Only Worried About "Weaker" House Bills; More Focus on Cheney; Coulter's Strange GMA Experience; ABC Countered Good Child Poverty Numbers; Brian Williams Now "Unbiased"; Bravo's Cable News Drama
1) With unanimous Senate votes crying out for scrutiny over whether the bills are going too far, the networks didn't air a contrary syllable. Instead, ABC, CBS and NBC only worried about how the Senate bills could be hurt by being merged with the "weaker" House bills. CBS's Bob Orr: "The Senate version must be reconciled with the weaker House package. And with some Republicans and the accounting lobby already promising a fight, it's unclear at the moment how tough the final reforms will be."
2) CBS devoted a story Monday night to vague allegations against Vice President Dick Cheney as Dan Rather suggested they undermine Bush's claims about a "hangover" from the 1990s: "President Bush said Wall Street is suffering from a quote, 'hangover,' from what he called the 'economic binges of the 1990s.' He said that even as questions are being raised about the role of his now Vice President as an oil company executive in those years."
3) Ann Coulter was confronted with a Good Morning America interviewer who didn't seem to grasp basic conservative points. When Coulter ran down names of corporate figures involved in scandal who are big Democratic supporters, Woodruff seemed clueless as he asked Coulter to explain the "conspiracy against Martha Stewart?" And when she joked that the New York Times publisher should release his SAT scores, he didn't get it.
4) ABC made sure that good news about child poverty in America was undermined by a bunch of anecdotes. Anchoring World News Tonight/Saturday, Bob Woodruff noted how "the National Institutes of Health this week said the poverty rate among kids is holding steady at 16 percent," the lowest level since 1979, but without citing the source, he countered that "according to a recent study, that's still higher, in many cases much higher, than in 18 other wealthy countries."
6) On Wednesday night Bravo debuts Breaking News, a drama series about a cable news channel that was intended for AOL Time Warner's TNT. But was the show with employees who "will do anything to get a scoop," and in which "the manufacturing of news events is an ongoing theme," too close to CNN for AOL Time Warner's comfort?
Correction: The July 15 CyberAlert stated that as of July 15 the 9pm EDT "Hardball will no longer air on CNBC where it will be replaced by a show hosted by Maria Bartiloma." First, her name is spelled "Bartiromo." Second, After Hours with Maria Bartiromo will run only on Mondays. Capital Report will air Tuesday through Thursday at 9pm EDT. Both shows will be repeated at 12am EDT/9pm PDT. For CNBC's new evening line-up, which begins Monday-Thursday with The News with Brian Williams at 7pm EDT, check:
On Friday and again last night, the Senate passed anti-corporate corruption/new regulation and criminal penalty bills with unanimous votes of 97 to zip, but just when you need the media the most to play its role as a check on government power, the networks didn't air a syllable from anyone concerned the Senators might be going too far in the heat of the moment.
On Monday night, July 15, ABC, CBS and NBC didn't take any time to express any concern about whether the new laws might have a negative effect in causing fear amongst investors of over-regulation of business. Instead, the networks only worried about how the Senate bills could be watered down when they go to conference with the "weaker" House-passed bills.
The networks attribute the stock market performance only to the President's words, not to any actions on Capitol Hill. NBC's David Gregory, for instance, held only George W. Bush culpable: "The market's tumble since last Tuesday, when the President gave his speech on corporate responsibility, is striking. Since Mr. Bush spoke, the Dow is off 457 points."
-- ABC's World News Tonight. From Capitol Hill, Linda Douglass summarized the bills before worrying about what will happen when they are integrated with the "weaker" House bills:
-- CBS Evening News. Bob Orr began his story by mimicking the Senate talking points: "Right now the Senate is voting and is expected to shortly overwhelmingly pass the most sweeping accounting reform in 70 years -- a crackdown on corporate fraud aimed at restoring consumer confidence."
After a story which ran through the provisions of the bills passed and which featured soundbites from Democratic Senators Max Cleland and Ted Kennedy along with Republican Senator Robert Bennett, Orr concluded by worrying about how "tough" the final bill will be: "The Senate version must be reconciled with the weaker House package. And with some Republicans and the accounting lobby already promising a fight, it's unclear at the moment how tough the final reforms will be."
