You know the drill: When covering partisan dust-ups inside the Beltway, reporters today scurry around to get comments from as many Republicans as possible, but couldn't care less what Democrats think. It's astonishing how open journalists have become in producing such blatantly one-sided political reporting.
Here's the Politico's latest entry in the Republican-only genre.
The headline from his ABC News blog [emphasis added]: "Gregg Withdrawal Embarrasses White House."
From the Stephanopoulos item:
Yet, it is an amicable split. Both men have said they admire each other. Gregg said during his news conference today that he still thinks Obama will be a good president, and that he likes his bank plan. Obama, too, said that he admires Gregg's independence and thought it would be a plus in the cabinet. Now, however, it's an embarrassment to both men.
[I]n the end, NPR must decide -- as it apparently already has -- whether giving its listeners the benefit of Williams' voice is worth the cost of annoying some listeners for his work on Fox. As a result of this latest flap, NPR's Vice President of News, Ellen Weiss, has asked Williams to ask that Fox remove his NPR identification whenever he is on O'Reilly.
Frankly, that's not enough and here's why. As I noted back in 2007, when Williams again embarrassed NPR via his conduct on Fox News, and specifically, on an appearance he made on The O'Reilly Factor:
Real damage is being done to NPR by having its name, via Williams, associated with Fox News' most opinionated talker. In fact, Williams' recent appearance on The O'Reilly Factor almost certainly violated NPR's employee standards, which prohibit staffers from appearing on programs that "encourage punditry and speculation rather than fact-based analysis" and are "harmful to the reputation of NPR."
To add fuller context, the NPR code of ethics clearly states:
9. NPR journalists must get permission from the Vice President for their Division or their designee to appear on TV or other media. It is not necessary to get permission in each instance when the employee is a regular participant on an approved show. Permission for such appearances may be revoked if NPR determines such appearances are harmful to the reputation of NPR or the NPR participant.
10. In appearing on TV or other media including electronic Web-based forums, NPR journalists should not express views they would not air in their role as an NPR journalist. They should not participate in shows electronic forums, or blogs that encourage punditry and speculation rather than rather than fact-based analysis.
Yet here it is in 2009 and NPR finds itself answering angry listener emails because Williams said something stupid on The O'Reilly Factor; something I cannot imagine Williams would ever say on an NPR program. Isn't Williams clearly violating NPR's own standards by appearing on that program; a program that quite obviously encourages "punditry and speculation rather than fact-based analysis" and more importantly is "harmful to the reputation of NPR"? (If the show is not harmful to NPR's reputation than why don't more NPR staffers appear on it?)
Or put another way, how is Williams not violating the code of ethics by appearing on The O'Reilly Factor? And yes, I read the part where Shepard noted Williams is no longer on-staff and that he's paid by NPR to be an independent contractor:
Last spring, NPR's management put him on contract with the title "news analyst" largely to give him more latitude about what he says.
She later added:
[NPR managers] are in a bind because Williams is no longer a staff employee but an independent contractor. As a contract news analyst, NPR doesn't exercise control over what Williams says outside of NPR.
But here's how NPR's code of ethics defines who is covered by its rules:
This code covers all NPR journalists - which for the purposes of this code includes all persons functioning in the News, Programming and Online Divisions as reporters, hosts, newscasters, writers, editors, directors, photographers and producers of news, music or other NPR programming. It also covers all senior News, Programming and Online content managers. It does not cover administrative or technical staff from News, Programming or Online. The code also applies to material provided to NPR by independent producers, member station contributors and/or reporters and freelance reporters, writers, news contributors or photographers.
And what if a non-staff contributor violates the code of ethics? NPR has the option of simply stop using that person in the future:
Because contributors in this category are not NPR employees, the remedy for dealing with a conflict of interest or other violation of the principles of this code is rejection of the offered material.
According to the NPR standards, written to "to protect the credibility of NPR's programming by ensuring high standards of honesty, integrity, impartiality and staff conduct," there are three relevant guidelines that, in this situation, seem to apply to Williams:
1. Don't appear on programs that promote punditry.
2. Don't appear on programs that are harmful to NPR's reputation.
3. Don't say things on non-NPR programs that the journalist would not say on NPR.
It seems that NPR either needs to rewrite its standards, or it needs to take more forceful action regarding Williams' appearances on The O'Reilly Factor.
Headline: "Gregg's Withdrawal Becomes a Partisan Issue."
What do Democrats thinks of Judd Gregg's peculiar decision to belatedly walk away from an Obama cabinet post and what it means for Obama's bipartisan outreach? Readers don't know because the Post doesn't care what Democrats think. The newspaper only quotes Republicans about Gregg and the issue of partisanship.
Classic, right? And doesn't that pretty much sum up the one-sided reporting and punditry on the topic of partisanship in recent weeks?
