Friday, January 26, 2007

Bethlehem Christians Break Silence on Muslim Oppression

One of the media's biggest Christmas stories, year after year, is how the poor poor Christian Arabs of Bethlehem are being treated nasty by the big bad Israelis. The IRIS blog today points out that the true story, which is Muslim oppression of Bethelehem Christians, is finally coming out.

Click here
for the IRIS blog entry. Shove that in the local media's face next time you read one of their patented stories on "Israeli oppression where Jesus was born."

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Clint Eastwood's Politically Correct Pap

Here's a movie to put on your "don't see" list: "Letters from Iwo Jima," Clint Eastwood's politically correct humbug.

In this movie the Japanese are the good guys and the U.S. Marines are the bad guys. The Marines shoot prisoners casually and the Japanese give their last dose of morphine to a U.S. POW. While the movie shows Japanese killing a captured American, it is done as hot-blooded retaliation for use of flame-throwers.

In fact, as was pointed out in the Free Republic a few weeks ago, the scene with the compassionate treatment of Americans was totally fictional. Japan's brutality toward POWs, including American POWs on Iwo Jima, and civilians everywhere is a matter of historical record. Remember the Bataan Death March? The Rape of Nanking?

Shame on you, Clint Eastwood.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Senate Democrats Assault Democracy

This is really off the topic of this blog, which is media bias and hypocrisy, but I was struck by the Democratic offensive against democracy in the Senate this past week. (Hat tip to Bruce Kesler of the Democracy Project, who wrote a fine article on this subject.)

In a display of rank hypocrisy, Democrats in the Senate are pushing a measure that would require that people who contact 500 or more to write their congressperson or senator must register as a lobbyist.

So you and I must do that if we email 500 people to write their congressman on a particular issue. That is a restriction on democracy at its worst. The Democratic Party, which is always pushing "democracy," should be ashamed of itself. Fortunately the effort failed.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Inside Beltway Tops Inside Iraq Reeporting.

The following post is from Mediacrity contributor Bruce Kesler of the Democracy Project, and is cross-posted from that very fine website:

Iraqslogger has been featuring a daily count of major newspaper reporting on Iraq, of how many articles are written by commentators in the U.S. versus how many originate from Iraq. Today’s score, for example, “U.S. Papers Sunday: 25-0.” The subtitle, “The Battle in Washington Eclipses the War in Iraq.”

The New York Times and Washington Post are stuffed with Iraq-focused reporting, analyses, and commentaries – 25 in all. Yet, amazingly, not a single one of those original stories comes from Iraq itself (in fairness, there’s a Baghdad-datelined AP report in the NYT). Why? With 140,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, Iraqis and Americans being killed there every day, and with the U.S. troop presence costing American taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars a day, Americans deserve and need meaty reporting from the war zone daily. And I pity the newspaper correspondents risking life and limb in Iraq only to see their editors opt not to include a single original story from Iraq in the huge Sunday papers (two days straight for the NYT).

Much of this commentary is interesting, and some even positive or constructive. But, when that’s all we get fed by our major media, we are both divorced from a realistic, first-person understanding of the conditions in Iraq, and are more easily swayed by the emotions or bias of editors and commentators ten-thousand miles away from the realities.

Between the dangers of battlefield reporting, the expenses that major media are unwilling to spend, and when they do report from in country so much is derived from often suspect stringers, the American people receive incredibly little original reporting of field conditions, combat results, or the “good news” of reconstruction successes.

Lay on top of that the focus of editors on “inside beltway” and domestic opinion, and their own usually liberal views, as an added filter, and it’s as if all you know of what’s on TV is second and third-hand comments by someone who read a newspaper TV critic’s review of a TV show and is discussing the reactions of other TV critics.

