2. CBS MarketWatch Rips Media for Falsely "Dreary" Economic Picture
3. Lauer Complains About Oil Company "Profits," Urges Car-Pooling
4. CNN Features Glowing Tribute to Kerry's Heroic Vietnam Exploits
CBS on Tuesday night resurrected the Enron scandal and made sure to tie it to President Bush. Playing some audio tapes of conversations amongst low-level Enron sales staffers, CBS News reporter Vince Gonzales maintained that back in 2000 "they were sure President Bush would fight any limits on sky-high energy prices." Gonzales also claimed that some inarticulate vulgarity by an unidentified Enron staffer, about how Bush will "f------ whack this s---, man. He won't f------ play this price-cap bull----," was "crude, but true."
Anchor Dan Rather set up the CBS Evening News story which led the June 1 broadcast: "Good evening. We begin tonight with a CBS News exclusive. You are about to hear the shocking words of Enron employees as the company was boldly ripping off the state of California and consumers high and low, manipulating gas, oil and electricity markets. Market manipulation in this country and elsewhere is at the heart of criminal charges still pending against former Enron executives, the first of whom go on trial next week in Houston. CBS News investigative correspondent Vince Gonzales obtained the audiotapes the U.S. government had kept under wraps hoping, along with Enron, that you would never hear them."
Maybe government lawyers wanted to keep them private so they could be used in criminal proceedings. By Rather's logic, all prosecutors, who don't divulge to the media all the evidence they've gathered, are in collusion to hide valuable information from the public.
Gonzales began, as taken down by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "When a forest fire shut down a major transmission line into California, cutting power supplies and raising prices, Enron energy traders celebrated."
For the online version of this story: www.cbsnews.com
Hours before NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw on Tuesday evening managed to cast a booming real estate numbers in a negative light, CBS Marketwatch.com posted a column by Chris Pummer castigating the media for excessive negativity on the economy. "To hear Big Media tell it," Pummer contended, "the U.S. economy is in a fragile state of 'recovery' that threatens to be undermined at any moment, by rising interest rates, by soaring gas prices, by another terrorist attack."
"In fact," Pummer maintained, "the economy has been in a state of rip-roaring 'expansion' -- the strongest in 20 years -- yet the media persists in painting a dreary picture."
Indeed, here's how Brokaw plugged an upcoming story on Tuesday evening's NBC Nightly News: "Still ahead tonight: NBC News 'In Depth.' Housing prices going through the roof. It's a seller's market, but who can afford to buy?"
Recent CyberAlert items documenting how the networks emphasize the negative on the economy:
-- May 28. On Monday night, the NBC Nightly News found the time to falsely claim gas prices hit a new "record" price and for reporter Anne Thompson to focus a full story on the "ripple effects of two dollar gas," including a Meals on Wheels official in Spokane who offered a dire warning that since volunteer drivers can't afford gas, "my fear is that seniors will go hungry." Thompson maintained that is "a growing problem for Meals on Wheels programs nationwide." But on Thursday night, after the Commerce Department revised upward the first quarter GDP growth number to 4.4 percent, from 4.2 percent, the NBC Nightly News didn't utter a syllable about the good news. ABC and CBS noted the GDP jump, but gave it short-shrift compared to Monday's gas price coverage. See: www.mediaresearch.org
-- After Friday's government announcement that 288,000 more jobs were created in April, reducing the unemployment rate by a point to 5.6 percent as job creation numbers for February and March were revised upward, Richard J. DeKaser, chief economist at the National City Corporation in Cleveland, told the New York Times: "You'd be hard-pressed to find a dark lining in this cloud." But ABC News managed to as anchor Peter Jennings asserted: "When you look at the kind of work people are getting, however, the news is a little less encouraging." ABC's downbeat story focused on service sector jobs and those who are "underemployed." www.mediaresearch.org
-- April 22. Dour ABC. CBS's Anthony Mason on Wednesday night relayed how Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan told a congressional committee that "the economy is vigorous and robust" and NBC's Tom Brokaw reported how Greenspan maintained "the economic recovery now has good momentum and that employers will have no choice but to hire more workers soon." But ABC anchor Charles Gibson led his short item on a downbeat note: "At a congressional hearing today, a caution about interest rates." www.mediaresearch.org
-- April 5. The Labor Department made up phoney unemployment numbers to help the Bush campaign? NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams gave credence to such a theory on Friday night as he introduced a story, on how 300,000 jobs were created in March, by reporting that "today's announcement was such a badly needed shot in the arm for the Bush administration -- and was such good news -- some thought the numbers were too good to be true." And ABC couldn't let the good news go unchallenged for long. The next night, ABC looked at an accountant forced to drive a cab. See: www.mediaresearch.org
Now an excerpt from Pummer's June 1 posting, "It's the expansion, stupid; Commentary: Media miscasts economy's state," on the site of MarketWatch, a San Francisco-based public company which is not part of CBS or CBS News. CBS, however, owns about 25 percent of MarketWatch.com and so MarketWatch.com ties itself to CBS, by calling itself CBS MarketWatch, in order to raise its profile. As part of their business relationship, MarketWatch.com provides business news for CBS News programs.
