• The AP's Thursday train wreck

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Just in case you didn't follow these developments, as highlighted by MMA yesterday (here, here, and here), you really ought to take a minute and familiarize yourself with the details because they represent an almost a complete breakdown in journalism. The fact that the AP, one of the oldest and most respected news organizations, could produce such a shoddy product in the process of peddling phony GOP talking points really makes you wonder about where journalism stands these days.

    The colossal embarrassment also highlighted the hand-to-mouth feeding that's going on in Washington, D.C. today as the GOP tries to undermine the Obama administration's stimulus packaged, and news orgs scramble to the first ones to air the often baseless claims, without bothering to confirm if they're accurate and without bothering to contact Democrats for comments.

    Like we said, the AP suffered a complete journalism breakdown yesterday and to date, nobody at the news org has acknowledged the fiasco, or explained how so many newsroom rules were ignored.

    UPDATE: In the comments below "James" raises interesting points about how, according to some Congressional reporters, Democratic offices in Congress are slow to respond to reporters' requests, whereas Republicans very quickly return calls. The point being, for reporters on continuous deadlines all day, getting information from Democrats can be maddeningly slow.

    That's certainly a valid critique. (And frankly, it's one I experienced over the years as a reporter with Salon.) Obviously the more information that reporters have in a timely basis is better for everyone involved. But in this specific case of the AP train wreck, it's not an excuse because the AP in its first report never even indicated that it tried to contact any Democrats for comment. There was no indication the AP ever tried to determine if the GOP spin about the stimulus package was accurate. Also, the entire AP story was built around a single anonymous Republican source.

    There's simply no reason why the AP published a story as incomplete and inaccurate as the one it posted on its wires yesterday.

  • New report shows GOP lawmakers with 2 to 1 advantage in cable news stimulus debate

    Blog ››› ››› KARL FRISCH

    According to a new study by ThinkProgress, Republican lawmakes have had a 2 to 1 advantage over their Democratic counterparts when it comes to cable news appearances on the stimulus debate:

    The media have been aiding their efforts. In a new analysis, ThinkProgress has found that the five cable news networks — CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, Fox Business and CNBC — have hosted more Republican lawmakers to discuss the plan than Democrats by a 2 to 1 ratio this week:

    In total, from 6 AM on Monday to 4 PM on Wednesday, the networks have hosted Republican lawmakers 51 times and Democratic lawmakers only 24 times. Surprisingly, Fox News came the closest to offering balance, hosting 8 Republicans and 6 Democrats. CNN had only one Democrat compared to 7 Republicans.

  • Confirmed: AP has received GOP talking points

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Here's the bulk of the article [emphasis added]:

    The $800 billion-plus economic stimulus measure making its way through Congress could steer government checks to illegal immigrants, a top Republican congressional official asserted Thursday.

    The legislation, which would send tax credits of $500 per worker and $1,000 per couple, expressly disqualifies nonresident aliens, but it would allow people who don't have Social Security numbers to be eligible for the checks.

    Undocumented immigrants who are not eligible for a Social Security number can file tax returns with an alternative number. A House-passed version of the economic recovery bill and one making its way through the Senate would allow anyone with such a number, called an individual taxpayer identification number, to qualify for the tax credits.

    A revolt among GOP conservatives to similar provisions of a 2008 economic stimulus bill, which sent rebate checks to most wage earners, forced Democratic congressional leaders to add stricter eligibility requirements. That legislation, enacted in February 2008, required that people have valid Social Security numbers in order to get checks.

    The GOP official voiced concerns about the latest economic aid measure on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss it publicly.

    This strikes me as abysmal journalism. The AP's Julie Hirschfeld Davis types up a news article about how a single Republican "official" claims there's something wrong with one provision within the enormous stimulus package. But the single Republican won't discuss the issue on the record. (Is he the only Republican in the entire city of Washington, D.C. concerned about the issues?)

    More importantly, is the Republican claim accurate? The AP doesn't try to answer that question. Nor does the AP even bother to include a response from a Democrat anywhere in the article.

  • Naturally, WaPo mocks Al Gore

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Did you notice the dig at Gore found in the Post's headline today about the former VP's testimony before Congress about the urgent need to battle climate change?

    Here's the headline: "Gore Delivers 'Inconvenient Truth' Lecture to Senate Committee"

    See, Gore didn't simply testify. He lectured the senate. i.e. He's a pompous blowhard. That's the picture the Post news headline painted for readers this morning.

    UPDATE: Naturally, the Post's staff clown Dana Milbank mocks Gore and his testimony as well, calling him Goracle. Get it? It sounds like Gore but it also sounds like oracle. Get it? It's a play on words.

    And yes, that was the entire point of Milbank's so-called column--to refer to Gore as Goracle as many times as possible. Oh, aside from reporting, "Gore, suffering from a case of personal climate change, perspired heavily during his testimony."

    We're guessing the Post will pretty much publish anything at this point.

  • CBS's Bill Plante and the White House press corps' double standard

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    This is sort of a P.S. to the recent look at how, "Right on cue, the White House press awakens from its Bush slumber."

    NPR did a straight-ahead report about all those suddenly skeptical and aggressively inquisitive reporters showing up to work at the Obama White House. (i.e. NPR didn't see the irony.) In particular, CBS's Bill Plante was suddenly adamant about the media's civic role:

    The whole idea of an independent press as guaranteed by the First Amendment is that it would serve as a watchdog and check on the power of government.

