Category Archives: Media

Moran, Roberts disagree on federal media shield law

justiceladyMore than 70 media organizations recently sent a letter to the U.S. Senate leaders asking for a vote on the Free Flow of Information Act, a media shield law meant to help protect reporters when federal prosecutors try to compel them to reveal their sources. “The ability to protect confidential sources is the oxygen that investigative reporting needs to survive,” the organizations wrote. Asked last week by The Eagle editorial board about a federal shield law, Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., said he sponsored such a bill in the House and likely would be supportive as a senator. Moran pointed to the Walter Reed Army Medical Center scandal as a great example of investigative journalism and its benefits. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., told the editorial board that such a law shouldn’t be needed if the First Amendment is applied properly. The issue has taken on more urgency since the U.S. Supreme Court declined last month to take up the case of New York Times reporter James Risen, who was told by a federal appeals court to testify in the case of a CIA officer accused of leaking classified information related to Iran’s nuclear program.

KCC doesn’t want media watching open meeting

At the same meeting this week that the Kansas Corporation Commission asked the Kansas Attorney General’s Office to defend it against charges that it violated the state’s open-meetings law, KCC staff shut down a videoconference feed of the open meeting to its Wichita office after an Eagle reporter tried to watch it. How fitting. The commission is facing a lawsuit filed by the Shawnee County District Attorney’s Office over a process it has routinely used in which a staff attorney circulates a proposed order individually to commissioners and obtains their signatures indicating approval instead of holding a public vote. It voted Wednesday to stop that practice. This week the KCC also hired Kim Christiansen as its new executive director. She replaces Patti Petersen-Klein, who was forced out after an audit revealed serious management problems. In addition to pulling the KCC out of the ditch, Christiansen needs to make sure it follows the open-meetings law.

No justification for scope, secrecy of AP phone probe

The U.S. Justice Department badly abused its authority last year when it secretly obtained two months’ worth of telephone records of journalists working for the Associated Press. The records were apparently part of an investigation into the leak of classified information, but the number of people and records targeted – which included the personal phone records of some AP employees – is unprecedented in recent years. “There can be no possible justification for such an overbroad collection of the telephone communications of the Associated Press and its reporters,” AP president and CEO Gary Pruitt wrote in a letter this week to Attorney General Eric Holder (in photo). As Pruitt noted, the records could “disclose information about AP’s activities and operations that the government has no conceivable right to know.”

Kochs could bring more balance to newspapers

“Mainstream media are alarmed by reports that billionaires Charles and David Koch are considering the purchase of Tribune Company’s eight daily newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times,” columnist Cal Thomas wrote. Reportedly, about half of the L.A. Times staff said they would quit if the Kochs bought the paper. “That should make things easier for the Kochs,” Thomas wrote. “They can start by replacing liberal quitters and others whose ideology has turned off conservative readers. They could hire reporters and editors who will try to win back readers and advertisers by providing the type of ideologically balanced coverage they seek.”

Thomas to be keynote speaker for Kansas chamber

The Kansas Chamber of Commerce recently announced that the keynote speaker for its 2013 annual dinner will be syndicated columnist and author Cal Thomas, whose commentaries have appeared in The Eagle since 1989. The dinner will be held at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 5 at the Kansas Expocentre in Topeka, with Neeli Bendapudi, dean of the University of Kansas School of Business, as master of ceremonies. “For years I have admired Cal Thomas’ thoughtful and challenging literary contributions to American political dialogue,” said Kansas chamber president Mike O’Neal. “We’re excited to bring such a leader to Kansas during the opening weeks of the 2013 legislative session.” For more information, go to

Free journalist for Christmas

The parents of journalist Austin Tice (in photo), who was captured in Syria four months ago, wrote an open letter to his captors asking that he be released. “Let Austin come home for Christmas. Let us hug him, laugh and cry with him, love him in person. Let us be a whole family again,” they wrote. Anders Gyllenhaal, vice president for news at McClatchy Newspapers (The Eagle’s parent company), also wrote about why reporting from conflict zones is vital and why Tice should be released. Read both at

Lehrer says debate was about candidates, not him

PBS anchor and Wichita native Jim Lehrer has taken a lot of grief for losing control of last week’s presidential debate. So what did he think of the debate and its new format? “All of the discussion, it seemed to me, was about things that mattered,” he told the Washington Post. “They weren’t talking about things off in the margins. They were talking about things that truly divide them.” Lehrer said he was initially frustrated when the candidates ignored him, but then decided that wasn’t important. “It isn’t about my power, my control or whatever,” he said. “It was about what the candidates were doing, what they were talking about and what impression they were leaving with the voters. That’s what this is about.”

