Kids' Bucks Vile "Propaganda"; CBS & ABC Conflict on Civilians Killed; NPR: Journalists First, Americans Second; Brokaw's Anger
1) ABC News portrayed President Bush's call for kids to give a dollar each to help Afghan children as a vile propaganda ploy. Michele Norris warned that "behind the scenes there are quiet grumblings about this dollar drive" with "concerns that American children are being used in a propaganda campaign." But school officials are afraid to speak out now that "America appears to be swept up by symbolism."
2) CBS and ABC aired conflicting reports about civilian deaths caused by U.S. bombing. "In Kabul, they say, only military targets have been hit," CBS's Jim Axelrod summarized in relaying the view of refugees, one of whom suggested "they say that civilians are killed to stop America's attacks." ABC's David Wright, however, highlighted how "the Taliban claim that some 200 civilians lost their lives in the attack on Jalalabad alone."
3) CNN's Tom Mintier found people walking out of Kandahar in order to avoid U.S. bombing "reminiscent of what happened in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, in 1975 when the residents started fleeing the city as Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge started to take over."
4) "I don't care if he's sending a signal," NPR's Nina Totenberg proclaimed in blithely dismissing any concern about the chance Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda are using their videos to send messages to agents in the U.S.
5) Asked if NPR correspondents "would report the presence of an American commando unit" unknown to the enemy, NPR senior foreign editor Loren Jenkins responded: "You report it" since "I don't represent the government. I represent history, information, what happened."
6) Actor James Woods told Jay Leno: "I love George Bush right now" because he's handling terrorism in a "very deliberate, very careful" manner. Woods fondly recalled the way the U.S. responded to Moammar Gadhafi which ended his terrorism by killing "his whole family, blew the crap out of them, never heard from him again."
Who could find a nefarious motive behind President Bush's call for schoolchildren to donate one dollar each to help kids in Afghanistan, castigating it as insidious "propaganda"? ABC News. On Friday night ABC's Michele Norris asserted that "behind the scenes" at schools "there are quiet grumblings about this dollar drive. There are concerns that American children are being used in a propaganda campaign."
In an October 12 World News Tonight story, Norris showed video of kids in St. Paul and Washington, DC enthusiastically lining up to put dollar bills into bottles and boxes on Friday following the President's request made Thursday night at his press conference. A five-year-old kid in Kansas City, she noted, decided to give all the money he had, $29.
Norris asked an 11-year-old boy in Washington,
DC: "What do you think it says about this country?"
Norris then countered his naive idealism as she ominously intoned: "Behind the scenes there are quiet grumblings about this dollar drive. There are concerns that American children are being used in a propaganda campaign. But school officials said they wouldn't dare air those concerns publicly, not when America appears to be swept up by symbolism. Apparent today as America's school children, at the urging of the White House, simultaneously recited the Pledge of Allegiance."
With over 50 million kids, I think, under age 15 in the U.S., a dollar each from just half of them would seem to add up to a bit more than "symbolism."
Following video of children at various locations reciting the pledge, Norris concluded on an affirmative note: "In the war against terrorism, a new tactic: Responding to hatred with generosity from America's young."
With the kind of jingoistic attitude the 11-year-old expressed ("I think it says that our country is loving and caring"), he'll never get a job as a journalist.
CBS and ABC aired conflicting reports Friday night from Northern Afghanistan about civilian deaths caused by U.S. bombing. "In Kabul, they say, only military targets have been hit," CBS's Jim Axelrod summarized in relaying the view of some refugees he encountered. "'No civilians are killed,' says this man" who suggested "'They say that civilians are killed to stop America's attacks.'" ABC's David Wright, however, highlighted how "the Taliban claim that some 200 civilians lost their lives in the attack on Jalalabad alone."
Jim Axelrod checked in from Northern Afghanistan on the October 12 CBS Evening News: "Seventeen refugees from Kabul are packed into this truck, more cling to the roof, eyewitnesses to the strikes. In Kabul, they say, only military targets have been hit. 'No civilians are killed,' says this man, 'only the Taliban are killed. They say that civilians are killed to stop America's attacks. They announce that. It's wrong.'"
Over on ABC's World News Tonight David Wright, also from Northern Afghanistan with the Northern Alliance, relayed: "U.S. officials confirm today that they continue to be in touch with the Northern Alliance but they say that they are not coordinating targets with them. Meanwhile, on the Taliban side, significant developments as well. The Taliban claim that some 200 civilians lost their lives in the attack on Jalalabad alone. And, for the very first time, they've invited some Western journalists in to see for themselves. Well we plan to take them up on that and we hope to have that story in the days to come."
