Zilch on O'Leary; Editors Wonder About Lost Credibility
- No other
shows picked up on NBC's revelation about Hazel O'Leary, not even
NBC's own Today show.
- The American
Society of Newspaper Editors launched a project to learn why they
are losing public trust. Some know that liberal bias is the
problem, but more disparage that thought.
"Top Ten Things Elvis Would Say if He Came Back Today."
1) None of network morning shows on Wednesday morning mentioned the
revelation in NBC's interview with Johnny Chung that he was directed
by an Energy Department aide to donate $25,000 to Secretary Hazel
O'Leary's favorite charity in order to arrange a meeting with her.
Though AP moved a story Tuesday night and Wednesday's USA Today
featured a story on the charge, not even NBC's Today uttered a
syllable about the interview excerpted on Tuesday's Nightly News and
Today. ABC's Good Morning America, MRC news analyst Gene Eliasen
reported, found time for a story on how McDonald's may drop the type
of burger they debuted last year, and during the 7am half hour for an
interview with a Colorado reporter about JonBenet Ramsey.
Tuesday's CNN World Today,
which airs at 10pm ET, also skipped the O'Leary disclosure. But CNN
aired a full report from Brooks Jackson on how documents given to CNN
show that back in 1992 the Christian Coalition coordinated efforts
with the 1992 Bush campaign, such as discussing the distribution of
voter guides. A 501 (c) 3 non-profit group cannot participate in
partisan activities or coordinate with a campaign.
Wednesday night (August 20)
neither ABC's World News Tonight or the CBS Evening News alerted
viewers to the allegation that the Clinton administration sold access.
On the NBC Nightly News Tom Brokaw announced a 28 second update:
tonight for former Energy Secretary Hazel O'Leary following our
interview last night with Democratic donor Johnny Chung. The
department's inspector general will look at Chung's claim that O'Leary
met with a Chinese businessman only after Chung gave money to the
Secretary's favorite charity. Tonight, for her part, O'Leary says she
met with that businessman twice as part of her job and she flatly
denies ever demanding a contribution in exchange for the
Brokaw next led into a
soundbite from Chung by emphasizing how what conservatives have
suggested is off-base: "In that interview with Chung I questioned
him about suspicions that he was acting on behalf of the Chinese
government as a front man, and he emphatically denied those
Washington reporter Howard Fineman recently admitted that the media
tilt left, but most of his colleagues refuse to concede the obvious
and so are baffled about why they are losing credibility. On CNBC's
August 18 Hardball, MRC news analyst Geoffrey Dickens noticed, Fineman
"Is the overall national
media somewhat liberal in its tendencies, especially in the mid-range
of reporters and editors? I would say so. It's based in New York, it's
based in Washington with a little side-league in Atlanta and a couple
of other places. I don't think there's much doubt. I think everybody
needs to be a wary consumer. That's of Fox, that's of CNN, that's of
Newsweek. We are in an age of labeling. There's labeling on the food,
there's gotta be labeling on the media."
Fineman's comment to
substitute host John Kasich reminded me of a column last week on how
the association of newspaper editors is trying to figure out why they
are losing public trust. But many in the media refuse to acknowledge
liberal bias or even if they realize it they want to find other
explanations for the problem.
Journalism's Credibility Problem?" read the headline over the
August 11 column by Boston Globe Ombudsman Mark Jurkowitz. He revealed
a new project underway by a leading industry group:
"Does something called
the 'Journalism Credibility Project' sound like an oxymoron? That's
just a little ombudsmanly occupational humor. But if the American
Society of Newspaper Editors is true to its word, the 'Journalism
Credibility Project' may be the industry's most serious effort at
large-scale ombudsmanship. Over the next three years, the society will
spend more than $1 million trying to find out why people don't love
and trust newspapers anymore.
President, Sandra Mims Rowe, editor of The (Portland) Oregonian,
became convinced of journalism's credibility problem 'because of
negative poll after negative poll coming out' and 'the amount of
negative press in the press about the press.'...
"During the project, the
editors will do some predictable things like convening think tanks and
evaluating research. They will also embark on more-adventurous
undertakings like two large public surveys and experiments in which
eight newspapers...will examine the causes of and solutions to
credibility problems in their communities."
But Jurkowitz noted that some
editors already realize a major source of the problem: "The
participants reflect a seriousness of purpose that may bode well. For
one thing, they finally seem prepared to address the corrosive and
widespread public perception of media bias, liberal and otherwise.
'People perceive bias, and they perceive it across the board,' says
[Colorado Springs Gazette Telegraph Editor Steven] Smith. 'I have
finally been persuaded that the issue of bias is probably real,' adds
So why spend a million
dollars? Well, many in the media establishment disparage the notion of
bias. When the ASNE released the results of a poll earlier this year
of 1,037 journalists which found they are overwhelmingly liberal, a
think tank head dismissed the natural implications. The poll
"In 1996 only 15 percent
of the newsroom labeled itself conservative/Republican or leaning in
that direction, down from 22 percent in 1988" when the ASNE last
conducted a comprehensive survey. Those identifying themselves as
independent jumped from 17 to 24 percent while the percent calling
themselves "liberal/Democrat" or "lean" that way
held steady, down one point to 61 percent.
