Like Jamison Foser earlier this week, I was struck by this passage from David Carr's recent New York Times column. The topic was how the WSJ news team is skewing its Obama news coverage to the right [emphasis added]:
Reporters say the coverage of the Obama administration is reflexively critical, the health care debate is generally framed in terms of costs rather than benefits.
But the Journal is hardly alone in this regard. It's a disturbing fact that when covering the health care debate, Beltway reporters and pundits are very interested in writing and talking about the costs involved, how it might impact the federal deficit, and the general downsides involved in instituting a fundamental change in American health care. In other words, for many journalists the issue of health care is a financial and numbers-crunching one.
But it's federal number-crunching only. Meaning, most of the media emphasis is on the important dollars involved. The numbers that are not being crunched are the numbers that millions of American families without health insurance crunch as they try to hold off bankruptcy when medical emergencies strike.
The very real and personal impact of America's ongoing health care crisis has been of little interest to members of the Beltway press corps (most of whom enjoy full health care benefits), who prefer to spend their time pouring over CBO analysis and repeating Republican talking points about how health care reform would be a budget buster. Why health care reform has been sought in this country for going on five decades seems to be of very little interest to elite Beltway journalists.
And that's why this recent report from the Newark Star-Ledger sort of jumped off the pages; because the press has shown so little interest in telling stories like this:
The pain in Dan Abrams' leg throbbed so much he could barely stand.
Still, the 60-year-old Somerville resident, who friends say had just canceled his health insurance because of the tough economy, debated from a hospital emergency room whether he should stay and run up thousands of dollars in debt, or take antibiotics from home and hope they arrested the mysterious infection in his leg.
Fearing he could lose his home and flooring business, Abrams chose to leave Somerset Medical Center after a hospital physician said staying would "run him a lot of money," said Connie Dodd, a close friend who drove him to the hospital and heard the conversation. "I begged him to stay. But Dan's a proud man. Talk of all the bills got him scared."
When Connie and her partner, Cindy Weiss, brought Abrams dinner the next night, July 29, they found his lifeless body in bed. Weiss performed CPR but it was too late. "It was a nightmare," Dodd said.
This hopeless campaign really is shaping up to be one the truly epic fails in the history of political blogging. I'm hard-pressed to think an instance in which such a large portion of the supposed A-list blogosphere went so bat-shit crazy for a story for so long, posting so many name-calling rants, and yet had so little to show for it. To say that it's crickets out there in the real world re: the Jennings story would be an exaggeration.
But the most amusing part is that the leaders of this misguided pack (Cough! Cough! Andrew Breitbart, Gateway Pundit) show no signs of letting up on the gas. They're oblivious to the sad spectacle they've created and don't realize that people are literally laughing at them. Instead, they think they're rounding third and heading for home. And they've convinced themselves that if they post just one more nasty, impossible-to-follow, guilt-by-association diatribe, than all the pieces of their gay-baiting hate campaign will magically come together and Kevin Jennings will finally be driven from Washington, D.C., preferably by a pitchfork-waving mob.
If you say so guys. Although honestly, I'm not ruling out a Gateway Pundit post next March or April ("Fistgate LXXVII"?), where he assures readers he's just about to bust this story wide open.
But for the record, it's now been two weeks of obsessive updates and relentless "fisting" headlines (read Tbogg's side-splitting take on Gateway Pundit's gay sex obsession), and nobody outside the right-wing world cares. (As for Media Matters, as long as the right-wing keeps posting the misleading Jennings attacks, we'll keep debunking them.)
One week ago I reported that at the time not one serious news organization had picked up the Jennings story. Which means not one reporter, editor or producer looked at the hysteria that was posted online about Jennings and thought, hey, that's a news story. Instead, everyone ignored it. (Frankly, I think most journalists sprinted away from it.) Why? Because the stuff was patently bogus, not to mention relentlessly creepy. Well, here we are after week two and let's go to totem board, courtesy of Nexis.
Number of serious news orgs that have reported on the Jennings 'scandal': 0.
Number of right-wing posts about the Jennings 'scandal': Dude, I've completely lost count.
As I noted last week:
The endless stream of hollow allegations the right-wing traffics in has now largely become background noise, albeit unpleasant and unwanted noise. They represent a cacophony of endless allegations that virtually never pan out. So can you blame journalists for simply tuning it out?
