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Media Watch Home Page --> May 2010

Memorial Day Coverage

CNN is the only cable network that will have normal, live coverage throughout the day.

FOX News will broadcast their morning show "FOX & Friends" and have live programming until 5pm. They will also air a live edition of "Special Report" and "The FOX Report." Their prime time line up will be reruns, except for "On the Record," which will be a new show.

MSNBC will have live coverage until 11am. The rest of the day is taped shows like "Caught on Camera."

Not Obama's Katrina, But Bush's Second Katrina

"This is more Bush's second Katrina than Obama's first. Because, it was the Bush regulations, it was Dick Cheney's deregulation and lording over the mineral's management," says TIME's Joe Klein on the "Chris Matthews Show."

Here's the video.

King is Dead, but CNN Is Last Station to Confirm it

It seems that about once every month or so, the media spinners grind away at their keyboards about the demise of CNN. I'm not the least bit proud to say that I have been guilty of it myself.

And I'm (we're) at it again.

I think this will have to be the last time for me, though. Every last fish in this barrel of fun, has about been blown to bits. Even I don't have an endless supply of ammo.

No promises, of course, but until the network gets out of its own way and stops tripping all over itself, I will no longer give obvious thought as to why they are on their backs looking up at everybody in the ratings.

This final rendition of "How To Save CNN From Itself" has mostly to do with the iconic and ancient Larry King. We'll call this final ditty, "Where Have all the Viewers Gone?"

Let's get this out of the way first: CNN is positively mismanaged these days, and has no sense of what it wants to be anymore. Its aimless approach to broadcasting is dizzying and annoying. This might even be simple enough for Rick Sanchez to understand.

I suppose I could quit there, but since this is the last time I am typing about all this, I am going to really rub it in.

While cable-news competitors Fox News and MSNBC clobber them with the ol' right-left combo, King and his prime-time lightweights are being knocked back and forth like a collection of blow-up clowns that kids my age used to bat around before CNN was twinkle in Ted Turner's eye.

King is simply being outworked and outhustled by his competitors in the time slot, Fox's Sean Hannity and MSNBC's Rachel Maddow. Even Headline News' Joy Behar is closing in on King as he falls to where he can't get back up.

Larry King, 76, long ago ceased to be relevant. And by long ago, I mean about two or three years, give or take, which we all know is an eternity in the jittery world of television ratings.

That CNN continues to anchor its prime-time lineup with the guy says more about the network than it does King himself. If Larry King really is the best CNN can do in that key prime-time slot, I have one question: How does anybody at the place keep a job?

King isn't old news, he's no news. I'm not sure he is even alive. As you well know, I am hardly the first person to ponder this. I have come to the conclusion that this is why they still call the show "Larry King Live," though.

And that right there is the problem.

Not if King is alive or not (I really do think he is and not because of the nightly confirmation in the title), but that his show is some eclectic mix of comedy, politics, entertainment, and buffoonery.

You never know what (or who) you'll get with Larry King.

It might be Paris Hilton pitching some skanky, frilly, apple-colored lingerie for women shaped like lollipops one night, or Homeland Security Director Janet Napolitano's groaning approach to red-hot Homeland Security issues. And by the way, who among you voted for the former governor of Arizona, and why did you do it? The woman gives drying paint a bad name.

While the show's competitors in prime time are offering programs with pop, King is propped up like some rickety, old, giant hunch-backed puppet in front of that pitch-black backdrop, which I hear Jack Kevorkian even thinks is a bit drab. And is it any surprise that Dr. Death has been another one of King's go-to guests over the years?

Are any decision-makers at the station actually watching this show?! And if they admit they are, how can they not be repulsed and dumbfounded by what they are seeing?!

My gosh, watching that black sludge pour into the Gulf of Mexico is more uplifting and compelling.

So I'll say this one more time: CNN needs to figure out what it wants to be, instead of taking this scatter-shot approach to broadcasting. It needs to chart a course that even Sanchez can understand after ample studying. It needs to reclaim the fair-and-balanced message. It needs to pull King away from his microphone, prop him up in some corner, and make itself relevant to people with at least semi-regular heartbeats.

It will get no more help from me.

(Got a tip, a gripe, or some kudos? Send 'em along.)

CNN Apologizes For Using Song With "N-Word" In Story About 103-Year-Old Black Driver

CNN's Kyra Phillips apologizes for using a song with the n-word in it as background music to a story about a 103-year-old black woman who still drives.

About twenty-five minutes after the story aired, Phillips told viewers: "We aired some music a few minutes ago, and, obviously for those of you that heard it, it was the wrong music that aired. We apologize for that. It was a terrible mistake. And we're working very hard to make up for it."

Video of the story and the apology here.

(via Redding News Review)

Obama To Hold Press Conference On Oil Spill

The White House has announced President Obama will hold a press conference on Thursday and will answer questions related to the oil spill in the Gulf.

Obama will also announce new offshore oil drilling regulations. Obama wants more thorough safety inspections of drilling rigs and more regulation in regards to the permitting process.

The President will head to the Gulf Coast on Friday, making it his second visit since the rig exploded and caused an environmental catastrophe.

CA Group Wants To Silence Conservative Talk Radio

A community organization group called Citizens for Civility & Accountability in Media is calling for KMJ-AM, a Fresno, California station, to "alter their programming in order to curtail practices that we believe to be damaging to our social fabric and to civility in public discourse. While we agree the government must protect the rights of free speech we also believe that we, members of this community, have a right to speak out against hate speech."

"We are specifically concerned about the 90-plus weekly hours of prime-time programming comprising the shows of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Mark Levine [sic], Glenn Beck, Inga Barks, Ray Appleton and others."

"It has begun," declares Rush Limbaugh in a radio statement.

BP May Revoke Media's Access To Live Feed Of Oil Spill

In response to reports that BP has decided to discontinue live feed of footage from the sea bed while it attempts the so-called 'top kill' procedure, a BP spokesman today said:

"We are working extremely closely with multiple agencies across the Government and the Unified Command in considering how best to continue to provide access and information throughout the 'top kill' procedure. Over the next few days we will be carrying out a sensitive and complex procedure involving multiple simultaneous operations, and we are in active discussion as to whether the live feed from the sea bed that we have been broadcasting will continue to provide meaningful information through this complicated and unpredictable procedure.

