2. GMA Fawns Over Bloomberg, Pleads for Him to Run and Scolds GOP
3. Moyers: PBS Ombudsman Requested My One-Sided Impeachment Hour
4. NY Times Glows Over Edwards Event: 'Picturesquely American'
Thursday's NBC Nightly News combined the usual with the unusual for an evening newscast story: A breast cancer survivor story which would appeal to woman and a look at an Army Sergeant who has now fulfilled her 'dream' of getting to serve in Iraq, hardly a view expressed very often on network news. Anchor Brian Williams introduced the profile: "Tonight we have a story of a woman who is serving her country and serving as an example, in her bravery, to the rest of us." Checking in on the state-side training being undergone by Army Sergeant Elizabeth Cowie, reporter Jennifer London explained how "it's been her dream to serve in Iraq." Cowie, however, was sidelined by breast cancer. But now that she successfully treated it, her dream has been "realized," London related, as "this was Sergeant Cowie's final training mission before deployment." Cowie expressed her idealism and commitment: "We have a lot of liberties, we have a lot of freedoms that other people around the world don't have, and so for me that's important, so I'm willing to do what I have to do and put my own life at risk."
After London's piece, Williams followed up with how Cowie arrived in Iraq and sent an e-mail to NBC News "with the following request, quote: 'Keep our soldiers in your prayers. They are the best of America.'"
[This item was posted Thursday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
A transcript of the July 26 NBC Nightly News story for which I corrected the closed-captioning against the video:
BRIAN WILLIAMS: Tonight we have a story of a woman who is serving her country and serving as an example, in her bravery, to the rest of us. Tonight she's on the job in Iraq as part of the U.S. armed forces there. Before going there, she had to wage another battle. NBC's Jennifer London has her story from Indiana.
JENNIFER LONDON: Behind the wheel of her Humvee, Sergeant Elizabeth Cowie is focused on her mission. She's training to guide her convoy through an Iraqi village under attack from roadside bombs. She's been in the military for 16 years, but has never seen combat. It's been her dream to serve in Iraq.
ABC's Good Morning America on Thursday showcased an "exclusive" interview from St. Louis with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg conducted by Robin Roberts who hailed Bloomberg throughout and scolded Republican presidential candidates for not addressing the National Urban League's (NUL) convention. "Whether he runs or stays on the sidelines, he's already shaking up the '08 race," Roberts gushed before fawning over how "Mayor Bloomberg is all about accountability. He wants to be held accountable for his actions and his decisions, and he insists that public voters have to hold the candidates accountable." When Bloomberg insisted he will not make an independent presidential bid, Roberts pleaded: "You're very passionate about certain issues. Is there anything that could change your mind and make you run for President?" Noting the ex-Republican's speech at NUL's convention in St. Louis, Roberts described the audience as "mainly African-American, a group that feels largely ignored by the party he just left." She presumed GOP candidates should have appeared: "The top Republicans have declined to be here. How do you explain that behavior?"
Maybe because it's hostile territory for a real Republican or a conservative. Thursday's Washington Post described the NUL as "traditionally Democratic turf." See: www.washingtonpost.com
Of course, if Bloomberg does run after all his denials on GMA and elsewhere, Cuomo's sycophantic take will look pretty naive.
The June 21 CyberAlert item, "Nets Convey Excitement Over Bloomberg, 'Candidate of the Media,'" conveyed media reaction to Bloomberg's announcement that he was leaving the GOP, a temporary party affiliation the Democrat used as a short cut to the New York City Mayor's office:
OpinionJournal.com's James Taranto on Wednesday proposed that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is the preferred presidential "candidate of the media, ideologically as well as professionally," a supposition demonstrated by media excitement over his separation from the Republican Party in preparation for a possible independent bid. "The presidential race just got a whole lot more interesting," gushed Today co-host Meredith Vieira in plugging Wednesday's top story while, on CBS, Early Show co-host Harry Smith excitedly relayed how "we want to get right to our top story, and that's a bombshell from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg." On ABC's Good Morning America, Diane Sawyer enthused about how "the hugely popular Mayor of New York City ditches the Republican label and declares independence, asking if other Americans are ready for a change." Robin Roberts insisted that "many are asking now whether he is destined to be a contender."
All day Wednesday the cable networks were full of speculation over Bloomberg and in the evening all three broadcast network newscasts ran full stories on his possible candidacy. An on-screen graphic on ABC's World News asked "Will He Run?" and the NBC Nightly News looked at the possibility of three candidates from New York. But the CBS Evening News was the most promotional. Katie Couric highlighted how a poll "found more than one out of three Democratic primary voters and more than half of Republicans want more choices. So how about an independent? Today a certain Mayor of New York was the talk of the town and a lot of the country." More likely, the talk of America's newsrooms. Noting how Bloomberg is "sparking imaginations," Jim Axelrod recited some of Bloomberg's liberal positions: "So no one really knows what this 65-year-old billionaire who favors gun control, gay marriage, and abortion rights is up to, aside from sparking the imaginations of those uninspired by the current field."
