Reticent to Reform Social Security, Prefer Taxes to Stock Market --12/10/2004
2. Soldier Fronting Question for a Reporter Not of Concern to Nets
3. CNN Empathizes with Illegals Who "Chauffeur Disabled People"
4. Newsweek's Meacham: Like McVeigh, Jesus Executed for Sedition
5. Boston Talk Host David Brudnoy, Friend of the MRC, Dies at 64
The CBS Evening News tied a story on President Bush's plan to reform Social Security to a worker who supports the idea of private accounts for a portion of an employee's payment, but only after anchor Dan Rather reverentially described Social Security as "the biggest, most successful retirement program in the world." Though over time the stock market has always out-performed Social Security, John Roberts, the probable future anchor, warned of instability in the stock market. Over video of people on the floor of a stock market yelling and waving their arms, Roberts asked: "Remember what happened to all those 401(k) accounts three years ago? The people who print Social Security checks never act like this." Roberts concluding by bringing up how "some critics claim that the coming shortfall could easily be covered by repealing the President's tax cuts."
Earlier, on CNN's Inside Politics, Dana Bash fretted about how Bush issued a "no new tax pledge even though some congressional Republicans say the President should be open minded about how to fund transforming Social Security."
Rather introduced the December 9 CBS Evening News story: "President Bush called again today for historic changes in the biggest, most successful retirement program in the world: Social Security. CBS's John Roberts reports on the plan, the cost, the battle ahead, and what it all means to you."
Roberts began, as the MRC's Brad Wilmouth checked the closed-captioning against the video: "Tad DeHaven could be the poster child for Social Security reform: 28 years old, a college graduate, in the work force for six years, getting married next May, expected to retire in 2042. That's the year Social Security goes broke."
A reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press boasted in a Wednesday e-mail, which was revealed on Thursday, that the soldier in Kuwait fronted his question for him when the National Guardsman asked Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld about the lack of armor on vehicles in Iraq, an exchange which earned massive media coverage. On Thursday night, CBS didn't mention the disclosure and ABC and NBC reporters considered it irrelevant to the larger topic. Peter Jennings emphasized that "it was certainly clear from the other soldiers' reaction to the question, that better protection is a big issue." And on NBC, Jim Miklaszewski dismissed any concern about the journalist's professionalism: "Whoever came up with the question, it's put the debate over the safety of American troops front and center."
Chattanooga Times Free Press reporter Edward Lee Pitts is embedded with a Tennessee National Guard unit headed to Iraq and when he realized the vehicles in which he'll be riding lacked armor, he began to write stories about the problem. In an e-mail, to his colleagues back in Tennessee, which was given to Jim Romenesko and Matt Drudge, Pitts admitted: "I have been trying to get this story out for weeks -- as soon as I found out I would be on an unarmored truck -- and my paper published two stories on it."
In the December 8 e-mail, Pitts was triumphant about how he got a soldier to pose his question (an excerpt):
I just had one of my best days as a journalist today. As luck would have it, our journey North was delayed just long enough see I could attend a visit today here by Defense Secretary Rumsfeld. I was told yesterday that only soldiers could ask questions so I brought two of them along with me as my escorts. Before hand we worked on questions to ask Rumsfeld about the appalling lack of armor their vehicles going into combat have. While waiting for the VIP, I went and found the Sgt. in charge of the microphone for the question and answer session and made sure he knew to get my guys out of the crowd.
So during the Q&A session, one of my guys was the second person called on. When he asked Rumsfeld why after two years here soldiers are still having to dig through trash bins to find rusted scrap metal and cracked ballistic windows for their Humvees, the place erupted in cheers so loud that Rumsfeld had to ask the guy to repeat his question....
The great part was that after the event was over the throng of national media following Rumsfeld -- The New York Times, AP, all the major networks -- swarmed to the two soldiers I brought from the unit I am embedded with....
