Another Anti-Bush Iraq Policy Twist From Peter Jennings -- 12/05/2002 CyberAlert
CNN Suggests Iraq Showing Its "Goodwill"
3. CBS Hypes Killer SUVs But Pickups More Dangerous
San Francisco and NBC Discover Cash Payments Attract the Homeless
NY Times Spikes Columnists Who Disagree with Editorials
Chung's "Person of the Day" Trumpets Augusta Resignation
ABC's Peter Jennings always finds a way to twist the news into an especially negative take on President Bush's policy toward Iraq. Just check how he teased his program on Wednesday night:
The subsequent stories weren't nearly as slanted as Jennings made them sound. After an excerpt of Koppel's upcoming Nightline interview, Terry Moran outlined how, if Iraq claims it has no weapons of mass destruction, the Bush administration plans to give the inspectors several weeks to prove Iraq is lying and the U.S. will direct them to the most likely sites.
On the December 3 NewsNight, MRC analyst Ken Shepherd noticed, reporter Rym Brahimi told anchor Aaron Brown from Baghdad: "This visit by the inspectors is surprisingly brief for such a large site; approximately a mile long on one side. But it's symbolic of their determination to visit even the most sensitive of sites. The visit was also symbolic, Aaron, of maybe Iraq's goodwill and at least keenness to show that it's been cooperating."
Since Brahimi isn't on all that often, at least not on CNN's domestic channel, here's a link to a picture of her with a bio:
Killer pickup trucks not as exciting to CBS as killer SUVs. As noted in the December 4 CyberAlert, the Tuesday CBS Evening News plugged a story set to air Wednesday night about the dangers of backing up in an SUV, but the actual story revealed going in reverse in a pickup truck is much less safe.
The Tuesday promo, however, warned only about the media's favorite target, SUVs: "SUVs: There you sit -- high, wide and handsome with a terrific view of the road ahead. But when you want to back up the view changes. Tomorrow: Dangerous rear view blind spots. Why SUVs may have them. [over video of SUV backing into a kids bicycle] The often tragic consequences and what's being done about it. On the CBS Evening News with Dan Rather."
Dan Rather set up the December 4 "Eye on America" piece with the words "SUV Danger" over his shoulder. Jane Clayson began the piece with an anecdote about a man who backed over and killed his two-year-old son. She claimed 57 have been killed this year by vehicles going in reverse "and more than half of those accidents involved SUVs or large pickup trucks."
How the accident rate compares to the composition of the U.S. vehicle fleet Clayson did not address.
But then Clayson disclosed that while the blind spot for SUVs is 40 percent greater than for cars, pickup trucks are three times more dangerous: "Consumer Reports auto testing director David Champion found that in a mid-size passenger vehicle the average blind spot goes back about ten feet. In an SUV it extends to more than 14 feet. And in a pickup, the so-called dead zone doubles, to more than 30 feet."
Clayson lamented the lack of federal government tracking: "No one knew how many children were dying in these back over accidents because no federal agency keeps track of them. It took a group of parents to uncover the risk."
Janette Fennell of a group called Kids 'N Cars then speciously claimed: "This truly is an epidemic."
Clayson concluded by referring to the incidents as "part of a hidden tragedy that's now claiming at least one child a week."
As conservatives have long realized, giving cash payments to the homeless would discourage the homeless from leaving the lifestyle and encourage more of the poor and drug or alcohol-addicted to move into the jurisdiction in order to access the handout. But the liberal citizens of San Francisco and NBC News just figured that out this year.
Looking Wednesday night at how San Franciscans, overrun with homeless, passed an initiative in November to reduce the cash payment from about $400 to about $60 a month, NBC's Chip Reid acknowledged that the city has "attracted increasing numbers of homeless people in recent years -- by some estimates now more than 12,000 -- drawn in part by welfare payments that some here now consider far too generous." Reid observed that "the frustrated people of this city" had concluded "that giving large amounts of cash to the homeless has only made the problem worse."
Nonetheless, Reid devoted half his Nightly News story to a victim of the planned payment reduction, a man who "says he's terrified of having his monthly payment slashed."
Anchoring from Burbank, Tom Brokaw set up the December 4 story by claiming, without citing any evidence, that homelessness is growing across the nation:
Reid began, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "The city by the Bay. Its natural beauty makes San Francisco a magnet for tourists...but the city has also attracted increasing numbers of homeless people in recent years -- by some estimates now more than 12,000 -- drawn in part by welfare payments that some here now consider far too generous."
San Franciscans: Welcome to Economics 101.
So much for the so often vaunted separation between New York Times editorials and the news pages. The New York Daily News revealed on Wednesday that the Times spiked columns by two sports columnists who wanted to disagree with a Times editorial urging Tiger Woods to boycott next year's Masters tournament at the Augusta National Golf Club because it has no female members.
