"Dazzled" by "Candid" Clinton; Bush Vacationing 42% of Time; CNN Chief Exploring How to Attract Alienated Conservative Viewers
1) ABC and NBC led Monday night with Bill Clinton's book deal. "Last week he dazzled Harlem, today Park Avenue publisher Knopf," trumpeted ABC's Jackie Judd who relayed how the publisher promised "the book 'will be a thorough and candid telling of his life.'" And "dignified" too. NBC's Andrea Mitchell celebrated: "The self-declared 'comeback kid,' a hero to his new office neighbors in Harlem, now breaking a world record, signing the biggest non-fiction book deal in history..."
2) Meanwhile, the current President is less impressive. NBC's David Gregory relayed how "the Washington Post has actually crunched some of the numbers" and calculated that Bush "has spent enough days between vacation or traveling to vacation spots...to account for 42 percent of his young presidency."
3) On CNN's Capital Gang liberal columnist Mark Shields pointed out Bush's peril in making the press corps suffer in a hot Texas town. Shields recalled that Carter and Johnson, who forced reporters to endure "Dixie summers," were "punished" by the press.
4) Roll Call: "In an effort to improve his network's image with conservative leaders, new CNN chief Walter Isaacson huddled with House and Senate GOP leaders last week to seek advice on how to attract more right-leaning viewers to the sagging network."
"Last week he dazzled Harlem, today Park Avenue publisher Knopf," trumpeted ABC's Jackie Judd as both Monday's World News Tonight and the NBC Nightly News led with the news of Bill Clinton earning the highest price ever for a non-fiction book, if that isn't an oxymoron. "He's been out of office six months now," ABC anchor Charles Gibson noted before showing how Clinton continues to "dazzle" the media too as he boasted of how "Bill Clinton is just as fascinating as ever."
Judd assured viewers that the publisher promised "the book 'will be a thorough and candid telling of his life,' before reporting that Clinton "plans to model his book on the memoir of the late Washington Post Publisher Katharine Graham" who wrote about her husband's suicide in a telling, but dignified way, and that will be Mr. Clinton's aim."
"Candid"? "Dignified"? Are we talking about the same guy who was just President?
Over on the NBC Nightly News, in a piece which also ran on MSNBC's The News with Brian Williams, Andrea Mitchell applauded: "The self-declared 'comeback kid,' a hero to his new office neighbors in Harlem, now breaking a world record, signing the biggest non-fiction book deal in history, bigger than the Pope's..." After admiring how Clinton is "a man who even drew a crowd at a funeral," Mitchell concluded with rather positive summary of the Clinton presidential years: "It is a tale of politics, historic world events, economic growth, and impeachment, and now a record-shattering book deal to tell his side of the story."
The CBS Evening News held itself to a short item read by anchor John Roberts, though like ABC and NBC, he noted the publisher's promise of a "thorough and candid" book and that Clinton himself would really write it.
CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports led with news of a plan to clone humans, but made Clinton's book deal its second story. Eileen O'Connor concentrated on speculation about how much new the book might reveal as she passed along how "aides view this book as part of a political re-entry strategy." She concluded that "everyone" is "hoping" that the book will not be boring: "A tell-all could also hurt another political career, that of his wife, Senator Hillary Clinton. Still, Mr. Clinton's penchant for doing the unexpected will keep everyone hoping, and his publishing company betting, that this will be anything but boring."
Now, more about the ABC and NBC/MSNBC stories aired Monday night, August 6:
-- ABC's World News Tonight. Anchor Charles Gibson announced at the top of the newscast: "Good evening. He's been out of office six months now, but Bill Clinton is just as fascinating as ever. At least that's what the book industry is betting. The former President has struck what is said to be the largest non-fiction book deal in the history of publishing to write his memoirs. The exact dollar value of the deal is not known yet, but ABC News has learned Mr. Clinton will receive in excess of $12 million from the Alfred Knopf Publishing Company. ABC's Jackie Judd is in Washington."
Judd maintained: "Charlie, we're also
being told Mr. Clinton will write this himself -- no help from a
ghostwriter, and the book will be in bookstores in 2003. It's a good
time [over video of Harlem celebration with singing of Stand By Me],
probably the best of Mr. Clinton's post-presidency. Last week he dazzled
Harlem, today Park Avenue publisher Knopf."
-- NBC Nightly News. Katie Couric, putting in a tour as anchor, excitedly announced: "Good evening everybody. Get ready for Bill Clinton -- author. The former President has just signed the most lucrative book deal in history for a non-fiction work, an autobiography that reportedly he plans to write himself. Just how much money was one publishing house willing to fork over? The answer from NBC's Andrea Mitchell."
Mitchell lionized Clinton's popularity, as
transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "The self-declared
'comeback kid,' a hero to his new office neighbors in Harlem, now
breaking a world record, signing the biggest nonfiction book deal in
history, bigger than the Pope's, bigger than Hillary Clinton's.
Sources say as much as $12 million, depending on what the publisher now
gets for selling foreign rights where Clinton is mobbed on his lucrative
speaking tours. For that kind of money, will he be willing to tell
That "historic high" treaty with Arafat has worked out so well.
After hearing of Bill Clinton's triumph, NBC Nightly News viewers learned of the current President's laziness as David Gregory relayed disputed numbers about how George Bush has spent 42 percent of his presidency vacationing.
Neither ABC or CBS aired any update from Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas, but on Monday night NBC checked in with Gregory who noted how Bush's planned 30 day respite ties the "modern record" for a President set by Richard Nixon, though Ronald Reagan came close with a 28 day vacation.