"However, no decision has yet been taken as to whether or not to temporarily suspend the live webcam coverage from the sea bed during these operations. Any statement that a decision has already been taken to stop the feed is both inaccurate and premature.

"As we have been throughout our response to this incident, BP remains committed to full transparency in all our actions."

UPDATE: CNN reports "BP will provide live video feeds throughout the 'top kill' procedure tomorrow"

Update: Sestak Story Now Making Headlines

Say goodbye to Richard Blumenthal and Rand Paul. The Joe Sestak story is officially the hot topic in the news cycle.

RealClearPolitics spoke to Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), ranking member on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, this morning. RCP asked him about the controversy surrounding Rep. Joe Sestak, the Democratic nominee in Pennsylvania's Senate race. Sestak has said numerous times, most recently on "Meet the Press," that he was offered a job by the White House to drop out of the primary race against Specter. The White House has dodged questions about the matter until recently. Yesterday, Obama's senior adviser David Axelrod said "nothing inappropriate happened." White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs gave the same response on Sunday's "Face the Nation."

Rep. Issa told me "clearly a crime has been committed" and says he will pressure the White House to clear up the issue. Issa says he will also pressure Rep. Sestak to live up to the Navy ethics code and the House ethics code.

Issa says Sestak is not the "target" because he has "truthfully answered" a question. Issa also says if true, the White House has committed "crimes" and "felonies."

Since we spoke to Issa this morning, he has been on FOX News AND MSNBC to discuss the matter. He even went as far to describe the "crimes" as impeachable offenses. He is referring to what former Clinton adviser Dick Morris said on last night's "Hannity."

Joe Scarborough and NBC's Chuck Todd went at it this morning on "Morning Joe" over the allegations:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

By the way, the Justice Department has denied Rep. Issa's request for special counsel or an investigation.

PREVIOUSLY: White House Responds To Sestak Job Allegations

NPR Shares Without Asking Permission

There was a rather interesting brouhaha at your favorite station, NPR, that's worth taking a quick look at today. Sorry, this doesn't involve the liberal bias so many of you hear in their reporting (and thank you for the continuing e-mails on this subject). Instead, this is about possible plagiarizing.

As the Internet continues to become the go-to place for news, hi-jinx and information, plagiarism (stealing somebody else's work and calling it your own) has positively flourished.

In this case, NPR Ombudsman Alicia Shepard types the play-by-play of what could have been an Abbott and Costello routine she called a case of 'accidental plagiarism' at the station three weeks ago.

Long story short, on May 5, NPR ran a lighthearted piece on its Morning Edition show illustrating how cell phones seem to always fail just as they are needed most -- or when the villain is closing in for the kill. It was titled "In Horror Flicks, the Cell Phone Always Dies First."

I actually heard this one, and thought it pretty clever at the time. Well, it turns out the piece sounded a lot like a popular YouTube video put together by Rich Juzwiak called "No Signal" last year.

Now, whether the idea for the failing cell phone was Juzwiak's alone is ripe for debate (he believes NPR stole his idea). He also argued that Beth Accomando who did the piece for NPR borrowed heavily from his video. Again, this one isn't so black and white.

Accomando is adamant that the work was entirely her own. It turns out she actually did refer to the video -- though not by name [sigh] -- in her original clip, but it was subsequently cut by an editor.

Got that? Well, you are excused if that's all a bit tricky to cut through.

What comes next seems pretty clear to me:

As Morning Edition host Rene Montagne was ending the May 5 spot she teased listeners to a video on NPR's website for more on the story -- including Juzwiak's video, which ran alongside NPR's story on the site.

Juzwiak, of course, is not an NPR staffer. The video was his original work. NPR never mentioned this on the air or on their website, instead relying on people to watch the entire five-minute video to see Juzwiak's credit at the end.

It was thought this was proper attribution for Juzwiak's work. As Shepard typed, "It's not, since it assumes everyone will watch all 5 minutes."

I'd add it wasn't even close to proper.

While Shepard doesn't think there was "direct plagiarism" involved in this case, she does type, rightfully, that "... above all, NPR should be generous in giving credit or attribution for someone else's work."

After much to-ing and fro-ing between Juzwiak and the station, NPR did its best to make up for the gaffe(s) by putting a correction on the online version of its original story, an editor's note at the bottom of the story, and even went out with an on-air correction two days later.

In the wake of this 'accident' I suppose that's all that could be done. I'd even venture a guess that Juzwiak's video has gone viral with all the added attention, though Shepard gives us the impression he is still not completely satisfied.

But I want to address another concern here, and if you are a younger reader, or not a fan of the traditional media outlets, you might not like it.

I have big concerns with the younger generation and/or the news breed who work on the websites at these various media outlets and call themselves journalists. Many of them aren't.

These are mostly folks who were either raised online or gravitated to it, and are not properly versed or trained in the tenets of journalism. They have come to believe that stealing somebody else's work on the Internet is simply a case of, ahem, "sharing."

As Shepard types early in her piece:

"When it comes to attribution, the rules for on-air and print are fairly clear -- give credit for anything that isn't yours. But the rules are fuzzier for the Web, where it's easier to lose control of your material. Anyone can upload someone else's YouTube video or copy from a website."

Er, how about "anyone" who isn't a reputable journalist?

Sorry, but I find it inexcusable that nobody thought it prudent to make good and sure Juzwiak was credited prominently for his video. Frankly, it would have been appropriate for the station to contact Juzwiak before using the video as just plain courtesy.

Say what you will about NPR, but they are a venerable, well-heeled media outlet. That their web staff could make such a grievous error is inexcusable to me.

As more and more information flows recklessly across the Internet, and more and more people alleging themselves to be journalists "share" it, it's safe to say we haven't seen the last of this nonsense.

It's only a matter of time before the lawyers start getting involved both feet first. That's when all the fun will end -- but quick.

(Got a tip, a gripe, or some kudos? Send 'em along.)

