Category Archives: Media

Another NPR executive bites the dust

A second National Public Radio official has resigned over the secret video in which an NPR fundraiser says that tea party people are “really xenophobic” and that “they’re seriously racist.” The person who made the comments, Ron Schiller, apologized and resigned Tuesday. Then today, Vivian Schiller (no relation, in photo), the CEO of NPR, also resigned. She had come under fire earlier for dismissing commentator Juan Williams after he made comments about being afraid of some Muslims. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said that the video, which was done by the same people who did the secret ACORN videos, “makes clear that taxpayer dollars should no longer be appropriated to NPR.”

Fake Emanuel is outed

Forget the fake David Koch. The fake Rahm Emanuel is a bigger f-ing deal. College professor Dan Sinker has been outed as the man behind the Twitter site @MayorEmanuel. The postings began as an “exercise in creative swearing” (averaging 1.5 uses of the f-word in every tweet) but quickly grew in content and followers. Sinker has now stopped posting. His final posts chronicled how the sky opened up and Emanuel disappeared into a time vortex, swearing as he went.

Planned Parenthood video is latest muckraking

“You’d think the public and media would be more skeptical of right-wing video muckraking after the hatchet job that was done on Department of Agriculture official Shirley Sherrod, and after judges reviewed the unedited video evidence against ACORN and found the group had done nothing illegal,” wrote columnist Mary Sanchez. “But here we go again.” She noted that Planned Parenthood is the latest target but argued that the heavily edited videos by an anti-abortion group “do more to illustrate what is right with Planned Parenthood than what is wrong.”

Conservatives stand up to Beck on Egypt

Good for conservative pundit William Kristol and others for challenging Fox News host Glenn Beck’s “hysteria” and wild speculation about the uprising in Egypt. “When Glenn Beck rants about the caliphate taking over the Middle East from Morocco to the Philippines, and lists (invents?) the connections between caliphate-promoters and the American left, he brings to mind no one so much as Robert Welch and the John Birch Society,” Kristol wrote in Weekly Standard. Siding with a dictator instead of the people, Kristol wrote, is “a sign of fearfulness unworthy of Americans, of shortsightedness uncharacteristic of conservatives, of excuse-making for thuggery unworthy of the American conservative tradition.” Beck’s response: “I don’t even know if you understand what conservatives are anymore, Billy.”

Fox News chief tells network to tone it down

Good for Roger Ailes, the president of Fox News, for telling his network to cool its overheated rhetoric — though that’s unlikely to happen. “I told all of our guys, shut up, tone it down, make your argument intellectually,” Ailes said this week. “You don’t have to do it with bombast.” Ailes was also correct in noting that vitriol isn’t a problem only with conservatives. He said he hoped liberals also would be more responsible with their rhetoric.

Pro-con: Cut tax funds for public broadcasting?

tvremoteThe Corporation for Public Broadcasting was established in 1967, when three national television networks dominated the airwaves. Today, the broadcast media offer a diverse mix of content over the air, and via cable and satellite. It may have once been true that a publicly financed source of “quality programming” and diverse opinion was necessary to ensure access to highbrow entertainment, and news and opinions not available elsewhere. But now, the History and Discovery channels, Public Radio International, American Public Media and Sirius satellite radio, among others, compete effectively with National Public Radio and PBS. If NPR and public television cannot survive in such an environment without taxpayer subsidies, they should be allowed to go the way of the dodo bird. In today’s information-heavy media marketplace, no one should have special privileges. NPR has sponsors that can fill the funding gap. — William F. Shughart II, Independent Institute