END of Excerpt
For the e-mail in its entirety, as posted by Romenesko on the Poynter Institute site: poynter.org
To comment on the Pitts e-mail: poynter.org
For the DrudgeReport posting of the Pitts e-mail, with links to his previous stories: www.drudgereport.com
ABC and NBC on Thursday night, both of which for a second straight night led with the fallout from the exchange with Rumsfeld, offered glancing mentions of the role played by Pitts, without even using his name:
-- ABC's World News Tonight. Peter Jennings: "Just one other note about this story. We learned today that a reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press, who's was traveling with the soldier who asked the question yesterday, 'worked on the question,' to use his words, with the soldier. It was certainly clear from the other soldiers' reaction to the question, that better protection is a big issue."
-- NBC Nightly News. Jim Miklaszewski concluded from the Pentagon: "As for the question from Specialist Wilson, a newspaper reporter now claims he helped Wilson put it together. Whoever came up with the question, it's put the debate over the safety of American troops front and center."
A Friday Washington Post story, "Reporter Prompted Query to Rumsfeld: Troops Cheered Soldier's Question," included a picture of Edward Lee Pitts: www.washingtonpost.com
CNN's Paula Zahn Now on Wednesday night delivered a brief on behalf of illegal aliens who are upset they may lose their driver's licences. While reporter Maria Hinojosa made a couple of brief references to anti-terror security concerns about letting illegal aliens get licenses, she spent most of her story defending the illegals and laying out a litany of horrors which would befall their families if they lost their licenses. Hinojosa showcased one mother who "uses her license to chauffeur disabled people" and whose U.S.-born kids would be hurt if forced to return to Mexico. As Hinojosa leaned forward, from the back seat of a taxi, the female driver complained: "I'm driving very stressed. I can't concentrate anymore because I'm getting worried." Hinojosa empathized: "They drive trucks and taxis, care for children and clean homes."
Following her taped piece, Hinojosa made clear to Zahn where her sympathies lie: "I think what is really incredible, Paula, is the level of stress and fear that these people are living in is something that most of us don't understand. We just don't see it. And they are really feeling it on a very human level."
Paula Zahn introduced the December 8 Paula Zahn Now segment caught by the MRC's Ken Shepherd:
Hinojosa began her taped piece: "Like a lot of mothers, Fidelina Perez (ph?) drives her daughter to school to keep her safe.
Zahn then asked Hinojosa on set: "And Maria Hinojosa joins us now. How sensitive to the 9/11 families' concerns are these illegal workers? Do they understand why that man is outraged that you have got millions of illegal immigrants driving around with legal driver's licenses?"
In the bad analogies department, Newsweek Managing Editor Jon Meacham compared Jesus Christ to Timothy McVeigh and Aldrich Ames, since Jesus was crucified for "the crime of sedition." Even Don Imus was taken aback by the bad analogy, suggesting: "Aldrich Ames is probably a better example than Timothy McVeigh." And on Monday's Hardball, Meacham compared the telling of Jesus' life to how Ted Sorenson may have years later recounted his time with John F. Kennedy.
[The MRC's Tim Graham submitted this item for CyberAlert.]
About 16 minutes into a roughly 20-minute interview, on Wednesday's Imus in the Morning, exploring Meacham's Newsweek cover story examination of the accuracy of the biblical accounts of the birth of Jesus in the gospels of Luke and Matthew, Meacham explained how he believes the gospel writers were rearranging the history of the times to have the maximum persuasive effect on potential adherents. Matthew wrote to persuade the Jews, Meacham contended, adding: "Luke is writing more for the Gentiles, and what's so fascinating to me about this is by having the holy family answering the decree from Augustus. Remember, Jesus was executed as a traitor, as a criminal, for the crime of sedition. He was executed by the empire in the way you would execute -- we would execute today, you know, Timothy McVeigh or Aldrich Ames or somebody. Uh, it was for crimes against the state. It was for rebellion."
Don Imus was taken aback, and retorted, with a bit of a laugh: "Aldrich Ames is probably a better example than Timothy McVeigh."
Meacham replied: "Yeah. But it was a very, you know, it was the most humiliating death. It was, you know, a state-sanctioned death. So, if you think about it, Luke is very subtly suggesting, it seems to me, that Jesus was not always trouble for the empire."
