Today marked the seventh straight year that The Wall Street Journal has not won a Pulitzer Prize for reporting. It also marks the seventh straight year the newspaper has been owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation.
Does one have anything to do with the other? Perhaps.
During my time at Editor & Publisher magazine from 1999 to 2010, I covered the Pulitzer Prizes each year, corresponding with members of the juries to determine who would win the awards and why.
Anyone who knows the Pulitzers can tell you it is a fierce competition. Failing to take home the prize in no way suggests one's reporting was unworthy.
But for the Journal, which has garnered dozens of the awards during its celebrated history, that stretch of failure cannot go unnoticed. In the history of the Pulitzers, only The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post and Associated Press have won more.
And during the past seven years as the Journal has remained winless, those four news outlets have won a combined 33 reporting Pulitzers.
While the newspaper has won two Pulitzers since Murdoch took over, they were for editorial writing and commentary. The heart and soul of any news operation, its reporters and photographers, have been repeatedly denied in the competition that remains the most prestigious award in journalism.
With today's winners ranging from The Tampa Bay Times to Reuters, the Journal's name is sorely missed by many, its staff likely as much as anyone.
A look at the Journal's history finds the paper's great journalism winning acclaim and top awards, all pre-Murdoch.
From its first reporting award in 1961 for uncovering problems in the timber industry to its last two in 2007 for digging into the scams of backdated stock options and the negative impact of China's growing capitalism the Journal had never gone more than five years without a win, with that stretch in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In the five years before Murdoch's purchase, the paper won Pulitzers for public service and international reporting and two each for beat reporting and explanatory journalism.
The Pulitzer Prize is not the ultimate judgment of a newspaper. And many in the industry often criticize editors who appear to assign stories specifically with the goal winning a Pulitzer in mind.
But for a newspaper of the Journal's size and stature, such a long stretch may be a sign of its goals. Murdoch has reportedly made clear that he does not prioritize the kind of in-depth, long form journalism that often wins these awards.
The Department of Energy's clean energy loan program helped fuel the achievements of electric car company Tesla Motors, yet the major broadcast, cable and print media only mentioned the loan in 20 percent of their coverage of Tesla in 2013 (and in only 7 percent of coverage of Nissan's best-selling electric car, the Leaf). Meanwhile, 84 percent of coverage of Fisker, an electric car company that declared bankruptcy, mentioned its federal loan. This skewed coverage may have misinformed the public about the overwhelmingly positive success rate of the program.
Media reports on the Senate vote to renew long-term unemployment benefits established a false contrast between providing a safety net for unemployed Americans and policies designed to create jobs. In fact, experts note that unemployment benefits boost job creation and economic growth.
This week's release of 27,000 emails linking Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker to his staff's illegal engagement in political activities while he was Milwaukee County executive did not occur through the generosity of state officials, but through the diligence of journalists.
The emails and hundreds of court documents made public under court order Wednesday came about after a five-month battle in which several news outlets, led by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, joined forces to demand access to public records.
The emails, including those from private accounts, revealed that some of Walker's staff were discussing and illegally performing campaign work on county time and in county offices in 2009 and 2010. They were discovered through a Milwaukee County District Attorney investigation dating back to 2010 that has already resulted in the convictions of six county staffers.
The investigation was conducted under Wisconsin's so-called "John Doe" provision, a special secret inquiry that strictly limits information that can be revealed during the proceedings and even after their completion. Among the findings was the existence of a secret email router in the county executive's office that allowed staffers to send and receive emails through private accounts not monitored by the county's regular email system.
The county staffers targeted in the probe included Walker's former chief of staff, Kelly Rindfleisch, who pleaded guilty in 2012 to a single count of felony misconduct in public office and was sentenced to six months in jail. When she appealed her conviction last year, The Journal Sentinel sought to gain access to the emails, which had been sealed by the court during the investigation and subsequent appeals.
The newspaper's effort to obtain access dates back to August 9, when Editor Martin Kaiser submitted a public records request to the current Milwaukee County executive seeking access to the emails.