Continuing with the media's beloved yes/but angle regarding the pending passage of the Obama stimulus bill, and how yes it represents a victory, but there are oh so many troubling things to report, Politico focuses on negatives with article, "Early setbacks test Obama's cool."
Writes David Rodgers:
The $789 billion recovery package is a major accomplishment less than a month after his Inauguration. But it's smaller than Obama had hoped it would be just days ago...
Note the language. Obama just passed his centerpiece economic legislation less than one month after being inaugurated. A "major accomplishment"? Technically, that's true. But a more accurate description would have been "unprecedented" or "historic" or "unheard of" accomplish. When you consider it took then-new president Ronald Reagan until July to pass his economic legislation and Bill Clinton until August and George W. Bush until May, the fact that Obama was able to shepherd his through in a matter of weeks is an unprecedented, historic and unheard of accomplishment for any modern day president.
But you're not going to hear that kind of language, because the Beltway press is more interested in the "but" part of the yes/but angle.
WSJ headline today: "Merrill Gave $1 Million Each to 700 of Its Staff"
According to the newspaper:
Merrill Lynch & Co. "secretly" moved up the date it awarded bonuses for 2008 and richly rewarded its executives despite billions of dollars in losses, giving bonuses of $1 million or more apiece to nearly 700 employees, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said.
Sorta makes you wonder about that media microscope that was used late last year to scrutinize the pay of middle class autoworkers, doesn't it?
In the wake of Juan Williams' latest outburst on Fox News, NPR has asked him to stop identifying himself as an NPR contributor when he appears on Fox. NPR's Ombudsman concludes her assessment of the situation:
[I]n the end, NPR must decide -- as it apparently already has -- whether giving its listeners the benefit of Williams' voice is worth the cost of annoying some listeners for his work on Fox.
As a result of this latest flap, NPR's Vice President of News, Ellen Weiss, has asked Williams to ask that Fox remove his NPR identification whenever he is on O'Reilly.
Glenn Greenwald amplifies a point we noted yesterday about the almost comically hypocritical Journal attack on Obama for using a list of pre-selected reporters to call on during his Monday press conference, and suggesting Bush never would have pulled a stunt like that. (Hint: He did.)
Deliberate deceit or complete editorial recklessness from The Wall St. Journal Editorial Page? And which is worse? Are there any limits at all to the factually false claims newspapers can spew without correction? We'll see. And of all the canards filling the overflowing canon of self-pitying right-wing grievances, the complaint that the Beltway media was unfairly and excessively critical of the Bush presidency has to be the single most laughable (as even Bush's own Press Secretary will tell you).
It also highlight a point we made when we detailed the chronically un-serious work of Jonah Goldberg, a god-awful media critique. And the point was this: Conservative media criticism is, almost without exception, a complete joke because the writers have no use for facts or truth or common sense. It's just partisan clowning around, as the Journal editorial proved.
That's been painfully obvious for years, and it was certainly highlighted during the general election. That's when when during the final months of the contest the mainstream press nearly uniformly walked away from even pretending to address the public policy issues featured in the campaign (i.e. the candidates' platform and agendas), and focused almost entirely on process and tactics.
The press doesn't do public policy and, not surprisingly, it appears the press no longer even understands public policy. Today, it certainly does not understand, or pretend to address seriously, the topic of economics. Instead, much of the press has covered the unfolding economic debate as--you guessed it--process and tactics.
That's why economists have been virtually banned from the airwaves in recent weeks, even as the country and Washington, D.C. grapple with pressing economic issues. Why on earth would the cable shows book professional experts on the issue at hand when they can book minority party Congressmen, right?
Media Matters has a new study detailing the paucity of economists taking part in the televised 'debate' over economics in recent weeks. Just 5 percent of the TV guests have been economic pro's.
As John Amato at Crooks and Liars notes:
Only 5% of them were put on air. It's not that Americans are uninformed, but that our media fails to do their jobs and intentionally decides to keep them uninformed. They would rather have a recently defeated Lindsey Graham and John Boehner appear to whine and whine and whine about President Obama's stimulus package.
Travels With Barack: The president hits the road to sell the stimulus package, and finds a surprisingly lack of cynicism along the way.
Perhaps spending too much time inside the anti-stimulus Beltway press bubble, the Newsweek reporter expresses amazement:
The president's town-hall audiences display a discernable lack of cynicism about politics, government and the capacity for D.C. to change under his stewardship. For years, polls have shown the deep disillusionment most Americans feel with the political process and with their representatives in D.C. But when Obama announced midway through Tuesday's Ft. Myers town-hall meeting that the Senate had voted to pass the stimulus package, the crowd cheered. And it wasn't just polite applause for the president's pet project. It was a loud, enthusiastic standing ovation for a piece of legislation. It's hard to recall the last time Congress, which has been haunted by dim approval ratings, received boisterous acclaim for passing a bill.
Don't these town hall attendees watch cable TV? Don't they know it's just a wasteful spending bill?