NBC, ABC, CBS All Lead With Lack Of Government Involvement In Oil Spill

ABC's "World News" Reports On Oil Spill: "Anger Is Reserved For Washington"

ABC's "World News" anchor Diane Sawyer addressed viewers from the shorelines of Louisiana tonight. She reported on the "anger" that is focused on Washington. "We saw a pickup truck that had a hand painted sign that said 'BP + The Feds = Another Katrina,'" Sawyer reported.

ABC News reports "some of the president's supporters have questioned his leadership," referring to the anger heard from Louisiana natives (and Democratic strategists) Donna Brazile and James Carville. "One of the problems I have with the administration is that they're not tough enough," Brazile said.

Gov. Jindal (R-LA) says he is frustrated.

Admiral Thad Allen, the man in charge of federal response admitted the "government doesn't have everything it needs" and if the government did push BP out of the way would raise the question they would no one to replace them with.

CBS' "Evening News" Spends Nearly Half Show On Spill, Focuses On Impatience

CBS' Katie Couric reports on how BP is trying to control the oil spill and how the EPA is limiting the use of a certain chemical used to attack the oil. She spent nearly half the show, reporting from the scene, focused on the oil spill in the Gulf.

CBS' White House correspondent Chip Reid reports "critics on Capitol Hill just weren't buying what the White House was saying about the government's role in all of this and whether they could do more."

NBC "Nightly News" On Oil Spill: "No End In Sight"

NBC's Brian Williams opened the "Nightly News" with this message: "Because the story out of the Gulf of Mexico has not changed in over a month and because there's oil spilling into that water right now and of every minute of every day, the anger and despair there are now taking a toll."

NBC's Anne Thompson reported on a "frustrated" Obama administration while the bottom of the screen read "No End In Sight."

White House Responds To Sestak Job Allegations

Was Sestak offered a job to drop out of the PA Democratic primary for Senate or not? That is the question. Sestak admits he was offered a job, which is illegal under U.S. code, but the White House denies anything "inappropriate" happened.

Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) told CNN last week that he was offered a job to drop out. Sestak was asked about the job offer again on 'Meet the Press' this past Sunday, but wouldn't give details.

The White House is now trying to play catch up and sent out its best spokespeople to clarify the issue.

Robert Gibbs told CBS' 'Face the Nation' that he's not a lawyer, but added nothing inappropriate happened.

President Obama's senior adviser David Axelrod used a similar line on today's 'Daily Rundown.' "It's been looked into" and "nothing inappropriate happened," he told NBC's Chuck Todd.

Even though this story is now in the media cycle, Sestak told FOX News in mid-February that he was offered a job in the administration to drop out of the primary.

Coverage of Oil Spill Has Been Good, Getting Better

Has the media provided enough coverage of the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico?

For my part I believe the amount of coverage, which has been significant, has been weighted properly, yes. The loss of human life, the potentially devastating effect on the marine life and the coastline, and the numbing economic impact makes it a blockbuster story.

And, of course, there are the residual political implications that the partisan media will dine on for months -- maybe even years. Is this Obama's Katrina? [sigh]

As to the coverage itself, I would have preferred it to be a little less reactive, and more proactive with more emphasis on the critical, investigative reporting.

But that's nitpicking. There are also signs the press is working its way to the front of this story as it learns more about it, and assigns more resources to its coverage.

So I was heartened, then, to discover that The Pew Research Center produced a poll last week in its latest "News Interest Index" installment, that the public, indeed, has shown more interest in this story than any other, and by a large margin.

I was downright shocked to learn that in this same report, the amount of coverage actually fell a bit short of the public's demand to learn more about this unfolding disaster.

While 49 percent of the public said the oil leak was the story they most closely followed when the poll was conducted May 13-16, only 17 percent of news coverage was dedicated to the leak.

In this day and age of the short attention span, the sound bite, and the vicious, 24-hour news cycle, it is close to unheard of for one story, which at the time was entering its fourth week, to still have such strong legs.

For more on the methodology of this poll you can go here, but essentially the poll measures the amount of news coverage dedicated to the top stories "from top news organizations across five major sectors of the media: newspapers, network television, cable television, radio and the internet."

While the 49-17 split looks completely lopsided, it is important to remember that devoting 17 percent of their time and newshole to one story really is a significant amount. For perspective, consider a newspaper using almost one-fifth of its newshole on just one story.

What makes these numbers even more eye-opening is when measured against the news that was competing for time and space during this same period.

Over the past five weeks, we've seen a failed terrorist attack in Times Square, a nominee put forth for the Supreme Court, yet another brewing worldwide fiscal disaster, a change in leadership in Great Britain, once-in-lifetime flooding in Nashville, and, oh by the way, those two wars.

So if we can agree that the media has at least come close to allotting proper resources to this story, and that, sadly, it is becoming clearer there is no end in sight for this unfolding disaster, how is it using its significant resources to treat this story?

Today I randomly went to three of our major newspapers' websites to see what they were reporting in their lead stories, and got three fairly compelling angles.

This was the lede in the USA Today story:

The nearly five-week effort to stem the Gulf of Mexico oil spill enters a critical phase this week as engineers plan to shoot thick mud into a blown-out underwater well, the latest tactic in an increasingly desperate attempt to contain the disaster.

The Wall Street Journal:

Crude gushing into the Gulf of Mexico and washing ashore in Louisiana is exposing how ill-prepared the U.S. has been to respond to a major offshore oil spill. In the fight to limit environmental damage from the month-old spill--which is on track to rival the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster in size--BP PLC executives, government officials, and scientists are learning as they go, even though the industry has been drilling in the Gulf for decades and has 77 rigs operating there, according to ODS-Petrodata, a research firm.

The Washington Post:

In the days after the immensity of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico became clear, some Nature Conservancy supporters took to the organization's Web site to vent their anger. What (the supporters) didn't know was that the Nature Conservancy lists BP as one of its business partners. The Conservancy also has given BP a seat on its International Leadership Council and has accepted nearly $10 million in cash and land contributions from BP and affiliated corporations over the years.

Three papers, three different angles. I'd say that's well done.

It's clear as this disaster enters its fifth week that the press is finding its stride, turning over the heavy stones to expose hidden secrets, and calling power into account.

What's also becoming painfully clear is that there is still no end in sight to this unfolding mess. Let's hope that when the leak is finally plugged, the media continues its work to drill even deeper and get to the bottom of it.