CNN’s Reliable Sources had an interesting exchange (this excerpt delivered to Instapundit) between the Washington Post’s media critic, Howard Kurtz and UPI reporter Pamela Hess. [HT: Antimedia]

KURTZ: Pam Hess, has the sending of 20,000 additional troops gotten a fair hearing in the media or has it gotten caught up in this wrenching, emotional debate about whether the war itself was a mistake?
PAM HESS: I think it's gotten caught up about it, and the debate about it is actually all wrong. What reporters know and what Martha says is that 20,000 really isn't that big -- isn't that big a jump. We're at 132,000 right now. It's going to put us even less that we had going in going across the line.
What we're not asking is actually the central question. We're getting distracted by the shiny political knife fight. What we need to be asking is, what happens if we lose? And no one will answer that question. If we lose, how are we going to mitigate the consequences of this?
It's so much easier for us to cover this as a political horse race. It's on the cover of "The New York Times" today, what this means for the '08 election. But we're not asking the central national security question, because it seems that if as a reporter you do ask the national security question, all of a sudden you're carrying Bush's water. There are national security questions at stake, and we're ignoring them and the country is getting screwed.

This style of reporting, this focus on domestic opinion horseraces, to the neglect of original in-the-field reporting, is not unique to the war in Iraq, or to the newspapers.

For example, the Joyce Foundation sponsored a study by the University of Wisconsin Newslab and the Midwest News Index of the month after Labor Day’s, 2006, TV reporting in the Midwest. An average of 36-seconds per half-hour newscast was about the election, and 63% of that was “strategy and horserace stories [versus] substantive issue coverage.”

If Vietnam was the “television war,” where we at least saw some little of what was happening there, Iraq is the “stringer and editor” war, where we can’t even see with our own eyes and are dependent on those who only tell us what they want us to think.

Bruce Kesler

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Media Rules of Engagement

The following post is cross-posted from the Democracy Project, and is by Mediacrity contributor Bruce Kesler:

Those who argue that strict rules of engagement for our military forces are necessary to counterinsurgency, not to mention our core values, even when it means losing on the battlefield, have not applied near as much scrutiny to the rules of engagement by our major media.

The “fog of war” or “war is hell” defenses of troops at the front are dismissed by war opponents or armchair purists, but the same and worse is accepted from the major media. Yet, the major media operate under many similar foggy impediments but have chosen to be safer in the near and far rear, so they actually have less defense.

Both the military and the major media have rules of engagement, in the case of the media from journalism’s and their own organization’s standards. In many cases, although their defenders might argue as relatively few as among the troops, the major media have operated outside or against their rules of engagement.

Our troops are held personally accountable. Our media more rarely are. This isn’t just a matter of tit-for-tat or relative justice. It goes directly to the heart of the West’s ability to even wage war.

In war as waged by Western governments today, the homefront is at least as important as the battlefront, particularly when our homefront’s resolve is a primary target of the foe.

There’s a valid argument of experience that homefront support, and non-hostile media reporting and commentary, will follow from battlefield success. But, what’s missed is when the major media emphasizes the negative to the downplaying of the positive, in effect becoming adjuncts of the foe. The primary defense is the new media on the Internet, which while increasing in public counter-attention still is but a fraction of the major media’s reach and influence.

The current case of the Associated Press and its exclusive “Jamil Hussein” source is highly indicative. The stories spread by the Associated Press to its thousands of media customers around the world are highly suspect, and their primary source even moreso, but with little exception the AP’s customers have swallowed them and not demanded the AP live up to its rules of engagement. The evidence of the AP fouling journalism’s rules of engagement presented on the Internet are largely ignored or dismissed by the major media.

For a handy summary of the known facts, please see “The Latest & Greatest on Jamil Hussein.” Then, ask yourself how much of this you’ve seen in your local newspaper. Also, ask yourself how often you’ve seen in your local newspaper every rumor or allegation of our troops stepping over real or imagined lines of rules of engagement. Kinda a one-sided war, huh?

— Bruce Kesler

Saturday, January 13, 2007

The Times Trashes O'Reilly

The New York Times has only reviewed a Bill O'Reilly book once. That was in 2004, when it slammed his "O'Reilly Factor for Kids" in a hatchet job entitled, "The Pinhead Factor." It has reviewed none of O'Reilly's other books even after they became best-sellers.

In tomorrow's New York Times Book Review, online today, there is finally a "review," if you can call it that, of O'Reilly's "Culture Warrior." It also review a favorable new book about O'Reilly by Marvin Kitman. Even though he is self-identified as a liberal, Kitman believes he has been maligned in an unjustified fashion. The Times will simply not let just comments pass without showing its sneering liberal bias in full flower.

