Earlier this week, I noted that a New York Times article about the prospects for health care reform misleadingly reported that the Democrats are trying to "advance the bill despite the loss of their 60-vote majority in the Senate" -- a wording that suggests that Democrats lost their entire Senate majority, when in fact they have simply lost a supermajority required to break a filibuster. Sure, if you happen to know the significance of 60 votes in the Senate, you might realize the Times was simply lazy in its wording -- but how many people know that?
Now comes the latest Pew Research Center News IQ Quiz, which finds that only 26 percent of Americans know that 60 votes are required to break a filibuster in the Senate. Let's assume -- just for the hell of it -- that New York Times readers are three times as likely as the general public to know this. That seems wildly generous to me -- but even that generous assumption still leaves a quarter of Times readers unaware of the significance of 60 Senate votes. Many of those readers likely interpreted "loss of their 60-vote majority in the Senate" to mean "loss of their majority" -- or were, at the very least, confused by the Times' language.
I know I'm obsessing over what may seem a minor point. But misleading and confusing reporting like this happens all the time, and is easily avoidable. And it highlights the fact that news organizations would serve their readers and viewers better if they made clearly informing them about things that matter a top priority -- and if they thought about their reporting in terms of some basic questions: What do people know? What do they need to know?
It's hard to read a typical news report about health care reform or proposals to stimulate the economy and conclude that the primary goal of the people who produced the report was clearly informing their readers about things they need to know. That may be the most staggering disconnect between what journalists should do and what they actually do.
Andrew Breitbart must be furious!
We already noted that Breitbart insisted his protégé James O'Keefe was never charged with trying to "bug" the senator's office, but the evil liberal media slanted the story that way. But oops, that's exactly what the right-wing site Pajamas Media reported; that O'Keefe has nabbed for trying to "bug" the office.
It turns out lots of conservatives outlets reported it that way:
-"Feds Cuff ACORN 'Pimp' in Attempt to Bug Sen. Landrieu's Phones" (NRO's The Corner)
-"James O'Keefe Arrested for Attempting to Bug Senator Mary Landrieu's Offices?" (Ace of Spades)
-"ACORN Sting Man James O'Keefe Arrested for Allegedly Trying to Bug Mary Landrieu's Office." (The Lonely Conservative)
-"James O'Keefe arrested for attempting to bug Mary Landrieu's office" (Another Black Conservative)
I assume Breitbart's Big Journalism is sending correction requests to the right-wing New York Post and National Review. (I'm trying not to laugh while I type this...) And when Breitbart refuses to demand a retraction from the NYPost, won't that tell you all you need to know about his real intent?
UPDATED: Is Big Journalism really the best site to be demanding retractions for factual errors? Isn't that like Mark McGwire suddenly advocating for a stricter steroids testing policy?
The following on-screen graphic aired on the January 29 edition of Fox & Friends during a discussion about how Obama's foreign policy compares to Carter's:
From Fox Nation:
From Fox's Web site on January 29, 2010:
On January 28, Andrew Breitbart's website BigGovernment.com ran a column from Illinois gubernatorial candidate Adam Andrzejewski and hosted a campaign ad. In the column, Andrzejewski also solicits participants for a commemorative Tea Party rally to be held in Chicago. Andrzejewski wrote:
It all started in Chicago. Rick Santelli's call to arms was broadcast from Chicago. The first Tea Party was last year on a cold day in February. I heard you. We need a new generation of leaders that will serve the people, not the political class. My campaign for Governor started because I heard you and I still hear you.
The Tea Party movement is now a year old and what better place to celebrate the movement than in Chicago. We will be at the Dierksen Federal Building plaza at 2:30pm having a rally in honor of the movement and to celebrate all that we've accomplished.
This is what happens when a state is in the grip of one-party rule, run by an ideology that the entire nation is now calling the "Chicago Way."
That's the bad news. Here is the good news. It's a new day in Illinois. All across the state, citizens are building the grassroots army that will bring Illinois back from the brink. They are getting activated, informed, and mobilized. I want to help them by offering them a real choice - not an establishment echo - for Governor. That 'echo' is exacting what I'm running against.
I'm Adam Andrzejewski, and I'm running for Governor of Illinois.
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 January 28 sponsors, in the order they appeared:
Rush Limbaugh has previously slammed "crazy environmentalist wackos," but he seemed to embrace the practice of recycling on his radio show today. Rush attacked President Obama throughout the show, deriding last night's State of the Union address, and if Limbaugh's smears seemed familiar to regular listeners, they were -- he got plenty of extra mileage out of smears he's already used plenty of times before.
