It's bad enough that CNN collectively smeared egg all over its face yesterday by mistakenly posting as breaking news that the Coast Guard, on the anniversary of 9/11, had opened fire on a vessel along the Potomac River in the nation's capitol. But for CNN to then defend its irresponsible actions is pretty amazing, and depressing, to watch. So much for accountability. But then again, CNN did sponsor this year's birther crusade, so this sad episode shouldn't be all that surprising.
Of course, CNN bungled yesterday after it overheard Coast Guard radio chatter as personnel acted out a training mission in which they simulated firing on a vessel. (i.e. "Bang, bang, bang. We have expended ten rounds, the vessel is operating at stern.") CNN, confusing the drill with real life, contacted the Coast Guard which told the network it knew nothing about any shots being fired on the Potomac. CNN then went ahead and aired the breaking news anyway.
Most news consumer may not know this, but airing reports based solely on radio transmission is pretty much verboten in newsrooms. Reporters have used emergency and police radio or scanners for decades to pick up news tips. But to take raw radio transmissions--to take that chatter--and turn them into news without the slightest bit of independent confirmation? That's a huge no-no.
Yet here was CNN's official response to yesterday gigantic blunder [emphasis added]
After hearing a further radio transmission about 10 rounds being expended, and after reviewing video of rapid movement by Coast Guard vessels as the President's motorcade crossed the Memorial Bridge, CNN reported the story. Simultaneously, during a second phone call, the Coast Guard spokeswoman informed us that its National Command Center and other command posts knew nothing about any activity in the area.
Given the circumstances, it would have been irresponsible not to report on what we were hearing and seeing. As with any breaking news story, information is often fluid and CNN updated the story with the official explanation from the Coast Guard as soon as it was provided.
What did CNN see yesterday that convinced the staff big news was breaking? it saw rapid movement by Coast Guard vessels. Oh brother.
And is it just me, but didn't CNN get it exactly backward when it claimed that "given the circumstances" (i.e. the anniversary of 9/11), that it would have been irresponsible not to air its (leaky) exclusive? Meaning, wasn't it precisely because it was on 9/11, on a day when dark memories of terrorist attacks were fresh in Americans' minds, that CNN should have been extra sensitive about airing a report it clearly did not have a handle on, rather than contributing to a news sense of panic?
Mistakes happen all the time in newsrooms. And especially newsroom that try to break news. But when mistakes are made, like CNN's whopper yesterday, professionals need to own up to their blunders and learn from them. Not only didn't CNN admit its errors, but based on its statement it would do the exact same thing again.
UPDATED: From a CF reader comment:
So what CNN is saying that had they been around in 1938 when the Mercury theater did "The War of The Worlds" on the radio, they would have reported we were being invaded by aliens from another planet.
More than 60 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 September 11 sponsors, in the order they appeared:
From the Fox Nation, posted September 11:
So, that Glenn Beck publicity stunt CNN plans to cover? Starting to look like it might be falling apart.
A few weeks ago, FreedomWorks suggested "hundreds of thousands" of people would attend the rally. Organizers said it could be "the largest gathering of fiscal conservatives ever." More excited organizers predicted millions of attendees.
But now, with the big day just hours away, organizers are frantically trying to lower expectations. Politico's Glenn Thrush reports:
Adam Brandon, the press guy for Beck rally organizer FreedomWorks, tells my colleague Alex Isenstadt he expects the crowd to be in the 20-30,000 range.
30,000? Down from predictions of "hundreds of thousands" -- and even millions?
If tomorrow's crowds really are as small as Brandon is now predicting, those CNN reports better involve frequent use of the word "flop."
On March 13, 2009, Glenn Beck rolled out his "9-12 Project" in a special featuring Chuck Norris, various "survivors," and numerous moments of Beck openly crying about how much he loved his country. In describing the project, Beck stated, "We weren't told how to behave that day after 9-11, we just knew. It was right; it was the opposite of what we feel today." And with tears flowing down his cheeks, Beck asked, "Are you ready to be the person you were that day after 9-11, on 9-12?"
Of course, most observers -- The New York Times not among them -- recognized Beck's 9-12 Project as a shameless shtick exploiting a terrible tragedy. Indeed, Stephen Colbert offered up the best evidence of Beck's phoniness, airing a tape of him back in 2005 savaging the families of victims of 9-11:
BECK: You know, it took me about a year to start hating the 9-11 victims' families. ... I don't hate all of them. I hate about, probably about 10 of them. But when I see, you know, 9-11 victim family, on television, or whatever, I'm just like, "Oh, shut up." I'm so sick of them, because they're always complaining. And we did our best for them.
Colbert shrewdly noted that Beck's "9-12 Project is not for families directly affected by 9-11. Just people building their careers on it."
Beck concluded his 3-13 9-12 special by stating, "On Saturday, 9/12 -- Saturday, September 12, I will share with you what I've been working on to put the principles and the values to work in my own life. And you show me what you have done. We'll meet back here in six months, all right?"