President Johnson was right when he created public broadcasting as part of his Great Society. He recognized that people do not live by bread alone — that access to great music, great art and great literature ennoble even the most humdrum life. TV’s PBS and radio’s NPR must stay on the air because they provide millions of Americans with enlightening programs not available on network television, cable or private radio. Freedom from ads on public broadcasting is like a sunny day in the country and worth every taxpayer nickel. And one more thing: Be sure to watch veteran journalist Jim Lehrer. His “NewsHour” is good, in-depth journalism — expanding the minute or two that network and cable news give to major news stories into illuminating background features with commentary from experts who often broaden our understanding with their nuanced disagreement. In short, the good of public broadcasting far outweighs the bad. — Bogdan Kipling, McClatchy-Tribune

Cable news hosts tell viewers what they want to hear

oreillypointing“While I can appreciate the financial logic of drowning television viewers in a flood of opinions designed to confirm their own biases, the trend is not good for the republic,” wrote Ted Koppel, former host of ABC’s “Nightline.” He said that hosts such as Keith Olbermann of MSNBC and Bill O’Reilly (in photo) of Fox News “show us the world not as it is, but as partisans (and loyal viewers) at either end of the political spectrum would like it to be. This is to journalism what Bernie Madoff was to investment: He told his customers what they wanted to hear, and by the time they learned the truth, their money was gone.”

Governor’s no Susan Boyle on YouTube

parkinsongov“A video uploaded by Democratic Kansas Gov. Mark Parkinson about flu prevention gathered 17 views in the year it was online,” noted a USA Today article on the 38 governors who are using YouTube. A flu-fighting audio public service spot with Elmo was the Parkinson channel’s most popular last week, with more than 1,200 views. Parkinson spokeswoman Rachel Reeves said: “Social media in general really helps in getting your message out directly to constituents, unfiltered, without any sort of press sort of narrowing it down to a couple of quotes he may have used.”

Pro-con on Juan Williams’ firing by NPR

williams,juanNational Public Radio fired Juan Williams Wednesday night after 10 years with the network for comments he made about Muslims on Fox News. It’s not about race. It’s also not about free speech, as some have charged. Nor is it about an alleged attempt by NPR to stifle conservative views. NPR offers a broad range of viewpoints on its radio shows and website. Instead, this latest incident with Williams centers around a collision of values: NPR’s values emphasizing fact-based, objective journalism versus the tendency in some parts of the news media, notably Fox News, to promote only one side of the ideological spectrum. The issue also is whether someone on NPR’s payroll should be allowed to say something in one venue that NPR would not allow on its air. NPR’s ethics code says they cannot. NPR, like any mainstream news outlet, expects its journalists to be thoughtful and measured in everything they say. What Williams said was deeply offensive to Muslims and inflamed, rather than contributing positively, to an important debate about the role of Muslims in America. Williams was doing the kind of stereotyping in a public platform that is dangerous to a democracy. It puts people in categories, as types — not as individuals with much in common despite their differences. Even though NPR handled this situation badly, the fact remains that NPR must uphold its journalistic standards, which, after all, provide the basis that earned public radio’s reputation for quality. — Alicia Shepard, NPR ombudsman

There has to be room in our public discourse for an honest statement, civilly expressed, even if it is prejudicial. NPR overreacted by dumping news analyst Juan Williams after he expressed personal nervousness on Fox News about boarding planes with Muslims who wear religious clothing. Williams’ comments were no doubt hurtful to Muslims, and ignorant as well. But they were not a fiery fomenting of hatred or a harangue against all Muslims in this country. They were open admissions of his own biases that reflect our society’s tendency, post-9/11, to categorize Muslims in unflattering ways. In Williams’ fuller comments on Fox News, he warned conservative commentator Bill O’Reilly to be more careful to differentiate between Muslims and Muslim terrorists, and reminded him that when people criticize, for example, the anti-gay Christians who protest at military funerals, they don’t blame the problem on Christians in general. NPR says it fired Williams because, by expressing personal viewpoints in outside gigs, he violated its ethical standards for news analysts. But Williams has been offering his opinions for a long time; at the very least, NPR’s timing is bad. If our first reaction to every statement that makes us uncomfortable is unmitigated horror and a swift kick out the door, we run the risk of closing off all honest debate about difficult subjects. — Los Angeles Times