(Got a tip, a gripe, or some kudos? Send 'em along.)

Gibbs Responds To 'Frustration' With Press

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs says that the notion that the administration has done nothing about the oil spill in the Gulf is wrong. "We were there immediately," Gibbs said on "Face the Nation."

"I think if you look back at what happened in Katrina, the government wasn't there to respond to what was happening," Gibbs said. "That quite frankly was the problem. Even tracking the hurricane for days and knowing fairly precisely where it was going to hit, I think the difference in this case is we were there immediately. We have been there ever since. Thad Allen is directing our response as the national incident commander. There are people on the ground. There are thousands of people working even as we speak to figure out a way to plug this hole and to deal with the spread of this oil."

Rand Paul Cancels 'Meet the Press' Appearance

Rand Paul's (R-KY) campaign confirms that it has canceled his scheduled appearance on this Sundays' "Meet the Press."

The campaign says Paul's appearance on "Good Morning America" this morning is the last interview he will give on the Civil Rights controversy.

"When does my honeymoon period start? I had a big victory," Paul told George Stephanopoulos on "Good Morning America" today. "I've just been trashed up and down and they have been saying things that are untrue. And when they say I'm for repealing the Civil Rights Act, it's absolutely false. It's never been my position and something that I basically just think is politics."

MSNBC's Matthews Makes Misogynistic Comment On "Tonight Show"

Chris Matthews appeared on NBC's "Tonight Show" last night. While he going on a diatribe about how former Vice President Dick Cheney, Halliburton and big oil are tied to the current spill in the Gulf he made a misogynistic comment to a female guest next to him. Here's the transcript:

CHRIS MATTHEWS (speaking rapidly): I found with 220,000 miles of oil pipeline in this country they have one federal guy looking out for this. It's a joke. They do not regular the oil industry --

CHELSEA HANDLER, GUEST, COMEDIAN: Can you talk faster?

MATTHEWS: The oil industry is completely ... (pause) You know, my dear, you're beautiful but if you concentrate you can keep up.

After he made that comment the audience went nuts and Jay Leno even gave Matthews a high-five.

Watch the video here.

Dogs That Didn't Bark

A certain media watchdog blog reports on the underreported.

Papers, Please

While the debate continues over Arizona's controversial immigration law, one thing is certain about how Mexico handles those they suspect to be illegal aliens. CNN's Wolf Blitzer asks Mexican President Calderon the tough question and gets a very frank answer. Transcript:

WOLF BLITZER: "Do Mexican police go around asking for papers of people who they suspect are illegal?"

FELIPE CALDERON: "Of course."

BLITZER: "If somebody sneaks in from Nicaragua or some other country in Central America through the southern border of Mexico, they wind up in Mexico, they can go get a job, they can work . . ."

CALDERON: "No, no. If somebody do that without permission, we send back them."

And Calderon says Arizona's law breeds intolerance and hate.

Video of the exchange here.

So, You Say You Want To Work In Newspapers, Eh?

The following scene is most likely playing out at a newspaper near you ...

Ah, Ms. Pennybroker, thanks so much for coming in to discuss the open copy-editing position at our newspaper. I'm Mrs. Ladbroke, the head of our human resources department. And before you ask, yes, that Ladbroke. My husband, Brad, is the publisher. We were just married three months ago, and I am still positively floating on clouds!

Let me say right up front, it was so nice of you to fly yourself in. I can tell already you have that above-and-beyond attitude we are looking for at Conglomerate Communications.

Just so you know, we received 817 applications for the position, but you are one of the 75 lucky finalists! So, congratulations!

We hope to have a final decision made on the position in the next few months -- and certainly by the end of the fiscal year.

I should also add that we pride ourselves in hiring internally at Conglomerate, so you never know! We are, after all, one, big, happy family here!

Anyway, congratulations again for making the cut, and thanks so much for being here today.

Before we get the formal interview process started, and look at your professional qualifications for the position, a few background questions. Of course we would never get into personal details [wink, wink] when talking to candidates, but it's best you know what Conglomerate demands of its newspaper employees up front.

Did I mention we are one, big, happy family here?

I should also say that Conglomerate prides itself as an equal-opportunity employer at all of its 23 daily newspapers, 17 radio stations, 14 television networks and 716 web-site affiliates. We have a history of hiring a diverse workforce.

Pennybroker ... that's Scottish, right?

OK, moving right along ...

I shouldn't tell you this, but given the extraordinary effort you made to be here today, I'll just warn you that if you answer 'yes' to any of these questions you probably aren't what we are looking for at Conglomerate...

Here goes:

First, do you have a family that might need you around occasionally -- I mean, other than a cat or a gerbil?
Are weekends all that important to you?
If you were asked to be on call 24/7 would that present a problem?
Are Christmas, New Year's, Easter and Thanksgiving really that big a deal to you?
Does sleeping during the day bother you?
Do you have what you might consider a, um, real life?
If we asked you to take two weeks unpaid leave each year would that present a problem?
We haven't given raises at Conglomerate in three years, is that a cause for concern?
Any pre-existing conditions we should know about?
Are you a smoker?

OK, good, good. You are doing so well thus far, Ms. Pennybroker. Now onto your professional qualifications ...

If you answer 'no' to any of these questions you probably aren't what we are looking for at Conglomerate. Again, just a tip, given you worked so hard to be here and all ...

Hmmm, I see from your resume that you have a bachelor's, associate's and master's degree in journalism. That certainly won't hurt!

You have worked at three newspapers over a 17-year period. You are a member of the SPJ, PEJ, ASNE, and API. You've even provided references. Oh, and look at all those awards! My!

Oh-oh ... Oh boy ...

That lack of web site experience might really, really hurt ...

Ah, never mind with all those negatives.

Let's go through your professional and practical qualifications. Again, answering 'no' to any of these questions could really jeopardize your chances.

Just being candid. We believe honesty is the best policy at Conglomerate.

OK, here goes ...

