aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Saturday, April 30, 2005
Hope for the documentary
News that Judy Woodruff is leaving CNN ("to teach, write and work on long-form documentaries") following, as it does, Ted Koppel’s announced departure from ABC ("There are some very interesting prospects out there...") makes me optimistic that there will be some good documentary happening, hopefully on PBS or a broadcast network rather than pay TV.
I started out in documentary and still have a fondness for the form. Yesterday a student came in asking about doing a documentary this summer about some of the black midwives in Georgia in the 1950s who are still living. My ears pricked up. As it happens my teacher, mentor and friend George Stoney made a 1952 film, All My Babies: A Midwife’s Own Story:
...widely regarded as a landmark film, “remarkable in its time for its respect for African Americans… visual version of a training manual for black midwives...[that] includes an actual birth,” All My Babies follows a remarkable midwife, Mary Coley (Miss Mary), through three deliveries in a series of reenactments shot on location in rural Georgia.
The film was made for Georgia’s Department of Public Health to train the midwives:
Stoney was dealing with subject matter that challenged racial taboos...Stoney was to assure the white community that there was no sabotage intended of the white South, and no intention of even suggesting that an unhappy relationship existed between whites and blacks, not in any way promoting a change in black-white relationships. The film, the sponsors felt, should manifest interest in the health of blacks and how it might be improved within the South’s traditional way of life.
All My Babies represented several advanced views. It challenged the idea that a hospital was the only appropriate place for childbirth. Its consideration of birth as a natural process rather than a “trauma” was quite unusual at that time. And its psychological approach, which stressed, for example, the importance of paying attention to other children in the family, was quite new. According to Stoney, one of the best things that All My Babies accomplished was to show doctors in the South that working with midwives offered unique and rich clinical experience. “A lot of younger doctors began to take those assignments”
I called George for a copy of his tape and will be working with the student, who had his first project debut last night in our school’s first film festival. He’s got talent and has demonstrated commitment. I’m excited at the prospect.
Detective O’Reilly: Making America Stupider
A Georgia woman, who was found in New Mexico early Saturday and who said she had been abducted, admitted today she had made up the story because she was nervous about her upcoming wedding, police said.
World O’Crap was watching the Bill O’Reilly segment on the case last night, before she was found:
Bill asked Greta [Van Susteren] if the police had any clues about who had taken the woman, because it was obvious that she was the victim of a crime, and was most probably dead.Ã‚Â Greta quickly replied thatÃ‚Â the cases of Audrey Seiler (the Minnesota coed who faked her own kidnapping) and Elizabeth Smart show thatÃ‚Â Wilbanks could still be found alive.Ã‚Â Bill pompously said that this case was different, in that WilbanksÃ‚Â was very close to her family, and was very responsible, so she obviously didn’t just run away.Ã‚Â Plus,Ã‚Â it was only luck (he repeated that: “only luck") that Smart wasn’t killed by her abductor.Ã‚Â BillÃ‚Â addedÃ‚Â that Seiler hadÃ‚Â some mental problems, andÃ‚Â in every case like her’s there are some signs that point to a hoax,Ã‚Â but Wilbanks was 32-years old and had never done anything flaky before, and wasn’t the type to cause her family so much worry, so it was clear that she had been kidnapped or murdered.
