Saturday, April 30, 2005

The Daily Dweeb (a continuing series)

Today's Dweeb is the author of the following letter that appeared in the New York Times today:

"To the Editor:
Re 'Syria Leaves Lebanon, Without Thanks' (editorial, April 28):
I wish you had pointed out Syria's quick and total compliance with United Nations Security Council Resolution 1559, passed last September, which called for the immediate withdrawal of ]
'all remaining foreign forces' from Lebanon.
I wish you had contrasted this with Israel's attitude to the far more grievous violations of international law going on in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
If a brutal police state like Syria can so quickly and fully comply with the will of the international community, why can't the so-called only democracy in the Middle East?
Feroze Sidhwa
Haifa, Israel"

Feroze here, writing a letter to a newspaper attacking the "so-called democracy" in which he lives, is apparently too dim-witted to see the irony. So is the Times, which publishes garbage like this knowing full well that a letter attacking Syria signed by "Abe Goldstein in Damascus" would be worthy of a page one story.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Stop the presses!

"Business Journalists Face Critical Issues"
--Marketwatch, April 29, 2005

Typical quotation from the above:

"I've always felt that a good business journalist must be a good journalist, first and foremost." [somebody] said. "That's the foundation. Beyond that, it helps a business journalist to have some working knowledge of commerce, finance and economics."

Typical commentary from the above:

I hope the [journalism society] members remind one another that that these are especially trying times for the entire journalism profession -- and the conference attendees must seize the day.

No kidding? Thank you, Marketwatch! Dow Jones must really be glad it bought you.

Hypocrites on Parade--Part Two

Fourth-rate hack Ian Williams, the UN consultant-correspondent, is the subject of another column today on the Accuracy in Media website. AIM's Cliff Kincaid describes how The Nation hides its UN-consultant-correspondent's UN work by shoving it onto a separate web page.

Come on, Nation! Be proud! You've got quite a guy working for you at the UN--a fellow who makes no bones about flouting even one of the most basic tenets of journalism ethics, that you don't take money from people you write about. That is one heck of a distinction to have nowadays and still retain even a scintilla of journalistic respectability.

Hey.... wait a second. The Nation doesn't have a scintilla of journalistic respectability! I forgot. Oh, well....

Kincaid goes on to point out that Salon, which actually does have a scintilla of journalistic respectability, also publishes Williams's retchings without disclosing that this UN consultant-correspondent has been on the UN payroll.

Like the experienced shill and UN apologist that he is, Williams omitted inconvenient facts from his latest UN piece, which was on the recent UN "reform plan." Says Kincaid:

"Williams doesn't note that Annan unveiled another U.N. reform plan back in 1997. Looking back at it, one can almost laugh out loud. The U.N. said this plan would move the U.N. 'firmly along the pathway to major and fundamental reform designed to achieve greater unity of purpose, coherence of effort and flexibility in response.' This [1997] plan would create 'a new leadership and management structure which will strengthen the capacity of the Secretary-General to provide the leadership and ensure the accountability that the Organization requires.' Since then, of course, we've had the oil-for-food scandal and U.N. sex abuse scandals."

Kincaid says that Williams is working on a book about rum. That is surprising, as there is nothing on his website indicating that he does media training or other work for the rum industry. "Look for the U.N. to throw a book party for Williams when his book on rum is officially released," says Kincaid. And if past is prologue, you can bet that this fourth-rate hack and correspondent-consultant will have a new industry for which to "consult" and "media train" and do all sorts of good stuff.

Now, in fairness to Williams, I must point out that Williams himself is pretty upfront about the fact that his primary occupation is not journalism at all, but the very antithesis of journalism--
"media consulting." That's the title of his website, by the way, "Ian Williams, Media Consultant." Media consultants are the people hired by corporations and governments (and, in the case of our fourth-rate hack here, the UN) to spin journalists, to get out their story.

Williams calls himself a "media consultant." He's proud of it. Why isn't that pride shared by The Nation or Salon? Why are they trying to hide it?

AIM is the only media watchdog group that has written about this sliminess. Where is everybody else?

Times Correction Watch (Part Two)

The Times ran an actual, bona fide correction today! First I've seen in a while. Seems some genius misidentified a firm that ran an abusive tax shelter, naming a firm in Vermont with the same name as the alleged culprit.

Interestingly, I could hardly tell the difference between this actual, bona fide correction and the "for the record" corrections the Times usually runs. It was a serious error, but serious errors often are corrected in the "for the record" section. I guess what made the difference was that the Times could have been sued over this.

Is that what it takes to get the Times to run a an actual, bona fide correction? Does it have to be bad enough to warrant a lawsuit if not corrected?

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Still More on the Wuss

CAMERA's blog, Snapshots, has a good analysis of the Okrent column (made all the more good by a very nice quotation from this here blog).

Snapshots says that Okrent's column "quoted CAMERA's Andrea Levin praising the Times' 'precise language [describing] the perspectives of the parties, the contents of resolutions, the terms of international conventions.'

"Left out of the column, however, was CAMERA's specific criticism of the Times' coverage. CAMERA has expressed concern and disappointment with Mr. Okrent's column and its false symmetry."