Romenesko (www.poynter.org) on Tuesday's highlighted Pummer's piece.
The excerpt from the column by Chris Pummer, Assistant Managing Editor of CBS MarketWatch.com:
...."I don't know how much is agenda and how much is ignorance or just lemming-type journalism," said Comerica Bank Chief Economist David Littmann, who's tracked the economy for 40 years. "We're in a mini-boom, and to characterize it as a recovery is to diminish it."
This isn't nitpicking, mind you. The media is a powerful influence on how we view ourselves, and refusing to come around to substituting one word for another is depressing the national mood.
Think about it: An expansion implies strength and virility, while recovery suggests lingering weakness -- the stroke victim in therapy for paralysis, or the reformed alcoholic still at risk of falling off the wagon.
Contrary to what conservatives might suspect, the media's dim view isn't due to a liberal conspiracy to derail President Bush's reelection. The personal politics of journalists overall may be a few degrees left of center, but business journalists on the whole are fairly centrist. I consider myself a compassionate moderate.
No, the driving force here is altogether different. Namely, as a sage editor of mine used to say, "Don't blame on malice what can best be attributed to incompetence."...
The National Bureau of Economic Research since has emerged as the brain trust the media now relies on for calling recessions. Yet the NBER doesn't even use the word "recovery." By its terminology, an expansion begins once a recession ends, and it says we've been in one since November 2001.
If that's not sufficient proof, try these measures on for size:
* The nation's GDP grew 4.4 percent in the first quarter of 2004, capping its biggest 12-month gain since 1984. By most forecasts, GDP this year is expected to grow 4.7 percent -- the best calendar-year performance in two decades, surpassing even our longed-for 1999.
* The economy has created more than 1.1 million jobs since last August, with unemployment falling to 5.6 percent in April. That rate was lower, by a hair, in only two of 22 years from 1974-to-1995 -- 5.5 percent in 1988 and 5.3 percent in 1989.
* Home ownership reached a record-high 68.6 percent in first quarter of this year -- up nearly 5 percentage points in the last decade
Yet the major media clings to the word "recovery" like a malpractice-fearing doctor too afraid to offer an optimistic prognosis to family members. For instance:
* A May 19 Wall Street Journal story on a speech by Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank President Anthony Santomero said he expects inflation to remain contained during "the U.S. economic recovery." (The Journal's words)
* A May 15 New York Times story on Money magazine naming a new editor said: "By this time in the recovery, most people can at least bear to open their 401(k) statements..."
* A May 18 Reuters story carried on NYT.com, the Times' Web site, said: "Mortgage rates dipped to near 40-year lows in the first few months of 2004, but have risen in recent weeks as signs of the U.S. economic recovery have solidified..." ...
When I alerted my boss to his use of the word "recovery" in a TV interview about rising oil prices, and its use by one of our columnists, he said: "You wouldn't call it an expansion if you were one of the people still unemployed."
Therein lies the root of the error.
Those who think we're still in a recovery apparently won't change their view until we return to the record-low 3.8 percent unemployment we enjoyed for a fleeting moment in 2000 during the most prosperous economy in history.
That's like not recognizing a bull market until the Nasdaq surpasses 5,000 again. I'd bet my retirement savings no one alive in the U.S. today will ever see sub-4 percent joblessness again, and here's why.
For decades, economists considered 4.5 percent "full employment," so the U.S. entered a labor-market utopia when we dropped far below that. But 3.8 percent didn't reflect real production needs. It reflected a gross overcapacity of human resources, as employers with delirious growth expectations rushed to net the little talent left in a labor pool then shallower than a sidewalk puddle after a light summer rain....