Tell us what you really think, Sen. Simpson

simpsonalanFormer Republican Sen. Alan Simpson, never at a loss for words, unloaded this week on those anonymous bomb throwers of the “electronic fog machine” who’ve targeted the reputation of Andrew Stern, the former Service Employees International Union president who serves with Simpson on the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. “I think that any person who uses an anonymous blog — I’ll say it quite clearly — is a jerk, or a bonehead, or a boob.” Simpson went on: “If you have something to say, say it! And tell who you are. Don’t whimper and hide out. Democracy is not a spectator sport, but it’s not a license to demean and denigrate and belittle those of us who are in the fray, while the creep who sneaks into the national debate by the subterfuge of anonymous and often bilious babble commands the allegiance of only the cynical, the disgusted and the alienated in society.”

Beck misinformed about liberation theology

beck,glennFox News host Glenn Beck’s claim that President Obama “understands the world through liberation theology, which is oppressor-and-victim” is an odd allegation, given that there’s no evidence that the president is an advocate of liberation theology, noted columnist Timothy Rutten. “But there’s little doubt about what Beck believes it implies,” Rutten wrote. “In a broadcast last month, he linked the movement to the Black Panthers — again without evidence — and charged that liberation theology ‘leads to genocide.’” Rutten explains a bit of the background of liberation theology and refutes other claims by Beck, such as that Pope Benedict XVI condemned liberation theology as “demonic.” Rutten’s suggestion: “Perhaps Beck should go back to peddling misinformation about the Founding Fathers.”

Beck regrets racism charge, levels new ones

beck,glenn2Fox New host Glenn Beck regrets saying that President Obama has a “deep-seated hatred of white people” and is a “racist.” “I have a big fat mouth sometimes,” he told “Fox News Sunday.” As if to prove his point, Beck now contends that what he originally thought was racism by Obama was a “liberation theology” that views the world as “oppressor and victim.” Beck claims that such a view is a “perversion of the gospel of Jesus Christ as most Christians know it.”
Regarding his rally Saturday on the Lincoln Memorial on the 47th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, Beck said that he wants to reclaim the civil rights movement from politics for “people of faith.” He also said he disagrees with King’s call for economic justice, which as a central part of the civil rights movement. “The real agenda should be equal justice, an equal shot,” Beck said.

Blurry line between news and propaganda

tvremoteShirley Sherrod. The New Black Panther Party. Death panels. Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne has had enough of the far-right media promotion of news that isn’t. “When an outlandish charge for which there is no evidence is treated as an on-the-one-hand-and-on-the-other-hand issue, the liars win,” Dionne wrote. “The Sherrod case should be the end of the line. If Obama hates the current media climate, he should stop overreacting to it. And the mainstream media should stop being afraid of insisting on the difference between news and propaganda.”

Why Obama did ‘The View’

obamatheviewWhy would President Obama choose to go on ABC’s “The View” — becoming the first sitting U.S. president to appear on a daytime talk show — when the country is at war and the economy is gasping for air? New York Daily News columnist Michael Daly wrote that he “found it a touch surreal that at a time when other Marine pilots are dying, four Marine helicopters and a small army of cops and secret service agents were being mobilized so Obama could dish with Barbara ‘Wawa’ and then hit some fat cats up for more than $30,000 a plate. Even so, we ultimately have only ourselves to blame. You can be sure that Obama would act accordingly if we stayed focused on what is most pressingly important, if we did not act as if the whole war were some secret we had no desire to know.”

