This week John Walcott, Washington bureau chief for McClatchy Newspapers, accepted the I.F. Stone Medal for Journalistic Independence and delivered a must-read speech about the state of journalism, especially its catatonic state between 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq.
Here's a small sample:
Being an outsider, a gadfly, a muckracker, isn't always as much fun as being an insider, a celebrity journalist on TV and the lecture circuit. Worse, in these troubled economic times for the news media, it makes enemies, sometimes powerful ones, and it can offend readers, advertisers — and, as conditions in our business continue to worsen — potential employers in public relations and other industries.
(h/t Glenn Greenwald)
Given that Sarah Palin spent much of the week blasting Barack Obama for allegedly "palling" around with a "domestic terrorist" with whom Obama was not actually close, you might think the news media would examine Palin's ties to far-right extremists who support not only Alaskan succession, but speak favorably of 30 other states succeeding, too.
You'd be wrong.
But Salon picks up the slack with a detailed look at Palin's relationship with Alaska Independence Party and John Birch Society leaders who "helped launch Palin's political career in Alaska."
Though Chryson belongs to a fringe political party, one that advocates the secession of Alaska from the Union, and that organizes with other like-minded secessionist movements from Canada to the Deep South, he is not without peculiar influence in state politics, especially the rise of Sarah Palin. An obscure figure outside of Alaska, Chryson has been a political fixture in the hometown of the Republican vice-presidential nominee for over a decade. During the 1990s, when Chryson directed the AIP, he and another radical right-winger, Steve Stoll, played a quiet but pivotal role in electing Palin as mayor of Wasilla and shaping her political agenda afterward. Both Stoll and Chryson not only contributed to Palin's campaign financially, they played major behind-the-scenes roles in the Palin camp before, during and after her victory.
Palin backed Chryson as he successfully advanced a host of anti-tax, pro-gun initiatives, including one that altered the state Constitution's language to better facilitate the formation of anti-government militias. She joined in their vendetta against several local officials they disliked, and listened to their advice about hiring. She attempted to name Stoll, a John Birch Society activist known in the Mat-Su Valley as "Black Helicopter Steve," to an empty Wasilla City Council seat. "Every time I showed up her door was open," said Chryson. "And that policy continued when she became governor."
There's more. Much more.
Salon isn't the only independent news organization doing the journalism the establishment media is ignoring. Yesterday, the Washington Independent published a lengthy look at a topic the rest of the media has largely ignored: Cindy McCain's financial ties to Charles Keating. The Independent finds their business dealings lasted far longer than was previously understood:
Sen. John McCain's wife and father-in-law continued a lucrative business partnership with disgraced financier Charles H. Keating Jr. for 11 years after the GOP presidential nominee said he ended his close friendship with Keating in March 1987.
Cindy McCain's business partnership with Keating in a real-estate development between 1986 and 1998 netted her a tidy profit, in addition to years of significant tax benefits. Her father, who died in 2000, earned similar returns.
In my column this week, I noted that The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder seemed to suggest that the media is not covering Bill Ayers.
Shortly after that column was finished, Time's Michael Scherer posted (with permission) an email exchange he had with Ambinder, in which Ambinder makes that point more clearly:
But it's not working. To the extent that questions are being raised, they are being raised at the extreme margins of a 10 point race (or seven point race). They know this; they see the same polls and do the same focus groups. They're not grabbing news cycles. The news isn't about Ayers...
In fact, the stories that seep through seem to be about conservative intellectuals abandoning McCain, not about William Ayers -- or they're about McCain's soul -- or about conservatives questioning whether McCain has lost his soul, or they're about angry Republicans at events... One CNN segment on ACORN?. [emphasis added]
This is nothing short of delusional. As I noted in my column, a Nexis search returns more than 1,800 news stories mentioning Barack Obama and Bill Ayers -- in the past week alone. 1,800.
But Ambinder thinks that what the media is really focusing on is "conservative intellectuals abandoning McCain." Oh yeah? How many news stories have there been about that in the past week? Since he can't be bothered to provide actual facts to back up his assertions, I'll be happy to do the Nexis searches if Ambinder provides the names of the "conservative intellectuals" he thinks are getting more attention than Ayers. But I'm confident it's going to be a heck of a lot fewer than 1,800 hits.
(Ambinder demonstrated the absurdity of his own claims less than two hours later, when he noted that ACORN came up during an ESPN college football broadcast. At 6:05 PM, he was claiming ACORN wasn't seeping through; that there had only been "One CNN segment on ACORN." By 7:53 PM, he was forced to acknowledge it had seeped all the way through to ESPN.)