The Times book review says snidely that the Kitman book wants to turn O'Reilly "into a towering figure in some ways reminiscent of Edward R. Murrow, whose legend, we are told, was built on the “opinionated positions he took in his news reports.”

No good, says reviewer Jacob Heilbrunn. He thinks O'Reilly is a a "thug, fraud, gasbag, windbag and demagogue." Heilbrunn attributes those adjectives to unnamed "detractors" but obviously embraces them himself.

He then turns briefly to O'Reilly's new book "Culture Warrior," which is supposedly also the subject of this book but Heilbrunn has only potshots here too. It "offers the trademark bluff and bombast that make up his pronouncements."

This polemic disguised as review ends by saying "No matter what this apostle of mediocrity and banality says, sparkling water and George Clooney are not menaces to the American way of life."

I don't think O'Reilly ever said anything of the kind, but dishonesty as well as bias are daily fare at this once great newspaper. This review is Exhibit A.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Carter Center Members Resign Over 'Apartheid' Atrocity

Fourteen members of the Carter Center resigned in protest today over the recent literary atrocity by the worst president since Harding.

It was a harsh letter:

Dear President Carter,

As members of the Board of Councilors each one of us has been proud to be associated with the Carter Center in its noble struggle to repair the world. However, in light of the publication of your latest book Palestine; Peace Not Apartheid and your subsequent comments made in promoting the book, we can no longer in good conscience continue to serve the Center as members of the Board of Councilors.

In its work in conflict resolution the Carter Center has always played the useful and constructive role of honest broker and mediator between warring parties. In your book, which portrays the conflict between Israel and her neighbors as a purely one-sided affair with Israel holding all of the responsibility for resolving the conflict, you have clearly abandoned your historic role of broker in favor of becoming an advocate for one side.

The facts in dealing with the conflict are these: There are two national narratives contesting one piece of land. The Israelis, through deed and public comment, have consistently spoken of a desire to live in peace and make territorial compromise to achieve this status. The Palestinian side has consistently resorted to acts of terror as a national expression and elected parties endorsing the use of terror, the rejection of territorial compromise and of Israel's right to exist. Palestinian leaders have had chances since 1947 to have their own state, including during your own presidency when they snubbed your efforts.

Your book has confused opinion with fact, subjectivity with objectivity and force for change with partisan advocacy. Furthermore the comments you have made the past few weeks insinuating that there is a monolith of Jewish power in America are most disturbing and must be addressed by us. In our great country where freedom of expression is basic bedrock you have suddenly proclaimed that Americans cannot express their opinion on matters in the Middle East for fear of retribution from the "Jewish Lobby" In condemning the Jews of America you also condemn Christians and others for their support of Israel. Is any interest group to be penalized for participating in the free and open political process that is America? Your book and recent comments suggest you seem to think so.
It goes on like that for quite a while. Be sure to click the ADL link above for the full text.

The resignations have received some neutral coverage, such as this AP story. It will be interesting to see if the mainstream media covers this very significant development, or buries it.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Stacking the Deck at The Times

The side by side articles today on page ten of the New York Times, both by Steven Erlanger, are excellent examples of the Times's blind spot toward Palestinian violence and doubledealing, and the newspaper's tendency to overemphasize Israeli "misdeeds."

The article on the left, a "news analysis," describes the supposed slipshod performance of Ehud Olmert. He is described in this article as a bumbling, dumb, schlimazel who is kicked around by the renegade Israeli military. Olmert is violating the road map to peace, please note.

The article on the right describes how the valiant Mohammed Abbas is taking on Hamas, which has created something called the "military police." No mention is made of the road map or the fact that the very existence of the terror group Hamas in the government spits in the eye of the road map.

Two articles, both by the same reporter, showing both ends of the same pattern of bias. If there is a better example of the Times tilting its coverage of the Middle East, I cannot find it.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

The Creative Destruction of the Newspaper Industry

In this article reprinted below, Mediacrity contributor Bruce Kesler of the Democracy Project provides a sharp analysis of the future of the newspaper industry:

Back when I was an exec at Crown Zellerbach, a Fortune 100 company, I told others that a buy-out artist could scoop up the company for pennies on the dollar of assets and cash-flow, break it up for sale, and pocket a hefty profit. I was poo-poo’d. After all, CZ was a 100-year old leader in the pulp & paper industry, although lately a laggard. In 1984, Sir James Goldsmith did what I predicted, to large gains. This was typical of the wake-up call delivered throughout American industry in the ‘80’s.