When Kaiser's letter received no formal response, lawyers for the Journal Sentinel filed a motion on September 18 in Milwaukee County Circuit Court requesting that the district attorney be ordered to return the emails and other related documents to the county executive, who would then be required to make them available as public records.
"Ordinarily government communications, whether by email or paper or any other form, are presumed public under our public records law," said Robert J. Dreps, the newspaper's attorney. "These were never available for request under the public records law because their existence wasn't even known until they were swept up as part of this criminal investigation."
On September 27, the judge hearing former Walker staffer Rindfleisch's appeal ordered that numerous documents from the original John Doe investigation, including private emails from Rindfleisch's accounts, be released to the appeals court.
The Journal Sentinel followed two days later with a letter to the judge urging that those records not be sealed so that the newspaper can gain access if its motion is granted. On October 3, Rindfleisch filed a motion to seal the documents in her appeals case, including the emails.
The Associated Press gave Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) space to parrot tired Benghazi myths about military aid and President Obama's whereabouts the night of the attacks in its coverage of the congressman's recent speech in New Hampshire.
On February 18, the Associated Press detailed Issa's criticisms of the Obama administration during a New Hampshire speech, highlighting Issa's accusation that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta refused to send military aid to Americans under attack in Benghazi in September 2012 and his suggestion that Obama was absent as the administration planned its response to the attacks:
Issa said that Clinton and former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta were accountable as the "top two informed individuals who were awake."
"They didn't react," he said, adding later, "We need to find out from Secretary Clinton, why in the world you wouldn't have insisted that (security forces) be moving and providing support."
Rather than acknowledge that Issa's claims have been soundly discredited, AP prefaced his remarks with the vague disclaimer, "Democrats complain that the continued focus on the Benghazi attack, in particular, is a political stunt designed to weaken Clinton should she run for president."
And yet, Issa's claim that Clinton and Panetta "didn't react" that night, which AP takes at face value, has been called "cartoonish" by military leaders, who have repeatedly testified that the response represented the best of our military's capabilities.
After the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released new estimates of the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) impact on labor markets, the Associated Press' Julie Pace claimed there were "two different ways" to characterize the report: the Republican characterization, and the White House's position. But there's a major problem with Pace's false balance -- only the White House's position is backed up by the facts.
On February 4, the non-partisan CBO released its Budget and Economic Outlook for the years 2014 to 2024. One section of the report projected that the number of full-time-equivalent workers would decline by about 2 million over the next three years due to the impact of the ACA. Conservative media quickly declared that the report showed 2 million jobs would be destroyed.
During a panel discussion on the February 4 edition of Fox News' Special Report, guest host Shannon Bream asked Julie Pace, the Associated Press (AP) White House correspondent, to spell out the details of the new CBO report and what the White House said about it. Pace explained:
PACE: Basically what you have is two different ways of characterizing this report. If you talk to Republicans, they say there are going to be nearly 2.5 million jobs that are going to be lost over a decade because of the Affordable Care Act. If you talk to the White House, there are going to be 2.5 million people who are going to have a choice to leave full-time employment.
Pace included the Republican talking point in an apparent attempt to balance the White House's statements, but the idea that "there are going to be nearly 2.5 million jobs that are going to be lost" is simply not true. As the Los Angeles Times' Pulitzer Prize-winning business columnist Michael Hiltzik explained (emphasis original):
The CBO projects that the [Affordable Care] act will reduce the supply of labor, not the availability of jobs. There's a big difference. In fact, it suggests that aggregate demand for labor (that is, the number of jobs) will increase, not decrease; but that many workers or would-be workers will be prompted by the ACA to leave the labor force, many of them voluntarily.
As economist Dean Baker points out, this is, in fact, a beneficial effect of the law, and a sign that it will achieve an important goal. It helps "older workers with serious health conditions who are working now because this is the only way to get health insurance. And (one for the family-values crowd) many young mothers who return to work earlier than they would like because they need health insurance. This is a huge plus."
