Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

Corporate media should ignore their own wallets in reporting Obama’s tax cuts

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Originally published on on Fri, 03/06/2009 – 11:07am

Does it matter how much a reporter makes when reporting on the current financial catastrophe? Reporters are trained to be objective, to not focus on the impact on one’s self, but rather the impact on the citizens.

But when it comes to TV journalism, there appears to be a revolt over President Obama’s tax policies.

Brit Hume had a downright fit on “Fox News Sunday” on the topic.

Then we have one of the most insipid news stories from a corporate media outlet — ABC’s saga of people too clueless to understand tax policy trying to lower their incomes below $250,000 to not have to pay a tax increase on the amount made over that high mark.

The corporate press is freaking out in general over the idea that President Obama would actually keep his campaign promises. And it’s mostly because they will have to pay more in taxes.

Barack Obama, when running for president, said in the Philadelphia debate that 94% of Americans make under $100,000 a year. And given the financial boondoggle since, that figure has likely gone up. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you the percentage of these Americans, who are reporting these stories, who make under $100,000 a year. But if the figure was as high as 10%, I’d be stunned.

True, $100,000 in New York City or Los Angeles isn’t the same as $100K in Omaha. But Hume’s salary is in the millions. Charlie Gibson, whose odd capital gains tax obsession was one of the many lowlights of that Philadelphia debate, makes millions.

Emily Friedman, whose ABC News story inspired the apology below, may not make millions, and the only reason I can say this comfortably is that if she did make millions, she would know how the tax code works.

“Editor’s Note: Yesterday ABC News published a version of this story which some readers felt did not provide a comprehensive enough analysis of Obama’s tax code for those families making $250k or more. has heard those concerns and after review has decided to post an updated version of the story below.”

Reporting the story as an Obama tax hike when 95% of Americans are getting a tax cut is dishonest. It’s even more dishonest if reporters and anchors are being swayed by their own pocketbooks.

Reporters and anchors are citizens, and no citizen likes the idea of their taxes going up. But this is a group that received tax breaks for the last eight years, and the rate that they would pay — on money over $250,000 — is at the level under President Clinton, when the rich still made plenty of money.

Journalism is one of those professions where many struggle financially, with full-time jobs or freelancing, while others have boatloads of money. Theoretically, a reporter making $16,000 for a newspaper in Southern Kentucky should be as aggressive as a female nightly CBS news anchor who makes $15 million a year. But when human emotion is involved, well, the standards fall short.

Walter Jacobson is not a name you might know outside of Chicago. Jacobson had a long career as a Chicago journalist, first with newspapers and mostly with TV. And he certainly made a nice career financially. But in 1991, he dressed up as a homeless person and lived on the Chicago streets for 48 hours. He later reprised the role in 1995.

There were plenty of critics who stepped up to tear Jacobson apart for his efforts. However, Jacobson was willing to crawl out of the shell of being a TV news anchor and tried to live the life of a homeless person for 48 hours. A short period of time doesn’t tell you the whole story, but the time spent did provide some perspective.

If millions are offered to you to read the news or report it for television, then you can’t really turn it down. But you still should be true to your calling, to remember that most of the viewers watching you on television make under $100,000 a year. And adjust your reporting accordingly.


Written by democracysoup

March 6, 2009 at 11:07 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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