2. Ifill Not Upset About Bush Judges Being Blocked, But in 1999...
3. Sawyer Insists Blair Couldn't Occur in TV; Recall Food Lion
4. Olbermann Dismisses Blair Affirmative Action Hints as "Ignorant"
5. Media Observers Speculate About Role of "Diversity" Efforts
6. Ex-Timesman: "This is a Great Indictment of the American Media"
7. "Top Ten Signs Something is Wrong at the
New York Times"
A day after George Stephanopoulos asserted that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was "forced to raise taxes," ABC anchor Peter Jennings insisted that states are being "forced to raise taxes." Jennings plugged an upcoming story on Monday's World News Tonight: "When we come back this evening, the states forced to raise taxes as the federal government cuts taxes." (For more on Stephanopoulos, see the May 12 CyberAlert: www.mediaresearch.org )
Back on the May 2 World News Tonight, anchor Claire Shipman referred to how President Bush "was pushing for his giant tax cut." But on Monday night Terry Moran warned that "with state budgets across the country awash in red ink, many Americans could experience a kind of tax whiplash in the coming years -- getting a small tax cut from the federal government and a big tax hike from the states." So a "giant" tax cut leads to "small" tax cuts?
Moran cited states which have raised taxes and then Judy Muller listed cuts in California to lifeguards and abused children, all without pointing out how spending in the specific states cited rose much faster in the 1990s than inflation and population growth.
In a similar vacuum, on Sunday's Face the Nation, Bob Schieffer asserted that states are "starved for money" and Time magazine's Karen Tumulty fretted about how "libraries are closing, teachers are getting laid off. Gray Davis is in the position of having to decide whether he should deny prosthetic limbs to poor people."
On the May 12 World News Tonight, Moran noted how President Bush believes tax cuts will stimulate the economy by putting money in the pockets of average Americans. Moran cautioned: "But with state budgets across the country awash in red ink, many Americans could experience a kind of tax whiplash in the coming years -- getting a small tax cut from the federal government and a big tax hike from the states. 31 states have either raised or are considering raising state taxes. Among them, Arkansas has raised income taxes and cigarette taxes, Idaho has raised its sales tax and California, facing an $8 billion budget shortfall, is considering sharp raises in both income taxes and sales taxes."
Next, Judy Muller took up the plight of Los Angeles County, California, which the city of Los Angeles relies on for services but which has no dedicated tax revenue source to make up for state cuts. Muller bemoaned: "So the county's only option is to cut back vital services the city depends on. Hospital facilities may be closed...Also on the chopping block: Services for the homeless and abused children, firefighters and lifeguards who routinely pull people to safety at LA's popular beaches."
In February, however, the Cato Institute released a study titled, "States Face Fiscal Crunch after 1990s Spending Surge." Chris Edwards, Stephen Moore, and Phil Kerpen discovered:
For the report: www.cato.org
A table showed that in the three states cited by ABC, spending has soared well ahead of inflation and population growth. In California, revenue jumped from $43 billion in 1990 to $90 billion in 2001, a jump of 108 percent when inflation and population in California grew by just 57 percent. The numbers for Arkansas: $2.2 billion to $4.9 billion, a 117 percent jump when taxes and population grew 55 percent. For Idaho, $1.14 billion to $2.5 billion, 125 percent and 78 percent. For that table, see the full report (a PDF): www.cato.org
Nonetheless, on Sunday's Face the Nation, Bob Schieffer and Time magazine reporter Karen Tumulty fussed about the plight of the states and cited only painful budget cuts without mentioning the skyrocketing spending.
Schieffer proposed: "These states are really in a mess, aren't they, Karen? You wrote about that in the magazine this week. I was just in California where they're telling me that not only are they facing these huge deficits, but for every five jobs that are lost in America, one of those jobs is in California. The Governor out there -- his approval rating is down to 20 percent. We're seeing other Governors with these low approval ratings. Is that because the states are just so starved for money?"
That answer caused Schieffer to start laughing, but he denied it: "I'm not laughing. I'm just, that, you just took me aback for a minute" with the prosthetic limb anecdote.
On PBS's Washington Week on Friday night, host Gwen Ifill reported President Bush "threw down the gauntlet" on judicial nominations, and the panel decided Senator Tom Daschle was right in saying Democrats have confirmed a record number of nominees. But in 1999, Ifill claimed Clinton nominees were being "held hostage" by Senator Orrin Hatch, and exclaimed that "some people" believe the Senate is the only place where "extortion is legal."
Tim Graham, the MRC's Director of Media Analysis, filed this item for inclusion in CyberAlert.
On Friday night, Ifill reported President Bush said Senate Democrats put a "chokehold" on judicial nominations, and then ran a clip of Bush claiming, "More appeals court nominees have had to wait over a year for a hearing in my presidency than in the last 50 years combined." PBS followed with a clip of Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, who claimed the Senate had confirmed 124 judges in the last "two and a half years...a record," compared to two judges who were not.
Ifill asked USA Today legal reporter Joan Biskupic who was correct. Biskupic replied: "Senator Daschle's numbers are right, but the real winner here is President Bush," since he's "effectively, defiantly, really pushed his agenda for conservatives on the bench." Biskupic implied that Bush's numbers were wrong, but didn't say so directly. The panel then concentrated on the "two unlucky ones" who are losing out, Miguel Estrada and Priscilla Owen. (The PBS panel never mentioned these two are the subjects of filibusters, a new and historic power play by the Senate minority.)
But on the PBS show on July 30, 1999, then-NBC News reporter Ifill had a much different take on judicial nominations -- again, the Democratic take. "The Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman, Orrin Hatch, has basically put a stop to these 50 nominations in exchange for an appointee he wants. There has never been a backlog like this, people say, since the Eisenhower years, where people have simply not been confirmed...They all are being held hostage. Some people say the Senate is the only place in the United States were, you know, extortion is legal. They're being held hostage for the things that, in this case, the committee chairman [Orrin Hatch] wants."
So are the Democrats today confirming judges at a record pace, compared to GOP sloth in 1999?
A look at the Department of Justice's Web site shows there are currently 50 pending nominees to the federal courts, not just two "losers," as journalists suggest on PBS. For more confirmation data, see the Office of Legal Policy Web site: www.usdoj.gov
For a conservative think tank analysis of the problem, see the studies by Tom Jipping posted by Concerned Women for America: www.cwfa.org
For a picture of Ifill, see PBS's page for Washington Week: www.pbs.org
ABC's Diane Sawyer contended on Monday's Good Morning America that the Jayson Blair/New York Times type of fabrication "is much less likely to happen" in broadcast journalism "because you've got so many people working on every story that there are more people to ask questions, but in print, if one person wants to say he went someplace when he didn't go someplace, it's much harder to catch."
But that doesn't keep viewers from getting fabricated stories produced by groups of TV producers and reporters working in concert, such as Dateline NBC's exploding pick-up trucks or the incident involving Sawyer herself, ABC producers participating in a scheme to make Food Lion look bad by working with disgruntled union workers to keep outdated food on the shelves.
Sawyer's assertion, caught by MRC analyst Jessica Anderson, came during a May 12 interview with Carl Bernstein about the Jayson Blair scandal.
Bernstein maintained: "All the checks failed and, you know, we are institutions that are built on trust because we're committed to truth in the press and we can be taken advantage of by aberrant behavior at any institution in the press, I think, and we've got to guard against it. Clearly the Times did not guard against it sufficiently, but now I think you're going to see that the Times and other institutions are going to guard against it."
MSNBC's Keith Olbermann asserted Monday night that seven of the last ten journalists caught cheating were white, so insisted that "when somebody says Jayson Blair, there's affirmative action for you, you know you are hearing an ignorant person speak." But then, without seeing any contradiction, Olbermann raised the very point made by those whom he just denigrated as "ignorant." He inquired: "Is it possible that it [the New York Times] protected him because he was the star minority hire or was there some other reason?"
Olbermann's self-contradictory comments came as he introduced a segment with Condace Pressley, President of the National Association of Black Journalists, on the May 12 edition of his 8pm EDT Countdown show:
I guess it would be politically incorrect to point out that if three in ten were black that does exceed the black representation in the population, to say nothing of the lower representation at major media outlets, so I won't say that since there's no evidence anyone of any race is more predisposed to fraud, but let's not pretend that Blair wasn't treated differently at a newspaper which has, as a mission, increasing the number of black reporters.