Greta defensively said that we had to hope that she would be found alive, even if Bill was right about her not having just gotten cold feet and ran away.Ã‚Â BillÃ‚Â smugly commented that he knew enough about these kinds of cases to say with certainty that Wilbanks was the victim of some crime, and then asked about the status of the fiance’s polygraph…
The thing that bugs me most about this isn’t that Bill, the pompous jerk, was opining about something in the absence of evidence and turned out to be wrong (we have to expect that of Bill), but that he kept hyping the story as being another case in theÃ‚Â "epidemic" of missing women and children who turn out to have beenÃ‚Â murderedÃ‚Â by their husbands, or raped and murdered by degenerate child molesters.Ã‚Â Sure, it’s just a ploy to attract viewers, but it causes harm, in that peopleÃ‚Â start believing that attractive, white women are disappearing at an alarming rate in this country, and that all convicted sex offenders should by lynched to keep our children safe.Ã‚Â And then the more realistic dangers (like domestic violence to regular women, and kids dying fromÃ‚Â abuse and neglect caused by people in their own households) are ignored, since everyone is so focused on Laci Peterson and little Jessica Lundford.Ã‚Â
So, I think the new Fox News slogan should be: We Over Hype, You Over-React.Ã‚Â Or simply “Making America Stupider."Ã‚Â
Friday, April 29, 2005
In praise of Jon Stewart
‘The Daily Show with Jon Stewart’ Uses Humor to Skewer Homophobes -April 26, 2005
In its “fake news” coverage, ‘The Daily Show’ uses its incisive wit to bring to light the bigotry and prejudice of those who oppose full civil rights for gay and lesbian people. Stewart’s comments on the Texas measure to bar gay men and lesbians from becoming foster parents are particularly on-target.
Bonus video from last week:
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ Town Hall Meetings with the Samantha Bee Effect
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ From Jimmy Kimmel, Bush on corn (for Earth Day)
Thursday, April 28, 2005
TV good, cluttered screens not
A friend who knows me to believe that you have to have television in your diet to be culturally and politically well-rounded and informed, wrote to be sure I didn’t miss this NYTimes Magazine piece, Watching TV Makes You Smarter:
For decades, we’ve worked under the assumption that mass culture follows a path declining steadily toward lowest-common-denominator standards, presumably because the ‘’masses’’ want dumb, simple pleasures and big media companies try to give the masses what they want. But...the exact opposite is happening: the culture is getting more cognitively demanding, not less. To make sense of an episode of (for example) ‘’24,’’ you have to integrate far more information than you would have a few decades ago watching a comparable show. Beneath the violence and the ethnic stereotypes, another trend appears: to keep up with entertainment like ‘’24,’’ you have to pay attention, make inferences, track shifting social relationships. This is what I call the Sleeper Curve: the most debased forms of mass diversion—video games and violent television dramas and juvenile sitcoms—turn out to be nutritional after all.
I believe that the Sleeper Curve is the single most important new force altering the mental development of young people today, and I believe it is largely a force for good: enhancing our cognitive faculties, not dumbing them down.
It’s interesting, and I have yet to read the whole thing, but I note that it need not conflict with this from Kansas State University:
In the past few years, television stations have begun to reformat their screen presentations to include scrolling screens, sports scores, stock prices and current weather news. These visual elements are all designed to give viewers what they want when they want it.
However, Kansas State University professors Lori Bergen and Tom Grimes say that it’s not working. [...]
“We discovered that when you have all of this stuff on the screen, people tend to remember about 10 percent fewer facts than when you don’t have it on the screen,” Grimes said. “Everything you see on the screen—the crawls, the anchor person, sports scores, weather forecast—are conflicting bits of information that don’t hang together semantically. They make it more difficult to attend to what is the central message...The outcome of all of the experiments was that people were splitting their attention into too many parts to understand any of the content.”
Wednesday, April 27, 2005
Morning television & me
I switched my season pass from the Today Show to Good Morning America but alas, there was Katie Couric again this morning. I don’t blame TiVo, I blame the cable company because even though I have an expensive digital box, the serial port isn’t active so I have to use the IR controller to change channels, which sometimes fails. Even so, TiVo still beats the cable company: The Comcast DVR Belongs in A Dumpster, “All I wanted was to watch 24 last night, and apparently that’s too much to ask from the nation’s largest cable company.”
I’m so out of synch. I used to be a regular Good Morning America viewer but recently I’ve favored the Today Show. It turns out the Today Show is struggling and GMA is moving up. And Katie gets the blame:
...lately her image has grown downright scary: America’s girl next door has morphed into the mercurial diva down the hall. At the first sound of her peremptory voice and clickety stiletto heels, people dart behind doors and douse the lights...The strained chemistry between Ms. Couric and her colleagues - Matt Lauer, Al Roker and Ann Curry - could be one reason..."Today" has turned her popularity into a Marxist-style cult of personality. The camera fixates on Ms. Couric’s legs during interviews, she performs in innumerable skits and stunts, and her clowning is given center stage even during news events.