Today, the same tide of creative destruction is beginning to reach the shores of newspaper beaches.

As the term was coined,

Creative destruction, introduced in 1942 by the economist Joseph Schumpeter, describes the process of industrial transformation that accompanies radical innovation. In Schumpeter's vision of capitalism, innovative entry by entrepreneurs was the force that sustained long-term economic growth, even as it destroyed the value of established companies that enjoyed some degree of monopoly power….

The current example of the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune newspaper fits the mold.

(With HT to Powerline for the link) The Star is almost worth more dead than alive, due to its real estate and other holdings.

Basic point is that the printing plant and it's "expansion land" is still worth it's original $100 million. As for the Metrodome six blocks I'd guess that that is worth $100 million to $200 million. Let's take the middle, $150 million. With the printing plant that's $250 million. Throw in a few other "non core newspaper" assets and you have half of the $530 million purchase price. That would put the Star Tribune and it's "core" square block office building at $265 million. Apparently the Star Tribune gets over $100 million per year in "net revenues".

The purchasers of the Star are experienced vulture capitalists. ( subscription required)

Avista mightn't be a household name, but its founders, Thompson Dean and Steven Webster, have been well known in the buyout community for more than a decade. They ran a group that generated returns of about 50% from buyout investments for Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette, which was acquired by Credit Suisse in 2000. The pair left Credit Suisse 18 months ago to start Avista, which they hope will manage $1.5 billion....

Mr. Dean wouldn't address whether Avista will slash costs or lay off employees. "Newspapers have to recognize that they are operating in a different environment, with different pressures, declining readership and advertising pressures," he says. "We have to get additional revenue growth and do things more efficiently, but that may not be about staff cuts."

They’ll get a hefty return from an investment that may net out at only about 2 ½ times cash flow, a fraction of the cost of cash flow return from other investments.

Avista has brought in an experienced newspaper publisher, Chris Harte. (A Democrat, if anyone is wondering whether the editorial line at the Star will change. In 2001, he considered a Democrat challenge to Maine’s Senator Collins.) Chris Harte and Avista are keeping the current management of the Star, Avista harvesting the cheaply bought cash flow, and Harte making the usual promises of revival expected of a new leader.


Avista has promised to invest in the Star Tribune, and to retain its publisher, Keith Moyer, and its top management. But industry observers worry that it might have to cut costs if advertising or circulation revenue don't improve.
Mark Neuzil, a journalism professor at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, said the deal could be a prelude to a classic "strip and flip" for profits, or it could herald the beginning of more public newspapers going private to avoid the pressures of Wall Street.

If other newspapers try to go the going-private route, they’ll only be throwing good money after bad, to the extent they try to hold their dead-tree monopoly. If they have any long-term future, it’s in Internet delivery of news, where they have to compete with new entrepreneurs and deliver a product the readers want and view reliable.

The all-but-private (due to super-preferred stock) New York Times just sold off another chunk of itself to funnel it into keeping the Gray Lady floating, and trying to get returns from still small but at least growing Internet news businesses.

The New York Times Co. it sold its broadcast group, including nine television stations, for $575 million to private equity firm Oak Hill Capital Partners in order to concentrate on its newspaper business….

New York Times Co. Chief Executive Janet Robinson said in a statement that the sale would allow the media company to focus on the "development of our newspapers and our rapidly growing digital businesses."

Most newspapers are between the rock and the hard place: Keep churning out unreliable reporting that readers increasingly don’t buy, in order to maintain their ideological stranglehold on American news, or be bought out and otherwise be consigned to capitalism’s ash heap.

Bruce Kesler

Thursday, January 04, 2007

The $670 Million Ombudsman

Another sterling article from Mediacrity contributor Bruce Kesler, of the Democracy Project:

Kate Parry is the ombudsman for the Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota Star Tribune newspaper. As the paper says

Kate is the Star Tribune's reader's representative, ensuring your voice is heard in the newsroom and providing a window for you on how the newspaper makes decisions.