END of Excerpt
For the entire CyberAlert item: www.mrc.org
A transcript of the segment, on the July 26 Good Morning America, which alternated between narration from Roberts and clips of the taped interview with Bloomberg conducted in St. Louis:
ROBIN ROBERTS: We're going to turn now to a man who could really shake up the race for President, New York's Mayor, Mike Bloomberg. He stunned the political world last month when he defected from the Republican Party, a move that fueled speculation he might make a run for the White House. And what a run it would be. By some estimates, if Bloomberg ran, he could burn through as much as $500 million of his personal fortune. But whether he runs or stays on the sidelines, he's already shaking up the '08 race. He's a man many Americans might not recognize, but could this billionaire be the next big presidential contender? New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's schedule has certainly been busy. We caught up with him in the swing state of Missouri, meeting St. Louis' mayor; then addressing the National Urban League, where three top Democratic presidential candidates will also appear. The man who built a financial news empire to the tune of nearly $6 billion, then won a come-from-behind race for mayor in 2001, takes the subway to work, and runs the city like a CEO. And recently his national profile has skyrocketed. He's hung out with California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and left the Republican party to become an independent. His staff even unveiled a new Web site -- Mike2008.com. But if all this looks like a prelude to a self-financed White House run, Bloomberg says it is not.
In a letter sent far and wide to anyone (including the MRC) who criticized his hour-long tantrum tub-thumping for the impeachment of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney on July 13, PBS omnipresence Bill Moyers lectured PBS ombudsman Michael Getler for daring to criticize the one-sided show, asserting he was just fulfilling Getler's request for more impeachment coverage. Moyers argued that PBS was created to disturb the "official consensus" and praised his two pro-impeachment guests, a "liberal" and a "conservative scholar who reveres the Constitution," for how "they made a valuable contribution to the public dialogue, as confirmed by the roughly 20:1 positive response to the broadcast. Of course I could have aired a Beltway-like 'debate' between a Democrat and a Republican, or a conservative and a liberal, but that's usually conventional wisdom and standard practice, and public broadcasting was meant to be an alternative, not an echo."
He told Getler he was only following a letter that Getler had written in January arguing for more "aggressive" PBS coverage of the Iraq war, including more coverage of impeachment talk. A look at Getler's letter shows that in January he did urge producers to rise above programs that go "straight down the middle" and get involved in changing the political dynamic against Bush and his Iraq surge: "PBS needs to rise, in some new and timely fashion, to meet the immediate demands of this special time."
Getler, a Washington Post reporter and editor for 26 years before becoming Editor of the International Herald Tribune, was the Post's ombudsman before jumping to PBS in 2005: www.pbs.org
[This item, by Tim Graham, was posted Thursday morning on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
The July 23 CyberAlert recounted how Getler:
....[N]oticed the incredibly one-sided July 13 Bill Moyers Journal hour on impeaching Bush and Cheney and mildly noted it could have used a smidgen of balance. Despite Nancy Pelosi's promise to avoid impeachment hearings, he wrote: "I would argue that it is still a newsworthy topic. So, as a viewer, I'm grateful that it is being addressed....On the other hand, there was almost a complete absence of balance, as I watched it, in the way this program presented the case for impeachment proceedings against President Bush and Vice President Cheney."...
Getler's July 20 PBS ombudsman column praised Moyers and his guests for some educational television (and most of the letters he reproduces are rave reviews). He concluded: "This was an hour-long program and it was, in many ways, an education, listening to this view of the impeachment process being laid out, whether or not you agree with it. But the program, in my view, would have been not only less vulnerable to charges of political bias, but also even more educational to more people in terms of illuminating the public about impeachment, if it had contained at the very least a succinct summary of the likely legal challenges to each of the main charges raised by the pro-impeachment process guests."
