continue to agitate for a special prosecutor to look into the potential leaks.
But longtime investigative journalists tell Media Matters the recent stories under scrutiny were just good investigative reporting and mark no major change in White House security.
"This is normal," said Walter Pincus, the veteran Washington Post investigative reporter. "The thing that is most normal about it is that look at Sanger's stuff, somebody's writing a book, Bob [Woodward] does it all the time. If you're writing a book and nothing is going to appear the next day and you keep going back and back and take a little bit here and a little bit there, that's how you put these things together."
Dana Priest, Pincus' colleague at the Post and a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner for her own investigative journalism, agreed.
"That is what this looks like, classic investigative reporting," Priest said in an interview. "Talk about the reporters who are on these stories, they are all veteran investigative reporters. They don't do their work by sucking up to politicians in the hopes they will leak them some things. They do the investigative work. I don't know if people outside understand that."
The Newspaper Guild is criticizing The Washington Post and its publisher Katharine Weymouth following a report this week that she stands to earn millions of dollars in stock-based performance incentives in the coming years while the newspaper continues to accept buyouts from staffers and struggle with continued losses.
Washington City Paper reported Tuesday that in addition to making nearly $2 million per year in 2010 and 2011, Weymouth could be in line to make millions more in stock bonuses in coming years:
Washington Post publisher Katharine Weymouth was criticized last year by Post employees when it was revealed that she made over $2 million in 2010. Weymouth's salary decreased in 2011, as the paper prepared to offer buyouts to employees, but only by a little--she made $1.9 million.
For all the attention that has been given to Weymouth's salary, she could earn much, much more in the coming years if she makes her performance targets. According to an SEC filing made last week by the Post, Weymouth stands to receive as many as 42,500 shares in restricted stock awards by 2018 if she meets the goals. If the Post stays around its current stock price, at $363.51 when the market closed yesterday, that would be worth around $15.4 million.
This would represent a huge jump in Weymouth's stock awards. Since 2009, Weymouth has received a comparatively miniscule 7,500 shares.
Restricted stocks awards, in which stock is given outright to an employee, are different from stock options, which only give the recipient the option to buy shares at a set price.
The story comes less than two months after the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild revealed that at least 32 Post employees had accepted a recent buyout offer, the fifth since 2004.
Poynter.org reported in a Feb. 8, 2012, article about the Post buyouts that the newspaper's revenue in the third quarter of 2011 was down 9 percent from the same period in 2010, with advertising revenue down 20 percent. The company's newspaper division had lost $9.9 million in the third quarter alone, Poynter reported.
Asked to comment on the latest Weymouth bonus potential, Fredrick Kunkle, a co-chair of the Guild's Post unit, issued this statement to Media Matters:
I can tell you it's galling as hell to think that we have squeezed more bodies out of the newsroom, outsourced more jobs across the company and given most of the remaining employees pay increases that don't even keep up with inflation so that senior executives can pay their country club dues. It's even more shameless when you consider that the various strategies hatched by some of these bonus recipients have failed to boost the stock price or increase ad revenues, and yet arguably have diminished the Post's stature everywhere except among fans of squirrel galleries. But I guess we'll always have Watergate.
Post officials did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
Young Republican groups are criticizing National Review columnist Jonah Goldberg after he claimed the voting age is too low and that the supposed fact that "young people think socialism is better than capitalism" is evidence of their "stupidity and their ignorance" which needs to be "beaten out of them."
In a videoclip from an interview with the conservative website The Daily Caller, Goldberg affirms from the beginning he is "not particularly enamored with the youth," that youth politics is "not something very special or enviable" and he believes the voting age should be much higher. He makes it quite clear young people, in his opinion, are "so frickin' stupid about some things."
"It is a simple fact of science that nothing correlates more with ignorance and stupidity more than youth," Goldberg says. "We're all born idiots, and we only get over that condition as we get less young."
Goldberg's views sparked harsh criticism from leaders of young conservatives and young Republicans groups.
Brian Matos, spokesman for Chicago Young Republicans, said he understood Goldberg's frustration, but did not agree with his idea for change, citing the need for military personnel to be able to vote.
"About half of the enlisted military personnel are under the age of 25 and so when somebody suggests they don't matter, that people are too young in their judgment, 18-year-olds, 19-year olds; well if they are old enough to serve our country overseas in two wars, they have the right to go to the polls," he said. "They do deserve the right to go to the polls."
