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CyberAlert -- 03/18/2002 -- "Environment...the Big Loser"

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"Environment...the Big Loser"; More Crusading by Sawyer; Anti-FNC Rant from CNN's Aaron Brown; James Garner No Conservative

1) ABC's Diane Sawyer continued her advocacy journalism on Friday morning as she boasted about how nine former Florida legislators who had supported the law which bars adoptions by homosexuals, now say, "We now realize that we were wrong. This discriminatory law prevents children from being adopted into loving, supportive homes -- and we hope it will be overturned.'"

2) MSNBC's Brian Williams referred to how the Senate's decision to not impose higher fuel efficiency standards means "there's concern tonight the environment could be the big loser." Williams also asked a guest to assess the view that the murder verdict for Andrea Yates was off-base since it "shows perhaps a regional tough mind set on the part of the jurors and it might just show an ignorance of mental health issues."

3) CNN's Aaron Brown opened NewsNight with a self-indulgent rant about how on "the program that competes directly with us on that almost news channel," FNC's On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, "they booked Tonya Harding to talk about the big fight and yes, little NewsNight got its backside kicked in the ratings."

4) Actor James Garner plays a conservative Chief Justice of the Supreme Court on CBS's First Monday, yet he's "anything but" a conservative. On ABC's The View he explained how he refused to read a book by the real Chief Justice, William Rehnquist, "because I don't like the man."

5) On tonight's Crossing Jordan on NBC, a Marine "abandons her post in Afghanistan and ends up dead in a Boston alley." Plus, Rudy Giuliani on the Tonight Show; John McCain on the Late Show.

6) CyberAlert subscriber survey results, to HTML or to not HTML.


1

Diane Sawyer continued her advocacy journalism on Friday morning as she boasted about how "nine former members of the statehouse" who had supported the Florida law which bars adoptions by homosexuals, have now said, "We now realize that we were wrong. This discriminatory law prevents children from being adopted into loving, supportive homes -- and we hope it will be overturned.'"

Sawyer's comments on the March 15 Good Morning America followed her two-hour prime time special from the night before that promoted the personal political agenda of Rosie O'Donnell, "Rosie's Story: For the Sake of the Children." It had featured a sympathetic look at two gay men who had become foster parents to HIV-positive kids but now cannot adopt them.

MRC analyst Jessica Anderson caught this update from Sawyer on Friday morning: "What will happen in the case before the courts, Steven Lofton and Roger Crousteau, who took in all those HIV-positive babies and nurtured them into healthy kids? Now Florida's anti-gay adoption law threatens to tear their family apart. No comment yet from Governor Jeb Bush, who received thousands of e-mails yesterday calling for the repeal of the law and adoption on a case-by-case basis. And nine former members of the statehouse, who had supported the law long ago, have said, 'We now realize that we were wrong. This discriminatory law prevents children from being adopted into loving, supportive homes -- and we hope it will be overturned.
"And the written statements were signed by former Senate President Harry Johnston, former House Speaker Tom Gustafson, former House members Elaine Bloom, Tony Frontana, Barry Kutun and former Senators Cheryl Peete-Skinner [sp?], Paul Steinberg, Sam Bell and Sherman Wynn -- saying that was a long time ago and they have rethought everything."

2

Catching up with a couple of items from MSNBC's Brian Williams from last week caught by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth: On Wednesday night Williams referred to how "gas-guzzling SUVs and light trucks were big winners on Capitol Hill" when the Senate decided to impose higher fuel efficiency standards, "but there's concern tonight the environment could be the big loser here."

The night before Williams asked a guest to assess the view that the murder verdict for Andrea Yates was off-base since it "shows perhaps a regional tough mind set on the part of the jurors and it might just show an ignorance of mental health issues."