Yowza! That hurts. And there she was this morning smiling and joshing with Matt, good as ever if you ask me. I was glad to see that Steve Brill came to her defense:
It’s one thing to write a review in The Arts Section saying the show is slipping or that it seems desperate, or that “the camera fixates on Ms. Couric’s legs.” That’s all about the content of the show—fair game for a critic, and really good stuff. But it’s quite another to report as fact—all unsourced—that “people dart behind doors and douse the lights” when Katie approaches, that “panic has set it,” etc. Who says? What’s Katie’s comment? Was she asked to comment?
The sad thing is that based on that article I was set to abandon the show. Fickle eh? Maybe I’ll just go and change that season pass back.
I’d watch that
Former ABC News producer Paul Friedman’s advice to CBS News execs: Summarize the news of the day in five minutes or so; spend a big chunk of time—10 minutes or so—on covering one really good story; and give people even more to think about by ending with opinion.
Tuesday, April 26, 2005
The pot calls the kettle black
Alan Wexelblat comments on two “independent music promoters” who have filed suit against Universal Music Group alleging they were forced to submit false invoices:
So the problem, guys, is not that you were part of the payola racket, but that you got fired and blacklisted for refusing to pad your payola records? Excuse me while I cry a crocodile tear river here. The whole system is rotten to the core. Promoters don’t promote. Artists get ripped off. Producers get bullied. And the Cartel hollers “piracy” when you and I share songs? What a hypocritical bunch of hooey. How about we put the entire bunch of ‘em out to pasture and actually let artists promote and sell their music to consumers without this blood-sucking mass of sanctimonious double-dealing? [B mine]
Monday, April 25, 2005
Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) and Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), through a Freedom of Information Act request, got the Secret Service logs of James Guckert’s (aka Jeff Gannon) access to the White House.
Guckert made more than 200 appearances at the White House during his two-year tenure with the fledging conservative websites GOPUSA and Talon News, attending 155 of 196 White House press briefings. He had little to no previous journalism experience, previously worked as a male escort, and was refused a congressional press pass.
Perhaps more notable than the frequency of his attendance, however, is several distinct anomalies about his visits.
Guckert made more than two dozen excursions to the White House when there were no scheduled briefings. On many of these days, the Press Office held press gaggles aboard Air Force One-which raises questions about what Guckert was doing at the White House. On other days, the president held photo opportunities.
On at least fourteen occasions, Secret Service records show either the entry or exit time missing. Generally, the existing entry or exit times correlate with press conferences; on most of these days, the records show that Guckert checked in but was never processed out.
Among the many questions raised by the documents, Salon asks:
First, if White House day passes—and the abbreviated security check that goes along with them—are meant for the occasional use of reporters who don’t need a permanent “hard” pass, why was Gannon allowed to use such day passes more than 200 times in less than two years? Is anyone else allowed, in effect, to turn a day pass into a “hard” pass, or was Gannon alone in his near-constant day pass access?
Second, in the post-9/11 world, is it too much to ask that the Secret Service keep track of who is coming and going at the White House? ...Maybe it’s just sloppy bookkeeping, but how hard can it be to get this stuff right? The White House isn’t exactly Grand Central Station, and the Secret Service checks everyone who comes and goes. Is there a reason other than ineptitude for missing many of Gannon’s entries and exits? And if it’s just ineptitude, what is the president going to do about that?
“Democrat’s call Frist’s proposal to change the rules, ‘the nuclear option.’” - TODAY SHOW correspondent Chip Reid an hour ago.
Our media is at another pivotal moment - report the truth or cave? Today, Frist said:
Now if Senator Reid continues to obstruct the process, we will consider what opponents call the “nuclear option.” Only in the United States Senate could it be considered a devastating option to allow a vote. Most places call that democracy.
On November 14, 2004, there was the following exchange on Fox News:
WALLACE: Well, let me ask you about one of them, because some Republicans are talking about what they call the nuclear option, and that would be a ruling that the filibuster of executive nominees is unconstitutional, which would require not 60 or 67 votes but only a simple majority of 51.
FRIST: Yes. That’s right.