The ACA will reduce the total hours worked by about 1.5% to 2% in 2017 to 2024, the CBO forecasts, "almost entirely because workers will choose to supply less labor -- given the new taxes and other incentives they will face and the financial benefits some will receive." That translates into about 2.5 million full-time equivalents by 2024 -- not the number of workers, because some will reduce their number of hours worked rather than leaving the workforce entirely.
Super Typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines, sweeping the island nation with near-record winds and a towering storm surge. There are many scientific uncertainties around the factors contributing to storms such as Super Typhoon Haiyan, but scientists know that rising sea levels driven by manmade climate change worsen the damage caused by these storms. Yet an analysis of Typhoon Haiyan coverage in television and print media finds that less than five percent of stories mentioned climate change.
After hyping an alleged "pause" in global warming, mainstream media have entirely ignored a groundbreaking study finding that warming over the last 16 years has actually proceeded at the same rate as it has since 1951 with no "pause" compared to that time period.
The study, published in the Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society by Dr. Kevin Cowtan of the University of York and Robert Way of the University of Ottawa, found that the average global surface temperature has warmed 0.12 degrees Celsius between 1997 and 2012 (see the bold "Global" line in the graph above) -- two and a half times the UK Met Office's estimate of 0.05°C (see "Met Office" line). According to the new estimate, over the last 16 years the globe has warmed at the same rate as it has since 1951.
Writing about the study at the scientific blog Real Climate, climate scientist Stefan Rahmstorf concluded that the public debate about the "pause" has "become"completely baseless" and that any speed bump in warming is "not surprising" with natural variability:
The public debate about the alleged "warming pause" was misguided from the outset, because far too much was read into a cherry-picked short-term trend. Now this debate has become completely baseless, because the trend of the last 15 or 16 years is nothing unusual - even despite the record El Niño year at the beginning of the period. It is still a quarter less than the warming trend since 1980, which is 0.16 °C per decade. But that's not surprising when one starts with an extreme El Niño and ends with persistent La Niña conditions, and is also running through a particularly deep and prolonged solar minimum in the second half.
An earlier Media Matters analysis found that mainstream media mentioned the alleged "pause" in nearly half of coverage of a major international climate report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). However, media have often been reluctant to cover data contradicting that narrative, including a study finding that heat may have been stored in the intermediate depths of the ocean, where warming has proceeded 15 times faster than in the past 10,000 years, rather than in the atmosphere.
As for claims that global warming has "stopped" or that global warming is "[o]ver," the study found with 94 percent probability that there has been some warming over the last 16 years. Dr. Cowtan wrote that "the hypothesis that warming has accelerated ... is four times as likely as the hypothesis that warming has stopped."
Why were previous estimates off?
Media fell for another misleading leak from the House Oversight Committee when they hyped allegations that the Obama administration ignored HealthCare.gov security warnings -- though the warnings were for a portion of the site that will not be operational until early 2014.
On November 11, a CBS News report cited selectively leaked partial transcripts from Affordable Care Act (ACA) opponent Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) to claim that "the project manager in charge of building the federal health care website was apparently kept in the dark about serious failures in the website's security." The network was criticized by Maddow producer Steve Benen when he found that the warnings referenced a function of the health care website that won't be active until early 2014 and has nothing to do with the parts of the website that are currently in use. A Democratic staffer Benen talked to also said that this part of the website "will not submit or share personally identifiable information."
CBS' faulty report aired just days after the network faced widespread criticism and was forced to apologize for failing properly vet an unreliable source that was prominently featured in the network's October 27 60 Minutes report on the Benghazi attack. But CBS wasn't the only outlet to promote misleading claims from the leaked Oversight Committee transcript.
On November 11, The New York Times reported that The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services' Henry Chao, "[t]he chief digital architect for the federal health insurance marketplace," was "not aware of tests that indicated potential security flaws in the system, which opened to the public on Oct. 1," citing excerpts released by Issa. The same day, FoxNews.com claimed that Obamacare security concerns had been "withheld," but never mentioned that its story was based on a partial transcript. CNN's New Day, and Fox News' America's Newsroom and On The Record with Greta Van Susteren all ran the story on November 12. The Associated Press repeated the claim "Chao was unaware of a memo earlier that month detailing unresolved security issues" as late as November 13 -- after contradictory reports had surfaced.