For the July 23 CyberAlert posting in full: www.mrc.org
For more on the July 13 Bill Moyers Journal, check the July 17 CyberAlert article, "PBS Devotes Hour of Moyers to Advocating Bush-Cheney Impeachment," online at: www.mrc.org
Moyers' Communications Director, Rick Byrne, sent the following letter to NewsBusters, the MRC's blog, as well as other media sites which featured Getler's impeachment-show critique:
Dear Mr. Getler:
I respect your work and your role, but I disagree with you about "balance." The journalist's job is not to achieve some mythical state of equilibrium between two opposing opinions out of some misshapen respect -- sometimes, alas, reverence -- for the prevailing consensus among the powers-that-be. The journalist's job is to seek out and offer the public the best thinking on an issue, event, or story. That's what I did regarding the argument for impeachment. Official Washington may not want to hear the best arguments for impeachment -- or any at all -- but a lot of America does. More than four out of ten people indicated in that recent national poll that they favor impeaching President Bush and more than five out of ten, Vice President Cheney. They're talking impeachment out there and that dynamic in public opinion is news. There's a movement for impeachment, not one against impeachment, and to fail to explore the arguments driving that movement would be as foolish as when Washington journalists in the months before the invasion of Iraq dared not talk about "occupation" because official sources only wanted to talk about "liberation." Letting the official consensus govern the conversation is also to let it decide the subject.
So to hear the best arguments driving public sentiment, I invited on my broadcast a conservative scholar who reveres the Constitution, Bruce Fein, and a liberal political journalist, John Nichols, who has written a fine book on the historical roots of impeachment. That two men of different philosophies come to the same conclusion on this issue is in itself newsworthy, and they made a valuable contribution to the public dialogue, as confirmed by the roughly 20:1 positive response to the broadcast. Of course I could have aired a Beltway-like "debate" between a Democrat and a Republican, or a conservative and a liberal, but that's usually conventional wisdom and standard practice, and public broadcasting was meant to be an alternative, not an echo. If a debate about impeachment becomes the story, I'll come back with different guests to explore it. Right now it's the argument for impeachment that is shaping public opinion, and that's why I chose to interview two informed thinkers who have arrived at the same destination from very different directions.
A personal note: Pinned to the bulletin board on the wall behind my computer -- I am looking at it now -- is the column you wrote in January calling on public broadcasting to "be more...aggressive," including on the issue of, yes, impeachment. I took encouragement from that column over these months as I tracked grassroots activity and the growing public conversation on the subject across the country. I was cheered by your assertion in the same column that "'on-the-one-hand/on-the-other hand' type of journalism that is much more common can be less than enlightening at times such as these..." In thinking that you imagined public broadcasting as a service, not a sedative, I trust I wasn't misreading your New Year's resolution.
By the way, we did not remove any controversial postings from our Web site, as indicated in your critique. We welcome all points of view and responses to our programs on our blog.
END of Reprint of letter from Moyers
Perhaps Moyers was exaggerating about Getler writing warmly of more "aggressive" tub-thumping for impeachment? No, Getler's January 5 letter was titled "Be More, um, Aggressive?" It reads like an official request for Bush-stinks programming that abandons the idea of balance. It began by talking about New Year's resolutions, and how at this "troubling time in our history" that:
"...journalists and producers of news and public affairs programs who have access to the nation's airwaves need to ratchet up their determination to challenge, to explore and to cut through spin. And, it seems to me, that public television and its 350 independent but affiliated stations may be able to play a special role, both in making lots of voices, including new ones, heard and in stirring some sort of national dialogue about these troubles, broadcast soon and in real time.
At the heart of this troubling time, and proposal, is, of course, Iraq. No matter what your politics, we are in one heck of a mess. There is no end in sight to this conflict and no seemingly good way out of it. Soon, there will be official proposals for a new strategy; presumably, according to news reports, with more troops and more money. The administration will get plenty of print and on-air time to lay out its case.
Sadly, however, it is hard to argue with critics who say there is no real reason to believe, or have confidence in, whatever the administration says because so much of what it said before the war and for a long time after it started, turned out not to be the case. The human, military, financial, reputational and homeland security aspects of having started this war are huge and will probably be with us for many, many years to come. Perhaps there is a way to end it that will benefit from a more open process than the one that started it.
The press did not do a good job before this war started and it needs to do a better job if the country is going to find a way out or ahead. It may be that adding troops, as the president is expected to do, will turn out to be the right thing, or it may not. History may yet vindicate President Bush's decisions, or it may not. But all future steps should be vigorously explored in public by an independent press in a way that goes well beyond a Democrat saying this and a Republican saying that on a talk show, or the panel discussions of predictable on-the-one-hand/on-the-other-hand specialists. The failures, misstatements and miscalculations of the past should be a lesson that more and better reporting is necessary for whatever future course is ultimately settled upon.
At the letter's end, Getler also pressed the idea of talking up a Bush impeachment as an example of more aggressive PBS coverage:
That same ABC News/Washington Post poll showed that 52 percent of those polled think the administration "intentionally" misled the American public in making the case for war. That leads to another extreme angle of these times. Tom Felt, a viewer in Arizona, writes to say that "PBS doesn't present all sides of the issue. The corporate media propaganda outlets greatly under-reported the anti-war movement in this country -- just like they are now doing the grassroots effort to impeach Bush. The point is the American public needs to hear the other voice, the other perspective on these issues we face, on the public airwaves where it is available to all people because that is what shapes the public dialogue. One of the problems is that no one is conducting polls -- not like they did for impeaching Clinton."