The readers’ voices, apparently, have not been heard well enough by either the newsroom or by her, nor has she explained how or why a critical local story was ignored by her paper. Parry’s role as ombudsman, if exercised as an ombudsman should, might have alerted the Star Tribune’s management and reporters that they were not fulfilling their responsibilities sufficiently to keep the paper viable.

The New York Times’ commentary on the recent fire sale of the newspaper for $530-million, at a $670-million loss from its $1.2-billion purchase price:

Sure, the consolidation of department stores and the flight of classified ads to the Web hurt big metropolitan dailies like The Star Tribune. This summer’s downturn in overall newspaper advertising landed hard on the paper, with ads off 6.1 percent in the last year from the year before.

The McClatchy Company, which bought the paper’s parent company with a great deal of fanfare in 1998 for $1.2 billion, looked at those numbers — and the fact that it had lost 26,000 or so daily readers since it bought the paper — and decided to sell the paper for $530 million.

It’s a wider problem than in Minnesota. As Media Week reported:

Goldman Sachs said in a research note that the paper's sale price—far below what McClatchy paid for it in 1998—underscores the industry's falling circulation and advertising fortunes.

I’ve frequently written about ombudsmen. (See here for the links to my dissection of three of her leading peers.) Particularly, see this one for a discussion of the roots and self-proclaimed, although little enough seen, standards for ombudsmen. For example: (ONO = Organization of News Ombudsmen)

Chuck Stone, professor at the University of North Carolina’s School of Journalism, and for several months ombudsman at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, in a 1998 speech appearing at the ONO site, expresses the role of the ombudsman as “the responsibility to help newspapers achieve five goals.”

First, “making newspapers necessary…as the most dependable and comprehensive dispenser of information.” Second, “to always be exciting” responsibly about the news without “scatology, pornography or sex-obsessed reporting.” Third, to “help newspapers achieve [a] superiority of information….governed by the highest credibility that is made possible by our reliance on the acronym, FEAT – fair, evenhanded, accurate and thorough.” Fourth, “Ombudsmen are the only professionals on the newspaper whose sole responsibility differentiates the new media – the Internet, Online, etc. – from the old media. In a sense, ombudsmen are custodians of accountability.” Fifth, “Ombudsmen can be critical to maintaining and even enhancing a newspaper’s credibility….I cannot recall any period when readers held newspapers in such low esteem.”

Congress and the Securities & Exchange Commission have seen fit to elevate internal controls to the highest importance for America’s corporations, and senior executive culpability if insufficient. The ombudsman at America’s newspapers was supposed to serve as an important internal control. The purpose of internal controls, I can say as a Certified Internal Auditor early in my career, is both proper recording of transactions and the efficacy of operations.

It is abundantly clear that most ombudsmen most of the time have gravely failed their internal control, and journalistic, responsibility. It would be going too far to hold Kate Parry responsible, alone, for the reporting and business failure of the Star Tribune, for the loss to its owners of $670-million, as her bosses all the way up appointed and tolerated her. But, she should definitely be one of those in the dock.

Powerline blog is one of the nation’s most widely read and respected, all of its three bloggers being careful lawyers and two in the Minneapolis area. In numerous detailed and documented posts by Scott Johnson at Powerline, he exhibited the indictment of prospective and now newly elected local Congressman Keith Ellison. For example, in “Keith Ellison for Dummies,” Scott Johnson summarized much of the evidence that Ellison was untruthful about his radical connections to Islamist groups.

Instead of undertaking any investigation of these assertions, the Minneapolis Star Tribune has simply reported the assertions and repeated them as facts ever since. Yet each of these assertions is demonstrably false. Their falsehood is easily established by newspaper accounts documenting Ellison's activities, speeches and beliefs over the relevant period of time….

The steadfast refusal of the local Minnesota media to examine Ellison’s public record in the course of his congressional campaign represents a striking case of nonfeasance, incompetence and willfully averted eyes that is a story unto itself.

