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Saturday, July 27, 2002

Anti-Clinton bias at Associated Press, MSNBC

I have been doing the journalism thing for 20 years now. There are ways to spin a story to make the the subject look good or bad. A good journalist avoids using loaded phrases, and doesn't place accurate -- yet unrelated -- statements of fact together to suggest there is a connection. Yet that is what the Associated Press and MSNBC did to Bill and Hillary Clinton. The headline on the MSNBC story read "Clintons want taxpayers to foot bills." It suggests the Clintons are sending their gas and electric bills the Congress for reimbursement. Actually, the Clintons was the U.S. government to pay their substantial legal bills from the Whitewater investigation, which resulted in no charged filed against either of them. Near the end of the story, the writer acknowledges that Reagan and BUsh Sr. asked for similar reimbursement. After that, is a this sentence: "The independent counsel law pays legal fees for the subject of an investigation if no indictment results." An honest reporter would have put this important piece of information up front. A dishonest reporter -- one who wanted to outrage readers -- would have put it, well, pretty much where it ended up, near the bottom of the story.
These two statements come after a paragraph that starts "The Clintons raked in millions of dollars last year after leaving the White House ..." Any reporter of mine who turned in a story describing how much someone "raked in," especially in such a nagative context, would hear a lecture about objectivity. "Earned" is a less judgemental word and should have been used instead. And I question the need for any information about how much they earned in the first place. Because the Clintons are legally entitled to the reimbursement, how much they earned isn't exactly relevant, except perhaps to add color to the story. It certainly should not have been the third graph of the story, above the says they are entitled to the money.
The MSNBC article was posted late Friday. I cannot wait to see what hay Ann Coulter and other right-wing nutjobs make it.

Friday, July 26, 2002
It had to happen:
I found this on Blogdex: Is my Blog HOT or NOT? What a shameless ploy to drive more traffic to your web site. Only a complete loser would do it. It is almost as shameless as promising to link to anyone who posts a comment to a post (ahem).

Maybe it just wasn't funny anymore
halftrackThe Chicago Tribune has dumped Beetle Baily. The life of a television show is limited. Three years is considered a success. Star Trek lasted three. But there are newspaper cartoon strips that have lasted three, four and five decades. Do they last that long because they are good, or because of inertia? Unlike television shows, which have ratings, comic strips sometimes last long after they lose any artistic merit. Beetle Baily is one of those strips. How many different ways can Sarge beat up Beatle? I cannot recall a time in my 38-year lifetime when it was really funny. At times it controversial because its mildly risqué "Miss Buxley" character was the subject of protests from feminists. Even worse than never dumping a bad cartoon, some newspapers conduct polls to determine which to keep. Of course readers will vote to keep the strips that don?t threaten them. It is a surefire way to guarantee the continued publication of dreck while unknown strips have a hard time finding newspapers. A good strip no one seems to know about is Safe Havens, and Funky Winkerbean is still showing originality.

Thursday, July 25, 2002
Unethical journalist exposed, Part 2
Read the newspaper!A Michigan newspaper editor had returned to her job after her husband agreed to remove a campaign sign from his their yard. He is running for the office of Bay County commissioner. She had been placed on unpaid leave because the sign was a violation of the newspaper's ethical code. She (and he) refused to remove the sign. The newspaper had sent her a letter telling her that while she was on unpaid leave, she would lose her family's medical benefits. So she relented, all the while complaining her rights were being violated. This is what should have happened. Of course, hubby has the right to run for office. She does she. But the newspaper had every right to fire her. I am sick of hearing journalists complaining that their rights are being violated because their newspaper or television station makes it a condition of employment for them avoid political entanglements. If I was her bos, I would have fired her on the spot the instant her husband announced for office. Her husband's candidacy damaged her newspaper's credibility. Any political story that paper puts out while her husband is a candidate, or worse, an elected official, can be criticized on that basis alone. Thanks to Romenesko's Medianews for the link. If she had worked for any big city newspaper or broadcast media, this ethical problem would have been ignored.