Limbaugh started his show by comparing Obama's "pathetic" State of the Union address to "a speech by Hugo Chavez or Fidel Castro." Only two weeks ago, Limbaugh told his listeners, "I think Obama has the same speechwriter as Hugo Chavez." Rush equated the president with Chavez last November, too. When Obama gave a speech on national security in May 2009, Limbaugh asserted that "we got Castro'd." Then in September, while pushing the tired "death panel" falsehood about health care reform, Limbaugh again compared Obama to Castro.
Limbaugh again invoked Chavez and Castro a little later in today's show while attacking Obama as a "delirious" and "petty, little man" and likening the president to a "little kid" who "becomes king due to a premature death." (Don't worry -- Rush assured his listeners that he doesn't like to say these things about the president of the United States.) A week ago, Limbaugh described the president as a "spoiled-rotten little man-child" and suggested he is "delusional." Limbaugh made a habit of referring to Obama as a "boy" and a "man-child" throughout 2009, in addition to calling him a "a small and petty, spoiled little man."
In the second hour of today's show, Limbaugh stated that Obama's promise to uphold laws requiring equal pay for women was actually an effort to pit "groups of Americans against each other" and to expand Obama's "enemies list," which Limbaugh said is "longer than any enemies list I have ever seen." That echo listeners heard was from August, when Rush joined a slew of other media conservatives in asserting that "the White House is gathering an enemies list." Limbaugh and other conservative media figures had similarly accused the White House of compiling an "enemies list" after a March 2009 report that "[t]op Democrats" were "depicting Rush Limbaugh as the new face of the Republican Party."
One thing that stands out to me is that the circumstances under which Limbaugh was discussing Obama were very different in many of these cases: national security, health care reform, women's rights. But Rush came back to the same attacks time after time. It makes me wonder if Limbaugh would make the same attacks regardless of what Obama says or does.
Responding to President Obama's State of the Union speech, BigGovernment.com editor-in-chief Mike Flynn writes:
Obama seemed to have a gift for perfectly capturing the tone and mood of the public. It may seem a tired cliche now, but his speeches did much to inspire the hope people attached to his candidacy. Even rather vague or pedestrian phrases seemed to soar in his gifted hands. I had accepted it as a given that, if his political fortunes were ever down, Obama would be able to reverse his troubles by pulling just the right speech from his rhetorical bag of tricks.
Obama's State of the Union address last night was not just overly long and dull, it was totally tone-deaf politically. Coming on the heels of a political upset in Massachusetts, with deteriorating poll numbers and anxious members of his own party, Obama badly needed a home-run to change the political dynamics. He struck out.
Flynn has every right to say that he finds the speech "overly long and dull," but he offers no evidence whatsoever to support his claim that it was "totally tone-deaf politically." If the speech was such a political disaster, surely poll data would show that the American people rejected it. It does not.
Of the randomly selected 522 speech viewers questioned by CBS, 83 percent said they approved of the proposals the President made. Just 17 percent disapproved - typical of the high support a president generally receives among those who choose to watch the State of the Union. In January 2002 - when George W. Bush gave the State of the Union Address a year into his presidency - 85% of speech watchers approved.
Six in 10 of those asked said they thought Mr. Obama conveyed a clear plan for creating jobs, and seven in 10 said his plans for the economy will help ordinary Americans. Another seven in 10 said President Obama has the same priorities for the country as they have.
The same individuals were interviewed both before and after Wednesday's State of the Union, and after the speech, 70 percent said Mr. Obama shares their priorities for the country, up from 57 percent before the speech.
A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey indicated that 48 percent of speech watchers had a very positive reaction, with three in 10 saying they had a somewhat positive response and 21 percent with a negative response.
Two-thirds of speech-watchers who were questioned said the president will succeed in improving the economy, with nearly six in 10 saying he'll succeed in creating jobs.
As Eric Boehlert has noted, the media seem eager to disappear last night's polling results; it doesn't fit the story that they want to tell.
From a January 28 entry on Andrew Breitbart's BigGovernment.com:
Watching Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden sitting behind Obama, I was reminded of proud parents watching their child take his first steps. I half expected Nancy to offer him an animal cracker and a sippy cup of apple juice for his efforts.
So, you may be wondering, what was missing?
Gravitas, for one thing. Sure, there was the upward tilt of the head that is part and parcel of every Obama speech. I guess he thinks we enjoy being able to count his nostril hairs. But the entire speech had the tone of a parent lecturing an errant child. All that was missing was a wagging finger and the threat of no dessert for a week if little Billy didn't stop dragging his feet and clean his room.