Are you good with a camera?
Do you know Quark, Excel, Microsoft Word, InDesign and Photoshop?
Can you work back and forth between a mac and a PC?
Do you have any experience with The Rosetta Stone?
Are you familiar with our web content-management system, Creeper?
Do you have strong public-speaking skills?
Can you make a great story greater?
Can you shoot and edit video?
Do you have any typesetting experience?
Do you consider yourself to be a strong, take-charge leader?
Can you blend in and be a part of a team?
Are you an ace on deadline?
Can you do without an AP Stylebook, dictionary and thesaurus, and still be grammatically correct?
Can you write edgy, appropriate headlines, cutlines, and nutgraphs on deadline?
Are you good with angry readers?
What about angry reporters and photographers?
Are you good with a coffee-maker?
Can you set a high-energy pace on the desk?
Are you a good listener?
Do you have strong news judgment?
Do you feel as if you are a strong, contributing member of your community?
And you did say you weren't a smoker, right?

Super. Just super so far, Ms. Pennybroker, but I'm afraid we'll have to cut this portion of the interview off for now.

It's 4:30, after all, and a bunch of us from the business side are meeting at the Irish Pub to celebrate our advertising director's birthday. Like I said, one, big family!

We'll get back to you to schedule your drug test in a couple of weeks time, and will hope to get you a sit-down with the managing editor shortly thereafter -- assuming, of course, we've hired one by then.

So for now, I'll wish you a good day, and hope you have a pleasant flight home.

Brit Stiff Upper Lip Might Do Yank Papers Good

The day after all those midterm primaries that certainly, probably, might be a harbinger of things to come in November, it's nice (and a little odd) that you showed up at a site with 'politics' in its name to read about the media.

Since you stumbled in here, though, I'll serve a light offering today, so that you can get back to the real work of digesting all that political red meat. This is also my sheepish way of admitting that I did not see how the media handled its coverage of the all-important primaries.

Truth is, I've been traveling in the United Kingdom the past week or so, where something called Eyjafjallajokul (Icelandic for 'not so fast, pal') still reeks havoc on air travel, and a little election there has produced its own brand of volcanic smoke and mirrors.

Oh, and a bit of breaking political news for your trouble: I have determined that newly minted Prime Minister David Cameron and his deputy Nick Clegg are, in fact, the same person. If you take a look at these blokes, I wager it is impossible to tell them apart. Their oddball political coupling should make it only harder to separate them in the future.

Before you head out of here to see what happens next in Pennsylvania, I'll implore the newly retired Arlen Specter to address the golf ball from either the left or right side and just stick with it, and use this media space to make a few informal observations about the newspaper industry in the home of our former landlords.

The good news, selfishly, is that newspapers continue to survive in the UK, and are pretty much a staple of daily life in the old place.

Newspapers are everywhere and still seem to be viewed as the definitive go-to place for news.

As they have for decades, BBC newsreaders rifle through the various national papers each morning so that they might give their viewers a primer of the news they should be paying attention to.

The deference paid to newspapers is heartening, but one wonders how long it can go on -- even in a country that to this day, makes such a big deal out of its kings and queens.

Circulation, while not falling at the break-neck pace of American papers, is, in fact, declining. Interestingly, though, the fall is hardly the attention-grabber it is in the States, where people like me make a big deal out of it weekly.

I asked informally about the potential demise of papers at my various stops (pubs) in Northeast England, and not a single person seemed to feel as if newspapers were in any sort of a crisis. Folks did admit to finding more and more of their news online, but viewed the Internet as more of a supplement, not a replacement, for newspapers.

Maybe this is because, by and large, newspapers are much more lively in the UK. Headlines are crisper and wittier, and there is considerably more use of points of entry (graphics, photos, charts, etc.) to lure readers onto the pages.

I should also say that most of them are not shy about positioning the occasional bikini-clad bombshell on the odd page to slow the male reader down a bit, while speeding up his heart. I noticed they are also distributing the eye candy to their female readers with a bit more frequency these days.

Generally, the writing and reporting on the harder news is shorter and more to the point than you might find in a stateside newspaper, while the columnists have a tendency to write way too long. Of course, many of the better opinion writers type like they talk, so it's not fair to ask them to be shy with their gab in prose, especially since it might be properly influenced by a pint or two.

If you are a regular on this site, you'll most likely know that newspapers on the big island are also embarrassingly partisan in their reporting. To which I predict you are now mumbling to yourself, "Ours are, too. If only they'd admit it ..."

And you don't think I know my readership ...

No, newspapers still seem to have a place in the UK, and aren't being treated with the disregard they are in the States.

Still, I left England wondering if the tsunami was yet to come for the newspapers there, or if the problems with the industry in the States, and how they are being mishandled are even more isolated than I have come to believe.

As I've noted before, our friends to the north in Canada seem to be finding newspapers much more frequently than we are. I type this from Germany, where I can confirm that newspapers are everywhere, and still considered vital.

Maybe there is still hope for newspapers in the States, or maybe they really do find themselves in an inhospitable climate that is unfit to print.

(Got a tip, a gripe, or some kudos? Send 'em along.)

Dan Rather's Still Sticking by His Guns, Pard ...

Dan Rather.

Still here? Think you might hang around a little longer while I type about the one-time CBS news anchorman and all-time polarizing figure, or click to a less controversial subject like health care reform?

Rather was a guest over the weekend of a questioner named Julie Menin, on a show she hosts on New York's NBC affiliate called "Give and Take."

No, I hadn't heard of it, either, but I enjoyed the interview, and thought the interviewer, Menin, showed the uncommon ability in these yak-it-up days of TV journalism to ask a question and then shut up and listen for a change.

Of course with Dan Rather on the other side of the questions, listening is more an absolute than an option.

Admittedly, I don't mind Rather. Sorry.

If you can get past his occasional penchant for pompousness, and overly done down-homey Texas bull he feels obligated to toss around like some horseshoe, there is much to be learned when he opens his internal archives that are stashed with 50-or-so years of high-profile journalism experience.

Rather is also one of the regulars on the talk circuit these days from the 70-and-over crowd (Ted Koppel would be another who comes to mind) who are quite critical of the state of journalism these days. I think this is something news people do as they get older. Cronkite did it, too.

Rather, a youngish 78, thinks that, "there is a crisis in American journalism."

Crisis might be a strong word for it, but I'm pretty much in his corner on that one, and I'm only in my 50s.