This is dirty pool-- what is known as "selective quotation." A big, fat no-no. If I wuz CAMERA I would be royally teed off.

Hurry up, Calame!

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Times Correction Watch (a continuing series)

A while back the New York Times divided its daily corrections column into two types of corrections--"For the Record" corrections to fix misspellings and other minor stuff, and regular corrections. Since then, the Times has consistently buried substantive boo-boos, big-time goofs, in its "For the Record" space.

Two good examples today.

1. A big screwup in a business story: "An article in Business Day yesterday about discontent over a proposed deal by the New York Stock Exchange misidentified the Wall Street firm that advised a rival exchange, Nasdaq, in its proposed acquisition of Instinet. It was Thomas Weisel Partners, not Merrill Lynch."

This is a major error, not a little thing you point out "for the record."

2. The late John Mills was a very prominent actor (I loved him in Ryan's Daughter. Didn't you?) and also very old, so no doubt his obit the other day was written in advance. Plenty of time to check for errors? Apparently not:

"An obituary of the actor Sir John Mills on Monday and in some late editions on Sunday referred incorrectly to one of his films and a character he played in another. "The Rocking Horse Winner" is a dark psychological drama, not a comedy. In "Hobson's Choice," it was Hobson, played by Charles Laughton, who feuds with his daughter. (Sir John's character, Willie Mossop, marries her.) The article also misidentified the actor whose career was significantly advanced by the film "Goodbye, Mr. Chips." It was Robert Donat, who had the title role, not Sir John."

The writer of the obit totally fucked up. These were not minor gaffes, and this correction shouldn't have been buried in "For the Record."

Hypocrites on Parade (a continuing series)

Why does it take a conservative advocacy group to expose one of the worst recent examples of journalistic hypocrisy and ethical obtuseness? I refer to The Nation's UN correspondent, Ian Williams, who boasts about his commercial ties to the UN while writing about it for that far-left rag. Accuracy in Media has been all over this story like a cheap suit. Nobody else.

Where are the anguished cries, the calls for his head from the usual sanctimonious guardians of journalism ethics? It is pathetic that only AIM seems to care about this issue.

True, The Nation is a mass of wasted wood pulp whose only redeeming social purpose, which is to line hamster cages, is obviated by its small-size format and leaky ink. It's also true that Williams is a fourth-rate hack. But fourth-rate hackdom has not prevented other ethics-deprived journos from being publicly pilloried. What is keeping Williams from the gallows?

AIM has been nipping at his heels for a few months, apparently. Its latest missive on the subject is out today:

Here's the scoop:
After AIM exposed its dirty laundry, The Nation published an editor's note saying as follows: "In recent days our UN correspondent, Ian Williams, has come under attack from a variety of right-wing pundits and media organizations like Accuracy in Media for writing about the UN while 'writing articles for the world body and even coaching UN officials on how to deal with the press.' We believe the key here is disclosure. Williams disclosed these activities on his personal website and, in the future, we will do so in the magazine as well. We continue to have full confidence in Williams's reporting."

"Reporting"? Yeah, right. Williams is nothing more than a shill for the UN and for Kofi Annan personally. In December, AIM points out, The Nation posted a column by Williams headlined, "The Right's Assault on Kofi Annan." It reads as if it were produced by one of the UN's own flacks--which it was, I guess.

Williams said Annan was coming under fire in the oil-for-food scandal because he opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Williams said, "Charges of corruption against UN official Benon Sevan are suspect at best, given that they come via Ahmad Chalabi, who was also the source of the discredited information about Iraq's illusory weapons, as well as the assurances that Iraqis would greet US and British forces as liberators." In February Annan suspended Sevan, after an inquiry found that he had repeatedly solicited allocations of oil under the program and had "created a grave and continuing conflict of interest."

All the while Williams is flakking for the UN at The Nation, he's boasting on his website about all the business he's gotten from the Turtle Bay Totalitarian Debating Society.

If you go on his website,, you see what I'm talking about--if you can read it. This guy is such a dummy that he's got black print on a dark blue background.

Under "Training," he says as follows:

"For the last five years he [meaning Williams; a regal third-person reference] has played a significant role in training UNDP Resident Representatives and UN reps in media handling, both at HQ and overseas, with a particular emphasis on coaching for interview techniques. The UN’s training section also called upon him to help with training senior officials at HQ.

"He has conducted training sessions for journalists and UN staff in places as far apart as Albania, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Macedonia and Morocco."

Makes you wonder. Did the UN actually fly him out to those places to "conduct training sessions for journalists"? If so, did he put on a "foreign correspondent act" for The Nation or some other publication while doing?

Anyway, back to the website. Under "Editorial Services" he says as follows (again referring to himself in the third person):

"He has produced several booklets for UN agencies, including one on Portugal and aid to Africa, another on ASEAN, and on the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea and in the past year edited the 2001 UNCTAD report and helped draft the press-kit for the 2002 Arab Human Development Report for UNDP."