WALLACE: Are you prepared to do that?
FRIST: Oh, it’s clearly one of the options. I’ve always said it’s one of the options.
What it basically—it’s called the nuclear option. It’s really a constitutional option. And what that means is that the Constitution says you, as a Senate, give advice and consent, and that is a majority vote. And then you vote on that, and that takes 50 votes to pass.
On November 16 he said to NPR:
Sen. FRIST: If we continue to see obstruction where one out of three of the president’s nominees to fill vacancies in the circuit court are being obstructed, then action would be taken. One of those is the nuclear option. The Constitution says advice and consent is the Senate’s responsibility; the president’s responsibility to it is to a point, and therefore, if the Constitution says `advice and consent,’ by 50 votes you can decide to give advice and consent. Will we have to do that? I can’t tell you, but I can tell you if obstructions are to continue like they have in the past, that clearly is an option that we have on the table.
UPDATE: Media Matters details the media shift in terminology.
Friday, April 22, 2005
Conservative pressure at PBS
Liberal commentator Bill Moyers is out on PBS stations. Buster the animated rabbit is under a cloud of suspicion. And right-wing yakkers from the Wall Street Journal editorial page have been handed their own public-television chat show.
Some observers, including people inside the Public Broadcasting Service, see these recent developments as troubling. PBS, they say, is being forced to toe a more conservative line in its programming by the Republican-dominated agency that provides about $30 million in federal funds to the Alexandria-based service.
Recent changes at CPB are unprecedented:
Typically one of the quietest bureaucracies in Washington, the quasi-governmental CPB has been unusually active in recent weeks. CPB this month appointed a pair of veteran journalists to review public TV and radio programming for evidence of bias, the first time in CPB’s 38-year history that it has established such positions. PBS officials were unaware that the corporation intended to review its news and public affairs programs, such as “The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer” and “Frontline,” until the appointments were publicly announced.
In negotiations with PBS earlier this year, the corporation also insisted, for the first time, on tying new funding to an agreement that would commit the network to strict “objectivity and balance” in each of its programs—an idea that PBS’s general counsel described in an internal memo as amounting to “government encroachment on and supervision of program content, potentially in violation of the First Amendment.”
There’s that (code)word “balance” again. And again:
A senior FCC official, who would not speak for attribution because he must rule on issues affecting public broadcasting, went further, saying CPB “is engaged in a systematic effort not just to sanitize the truth, but to impose a right-wing agenda on PBS. It’s almost like a right-wing coup. It appears to be orchestrated.”
In an interview yesterday, CPB board chairman Ken Tomlinson called such comments “paranoia,” and said critics of CPB’s initiatives should “grow up.”
“We’re only seeking balance,” said Tomlinson. “I am concerned about perceptions that not all parts of the political spectrum are reflected on public broadcasting. [But] there are no hidden agendas.”
Roger Ailes must be proud.
Wednesday, April 20, 2005
Citizen journalism or citizen schlock?
Current will be looking for video submissions in three categories. “Current Gigs” wants to see the most incredible, bizarre, or mindless jobs in the world. “Current Soul” seeks videos on what connects people to the divine, whether it’s Jesus or Allah, yoga or tantra, churching or surfing. Finally, “Current Fashion” wants those with style to turn the cameras on themselves or others to show us what’s in, or what should be out.
Via Thomas Hawk.
UPDATE, Dan Gillmor is more optimistic:
The citizen-journalism movement is one of the great opportunities for the radio/TV news folks, because a new generation of audio- and video-fluent people will supply more material than we can comprehend today. Much—most—will be garbage. So what? The good stuff will be a vital part of how people see and understand the world.
We’ll see and hear it one way or another, whether via a truly bottom-up method like video blogs or peer-to-peer networks. Yet established media can, and I believe must, embrace the emerging citizens media.
I most certinaly agree.
I take it for granted that smart broadcasters make this a more common practice, in everyday news, just as the about-to-launch Current TV operation says it will do.
I don’t know that I’d take that for granted. Yes, the new talent is out there, but will the old-line TV people recognize and inspire it to something better? Or try to channel it into nothing more than what was?
