Archive for July 2008
Originally published on MediaPutz.com on July 31, 2008
Being a nightly news anchor gives one a great opportunity to be a Media PUTZ. Charlie Gibson shared the award with George Stephanopoulos on April 24 for their “classic” debate in Philadelphia.
And Brian Williams got the award on June 12 when he “brushed off accusations that the corporate networks knowingly used Pentagon shills as alleged “neutral” experts on the Iraq War.”
Now, it’s Katie Couric’s turn. Couric almost lost the award to Campbell Brown and Erica Hill of CNN for their trashing of the hearings looking into impeachment.
But as distasteful as what Williams, Gibson, Stephanopoulos, Brown, and Hill did, what Couric did was such a violation of journalism ethics that she should be fired. America’s “sweetheart,” Katie Couric isn’t just the anchor of the CBS Evening News, she is also the managing editor. Couric’s interview with John McCain involved the removal of an answer by McCain that would have made him look foolish, and an answer to a different question was inserted into the interview without disclosure from Couric or CBS.
Substituting a different answer is a direct violation of CBS News protocol, and Journalism 101. The blame magically shifted to an unnamed producer who edited the piece.
But Couric is responsible for what airs on the CBS Evening News, along with executive producer Rick Kaplan. Yet neither of them was admonished, punished, or otherwise disciplined for an unethical act.
This isn’t the first time a huge breach of ethics has occurred under the watch of Katie Couric. A CBS News producer was fired and the network issued an apology after a Couric essay on libraries was plagiarized from The Wall Street Journal. Amazingly, Couric read the essay in the first person as if she had written it. So for $15 million a year, she can’t even write up copy that is supposed to be from her that isn’t even news copy.
But at least in that case, someone was fired. At this point, no one has been disciplined or fired for editing out a McCain gaffe without identifying that the interview had been manipulated for political purposes.
Numerous reports have Couric leaving the CBS Evening News chair sometime around the first of the year. The better solution would have been to have her terminated and her $15 million/year contract voided due to unethical journalistic behavior. After all, the journalism careers of Jayson Blair, Janet Cooke, and Stephen Glass were destroyed due to their mendacity. Why shouldn’t Couric suffer the same fate?
For putting political pressure to protect John McCain ahead of the truth, Katie Couric is the Media Putz of the week.
Originally published on BuzzFlash.com on Wed, 07/30/2008 – 9:40am
His sister Pam works in a shop
She never stops, she’s a go-getter
Takes him out to look at the queen
Only place that he’s ever been
Always shouts out something obscene
— Mean Mr. Mustard, John Lennon/Paul McCartney, 1969
In the Beatles song, “Mean Mr. Mustard,” he never really seemed that mean. The above lyric was the meanest thing in the song.
If you were to write a parody song about John McCain, you couldn’t help but borrow from this song. After all, we know McCain has a temper and has showed it in far too many fashions. If voters wanted to have a beer with Bush, they would be afraid to try and retrieve the tennis ball that went over McCain’s fence.
David Letterman has for months poked fun at McCain’s age, portraying him as the guy who yells at kids to get off his lawn. Whether that is literally true, McCain has now morphed into Letterman’s perception.
And it’s not just late-night comedians. As Brent Budowsky pointed out recently:
In recent days McCain has accused Obama of supporting genocide, wanting to lose the Iraq war, and now possibly creating a world depression. There is an anger to all this, an emotional and intellectual distemper, and an intolerance of alternate opinion that has deeply troubled his Senate Republican colleagues for many years.
There is an irrational anger to this, a stability meltdown under the pressures of a campaign, that leads McCain to attacks that I have called short-pants McCarthyism. Supports genocide? Wants to lose the Iraq war? Will cause a world depression?
These are the weird, strange and ridiculous charges of an angry candidate lashing out without regard for truth, dignity, common sense or the normal civilities even in our lower-standard national politics.
As Sridhar Pappu observes the transformation of John McCain: “It was, in many ways, an Anakin Skywalker moment for McCain. Whatever good, decent qualities he’d brought to the 2000 race had been wiped away, eclipsed by a new figure we’ll call Darth McCain.”
You know you’re angry when you are a Republican candidate and you diss a reporter — not from The New York Times but from The Wall Street Journal.