Introducing a story on the March 13 The News with Brian Williams, Williams announced: "Gas-guzzling SUVs and light trucks were big winners on Capitol Hill today, but there's concern tonight the environment could be the big loser here. The Senate rejected a tough new proposal to force the auto industry to make the popular vehicles more fuel efficient."

The night before, he asked former Denver DA Norm Early: "You're the prosecutor here. I spoke to someone this evening by telephone after the verdict who offered their opinion saying this shows perhaps a regional tough mind set on the part of the jurors and it might just show an ignorance of mental health issues. What do you think?"

3

CNN's Aaron Brown opened Thursday's NewsNight, MRC analyst Ken Shepherd noticed, with a self-indulgent rant about how on "the program that competes directly with us on that almost news channel," FNC's On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, until recently a CNNer, "they booked Tonya Harding to talk about the big fight and yes, little NewsNight got its backside kicked in the ratings."

Even CNN's producers described Brown's whining as a rant. At the bottom of the screen, as Brown rambled on, viewers saw: "Uh, oh. Aaron seems to be ranting again."

Brown launched the March 14 program by complaining about how his former CNN colleague took advantage of Fox's low-brow Celebrity Boxing match between Tonya Harding and Paula Jones:
"Good evening again, I'm Aaron Brown. I think we can fairly say tonight that everything is alright again. New normal, old normal, call it what you want, everything is just fine. How can I be so sure, you ask? Well, I looked at the ratings and they are the best gauge there is of the American state of mind. Last night on the Fox television network, not to be confused with that sort of news channel with the similar name -- the program Celebrity Boxing drew an astonishing 15 and a half million viewers. And yes, I'm sure they're in the perfect demographic group as well. Think about that for a second, 15 million of your fellow countrymen feel so good about the state of things these days that last night they set aside an hour to watch Tonya Harding and Paula Jones duke it out. Okay, I am a cynic, I admit that. I am not surprised by these numbers. Why just the night before, on the program that competes directly with us on that almost news channel, that serious talk program they run, they booked Tonya Harding to talk about the big fight and yes, little NewsNight got its backside kicked in the ratings. Doesn't happen often, but with a booking like that, a serious discussion with Tonya Harding, frankly, what chance did we have?
"So I'm thinking maybe we have to do things a little bit differently on the program from now on. Next week it begins, a debate on Middle East policy. The Israeli side will be argued by Jackie Mason, he's Jewish, and the Arab side by Omar Sharif. And the next time we tackle sexual abuse by priests, why not book Sally Field, she was so good as the flying nun? And perhaps we can get Jack Nicholson to give us his thoughts on the Yates case, after all, he starred in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Just some programming thoughts based on what it takes to win these days and you know these days, winning is everything."

Maybe Brown's show would do a little better in the ratings if it featured less liberal pontificating from Brown and less of his whining shtick in general.

4

Don't imbue actor James Garner with the conservative political views espoused by the Chief Justice character he plays on CBS's Friday night drama about the Supreme Court, First Monday. On Friday's The View on ABC, Garner said he's "anything but" conservative and asserted that he refused to read a book by the real Chief Justice, William Rehnquist, "because I don't like the man."

On the March 15 edition of the ABC day time show, Meredith Viera raised with Garner the character he plays on First Monday: "You play the Chief Justice in this series -- and you do a great job. He's Mr. Conservative and you are not, so how did you prepare for this role?"
Garner explained: "I didn't prepare for it. They do all this research and all that stuff. They sent me a book on Judge Rehnquist, Supreme Court Justice, and I knew I wouldn't read it because I don't like the man. But all I had to do is read the script, you know, and say what's written in it, you know, and that makes me a conservative on the screen, but I'm anything but off the screen."

5

On TV tonight, a prime time plot involving a U.S. Marine in Afghanistan who ends up dead in Boston and politicians on Leno and Letterman:

-- The plot for Monday's Crossing Jordan as described on the NBC show's Web page: "When a young corporal abandons her post in Afghanistan and ends up dead in a Boston alley, Jordan (Jill Hennessy) reluctantly teams up with Marine Detective George Davis (guest star Carlos Gomez), to investigate the death of this alleged coward."