Gregory volunteered: "The Washington Post has actually crunched some of the numbers on their Web site today, calculating that in fact the President has spent enough days between vacation or traveling to vacation spots, including his folks' place up in Kennepunkport, to account for 42 percent of his young presidency so far. The White House bristles at the numbers being counted that way. They say look, this is his home out here, it's his base of operations, he's even going to take some trips from here to promote his fall agenda, so it's not all play out here."
But it is hot, which leads to item #3 below...
A real warning disguised by humor? For his "Outrage of the Week" on CNN's Capital Gang on Saturday night, liberal columnist Mark Shields pointed out Bush's peril in making the press corps suffer in a hot Texas town. While Kennedy, Nixon and Reagan vacationed near the sea and avoided angering journalists, Shields recalled, Carter and Johnson, who forced reporters to endure "Dixie summers," were "denied second terms."
Shields suggested on the August 4 edition of
the CNN show:
There's probably a lot of truth to that.
With the Fox News Channel attracting more viewers than CNN in households which can watch both channels, last week Walter Isaacson, CNN's new President, spent time on Capitol Hill trying to learn why conservatives and Republicans see CNN as biased to the left.
This week's "Washington Whispers" column in U.S. News and National Review's Washington Bulletin last week noted the meetings, but Monday's Roll Call, a twice-weekly newspaper covering Capitol Hill, offered the most complete report, so it is excerpted below. Under the headline in the August 6 Roll Call, "CNN Chief Courts GOP," reporters John Bresnahan and Mark Preston revealed:
In an effort to improve his network's image with conservative leaders, new CNN chief Walter Isaacson huddled with House and Senate GOP leaders last week to seek advice on how to attract more right-leaning viewers to the sagging network.
Isaacson met with Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.), House GOP Conference Chairman J.C. Watts (Okla.), Rep. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) to talk about CNN's image with conservatives and how it can be improved.
Isaacson confirmed that he also reached out to senior White House officials, but he denied that he was seeking counsel on how to boost CNN's ratings with conservative viewers.
"I was trying to reach out to a lot of Republicans who feel that CNN has not been as open covering Republicans, and I wanted to hear their concerns," Isaacson said in an interview Friday.
"I definitely did not say, 'How do we attract the conservative viewer?'" said Isaacson, who stressed that his message was, "Let me hear what you think of CNN, and I am here to introduce myself."
To Republicans, Isaacson's presence on Capitol Hill is a sign of weakness and shows how much Fox News Channel, founded just under five years ago, has eroded CNN's lead as the top cable option for political news.
But Isaacson, the former editorial director of Time Inc., disputed assertions that he was on a mission to keep up with Fox.
"It really doesn't have to do with any other network," Isaacson said. "It wasn't some programming strategy or our relationship with Fox or anything like that."...
Democrats...weren't pleased by the spectacle of Isaacson courting Republicans.
"That is a byzantine thing for the head of a news organization to come up to meet with one political party to ask what can we do or how do we make things better," groused a senior Democratic Senator....
Isaacson deflected the criticism by saying that he's planning a September visit to Capitol Hill in which he will "meet with Democrats and more Republicans."...
It also demonstrates to GOP strategists that their unrelenting attacks on the media, in which television and newspaper reporters are accused of being biased against Republicans and conservatives, are beginning to hit home with those who decide what gets aired on the nightly news.
"[Isaacson] is panicked that he's losing conservative viewers," said a top aide to one of the GOP lawmakers who met with Isaacson.
"He said, 'Give us some guidance on how to attract conservatives.' He said he 'wanted to change the culture' at CNN. I think he perceived that they have a problem, and they do have a problem."
[Tom] DeLay has been particularly vocal in his criticism of the Atlanta-based news organization.
"DeLay is on a jihad against CNN," claimed another GOP aide, who said the Texan believes that CNN's coverage of issues clearly favors liberal Democrats over conservative Republicans.
In a telephone interview on Friday, DeLay himself said he "won't go on CNN. They have such a liberal bias. It's quite evident to everyone."...
Fox News has cut into CNN's once overwhelming lead in recent months.
For example, an average of 140,000 people were watching Fox news at any given time between Jan. 1 and Aug. 1, 2000, according to Nielsen Media Research. During the same time period this year, 282,000 people were tuned into Rupert Murdoch's news network.
In contrast, 308,000 viewers watched CNN between Jan. 1 and Aug. 1, 2000. During the first seven months of 2001, viewership climbed to 321,000. CNN is seen in 82 million homes, while Fox News is available in 67 million homes, according to Nielsen....
To read the entire story, go to:
It is encouraging to hear of a network news boss who acknowledges conservatives don't see his network as balanced and, with both Ted Turner and Clinton buddy Rick Kaplan now gone from CNN, maybe there's real hope for improvement.
In many ways CNN only looks liberal when compared to FNC, which showed conservatives what a real alternative network could provide. CNN certainly is less biased to the left than ABC, CBS and NBC, with reporters such as John King being models of fairness compared to John Roberts or Terry Moran.
But while much of its day-to-day reporting is more balanced than that offered on the broadcast networks, its news judgment usually follows the liberal agenda with conservatives relegated to reacting to it. Join that with prime time stars who are liberals (Larry King and Greta Van Susteren) and its memorable history of liberal advocacy in specials (recall the Lewinsky-era focus on media overkill of the subject, concerns about fairness to Clinton, tirades against Ken Starr for going too far; the Cold War series; the Tailwind fiasco; and presidential campaign year specials on the need for government intervention in health care), and you realize why many conservatives have such a negative image of CNN. Plus, there's the history of global warming fear-mongering fueled by Jane Fonda and Ted Turner's since-disbanded environmental reporting unit.
A further extrapolation of the perspective in the above paragraph, complete with examples of CNN's bias pulled from the MRC's archives, may be a good August project for us.
-- Brent Baker 
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