From WikiLeaks to WookieeLeaks

wookieeWhen news breaks, new Twitter threads follow, sometimes with no regard for reality. Inspired by the WikiLeaks controversy, Twitter users have created a world of WookieeLeaks. Some sample tweets:
“Papers discovered in Tatooine reveal that Chewbacca knew about the planned attack on Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru and did nothing.”
“Lando Calrissian arrested after alleged chat logs reveal that he bragged to Adrian Lamo about betraying Han Solo.”
“Ecological disaster on Endor cover up. Rebels KNEW the risks in destroying a Death Star in low orbit and went ahead anyway.”
“Recently uncovered documents suggest that in fact those were the droids you were looking for.”
“Even in a galaxy far far away. . . it was all Bush’s fault.”

Right-wing propaganda machine

sherrodshirley“After the Shirley Sherrod episode, there’s no longer any need to mince words: A cynical right-wing propaganda machine is peddling the poisonous fiction that when African-Americans or other minorities reach positions of power, they seek some kind of revenge against whites,” Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson wrote. “A few of the purveyors of this bigoted nonsense might actually believe it. Most of them, however, are merely seeking political gain by inviting white voters to question the motives and good faith of the nation’s first African-American president. This is really about tearing Barack Obama down.”
Meanwhile, Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz defended Fox News, noting how the network “didn’t touch the story until her forced resignation was made public Monday evening, with the exception of brief comments by (Bill) O’Reilly.” Kurtz also noted that “Sherrod may be the only official ever dismissed because of the fear that Fox host Glenn Beck might go after her.”

To kids, Leahy was more than a local TV star

leahyFor thousands of kids growing up in Kansas in the ’60s and early ’70s, Tom Leahy Jr. was as famous as “Captain Kangaroo” or anyone else on national network television, and Leahy’s “Major Astro” character as renowned an astronaut as Neil Armstrong. Leahy’s “Major Astro” welcomed us home from school, and his “The Host” character scared us on weekends during movie airings. Leahy, who died Friday at age 87, was a natural performer with a gift for communicating with children. Like the late Henry Harvey (aka Santa Claus and “Freddy Fudd”), Leahy had a starring role in many Kansans’ childhoods. Too bad local stations don’t make TV personalities, or their shows, like that anymore.

Sad end to Thomas’ career

thomas,helenOne needn’t agree with a syllable of what 89-year-old journalist Helen Thomas said about Israel to feel sad about the quick end of her long, trailblazing career covering the White House and then commenting on it. But what she said, though apparently not a surprise to many who know her, was beyond offensive — that Jews should “get the hell out of Palestine” and go “home” to Germany, Poland, America and elsewhere. And as the Washington Post’s Jo-Ann Armao blogged, marveling at the initial lack of media attention to Thomas’ statement: “Imagine, if you can, if those same comments had been made by a sitting governor, head of Fortune 500 company or even some Hollywood star.”

Should Obama and Limbaugh go golfing?

limbaughZev Chafets, who wrote the new book “Rush Limbaugh: An Army of One,” is pitching an unusual idea for helping bridge the civility gap in politics. He wants President Obama and Limbaugh (in photo) to play a round of golf together. “It wouldn’t announce the start of a beautiful friendship or even a cease-fire,” Chafets wrote. “But it could signify to millions of overwrought citizens that Obama and Limbaugh, for all their disputes and differences, can still see each other as fellow Americans capable of sharing a beer and a laugh on a sunny day. And in times like this, that’s a message worth sending.”

Public stations deserved better

tvremoteThe Legislature did the public radio and TV stations and their listeners a disservice in slashing $900,000 in state funding in the middle of the night near the session’s end — with no discussion or opportunity for broadcasters to defend the funding. The out-of-the-blue amendment by state Rep. Virgil Peck, R-Tyro, forced House members to choose between public stations and veterans — a tight spot in an election year, and something that deserved thorough discussion. If Gov. Mark Parkinson has the ability to rescind the cut with a line-item veto, he should. What’s a painful bite out of the budgets of urban stations such as KMUW and KPTS in Wichita will be a debilitating blow to the rural stations that serve so much of the state.