Crossing Jordan is about a Massachusetts coroner, played by Jill Hennessy, who solves murders. Sort of Quincy with sex appeal.

Crossing Jordan airs at 10pm EST/PST, 9pm CST/MST. NBC's Web page for the show:
http://www.nbc.com/Crossing_Jordan/index.html

-- Scheduled Monday night on NBC's Tonight Show with Jay Leno: Rudy Giuliani. On the Late Show with David Letterman: John McCain.

6

CyberAlert reader survey results: 66 percent want the CyberAlert to be distributed in HTML format, 34 percent want it to stay as it is now. A total of 268 people responded through Saturday according to the MRC's Kristina Sewell, who tabulated the results.

Yes, go to HTML: 178.
No, don't change and keep it in plain text format: 90.

That still leaves about 10,200 subscribers unheard, but the 268 does represent a greater percentage of the subscriber list than do national polls which sample the American population, so I'll consider the results scientifically accurate, with a margin of error of 3.5 percent.

A representative sampling of the comments received, sans any identification so, I hope, those quoted don't mind my sharing:

> No, don't go to HTML:

-- "I like to read it on my blackberry and do not believe I'd be able to in HTML format. Your updates entertain me through many long meetings."

-- "If you have AOL users...You are asking for problems. Many do not have HTML enabled still."

-- "Not just no but 'Hell no' fits this one. Computer security is my business. In its current incarnation, HTML E-mail is entirely too easy to exploit, virus software or not. The problem centers on HTML mail-reading programs being a good deal too accommodating. More specifically, Microsoft mail reading systems such as Outlook Express have become vulnerable, because of 'DirectX' (THANK YOU, MR. GATES!!!), to E-mails that actually can cause problems simply by being read by your bare eyeballs. You do not have to open any attachments. Simply opening the E-mail for reading is enough...."

-- "I will be upgrading by the end of the summer. If you change I will just miss out until then. I read it all through anyway, so would never have to use a link to jump down to a story."

-- "While I would like to get HTML version, I would hate to have other readers locked out because of lower capabilities."

> Yes:

-- "Please don't make it too graphically intense, though. I, like many other folks, I think, cannot stand long download times for email messages."

-- "Please only do HTML if there are no graphics at all. It is very annoying to have my computer sit and wait to organize a complicated web page through email."

-- "If HTML, please keep it simple. HTML opens up a potential Pandora's box; I beg of you, NO pop-ups and minimal Ads."

-- "HTML is fine, but keep the design, graphics, etc. simple. I hate waiting for fancy graphics to download when all I want is simply the message."

-- "I can't imagine too many people not having html email. And you should weigh the advantages to the many against the problems of a few. Maybe this will be their incentive to get into the 21st century."

> Looking at the survey results, there is interest in going to HTML by the majority, though they want graphics kept minimal, but a significant minority do not want the CyberAlert switched to HTML.

So, I'll be examining the options we have. There is the possibility of using software which takes one e-mail message and determines the best format for each recipient (text, AOL or HTML) and delivers only that version to the recipient, but I'm not sure what other problems that creates -- and I'm sure it has some negative unintended consequences. Or, we could just maintain separate plain text and an HTML list and all subscribers would have to choose the list they prefer. And I have to look further into the special challenge AOL presents since about 15 percent of CyberAlert subscribers use it.

Nothing will change immediately, but I do hope to figure out a way fairly soon to deliver a graphically-light HTML version (mainly so it can provide links from the table of contents down to the specific articles) to those who want it, while making sure those who don't want or can't read HTML can continue to receive the CyberAlert in a plain text version just the way this e-mail is being sent today.

Your comments, thoughts, tips and ideas continue to be welcomed. Please use this address: cybercomment@mrc.org -- Brent Baker


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