I guess in the end, Dan Rather reminds me a lot of that old acquaintance who comes in and out of your life. When you get together after a long separation you wonder why the hell you weren't seeing more of each other. After seeing more of each other you remember why you needed to be apart.

All things were discussed in the interview with Menin, including a rumored co-mingling of CNN and CBS News; Fox News; Larry King; and the infamous George W. Bush/Texas Air National Guard story in the run-up to the 2004 election that ultimately sent him down the road to do shows like this one.

I'd suggest you just go off and watch the 18-minute interview, but know you have better things to do like snarl at a media guy going on about Rather, so I'll just go through some highlights ...

I am pretty sure his teeth weren't clenched when he gave several nods to Fox News saying, they are "good broadcasters."

Alluding to the killer TV ratings at Roger Ailes' empire he said "You are what your record is."

Rather seemed to mostly like the idea of a much-talked about deal that would bring CNN and CBS together saying, "it makes sense in theory," though alluding to the enormous size of each company and the even bigger egos at each place said coyly, "In the end somebody has to run it ... and who's going to have the final say?"

Rather, who comes off as a very serious guy when not spinning anecdotes about armadillos and three-wheeled tractors, thought that CNN was making a mistake if it strayed from its "serious" roots.

"Nobody has really gone hard after the serious audience," he said.

He then took that cue, and sounding more like a marketer than a newshound, alluded to the station's unofficial brand of "We're the place for serious journalism," saying "... if you are going make that your slogan you must deliver on it."

It was obvious he had given more than just a little thought to this merger, and even suggested some obvious staff moves he might make, like moving Katie Couric, who he called an "excellent interviewer" into Larry King's chair, who he then saw fit to vigorously defend.

He probably should have just quit with the moving-Couric-into-King's-chair part ...

In the end he said, "There's little at CNN that can't be fixed."

What probably will never be fixed is the damage that was done to Rather's reputation after his reporting on the CBS show "60 Minutes" on George W. Bush's stint in the Texas Air National Guard during the Vietnam War.

Rather still stands behind the story, which came out shortly before the 2004 presidential election, saying in the interview it, "is true -- period."

Maybe, but any way you slice it, the reporting Rather's team did on the story was shoddy.

It was never going to hold up under the tremendous scrutiny it was bound to get -- especially since Rather had by that time already been appointed the commanding general of the left-wing media.

An independent board hired by CBS later came down hard on the station and the methods used by Rather's team to gather information for the story. Rather resigned in early-2005, earlier than expected, and under a cloud.

To this day, he smells a very big rat.

"Very big business is in bed with very big government in Washington," he said, overtly hinting that pressure was put on CBS by the Bush Administration to hang Rather out to dry for that story.

Rather thinks that because so much of the news is controlled by so few, news organizations might be loath to go hard at controversial stories they used to for fear of biting the hand that feeds them.

"CBS News had a long tradition of standing by what it reported," he said, "and in this instance for the first time in history they didn't back their reporters ... they didn't back their journalism -- they caved."

So now I am wondering that with so much partisanship in so much of the media these days, might even the biggest critic of Dan Rather at least give him the credit for being a man ahead of his time?

(Got a tip, a gripe, or some kudos? Send 'em along.)

Readers Take NPR, PBS Out with the Tide

Have you ever stood at the ocean's edge, where the waves nip the beach?

As you stand there and look out to sea, the cool water rushes around your ankles and nudges you toward shore. As the water trundles back out, it tugs at you to follow.

Most likely the first couple of times this happens, you feel a bit unsteady and unsure of yourself.

After a few minutes of this tug of war, however, you look down to find your feet have settled deep into the sand. The ocean's ebb and flow has actually anchored you down and made you feel more secure about your footing.

I guess I've always felt the same way about good journalism. You need both sides to prop up the middle. Otherwise, you are ripe for a fall.

Last week in this spot I wondered why "truly non-partisan media outlets like NPR or PBS or most local newspapers were not among the choices" in a half-baked poll conducted by 60 Minutes and Vanity Fair that asked, "Which of the following do you consider to be the most trustworthy source of daily news in the United States?"

Out went my opinion, and in came the water ...

But first, in case you missed it, the choices, and the order they ranked in trustworthiness follow: 1) CNN; 2) Fox News; 3) The major broadcast networks; 4) The New York Times; 5) The Wall Street Journal; 6) The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

I thought those choices and the poll itself were limited and silly, but that's not what brought in the tide of email from readers. Instead, every single one of you who took the time to write challenged my assumption that NPR and PBS are non-partisan media outlets.

I should say that not one of you blasted me for calling most local newspapers non-partisan, but I'll guess that is because you have given up reading the things altogether ...

All but one of you told me the media (including NPR and PBS) was liberal, but none of you told me a place that wasn't, or where you found what you thought to be straight-down-the-middle reporting.

Maybe you sadly feel there is no such place. Or worse yet, maybe you just gave up looking a long time ago, and will cling to that opinion despite what might be right in front of your eyes, or ringing in your ears.

I believe we are to the point where most people simply aren't interested in hearing both sides of a story anymore. They want to go where they think people share their partisan opinions. I absolutely think the media is viewed by most as being more polarizing than ever before.

That is mostly too bad, but is no less a reality.

It's no wonder, then, so many of our politician's (in)actions these days mirror what has happened in the media and with its consumers' partisan taste for news. Maybe it's a chicken-or-the-egg thing, but I am having trouble seeing how it is healthy.

Anyway, as the water came rushing in from one direction this weekend, a couple of you were kind enough to engage in what I thought was a healthy give-and-take. I am not sure any opinions were changed, but it did get me listening to NPR ever more closely to see if maybe I had this wrong.

As of now I am still convinced NPR offers the most non-partisan and thorough news programming on the air. I promise to keep listening, but I am not hearing what so many of you are.

I'll also continue to watch, listen and read the partisan's stuff, to see if any of that might change - and will be on alert for these subliminal nods to the left so many people say they hear in the reporting coming for what is called the "mainstream media."

I really hope you'll do the same, and will let me know what it is you are reading, seeing and hearing. Maybe if we can keep this dialogue going, we will all find ourselves on more solid footing.

(Got a tip, a gripe, or some kudos? Send 'em along.)