Or, here, Scott Johnson exhibits “The Friends of Keith Ellison,” at whose convention Ellison recently spoke:

According to the invaluable report of the Chicago Tribune, the Muslim Brotherhood operates in the United States as the Muslim American Society. Daveed Gartenstein-Ross's "MAS's Muslim Brotherood problem" expands on the meaning of MAS's relationship to the Muslim Brotherood. Like the Muslim Brotherhood and the MAS, the Islamic Circle of North America promotes the establishment of the Islamic system of life. According to Steven Emerson, the ICNA also has close ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.
The two groups -- MAS and the ICNA -- hold a joint annual convention. This year's joint annual convention in Dearborn welcomed -- who else? -- Minnesota Fifth District Rep.-elect Keith Ellison as its keynote speaker. The Detroit Free Press reports on Ellison's speech this past Sunday night:
"You can't back down, you can't chicken out, you can't be afraid, you got to have faith in Allah, and you got to stand up and be a real Muslim," Detroit native Keith Ellison said to loud applause.
"Allahu akbar" -- God is great -- was the reply of many in the crowd.
Surely one of these days some bigfoot journalist will ask Ellison what branch of Islam he adheres to in reconciling Islam with the Democratic platform on abortion rights, homosexual rights, the rights of women and the like. Perhaps some bigfoot journalist might then ask a question or two about how Ellison's branch of Islam views the legal equality of Muslims and infidels and the supremacy of the United States Constitution over Sharia law. Until that time, we will have pay attention to the friends of Keith Ellison for the light they may shed on his views on these subjects.

Or, here, Scott Johnson’s fellow Powerline blogger John Hinderaker asks:

So one would think that it might occur to a reporter to ask Ellison: what variety of Muslim are you? What mosque do you attend? Where does your branch of Islam stand on Sharia? What do your imams preach? And, where does your enthusiasm for cop-killing fit into your religious principles?
No such questions, needless to say, will be forthcoming.

Or, here, Scott Johnson posts a follow-up on an editorial from Investors Business Daily posing whether there was a connection between Ellison and the “flying imams.” Ellison immediately demanded to meet with the airline.

The Investors Businesss Daily editorial formulated its hypothesis regarding the Ellison connection to the flying imams this past Wednesday. Within 48 hours Ellison has taken the first steps to prove the shrewdness of the editorial's hypothesis that the underlying incident was fabricated for the benefit of an agenda to be advanced by Ellison. I'm afraid that it's time to scream bloody murder before the flying imams and their friends in high places turn the incident into the means by which citizens are disabled from taking reasonable action to defend themselves from apparent danger.

Where has the Star Tribune and Kate Parry been through all this, on its doorstep, and much of the investigation work served up to it? AWOL, that’s where.

I wrote Scott Johnson this morning to follow-up, questioning where Kate Parry has been on this – should be – high-profile issue. Scott Johnson’s response:

I think she probably wrote a column on the Star Tribune Ellison coverage saying they were getting flack from both sides and therefore they had done a good job.

A search of the Star Tribune’s website shows Kate Parry referring to the Ellison matter only once, the day before the election. Here’s all she had to say about Ellison:

How involved was Fifth Congressional District DFL candidate Keith Ellison years ago in the Nation of Islam -- a group whose anti-Semitism he now repudiates?

Parry follows that by having the effrontery to say, “As near as I can tell, the newspaper could not write too much about this election.”

What about the Star Tribune’s reporting or commentary, for critical or investigative reporting?

A search of the paper’s website only shows non-editorial line columnist Katherine Kersten’s column discussing Ellison’s support and defense of local criminals, of radical political bents.

This is not an isolated example of Kate Parry and the Star Tribune’s closed-eyes and closed-mindedness. As Scott Johnson wrote me:

On her beat, basically, the Star Tribune does no wrong….The longest exchange I had with her goes back to the column Nick Coleman wrote that was devoted to trying to get me fired from my job. She came up with excuses for Coleman that even he wouldn’t cite….[Another example] Her treatment of the plagiarism issue on the editorial page is a great example. It’s off her beat – which is the news pages. She originally weighed in critically of the paper and cited Power Line, if not favorably, at least not critically. The second time around, the tone of her reference to us changed perceptibly in a way that I thought was laughable.

Kate Parry’s most recent column touts “A fresh way to talk about newspapers and news websites: Starting Jan. 2, readers can discuss coverage at the Omblog.”

At Omblog, readers will also be able to point their fellow readers toward something in the newspaper that shouldn't be missed.

The examples are all of a liberal’s agenda.