And this delusion that the media is paying more attention to -- what? Bill Buckley's kid endorsing Barack Obama? -- than to Bill Ayers leads Ambinder to suggest that the media is in the tank for Obama. Of course, his suggestions of media bias are always just that -- suggestions. He doesn't say it directly; maybe he thinks that removes any obligation to actually provide evidence. In this case, Ambinder says the media is "let's face it, kind of in tank for change, if not for Obama."
Speaking of Ambinder and Ayers ... earlier this week, I noted that Ambinder called Obama's decision to bring up the Keating Five "scuzzy" -- but his numerous posts about the McCain campaign's focus on Ayers and Jeremiah Wright contained no such denunciations. Well, Ambinder has written a lot more about McCain's focus on Ayers since then. And the turn McCain has taken over the past few weeks has been blasted even by Republicans who have supported McCain. But Ambinder hasn't called McCain's tactics "scuzzy," or offered criticism anywhere near that harsh. The closest he's come seems to be complaining that they're poorly executed.
To sum up: Marc Ambinder thinks the media is not covering Bill Ayers. And he thinks it's Obama who is running a "scuzzy" campaign.
CNN's Wolf Blitzer is currently interviewing three journalists:
And, of course, no liberal to balance Hayes.
The American Prospect's Adam Serwer explains the basic problem with CNN's report about ACORN: "CNN is unable or unwilling to make the critical distinction between registration fraud and voter fraud."
That's a huge distinction. Here's CNN's Drew Griffin last night:
GRIFFIN: ACORN's voting registration drives are under investigation or suspicion in several states. Just yesterday, local authorities raided this ACORN office in Las Vegas where ACORN workers allegedly registered members of the Dallas Cowboys football team.
And here's how Griffin ended his report:
GRIFFIN: It absolutely is a crime. That was a fraud, somebody who filled out those forms. And I looked at them, Anderson. They're obviously a fraud.
But the election workers say we have to turn this over to the actual elected board of elections. The board of elections has to then bring in the county attorney to see if an investigation, a criminal investigation, should begin. So all of that will be, you know, weeks, maybe even months down the road, and of course, that's going to be after the election.
By noting that the "criminal investigation" might not come until "after the election," Griffin suggests the fraud will have an effect on the outcome of the election. This is alarmist: Unless those members of the Dallas Cowboys actually show up to vote in Nevada, the fact that someone registered them to do so won't make a bit of difference on election day.
From time to time, people whose job is to sign up new votes are going to fill out voter registrations for Mickey Mouse to pad their totals. That's a problem, but it isn't going to affect vote totals unless Mickey Mouse actually shows up to vote. But you wouldn't know that from the media's frenzied reporting of the Republicans' biennial attacks.
Kristol has been saying he plays no official role in the campaign, and the NYTimes has been mouthing the same talking points, since its columnists are not supposed to active election players. But this report from Scott Horton suggests Kristol was instrumental in getting Sarah Palin tapped as the VP.
Kristol is one of the few conservative columnists whose support of Palin has been unflinching. He has used his space as a New York Times columnist to tout her candidacy repeatedly. But in the process Kristol has never bothered to disclose his role in the decision making process that led to the Palin pick. Kristol's Weekly Standard has figured as Palin's chief defender, and its writers have gone after even those who dare to pose questions about Palin's candidacy. Bill Kristol, it seems, has much at stake in the Palin candidacy.
Every election year, conservatives start screaming about "voter fraud." And the media pays a great deal of attention. And, when all is said and done, there is typically a negligible amount of actual voter fraud.
Meanwhile, as we've been reminded in recent election cycles, voter disenfranchisement does happen.
You'd think the media would have learned by now. And yet they're in a frenzy over the Right's attacks on ACORN ... and all but ignoring stories like this:
Tens of thousands of eligible voters in at least six swing states have been removed from the rolls or have been blocked from registering in ways that appear to violate federal law, according to a review of state records and Social Security data by The New York Times.
Says David Sirota, who claims the daily soft peddled the blog Naked Capitalism's recent scoop about a Treasury Dept. conference call held amidst the recent bailout negotiations. On the call, which was designed to reassure Wall Street speculators, officials stressed all the supposed Democratic "improvements" to Henry Paulson's original bill were specifically written to be unenforceable.
The Journal on Friday finally got around to reporting on the two-week-old conference call, but only after the bailout passed.
It sure looks like it.