-- NBC Nightly News. Making it three-for-three, Tom Brokaw referred to the "weaker" House measure: "Late tonight the Senate passed 97 to nothing a bill aimed at shoring up investor confidence by creating harsh new penalties and jail terms for corporate fraud. Also tightening the accounting oversight system, ending the industry's long tradition of self-regulation. The bill would also impose new responsibilities on corporate officers and directors and strengthen financial disclosure to potential investors. The Senate version now must be squared with a different, weaker measure, that's already been passed by the House of Representatives."
The networks don't see how any Senate action could cause fear amongst investors about over new regulations could hurt the economy, but they have no problem making a connections between Bush's words and the stock market. On Monday's NBC Nightly News, for example, David Gregory asserted in a story pegged to Bush's Monday speech in Alabama:
CBS devoted a whole story Monday night to vague allegations against Vice President Dick Cheney as anchor Dan Rather suggested they undermine President Bush's claim that the stock market is suffering "hangover" from the "economic binges of the 1990s."
Rather announced on the July 15 CBS Evening News: "President Bush said Wall Street is suffering from a quote, 'hangover,' from what he called the 'economic binges of the 1990s.' He said that even as questions are being raised about the role of his now Vice President as an oil company executive in those years."
After a piece about the stock market's performance Monday (Rather rhymed, "the opening bell was a signal to sell"), Rather turned to Cheney: "There's more to report now about how President Bush and Vice President Cheney are trying to distance themselves from and blame their predecessors for these market upheavals and corporate wrongdoing. CBS's Bill Plante at the White House reports what their election strategy is and what they're up against."
Bob Woodruff, not the most politically astute bulb at ABC News? A little under three weeks ago Ann Coulter got into a bit of an argument with Katie Couric on the Today show over Coulter's book, Slander: Liberal Lies About the American Right. While Couric may have been inaccurate in saying that Coulter was wrong to assert that on three mornings Today picked up on the description of former President Reagan as an "airhead," Couric clearly understood the conservative points Coulter otherwise made in the interview. For details about that June 26 Today interview: http://www.mediaresearch.org/cyberalerts/2002/cyb20020626.asp#4 
On Monday's Good Morning America, however, MRC analyst Jessica Anderson noticed that Coulter was confronted with an interviewer who didn't seem to grasp basic conservative polemical points. She was interviewed not about her book, but about the media-fueled scandals around Bush and Cheney, by Bob Woodruff, the anchor of World News Tonight/Saturday, who is filling in this week for Charles Gibson.
When Coulter ran down a bunch of names of corporate figures involved in scandal who are big Democratic supporters, Woodruff seemed clueless to Martha Stewart's political donation record as he seriously asked Coulter to explain her charge: "Let's talk about Martha Stewart for a second. That's a conspiracy against Martha Stewart?"
At another point, in response to Woodruff's assertion that Bush should release the Harken Energy records "if in fact there's nothing there," Coulter quipped, "Well, I don't know, why doesn't the publisher of The New York Times release his SAT scores?" Missing the joke, Woodruff followed up with this non-sequitur: "You've never called on the editors of conservative publications to release any information when you're calling on Bill Clinton, for example, to release information about his past."
In a moment of standard liberal reasoning, Woodruff declared as fact of Bush's Harken stock sale: "This is very relevant for a President who is now trying to crack down on insider trading."
The complete transcript of the in-studio interview which led the 7:30am half hour on July 15:
Woodruff: "We begin this half hour with a woman who is always provocative, always evocative, and we want to talk to this person who has the number one book in the country right now. We want to focus on the President and Vice President and their stock deals that they have made before coming to the White House with the administration. They are now calling for much tougher penalties for companies and executives who cook their books. And joining us this morning is the conservative political pundit and the author of Slander, Ann Coulter. Welcome to the broadcast."
You don't appreciate Lisa McRee until something like this.
For a bio and picture of Woodruff:
Countering reality with anecdotes. Speaking of Bob Woodruff, MRC analyst Jessica Anderson observed that he made sure that good news about child poverty in America was undermined by a bunch of anecdotes. Anchoring World News Tonight/Saturday, Woodruff noted how "the National Institutes of Health this week said the poverty rate among kids is holding steady at 16 percent," the lowest level since 1979, but without citing the source, he countered that "according to a recent study, that's still higher, in many cases much higher, than in 18 other wealthy countries."