Well, it's six months later. Time to find out what all the fuss is about.
Turns out it's nothing more than another tea party protest in Washington, D.C.
Savetherich.com, a site devoted to "The Truth About the Fox News Tea Parties," has documented the origins of the September 12 march and traced it back to FreedomWorks -- on March 13, the same day as Beck's 9-12 special.
Brendan Steinhauser, the director of federal and state campaigns for FreedomWorks, posted: "If you are interested in building momentum for a massive march on Washington, let us know!" A month later, Steinhauser posted: "We have the permit for the West Front of the U.S. Capitol, 9-12-2009! Please spread the word, and we will post updates on our blog and in this space."
912dc.org lists FreedomWorks as its biggest sponsor, with American Taxpayers Union, FreeRepublic, and the American Conservative Union also listed as sponsors.
Meanwhile, Beck's the912project.com has been promoting the September 12 march on Washington but insists in several places that the project is not actually organizing the protests, even though they are working with organizers:
We are not the organizers of this march, but we are working with the great team to get you there! Sign up! See you there!
So they're not organizing, but they're working with organizers?
Beck's site links to an event management website that has a page with a logo proclaiming it to be a "Taxpayer March on DC" and containing event details. In addition, Beck's site provides contact information for transportation connections and encourages folks to attend: "You can watch TV any day. Washington needs to hear your voice."
On August 12, Beck described the march on Washington as a "9-12 Project": "There are 9-12 Projects and rallies happening all over. The biggest one seems to be in Washington, D.C., on September 12."
On August 28, Beck described the 9-12 march on Washington as something "worth standing up for" and told viewers, "I hope to see you in Washington. I will make sure you're seen all over the country."
And on September 1, an emotional Beck urged listeners to attend the march in D.C. because they "may be the only thing that stands between freedom and slavery."
Indeed, Beck and his project may claim they're not the organizers of the march, but they're sure doing a lot of organizing.
In addition, for weeks, Fox News has been promoting the Tea Party Express, a two-week national bus tour ending up in D.C. tomorrow. Fox News has been promoting the tour -- with live updates from Griff "Nerd Pencils" Jenkins -- despite the fact that the tour was organized by Our Country Deserves Better, a conservative PAC organized to oppose the Obama administration.
Tomorrow's agenda calls for a march down Pennsylvania Avenue ending with a protest on the west lawn of the Capitol at 1 p.m., which is exactly when Glenn Beck and Fox News will begin live broadcasting from the protest.
Haven't we already seen this not once, but twice, since Obama's election?
The Tax Day Tea Parties were heavily promoted by Fox News, with four of its anchors appearing at protests around the country. In the most disturbing of them, Beck stood in front of the Alamo alongside a guitar-wielding Ted Nugent and interviewed the guy who shot and killed two men he believed to be trespassers even after a 911 dispatcher asked him not to go outside. The crowd roared as he described shooting the undocumented immigrants.
The Fourth of July tea parties were a total flop, in part because of lukewarm promotion from Fox News, but most likely because nobody wanted to give up barbecuing, drinking beer, and shooting off fireworks to go protest.
But at least there was a reasonable rationale for holding tax protests on April 15 and, to a lesser extent, July 4.
What is the rationale for holding tax protests on September 12? So that we can remember how we all united against paying taxes the day after our nation's worst tragedy?
No, the protests are nothing more than the shameless and shameful exploitation of something that should be sacred to all. All thanks to Glenn Beck, the most shameless media huckster since Morton Downey Jr.
And Fox News is once again actively engaging in political advocacy against the Democratic Congress and the Obama administration. It has already proven that it is willing to take marching orders from Beck.
But Fox News won't be alone. On Friday's edition of American Morning, correspondent Ali Velshi said CNN plans to cover the rally.
So why is CNN covering Glenn Beck's baby?
Back on April 15, CNN's Susan Roesgen actually reported that the Tax Day protests were "highly promoted by the right-wing conservative network Fox."
What has changed?
Why would CNN cover the 9-12 protests led by Mr. 9-12 himself?
Why is CNN giving Glenn Beck an even bigger mike?
A suggestion to CNN: On Saturday (and Sunday) another group will descend on the Mall for a positive cause. This weekend is the 24th annual Black Family Reunion Celebration, a "three-day cultural event celebrating the enduring strengths and traditional values of the African American family." How about reporting on African-Americans' views on taxes, health care, unemployment, etc? At least then you won't be merely echoing Fox News' coverage. After all, the tea party protesters have been given more than enough airtime on Fox News alone.
Or at the very least, send Roesgen to cover Beck's protest and call them what they are: a ratings gimmick.
On Sept. 25, Dar ul Islam, a mosque in Elizabeth, N.J., is slating a massive Friday "jummah" prayer event at the west front of the U.S. Capitol; on the very site that President Obama gave his inauguration speech not so long ago. This is not a joke.
As Bartholomew asks: "Why would it be 'a joke'?"