END of Excerpt
For the Piece by Pummer in full: cbs.marketwatch.com
What next, Jimmy Carter-like complaining about "windfall profits" for oil companies? During an interview session on Tuesday's Today about gas prices, Matt Lauer kvetched to a representative of the American Petroleum Institute: "What about profits? I mean if the oil companies are in this game with the rest of us, if I'm getting hit and everybody else getting hit why don't they take a hit in their profits?" Turning to a representative of the Consumer Federation of America, Lauer approached him from the left, wondering about "collusion between major oil production companies in terms of setting prices" and urging him to agree that "the real problem here that Americans simply aren't sacrificing." Lauer suggested "taking mass transit or car-pooling."
One wonders how often Lauer and Katie Couric car-pool or use the subway between chauffeured trips in NBC's gas-guzzling limousines?
MRC analyst Geoff Dickens took down Lauer's question on the June 1 Today to Dr. Mark Cooper of the Consumer Federation of America and Rayola Dougher of the American Petroleum Institute.
-- Lauer: "Good morning to both of you. Dr. Cooper let me start with you. You go to a gathering these days, people are talking about gas prices and, and you'll hear them say, 'look I understand there's a war on terrorism, OPEC is controlling production, and we've got a lot of other factors.' But they think there's some hanky-panking going on with the oil companies. What's your response to that?"
-- Lauer: "And yet Miss Dougher you say this is supply and demand, simple case of supply and demand."
-- Lauer: "Dr. Cooper there's been investigation after investigation looking into the practices of oil companies. Have any of those investigations shown collusion between major oil production companies in terms of setting prices?"
-- "The frustration, basically Ms. Dougher, is we've got too few companies controlling this whole situation and if more companies could get in on the game then they could compete with these other companies and drive down prices. And that's not happening."
-- Lauer: "Dr. Cooper isn't the real problem here that Americans simply aren't sacrificing. We know there's a war on terror, we know that OPEC is controlling production. We know there's rising demand and yet very few Americans are willing to put that car in the parking lot and not drive it for the frivolous trips as opposed to the necessary trips."
CNN on Monday night aired a four-minute info-mercial for John Kerry, but the Kerry campaign didn't have to pay a cent for it since it was aired in the guise of a news story by Aaron Brown, tied to Memorial Day, on NewsNight. Without uttering a syllable about questions raised about whether Kerry had really earned the first of three Purple Hearts, which allowed him to leave Vietnam early, or how his Swift boat commanders and colleagues have questioned his fitness to lead and motivations in Vietnam, Brown delivered a panegyrical, event-by-event tribute to Kerry's heroic Vietnam service.
At a May 4 press conference by a group of veterans, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, Retired Rear Adm. Roy Hoffmann, who commanded the fleet of swift boats during Kerry's time on one, asserted: "He arrived in country with a strong anti-Vietnam War bias and a self-serving determination to build a foundation for his political future...He was aggressive, but vain and prone to impulsive judgment, often with disregard to specific tactical assignments. He was a loose cannon."
A May 5 CyberAlert item, headlined "CBS Employs McCarthyistic Tactics to Smear Anti-Kerry Veterans," documented how CBS disparaged the group. See: www.mediaresearch.org
On Monday's NewsNight on CNN, MRC analyst Ken Shepherd noticed, substitute anchor Anderson Cooper set up Brown's tribute: "You can count on war to become part of any presidential campaign. And so it has again. Military experience has been John Kerry's calling card in this presidential race. As we saw earlier in the program, Senator Kerry visited the Vietnam War Memorial today. He answered the call to serve in 1965 along with thousands of young Americans."
Viewers were then treated to a lengthy taped piece, possibly excised from a longer CNN Presents profile, left by Brown. It began with a clip of Kerry: "I know something about aircraft carriers for real."
Brown has saved the DNC some money. They can just play his glowing piece as the biography video at their convention in Boston.
When will we see from CNN an equally all-positive look at a period in George W. Bush's life?
# Tom Friedman, the New York Times columnist, will be the guest tonight, Wednesday, on Comedy Central's Daily Show with Jon Stewart. (He's also scheduled to appear tonight on PBS's Charlie Rose.)
-- Brent Baker