Wednesday, July 24, 2002
Where the hell is the press coverage!
Sharpton1 Sharpton2The Rev. Al Sharpton, who is planning to run for president of the United States, is on videotape making a drug deal in 1983. And, it isn't on the front page of every freeking newspaper in America. Coloring the News indeed. If this was even a minor white presidential candidate, this would be all over the media, as it should be. CNN is covering it. MSNBC and Fox News are not (according to the lack of links on their Web sites). Maybe the idea that Sharpton -- that fat tub of crap -- is a drug dealer isn't all that shocking and thus, isn't all that newsworthy. I find it incredible that this news was broken by an HBO sports show. Of course, Sharpton tries to spin it, saying he never agreed to the deal and that he was never prosecuted (although may be due to the fact he became a government fink and reported on the activities of other so-called activists). Sharpton is suing HBO for $1 billion. Good luck, there, Al.
In 1987, Sharpton and other so-called leaders of the black community accused several police officers of raping a Tawana Brawley, young black high school student, then accused a prosecutor of covering up the incident. The prosecutor later sued Brawley, Shaprton and two other race-baiting opportinists. There was no evidence whatsoever that any such incident ever took place. Yet, Sharpton continued to slander the officers. And all this time, the FBI had in its possession evidence that would have shown that Sharpton for the untrustworthy individual that he is. The FBI isn't exactly covered in glory regarding this incident, either.
Update 2
Oliver Wills informs me that MSNBC has been carrying news about this all day long (see comments). I just wish there was original material about it on their Web site.

Adding color to "Coloring the News"
The National Press Club is defending itself against black and hispanic journalism organizations for giving an award to an author whose book claims newsrooms over emphasis on diversity is hurting the newsgathering process. In "Coloring the News," William McGowan says that well-intentioned attempts by the newspapers and other to accommodate minorities and their views tend to hurt the quality of the news product. Some journalists say. for example, that they sometimes are given instructions that, no matter what the story, they must have some black or minority source.Coloring the News
True story: Several years ago, I edited a very small weekly newspaper called The County Star. I once managed to convince our corporate masters to pay for my attendance at a Society for Professional Journalists seminar. Newspapers from all over Illinois (as well as several Iowa and Indiana papers) send staff members. At one point, two executives from one of the two big Chicago papers discussed what they described as an ethical conundrum their paper faced. It seemed that one day, they sent a photographer to get art for a story a reporter did on a neighborhood that was successfully fighting off urban decay. He returned with the photograph and his editors apparently approved, because it ran with the story. However, some people complained because in the background of this photograph *gasp* was a liquor store. The photo implied that residents of this neighborhood had a problem with alcohol, and because this was a black neighborhood, the photo was inherently racist. Did these editors say they defended the photographer and the photograph? Did they express regret for the misunderstanding and give the complainers an opportunity to give their side? Not quite. They criticized the photographer, publicly. They made him meet with the people who made the complaint and gave him sensitivity training. (Nothing like Communist-style reeducation, huh?). These two editors seemed so proud of what they did. They got funny looks on their faces, the more I asked them about it. If the neighborhood had a problem with is it *too* big a stretch to think that alcohol may have played a part? The neighborhood associations I am familiar with try damn hard to keep liquor stores out of their communities. I also pointed out that if I were the photographer in question and I got hung out to try like that for something that really wasn't a mistake, I would be looking elsewhere for employment. Don't you get it, they responded. He wasn't sensitive to the black community.
I am of the opinion that it doesn't help race relations when people in the public eye refuse to confront unreasonable demands for "sensitivity." It is also true that there are those people who will insist that ordinary journalism is racist if it points out troubling facts. You cannot compromise with people who insist on finding racism behind *everything." When they are rewarded by us backing down, they come back for more.

I knew something these two big-city hotshots had forgotten: Just because people are offended, that doesn't mean it's not a good piece of newspapering. "Unethical" is not synonymous with "offensive."