Meacham, on Monday's Hardball on MSNBC, offered the same message of historically mangled Gospels. Making the point that the gospels were written decades after the death of Jesus, Meacham brought up the media's favorite President: "My sort of unprofessional guess is that nobody really bothered to write a whole lot down, because why write it down if the kingdom of God is about to show up? And then as they started dying off, you're about 25 years into it, this is sort of like if President Kennedy had been seen as the Savior. If in 1990, Ted Sorensen and Arthur Schlesinger had decided, you know, he may not be coming back, we'd better start writing this down. And so therefore, you're at a slight remove."
For Meacham's December 13 Newsweek cover story: www.msnbc.msn.com
A Remembrance by Brent Baker, MRC Vice President for Research and Publications:
David Brudnoy, a long-time Boston radio talk show host with a libertarian/conservative outlook, who overcame a near-death experience with AIDS in 1994 and series of hospital stays late last year as he battled Merkel cell carcinoma, succumbed to complications from the cancer just past 6pm local time Thursday night. He was 64. Brudnoy was a friend to the MRC, serving since 1992 as a judge for our "Best Notable Quotables" annual awards issue for the year's worst reporting, twice (in late November of 1994 and late November of 2003) filling in his ballot from his bed at Massachusetts General Hospital. Every year he was amongst the first to return his ballot.
In addition to hosting a nightly radio talk show in Boston since 1976, the prolific Brudnoy delivered commentaries on various local TV stations over the years, reviewed movies for a chain of suburban newspapers, taught journalism classes at Boston University, in the early 1970s started writing articles for the National Review magazine and, in 1997, penned a memoir.
[Web Update: ABC's Peter Jennings on Friday night, and CBS's Bob Schieffer on Sunday morning, delivered tributes to Brudnoy. See the December 13 CyberAlert.]
I will forever be grateful to him for helping to guide my political views and instill an interest in politics and an understanding of the necessity to apply guiding principles in order to maintain consistency. As a Boston area resident, at age 13 I began listening to Brudnoy -- as I did my school homework -- when in 1976 he took over the 8pm to midnight shift on the old WHDH Radio (850-AM) -- back before talk radio was popular nationally. At about the time I left for college in Washington, DC in 1981, Brudnoy jumped to WRKO (680-AM) and I treasured being able to hear his wisdom and insights whenever I returned home (except when he was bumped by the Celtics, a bane to Brudnoy and his loyal listeners). Shortly after I graduated college, Brudnoy, in 1986, moved to WBZ Radio (1030-AM), a 50,000 watt clear-channel station which I could pick up at night in Virginia since its nighttime signal reaches 38 states.
For many years he held down the 7pm to midnight shift on "NewsRadio 1030," but as his health declined he cut back to 7 to 10pm. That still kept him on the air late enough so I could catch a bit of his show as I drove home in the evening, a habit I have maintained for the past 18 years, but which now must end. Out of habit, on Thursday night I tuned in 'BZ and was moved by the outpouring of admiration for Brudnoy expressed by caller after caller to 'BZ's Jordan Rich.
Brudnoy was unique and irreplaceable. I listen to a lot of talk radio and tune in local hosts whenever I travel and have heard no one who combines Brudnoy's compelling conversational style, which could make any topic interesting, with a well-reasoned political philosophy of strong defense and small government with both economic and personal liberty.
Others have observed since Brudnoy's death became imminent that listening to him was like attending a college course each night. As Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby recounted in a 2001 column on Brudnoy's first 25 years as a talk host, Brudnoy reached across expected boundaries:
In a Thursday night story aired on WBZ Radio, Keller provided another on-target quote about Brudnoy's achievements: "I think the thing that's always going to stay with me, is the sheer courage of the man. I mean who ever thought that perhaps the most prominent symbol of courage here in Boston, would come from a gay, Jewish, egghead from Minnesota?"
Globe reporter Brian McGrory, in a Thursday story, "Brudnoy, in cancer's grip, prepares for end," provided an excellent summation of what made Brudnoy so unique:
For McGrory's article in full: www.boston.com
Friday's front page Boston Globe obituary, "Brudnoy, icon of airwaves, dies: To many, a voice of warmth, reason." www.boston.com
Amazon.com's page for Brudnoy's 1997 memoir, Life is Not a Rehearsal: www.amazon.com
BRUDNOY'S FIRST QUARTER-CENTURY
To mark David Brudnoy's 25th anniversary as a talk show host, WBZ Radio put out a glowing press release hailing "the longest continual, virtually uninterrupted tenure of a weekday radio talk show in Boston history."