The gaffes, the incompetence of the campaign — none of those things seem nearly as dangerous as a presidential candidate who comes across as mean. Not the kind of mean you might want in dealing with other countries, but mean to people on his side, such as his wife.
With deep apologies to Lennon and McCartney, here is my attempt at a parody verse:
Mean Mister McCain oh so ignored
Trying to run as if he isn’t bored
Says with glee he doesn’t know the economy
Showing off his brand of pain
Saying Obama would lose a war to win a campaign
Such a mean old man
Such a mean old man
Originally published on BuzzFlash.com on Tue, 07/29/2008 – 1:05pm
The latest comparison of past presidential candidacies centers on 1980. How similar is the 2008 race compared to the 1980 race?
In this scenario, Barack Obama is Ronald Reagan, Hillary Clinton is George H.W. Bush, John McCain is Jimmy Carter, and perhaps Cynthia McKinney and Bob Barr get to fight over being John Anderson.
(Then again, John McCain should remember 1980, the year he divorced his first wife and married his mistress, er, second wife.)
Seriously, will we be comparing the 2008 race to any other year in years to come? And does any previous year really come close to paralleling the 2008 race?
We’ve heard the 1960 parallels for why Obama should choose Clinton as vice president. The 1968 campaign had some parallels. Bob Dole and John McCain compare in a way that draws in 1996. Then you had the recent comparison notes of 2000 and 2004. Can’t wait for the McCain campaign to use the Gerald Ford comeback analogy in 1976 that fell just short.
Face it – we have an unique race. In some voters’ eyes, they may have seen George W. Bush, Al Gore, and John Kerry as very similar people (scary thought). But you can’t look at Barack Obama and John McCain and think they are similar, and that has nothing to do with skin color.
The age gap between Obama and McCain (25 years) is the largest of any major party candidates in the history of the United States. The only race in the 20th Century that came close was 1944 when Franklin D. Roosevelt ran against Thomas Dewey, a difference of 20 years. Being born in 1936 and being born in 1961 makes a big difference in this country.
We have the first major party candidate who isn’t white. That person narrowly defeated a candidate who became the first significant female candidate for president, in the closest race in the era of primaries.
The other major presidential candidate is a repeat candidate who won numerous states without getting 50% of the vote in the primaries.
And while the economy has been bad in other presidential years (1980, 1992), the extensive economic damage in 2008 has been unmatched for the last 75 years.
In a country where only two Senators went straight from the Senate to the White House, we have two sitting senators representing the major parties. We have two former members of Congress who are running on the ticket of smaller parties.
And let’s not forget the extended period of the campaigns so far, well beyond any previous presidential race, in the first year since 1952 where no incumbent is running for the Oval Office.
Are there some themes we can borrow from previous years? The 1996 Dole-2008 McCain parallel is a little scary. Neither Obama or McCain remind us of Dwight Eisenhower or Adlai Stevenson in 1952. As for the 1980 comparison, Obama has mentioned Reagan as a catalyst for change. But it only works if Obama wins and has the kind of momentum (and quite frankly, the kid gloves Reagan received from the press).
Originally published on BuzzFlash.com on Wed, 07/23/2008 – 2:13pm
Regular readers know I’m not a fan of the brand of journalism Katie Couric practices. But even if you are a Katie Couric fan, you have to be appalled at her latest “journalism” escapade: censoring an interview with John McCain, removing an answer that made McCain look extremely foolish on Iraq and substituting a different answer.
If the speculation is true, Couric will be replaced around the beginning of the year as anchor of the CBS Evening News. But she will still be doing journalism in some form for CBS, most likely “60 Minutes.”
The network of Edward R. Murrow, Douglas Edwards, Walter Cronkite, and Dan Rather has been replaced by the network of Les Moonves, Rick Kaplan, and Katie Couric. This is the same newscast that fired a producer for plagiarism for one of Couric’s “essays.”
At least that producer got fired. Who will get the boot for this blatant violation of basic journalism?
If a network has protected Obama in such a fashion, we would be hearing huge outcries for firings. Just because a network protected a Republican candidate (again) doesn’t mean the outcome should be any different.