The January-February edition
of ASNE's magazine, The American Editor, included a preview of the
results as a sidebar to the cover story headlined "The Myth of
the Liberal Slant." Everette Dennis, Senior VP of the Freedom
Forum, charged: "There is no convincing evidence that journalists
infect their stories -- intentionally or otherwise -- with their own
political prejudices." Then he dismissed evidence to the
contrary: "While a few studies suggest such a link, most are the
handiwork of right-leaning groups and critics whose research methods
can't withstand scrutiny." Dennis failed to cite any shortcoming
in a study by the MRC or any other group.
Dennis insisted that
ignorance fuels public perception of bias, as he told editors they
"need to explain these realities to the public: that the press is
guided more by professionalism than by politics, that partisan viruses
are often inoculated by the realities of the marketplace, that
journalists do, in fact, police each other's behavior." And if
that doesn't convince people, he urged more aggressive denial:
"The credibility of the media is not suffering because of a
liberal bias; it's suffering, in large part, because of the continuing
charge of bias that has gone unanswered for too long."
I'm not sure that even a
million bucks will bring Dennis around. But he's not alone. Two other
examples of denial that I didn't have room for when they occurred, so
I'll squeeze in here:
-- On July 27 CNN's Reliable
Sources brought on Bob Novak to discuss why conservative politicians
condemn conservative journalists who stray from the party line. Novak
"I can understand the
problem with conservative politicians. They have a mainstream media
that poses as being objective when they're all tilted to the left. The
people who are actually covering the news are way over, we all know
that, that's one of the common little secrets in Washington. So they
have a few right-wing commentators, columnists and they expect us to
always be in their corner. Newt Gingrich has said the problem with the
right-wing journalists is they are so used to tackling the ball
carrier that even when we, that is the new Republican majority is
carrying the ball, they still tackle the guy on their own team."
That was too much for Ellen
Hume, chief of the PBS Democracy Project: "Scholar after scholar
has disputed, in studying the actual content of the press, what you've
just blithely handed out. that it's this left wing media. That's a
charge from the '50s that's not the current press. Tom Patterson, no
the bias is a bias against politicians of all kinds, not a bias for
one side or other."
-- The McLaughlin Group
devoted the entire July 4th weekend show to discussing media bias.
Here are some of Eleanor Clift's more colorful comments, as
transcribed by now-departed MRC intern Jessica Anderson:
Clift: "I don't think
voting for Clinton makes you a liberal. I mean, Bill Clinton isn't
even a liberal, and second, if you're liberal, does that mean you
can't be fair? What hypocrisy that we sit around and talk about the
press like it's some sort of 'they.' It's us. Are we too liberal?
Clift: "The bias is in
favor of bad news and you go after whoever is in power, and the name
of the game is kill the king, which is why Bill Clinton does not get a
free ride. And secondly, all this show is about liberal reporters.
Let's go into the board rooms, let's go into the publishing places.
Fred Barnes: "They don't
report the stories. Oh, c'mon!"
Clift: "Oh, c'mon, they
make the final decisions! Rupert Murdoch is funding your magazine!
Rupert Murdoch just bought a big cable, a Christian cable
Barnes: "So? What's your
Clift: "My point is that
Rupert Murdoch, Time-Warner, Disney -- they're the ones that make the
decisions, not street reporters!"
Rating the objectivity of the
Washington press corps on 1-10 scale, 1 being zero objectivity, 10
being metaphysical objectivity, Clift insisted: "It's an eight.
The bias is for bad news and scandal, and this show is more
representative of the conservative drift in journalism today than this
caricature you all are drawing."
This is already too long, so
I'll wait until the next CyberAlert to pass along the results of a
poll that went unnoticed but which discovered that even liberals see
liberal bias in the media.
3) From the
August 18 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Things
Elvis Would Say if He Came Back Today." Copyright 1997 by
Worldwide Pants Inc.
10. I've been dead 20
years, and I still look better than Keith Richards.
9. What do you know? The Jets still suck.
8. I'm hungry -- is there are any food stuck in my sideburns?
7. I can't believe I missed the McRib Sandwich!
6. Who's this 'Richard Simmons,' and why's he keep trying to hug me?
5. I've been dead 20 years, you moron -- of course I want fries with
4. Heaven was great until that freaky bastard Tiny Tim showed up.
3. That Letterman punk's on the TV -- where's my revolver?
2. I haven't been dead -- I've been starring in a series on CBS.
1. Lisa Marie married who?
Okay, the list has nothing
to do with politics or the media, but I thought it was humorous. I'm
going on vacation to California and will not leave until I see
Shamoo, so there probably won't be more than two CyberAlerts between
now and Labor Day.
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