Archive for the ‘Media’ Category

Fair and balanced e-mail #3

October 5, 2006

An e-mail to Fox News:

Date: Thu, 05 Oct 2006 10:53:42 -0700 (PDT)
From: Steve Casburn
Subject: Labeling Mark Foley a Democrat

Dear Sirs,

Earlier this week, Fox News repeatedly showed a graphic which labelled disgraced Republican congressman Mark Foley as “Former Congressman Mark Foley (D-FL)”.

Until this incident, I had questioned your standards and biases but believed that Fox News was basically a news organization. I can’t believe that now.


/s/ Steve Casburn


Stephen Colbert vs. the White House correspondents

May 2, 2006

I enjoy Stephen Colbert’s work, but I was ambivalent about his appearance this weekend at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner.

On the one hand, Noam Scheiber is right to note that much of Colbert’s talk was repeated from old Colbert Report episodes and that much of it just wasn’t funny.

On the other hand, Steve Gilliard is right to say that it was refreshing to see the President confronted with real satire.

Colbert’s presentation was worth watching, and I compliment him on his huevos grandes, but the insincerity of his professed admiration of Bush was too transparent. Of course everyone knew the admiration was a put-on, but we usually know that about acting. Colbert’s irony needed a plausible actor to deliver it, and Colbert didn’t come through.

Jon Stewart vs. Bill O’Reilly

October 19, 2005

Last night’s Daily Show interview was a hell of a boxing match.

In the left corner, Jon Stewart: a jabber and a weaver, quick on his feet, doesn’t pack a lot of power but can kill you with an uppercut.

In the right corner, Bill O’Reilly: powerful, intimidating; but slow, and helpless if he can’t set his feet for that renowned roundhouse.

Stewart, in his home ring, had the advantage. He set the tempo, and never let O’Reilly roll. He kept the bigger man off balance — ducking, moving, faking, then a stinging left-right, and another, and ANOTHER!

No knockout. The fight was only two rounds.

But a clear winner: Stewart by unanimous decision.

No, no…literally

March 30, 2005

The Houston Chronicle for October 12, 1932 had this front-page, five-column top headline:

Movie Director Kills Himself After
Texas Woman Spurns His Love

The second subhead for the article:

Beautiful Former Actress
Tells Police That Film Ex-
ecutive Nailed Her in His

That’s Hollywood! But it’s not the sort of pungent revelation you expect to see in a 1932 headline from the Chronicle.

Then, a few paragraphs into the story, we find:

Mrs. Smith told of going to Davidson’s apartment.

“When I got inside he nailed the door shut. […]”

Oh. That kind of nailed.

The patronizing of the “blogosphere”

January 27, 2005

One thing I never see mentioned in these [“mainstream media”]-vs-blogs stories is how completely positive, ecstatic, and fawning the old media coverage of blogs is. The bloggers’ own claims that they are transforming the media, empowering the individual, making the old fogies at the newspapers and TV stations quake in their boots, etc., are always taken at face value when newspapers or TV news shows do a blog story (and that kind of perfunctory reporting could itself be seen as a form of condescension if bloggers had a lick of sense). […] I’ll know the blogs are making a difference when The New York Times does a blog story about how the blogs are all a bunch of parasites on the old media.

Tim Cavanaugh

Trying to be fair

February 4, 2004

From a book—a book I strongly recommend, for its on-going relevance—about press coverage of the 1972 presidential campaign:

It is an unwritten law of current political journalism that conservative Republican Presidential candidates usually receive gentler treatment from the press than do liberal Democrats. Since most reporters are moderate or liberal Democrats themselves, they try to offset their natural biases by going out of their way to be fair to conservatives. No candidate ever had a more considerate press corps than Barry Goldwater in 1964, and four years later the campaign press gave every possible break to Richard Nixon. Reporters sense a social barrier between themselves and most conservative candidates; their relations are formal and meticulously polite. But reporters tend to loosen up around liberal candidates and campaign staffs; since they share the same ideology, they can joke with the staffers, even needle them, without being branded the “enemy.” If a reporter has been trained in the traditional, “objective” school of journalism, this ideological and social closeness to the candidate and staff makes him feel guilty; he begins to compensate; the more he likes and agrees with the candidate personally, the harder he judges him professionally. Like a coach sizing up his own son in spring tryouts, the reporter becomes doubly severe.