I’m sure they will try to find a lackey to take the fall this time. But Couric has the title of managing editor, and Kaplan is the executive producer, and that should count for something. Is anyone willing to admit they are in charge of the news department at CBS?
In the real world, performance and yes, sometimes, ethics sometimes happens if you are worried that you lose your job. You may not be the most ethical person in the world, but if you thought you would lose your job, you might be more ethical than what would be in your heart.
If Couric or Kaplan figured they could get away with substituting a McCain answer that would make him look really bad and place one in that makes him look good, and not pay a price for their deeds, what would prevent them from doing so?
For all the Dan Rather hoopla, which did cost him his job, the truth behind the story was never disputed. In this instance, the deception is not in dispute.
If Couric lost her job and her $15 million a year salary; if Kaplan lost his multi-million dollar salary; if other journalists saw immediate repercussions to their efforts, you would see changes in the MSM that would produce long-term efforts that could restore some credibility to the process.
Is there anything different in what Couric did than the fates of Jayson Blair, Janet Cooke, and Stephen Glass? And if there isn’t anything different, should TV news get away with cheap tricks such as this that get people fired in newspapers and magazines?
Originally published on BuzzFlash.com on Tue, 07/22/2008 – 9:38am
Given the current standard (George W. Bush), you would think the next president of the United States, whomever that will be, would have a grace period from the MSM to make a few hundred gaffes before the media said something.
But apparently the MSM has a higher standard for the presidential candidates, er, presidential candidate: “One gaffe and we will pounce.”
Barack Obama is finding out on his current overseas trip that the MSM is salivating, waiting for a gaffe to come from the junior Senator from Illinois. “He doesn’t have much experience. Will he say something – bad!?”
It appears on the surface that the MSM doesn’t care about McCain’s gaffes, but cares desperately about Obama’s gaffes. After all, in looking for an Obama gaffe on this trip, they missed one of McCain’s (McCain saying that Iraq and Pakistan share a border when they don’t).
But there has to be a special reason that isn’t apparent. After all, John McCain has thrown so many gaffes our way, it feels like an all-you-can-eat buffet on the Strip in Las Vegas. And the MSM really likes gaffes, so we should find out what it is about Obama’s gaffes that they desire.
Perhaps an Obama gaffe is juicier, more ripe. Maybe the flavor and texture of an Obama gaffe is rare and difficult to find.
Maybe the McCain gaffes are chewy with very little flavor. How exciting can it be when McCain says twice recently that Czechoslovakia still exists? Maybe the reporters don’t know the country split back on January 1, 1993.
Perhaps the McCain gaffes aren’t very filling. If it takes a lot of gaffes to make you feel full, then it’s difficult to appreciate just one gaffe. But an Obama gaffe — maybe just one would make you feel full for days to come.
We live in a society where gourmet food is something with which to treat ourselves, especially in an economy where many are having trouble affording their regular food bill.
So perhaps the Obama gaffe is a rare white truffle with shallots and cilantro sautéed in a rare balsamic vinegar dripped on the outside of the plate, while a chorus of male hummingbirds sing something from the Magic Flute by Mozart.
A McCain gaffe would be like a serving of the, no not good enough to be Kraft, generic equivalent of macaroni and cheese, yes the kind from the box, made 2 days ago from 2% milk from the gallon that expired 3 days previous and the bright yellow margarine from the tub, all under fluorescent light.
The Obama gaffe comes with an amazing supply of vitamins and minerals, high in Omega-3, and lots of fiber. The gaffes are also naturally low in carbs so they won’t slow you down.
The McCain gaffe has less nutrition than the unfortified version of Lucky Charms with more saturated fat than a steak cooked in butter.
So clearly the MSM isn’t biased: they are only focused on Obama’s gaffes because they offer so much more taste, nutrition, and an overall wonderful experience. And their tolerance for McCain’s gaffes is only because they are unworthy of the MSM’s taste buds.
Originally published on BuzzFlash.com on Mon, 07/21/2008 – 10:46am
There was a story earlier this year that starting on July 5, there would be nude 1-hour flights between Erfurt in southeast Germany and the Baltic Sea island of Usedom. The passengers would fly naked, but they could only undress once they were on the plane.