The media's failure to confirm the suggestions made by partial transcripts from the House Oversight Committee is a significant oversight, considering the committee chairman Darrell Issa's history of releasing misleading material the press.
One of the investigators hired by CBS News to review its problematic 2004 report on George W. Bush's Air National Guard service, which led to the ouster of Dan Rather and other staffers, said the lessons of that review -- to get the facts quickly and disclose them -- should not be forgotten as the network's recent Benghazi story comes under scrutiny.
Louis Boccardi, former Associated Press CEO and president, was part of the two-person team that investigated a 60 Minutes II story after questions were raised about the authenticity of some of the documents cited in the report.
Asked about the current problems with the recent Benghazi report CBS' 60 Minutes ran on the September 2012 attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya -- which aired October 27 and has been plagued by the recent revelation that its key source witness told contradictory tales about the attack -- Boccardi brought up the "lessons" learned in his previous review.
"I think one of the lessons of the Rather situation was that things get worse if you don't get in quickly and figure out what happened," Boccardi said in an interview. "We said that in the report ... that one of the lessons of CBS 60 Minutes II was to get quickly at the bottom of this, get the facts -- and get them quickly -- and put 'em out."
The October 27 report has come under fire from Media Matters and a host of journalism veterans after the Washington Post revealed that Dylan Davies, the security contractor presented by CBS News as a witness to the attacks, had previously filed a report with his security contractor employer saying that he "could not get anywhere near" the compound the night of the attack. 60 Minutes has told the Post it stands by the story.
On November 2, The Daily Beast published an interview with Davies in which he claimed he lied to his employer with his statement that he was not near the Benghazi attack site.
Boccardi declined to comment specifically on the details of the Benghazi report or the issues of concern. But he stressed that finding the facts and disclosing them is a key element in any news story that comes under question, something he says was important in the previous 60 Minutes review he conducted.
"People who know whether it ought to be reviewed and how it ought to be reviewed are the people inside CBS, they know what they're dealing with," Boccardi said. "One of the issues we dealt with last time was in some places in CBS they're insisting that [the story] was right and in other places they weren't sure. Of course as time went on, it got worse. I don't know what they ought to do now. I think getting to the bottom quickly is the right thing for a news company, a news organization to do."
Republicans in the U.S. Senate made history this week when they successfully filibustered the nomination of Rep. Melvin Watt (R-N.C.) to become director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency. Watt received 56 Senate votes, four short of the 60 necessary to end the filibuster.
The move represented the latest round of raw, extremist obstructionism that Republicans have proudly practiced for the last five years, particularly when it comes to mounting extraordinary efforts to block presidential appointments that in the past were considered to be routine.
The historic element of the Watt rejection was that throughout American history it has been virtually unheard for a sitting member of Congress to be filibustered -- to be denied the courtesy of a final vote -- when selected by the president to fill an administration position. Prior to this week's partisan blockade of Watt, a Congressional rejection like his hadn't happened since before the Civil War, in 1843.
That important historical context should have been included in every story about the Watt filibuster, but it wasn't. That's not surprising considering the Beltway press corps seems to have made a conscious decision during the Obama presidency to omit virtually all context with regards to the Republicans' continued radical behavior as they cling to filibusters to methodically block, stall and reject most White House policy proposals, as well as countless nominations.
The pliant coverage over the years has likely only enabled Republicans to push ahead with their corrosive strategy, knowing there's certainly no downside with regards to adverse media attention. After all, Republican moved to recently shut down the government, yet lots of journalists suggested the radical, destructive move was because "both sides" just couldn't agree, essentially blaming Democrats for Republican extremism.
Note that Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) recently announced he was going to block all Obama nominations until he got more answers about the 2012 terror attack in Benghazi. Although as CNN's Jeffrey Toobin noted, Republicans block Obama picks as a matter of general principle, so it's not like Graham even needs a stated reason for the obstruction.