Kate Parry and the Star Tribune are in common with much of American journalism.

No more than I want to withdraw from the United Nations do I want to see major newspapers or their ombudsmen disappear. They are doing that to themselves. Instead, I want to see them rededicated and true to their missions.

Bruce Kesler

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Mother of Mercy, Is This the End of the Empty Suit?

Et tu, Keller?

The Empty Suit, New York Times spokesman Barney Calame, has been such an unmitigated disaster that he's barely worth mentioning any more. His predictable defense of the Grey Lady has become old news.

Bad as he is, apparently he is not bad enough. The New York Observer reports that he may be out the door. His predecessor, Daniel Okrent, "was a sharp critic who raised hackles and then won respect during his 18-month term. In contrast, Mr. Calame has been a bit more like that other Barney, the friendly purple dinosaur—and not entirely unlike Snuffleupagus, the once-invisible creature of Sesame Street." But even that wasn't bad enough for the Times. The NYO says executive editor Bill Keller may abolish the position.

Good idea. A bad ombudsman is worse than none.

AP to Readers: Drop Dead

Another excellent post from Mediacrity contributor Bruce Kesler of the Democracy Project:

The latest response by Associated Press executive editor Kathleen Carroll to the inability of any independent investigation to unearth the AP’s ghost informant, Jamil Hussein, should be headlined, “AP says UP yours,” instead of the E&P’s “Continues to Stand by Reporting.”

Ms. Carroll, apparently, feels well insulated from the public as she is from verifiable facts or accountability.

Michelle Malkin replies to Carroll’s accusation that bloggers in the U.S. are not on the scene, and thus ignorant, by announcing her own embed in Iraq. Malkin, also, invites the AP’s Carroll:

Ms. Carroll, why not leave your "air-conditioned office...thousands of miles from the scene" and find out for yourself if "Jamil Hussein" is who AP says he is? Or is it the "do as I say" standard for bloggers and "not as I do" for MSM news executives in their high-rise offices in Manhattan?

As I noted, Carroll apparently herself has little foreign reporting experience and none in combat.

One wonders how to penetrate the insularity of such media barons like Carroll.

The Associated Press does not have an ombudsman, a representative of the public customers, nor does it present a complaint line, nor email addresses for its Board. The public’s sole recourse is via the owners of local newspapers who subscribe to the AP wire. It is only through that very attenuated route that a reader may hope to have any impact.

But, how does that actually play out. You write to the editor, and almost certainly the letter is ignored or maybe edited down to a comment on the letters page. You contact the newspaper’s ombudsman, if it is one of the relatively few that has one, and hope that this reader representative pays any attention. Even if the ombudsman does pay attention, he or she is relatively toothless, outside of a very occasional shot at the newspaper’s treatment of an issue.

I’ve written many times about the eunoch role of newspaper ombudsmen. My first blogging was two guest posts at Don Luskin’s blog, Conspiracy To Keep You Poor And Stupid, here and here, exposing the inept pretense of two leading ombudsmen. My first post at Democracy-Project exposed the pretense of another leading ombudsman.

To report back to you just how little impact these, and other reports, have had, today’s New York Observer tells us that the New York Times’ executive editor Bill Keller may eliminate the position of Public Editor. The first and second Public Editors have very occasionally taken on the Grey Lady’s journalistic failures, but more usually busied themselves with comments on grammar and acting as rationalizers or apologists for the editorial line. It appears that Keller can’t even stand the occasional in-house reprimand. Indeed, Keller’s quotes in the New York Observer tell us all we need to know about whether the Public Editor is seen as a reader representative or mouthpiece for Keller and company.

“Over the next couple of months, as Barney’s term enters the home stretch, I’ll be taking soundings from the staff, talking it over with the masthead, and consulting with Arthur,” meaning publisher Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr., wrote Bill Keller, The Times’ executive editor, in an e-mail to The Observer.

Notice, Mr. Keller makes no mention of input from or consideration of the reader.

Ms. Carroll, Mr. Keller, your local newspaper editor (with rare exception): Is it any wonder that your readership is rapidly falling, when you care so little about your readers? The arrogance and frequent lack of real care for providing your readers with reliable information are well understood by readers, who are taking their trade elsewhere.

Bruce Kesler