NPR Plays Blame Game and Misses Real Story

There is an interesting story on NPR's website this morning headlined, "How Media Coverage Crimped the Times Square Case."

I read the story three times, and bits and pieces of it over and over again, and wonder why in the world NPR decided to put that headline on Dina Temple-Raston's accounting of the behind-the-scenes maneuverings between law-enforcement officials and the press in the hours and days after the smoking SUV was discovered in Times Square.

The headline would have been more accurate had it said, "How Law Enforcement Crimped the Times Square Case."

Frankly, the best headline would have been: "Loose Lips Sink Ships, and Thankfully, Stupid Terrorists."

On one hand, Temple-Raston alleges that because of a "professional rivalry" between the investigating agencies in this case, the FBI and the NYPD were leaking information to the press in a steady stream to make the other look bad.

After telling us about all this abnormal leaking, Temple-Raston switches to the other hand and types this:

"Details about the Times Square investigation were all over the local newspapers, even as authorities were still trying to puzzle out who was responsible. Any element of surprise that law enforcement might have had was evaporating."

So because law enforcement agencies were chirping like canaries in order to misguidedly one-up each other, accounts of the investigation were being reported by the media at a furious pace to the public.

But then she typed this:

"To be fair, law enforcement was partly to blame."

Partly to blame?!

If what Temple-Raston alleges in the first place is true, and this toxic relationship between the NYPD and the FBI resulted in inappropriate facts about the case coming forward, then they are a heckuva lot more than "partly to blame."

Further, that looks like one great follow-up story to me. If the FBI and local authorities really aren't able to work together in a collegial manner, it could present a threat to national security.

Temple-Raston goes on:

"In many cases, it (law enforcement) was the source of the information and leaks. But there seemed to be an extra level of frustration about the leaks in this case. As one law enforcement official told NPR, "Our operational plans were being driven by the media, instead of the other way around. And that's not good."

No, I suppose, it's not, but I wonder where this unnamed law enforcement official might have assigned blame? Does it not stand to reason that if the FBI and NYPD had not acted as Temple-Raston alleges, the media, in fact, would not have driven operational plans?

Holding the press accountable for the way it conducts itself is all well and good, but it seems like Temple-Raston wants it both ways here, and I'm not sure why.

The relationship between the press and law enforcement is an uneasy one. There will always be leaks, and misinformation. It can be a dangerous game.

First, a press organization must determine if the information that is leaked is even accurate. There are times when law enforcement officials will leak bogus information to either throw the press off its tail, or in the hope that if it is actually reported, will send misinformation to the perpetrator of the crime.

There is also a very fine, undefinable line between what should be reported to the public and what shouldn't. One of the most delicate decisions a news organization faces is when it is given, or comes upon, information that could potentially jeopardize an investigation if reported.

That media agent is then faced with deciding between the public's right to know, and law enforcement's concern that the information coming forward could damage its investigation.

I know that when I was faced with this dilemma, there were times I would tell the authority not to give me the information unless there was a clear understanding up front that I was going to use it.

It's interesting, then, that Raston types of just such an instance in which NPR (appropriately in my opinion) did not reveal to its audience "that law enforcement officials were looking for an American citizen of Pakistani descent from Shelton, Conn.," even though they had that information.

Raston doesn't say how NPR came upon that information, but does tell us that another news organization decided to report it.

Again, it's strictly a judgment call.

What isn't, is that had Faisal Shahzad eluded capture, blaming the media would have been the second crime committed in this case.

(Got a tip, a gripe, or some kudos? Send 'em along.)

This Poll Just the Latest Sickness Going Around

I ingested something called The 60 Minutes/Vanity Fair Poll last night and awoke this morning with a splitting headache, and a bad taste in my mouth.

I know what you are thinking, I get what I deserve, and should know better than to dive into something like that before bed.

I suppose I have as much trouble laying off the junk food as the next guy, though.

Anyway, here's the reason I am typing with a sour stomach today:

In the latest attempt to figure out what the news-consumer in the land of plenty is thinking these days, this media odd couple asked a random sampling of 1,026 adults nationwide the following question:

"Which of the following do you consider to be the most trustworthy source of daily news in the United States?"

The choices it gave these alleged adults says more about the survey than the results themselves: CNN; Fox News; The major broadcast networks; The New York Times; The Wall Street Journal; The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

Yes, I am aware they put this unsavory group of choices on the menu to spur debate and sicken pundits everywhere. Well done, folks, it worked, and you are now officially part of the problem with so much of the media in this country these days. I'm also not sure why I expected more out of 60 Minutes.

In addition to this strange mix of media, the survey exploited the partisan cloud that allows no sun to shine these days, and saw fit to break down the respondents in two groups: Republicans and Democrats.

To keep things just as shallow and polarizing as possible, there was no category for people identifying themselves as independents -- you know the group that pretty much determines the outcome of all elections, because they aren't wrapped up tight in some red or blue cape?

But the perpetrators knew full well that by handling their survey like some fat-fingered short-order cook, with a ladle of gravy at the ready, they were only recklessly feeding the swelling number of partisans in this country that are unwilling to turn their heads to see two sides of anything -- much less a menu.

Pretty rich, eh?

So as not to keep you in suspense any longer, the most-trustworthy source for news according to this poll is ... CNN, followed closely by Fox News.

And in another shocking development, Democrats found CNN more trustworthy and Republicans thought Fox News is the more trusted.

Here's the list in order of trustworthiness:

1) CNN
2) Fox News
3) The major broadcast networks
4) The New York Times
5) The Wall Street Journal
6) The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

Really, given these choices, and the haphazard way the poll was administered, it defies logic to me that Stewart didn't lead in a runaway.

Truly non-partisan media outlets like National Public Radio or PBS or most local newspapers were not among the choices these adults were given.

This is akin to asking 1,026 adults to name our greatest president, while leaving names like Washington, Lincoln and Roosevelt off the list.

I realize by spending time with this poll I have given 60 Minutes and Vanity Fair the negative attention they were after. Like I said, I have a problem with junk food, and couldn't resist.

I really wish the media would stop exploiting itself this way, though, and instead concentrate on delivering independent consumers news they can truly count on to be fair and balanced.

For my part, it's back to watching my diet.