But for those who aren’t quite ready to fly nude on a flight, you might get the chance to “be naked” while keeping your clothes on.
Air travelers going through O’Hare International Airport in Chicago will soon have the opportunity to be literally exposed to a revealing full-body scan before boarding planes.
The concept seems degrading, especially when you haven’t been accused of a crime, and your only “violation” was to want to fly in an airplane out of O’Hare.
From the Chicago Tribune:
The new full-body imaging machines that will arrive at O’Hare this fall look through clothing to create an explicit silhouette of the traveler — showing shapes, folds of fat and other anatomical characteristics — to identify possible hidden objects.
Even though facial features are blurred to protect privacy, the images reveal breasts, buttocks and other private parts, prompting some civil liberties groups to call the machines an unacceptable intrusion.
You can judge for yourself: here are pictures of what the full body scan is supposed to look like.
The issue isn’t so much about nudity but vulnerability. I got inspected at Canadian Customs at the train station in Vancouver, BC on July 3. The guy went through everything in my suitcase, including my underwear. It’s not a fun feeling.
When I went to the emergency room on Wednesday last week, there were numerous times where near nudity and vulnerability collided. And that wasn’t a fun feeling.
The implication is that the full body scan would be an alternative to a pat down, and some people really don’t like to be touched. So some in those circumstances might choose the full body scan.
I would choose the pat down over the full body scan. But my luggage already goes through the X-ray machine, and I walk through the metal detector — all of which I can accept. I might even take a pat down if necessary. But I draw the line at pictures that might come close to showing off what I have.
I don’t have a problem with nudity in the right context. I could see the fun of flying with a bunch of Germans in the nude. While on that same vacation, I visited the famous Wreck’s Beach in Vancouver. I just like nudity on my own terms. And TSA workers and O’Hare International Airport is where I draw the line.
Yes, we need to be safe and protected. But enabling technology that would do more to embarrass us than make us safe isn’t the answer. We already remove our shoes without asking, we put liquids in small containers. We would likely hop on one foot while touching our nose and rubbing our bellies if it would help ease the mindset of the TSA workers.
We just want to fly somewhere and see different parts of the world from where we live. There have to be methods that keep us safe and yet treat us like we are adults, that we all aren’t treated as potential criminals just because we want to go on vacation.
Originally published on BuzzFlash.com on Tue, 07/15/2008 – 9:15am
We know George W. Bush is an alcoholic. We know Bill Clinton liked McDonald’s a lot. And we have been learning that John McCain is a serious, high-stakes gambler. But do we need to know the addictions of our presidential candidates – and our presidents?
In Chicago, Michael Jordan was virtually worshiped for what he did on the basketball court. But when we learned that he was gambling lots and lots of money, there was consternation over the incidents. Is it a problem to gamble lots of money if you have lots of money or only if you don’t have the money?
John McCain, through his wife, has lots of money in which to gamble, so we aren’t concerned that he is betting one of his 11 houses. But Michael Jordan isn’t running for president, and John McCain is.
The articles that have mentioned McCain’s gambling also point out that Obama likes to play poker. And they make it absolutely clear that Obama likes to do it for fun and McCain is very intense about his experiences.
Even though McCain can cover his losses, the style in which he gambles and the necessity of needing to gamble speaks to what might be his leadership style in office: big risk-taker. By contrast, Obama isn’t a big risk taker.
Not to draw an exact parallel, but Bush’s addictions or perhaps even “recovery”* from those addictions has spoken a library full of his leadership style. A wild alcoholic with alleged issues with at least cocaine, even a “recovered” one, needs to channel that energy somewhere else. Unfortunately, for the troops in Iraq, he found an outlet.
* recovery in the sense that you don’t stop being an alcoholic, even if you stop drinking.
In each presidential race, we want to learn more about the presidential candidates. And our criteria seem to change based on the newest occupant. And based on Bush, perhaps we should pay much more attention to the persona of the White House occupant.
A wild, obsessive gambler, such as McCain, is an appealing prospect to certain Americans. And Obama’s relative aversion to risk-taking also appeals to many Americans. But those Americans who truly are trying to decide between Obama and McCain should have some idea of who these people are, even their addictions.