Walker More Poet Than Terrorist; NYT Befuddled: More in Prison, Crime Down; Goldberg Fires Back; No Evidence of Media Bias
1) Last month when John Walker, the American Taliban, asked CNN contributor Robert Pelton if he were a Muslim, Pelton proclaimed: "I respect the cause and I respect the call." Now Pelton has told CBS News that Walker "struck" him as not a terrorist but "as a guy who should be going to poetry readings."
3) In a Saturday Washington Post op-ed, Bernard Goldberg fired back at derogatory attacks on himself personally and his book from Microsoft's Michael Kinsley and Washington Post TV reviewer Tom Shales. "We identify conservatives so often," Goldberg suggested, "because we see them as different, as alien, as out of the mainstream, maybe even as dangerous and inferior."
4) "I have yet to see a body of evidence that suggests the reporting that gets on the air reflects any political bias," declared Deborah Potter, a veteran of CBS News and CNN. But Av Westin, who spent decades at CBS and ABC, conceded to the Boston Globe: "I think by and large, people in the news business bat from the left side of the plate."
Clarification: #7 in Letterman's "Top Ten Ways to Make Military Life More Fun" was: "Three words: magic finger cots." I ended the January 21 CyberAlert by remarking that #7 "lost me." At least a dozen CyberAlert readers have set me straight, explaining that "Magic Fingers" refers to a type of bed at hotels in which in return for a few coins the bed vibrates to provide a sort of massage. I guess I haven't spent enough time in cheap hotels.
Writer Robert Young Pelton, who proclaimed on CNN, when John Walker asked if he were a Muslim, "I respect the cause and I respect the call," has now told CBS News that Walker "struck" him as not a terrorist but "as a guy who should be going to poetry readings."
For a story on Monday's CBS Evening News,
Los Angeles-based CBS correspondent Sandra Hughes caught up with Pelton at
his home overlooking te Pacific Ocean. After recalling how "author
Robert Young Pelton" had interviewed Walker for both CNN and National
Geographic, Hughes laid out the case against Walker:
Terrorists are really just misunderstood nice guys.
For more on Pelton and what he said to Walker
in Afghanistan, refer back to the December 26 CyberAlert which reported
how on CNN's Reliable Sources, Pelton denied he was supporting the
Taliban's terrorism, telling Howard Kurtz: "One of the pillars of
Islam is jihad, or struggle, and like many religions, it is a foundation
of their belief. So, I do respect that." Go to:
A contradiction to the New York Times: "Since the early 1970's, the number of state prisoners has increased 500 percent, growing each year in the 1990's even as crime fell."
That the number of people in prison would grow, "even as crime fell," seemed to befuddle New York Times reporter Fox Butterfield who didn't see the logical connection between the two events.
Former MRCer Clay Water alerted me to the sentence in a January 21 story by Butterfield headlined, "Tight Budgets Force States to Reconsider Crime and Penalties." To put the sentence in full context, here's an excerpt from the beginning of the story. The sentence in question is the ninth one:
After three decades of building more prisons and passing tougher sentencing laws, many states are being forced by budget deficits to close some prisons, lay off guards and consider shortening sentences.
In the last month, Ohio, Michigan and Illinois have each moved to close a prison, laying off guards in the process, prison officials say.
Washington State is considering a proposal by Gov. Gary Locke to shorten sentences for nonviolent crimes and drug offenses and to make it easier for inmates to win early release, saving money by shrinking the prison population. Colorado and Illinois are delaying building prisons, and Illinois is cutting education for 25,000 inmates.
California, which led the nation's prison building boom, will close five small, privately operated minimum security prisons when their contracts expire this year.
Budget pressures are also adding momentum to a push to put a proposal on the California ballot in November that would reduce the number of criminals subject to the state's three-strikes sentencing law.
"I don't know of a correctional system in the country that isn't facing some of this," said Chase Riveland, a former director of Washington State prisons, now a consultant.
Steven Ickes, an assistant director of the Oregon Department of Corrections, said, "My sense is that budget problems are making people ask fundamental questions about whether we can afford to keep on doing what we've been doing," locking up ever more criminals for longer periods.
"We are going to have to make some tough choices about prisons versus schools, and about getting a better investment return on how we run our prisons so we don't have so many prisoners reoffending and being sent back."
Since the early 1970's, the number of state prisoners has increased 500 percent, growing each year in the 1990's even as crime fell. In that time, prisons were the fastest-growing item in state budgets -- often the only growing item. More than two million inmates were in state and federal prisons and local jails, which cost more than $30 billion a year to run, Allen J. Beck, of the Bureau of Justice Statistics, said....
END of Excerpt
To read the rest of the article, those
registered with the New York Times can go to:
In an op-ed piece in Saturday's Washington Post, Bernard Goldberg fired back at derogatory attacks on himself personally and his book from Microsoft's Michael Kinsley and Washington Post TV reviewer Tom Shales.
Goldberg asserted that he holds many liberal views as he "got interested in liberal bias not because of my conservative views but because what I saw happening violated my liberal sense of fair play. Why, I kept wondering, do we so often identify conservatives in our stories, yet rarely identify liberals?" Goldberg suggested "we identify conservatives so often...because we see them as different, as alien, as out of the mainstream, maybe even as dangerous and inferior."
An excerpt from Goldberg's January 19 op-ed, titled: "Liberal Bias Is Real."
Michael Kinsley's Jan. 11 column on this page is a prime example of how worked up some on the supposedly tolerant left have become over my new book, "Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News." Since its publication I have been both gratified by the book's reception (it's on a number of bestseller lists) and amused at how upsetting it has been to those on the political left. It almost seems that liberals have forgotten how to be liberal.
Let's start with Kinsley, who used his column to show us just how smart he is. After calling me "remarkably dense," he describes my book as "dumb." This is what passes for intelligent thought when the left is wounded by the truth.
And then there's Tom Shales, The Post's TV critic. Shales wrote a column in something called Electronic Media that charmingly refers to me as a "disgruntled has-been," "a no-talent hack," "inept," and a "disheveled and bleary eyed" TV reporter. Another crisp, objective analysis.
Those on the liberal left still don't get it. They think my book is one that had to have been written by an ideological conservative and one that would be read only by ideological conservatives.
Not so fast! In "Bias," I write that I consider Martin Luther King Jr. one of the two or three greatest Americans of the 20th century, that I would make racial discrimination a criminal offense, not simply a civil offense, that I am for gay rights and that, with reservations, I am pro-abortion rights. I also write that I voted for George McGovern twice (once in the primary) but never for Ronald Reagan. Not exactly the kind of political credentials that would get me automatic entry into the secret meeting rooms of all those right-wing cabals. But, yes, on some of the other big issues of our time, my views are indeed conservative.
The point is that despite what many in the big-time media think, bias is an issue that resonates -- mainly with conservatives, to be sure, but also with liberals. A poll conducted by the now-defunct Brill's Content and published in March of 2000 showed that while 74 percent of Republicans believe most journalists are more liberal than they, so did 47 percent of Democrats!
I got interested in liberal bias not because of my conservative views but because what I saw happening violated my liberal sense of fair play. Why, I kept wondering, do we so often identify conservatives in our stories, yet rarely identify liberals? Over the years, I began to realize that this need to identify one side but not the other is a central component of liberal bias....
During the impeachment proceedings a few years back, Peter Jennings was doing a live play-by-play on ABC as senators went up to sign the oath book, in which they promised they would be fair and impartial. He described Mitch McConnell of Kentucky as a "very determined conservative," Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania as "one of the younger members of the Senate, Republican, very determined conservative," and Bob Smith of New Hampshire as "another very, very conservative Republican."
I have no problem with any of this. Viewers needed to know that these senators were conservative and that it might influence their votes. But Barbara Boxer was simply "Senator Boxer," Ted Kennedy just "Senator Kennedy," Paul Wellstone "Senator Wellstone." No liberal labels necessary. Did Peter Jennings, a first-rate, intelligent newsman, really think their liberalism would not affect their votes?
This obsession with identifying conservatives reminds me of the bad old days when we identified a criminal by race only if he was black. Even though not all reporters and editors were bigots, at some level, they saw blacks as different, as alien, as more dangerous, as out of the mainstream and, of course, as inferior.
I think that's why we identify conservatives so often: because we see them as different, as alien, as out of the mainstream, maybe even as dangerous and inferior....
To read the entirety of Goldberg's op-ed, go to:
In a column in the January 11 Washington Post,
Kinsley, Editor of Microsoft's Slate.com, had mocked Goldberg's thesis
of liberal bias:
For the entire column, go to:
In the January 7 Electronic Media, Washington Post TV reviewer Tom Shales penned a vicious screed against Goldberg in which Shales described the former CBS News correspondent at a "full-time addlepated windbag." Shales complained about how Goldberg has hauled "out the old canard about the media being 'liberal' and the news being slanted leftward," calling it "the first refuge of a no-talent hack."
For the Shales diatribe in full, go to: http://www.emonline.com/shales/010702shales.html 
For an excerpt: http://www.mrc.org/cyberalerts/2002/cyb20020108.asp#3 
For more about the labeling disparity by Peter
Jennings which Goldberg cited, refer to the January 8, 1999 CyberAlert:
For a transcript and RealPlayer video of
Goldberg on CNN debating former ABC News political director Hal Bruno
about media bias:
Some media figures are still in denial about liberal bias, but at least a few, including a top network veteran, are willing to concede that most news people are liberal.
"I have yet to see a body of evidence that suggests the reporting that gets on the air reflects any political bias," declared Deborah Potter, a veteran of CBS News and CNN. But Av Westin, who spent 20 years as a CBS producer and became Executive Producer of ABC's 20/20 from 1980 to 1987 and then Vice President of ABC News through the early 1990s, conceded: "I think by and large, people in the news business bat from the left side of the plate."
Both comments appeared in a sidebar to a January 17 Boston Globe story by Mark Jurkowitz about Bernard Goldberg's book, Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News.
Jurkowitz asked a dozen media analysts to comment on the book. Only four he contacted, including myself, had even perused it, so he related how "we asked those who hadn't read the book to comment on the theory of liberal bias."
The noteworthy replies in addition to Westin's:
-- "Deborah Potter, Executive Director of NewsLab: 'I have yet to see a body of evidence that suggests the reporting that gets on the air reflects any political bias.'"
-- "Rick Kaplan, former CNN President: 'Searching for the unbiased human being is an impossible task...What makes journalists skilled is that they know how to be fair.'"
-- "David Laventhol, Publisher of the Columbia Journalism Review: 'Journalists 'have a certain worldview based on being in Manhattan...that isn't per se liberal, but if you look at people there, they lean' in that direction."
Deborah "See No Bias" Potter is now Executive Director of NewsLab, described on its Web site as "a non-profit resource for television newsrooms, focused on research and training. We serve local stations by helping them find better ways of telling important stories that are often difficult to convey on television." Their Web site: http://newslab.org/ 
Potter's profile notes: "At CNN,
Deborah anchored major news programs and reported on national politics and
environmental issues. She joined CNN in 1991 after 13 years at CBS News,
where she served as White House, State Department and Congressional
Correspondent. She also was a frequent contributor to the prime time CBS
News magazine 48 Hours, and hosted the interview program, Nightwatch."
(I fondly recall seeing Potter, sans footwear, standing on a chair in front of a crowd in a Manchester, New Hampshire restaurant, so she could be seen on CNN as she covered the Pat Buchanan primary night party in 1992. That's when I made my live CNN debut -- by walking back and forth behind her while she was on the air.)
Back to the Boston Globe sidebar, Jurkowitz reported: "Of the dozen media analysts we asked to comment on Goldberg's charges, four had read or perused the book."
I actually read the entire book. My assessment doesn't seem overly enthusiastic, until you compare it to the other three:
-- "Brent Baker, Vice President of the Media Research Center, a conservative media watchdog group: 'For somebody's who's not familiar with the media bias issue...he makes a very convincing case.'"
-- "Robert Lichter, President of the Center for Media and Public Affairs: 'He provides some evidence that I think is valid. The evidence is not enough to support the generalities he makes in the book.'"
-- "Steve Rendall, of FAIR: 'Once you get through the vitriol and name-calling, there's not really a lot of media criticism in the book.'"
-- "Larry Sabato, University of Virginia political scientist: 'This is an old, tired subject. Clearly, there was personal animosity here. This was driving it.'"
As you may have noted, Jurkowitz tagged the MRC as "conservative," but did not label FAIR. That was probably just a way to make the column of quotes fit since he actually did tag FAIR too. In the accompanying article, Jurkowitz referred to: "Steve Rendall, senior analyst for the ultraliberal media watchdog group Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting..."
Now that's an unusual media event: Having FAIR accurately labeled.
To read Jurkowitz's January 17 story,
"Leaning on the media: Ex-CBS newsman Bernard Goldberg has put the
spotlight on liberal bias -- and himself," go to:
The sidebar text is not online, nor is it in Nexis. That forced me to resort to old-fashioned typing of it in to include the above quotes in this CyberAlert.
The O'Reilly Factor page on the Fox News Web site now features a look at the January 14 interview Bill O'Reilly conducted with MRC President L. Brent Bozell about FNC bringing aboard Geraldo Rivera and Greta van Susteren.
For a transcript and to watch the interview, via either RealPlayer or Windows Media Player, go to: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,43297,00.html 
The Washington Times on Monday, and the Cleveland Plain Dealer on Sunday, ran stories about the MRC's "Dishonor Awards: Roasting the Most Outrageously Biased Liberal Reporters of 2001."
The Washington Times story, "Righting the
liberal news slant," appeared on page B-8 of Monday's paper,
complete with three photos. It's online, sans photos, at:
"A liberal dose of conservative
'humor'" read the headline over a Sunday column by the Cleveland
Plain Dealer's Washington, DC-based Tom Brazaitis, aka "Mr. Eleanor
Clift." Go to:
When space permits this week, I'll send excerpts.
The MRC's Mez Djouadi has added a
"press coverage" section to our Dishonor Awards page, which
features videos of all the quotes shown at the roast:
Still no word on C-SPAN showing our Dishonors roast. Maybe it will pop up sometime on a holiday weekend or a slow day during the summer. As soon as we learn anything, I'll let you know.
From the January 16 Late Show with David Letterman, prompted by President Bush choking on a pretzel, the "Top Ten Headlines Involving Presidents and Snack Foods." Copyright 2002 by Worldwide Pants, Inc.
10. Jimmy Carter Declares "Lust In My Heart" For Milk Duds
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