And therein lies the silver lining. The more right-wing bloggers discredit themselves with Jennings-like witch hunts, the less likely it is journalists will take them seriously.
Eighty advertisers have reportedly dropped their ads from Glenn Beck's Fox News program since he called President Obama a "racist" who has a "deep-seated hatred of white people." Here are his December 17 sponsors, in the order they appeared:
One day after freaking out because Time magazine did not include the tea party protests in its memorable moments of the past year, Glenn Beck complained on his Fox News show that "Time magazine didn't even recognize them in any way, shape, or form of even existing this year."
But Beck's claim ignores the fact that Time did recognize the tea parties - one week earlier in its year-end list of the Top 10 Untruths.
Checking in at No. 7 on Time's list was the effort by tea party rally organizers to inflate the attendance level at its 9-12 rally in Washington, D.C:
When all was said and done, the point of the tea-party march on Washington on Sept. 12 was not to compare estimates on the number of attendees but to show that grass-roots anger about government spending could lead to a full-on demonstration in the nation's capital. But there were a few snags along the way. One problem was that a group that helped organize the protest, FreedomWorks (slogan: "Lower Taxes, Less Government, More Freedom"), vastly overestimated the number of participants. FreedomWorks president Matt Kibbe stated onstage at the rally that ABC News had reported that 1.5 million were in attendance. Later, when the network said it had made no such claim, Kibbe apologized on his blog for the erroneous attribution, which by then had been repeated in other reports. "With a dead iPhone, I had been shown tweets from a number of different folks behind the stage citing the ABC estimate," he said. "They didn't say it. I regret misrepresenting the network." Most other mainstream news outlets had been sticking to estimates of "tens of thousands" or "between 60,000 and 70,000." (To avoid political battles like the one that occurred in this case, Washington officials do not release estimates.) Meanwhile, the thornier issue was whether the grass-roots tea-party protests should be characterized as AstroTurf, i.e., a sophisticated campaign orchestrated by lobbyists. Tea-party participants denied the allegation.
Then again, if Beck were to acknowledge that Time called out the event organizers for vastly overestimating attendance at 1.5 million, he'd probably need to address his own dubious claim -- citing a university he could not recall -- that 1.7 million attended.
From Kenneth P. Vogel's December 17 Politico article:
Glenn Beck may be blowing off concerns that he's gotten too cozy with gold-sellers who sponsor his shows, but Fox News is taking the gold endorsement issue a little more seriously.
On Thursday, the network indicated it would ask Rosland Capital, a gold retailer, to remove from its website the logo for Bill O'Reilly's Fox show, the O'Reilly Factor, which Rosland features along with an audio clip of O'Reilly urging listeners to buy gold because "The U.S. Dollar is under attack!"
Fox's concern was that O'Reilly's endorsement of Rosland was specific to the radio show he no longer does, and Rosland is not a sponsor of his television show.
Rosland spokesman Steve Getzug said the company had not heard from Fox but was already "in the process of pulling the reference down as part of an overall update of Rosland's website." He called the O'Reilly endorsement "dated" and said "it's been a while since the company has updated its website."
Last week, Fox, which also airs Beck's television show, requested that Beck clarify his relationship with another gold retailer, Goldline International, leading the company to tweak its trumpeting of Beck's endorsement. Goldline removed an identification of Beck as a "paid spokesman" from its website, but left the rest of the site - which prominently features his endorsement, photo and a radio interview he did with the company's president Mark Albarian - intact.
In fact, Beck's critics have not suggested that he was actually influencing the price of gold, which had been rising steadily until this month, by encouraging his fans to buy coins from Goldline.
But some financial analysts and precious metals experts did tell POLITICO that potential gold investors would be wise to look into bullion or exchange traded funds intended to track the price of gold, rather than the coins sold by Goldline and a handful of other firms that advertise on Beck's shows and those of other conservative talkers. That's because those firms focus on collectible or antique coins, which they sell for many times the value of the intrinsic gold and promote as being exempt from a potential government seizure of gold like that which occurred under Franklin Roosevelt in 1933. Beck has suggested that gold coins are a good buy now because President Barack Obama and Congressional Democrats are steering the economy towards disaster.
