• Irony alert, cont'd: Pew continues to spread misinformation about its own polling data

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    We recently noted how the folks at Pew Research Center seems quite interested in making claim that most Americans wouldn't care if their local newspaper folded. We highlighted the oddity of Pew's push since that's not what the finding of its own polls found. In fact, 55 percent of Americans would care if their local newspaper went under.

    Why does Pew seem so interested in claiming nobody cares about newspapers?

    Over the weekend, Pew's president Andrew Kohut appeared on NPR's "On the Media," to amplify the false claim that readers wouldn't miss newspapers, as well as amplifying the false claim that readers don't think their civic life would be hurt if their daily stopped publishing. In fact, according to Pew's own polling, 74 percent of readers think civic life would take a hit if the local newspaper went under.

    Kohut also made the false claim that only "oldsters" think newspapers "play an important role in American society." Not true. According to Pew's own survey results, 72 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 39 think the death of a local newspaper would hurt civic life.

  • Howard Kurtz cannot be serious

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Does Howard Kurtz really think Sean Hannity would praise Barack Obama if only he had more time to think things through? That's what he seems to be suggesting:

    As the Dow embarked on a long slide after Inauguration Day -- a nearly 2,000-point slide, to be precise -- the drumbeat seemed to grow louder.

    "There's no confidence in Obama's plan," said Fox's Sean Hannity. "The markets respond to data. They have no confidence."

    "The stock market is also demonstrating a lack of confidence in the president's big government agenda," said CNN's Lou Dobbs.

    And it's not just those on the right. CNBC's Jim Cramer -- an unabashed Democrat -- complained that President Obama's "radical agenda" was causing the "greatest wealth destruction I've seen by a president."


    The chatter reflects a fast-forward culture that demands snap judgments. The cable news channels, not content to wait for the traditional 100-day benchmark -- itself an artificial media construct -- were grading Obama last week on his 50-day performance.

    This is absurd. Sean Hannity isn't attacking Barack Obama because he exists in "a fast-forward culture that demands snap judgments." He is attacking Barack Obama because he is a partisan Republican who reliably attacks Democrats. It's who he is, and it's what he's paid to do.

    Likewise, anybody who has watched more than six consecutive minutes of Lou Dobbs' daily rantings should understand that his criticisms of Obama don't result from a need for "snap judgments" but from his worldview. And Jim Cramer may be "an unabashed Democrat," but given what we've learned in recent weeks about his shameless cheerleading for Wall Street, his criticism of Obama is pretty predictable, too.

    Howard Kurtz is the nation's most prominent media critic - and he thinks Sean Hannity might praise Barack Obama's policies if only he weren't forced to make "snap judgments"?

    Come on.

  • The Red Scare Index: 17

    Blog ››› ››› KARL FRISCH

    Here is today's daily Red Scare Index -- our search of CNN, CNN Headline News, Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, MSNBC and CNBC for uses of the following terms: Socialism, Socialist, Socialistic, Communism, Communist, Communistic, Marxism and Marxist.

    Here are the numbers for Friday, March 13, 2009:

    TOTAL: 17
    Socialism, Socialist, Socialistic: 7
    Communism, Communist, Communistic: 9
    Marxism/Marxist: 1

    By Network:

    CNN: 4
    Socialism, Socialist, Socialistic: 2
    Communism, Communist, Communistic: 1
    Marxism/Marxist: 1

    CNN Headline News: 3
    Socialism, Socialist, Socialistic: 0
    Communism, Communist, Communistic: 3
    Marxism/Marxist: 0

    Fox News Channel: 5
    Socialism, Socialist, Socialistic: 5
    Communism, Communist, Communistic: 0
    Marxism/Marxist: 0

    Fox Business Network: 0
    Socialism, Socialist, Socialistic: 0
    Communism, Communist, Communistic: 0
    Marxism/Marxist: 0

    MSNBC: 5
    Socialism, Socialist, Socialistic: 0
    Communism, Communist, Communistic: 5
    Marxism/Marxist: 0

    CNBC: 0
    Socialism, Socialist, Socialistic: 0
    Communism, Communist, Communistic: 0
    Marxism/Marxist: 0

    The above numbers are the result of a power search for these terms on these networks.

  • The NYT should just give Cheney a byline

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Dick Cheney isn't Vice President any more, but the New York Times is still treating his comments as so newsworthy they must be presented without rebuttal. The Times devotes 558 words to Cheney's appearance on CNN yesterday - 501 of which are devoted to simply quoting or paraphrasing Cheney. The 57 words that weren't devoted to amplifying Cheney's arguments didn't include even a word of rebuttal:

    Since taking office, Mr. Obama has reversed many of the policies championed by Mr. Cheney in his eight years of serving under President George W. Bush. Mr. Obama has announced plans to close the detention camp in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, within the year, suspended military trials for terrorism suspects and prohibited the interrogation practice known as waterboarding.