Jim Romenesko: journalism superhero
Improving the business may not have been Romenesko’s intention when he started his one-man-band site as “Media Gossip” in May 1999 or even when Poynter hired him to do the same job (with the same solo staffing) that October. For all I know, it may not even be his goal today. Collecting stories across the political spectrum, he never tips his hand to reveal his views or prejudices. I imagine him working diligently in his home office dressed in a fire-engine red body stocking, a matching cowl pulled over his eyes, a big white “R” embroidered on his chest. Every profession-lawyers, accountants, police, doctors, bankers, et al.-should have such a superhero keeping vigil.
Jim Romenesko’s site is irreplaceable because it gives honest reporters public leverage over their corrupt colleagues, their timid editors, their bullying publishers, and their craven owners. Let them transgress, the site seems to whisper. How badly do they want to see their names in boldface and linked to?
Tuesday, April 19, 2005
In the latter, Mitch Albom added color to his story:
To most people he’s a novelist, and they don’t hold him to the same journalistic standard as they would others. This is not as if Bob Woodward got caught manufacturing quotes from the president.”
In a column April 3, Albom described two former Michigan State basketball players, both now in the NBA, attending an NCAA Final Four semifinal game on Saturday. The players told Albom they planned to attend, and Albom, filing Friday before the game, wrote as if the players were there, including that they wore Michigan State green. But the players’ plans changed and they never attended.
But in the former:
In the “Today” segment, Mr. Oppenheim talked about products made or sold by 15 companies. Nine were former clients and eight of those had paid him for product placement on local TV during the preceding year.
Mr. Oppenheim is part of a little-known network that connects product experts with advertisers and TV shows. The experts pitch themselves to companies willing to pay for a mention. Next, they approach local-TV stations and offer themselves up to be interviewed. Appearances frequently coincide with trade shows, such as the Consumer Electronics Show, or holidays including Christmas or Valentine’s Day.
The segments are often broadcast live via satellite from a trade event and typically air during regular news programming in a way that’s indistinguishable from the rest of the show. One reviewer may conduct dozens of interviews with local stations over the course of a day in what the industry calls a “satellite media tour.” While this circuit is predominantly focused on the local television market, the big prize for marketers is a mention on national television shows, which carry far more clout with viewers.
Mr. Oppenheim offers no apology, only explanations.
Monday, April 18, 2005
Nightline stays, Cronkite imagines a better nightly news
In a story on the challenges at ABC News there is this on Nightline:
On Friday, Anne Sweeney, president of Disney-ABC Television Group, said in an interview that she had decided that the news division - and not the network’s entertainment or sports units - would be given the first opportunity to put a program on the air in Mr. Koppel’s slot.
While Ms. Sweeney refused to say how long that news program, whatever its format, would be given to succeed, her decision is the most public vote of confidence that the network has extended to Mr. Westin after months of internal wrangling over what exactly to do at 11:35.
“It’s not going to be radically different,” Mr. Westin said, emphasizing that, while it may evolve, the new “Nightline” would nonetheless retain “the DNA” of Mr. Koppel’s program.
And in TV news just isn’t what it used to be, Wlater Cronkite (who ought to know) says:
“It’s understandable, to me anyway, that the management should attempt to do what they can to get a lot of that audience back,” Cronkite said. “However, I personally - and this is purely a personal feeling - would rather see more devotion to the major stories in politics and the culture of the nation, rather than quite so much entertainment news, if you will, of crime, of less-important news...Let’s do the headlines at 6:30 or whenever,” he said. “And then when we come back for those (prime-time) magazines, instead of Hollywood and crime and all that kind of thing, we could do instant documentaries” on the news of the day.
Saturday, April 16, 2005
Cox not Washington Post’s new gossip columnist
I don’t listen to Imus, so I missed it.
Washington’s cell phones and chat lines were on fire Wednesday with the news from Don Imus’s show that Ana Marie Cox, aka Wonkette, had been named the Washington Post’s new gossip columnist.
Gossip aficionados were not surprised. As soon as Reliable Source author Rich Leiby quit last month, Cox was mentioned as a possible successor. Her Wonkette blog is a guilty pleasure most days, often newsy and usually frothy and funny.