(Got a tip, a gripe, or some kudos? Send 'em along.)

Foxey MSNBC Still Has a Personality Problem

Just because MSNBC has finally come out and admitted what it is and wants to be, does it make it right (er, left)?

Further, does this admission impact the entire Peacock Network's newsgathering team as a whole?

The answer to both those questions is, you bet it does.

There's a story that's been heating up many of the likely media stops on the Information Highway the past couple of days. The Chicago Tribune's media columnist Phil Rosenthal gets the credit for providing the spark.

Seems that during an interview with Rosenthal late last week, Phil Griffin, the MSNBC president heaped praise on his chief rival and tormentor, Roger Ailes, the president of Fox News.

Griffin gushed that, "He's (Ailes) changed media. Everybody does news differently because Roger's changed the world. ... Roger early on figured it out and was brilliant."

Thanks to Ailes, Griffin has come around to thinking out loud that you need to curry favor to your "like-minded" viewers by talking their language, because of the "actions and passions of today, which tend to be political."

Good grief, Ailes has to be blushing candy-apple red after this sudden genuflection by a guy that up until this point had been downright contemptuous of Ailes' ways and his Fox News Network.

It was less than two years ago when Griffin was telling another print columnist, Aaron Barnhart of the Kansas City Star, this:

"They (Fox) saw an opportunity years ago to create an ideological channel. And they did. I give them total credit. I tip my hat to them. They scored. But it was ideological and opportunistic. It was a business plan."

In the same interview he said that "we're not tied to ideology the way they are." The 'we' of course being MSNBC, the 'they' Fox News.

So what the heck is going on here?

Only the pirouetting Griffin knows for sure, but it looks a lot like he has grown weary of trying to have it both ways.

While loading up his prime-time lineup with a bunch of punch-hitting, left-leaning ideologues, the guy also somehow managed to be publicly critical of Fox for doing exactly the same thing on the right side of the political spectrum.

Essentially, the guy was copying Fox's ridiculously successful model, while at the same time kicking its tires.

Well, you can see where a guy might seriously stub a toe or pull a muscle with all that kicking, and stretching back and forth.

Frankly, I say good for you and your cable-news network, Mr. Griffin. You've finally come clean. And even if you only stumbled into that bath without really aiming for it, no matter, you have finally admitted what you are, and smell a lot better for it. I bet you'll even sleep easier at night.

But before you hit the rack for that deep, restful sleep a clear conscience affords, just one more thing ...

Now that you are going to wander down this political road by overtly doing a series of hard lefts, where does that leave the the rest of the news division at NBC? You know, like Brian Williams and David Gregory, just to name two?

I ask this because while you have been covertly copying Ailes' brilliant business plan at MSNBC, you have also touted the strong synergy between NBC News and MSNBC. You certainly wouldn't want people to believe that guys like Gregory and Williams were left-wing sympathizers, right?

Whether it's warranted or not, you know damn well a number of people already have their suspicions about the "mainstream media's" lean to the left on political issues.

Perception affects credibility. Too often, it even becomes reality.

Let's face it, having Williams and the Gang slipping back and forth between the two channels just doesn't look good.

See? There's that smell again ...

But if you are having trouble picking up that odor from the inside, maybe it would help if you took a whiff of something else you said during that chat with Barnhart a couple of years ago:

"We're not tied to ideology the way they (Fox) are. We're still NBC News, best newsgathering organization in the world, we have a couple of point-of-view people, but we have a variety of opinions you don't see elsewhere.
"THEY (Fox) made the business decision to create an ideological network. We didn't. They were the ones that got in bed with the Bush Administration, so that most of the time, where did the Bush Administration officials come out and make their points? Fox News. We didn't. You brought it up, but it's a great story because you can't trust a word they say."

Good night, and good luck, Mr. Griffin.

(Got a tip, a gripe, or some kudos? Send 'em along.)

One Kentucky Paper's Tale of Whoa!

Maybe newspapers should just take a hint.

Consider this tale of "Whoa!" from Louisville, Ky., over the weekend ...

Kentucky Derby on Saturday is the biggest day of the year in Louisville. There is no close second.

All eyes are on the southern city and the venerable horse race it hosts each year. And even if newspapers are struggling mightily to hold onto readers these days, Kentucky Derby Sunday is the biggest day of the year for the city's hometown newspaper, the Courier-Journal.

Again, there is no close second.

The Kentucky Derby is the Courier-Journal's story, and like any newspaper worth its salt, the prideful staff at the paper take the challenge to provide their readers with the most comprehensive coverage of the horse race and all the big doings at Churchill Downs anywhere. They do their job knowing that all eyes in their coverage area will be on their hard work.

So Saturday night as the newspaper, replete with a special 20-page section stuffed with nothing but Derby coverage, was going to print, the presses suddenly stopped. Not because anybody ordered them to be stopped, but because of an electrical problem.

Panic undoubtedly ensued as the pressmen worked feverishly to right the problem. One hour turned into two, and two and into three and still, no papers were being printed. Delivery trucks stood idle. Daybreak would be coming soon.

It suddenly became painfully clear the problem wouldn't be resolved in time to get its nearly quarter-million Sunday copies of the newspaper on the street in time for their readers to enjoy.

This was the nightmare scenario for any newspaper, which have traditionally prided themselves in making sure a newspaper goes out every single day -- rain, sleet, snow and press failures be damned.
This was Armageddon for the Courier-Journal, though, given the unbelievable timing of this press outage.

The paper's pre-printed Sunday sections (comics, travel, etc.) would still be delivered, but all the live-news coverage, including (and mostly) that 20-page special Kentucky Derby section, would not be delivered until Monday, when hopefully the press problems would be resolved.

So sometime after the sun rose high in the Kentucky sky Sunday, Arnold Garson, the president and publisher of the Courier-Journal took to the Internet to face the music, and explain to readers why all but 43,000 of them across the state didn't get the Derby news delivered to their doorstep that morning.

It's not known if what preceded Garson's five-or-so minute explanation was planned, but when one went to the paper's website and clicked on Garson's video explainer, up came an advertisement. And what was the ad pitching?

Constipation relief.

And so it goes for newspapers these days ...

(Got a tip, a gripe, or some kudos? Send 'em along.)