In a memo posted late Wednesday by Jim Romenesko's MediaNews page, Times Managing Editor Gerald Boyd defended his decision to "spike" the two columns as he surreally contended that the "strict separation between the news and editorial pages" means they cannot criticize each other. Then why the pretense of separation? Boyd wrote: "One of the columns focused centrally on disputing The Times's editorials about Augusta. Part of our strict separation between the news and editorial pages entails not attacking each other. Intramural quarreling of that kind is unseemly and self-absorbed."
Boyd is too self-absorbed if he doesn't realize the preposterousness of his argument. How can Times editors contend that the paper's editorial position does not influence news content when reporters know they better not write any story which could be seen as undermining the paper's editorial position?
As Newsweek's Seth Mnookin observed in a piece posted on MSNBC.com: "The paper's thinking seemed to run something like this: we're against this horrible discrimination, and we're going to resort to censorship to make our point."
Mnookin was prescient. In a story in this week's Newsweek about concerns over how Executive Editor Howell Raines is using the paper to advance his personal political agenda, Mnookin reported: "The Masters coverage is so overheated, one staffer says, that executive editor Howell Raines is 'in danger of losing the building.'"
(For an excerpt of Mnookin's story and a link to the full article, see the December 3 CyberAlert: http://www.mediaresearch.org/cyberalerts/2002/cyb20021203.asp#3)
Well, one of those disgruntled staffers called New York Daily News reporter Paul Colford. An excerpt of his December 4 story:
Editors of The New York Times killed a column by Pulitzer Prize winner Dave Anderson that disagreed with an editorial about Tiger Woods and Augusta National's refusal to admit women as members.
A column by sportswriter Harvey Araton also was zapped, sources said, because it differed with the paper's editorial opinion about the golf club standoff.
The moves came amid extensive coverage of the Georgia club under former editorial page editor Howell Raines, who's called for high-impact stories since becoming executive editor last year."...
"That's right, my column didn't run," Anderson told the Daily News last night. "It was decided by the editors that we should not argue with the editorial page."
A Nov. 18 editorial said Woods "could simply choose to stay home in April," instead of competing at the Masters. "And a tournament without Mr. Woods would send a powerful message that discrimination isn't good for the golfing business."
Anderson recalled he wrote a column afterward saying, as he put it last night, "let Tiger play golf. It's not his fight, or any golfer's fight."
According to Anderson, sports editor Neil Amdur told him the column wouldn't run.
"Amdur had taken the column to [managing editor] Gerald Boyd. He wasn't quoting Gerald, but he said the editors didn't like us arguing with the editorial page."...
It was said that Araton's column focused on the dispute between Augusta National chairman William (Hootie) Johnson and Martha Burk, chair of the National Council of Women's Organizations on allowing women to join to exclusive club.
Araton is believed to have written women face bigger issues than whether they can become members of a ritzy golf club.
The Times editors' decisions reinforce a growing sense in journalistic circles that the paper under Raines looks for conformity in its news and opinion columns....
END of Excerpt
For the article in full: http://www.nydailynews.com/business/story/40542p-38284c.html
An excerpt from Mnookin's Wednesday posting on MSNBC.com:
....Late Wednesday, the Times circulated a statement, signed by Boyd, to the staff and outside media. "Part of our strict separation between the news and editorial pages entails not attacking each other," Boyd wrote, referring to Anderson's column. Of Araton's column, Boyd wrote, "the logic did not meet our standards: that would have been true regardless of which 'side' the writer had taken on Augusta. The writer was invited to try again, but we did not think the logic improved materially."
That logic didn't hold up within some quarters of the Times. Earlier in his note, Boyd had defended the Times' aggressive covering of Augusta. "We are proud of our leadership in covering this story...There is only one word for our vigor in pursuing a story, whether in Afghanistan or Augusta. Call it journalism."
"If it's a legitimate story, it's legitimate for people to write about," one reporter said. "He can't argue that it's national news on the one hand and then that it's just intramural squabbling on the other. This is censorship, plain and simple. And it's real bad, and people are real upset and Howell has a real problem here." (Raines is currently out of the country.)...
END of Excerpt
For the piece in full: http://www.msnbc.com/news/843351.asp?0cv=KB10
Slate's Jack Shafer has posted his take on the matter in a piece which includes links to the earlier Times editorials about Woods: http://slate.msn.com/?id=2074849
An excerpt of Managing Editor Boyd's December 4 memo as posted on Jim Romenesko's MediaNews page:
Howell and I believe you should know The Times's response to questions that have been raised by some published reports in recent days about our coverage of the Augusta Golf Club story and our handling of sports columns on the subject.
First, we are proud of our leadership in covering this story. Our sports staff, with help from many desks, is doing exactly what some "accuse" us of doing: asking questions that no other organization is raising, and pressing energetically for the answers our readers want....