Duin goes on to write, "Well, I guess if Louis Farrakhan could preach from the same spot during the Million Man March nearly 14 years ago, so can these folks." Unmentioned by Duin, as Bartholomew points out, is that last year, the West Lawn of the Capitol was used for another event: a "Global Peace Festival" in which one featured speaker was the son of Unification Church founder -- and Washington Times owner -- Sun Myung Moon (as the Times reported).
Here's the thing about Pat Buchanan: No matter what outrageous statement he makes, you should have seen it coming. He's done it before.
So when he recently argued that Hitler has gotten a bum rap and didn't really want war, that was bad. But he's said it before -- and suggested the Holocaust was Churchill's fault.
Now Buchanan is whining that "Old heroes like ... Robert E. Lee are replaced by Dr. King."
Wow! That's flat-out crazy!
But ... It isn't surprising. After all:
Buchanan urged Nixon not to visit Rev. Martin Luther King's widow, warning that such a visit would "outrage many, many people who believe Dr. King was a fraud and a demagogue and perhaps worse. ... Others consider him the Devil incarnate. Dr. King is one of the most divisive men in contemporary history."
In his 1990 book, Right From the Beginning, Buchanan reminisced fondly about his childhood in segregated Washington, D.C.: "In the late 1940's and 1950's ... race was never a preoccupation with us, we rarely thought about it. ... There were no politics to polarize us then, to magnify every slight. The 'Negroes' of Washington had their public schools, restaurants, bars, movie houses, playgrounds and churches; and we had ours."
Last year, Buchanan suggested that slavery worked out pretty well for "black folks":
Again, that was just last year. And Buchanan went on to argue that "no people anywhere has done more to lift up blacks than white Americans," an assertion he supported with a laundry list of government programs that, though he didn't mention this part, he spent his career opposing. Nor did he mention the inconvenient fact of his opposition to integration.
Instead, the man who once wrote in a memo to Richard Nixon that "integration of blacks and whites ... is less likely to result in accommodation than it is in perpetual friction, as the incapable are placed consciously by government side by side with the capable," now argues that African-Americans are insufficiently grateful for the gifts white America has given them, starting with slavery.
I don't mean to suggest that Buchanan's views are old news and should be ignored. No, they should be denounced, loudly, and consistently. I mean only to make clear that the sponsors of Buchanan's virulent screeds (MSNBC/NBC/General Electric) cannot claim ignorance of his views. Not after five decades.
It's pretty much what critics feared would happen under the ownership of Rupert Murdoch: The paper's proud tradition of straight news would be compromised. And it has been. The purposeful dumbing down that's taken place inside the Journal newsroom has been sweeping.
Just take a look at this painfully dumb (and GOP-friendly) story by Amy Schatz from today's news section headlined, "FCC Official Comes Under Fire for Past Statements."
New Federal Communications Commission chief Julius Genachowski says he wants to promote diversity in media ownership, but his recent decision to hire Mark Lloyd, a civil-rights attorney critical of corporate-owned media, to help with that effort has riled some talk-radio hosts who fear the agency is planning to go after them.
To call this a non-story would be polite. Some right-wing radio nuts are returning to the Fairness Doctrine fever swamp, claiming Democrats and government bogymen like Lloyd are out to silence them (the nuts have zero proof, as usual), and the Journal treats it as news.
Worse, the Journal pretends there's some sort of "uproar" over the hiring of Lloyd, a mid-level staff attorney who sets no policy. Here, dear readers, is the entire proof provided by the Journal of the "uproar" [emphasis added]:
The administration "is trying to stifle dissenting voices," said radio host Rush Limbaugh, discussing Mr. Lloyd with Fox News host Glenn Beck last month. (Fox News is owned by News Corp., which owns The Wall Street Journal.)
"He doesn't like corporate ownership of media," said Seton Motley, communications director of the Media Research Center, a conservative interest group that has been critical of Mr. Lloyd. "He wants to use the vast power of the FCC to hammerlock the radio industry."
Iowa Republican Sen. Charles Grassley in a letter last month to Mr. Genachowski said that "given the appointment of Mr. Lloyd," he was concerned that the FCC chairman was moving away from pledges not to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine, a policy abandoned in 1987 that required licensed broadcasters to give equal time to differing political views.
Honestly, if Journal editors now consider hanging on every nutty word uttered by Rush Limbaugh, and monitoring every pointless press release issued by the Media Research Center is news, than the newsroom's more lost than I feared. If Journal editors and reporters really think that every time there's an "outcry among conservative commentators," that the newspaper needs to immediately document the faux scandal, than the paper's become a lost cause.
But oh well, I'm sure Rupert's happy. And that's what now counts at the Journal, right?
UPDATED: Just how bad is the Journal's reporting? In the last two days, the Journal has published two stand-alone articles about Rep. Joe Wilson's "You lie!" outburst. In neither article did the Journal ever point out that Wilson's hysterical outburst about health care reform and illegal immigrants was baseless; that Wilson himself lied.