Monday, November 10, 2008

Lousy Coverage - Whether you like it or not!!!!

The build-up to the vote on Proposition 8, the California initiative designed to limit marriage to a man and a woman, gave readers another reason to divorce newspapers. From the start, the debate was limited to same sex marriages or mixed marriages between a man and a woman. The stage was set when San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom defied state law and performed the marriage of two people of the same gender. Count 'em - two, as in a traditional marriage. All that was needed to enlarge the debate was for a reporter to ask if he would officiate at the marriage of any consenting adults, which would include plural marriages. I saw one TV reporter ask this and Newsom replied with something akin to "I heard it all. Even about marrying your horse." Those who back his stand often answer that "the issues are separate." Not when the subject is "marriage equality."
Newsom's flip remark came despite the fact that America almost went to war over polygamy and the Mormon church had to change its teaching before Utah was allowed to enter the Union. The book, "Under the Banner of Heaven," estimated that thousands of couples still live in such non-traditional arrangements. The book also said polygamists hoped to link up with homosexuals in a campaign for legality. Fat chance of that unless reporters did their job. Not only was there the Mormon factor, an increasing number of immigrants came from nations that practiced plural marriages. All his reminded me of Animal Farm, the book in which all animals are equal but some are more equal than others.
Later, news stories cited the 1948 case that got rid of a law banning marriages between races. Almost all reports danced around the fact that the case involved freedom of religion. The couple wanted to wed in the Catholic Church but the law prevented this. If anything, the ruling was closer to polygamy than gay marriages. The law banned marriage between races. There is also a law against polygamy. There is no law against gays marrying. Newsom attempted to change a law, not get rid of it.
Are there lessons to be learned? Many. First, while papers were silent, the Net had a lot of talk about this, meaning dissenters no longer have to feel powerless and isolated. That said, it also demonstrates that the slope doesn't become slippery until the media greases it. It also provides more evidence that the government no longer takes action because it has a compelling interest, but because it is compelled to show interest.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

MSM can run, but it can't hide - anymore

This just in!!!! Stop the presses!!! The San Francisco Chronicle finally reported Joe Biden's big goof about history, one that puts him in Bill C'linton's class for getting a press pass, meaning the press gives you a free pass (see earlier Clinton entry). None of this would matter except for the savaging Dan Quayle took about his spelling of potato.
The Chron's Joe Garofoli on Oct. 2 mentioned briefly that Biden said on television a week earlier that FDR appeared on TV when Wall Street crashed in 1929 and reassured the public. Hoover, not FDR, was president then and national TV was decades away. The Chron, and, I suspect, other papers, sat on Biden's miscue even though it was all over television and the net. Garofoli's story came after a letter to the editor complained.
The Chron has also been silent on another subject a lot of people are talking about: Nancy Pelosi's statement on TV about the Catholic teaching on abortion. The San Francisco archbishop, in a front page story in Catholic San Francisco, challenged her.
The lesson for today is: Newspapers are not the only game in town and now can be caught with their pants down. NEWS is the important part of newspaper, not PAPER.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Palin must make Emily pissed

I don't think I'll vote for Sara Palin, but I have a crush on her for the way she upset feminist who wanted a strong woman, meaning one who agrees with them. During my 40 years, I watched as feminists flexed news media power to the point that "choice" became limited to one subject. I think one of the main reasons this happened was simply that many male reporters embraced feminism in order to embrace feminists. Another reason was a successful sex discrimination suit against the AP, which had a near monopoly on news gathering and distribution - the latter thanks news consumer allowing UPI to be reduced to working out of a broom closet in Washington.
The list of power points - the old kind - is a long one. With the possible exception of William Safire, no one asked a simple question during the initial media beachhead over Ms. Mrs. or Miss. Why were men limited to Mr.? Or why did women have "courtesy titles" to start with?
Then there was Emily's List, the fundraiser designed to elect women to office. What reporter had guts enough in those early days to ask "what kind of women?" I can remember standing on the steps of City Hall in San Francisco at a news conference by a list official and asking if she would back an anti-abortion woman. "We aren't that ready to step out of the mainstream," she said. I never saw the exchange in print.
Earlier, the purge of anti-abortion feminists from key NOW posts went virtually unreported, even though it made me recall the Night of the Long Knives in Hiitler's Germany.
Add to this, the media's forked tongue on the terms used in the abortion debate: pro-choice can stand alone but not pro-life (although this situation has cleared up a bit since the Internet joined the game.)
And, please see my July 1, 2007 posting on Title IX, which, thanks to a lapdog media, is one of the great stealth laws of all time.
I think movies have been better about capturing this than reporters. My favorite line is in "Mona Lisa Smile." A student asks a teacher, who is constanly pushing her students to be strong and independent thinkers, something like this: "You want us to make choices and then condemn us for making ones you wouldn't."