Romney vs. Big Bird, Elmo and Twitter

Mitt Romney put a target on the back of federal funding for public broadcasting and radio in Wednesday’s debate, saying he likes debate moderator Jim Lehrer of PBS and Big Bird but he’s “gonna stop the subsidy to PBS.” That prompted official and unofficial responses Thursday on Twitter. Big Bird tweeted via @SesameStreet: “My bed time is usually 7:45, but I was really tired yesterday and fell asleep at 7! Did I miss anything last night?” A parody account, @FireMeElmo, tweeted, “Elmo need help filing unemployment form – no thumbs” and “Exit interview confuse Elmo. Why name continuing health care after scary Cobra.” Actor Zach Braff tweeted: “Just saw Big Bird turning tricks by the Lincoln Tunnel.” In response to the response, David Burge (aka @iowahawkblog) tweeted: “No wonder lefties identify with Big Bird. A 43-year-old welfare layabout with imaginary friends.”

Pro/con: Should Congress stop funding National Public Radio?

It has never been easier to find out what’s happening in the world, and it’s never been easier to get numerous perspectives on the issues of the day.
In light of the information explosion, it isn’t at all clear that subsidies for public broadcasting – like those that go to National Public Radio – are necessary or wise.
Today – in contrast to 1970, when NPR was founded – anyone with access to an Internet connection also has access to a virtually unlimited amount of information from a wide variety of sources. NPR adds little of additional value to the mix.
There also are a couple of important facts about NPR that should give us pause.
First, NPR programming, like most media programming, leans left. Forcing people to fund programming with which they disagree – even at very low levels – is not much different from forcing them to help pay my pastor’s salary.
Second, NPR listeners tend to have higher-than-average incomes. Subsidies are not needed. If they value NPR, listeners could easily write out checks to cover its costs.
Art Carden, Stanford University

Some conservative members of Congress are seeking to de-fund National Public Radio, but these legislators might want to think twice about that effort. NPR is – believe it or not – a favorite of many conservative listeners. In a survey by the research firm GfK MRI, 28 percent of the network’s listeners self-identified as conservative or very conservative and 25 percent identified as middle-of-the-road. Millions of informed conservatives regularly listen to a network that some critics describe as a service aimed at a prosperous liberal elite.
Some members of Congress who seek federal de-funding of NPR point to what they say is the network’s liberal bias in news reporting. I don’t hear it. I hear a scrupulous attempt to be – may I coin a phrase? – fair and balanced.
More affluent public radio stations could pay for NPR programs from other sources, like listener contributions. But some smaller stations would not have enough of those non-federal funds.
National Public Radio, through local public radio stations, serves listeners across the country, from the largest cities to the smallest rural communities. Congress should reject all legislation aimed at eliminating NPR’s federal funding.
Fred Andrle, independent journalist

Oops, Supreme Court didn’t overturn mandate

CNN and Fox News initially reported that the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the health care mandate. Oops. That prompted this Photoshop update of the classic Harry Truman photo.

Gingrich blasts Fox News for bias

Newt Gingrich often made political hay during the GOP presidential debates by bashing the mainstream media. But in a meeting this week with Delaware tea party officials, Gingrich said that CNN was more “fair and balanced” than Fox News. “In our experience, Callista and I both believe CNN is less biased than Fox this year,” Gingrich said. “We are more likely to get neutral coverage out of CNN than we are of Fox, and we’re more likely to get distortion out of Fox. That’s just a fact.” Gingrich claimed that Fox favored Romney over him and the other GOP candidates. “I assume it’s because (owner and CEO Rupert) Murdoch at some point said, ‘I want Romney,’ and so ‘fair and balanced’ became ‘Romney,’” Gingrich said. A Fox News spokeswoman speculated that Gingrich was auditioning for a job at CNN.

Are Republicans afraid of Rush?