And that feedback loop - Beck stoking fear of economic collapse, hyping gold as a hedge against collapse, and endorsing a company selling gold - prompted liberals from the watchdog group Media Matters to MSNBC host Keith Olbermann to Comedy Central's faux-news hosts Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart to allege a glaring conflict of interest.
Wow. Just wow.
Headline [emphasis added]:
Blizzard Dumps Snow on Copenhagen as Leaders Battle Warming
World leaders flying into Copenhagen today to discuss a solution to global warming will first face freezing weather as a blizzard dumped 10 centimeters (4 inches) of snow on the Danish capital overnight.
Any other big scoops Bloomberg reporters are working on?
I'm in the wrong line of work.
Rather, I'm on the wrong side in my line of work, because it's becoming increasingly clear that one can be a fairly successful conservative media critic without having to bother with honesty, consistency, or respect for one's readership.
In spite of my better judgment I clicked over to NewsBusters this afternoon and read through Lachlan Markay's attack on a Pennsylvania cross country skier who was quoted in the Wilkes-Barre Times-Leader blaming climate change for the poor skiing conditions in his state. After ticking off a variety of higher-latitude areas that have received huge amounts of snowfall this year, Markay observes:
The problem with scary climate models is that every aberration in weather patterns is taken as evidence that there is something seriously wrong with the climate, and humans are to blame.
The Times-Leader might have looked into whether this trend was widespread enough to proclaim it an indicator of global temperature trends. And the paper certainly should have thought twice before offering one man's experiences on his cross country skis as proof that "global warming is happening."
Markay has a point here -- it's irresponsible for newspapers to take isolated weather occurrences as proof, one way or the other, of climate change. In fact, I made this same exact point two days ago when Markay's fellow NewsBuster Noel Sheppard mocked the idea of climate change by observing that it's cold in Copenhagen, where the United Nations climate change conference is taking place. And my colleague Jamison Foser also made this same exact point eight days ago when Sheppard suggested that a December snowstorm in New England undermines the scientific consensus on climate change.
And this isn't the first time Markay's high-minded tut-tutting has put himself at odds with his colleagues. On December 8, Markay attacked the White House for denigrating the "reputable polling organization" Gallup and their daily presidential tracking poll, even though NewsBusters has a rich and storied history of denigrating "reputable polling organizations," frequently accusing them -- Gallup included -- of cooking their numbers to achieve pro-liberal results.
As I wrote at the time, it's improbable that the NewsBusters don't read their own blog, so the more likely explanation for this blatant hypocrisy is that they just don't care.
You'd think Politico would have something more important to splash across their front page than a write up of some new book nobody cares about. But no:
Now, first of all: by "Monica's back," you might assume Politico means Lewinsky has written a book, or launched a speaking tour or something. No. Politico means that several months ago, Lewinsky gave a written comment to the author of a book that is coming out soon. Uh ... a little less "newsy" when you put it that way, isn't it?
Next, you may wonder how something can be the "first definitive history." How can there be more than one definitive history?
But then, if you're silly enough to read the article -- as, unfortunately, I was -- you see junk like this:
Confirmation of a long-rumored romantic affair between Clinton and McDougal, an Arkansas woman who spent 18 months in jail for refusing to answer questions from Starr's prosecutors before a grand jury, and later received a presidential pardon from Clinton. Gormley writes he is now certain "some intimate involvement did occur," though he will not say precisely how he knows it to be true.
Uh, Politico? That's totally not what the word "confirmation" means.
It gets dumber from there, with Politico breathlessly revealing that Robert Ray wanted to indict Bill Clinton (we already knew that) and that Ken Starr's office prepared a draft indictment of Hillary Clinton (knew that, too) and ... Well, who cares, really?
If the article has any redeeming feature, it is this:
Clinton retorts: "They were disgraced and he [Hyde] knows it. They ran a partisan hit job run by a bitter right-winger, Henry Hyde, who turned out to be a hypocrite on the personal issues....Yeah I will always have a asterisk after my name but I hope I'll have two asterisks: one is 'They impeached him," and the other is 'He stood up to them and beat them and he beat them like a yard dog.'"
The "them" in question has, of course, has always included the media that fanned the flames of impeachment. And they're still not over it.