— Timothy Crouse, The Boys in the Bus, 1974 (1973), pgs. 355-56

Crouse has a point; certainly in my case. I was a journalist and a columnist in high school and college, and even today I want above all to be accurate and fair. I was a staunch Republican until a few years ago (and would still be one if the party hadn’t changed so much).

And for as long as I can remember, I’ve been harder on Republicans than Democrats. I’ve learned that I can’t trust my instinctive reactions to the ideas of Democrats and liberals, so I tend to go easier on them, because I want to be fair. Plus, I expect more from the GOP, because, even now, I identify with it, and see it as my party. Is Tom DeLay more of a sleaze than, say, Tony Coelho was? I don’t know. But he’s a sleaze who represents a part of me, and he angers me in a way that Coelho never did.

Did similar emotions account for the rough treatment the press gave Bill Clinton?

The role of critics

January 14, 2004

His similes are terrible, but his points are good…

[T]he art critics and the dramatic critics […] are separated by a great chasm of “culture” and fastidiousness from the people for whom they write. They [look upon] the amusements of the public, not as wine-tasters oversee wine-drinking, or horse-doctors inspect horses—that is, by right of knowing more than most people about something which most people know. Rather they oversee them as teetotalers count the [pubs], or as a giraffe, with lifted head, might oversee a fish-market. This division and disgust is a dangerous attitude, even when it is a right attitude; for there is in all arrogance the beginning of ignorance. […] Obviously the right condition for a healthy community is that the people and the critics should have the same basic joy in beautiful or comic things; but that the people should not know why they feel the joy, while the critics should tell them. […] As men they should laugh or cry at a theatre; and then afterwards, as critics, defend themselves for having done so. They should justify to the public its own feelings in the act of justifying their own. But […] something has gone wrong with this natural relation of the critics to the commonwealth. The writers in question never attempt to explain why humanity likes this or that; generally they get no further than explaining why they do not like it themselves. […] [A] critic, even if he differs from the [general opinion], ought to be able to explain it. That is his business.

— G. K. Chesterton, 1909

Rancor and politics

January 10, 2004

Dylan Wilbanks takes a look at the current state of American political discourse, and says one thing I strongly agree with (though I would quibble with “impossible”):

I believe political discourse is now impossible in this country, thanks to the media, the bevy of talk-show moruns [sic] out there, and a bunch of writers too lazy to write an interesting and factual column. It’s sad when bloggers on both sides have a better grasp on political ideas than the mainstream media.

I rarely read political columnists any more (and I certainly don’t bother with political news on television). The political bloggers I read are more honest and more to the point, and rarely waste my time.

Journalistic malpractice

September 24, 2003

A recent Associated Press article demonstrates how the news media often miscover medical and scientific news.

The title and first paragraph of the article sound promising:

Study: Even mid-life diet change can extend life

WASHINGTON (AP) — It has long been known that laboratory animals live longer on a low-calorie diet. Now a study suggests that even if sensible eating is delayed until middle age, health can be improved and life extended.

And with childhood and adult obesity a serious problem in the United States, who wouldn’t find these paragraphs reassuring?

The carry-home message from the study, said Linda Partridge of University College London is that it is never too late to improve health by switching to sensible eating habits.

“If this works in humans, then it means that from the time a person starts on a restricted diet, they’ll be like individuals of the same age who were always on that diet,” she said. “Their prospects of survival are the same.”

That reassurance fades, though, if you read to the end of the article: