Looking through some of the legal documents in connection to the ongoing between Dan Rather and CBS regarding his dismissal from the network following the Memogate controversy in 2004, it's becoming increasingly clear just how spooked the network was by right-wing attacks CBS. And how CBS suits bent over backwards to placate them.
We noted earlier that in an effort to pacify conservatives who were howling about CBS' liberal bias, the network, when putting together its "independent" panel to investigate memo reporting, drew up a list of possible members that included Matt Drudge and Rush Limbaugh.
Looking at the documents ourselves, we now see that even when discussing more serious candidates for the panel, insiders at CBS were preoccupied with selecting somebody to run the "independent" panel who conservatives would embrace.
One finalist was former GOP senator Warren Rudman. According to an internal CBS memo, he received high marks: "Mentioned by several GOP folks who feel he is above reproach and he would be his own man."
Did you notice how it seems obvious that CBS execs were out taking the temperature of "GOP folks" before they appointed the point person to their "independent" panel? Note that there's no evidence from the assembled memos that CBS reached out to any Democratic "folks" to get their input.
Despite those high mark for Rudman though, reservations persisted. From the memo: "Was not sure Rudman would mollify the right."
And with that, Rudman was not selected.
Anyone else having increased doubts about the conclusions reached by CBS's "independent" panel?
FYI, GOP attorney Dick Thornburgh, who enjoys close ties to the Bush family, was ultimately selected to investigate CBS's reporting on George W. Bush's national guard service. Thornburgh's law firm billed CBS $594,000 for its work on the "independent" panel.
CJR looks at the damage being done to journalism by allowing political operatives, who often display a casual regard for facts, to portray themselves as journalists. At the top of the list is the Times' Kristol.
Nicholas Kristof and William Kristol both write regular columns about politics and policy for the New York Times op-ed page. But one is a journalist (Kristof) and the other is a political operative who last summer was listed by a Council on Foreign Relations report as an informal part of John McCain's foreign-policy brain trust (Kristol). The latter, writing once a week since January, has had five published corrections for errors of fact in his column; the former, writing twice a week in that same period has had no published corrections.
Slate's Jack Shafer takes up the topic and pushes back, suggesting The Drudge Report's influence is not on the wane. Slate's evidence seems awfully thin, though.
Drudge endures, while imitators and newly minted Web stars fade, for a variety of reasons. He works incredibly hard. He cares about his site. He appears to have no interest in working for somebody else, and his entrepreneurial vigor makes the site come alive.
Our original point about Drudge still stands: Instead of driving the news during the general election, he was an irrelevant bystander. If anybody thinks that's where Drudge wants to be and that he's happy just posting headlines that have no impact on American politics, than they're probably misreading him.
It's all part of the GOP spin regarding WaPo ombudsman's Sunday column and how she somehow confirmed the press has gone easy on Obama and was too tough on McCain. Hume claims the ombudsman "acknowledged the bias."
As we noted a couple times already, the "tilt" that the ombudsman referenced in her column about campaign coverage was that the Post, during the general election, printed slightly more Obama-centric articles than McCain-centric ones. And that the Post ran slightly more Obama photos than McCain photos. The WaPo made no evaluation about whether those stories and photos were "bias." (i.e. pro or con.) The paper simply added up the raw numbers.
But Republicans took that and ran with the (misleading) idea that because the Post published more Obama stories that meant it was bias in his favor.
Read that again. According to right-wing press critics, the fact that the Post and other press outlets produced more Obama coverage meant they really, really liked him. The GOP has been very clear in that the sheer quantity of the Obama campaign stories was confirmation that the press liked Obama because the press ignored McCain.
Ok, now apply that to the amount of coverage to the vice presidential candidates received because every independent study has shown that the press practically drowned Sarah Palin in press coverage while ignoring Joe Biden. For most of the general election, "Biden was practically an afterthought, struggling to generate headlines and attention," concluded the Pew Research Center.