In a one-sided story reporter Lisa Sylvester proceeded to pass along anecdotes about families with children still living in poverty thanks to welfare reform.
Sylvester ominously concluded: "With the economy now in a slump and unemployment rising, more children may be at risk of falling below the poverty line, joining the 12 million who are already there."
Woodruff set up the July 13 story: "New numbers about America's poorest children seem to suggest that things are improving. The National Institutes of Health this week said the poverty rate among kids is holding steady at 16 percent. It's the lowest level since 1979, but according to a recent study, that's still higher, in many cases much higher, than in 18 other wealthy countries. ABC's Lisa Sylvester looks at some of the kids behind the numbers."
The piece began with a soundbite from a woman: "Two p.m.: You wish you could go home, but then you realize that home doesn't exist."
Given the soundbite from someone at the Children's Defense Fund, I'd bet that group is the source of the "study" ABC based its story upon. If so, that means ABC's news judgment was to undermine a study from a respected government research agency with the claims of a left-wing advocacy group, a group ABC News didn't even bother to label.
After six years, NBC has suddenly decided to advertise The News with Brian Williams as "unbiased." Sounds like they are a little jealous of FNC's success in touting itself as "fair and balanced."
The MRC's Rich Noyes noticed the new promise in an ad promoting the fact that the show is now airing only on CNBC and no longer on MSNBC.
The ad, in Monday's Wall Street Journal, featured a picture of Brian Williams under the title of his show and the sub-title of "The Time is Right." It promised: "Respected. Unbiased. In-depth. That's what makes The News with Brian Williams the most important news in cable."
The program now runs on CNBC at 7pm, 10pm and 1am EDT.
Was a TV show about a cable news network in which, as the Boston Globe reported, some "employees will do anything to get a scoop, and the manufacturing of news events is an ongoing theme," too close to CNN for the comfort of AOL Time Warner?
On Wednesday night the Bravo cable channel will start airing a weekly series, Breaking News, about a cable news operation. Thirteen episodes of the program were produced two years ago and were intended to air on AOL Time Warner's TNT channel, but the show was never scheduled. In a July 4 piece, Boston Globe TV reviewer Matthew Gilbert speculated: "It's possible that AOL-Time Warner also disliked the similarities between I-24, the news channel on Breaking News, and its own CNN."
Breaking News will debut on Bravo with two back-to-back hour-long episodes at 8pm EDT on July 17 with the two-hour package repeating at 11pm EDT and 2am EDT (that's 5, 8 and 11pm PDT).
Tim Matheson plays "the I-24 network's star anchor," in a role he filmed before becoming the Vice President on The West Wing.
The plot summary provided by Bravo for the first episode:
The chief of the fictional cable news channel does sound Ted Turner-ish: "Clancy Brown plays Peter Kozyck, the news division president. He is a smart over-achiever with great news instincts. Never married and Gatsby-esque in character, he is convinced he didn't get into Princeton and was forced to go to Villanova because he did not have the proper pedigree. He still feels the need to overcompensate for this middle-class background, believing that acting the part of the social elite means buying designer clothes, over-priced cars and weekend homes in the country."
The July 31 episode sounds like it's copied from the Matthew Shepard murder: "In the wake of agreeing to 'take things down a notch' in their personal relationship, reporter Jamie Templeton and producer Julian Kerbis are assigned to cover the murder of a gay man in a small town..."
Bravo's Web page for the show: http://www.bravotv.com/breakingnews/ 
In a July 4 review, the Boston Globe's Matthew Gilbert wrote:
For Gilbert's piece in full:
This isn't the first attempt at a series about cable news. For a few weeks in June and July of 2001 ABC aired a series called The Beast. As recounted in CyberAlert at the time, in one episode of that short-lived program, a reporter blasted conservatives. "Alice" screeched: "If you think a woman doesn't have the right to control her own body, if you think that freedom means that you can carry an assault weapon with armor piercing bullets, then yes, yes, yes, [shouting] I think you're a fascist." To watch a RealPlayer clip of that great moment in ABC programming:
> Tonight in the first hour of prime time CBS will repeat the JAG about the U.S. soldier prosecuted in Saudi Arabia for violating restrictions on female dress. -- Brent Baker