But news of Cox’s hire turned out to be idle gossip-and dead wrong, the product of muddy conversation on a radio show taken as fact.
Thursday, April 14, 2005
NPR: the news medium of choice
In an article that first surveys the state of television news, concluding:
Thus, more than 50 years into the television era, television news is at a strikingly low ebb. The medium that defined the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the Vietnam War, and the first human steps on the moon has become an outlet for the elderly and the lonely. Yet broadcast news is actually as healthy as it’s ever been. It’s just that it’s gone low-tech.
The Boston Phoenix proclaims the present belongs to NPR:
EVERY WEEK, somewhere between 23 million and 29 million Americans tune in to National Public Radio. In the apples-and-oranges world of television and radio ratings, it’s hard to know precisely how to compare TV’s daily numbers with radio’s weekly audiences. But there seems to be little question that NPR is now the second-largest broadcast news source in the United States, still trailing the network newscasts, but catching up rapidly - and far ahead of the cable news shows upon which media critics regularly dump barrels of ink.
NPR’s audience has at least doubled in the past decade. The only radio program with a larger audience than NPR’s two drive-time newscasts - Morning Edition and All Things Considered - is Rush Limbaugh’s talk show. The NPR audience tends more toward middle age than youth...but that’s still a lot younger than the network news audience. And whereas the television news audience is shrinking because it defies cultural trends, the public-radio audience is growing along with those trends.
Wednesday, April 13, 2005
Changes at CPB
Republican-friendly former F.C.C. chief operating officer W. Kenneth Ferree, whose primary legacy is his long-time lobbying to relax the rules regulating corporate media expansion, has been named interim CPB president and CEO, replacing Kathleen Cox after only nine months on the job:
Asked whether he shared the criticism by some conservative groups that public broadcasting is either out of touch or too liberal, Mr. Ferree said: “We can always do better in programming. We’re for balance. We want balanced programming.”
Uh oh. We well know know what balanced means.
Kos is a star
Q&A on Sunday; Wired news today. Kos is getting good attention. The Wired story is about his latest venture, SportsBlogs (of virtually no interest to a person like me). But the Q&A interview is my kind of media.
Tuesday, April 12, 2005
Videos counter accounts of Rep convention unrest
Dan Gillmore calls it “by turns infuriating and enlightening—infuriating because of the apparently unpunished official misconduct that it plainly suggests, and enlightening in its demonstration of citizen empowerment.” From the NYTimes today:
A sprawling body of visual evidence, made possible by inexpensive, lightweight cameras in the hands of private citizens, volunteer observers and the police themselves, has shifted the debate over precisely what happened on the streets during the week of the convention.
For Mr. Kyne and 400 others arrested that week, video recordings provided evidence that they had not committed a crime or that the charges against them could not be proved, according to defense lawyers and prosecutors.
Among them was Alexander Dunlop, who said he was arrested while going to pick up sushi.
Last week, he discovered that there were two versions of the same police tape: the one that was to be used as evidence in his trial had been edited at two spots, removing images that showed Mr. Dunlop behaving peacefully. When a volunteer film archivist found a more complete version of the tape and gave it to Mr. Dunlop’s lawyer, prosecutors immediately dropped the charges and said that a technician had cut the material by mistake.
Friday, April 08, 2005
Michelle Malkin is a…
I’ve wondered before about the rough and tumble I’ve seen in other blog’s comments.
For a case on point, we have Michelle Malkin using commenters responding to this Schiavo memo update to slam Kevin Drum. “Does respected Monthly editor Charles Peters condone this rhetoric?” she asks.
I don’t want comments like that on my blog (my mother reads my blog) but if Malkin really wanted to keep the rhetoric on a higher plain, she would have otherwise illustrated her point.
Congratulations Ana Marie
Wow. She blew me away. The woman totally kicked his $200 an hour ass. It was incredible theatre. I’m a truly truly truly impressed. For all the shit folks give Ana (aka Wonkette), and she gets shit, she did us proud today. Not to rehash the entire saga, but there’s been some concern among liberal political bloggers that the the mainstream media always picks Wonkette to represent serious political blogging at panel discussions, etc., when she’s not a serious political blogger, rather she’s a raunchy political humorist. A very, VERY funny raunchy political humorist, but still, if you’re a serious political commentator, it’s understandable that you’d get tired of people always having you represented by a comedienne, even a very funny one.