Watt wasn't the only presidential pick rejected by Republicans on October 31. They also blocked Patricia Millett, who was nominated to fill one of three vacancies on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Despite the fact Millett had previously served as an assistant solicitor general, and represented the administration before the Supreme Court 32 times, under both Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, Republicans denied her the right to an up or down vote.
It's telling that Republicans barely even bother to give reasons for the filibusters any more, and that the press doesn't find that odd.
The Associated Press took down a false story that jumped the gun in order to accuse Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe of lying to federal investigators. Before the AP killed the story, however, the right-wing media had already amplified the false report.
In an October 9 article, AP political writer Bob Lewis reported that McAuliffe had allegedly "lied to a federal official investigating a Rhode Island estate planner now imprisoned for receiving death benefits on annuities secured on terminally ill people without their knowledge." The AP's report was based on court documents alleging that an individual identified only as "T.M." had lied to a postal inspector about participating in a death benefit fraud:
The McAuliffe campaign responded after the AP published its report, denying that the "T.M." identified in the court documents was McAuliffe and pointing out that "he was not interviewed by law enforcement on April 20, 2010; rather, he was in Richmond for a day of meetings." The campaign further stated that McAuliffe was a "passive investor" and "he was never involved in the referral of any annuitants to Mr. [Joseph] Caramadre, ever."
Shortly after posting the report, the AP withdrew it. Lewis also issued a retraction, tweeting, "The error was mine and I take responsibility for it." But before the story was withdrawn, it was picked up by several media outlets and amplified by right-wing blog Hot Air, which stated:
Normally in an October surprise like this, one would suspect dirty tricks by the opposing campaign. That doesn't appear to be the case here, though. This isn't an old report uncovered in oppo research, but a new filing in a federal court. McAuliffe's name only got linked to the Caramadre case today. Ken Cuccinelli is the current AG of Virginia, but there isn't any apparent connection between the state AG's office and a federal investigation in Rhode Island, at least not at the moment.
So at least for the moment, this looks like a very big and unspinnable problem for Team McAuliffe, and not just in the campaign. Lying to federal investigators is obstruction of justice, which is a very significant felony -- as Scooter Libby can attest. McAuliffe is presumed innocent until proven guilty, but that's only in the legal sense, not the political sense.
Hot Air also updated its blog after the AP story was withdrawn.
UPDATE: On October 10, The Associated Press issued the following statement:
The initial alert moved on AP's Virginia state wire at9:45 p.m. The story was withdrawn one hour and 38 minutes later. That was an hour and 38 minutes too long. As our retraction said, "The indictment did not identify McAuliffe as the 'T.M.' who allegedly lied to investigators."
UPDATE 2: According to the Huffington Post, the Associated Press has fired both Bob Lewis and editor Dena Potter and is expected to reprimand another unnamed editor:
The Associated Press has fired a reporter and editor over an erroneous Oct. 9 report that Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe lied to an investigator in a federal fraud case, according to sources familiar with the matter.
The AP retracted the article in question roughly an hour and a half after publication, and last week, suspended its author, veteran political reporter Bob Lewis.
According to sources, Lewis has since been fired. He could not be reached for comment.
The AP has also fired Dena Potter, a Richmond-based news editor for Virginia and West Virginia.
When reached by phone, Potter instructed this reporter to call Paul Colford, the AP's Director of Media Relations. Colford declined to comment on personnel matters.
Another editor is expected to be reprimanded over the incident, according to sources.
Fox News seized on a cold winter forecast from the Farmers' Almanac to mock global warming. But meteorologists say the periodical, whose prediction has been hyped by many in the media, is "like the Ouija board of weather."
Even if the publication's predictions were accurate, it would do nothing to contradict the long-term trend of warmer global temperatures, including warmer winters in the U.S.:
Yet more remarkable than Fox's annual mockery of global warming is that its source essentially gives out the horoscopes of the weather world. Farmers' Almanac broadcasts vague predictions based on a "secret formula" of "tides, astronomical events" and other factors known only to their pseudonymous weatherman Caleb Weatherbee. It then declares itself correct 80 percent of the time -- apparently based on its readers' assessments, as the outlet has not done any actual analysis. Due to this, a Fox News meteorologist previously said she was "weary" of Almanac forecasts.