Columnists in the news pages hold a special place at The Times. Each has wide latitude to speak with an individual point of view, always informed by diligent reporting and intelligent reasoning. In the sports pages, columnists have unique license to go beyond analytical writing and -- still informed by their reporting -- engage in robust argument, even express personal opinions on any side of an issue, within the bounds of sport, broadly defined.
Still, these columns are not on the Op-Ed page, and all newsroom writers are subject to our standards of tone, taste and relevance to the subject at hand. We are an edited newspaper: that is one of our strengths, and we believe our staff takes pride in it.
Recently we spiked two sports columns that touched on the Augusta issue. We were not concerned with which "side" the writers were on. A well-reported, well-reasoned column can come down on any side, with our welcome.
One of the columns focused centrally on disputing The Times's editorials about Augusta. Part of our strict separation between the news and editorial pages entails not attacking each other. Intramural quarreling of that kind is unseemly and self-absorbed. Discussion of editorials may arise when we report on an issue; fair enough. But we do not think they should be the issue.
In the case of this column, the writer had previously dealt with the Augusta controversy at least twice, arguing on October 6 against pressuring the golf club to admit women. His freedom to argue that way was not -- is not -- in question.
The other spiked column tried to draw a connection between the Augusta issue and the elimination of women's softball from the Olympics. The logic did not meet our standards: that would have been true regardless of which "side" the writer had taken on Augusta. The writer was invited to try again, but we did not think the logic improved materially....
At any rate, we hope no member of our staff really needs this assurance that our news columns enforce no "party line." But all of you are welcome to come and talk with us whenever you have concerns or want to hear ours.
END of Excerpt
To read the entire memo: http://www.poynteronline.org/forum/?id=32127
I think we've all heard the concerns of Boyd and Raines who want to shut down any opposition voices within their ranks.
Prompted by a front page story in the New York Times about the resignation of one of the members of the Augusta golf club, Tom Wyman, the Chief Executive Officer of CBS from 1979 to 1986, on Tuesday night CNN's Aaron Brown asked the editor of Golf magazine, "why does this story have such legs?" The editor, Jim Frank, informed Brown that the New York Times is "keeping that story going almost alone."
The exchange on the December 3 NewsNight:
"Former Top Executive at CBS Quits Augusta," announced the headline over the December 3 New York Times story which was plugged with a three paragraph summary on the front page. The story is online at: http://www.nytimes.com/2002/12/03/sports/golf/03GOLF.html
++ Late update: Thursday's Washington Post features a story by Howard Kurtz on the New York Times spiking the columns which disagreed with the paper's editorial stance. To read the December 5 story, "N.Y. Times's Golf Handicap: Columns on Augusta Killed For Being Out of Line With Paper's Editorials," which includes comments from MRC President Brent Bozell: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A11469-2002Dec4.html
CNN's Connie Chung jumped on former CBS Chief Executive Officer Tom Wyman's resignation from the Augusta National Golf Club (see the end of item #5 above), making him her show's first ever "Person of the Day."
The "Person of the Day," MRC analyst Ken Shepherd learned in watching Chung trumpet the resignation of just one of 300 or so members, was inaugurated on Chung's December 3 show and will be picked every day. (Wednesday night's selection: The anonymous George Mason University Law School student who donated about $20,000 to help poorer students cover a tuition hike.)
Chung, who never asked Wyman why he had not resigned years earlier, or not joined in the first place, if he found the club's membership rules so offensive, championed his publicity gimmick:
-- Chung's questions: "Now, this kicked up the firestorm. It became an uproar back in June. Why did you decide to resign now?"
-- "You said that the position of the leadership is downright pigheaded. And, obviously, I think a lot of people believe that Hootie Johnson completely mishandled the situation. But aren't there plenty of members of the club who actually agree with him?"
-- "You asked Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus to join you in supporting the idea of women being admitted. Have you heard from them?"
-- "Are they the only pros that belong to Augusta?"
-- "So, when people were calling on Tiger Woods to lead the pack and support the idea of admitting women, wasn't that a little unfair to ask him to do that, because he's not even a member?"
For the New York Times story which Chung picked up, "Former Top Executive at CBS Quits Augusta," go to: http://www.nytimes.com/2002/12/03/sports/golf/03GOLF.html
> It's snowing!! Cower in your homes and don't come out until it melts! Close all the schools! As of 6am we have barely an inch and yet the Washington, DC broadcast media are in full panic mode.
Those of you who read Wednesday's CyberAlert will get what I'm referring to, but here's my proposal: Any federal worker who fails to get through a mere couple of inches of snow and does not show up today for work in the Washington, DC area should sacrifice his or her 3.1 percent pay hike. Those who do their jobs and report for work can make NBC News happy and get the originally proposed 4.1 percent salary increase. -- Brent Baker