A Newsweek poll conducted in October was one of the few that I found that dealt with the issue of impeachment. It showed that, in fact, there wasn't much support for such a move. Some 28 percent of those polled felt it should be a "top priority." Still, 28 percent is not nothing, and maybe it would clear the air to hear it reported on.
PBS has some excellent news and public affairs programs, including the five-nights-a-week NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, Washington Week, the weekly news magazine NOW, and the highly regarded and the hard-hitting Frontline documentary series. But the documentaries, however good, are naturally always looking back. NOW is more timely and also hard-hitting but just half an hour once a week. The NewsHour is straight down the middle. Washington Week is much the same with its journalist guests.
In the end, PBS probably does a better job than the commercial broadcast networks in presenting a more comprehensive nightly news program, and nothing matches Frontline for top documentaries. But we are at a crucial moment and, as a whole, it seems to me that PBS needs to rise, in some new and timely fashion, to meet the immediate demands of this special time.
END of Excerpt
For Getler's January 5 PBS Ombudsman posting: www.pbs.org
The idea that PBS is needed to "shake up" supposedly sleepy liberal media outlets and come at Nancy Pelosi and other congressional Democrats from a hard-left direction, lamenting their failure to start impeaching Bush, is a far cry from the language of the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967 that insisted on "objectivity and balance in all programming of a controversial nature." It's certainly not fair and balanced compared to PBS's sleepy reaction to impeachment talk of Bill Clinton. Then, apparently, it was not their "special time" to be aggressive.
Sunday's New York Times featured a glowing profile of the John Edwards' campaign: "Surrounding him were about 100 voters, all seated on outdoor chairs provided by the local Congregational church, in a scene that could not have been more picturesquely American -- democracy in action at its most intimate level. Even the music of John Mellencamp -- 'Our Country' -- helped make that point." Reporter Leslie Wayne, in Iowa with the John Edwards campaign, filed the Times' latest strongly positive story on "populist" (not liberal!) John Edwards, who the Times seems determined to make into the next John F. Kennedy or Bobby Kennedy. Wayne's latest is a beaming profile of Edwards' latest Iowa campaign event, which Wayne saw as pure Americana. The headline: "A Candidate Tends His Field of Dreams."
[This item is adapted from a Tuesday posting, by Clay Waters, on the MRC's TimesWatch site: www.timeswatch.org ]
The same day's New York Times ran a much more negative look at Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani. The July 24 CyberAlert relayed:
Apparently, racist police brutality began and ended in New York City with Mayor Rudy Giuliani. And when did hatemonger Al Sharpton earn the right to comment on anyone else's failures to attain racial harmony? Veteran New York Times reporter Michael Powell's Sunday front-page story, "In a Volatile City, a Stern Line On Race and Politics," is the first article in what the Times promises is "a series on the lives and careers of the 2008 presidential contenders." One of the critics of Giuliani quoted by Powell was race-baiting hatemonger (and Times favorite) Al Sharpton, which makes one wonder how committed the Times itself is to racial harmony. Proposing that "what is less certain is whether a man raised and schooled in a white world understood the force with which his harshest words rained down on black New Yorkers," Powell let other black leaders suggest Rudy made racial appeals. See: www.mrc.org
An excerpt from Leslie Wayne's July 22 article:
Surrounding him were about 100 voters, all seated on outdoor chairs provided by the local Congregational church, in a scene that could not have been more picturesquely American -- democracy in action at its most intimate level. Even the music of John Mellencamp -- 'Our Country' -- helped make that point.
For Mr. Edwards, Iowa is his field of dreams. He built his campaign strategy on the belief that a victory in the Iowa caucuses next January would propel him to front-runner status and position him well for New Hampshire and the crush of Feb. 5 primaries. Statewide polls that often placed him at the top of the pack here suggested that his hard work in Iowa had paid off.
END of Excerpt
For the story in full: www.nytimes.com
In its 2004 election coverage, the Times displayed a stark double standard when it came to informal campaign events put on by Republicans and Democrats. George W. Bush "field[ed] softballs from the faithful" that sometimes "aren't even questions at all." By contrast, the Kerry-Edwards ticket got flattering coverage of its own "home-spun" events: "The low-key, invitation-only events, where perhaps 100 people sit around red-checked picnic tables, raising hands with questions rather than waving signs with slogans, mimic the town-hall style campaigning for the Iowa caucuses at which both Mr. Kerry and Mr. Edwards excelled." For more, see a 2004 TimesWatch analysis: www.timeswatch.org
-- Brent Baker