Monday, August 25, 2008

Print was Talk Radio's midwife

I was at the birth of talk radio, which wouldn't have been born if print had done its job. I read reports on a Pew Research Center study that found that 39 percent of regular Fox News Channel viewers said they were Republicans with 33 percent saying they're Democrats. The AP story quoted "Fox Attacks" filmmaker Robert Greenwald as saying "without liberals and progressives to yell at, without liberal positions to make fun of, Fox doesn't exist." A shame we are all yelling at each other, but Greenwald should look at history to find out how we ended up with so many forked tongues. I suggest he read the 1970s Daniel Yankelovich poll that found trust in media had dropped. "A two-third majority felt that what they think 'really doesn't count,'" Yankelovich concluded. Talk radio simply noted the need and filled it. A whole segment of society, mainly what came to be called "the angry, white male," was disenfranchised from print.
There wasn't much written about the early days of talk radio. One of the few to study that time was Murray Levin who taped 700 hours of talk radio shows between 1977 and 1982 for his book 'Talk Radio and the American Dream." He discovered that callers felt cut off from the political mainstream. There is a lot of talk now about returning radio to the days of the Fairness Doctrine. No one faces the fact that there would be no talk radio - or Maddow, O'Reilly and all - if the doctrine had been practiced by newspapers.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Obama - President of these "57 states"

The MSM ducked the "57" states slip Obama made during a swing through Oregon. Bloggers didn't. They were quick to jump on the goof, some noting a double standard by recalling the savaging Dan Quayle took in 1992 when he visited a New Jersey classroom and urged a boy to spell potato with an "e" on the end. As far as I can tell, however, none unearthed a more important lack of unbiased gatekeeping - the "pay-no-attention-to-the-man-behind-the- curtain" brand of reporting practiced with Bill Clinton's gaffes (I was tempted to say boners, but that was a different story).
Shortly after Quayle was fired over the potato, Clinton, then a candidate, addressed some veterans. He noted that Lincoln and FDR were, like himself, never in the service. Not true. Lincoln served in the Black Hawk Indian War and FDR was undersecretary of the Navy in WWI. Lincoln was in the militia and FDR was not in uniform, so I guess it all depends on how you define "serve." I hit the phone and told our New York desk that he was wrong. The voice on the other end said, "that is important." To this day, I don't know if he was sincere or sarcastic. A correction about Lincoln was inserted deep down in the main story, but I don't think anything was done about FDR. The mistake wouldn't have been that important, except for the fact that so much was made over Quayle's "potatoe." What troubled me most about this episode was that Clinton's staff probably had a hand in preparing his speech, unlike Quayle's unprepared remark.
That wasn't all. Clinton would go on to allow his bombing of Iraq to be called "Operation Desert Fox." I thought for sure that late night comics would have a field day with his using the nickname of a German hero.
Clinton had a lot of trouble with German history, particularly for a Rhodes scholar. During the 1995 ceremonies in Berlin that marked the 50th anniversary of the Berlin Airlift, Clinton mentioned the contributions of pilot Gail Halverson, the famed "candy bomber" who dropped candy to children in the besieged city. Then he said that "she" was there for the festivities. Only "she" was a "he." To make things worse, his press secetary said both he and the president thought Halverson was a member of the WASPs, a group of women ferry pilots that was disbanded before the air lift. The NY Times made a brief mention of the error, calling it "a rare gaffe." Rarely reported is more like it.
Is this the result of "liberal bias?" I don't think so. At the time, I blamed lack of fairness now I think it is more a case of lack of character. Life is a gamble and the reporter should be the guy who's so honest he holds the stakes. Hopefully, the internet will get reporters and editors back to basics by holding them accountable. The old days are over.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Why Now?

Obama bit the "bitter" while still trying to get rid of the Wright stuff. Why now? He noted white resentment in his earlier race speech after the Rev. Wright's remarks became part of the news chain. Note my April 4 entry about the media largely ignoring that part of Obama's speech. He says pretty much the same thing later, the Huffington Post makes it sound like news and it's all over the place. Lemming journalism at its best. The big story is this: how was the Huffington commentary - and it was commentary - promoted? Are reporters and editors afraid of the bloggerman?

Friday, April 4, 2008

Media dodged Key Parts of Obama speech. Ditto Saddam terror study.

Old dogs can learn new tricks. So can old reporters. I listened to Obama's speech on race and thought his comments about "white resentment" would get a thorough going over by the news media. It didn't. I dug out the text of his remarkable speech to make sure I heard right. I did. He acknowledged that working whites had concerns over affirmative action, making me wonder if the SF Chronicle dodged this one because of its shameful handling of the fire department's "swastika incident" and the near obliteration of the Zebra murders from city history.
I had a similar experience recently when I heard a television anchor report that a new study found no link between Saddam and al-Qaida. That was about the extent of the report. I asked my wife,"What else is new?" I then read the report by Institute for Defense Analyse. which had a great deal more to say, including Saddam's financial support for suicide bombers in Gaza and the West Bank as well as helping develop car bombs and explosive vests. The report said "captured Iraqi documents uncovered that links the regime of Saddam Hussein to regional and global terrorism."
My guess is that someone got an advanced look at the report summary, which mentioned lack of al-Qaida and ran with that. Then "lemming journalism" went to work. Twenty years ago that would have been the end of the story. Today, it is just the start because the net can hold reporters and editors accountable - in minutes.