*Virtually* uninterrupted? Hiding behind that adverb was the unpleasantness of 1990, when WBZ cancelled Brudnoy's top-rated nightly program and replaced it, presumably to save money, with a cheaper syndicated show from out of town. It was an unfathomable decision, an easy finalist in the Most Boneheaded Move By A Radio Executive competition. Broadcast professionals were amazed. Inside Radio, a trade newsletter, headlined its story, "WBZ-AM, Boston Slits Its Own Throat Late-Night."
That about summed it up. The protests flooded in by the thousands, and not just to WBZ but to its owner, Westinghouse Broadcasting, as well....In a lead editorial, the Boston Herald urged WBZ to reverse course. "David Brudnoy is a Boston institution," it said, "and all of us -- really, *all* of us -- miss him."
Full disclosure: I wrote that editorial. Even fuller disclosure: Brudnoy and I have been friends for years, and over those years I've often had the pleasure of being on his show, both as guest and as guest host. But even in 1990 you didn't have to know Brudnoy personally to understand that life in Boston would have been markedly poorer if his nightly conversation -- intelligent, informed, articulate, good-natured -- had ceased being a part of it. Happily, WBZ soon saw the error of its ways, and restored him to his microphone....
And 11 years later, Brudnoy is still No. 1 in the ratings.
They are something of a paradox, those ratings. On the one hand, it is easy to enumerate the virtues of Brudnoy's brand of talk radio. His program is erudite but accessible -- "smart talk for everyone," the Globe once called it. He lets his callers have their say and often gives them the last word. He really reads the books of the authors he interviews (and he interviews an awful lot of authors). He is polite, even courtly, to his guests. He absolutely refuses to play to the groundlings: there are no sex jokes, no doubles-entendres, no phony bombast, no psychics, no vulgar sound effects, no webcam.
If you've got half a brain and a dab of intellectual curiosity, how could you *not* like the Brudnoy show?
Yet Brudnoy's formula is just the one most talk shows avoid.
Ninety-nine talkmasters out of 100 will tell you that cerebral, talky, courteous, ideas-heavy radio programming is sure death in the ratings book. Their market research doubtless proves that listeners have no interest in the kind of show Brudnoy does. Except that, manifestly, they do. And have, for 25 years.
Some months ago, I e-mailed David an eye-opening article by Michael Ledeen on Africa's AIDS crisis, with a note suggesting that it might make a great radio topic. I cc'd the note to Ledeen, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, and promptly got a message back. "I LOVE David Brudnoy, the single most literate man on the radio." Countless scholars, authors, and assorted eminentoes would agree.
But authors, scholars, and eminentoes do not generate high ratings. Tens of thousands of loyal listeners, white- and blue-collar both, do -- and do they really care about AIDS in Africa?
Jon Keller, political analyst at WLVI-TV (and one-time producer for the David Brudnoy Show), recalls the time he was covering a story at the Grove Hall fire station. "And there were all these tough-as-nails firefighters sitting by a radio, listening to Brudnoy," Keller says. "I asked one of them why he liked it. You know what he answered? 'He tells me stuff I don't already know.' "
Would that guy listen to a conversation about an AIDS epidemic halfway around the world? You bet he would.
Delivering the commencement address at Salem State College last month, Dr. Brudnoy -- he actually has a fistful of earned degrees to go with the honorary one -- made a point of distinguishing fake "diversity" from the genuine article.
"One diversity stands above all else," he told the graduates. "Diversity of the brain. It's not how we look or what our last name is or what our grandparents' linguistic group is or what our sexual orientation is, but what and how we think that matters.... Ideas are the product of individuals, and it is individual diversity, which flows from the mind, that matters. But how often do we hear people talk...about diversity of ideas? Never."
Well, maybe not *never.* In most of the eastern United States, you can hear ideas in all their diversity take center stage five nights a week, three hours per night, on WBZ-AM1030, where the night's best conversation -- and David Brudnoy's second quarter-century -- is underway.
END of Jacoby column