He also noted: "To say they are not important because of their age is short-sighted."
Christopher Sanders, president of the Atlanta Young Republicans, stated: "Mr. Goldberg has the right to express his opinion. However I disagree with him on an age increase. It is our civic duty to help educate those younger than us about the issues, not strip them of their right to vote."
Any plans that CNN may have had to hire Fox News associate producer Chris White have been scuttled following the firestorm over the controversial four-minute segment attacking President Obama that White reportedly created and which Fox aired twice yesterday.
Several news outlets had speculated and even reported that White's move to CNN was in the works at the time he produced the video, which many have compared to a political attack ad. But a CNN spokesperson confirmed to Media Matters Thursday that White will not be hired by CNN.
Bill Shine, executive vice president of programming for Fox News, told Mediaite yesterday that the four-minute segment "was created by an associate producer and was not authorized at the senior executive level of the network. This has been addressed with the show's producers."
With Fox failing to even acknowledge that airing the video was a mistake White appears to be the only one at the network who has suffered from their repeated airing of the video - with the apparent punishment coming from a different news outlet. This morning the hosts of Fox & Friends - who praised both White and the video at the time they aired it - did not address the controversy.
Since the piece aired, several news outlets have claimed White was heading to CNN, with some speculation this might have been his way of departing the network.
The same Mediaite item stated about White: "Mediaite hears that White may be heading to CNN in the near future."
Hollywood Reporter wrote: " ... the associate producer responsible for it, Chris White, likely has already decided to leave Fox for CNN."
CNN would not say if White had been under consideration prior to the latest incident, but The New York Times' Jeremy W. Peters reports that White had "his offer revoked."
Journalism veterans and ethics experts are criticizing Fox News' Bret Baier for treating as credible the false claim that President Barack Obama might not have been born in the United States, with one experienced news person calling his recent coverage of the issue "a complete abandonment of integrity and responsibility."
Baier, often viewed as among the more credible news people at Fox News, reported in a news brief Monday night that Arizona Republican Secretary of State Ken Bennett threatened to remove Obama's name from the Arizona ballot if Hawaii officials didn't prove to his satisfaction that Obama was born in Hawaii.
Baier stated: "Bennett says he is not, quote 'a birther' but wants to clear up the issue for concerned Arizonans." But Baier failed to "clear up the issue" for Fox's viewers by stating outright that President Obama was, in fact, born in Hawaii, as indicated by his birth certificate and a contemporaneous newspaper announcement of his birth.
This marked at least the third time this year that Baier reported on developments in the debunked 'birther' movement without providing this crucial context.
By contrast, Fox News' own Shepard Smith stated in 2011: "Well, he has produced a birth certificate. It shows his mother gave birth to him in Hawaii. It is stamped and sealed by the state of Hawaii. It is confirmed, and Fox News can confirm the president of the United States is a citizen of the United States, period."
In a radio interview Tuesday Bennett stated he had withdrawn the threat and told listeners: "If I embarrassed the state, I apologize." The Arizona Republic reported that a "Hawaii official sent Bennett's office verification of birth for President Obama on Tuesday, according to both Bennett and Hawaii officials."
Baier did not respond to several requests for comment.
Several veteran journalists and media critics criticized Baier for his reporting on the subject.
"Whatever the motivation of Arizona's secretary of state it is a complete abandonment of integrity and responsibility for any news gatherer or disseminator not to ask the questions necessary to put a report on the secretary of state's actions in a context that would allow the reader or viewer of the report to make a decision on how he or she can use the information," said Bill Kovach, co-founder of the Committee of Concerned Journalists and former Washington, D.C. bureau chief of The New York Times. "In this case there is a rich history on the subject that raises deep and serious question about the motivation of anyone questioning President Obama's qualification for holding office including his citizenship and matters surround the time and place of his birth. To ignore this rich history of facts is irresponsible."
Tom Fiedler, dean of the College of Communication at Boston University and former executive editor of The Miami Herald, cited Baier's error of omission.
"An error of omission is the more insidious error because it typically escapes being corrected," Fiedler said in an email. "Nothing in his report is inaccurate. The problem lies in Baier's failure to include one additional fact: that, in due regard for the laws of Hawaii, the president has released an official copy of his birth certificate stating as legal fact that his mother gave birth to him in Honolulu. The state of Hawaii accepts this. The U.S. State Department accepts this."