To Keith Olbermann's consternation (see item #4 above), a bunch of media observers on Monday and over the weekend raised the role of affirmative action and the New York Times' investment in Blair as an example of the paper's diversity as a factor in Raines-gate.
First, a brief rundown of examples followed by a longer rendition of the quotes in fuller context:
-- Morton Kondracke suggested Monday night on FNC: "Well, the strong suspicion that you have to have is that the Times was so committed to a policy of diversity that -- he was an African-American -- that they gave him extra leeway."
-- Charles Krauthammer on FNC Monday night, on the role of Executive Editor Howell Raines: "This is a white liberal with Southern guilt, classic case of a man who if that had been a white reporter, would surely have told his editor of his history of making, or at least of making huge numbers of mistakes and being unreliable. It's an example of patronizing, and in the end, it hurts the Times and it also hurt the reporter himself."
-- John Leo revealed in this week's U.S. News & World Report: "Another factor is that preference programs carry an implication that lower-quality work will be tolerated. Max Frankel, the former executive editor at the Times, admitted this in 1990, though minus the clear reference to preferences. Since blacks are 'a precious few' at the Times, he said, 'if they were less than good, I'd probably stay my hand at removing them too quickly.'"
-- Seth Mnookin in this week's Newsweek raised how "internally, reporters had wondered for years whether Blair was given so many chances -- and whether he was hired in the first place -- because he was a promising, if unpolished, black reporter." Mnookin also noted, referring to the massive Sunday correction in the Times: "Blair's close mentoring relationship with Times managing editor Gerald Boyd, who is also black, was not explored in depth in the paper. Blair wrote Boyd's biographical sketch in the Times's internal newsletter when Boyd was named managing editor."
-- As reported in the May 12 CyberAlert, Fox Newswatch, Inside Washington and Fox News Sunday all raised the affirmative action over the weekend. On Inside Washington, Newsweek Assistant Managing Editor Evan Thomas brought up the subject: "Here's the question everyone's dancing around: This is a young black reporter. And the question is, do they give them too much rope. Sometimes this happens. You so much want a young black reporter like that, who's got gifts and he had gifts, to succeed, you give him too much rope and he hangs himself." But on Fox News Sunday, former Washington Post report Juan Williams, who is now with NPR, rejected the notion of seeing the situation as an indictment of affirmative action. For details: www.mediaresearch.org
Now, more about each of the fresh quotes cited above:
-- From the panel segment on the May 12 Special Report with Brit Hume on FNC, as taken down by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth:
Morton Kondracke of Roll Call: "Well, the strong suspicion that you have to have is that the Times was so committed to a policy of diversity that - he was an African-American - that they gave him extra leeway, that they hoped that somehow he would recover, that he would improve, he wasn't, he was disciplined a bit, I mean, he was forced to take counseling and stuff like that, but they kept pushing him along and pushing him along and never fired him as though, as they probably would have somebody who was white. Now, I mean, I think diversity is a great thing, and it ought to be promoted and outreach and all that, and bringing along African-Americans and Hispanics and so on, but to get, to have that get in the way of solid personnel practice and editing is terrible. And there were editors inside who said this guy is bad and he ought to go, and he was never fired."
Syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer: "The Times has written it off as a failure of communication, which is almost a joke, it's a parody, it's a line out of 'Cool Hand Luke.' And the point is that there was tremendous communication from below, people saying this guy is trouble, he's poison, he's made huge numbers of mistakes. There was an editor who wrote a memo a year ago saying this book, the man has to stop writing for the New York Times, he's got to stop now. And that was ignored by Howell Raines, who was the editor, who wanted him, who kept pushing him from one assignment up until, to another, ignoring all of this, and in fact, when he assigned him on the sniper case, he did not tell the editor in charge about the past history. And his explanation was he didn't want to stigmatize a person for having sought help. Now, that is just absurd. Obviously, he was covering for him. This is a white liberal with Southern guilt, classic case of a man who if that had been a white reporter, would surely have told his editor of his history of making, or at least of making huge numbers of mistakes and being unreliable. It's an example of patronizing, and in the end, it hurts the Times and it also hurt the reporter himself."