The muted responses of most GOP leaders to offensive comments by talk-show host Rush Limbaugh show that they are scared of Limbaugh, conservative commentator George Will complained on ABC’s “This Week.” He noted that House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said Limbaugh’s comments about a Georgetown University law student were “inappropriate.” “Using the salad fork for your entree – that’s inappropriate,” Will said. “Not this stuff.” Will noted that liberals also fail to “police the excesses on their own side,” but he mocked how GOP leaders talk tough yet won’t stand up to Limbaugh. “They want to bomb Iran, but they’re afraid of Rush Limbaugh,” Will said.

Thomas grateful for Maddow’s forgiveness

Cal Thomas wrote about apologizing to MSNBC host Rachel Maddow. Thomas made an offhand comment at last week’s Conservative Political Action Conference that Maddow is “the best argument in favor of her parents using contraception.” He called Maddow the next morning and apologized. “I had embarrassed myself and was a bad example to those who read my column and expect better from me,” Thomas wrote. He said that Maddow could not have been more gracious in accepting his apology, and that they plan to meet for lunch. “To be forgiven by one you have wronged is a blessing,” Thomas said.

Are conservative media not doing their job?

Conservative blogger Jennifer Rubin complained that “in this presidential primary the conservative media has been far worse than many mainstream publications in analyzing the candidates’ weaknesses and recognizing problematic issues and performances.” She said they have tended to “circle the wagons rather than report accurately and analyze smartly the serious missteps of those who, for a time, occupied the top tier in national polls.” Thus, conservative media have ignored or downplayed obvious concerns about some conservative candidates — which is the same complaint they often voice about the “lamestream” media and liberal candidates. Rubin worries that conservative media are becoming too “ideologically isolated and inward-looking.”

District backtracks on tweet apology

Shawnee Mission East High School student Emma Sullivan doesn’t have to apologize for a disparaging tweet she made last week about Gov. Sam Brownback, the school district announced today. Sullivan made the comment while on a field trip to Topeka. Brownback’s staff saw the comment and alerted the sponsoring group. Sullivan’s principal then told her that she would have to write an apology letter to Brownback. But the incident quickly went viral, with coverage in Politico and many other national news organizations. The district backtracked today, saying that it “acknowledges a student’s right to freedom of speech and expression is constitutionally protected.” To his credit, Brownback apologized today, saying his staff “overreacted.” “Freedom of speech is among our most treasured freedoms,” Brownback said.

Newsweek taking heat again for cover photo

Newsweek is getting blasted by conservatives for the photo on the cover of this week’s magazine. It’s an unflattering, “crazy eyes” photo of Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., with the headline “The Queen of Rage.” Newsweek took heat two years ago for putting a photo of Sarah Palin posing in running shorts on its cover.

Happy birthday, @BarackObama

The Huffington Post has collected the best tweets about President Obama’s 50th birthday, which was Thursday. Among them:

“Wait a minute. @BarackObama turns 50 today? There are 50 Stars on our flag & it’s Ramadan. @glennbeck help me out here, this seems shady.”

“I hope when @barackobama blows out his bday candles today, he wishes he would’ve actually gotten me free health care.”

“Expect an irate call, Amazon customer service. I paid extra, and the spine I got Obama for his birthday STILL hasn’t arrived.”

“A ticket to Obama’s birthday party will cost $35,000. One dollar for every time he’s died inside since 2008.”

Do conservative talkers care about country?

Talk-show host Rush Limbaugh (in photo) suggested Monday that President Obama “is either clueless or is himself a saboteur,” while assuring listeners that his own priority isn’t Obama’s defeat but rather “saving the country.” Last week New York Times columnist David Brooks described the conservative talkers’ mission differently: “The talk-radio jocks are not in the business of promoting conservative governance. They are in the business of building an audience by stroking the pleasure centers of their listeners. They mostly give pseudo Crispin’s Day speeches to battalions of the like-minded from the safety of the conservative ghetto. To keep audience share, they need to portray politics as a cataclysmic, Manichaean struggle. A series of compromises that steadily advance conservative aims would muddy their story lines and be death to their ratings.”

Unanswered tweets to Obama

Twitter users had some fun with the White House call to submit questions for President Obama’s Twitter town hall Wednesday. Among the 169,395 proposed queries:

If Dumbledore and Gandalf battled Voldemort and Sauron, who do you think would win and wouldn’t it be awesome?

Have you ever heard the wolf cry to the blue corn moon? Can you paint with all the colors of the wind?

Pop quiz, hotshot. There’s a bomb on a bus. If the bus drops below 50 mph, it blows up. What do you do? WHAT DO YOU DO?

Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego?

Can you command people to stop naming their kids and dogs Bella?

Beck goes out with a threat

Glenn Beck ended his run on Fox News Thursday. The conspiracy-minded radio host had a rapid rise in popularity when he joined Fox News 30 months ago, perhaps culminating with his “Restoring Honor” rally in Washington, D.C., last summer. But his viewership has dropped dramatically, and advertisers objected to Beck’s rants. Beck doesn’t plan to go away quietly, though. “For those members of media who are celebrating (my departure) . . . you will pray for the time I was only on the air for one hour a day,” Beck said.
Meanwhile, MSNBC suspended political analyst Mark Halperin for saying that President Obama acted like a male body part during Obama’s press conference Wednesday.

Carr comment still getting reaction

A recent comment by New York Times media columnist David Carr (in photo)  likening people who live in Kansas and Missouri to Neanderthals is still getting reaction, locally and nationally:

“More than an apology is needed. I think he needs to resign. And if he does not resign, I think the management at the New York Times should fire him for this egregious statement and misconduct.” — Sedgwick County Commissioner Karl Peterjohn, during Wednesday’s commission meeting

“This leads to death camps. These are the kinds of words that have always, since the history of progressivism, since it began, always led to mass death, because you haven’t evolved enough.” — Glenn Beck, on his radio show

“How could we forget all of the genocides that began by offhanded remarks made on late-night talk shows?” — Justin Kendall, Kansas City’s Pitch Weekly blog

“Clearly, Carr was making a joke, or was using hyperbole to deride red state vs. blue state politics. Yes, what he said was offensive and dopey, but to immediately compare it to death camps not only trivializes that tragic chapter in world history, the greater offense, but it infantilizes Midwesterners.” — Colby Hall,

“Get over it, Midwesterners. You can’t even figure out what’s a joke and what’s not. No wonder people think you’re dumb.” — Hamilton Nolan, Gawker

Turns out Carr is from a ‘middle’ place, too

New York Times media columnist and former Minnesotan David Carr likened people who live in Kansas, Missouri and “the middle places” to Neanderthals on “Real Time With Bill Maher,” suggesting “that’s the dance of the low, sloping foreheads.” Afterward, a regretful Carr turned to Twitter:

“Have always enjoyed #TheTwitter setting on fresh pickings when somebody said something dumb. Then my turn came.”

“I hate being the guy who condescends, however accidently, to those pple that make America cool and fun.”

“To all of America, at least the middle place that I come from, I apologize for saying something so, so dumb on Bill Maher last night.”

“Live tv will get away from you and you will say some stupid stuff. which I did.”

“There was a second beat to that thought I never got to. But my Mpls. brothers are smacking me down. hard. all deserved.”

Weiner admits to sending, lying about photo

Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., has admitted to sending a suggestive photo to a college student over his Twitter account. “I was embarrassed and I didn’t want this to lead to other embarrassing things,” Weiner said. “It was a dumb thing to do to tell lies about it, because it just led to more lies.” He also admitted to sending other photos to other women, though he said some of the photos were from three years ago, before he was married. He said he has no plans to resign. Voters may have other plans.

Fox News putting Beck out of our misery

In deciding to phase out host Glenn Beck, Fox News has made an important distinction, according to Dana Milbank of the Washington Post. “It’s one thing to promote partisan journalism, but it’s entirely different to engage in race-baiting and fringe conspiracy claims,” Milbank wrote. “Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity may have their excesses, but their mainstream conservatism is in an entirely different category from Beck. Fox has rightly, if belatedly, declared that there is no place for Beck’s messages on its airwaves, and Beck will return to the fringes, where such ideas have always existed.”

Is NPR biased? Should federal funding continue?

In response to the recent video sting of two fundraisers for National Public Radio, columnist Cal Thomas wrote: “The problem for NPR and other media is not only bias, but also blindness. Large numbers of Americans believe NPR and the broadcast networks are hostile to their beliefs. Rather than address that justified perception, the media deny what to their conservative critics is obvious.” But columnist Bob Ray Sanders argued that “NPR is still the most comprehensive, objective and engaging broadcast news organization in the country.” And in supporting continued federal funding, he contended that “the experienced and talented journalists and news managers at NPR prove daily that they are among the best in the business, able to tackle stories that are tough, sensitive, controversial and entertaining with insightful care.”