    Well, no argument there, Bill. But it sure would've been nice if Plante and company had mouthed the same watchdog declarations during George Bush's time in town. Instead, what was Plante's take on the GOP press operation, which immediately began limiting all kinds of information from the press and generally stiff-arming journalists on the White House beat?

    Back then Plante told the American Journalism Review he was "fascinated by how well they've been able to manage" the press. Not concern or scorn, but fascination. That sounds an awful lot like admiration to me.

    Going back further to Bill Clinton's White House arrival in 1993, why did Plante think the press was so tough on the new kids. Why did the new Democratic administration get hit with so much bad press? Here's how Plante saw it:

    There was too much going on and too much of what was going on was controversial. There was...endless meetings, late night pizza, people wearing jeans. You name it. So there was no shortage of stories out of here in January, February, March of 1993."

    To recap, Democrat Clinton got early bad press because, according to Plante, there was "too much going on" in his White House. (People were wearing jeans and eating pizza!). Republican Bush got early good press and Plante was "fascinated" by how the GOP managed the press. But now Democrat Obama suddenly needs to be held accountable by the watchdog press.

  • ACORN: Media coverage of stimulus plan has been nuts

    Blog ››› ››› KARL FRISCH

    Over on Huffington Post, ACORN CEO and chief organizer Bertha Lewis has a great post up taking the media to task for advancing the demonstrably false right-wing talking point that under the President's economic stimulus plan ACORN would receive a jaw-dropping $4.19 billion.

    From her post (emphasis added):

    Sometimes, in my copious spare time, I like to peruse what various folks in the media, both new and traditional, are saying about ACORN. Sometimes this makes me happy, for example when I see Ben Ehrenreich's well done article on what people are doing to combat the foreclosure crisis at the heart of the economic meltdown. And sometimes it leaves me perplexed. Like now, watching the right-wing blogs and then right-wing traditional media outlets pick up the ridiculous talking points from the GOP leadership attacking Obama's stimulus package by claiming that it gives ACORN a $4.19 billion bailout.

    Puh-lease, people! When we heard that we fell over ourselves to see the language in the bill that would make us the richest organization of poor people in world history. We scrambled to set-up a direct deposit account. We wondered if check cashing outlets would take government checks. Turns out, though, that this $4 billion is pretty much like the last billion we read about in GOP press releases: a complete fabrication of overheated partisan fever dreams.

    At this point I'm not sure what is more amusing: watching respectable elected officials parrot zombie talking points from the party that brought us the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression or watching so-called journalists mimic the charges without asking for proof. Or calling us for our comment.

    So let's be clear. ACORN isn't getting any of this money. Since it is set aside for non-profit housing developers to help purchase, rehab, and resell foreclosed properties, we aren't eligible for it in the first place.

    Lewis is right – this dubious talking point has been all over the conservative and mainstream media. More from Media Matters here:

    Myths and falsehoods surrounding the economic recovery plan

    The Hill repeated false GOP claim that ACORN is a "beneficiar[y] of the stimulus package"

    Parroting GOP, Dittohead Limbaugh dutifully launches false ACORN attack

    SF Chronicle reported false claim that $4.19 billion of recovery plan "would go to" ACORN

  • Politico, please define "walked into"

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    I want to write headlines for Politico. I really do. Because when you write headlines for Politico you can literally create any "news" story that catches your fancy. You're imagination is free to run wild and you don't have to be bothered with any of the traditional restraints (re: guidelines) that generations of journalists have adhered. Why? Because headlines don't have to match the story and they don't have reflect the actual content. Editors don't mind. In fact, they seem to encourage the misinformation.

    The latest comes in the form of this headline: "Obama walks into window," complete with the the caption "D'oh!" The item itself references a New York Daily News piece about the supposed blunder. Here's what the NYDN actually wrote [emphasis added]:

    On the way back to the Oval Office Tuesday, the President approached a paned window, instead of the actual door -- located a few feet to his right.

    Did Obama walk into a window? No. Does Politico let the facts get in the way of the story it wants to tell? Almost never.

  • What Digby said

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Why does the Village suddenly think GOP members of Congress hold all the answers to fixing our economic woes?

    Maybe one gasbag or spokesmodel could ask them why no matter whether the country is economically doing well or doing badly, their advice is always tax cuts. It's infuriating to see them swarm the television and have to watch the media listen to their "analysis" and swallow it whole. If I didn't follow politics closely, I would think these people are the ones who won the election.

  • Bernard Goldberg's "bias" against the facts

    Blog ››› ››› KARL FRISCH

    My first column for Media Matters as a senior fellow -- a review of Bernard Goldberg's latest book, A Slobbering Love Affair: The True (And Pathetic) Story of the Torrid Romance Between Barack Obama and the Mainstream Media. Enjoy, and if you like what you see, feel free to follow me on Twitter and Facebook.

    That certainly didn't take long. Just shy of a week after Barack Obama took the oath of office, becoming America's 44th president, the nation's foremost right-wing publishing house has released a new tome by Bernard Goldberg that seeks to trash the supposedly liberal "mainstream media" for being in the tank for Obama.

    The three-ringed circus of liberal media bias cryptozoology is nothing new for Goldberg. He's been part of this factually challenged freak show for years. This isn't even his first book on the subject -- he wrote 2001's creatively titled, Bias.

    Goldberg's latest screed, A Slobbering Love Affair: The True (And Pathetic) Story of the Torrid Romance Between Barack Obama and the Mainstream Media (Regnery Publishing, January 2009), though with a significantly longer title, preaches the same decades-old gospel of bias, refusing at all costs to let facts get in the way -- truth be damned.