Yet now the channel is hyping a prediction that The Washington Post Chief Meteorologist Jason Samenow called "outrageous" and "baseless," concluding that "only a fool would take them seriously."
What's worse is that Fox News is not alone: The Associated Press, in a widely reprinted article, broadcast the same weather predictions from the Farmers' Almanac, noting that "[m]odern scientists don't put much stock in" the Farmers' Alamanac's methods, but then credulously repeating its claim that it is "correct about 80 percent of the time." Additionally, in a seeming violation of their own stylebook, AP referred to "Caleb Weatherbee" without explicitly stating that this is a pseudonym.
The Associated Press granted anti-gay groups a platform to spread the unfounded claim that churches could soon be forced to perform same-sex weddings.
In an August 24 story, the AP reported that, in response to the Supreme Court's marriage equality rulings in June, many churches are updating their bylaws to clarify that they won't be blessing same-sex unions. Churches are well within their rights to change their bylaws, but the extension of civil marriage rights to same-sex couples has never posed a threat to churches' right not to perform same-sex weddings. Instead of noting the clear and definitive distinction between civil and religious marriage, however, the AP chose to follow a he said/she said model of journalism to promote a false narrative:
Worried they could be sued by gay couples, some churches are changing their bylaws to reflect their view that the Bible allows only marriage between one man and one woman.
Although there have been lawsuits against wedding industry businesses that refuse to serve gay couples, attorneys promoting the bylaw changes say they don't know of any lawsuits against churches.
Critics say the changes are unnecessary, but some churches fear that it's only a matter of time before one of them is sued.
"I thought marriage was always between one man and one woman, but the Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision said no," said Gregory S. Erwin, an attorney for the Louisiana Baptist Convention, an association of Southern Baptist churches and one several groups advising churches to change their bylaws. "I think it's better to be prepared because the law is changing. America is changing."
News outlets who continue to refer to U.S. Army Pfc. Chelsea Manning, who formerly went by the name Bradley, using masculine pronouns after she announced that she identifies as female this week are drawing criticism from transgender advocates, raising the issue of how such news subjects should be covered.
Manning, who on August 21 was found guilty of crimes related to giving classified documents to Wikileaks, on August 22 released a statement through her lawyer which said in part: "As I transition into this next phase of my life, I want everyone to know the real me. I am Chelsea Manning. I am a female." Manning requested that "starting today, you refer to me by my new name and use the feminine pronoun."
In response, the GLAAD and the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association each issued statements informing media outlets that they should use the name and pronouns that Manning prefers. But many media outlets have continued to refer to Manning as "Bradley" and describe her using male pronouns.
Rich Ferraro, a spokesman for the GLAAD, specifically singled out the Associated Press and Reuters, saying the group had reached out to these two news organizations and requested a correction in their approach going forward.
"Today our focus is on reaching out to them and asking for corrections," Ferraro said of A.P. and Reuters.
Ferraro also pointed out that he believes the AP had violated its own policy that states when reporting on transgender news subjects, "use the pronoun preferred by the individuals who have acquired physical characteristics of the opposite sex or present themselves in a way that does not correspond with their sex at birth."
AP and Reuters have not yet responded to requests for comment, but AP posted a statement on its website that said the service "will use gender-neutral references to Manning and provide the pertinent background on the transgender issue. However, when reporting is completed, the AP Stylebook entry on 'transgender' will be AP's guide."
The AP, Reuters, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post on Thursday referred to Manning with a male pronoun throughout stories about her announcement Thursday morning that she wished to be identified as a woman and had wished to be called Chelsea, not Bradley.
"We would probably criticize the media overall," Ferraro said when asked about GLAAD's reaction to such references. "Chelsea Manning's announcement today and subsequent media judgment reflects a lack of education on covering transgender people. Media today should respect Chelsea Manning's announcement and that includes using female pronouns when speaking about her and that includes referring to her as Chelsea."