Who am I to argue with anyone who links to me?
Well, I wanted to know. I used the LinkPopularity.com site to check out who was linking to me. I discovered one that Mom might find objectionable. I am at a loss for words. According to statistics, most of the people who visit billdennis.net are visiting the section devoted to Robert A. Heinlein, and most arrive my using search engines are looking for "Robert A. Heinlein" or "Stranger in a Strange Land: or "Libertarianism." Funny thing is, I spend an hour or two each day updating the Weblog, but I haven't fiddled with the Heinlein material for months.

Tuesday, July 23, 2002
Unethical journalist exposed
Charles OsgoodCharles Osgood (right), the host of CBS's Sunday Morning Show, is a member of and donor to The Nature Conservancy. For the uninitiated, working journalists should not be members of organizations that attempt to shape public policy. The Nature Conservancy does just that. It favors increasing the amount of wetland. The Nature Conservancy is no Greenpeace. It expouses a Teddy Roosevelt-type of environmentalism. They spend donors' money buying up land, the turning it over to the government to be protected. Nevertheless, Osgood violated basic journalism ethics by being a member and reporting on the group. If I was his boss, he would be suspended, then forced to resign from the organization before returning to work. It's the same standard that would apply to a journalist discovered to be a member of any such group, no matter how far to the "left" or "right."

Monday, July 22, 2002
I suppose the spacious closets were a selling point
mr. bonesI thought I had a story to tell when I almost bought a house with an open grave in the basement. The price was very low, which I assumed meant it just needed some work. That was certainly true, but the realtor told me it the scene of a notorious murder in Peoria. A couple killed this guy, then buried him in their basement. Hint to realtors: When trying to sell a home that was the scene of a murder and burial, you might try to refill the damn hole before you try to sell the damn thing! I might have bought the damn house otherwise. This same couple also did away with someone else, then hid the body under a above-ground pool. Now, there is a story about a guy who found a body in a newly purchased home.

So much for the conquering hero
George W. could have elected pope after the Sept. 11 attacks. But Americans are finicky people. Only a fool tries to predict the outcome of an election more than two years away, but things aren't looking too good for Bush right now. But then, we must remember that Bush is not the people's choice in the first place.

Sunday, July 21, 2002
Donahue kicks Coulter's ass
phil donahue I have no idea where Rodger Schultz and other right-wing nutjobs get the idea Ann Coulter came out on top during her recent appearance on Phil Donahue's show on MSNBC. I just read the transcript (thanks for the link, Rodger!) and Coulter came out sounding defensive and weak.
Seconds into the interview, she started whining about how mean Donaue was being to her and griping that she wanted to talk about her new book -- as if this media savvy chick thought for one second that an appearance on a talk show ever meant talking only about a guest's book. The chick can dish it out, but she can't take it. For example:

COULTER: I'm not the president of the United States. I come on your show and all you're doing is calling me names.
DONAHUE: But you don't...
COULTER: I'm not sending boys into battle to die for the country. I'm not the commander-in-chief. I'm just trying to talk about my book. I come on your show, all do you is call me names.
This is from the woman who, minutes later, says she calls lots of people names.

I'm not a huge Donahue fan -- he's a reactionary liberal just as as most pundits are knee-jerk Clinton bashers -- but he at least provides a much needed balance. A few good "small-l" libertarians would be even better.
Also, Donahue didn't call her on it, but Coulter told a blatant lie during the interview:
DONAHUE: The book is at No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list. There it is, Ann Coulter. "Slander" is the title. The National Review on-line Web site fired you after you said that we should convert them to Christianity and kill their leaders and invade their countries. You said that.
COULTER: Also false.

WHAT?! This is a obvious lie on Ann's part. The actual quote from the article in question is: "We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity. We weren't punctilious about locating and punishing only Hitler and his top officers. We carpet-bombed German cities; we killed civilians. That's war. And this is war. "

DONAHUE: The National Review did not drop your column? You called them girly boys.
COULTER: Yes, they dropped my column...

National Review editor Jonah Goldberg has a different take. Ann's article not only said pretty much what Donahue said it was, Goldberg says Coulter stopped writing for National Review on her own accord, when went around badmouthing NR for "censoring" her.
I also found especially entertaining the segment in which she blamed the Enron scandal on Clinton.