Anyway, she kicked GG’s ass today. Relentless. I think he ticked her off when he started defending Armstrong Williams by saying the administration had to pay him because none of the mainstream media would report fairly on No Child Left Behind. I get the feeling that while she plays one on the Web, this is a woman who tolerates no fools.
Most popular question for Gannon from an off-camera audience member after the panel ended. “DID YOU EVER SLEEP WITH SCOTT McCLELLAN? JEFF, DID YOU EVER SLEEP WITH SCOTT McCLELLAN! DID YOU EVER SLEEP WITH ANYONE IN THE WHITE HOUSE, JEFF? DID YOU EVER SLEEP WITH ANYONE ON THE WHITE HOUSE STAFF PRIOR TO GETTING YOUR PASS?” ANA, ASK HIM IF HE EVER SLEPT WITH SCOTT McCLELLAN?”
Wednesday, April 06, 2005
David Neiwert has been the definitive source for me on the horrendous intention by C-SPAN to “balance” (a term it now “regrets”) a speech by the Holocaust scholar at Emory University, Deborah Lipstadt, with a lecture by Holocaust denier David Irving.
From Neiwert’s post on balance that must be read in its entirety:
What “balance” has become, in essence, is a fig leaf for broadcasting falsehoods on behalf of right-wing propaganda efforts. In the process, it has become a major means for transmitting extremist beliefs into the mainstream. The Schiavo matter is only the most prominent recent example of this.
Perhaps less noticed, but even more illustrative, was the recent case of C-SPAN’s decision to “balance” its coverage of Deborah Lipstadt’s book on her ordeal with Holocaust denier David Irving by insisting that Irving be given equal airtime.
In that post he excerpts the New York Times coverage (no longer available for free) and the Washington Post Richard Cohen column (which triggered an unusual on-air swipe at Mr. Cohen by C-SPAN host Susan Swain.)
So far, C-SPAN’s behavior has been not only unprofessional, it is entirely inconsistent with its previously established standards for “balance”: When it broadcast conferences of the white-supremacist organizations American Renaissance and Council of Concerned Citizens, it felt no need to “balance” those discussions with opposing viewpoints. One has to wonder why, once again, truth and fact have to contend on an equal footing with lies and vicious slander.
Finally, in a post last night, Neiwert looks at the show in depth:
Though it no doubt would like to have put the controversy behind it, C-SPAN’s Sunday broadcast of its BookTV program on Deborah Lipstadt’s book on her ordeal by libel trial with Holocaust denier David Irving wound up only demonstrating that the concerns over its highly questionable approach were indeed well grounded.
The chief guest on the program was Washington Post reporter T.R. Reid, who, as noted earlier, was probably not the best-informed “expert” the program could have featured. As Reid himself told the New York Sun, he has not read Lipstadt’s book...Moreover, he did not actually cover the trial, at least not in the traditional sense.
Neiwert details the definition of “Holocaust denial” and documents how Irving’s views fit then concludes:
Regrets about terminology notwithstanding, C-SPAN’s approach to this subject makes clear that it has a great deal to learn about how extremists like Holocaust deniers operate. They count on the ignorance of those unfamiliar with their tactics to handle them “fairly”—which is to say, to treat their lies as though they merely represent another viewpoint, and thereby spread their vicious falsifications into the mainstream,. Sunday’s broadcast was a classic case of this.
(You can read Lipstadt’s reaction to the program on her blog.)
I’ve been a fan of C-SPAN. Booknotes was my favorite show. I am a fan of BookTV. But I have to admit that this incident makes me agree with Atrios: there is something seriously creepy going on there.
UPDATE: In Corrections Department, Dave Neiwert explains he “jumped the gun” here and here (I quoted both in this post) and “unfairly characterized the coverage of the Irving-Lipstadt trial by T.R. Reid of the Washington Post...It is clear to me, after some conversations with Mr. Reid, that he did in fact attend at least several days of the trial itself.”