-- John Leo in the May 19 U.S. News, an excerpt:
....But there is an issue that the Times may not be ready to discuss -- whether racial preferences are implicated in what went wrong. Blair was editor of the University of Maryland student newspaper. After dropping out of college as a senior, he was installed as a Times reporter at age 23, with little experience, just some freelancing and brief internships at the Times and the Boston Globe. Question: Isn't this too far, too fast, and would this young African-American's meteoric rise to staff reporter be likely for a white reporter with comparable credentials? It appears as though the Times knew early on that hiring Blair was a dicey proposition.
Mickey Kaus, writing at Slate.com, raised the question of preference by offering this analogy: Let's suppose, to promote commerce in Utah, federal trucking standards were relaxed on Utah trucks and a disastrous crash occurred when a truck's brakes failed. Would the press, politicians, and the public say, "But non-Utah trucks crash all the time," or "You haven't proved a direct causal connection between the Utah-preference program and this crash." No, Kaus wrote. They would just demand that preferences be abolished so that all trucks everywhere would have to meet the same standards. This has to happen in journalism, too....
[O]nce you create preferences, you run the risk of increasing the number of screw-ups among the preferred group. Relaxing standards or pushing an unprepared candidate into a high-pressure job tends to increase the odds of trouble. All of us figure this out rather quickly when the preferred group is relatives of the boss or people who went to the boss's college. It's true of identity groups as well.
Another factor is that preference programs carry an implication that lower-quality work will be tolerated. Max Frankel, the former executive editor at the Times, admitted this in 1990, though minus the clear reference to preferences. Since blacks are "a precious few" at the Times, he said, "if they were less than good, I'd probably stay my hand at removing them too quickly."
He obviously meant this to be tolerant and generous, as part of an effort to make up for the long years in which blacks were totally absent from or very rare in the newsroom. But he increased resentment all around -- blacks knew they were being demeaned in a kindly way; whites heard an announcement of double standards.
It seems as though the Times was inordinately tolerant of Blair....
The Blair scandal is not just evidence that reporters can go off track. It's a reminder that diversity programs can undermine the standards that made great institutions great.
END of Excerpt
For Leo's column in full: http://www.usnews.com
-- Seth Mnookin in the May 19 Newsweek. An excerpt:
....But there's plenty that the Times report, which ran under the rubric CORRECTING THE RECORD, didn't fully explore, namely how a troubled young reporter whose short career was rife with problems was able to advance so quickly. Internally, reporters had wondered for years whether Blair was given so many chances-and whether he was hired in the first place-because he was a promising, if unpolished, black reporter on a staff that continues to be, like most newsrooms in the country, mostly white. The Times also didn't address an uncomfortable but unavoidable topic that has been broached with some of the paper's top editors during the past week: by favoring Blair, did the Times end up reinforcing some of the worst suspicions about the pitfalls of affirmative action? And will there be fewer opportunities for young minority reporters in the future?
"We have, generally, a horribly undiverse staff," says one Times staffer. "And so we hold up and promote the few black staffers we have." That's a point other news outlets have made since Blair resigned....
Blair's close mentoring relationship with Times managing editor Gerald Boyd, who is also black, was not explored in depth in the paper. Blair wrote Boyd's biographical sketch in the Times's internal newsletter when Boyd was named managing editor. Blair was known to brag about his close personal relationships with both Boyd and Raines, and the young writer frequently took cigarette breaks with Boyd.
Questions about Raines's management style-his penchant for giving preferential treatment to favored stars, his celebrated fondness for "flooding the zone" on big stories, severely stretching resources-weren't addressed at all. Indeed, more than one Times staffer pointed out that the paper's national staff would not have been in need of the services of an untested young reporter with a spotty track record had a number of veterans not been pushed out by Raines last year....
END of Excerpt
For the piece in full: http://www.msnbc.com
Other pundits and media observers, like Mnookin above in item #5, took on the management style of Executive Editor Howell Raines, or wondered what the scandal said about how the public views the media.