The Taliban hardly need to offer any proof in order to get their claims heard by Americans given ABC's eagerness to relay whatever the Afghan regime alleges.
On Thursday night, for instance, ABC's Bob Woodruff repeated accounts of civilian atrocities before asserting: "The Taliban believes more than a hundred civilians have died in the bombings, but there's no way to verify any of it." For more details, go to: http://www.mrc.org/cyberalerts/2001/cyb20011012.asp#2 
The night before, on World News Tonight, Wright had maintained of refugees: "Many who are leaving say it would be one thing if the Americans were only bombing the terrorist camps in Afghanistan, but, they say, the killing of innocents is not okay." For more on his October 10 story, refer back to: http://www.mrc.org/cyberalerts/2001/cyb20011011.asp#2 
CNN's Tom Mintier found Afghan citizens walking out of Kandahar in order to avoid U.S. bombing "reminiscent of what happened in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, in 1975 when the residents started fleeing the city as Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge started to take over."
Mintier's observation from Pakistan over extremely poor video, in which it was hard to make out anything more than a group of people walking, came at just past 2am EDT on Thursday morning, October 11. The MRC's Rich Noyes caught the odd comparison, to when communists took over, while reviewing CNN's overnight coverage.
Mintier reported, as taken down by MRC analyst Ken Shepherd: "Now as we look at this video phone footage, it does look a little jerky and herky, but this is, I think, a clear indication of what's going on in the streets in as close to real time as we can get. And for anyone who is old enough to remember, these scenes are reminiscent of what happened in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, in 1975 when the residents started fleeing this city as Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge started to take over. You see what could be described as organized panic in the street as people are making their way out with what limited possessions they have, trying to find their way to some place of safety in the countryside. As again, as I said, anyone old enough to remember 1975 in Cambodia, the pictures somewhat eerily representative of what happened then..."
Journalists First, Americans Second at NPR, part one. NPR's Nina Totenberg blithely dismissed any concern that al-Qaeda and/or Osama bin Laden could be using the videos, which the White House asked the networks to stop airing in full as soon as they are released, to send messages to their agents in the United States: "I don't care if he's sending a signal."
Totenberg's arrogant comment came on Inside Washington, the weekly roundtable show aired by many PBS stations over the weekend and which ran Friday night after the CBS Evening News on Washington, DC's WUSA-TV which produces it.
Totenberg, of National Public Radio, referring
to how National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice had called the network
news chiefs, argued:
Next, columnist Jack Germond insisted: "The fact is that most elements of the mainstream press are not irresponsible."
I guess Totenberg is not part of that "element."
Columnist Charles Krauthammer soon pointed out to Totenberg that the videos could be used to send messages to activate sleeper agents to kill Americans as he asked how a cell in the U.S. could see the videos on the Arab satellite network, al-Jazeera? "I don't think it's that difficult in a computer modern age," Totenberg shot back.
Indeed, you can get a live feed over the Internet of the Arab network and, FNC's Brit Hume noted a few nights ago, it's even carried on a direct satellite system in the U.S. But both those delivery methods are more difficult to access. Why make it so easy for our enemies by making it impossible for them to avoid hearing or seeing messages whenever they turn on a TV?
And do you think Totenberg would think any differently if al-Jazeera weren't available by any means in the U.S.?
Journalists First, Americans Second at NPR, part two. Asked by a Chicago Tribune columnist whether National Public Radio correspondents "would report the presence of an American commando unit" presumably unknown to the enemy in a "northern Pakistan village," NPR senior foreign editor Loren Jenkins responded: "You report it" since "I don't represent the government. I represent history, information, what happened."
Jenkins also contended that "in one form or another," the military "never tell you the truth."
His comments were quoted in an October 12 column by Steve Johnson in the Chicago Tribune which Jim Romenesko highlighted Friday on his MediaNews page: http://www.poynter.org/medianews 
An excerpt from Johnson's column:
Just as the international politics of the American-led war on terrorism is a maze, so is the attempt to cover the campaign.
That truth has been underscored this week as the first American bombs have dropped on Afghanistan, and the American public has seen nothing like the vivid video that came back from the Persian Gulf War, no pictures of American correspondents on a rooftop in Kabul, providing play-by-play on incoming missiles.
A seminal moment came midday Monday, Day Two of the bombings, when CNN had its screen split between its live "exclusive" Nightscope pictures of Afghanistan, showing what appeared to be nothing, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, saying not much more.