Then if you go to another part of his unreadable black-on-blue website, he says that he "is a frequent lecturer on the UN and the media at various venues such as Yale, Columbia Journalism School, NYU, Freedom Forum, Hofstra, Patterson and Rutgers" etc. etc.

Lecturer about what? He says "on the UN." What about the UN? Flakking for the UN? What about "the media"? Ethics?

Williams would just be another burned-out hack if The Nation wasn't so hypocritical about it. The hypocrisy is served up in two ways.

First The Nation says Williams's "disclosures" -- on a personal website, not The Nation's website, for chrissakes! -- were sufficient. It then goes on to say that "in the future, we will do so in the magazine as well." But if the "disclosures" were so great when they were on "," why bother to disclose them in the magazine?

Besides, The Nation isn't doing any disclosing.

Williams has produced one piece for The Nation--for its website, not the print edition--since it was discslosed that he was on the UN payroll. The web article doesn't mention its UN-consultant-correspondent's UN ties directly on the article inself. Instead you have to go to the Williams bio, elsewhere on the website. Nowhere does it say how much money he got from the UN.

The second aspect of The Nation's hypocrisy is even worse. While employing this UN-paid creep as its "correspondent" at the UN, this rag has the gall to attack Judith Miller for her pieces on the UN.

Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

More on the Wuss

The Electronic Intifada has an article written by the convenient critic mentioned in the Daniel Okrent column on Sunday, an "Alison Weir" who is with something called "If Americans Knew."
The text of this bilge-fest can be found at

Amid the usual ravings is the following, an account of an exchange between Weir and Okrent:

"I pointed out that since this was a conflict between a state whose identity and purpose of existence was to be a Jewish state, it seemed to me that the number of Jewish-American reporters covering it should be balanced by approximately an equal number of Arab/Muslim-American reporters."

The proper response from Okrent, if he had even the tenth of the guts usually found in a salamander, would have been, "Get the hell out of my office, you anti-Semitic piece of crud." Or, if he wanted to be polite, he could have said "The Times does not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, or ethnic origin" and then pitched her head-first out of his office.

Instead, according to the account on EI, Okrent engaged in a dialogue with this bigoted slime. What followed was the following exchange between slime and wuss:

"Okrent said that it was impossible to find equal numbers of Arab/Muslim journalists of sufficiently high quality to balance out the number of Jewish reporters available to cover it, and ignored the suggestion that other groups be included in the reportorial/editorial pool. "

Does that mean that if you do find enough Muslim newspeople that they can then supplant Jewish reporters? Well, maybe. According to this report, "He said that there shouldn't be an 'ethnic litmus test' and that Jewish reporters shouldn't be excluded just because there weren't enough Muslims for the Times to employ."

Weir goes on to say that "we came away with the very strong impression that Okrent, who is himself Jewish, felt basically that only Jewish reporters could cover this issue."

Even if Okrent didn't mean that Jewish reporters can be excluded if there "were enough Muslims," there is a larger question here. Why is he humoring this bigot?

As if we didn't know. Hurry up, Calame!

* * * * * * * * * *

UPDATE: A reader informs me that the Jew-baiting pinhead who met with Okrent is not to be confused with a distinguished historian also named Alison Weir.
One hopes that too many people won't confuse the two. Perhaps the pinhead Weir should change her name to Adolfina?

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Daniel Okrent's Non-Bias Bias

Daniel Okrent, the New York Times Public Editor, has always been a wuss. From time to time he would actually use a declarative sentence, such as his pronouncement that the Times was a liberal newspaper (oh my! what a surprise). But his column today is really pathetic.

The purpose of this column was to deal with the issue of whether or not the Times is biased for or against Israel. Instead of dealing with any of the actual allegations that have been made, he just shrugs his shoulders like a janitor with a faucet he can't fix and says, "not my problem."

Most of his column today is a condescending lecture, and he tops off his evasions by using the rhetorical device of the "convenient critic."

Palestinian polemicists constantly find nits to pick at the Times, the Guardian and other media outlets, for the purpose of keeping them on their toes and also, most importantly, to give these newspapers the ability to claim that they are "criticized by both sides." The Guardian will always tell you that. They "get hate mail from both sides." It is convenient to have such critics.

So, naturally enough, Okrent digs out some nutjob at an organization no one has ever heard of who criticizes the Times for "ignoring the deaths of Palestinian children" (as if Times reporters wouldn't be garrotted if they did that). He uses that to counteract the genuine critcism, the nonconvenient criticism, that comes in from the Israeli side.

Then comes this whopper: Okrent says "I'm still waiting for one reader to say the paper has ever been unfair in a way that was damaging to both sides."

Imagine that. To be inaccurate is not enough. To be damaging to one side--the definition of bias, after all--is not enough. In order to get Dan Okrent out of bed on this issue, it has got to be "damaging to both sides." But if something is "damaging to both sides" it can't be bias, can it? So what worries this guy? Non-bias?

Actually what I'm doing here is assuming Dan actually thought out what he put on paper. He just wanted to collect his last paycheck, clear out his desk and move on.

The new Public Editor, a veteran Wall Street Journal editor named Barney Calame, is a good man. Unfortunately he hasn't much of an act to follow.