So according to conservative press critics' logic, it's obvious that the press, which couldn't stop writing about Palin, showed "bias" in favor of the Alaska governor, right? But for some reason, that's not the conclusion Hume came to.
In his item today:
The intense back-stabbing amongst Democrats for top jobs in the Obama administration assumes there are a fixed number of jobs worth having.
By "intense back-stabbing" does Kamen mean the intense lobbying for jobs that takes place every time a new administration is created? If so than why didn't he just say so. Instead Kamen portrays Dems as greedy juveniles at each others' throats, and Kamen did it without producing a single piece of evidence (i.e. anecdote) to back up his nasty portrayal.
This, the-media-is-always-tough-on-new-presidents talking point is pretty much everywhere now. Howard Kurtz hit it this morning, and former New York Times reporter Judy Miller hit it on Fox News today:
They are inevitably are going to turn on him, as all - this happened to every administration. I don't see why we should be surprised. It is the natural turn of events.
It happens all the time, Miller stressed. The professionally skeptical press always holds new administrations accountable. It always breaks in the White House newbie by hounding him with tough questions.
Except, of course, when the press does not.
When the Democrats last arrived in Washington, D.C. with a new president in early 1993, the press absolutely greeted him with tough questions; questions that, within a matter of days, morphed into open hostility, where they pretty much stayed for eight years as the press and the Democratic White House waged an endless war.
Don't take our word for it. This was the Los Angeles Times headline for a 1993 story that examined Clinton's early press coverage: "NOT EVEN GETTING A 1ST CHANCE; EARLY COVERAGE OF THE PRESIDENT SEEMED MORE LIKE AN AUTOPSY. WHITE HOUSE MISSTEPS AND AGGRESSIVE MEDIA PURSUIT NEVER ALLOWED CLINTON THE CUSTOMARY HONEYMOON."
By contrast, at the dawn of 2001, a new Republican president arrived in Washington and the press absolutely did not greet him with tough questions. Instead, a blanket of calm seemed to cover Beltway newsrooms.
So when mainstream media watchers today like Kurtz and Miller insist the press always plays hardball with the new president, recent history suggest they're only half right.
According to FNC's Greta Van Susteren, Cameron told her he "messed up on this one," referring to the laundry list of anonymous GOP attacks (smears?) that were broadcast about Palin after the election.
Like the claim that Palin didn't know Africa was a continent, she was a shop-aholic," clueless about NAFTA, and that she once answered a campaign hotel room door wearing a bathrobe.
The claims set off a firestorm within right-wing media circles. And now Cameron regrets it all.
The WaPo's Howard Kurtz today looks at what the relationship between the Beltway press and the incoming Obama administration may look like:
Journalists, who were widely seen as giving Obama an easy ride during the campaign, generally hailed his election as a breakthrough moment for racial progress. Once a president takes office, though, an adversarial relationship usually flourishes, at least with beat reporters.
Coverage is likely to turn nasty for Obama because the skeptical White House press corps regularly wages war with new administrations.
Does anybody else see the problem with that convenient equation? Something about Bush and a lapdog press.
Following Matt Drudge's lead, the GOP Times claims that in her Sunday column, Washington Post ombudsman Deborah Howell conceded the Post had been "bias" in favor of Barack Obama in its campaign coverage.
As we already noted, what Howell did was tally up the raw numbers from the campaign and found that, to a very small degree, the Post during the general election ran more Obama articles and photos than McCain. Howell though, made no conclusions about the contents of the articles or whether the Post was "bias" toward Obama and was unfair to McCain.
The ongoing spin is all part of the conservative effort to blame the press for McCain's loss. What conservatives always fail to mention in their dissection of the press coverage is that was conservative columnists who often led the charge in harshly criticizing the McCain/Palin ticket. But that part doesn't fit into the GOP talking point about an unfair liberal media, so it's always left out of the discussion.