"The 'fog of war' takes on new meaning in this particular circumstance," says Tom Yellin, an ABC News executive producer. "It implies you're in the middle. We can't be in the middle of it. It's the fog in the distance. It's far away, and it's very foggy."...
Journalists predict that coverage will continue to be a struggle for the duration of the conflict, complicated by its likely episodic and decentralized nature, a White House-led clampdown on information, and an American public more hungry to win than they are to know.
In such a murky environment, they say, the basic journalism values of reporting and skepticism become more valuable than ever.
"The best reporting is getting to a place and assessing it yourself," says Loren Jenkins, senior foreign editor of National Public Radio. "Since Vietnam, the Pentagon has made this harder and harder for reporters to do, mostly because they all blame the press for losing the war in Vietnam."
Jenkins has some 13 reporters in the area of Afghanistan and the Middle East, in the kind of all-hands-on-deck approach typical of news organizations' response, and he says his marching orders to the troops are to try to find where the Americans are.
"The game of reporting is to smoke 'em out," he says. Asked whether his team would report the presence of an American commando unit it found in, say, a northern Pakistan village, he doesn't exhibit any of the hesitation of some of his news-business colleagues, who stress that they try to factor security issues into their coverage decisions.
"You report it," Jenkins says. "I don't represent the government. I represent history, information, what happened."...
American reporters are already on U.S. warships, but an open question is to what degree American reporters will be allowed to accompany ground troops, especially because nobody knows whether ground action will ever be more concerted than secret raids.
No news executive in his right mind expects to have a reporter accompany the Green Berets, but a coalition of news organizations has been talking with Pentagon officials to try to extract promises that the news media will be able to report firsthand on military action when feasible.
News organizations and, presumably, some segment of the public felt burned after the Gulf War, when they learned American military's tight control on information had included misleading reports about how smart the so-called "smart bombs" really were.
At NPR, Jenkins' operating theory about information from the military is that "in one form or another, they never tell you the truth. They've been proven wrong too many times."
Or, as MSNBC President Erik Sorenson puts it, "We'll find out in five or 10 years what the real truth is."....
For the entire column, go to: http://chicagotribune.com/features/chi-0110120007oct12.column?coll=chi%2Dleisure%2Dnav 
The attitude of Jenkins reminded me of the 1989 PBS session with Mike Wallace and Peter Jennings recounted in the October 10 CyberAlert. Wallace and Jennings agreed that if they were traveling with enemy troops and learned of an ambush planned to kill U.S. soldiers they would not provide any warning. For details: http://www.mrc.org/cyberalerts/2001/cyb20011010.asp#4 
Friday night on the Tonight Show actor James Woods told Jay Leno: "I love George Bush right now" because he's handling the terrorist crisis in a "very deliberate, very careful" manner as he's "doing the right thing." Woods fondly recalled the way the U.S. responded to Moammar Gadhafi which ended his terrorism by killing "his whole family, blew the crap out of them, never heard from him again. A little lesson in there, okay. We didn't negotiate and worry about collateral damage." 
Woods' points matched what he said during an interview shown on the October 8 Entertainment Tonight. For quotes, go to: http://www.mediaresearch.org/cyberalerts/2001/cyb20011009.asp#3 
Woods maintained on NBC's October 12 Tonight Show: "Now, of course, I think the President is doing an extraordinary job. It's a good thing I'm not President because I would have just [motioned hand to press a button launching missiles] launched. Okay, I'm sorry, I just would have. But our President and I just, I love George Bush right now and I always have. I'm the only guy in LA who voted for him [audience applauded]. And I have to tell you the way he's handling it is very deliberate, very careful and so on and doing the right thing."
Following a brief return to what they
discussed at the start of his appearance, how he can't talk about
details of how he believes terrorists were onboard casing an American
Airlines Boston to Los Angeles flight he took in August, Woods recommended
we follow the Russian model for a response:
Leno then jumped in to insist that before time ran out Woods say something about his new movie, Riding in Cars with Boys, in which he stars as Drew Barrymore's father.
For a biography of Woods, go to the Internet Movie Database's page on him: http://us.imdb.com/Name?Woods,+James 
For more about his new movie, you can check the Sony Pictures page for it: http://www.spe.sony.com/movies/ridingincars/ 
Brokaw ended Friday's NBC Nightly News, broadcast from the Today show
set since the regular studios are on the 3rd floor of Rockefeller Center
which was blocked off to check for Anthrax, with a personal note prompted
by the Anthrax contracted by an assistant who opened an envelope addressed
We share Brokaw's sentiment. -- Brent Baker