    That's it -- those are the only words in the article that were spent on anything other than simply telling readers what Cheney said. There was no effort to present the other side, or give readers any indication of whether what Cheney said was true, or misleading, or incomplete.

    For example, The Times quoted Cheney saying of fighting terrorism: "Up until 9/11, it was treated as a law enforcement problem ... You go find the bad guy, put him on trial, put him in jail. Once you go into a wartime situation and it's a strategic threat, then you use all of your assets to go after the enemy. You go after the state sponsors of terror, places where they've got sanctuary. ... When you go back to the law enforcement mode, which I sense is what they're doing, closing Guantánamo and so forth, that they are very much giving up that center of attention and focus that's required, and that concept of military threat that is essential if you're going to successfully defend the nation against further attacks."

    Seems like that would have been a pretty good opportunity to point out that critics have said Cheney's administration didn't actually find the "bad buy" (Osama bin Laden) in part because they gave up "that center of attention and focus that's required" by going to war against Iraq.

  • Politico, please define "war"

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Another dopey headline, courtesy of Politico:

    "Post-Rush: Obama's message war"

    Why the hysterical "war" language for a rather staid article that details how Democrats are organizing an extended communication effort to push back against Republican accusations? (i.e. It's called Politics 101.)

    How is that a "war"? And if it is, where were the Politico headlines about the unprecedented message "war" the GOP launched on the newly inaugurated president in January and February?

  • Perspective

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    From March 2 to March 8, the fifth biggest story on cable news was a couple of missing football players. From February 23 to March 1, the fifth-biggest story was a chimp attack. (MSNBC, at least, played 9-1-1 recordings of the monkey's owner pleading with police to shoot her pet before it killed her friend. If anyone wants to explain the news value in this, I'd love to hear it.) The week before that, the third-biggest story was about a third baseman's exercise regimen, and the fifth-biggest was the chimp attack. The week before that, a missing child cracked the top five.

    We haven't even gotten to the summer months, when cable news traditionally delights in obsessive coverage of statistically-insignificant shark attacks (or, for a change of pace: stingrays!) And, of course, there's always footage of a car chase or a guy stuck in a tree to keep the audience entertained - oops, I mean "informed."

    It isn't exactly breaking news that the media, particularly cable news, obsess over tragic or bizarre, but statistically insignificant, topics that do next to nothing to educate the public. But this morning's Washington Post brings a reminder that there are countless more important things cable could do a better job of covering more regularly. Like the fact that at least three percent of residents of the nation's capital have HIV or AIDS, with transmission on the rise:

    At least 3 percent of District residents have HIV or AIDS, a total that far surpasses the 1 percent threshold that constitutes a "generalized and severe" epidemic, according to a report scheduled to be released by health officials tomorrow.


    "Our rates are higher than West Africa," said Shannon L. Hader, director of the District's HIV/AIDS Administration, who once led the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's work in Zimbabwe. "They're on par with Uganda and some parts of Kenya."

    "We have every mode of transmission" -- men having sex with men, heterosexual and injected drug use -- "going up, all on the rise, and we have to deal with them," Hader said.


    So urgent is the concern that the HIV/AIDS Administration took the relatively rare step of couching the city's infections in a percentage, harkening to 1992, when San Francisco, around the height of its epidemic, announced that 4 percent of its population was HIV positive. But the report also cautions that "we know that the true number of residents currently infected and living with HIV is certainly higher."

    The District's report found a 22 percent increase in HIV and AIDS cases from the 12,428 reported at the end of 2006, touching every race and sex across population and neighborhoods, with an epidemic level in all but one of the eight wards.

  • NYT blames bloggers for the Beltway media's love of trivia

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Ironic, indeed. The Times' Mark Leibovich notes how the D.C. press is increasingly treating government officials and bureaucrats likes celebrities, feverishly posting trivial updates about members of Obama's team. (Who drinks Diet Coke, who was spotted at an ATM, etc.) And yes, Leibovich is dead on, the Beltway press' standards for news have evaporated in recent years.

    The ironic part is when Leibovich pretends it's bloggers who are driving the trend, even though virtually all the examples noted in his piece come from the mainstream press. If anything, bloggers have been openly mocking the media's celebrity-like coverage.

    Nonetheless, Leibovich writes:

    Are any of these items newsworthy? (It's not as if the country is facing two wars and an economic crisis or anything.). Well, yes, they are — a lot of Web sites, bloggers and Twitterers have deemed these developments so.

    And in the print edition of the Times, the pull quote for the article reads:

    A Rahm Emanuel sighting at the Safeway? Alert the bloggers.

    Nice try, Times. Most bloggers couldn't care less about that kind of nonsense. It's the oh-so-serious elite press that's treating pols like movie stars.

    Leave us out of it.

    UPDATE: It wasn't bloggers this week who wrote about what kind of handkerchiefs pols are wearing.