Still, Neiwert concludes:
What’s not as defensible, I think, is the relatively thin gruel that Reid served up for BookTV’s national audience—a natural result, I think, of his not having read Lipstadt’s book. I also think, given what we saw on TV, it remains an open question just how deeply Reid was acquainted with the trial testimony; “days and days” certainly represents honest and hard work, but I still doubt that he comes close to having attended a majority of the trial’s 32 days.
That said, I’d like to also apologize to my readers for this bit of sloppiness. I can’t promise it won’t happen again, but I can only try.
Tuesday, April 05, 2005
Peter Jennings’ lung cancer
This morning, Peter Jennings told his senior staff at World News Tonight that yesterday afternoon he was diagnosed with lung cancer. I include below the full text of Peter’s note to the group of people with whom he works most closely. He will begin outpatient treatment next week here in New York. It’s both Peter’s and my expectation that he will anchor World News Tonight during the period of treatment to the extent he can do so comfortably; but, we should also expect him to be off the broadcast from time to time, depending on how he feels. Charlie Gibson, Elizabeth Vargas, and others will be substituting for Peter as necessary and when their other responsibilities permit.
A fan, I wish him well. The text of his email to colleagues is in the extended entry.
Monday, April 04, 2005
Gore & Google
Don’t get me wrong, I like Al Gore, but this doesn’t sound promising to me:
A cable channel recently acquired by an investment group led by Al Gore is to relaunch Aug. 1 under the name Current, hoping to generate much of its content from viewers...they hope young people will use the channel as a forum to express their opinions on news and current events. Viewers will be invited to submit short films, documentaries and home videos to be aired on the channel. Mr. Gore’s group also has struck a deal with Google Inc. to use information from Google in its programming.
I like viewer generated content, but not America’s Funniest Home Videos. Which will it be? This is a mush of press release mumbo jumbo:
In an interview Friday, Mr. Gore said the goal of Current is to connect “the Internet generation with television in a brand new way.” Its Web site will be a key part of its service, listing topics on which it wants material, such as reviews of movies, CDs or videogames; items on social trends; and advocacy journalism. Current will pay $250 for videos it airs.
A segment called “Google Current” will report on what topics are generating the most interest on the Web, using Google as its source. Google doesn’t do its own reporting, but will rank the topics, based on which subjects generate the most search queries. A Google spokesman confirmed it struck an agreement with Mr. Gore’s group.
And it’ll have “hosts for different segments” too!
Current will provide a fair amount of its own programming, at least initially, said programming chief David Neuman, a veteran television executive who most recently was a consultant for Time Warner Inc.’s CNN. Mr. Neuman said the channel has hired hosts for different segments. While Current primarily will be a news and information channel, he described it as closer to MTV and VH1 than Fox News and MSNBC.
Golly. I can’t wait. How about you?
Tom Bettag on Ted and Dan from Howard Kurtz, Leaving the Anchor Desk, Its Greatest Generation:
“Ted is known as a really stubborn, pigheaded guy,” says Tom Bettag, his longtime producer, who earlier worked as Rather’s producer. “Dan and Ted are people who have both told their bosses, ‘That’s not me and I’m not going to do it.’ . . . They did years and years of preparation so that when they stepped into the chair, they were fully formed and knew who they were. What really defines them is that they’re both real reporters.”
And praise for Nightline:
“Nightline" regularly tackled such difficult fare as racial tensions, AIDS and terrorism—in a time slot where viewers can flip to Letterman and Leno. Richard Hanley of Quinnipiac University’s School of Communications calls Koppel’s departure a “tragedy” for more reflective news coverage: “ ‘Nightline’ provided more of a sober take on things without being so dry you couldn’t watch it. On cable, people step on each other’s lines because that’s the format. It’s noise.”
And an audeince “more focused on arguing than reporting:”
“The audience has changed,” says Leroy Sievers, a former “Nightline” executive producer. “People don’t necessarily want to hear both sides of the story, which is what ‘Nightline’ did best. They want to hear, ‘You’re right! They’re wrong!’ ”