Pro-con: Are violent video games free speech?

videogameThe U.S. Supreme Court waded into murky and, perhaps, treacherous waters Monday when it agreed to decide whether the Constitution permits California to prohibit the sale of violent video games to people younger than 18. The law regulates the sales of games that portray “killing, maiming, dismembering or sexually assaulting an image of a human being” in a “patently offensive” manner. (Is there a polite way to do one of those things?) It also prevents children from buying games with violence that appeals to children’s “deviant or morbid interests” (whatever those might be) or that lack “serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.” (Now there’s a logical and aesthetic minefield if ever there were one.) This is a well-intentioned but ill-conceived law that not only undermines several generations of legal progress toward making free speech a day-to-day reality in this country, but also threatens an emerging expressive industry in which California and the United States currently play a leading role. More important, it’s an unnecessary gesture toward child protection in an area millions of parents already are handling competently on their own. The Supreme Court should regard the California statute as an infringement on free speech rather than as a child protection measure — and affirm the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision to strike it down. — Timothy Rutten, Los Angeles Times

We think there is a strong argument to be made as to how the First Amendment applies differently to children and violence than it does to adults. California argues — and we agree with this position — that very violent video game sales to minors ought to be treated in the same way as selling sexual materials to minors. The state contends that excessively violent material sold to children deserves no protection under the First Amendment. Such a holding by the Supreme Court would add to the power of parents in determining whether their children should have such material, since presumably minors could get it only through their parents. We hope when Supreme Court justices contemplate the issues, they find that when it comes to minors, seriously sick and violent games deserve the same treatment as sexually explicit materials. — Long Beach Press-Telegram

Free speech for ‘South Park’

southparkOne wouldn’t usually have reason to put Comedy Central and “courage” in the same sentence. But the Viacom cable network really choked in reacting to a Muslim group’s threat by censoring a “South Park” episode’s references to the Prophet Muhammad, as well as Kyle’s culminating speech about intimidation and fear — and without the knowledge of creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker. As David Harsanyi wrote in the Denver Post of the show, which has been on 14 years: “‘South Park’ is the program that featured an image of Jesus Christ defecating on President George W. Bush and the American flag. It’s the program that featured the Virgin Mary gushing blood while undergoing menstruation and Pope Benedict XVI inspecting her in a truly distasteful manner.” He added: “If those who bankroll satirists can be so easily intimidated, shouldn’t we all be troubled about the lesson that sends religious fanatics elsewhere? And what does it say about us?”

No transparency at nuke summit

obamarightAs President Obama was conducting his nuclear summit this week, he was showing leaders from around the world “how to circumvent a free press,” complained Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank. Everything between Obama’s eight-minute opening remarks and a final news conference was closed — a fact noticed by reporters from Saudi Arabia, India, Japan and Turkey. “Reporters, even those on the White House beat for two decades, said these were the most restricted such meetings they had ever seen,” Milbank wrote. So much for Obama’s Web site commitment “to creating an unprecedented level of openness in government.”

Biased coverage of protests?

bushprotestThe media has devoted a lot of attention to offensive signs and taunts at tea party protests, but did it care when similar protests were directed at President George W. Bush? Though Bush “was hanged in effigy, burned in effigy, compared to Hitler, called the Antichrist, a human abortion, and made the subject of numerous sustained death threats for about seven years,” those protests “went mostly unreported outside of scattered conservative blogs,” Fox New reported.

Second banana as floor show

bidenA few good ones from Vice President Joe Biden, speaking Wednesday at the Radio & Television Correspondents Association dinner in Washington, D.C.:

“Liz Cheney has been on a tear lately. Now she’s questioning whether Tom Brady is a real Patriot.”

“I do have to defend our administration a little bit here, especially the recovery act, which I’ve been put in charge of. Republicans keep saying it hasn’t created a single job. Well, tell that to Sen. Scott Brown.”

About St. Patrick driving the snakes out of Ireland: “St. Patrick made that up — that’s why he’s the patron saint of Fox News.”