-- Alex Jones, who runs the Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University, suggested the fact that few of those misquoted by Blair complained, reveals how little trust the public holds in the media.
From the May 12 "Media Mix" column by Peter Johnson in USA Today: "Harvard media analyst Alex Jones, a former Times reporter, is troubled that many of the people Blair identified and quoted in his articles didn't contact the paper -- even after knowing that he fabricated quotes because they had never talked to him.
That's online at: www.usatoday.com
For Kaus's piece in full: slate.msn.com
-- Andrew Sullivan opined: "It's clear that many people not only connected the dots but put their concerns in writing-at almost every step of the way in Blair's swift and short career." Regarding Howell Raines, Sullivan argued: "His imperial meddling, diversity obsessions, and mercurial management style all made Blair possible."
For Sullivan's take in full: www.andrewsullivan.com
-- A New York Sun editorial on Monday, TimesWatch.org Editor Clay Waters noted, managed a nice bit of turnabout, quoting two Times editorials that suggested the paper has one standard for its own corporate bosses and a tougher standard for all the rest:
"[T]he move to hold top managers personally liable for any misrepresentations made to investors -- which the new corporate oversight legislation also does -- is a watershed worth celebrating...C.E.O's will no longer be able to feign ignorance about the details of the companies' accounting, as Jeffrey Skilling haughtily did early this year at a Congressional hearing on Enron's implosion." -- The New York Times, editorial, "Downsizing the Imperial C.E.O.," August 9, 2002
"But Mr. Sulzberger emphasized that as The New York Times continues to examine how its employees and readers were betrayed, there will be no newsroom search for scapegoats. 'The person who did this is Jayson Blair,' he said. 'Let's not begin to demonize our executives-either the desk editors or the executive editor or, dare I say, the publisher.'" -- The New York Times, news article, "Times Reporter Who Resigned Leaves Long Trail of Deception," May 11, 2003.
The Sun added: "Far be it from us to suggest how the publisher of the New York Times, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr., ought to run his business, even if his editorial columns have spent much of the past year telling others how to run theirs."
The editorial also raised some historical comparisons. An excerpt:
The Times reckons the "journalistic fraud" it says Mr. Blair committed to be "a low-point in the 152-year history of the newspaper." But that's only by the standards of the current generation. Certainly Mr. Blair's errors and deceptions had consequences, but, so far as we can tell so far, they weren't life-or-death ones. The reputation of the Times may have suffered, but the course of world events was unaffected....
Far more egregious were the sins of the paper's correspondent in Communist Russia in the 1930s, Walter Duranty, who, as S.J. Taylor, Robert Conquest, Andrew Stuttaford, and others have noted, assured readers that there was "no actual starvation" in the midst of Stalin's forced collectivization campaign in the Ukraine. In fact, millions died of famine. The list of Pulitzer Prize winners on the Times Web site notes that "other writers in The Times and elsewhere have discredited" Duranty's coverage.
Almost as egregious was the record of the Times' man at Havana, Herbert Matthews, who, as the 1999 Times history "The Trust" put it, became "emotionally involved" with Fidel Castro, whose regime he claimed was "free, honest, and democratic." Those suffering in Castro's dungeons at the time knew otherwise, as have those who since then have perished trying to escape the prison of the Communist island....
END of Excerpt
James Taranto's "Best of the Web" column on OpinionJournal.com provided this link to the Sun's editorial: daily.nysun.com
From the May 12 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Signs Something is Wrong at the New York Times." Late Show Web site: http://www.cbs.com
10. When anything bad happens, front page asks, "Where are you, Spider-Man?"
9. Answer to every clue in Sunday crossword puzzle: Taffy
8. New policy: "We'll print your name in any story for $49.95"
7. Everyone in photographs looks like the publisher in a wig
6. Most stories involve the reporter ending up drunk at a strip club
5. They just endorsed Dukakis
4. Motto "All The News That's Fit To Print" replaced by more trendy "Don't Go There, Girlfriend"
3. Its journalistic integrity is questioned by Geraldo Rivera
2. They believe President Bush's tax cut is a good idea
1. Sports page reports Mets in first place
#2 would be a sure sign, but something that will never happen.
-- Brent Baker