Media Literacy/Bias

Media ethics: “so last century”

Eric Alterman, Center for American Progress

Pity poor Ben Stein, fired by The New York Times for an egregious conflict of interest. Although he was trusted by Times readers to offer unbiased economic commentary, Stein could also be found in advertisements hawking a company that soaks suckers for $30 a month for access to a “free credit score” when in fact these are available to everyone, by law, and actually free. According to the Times, this clearly violated its ethics policy, which states “it is an inherent conflict for a journalist to perform public relations work, paid or unpaid.”

Stein’s complaint appears to be that he has violated this policy so many times in so many ways that he thinks it mean of the paper—or perhaps the unnamed conspirators who are out to get him because he dared to question the wisdom of Barack Obama—to finally enforce its declared policy. He opines on the website of The American Spectator that he did “not see the conflict of interest.” But nevermind, he bucks himself up: “The gig was getting to be so small that it really had a minor effect on my economic life. Still, I shall miss waking up on Sunday to see my column unless a neighbor here in Beverly Hills has stolen my paper.”

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Rupert Murdoch: Protector of the printed word?

James Robinson, The Guardian

Rupert Murdoch is the wizard of Oz. The 78-year-old has spent a lifetime building the world's most powerful media group, transforming a single antipodean newspaper into an empire that transcends national boundaries. Like his literary equivalent, his power is real, and prime ministers and presidents often seem mesmerised by its potency. But while his newspapers and television holdings give him undoubted influence, his status is magnified many times by the Murdoch myth. He has been a figure on the world stage for so long that his reputation alone is sometimes enough to inhibit the actions of others, whether in the Square Mile, Whitehall or Washington. His views on Europe or on the free market are familiar enough to policy-makers and opinion-formers, so he sometimes finds himself in the happy position of receiving favours without even having to ask for them.

It is a unique arrangement which Murdoch skilfully exploits, but it depends in large part on his continued ability to keep on controlling the news and to make huge amounts of money in the process. Last week, for perhaps the first time, Murdoch came close to admitting that he may not be able to continue doing so unless he radically transforms his business and in the process revolutionises the industry that has made him so powerful.

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News ecosystem needs collaboration, not us vs. them mentality

Chris O’Brien, MediaShift

One of the great tragedies that I see in the current debate about the future of journalism is the way the discussion continues to be framed around a series of binary choices. Newspapers or blogs. Print or online. Journalists or algorithms.

In each case, there seems to be a simple-minded belief that the future will inevitably be one or the other. I consider this tragic because the result is a lot of dead-end debates that devolve into spitball fights about whether one will replace the other. My belief is that the better conversation is about how these things should complement each other and extend and enrich our journalism. That is the great opportunity of this moment.

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Tell the media: we need a real debate on healthcare

Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting

Join FAIR and Michael Moore in calling for a real debate on healthcare--help us reach 10,000 signatures before July 30. Sign the petition now!

The debate about healthcare reform is in critical condition, with Obama's proposal for a "public option" now on the rocks, despite overwhelming public support for a greater government role in health insurance. Now more than ever, it is crucial that the media provide the public with information about the full range of options for healthcare reform--including the creation of a single-payer national health insurance program.

Single-payer, or "Medicare-for-all"--which would eliminate the role of private health insurance industry--is supported by 59 percent of Americans, and an equal percentage of physicians, because it would reduce costs while expanding coverage.

Yet it has rarely been mentioned on the TV network news. A recent study by FAIR found that of hundreds of stories about healthcare in major outlets earlier this year, only five stories included the views of advocates of single-payer--none of which appeared on the TV networks.

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Hot and bothering: media treatment of Sarah Palin

Jennifer Pozner, National Public Radio

Think carefully: can you remember any passionate TV news debates about whether journalists or voters might want to get naked with Dick Cheney?

No? Good. Because such an insulting, irrelevant topic would—and should—never be considered newsworthy. Unfortunately, this sort of drivel frequently passes for journalism when the politician at the center of the story is female.

Take Alaska's soon-to-be-former Governor, Sarah Palin. When she dropped her resignation bombshell—dubbed "breathless" "girlish burbling" by New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd—CNN's Rick Sanchez wondered, "hey, could she be pregnant again?," while others chalked it up to post-partum depression. Meanwhile, MSNBC analyst Donny Deutsch told Morning Joe viewers that the Quittah from Wasilla is divisive specifically because: "This is the first woman in power with sexual appeal… We're used to seeing a woman in power as non-threatening."

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Unpersons in media "debates" on economic policy

Paul Krugman, New York Times blog

One of the mysteries of the way issues are covered in much of the news media is how certain views get ruled “out of the mainstream” and just don’t get covered — even when many well-informed people hold those views.

The most notorious example was during the buildup to the Iraq war: skepticism about the case for war was treated as a fringe view, even though the evidence being presented by the hawks was flimsy on its face, and the ranks of the skeptics included a number of people with excellent national-security credentials.

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Saving America's democracy-sustaining journalism

Victor Pickard and Joe Torres, Seattle Times

NEWSPAPERS are in trouble. Big media companies are in bankruptcy, century-old newsrooms have shut their doors, and thousands of journalists have lost their jobs. The day seems imminent when a major American city will wake up without a broadsheet on anyone's doorstep.

The public's changing media habits have eroded the newspaper industry's monopoly on the local ad market. Today, more people get their news online than from newspapers. Fewer people are willing to pay for classified ads and are opting instead to place ads online. This is bad news for an industry that earns 90 percent of its revenue from print ads.

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Rush Limbaugh is still a big fat idiot

Joe Conason,

It wasn't surprising when, after seven months of legal wrangling, the Minnesota Supreme Court declared that Al Franken had won the 2008 Senate race against incumbent Norm Coleman. Still less surprising (although vastly more entertaining) was the simultaneous breakdown of nearly all of Franken's adversaries on the right, whose regurgitated insults, whining complaints and exploding noggins revealed nothing about him or his victory -- and everything about them.

Upon learning that Franken had prevailed in a unanimous decision by his home state's highest court, the usual suspects on Fox News Channel and in the Limbaugh wasteland of radio immediately threw up a barrage of furious invective. Wasting no time on gracious concessions, they concentrated on two themes. First: Franken himself is wild, spiteful, menacing, bigoted and, most of all, deranged (as must be anyone who voted for him). Second: Franken's ascension to the Senate is tainted by the process, which his opponent insisted on prolonging.

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Weymouth defends pay-to-play access scheme


Howie Kurtz worked all day yesterday trying to come up with a narrative that would make the WaPo's Pay2Play scheme look less damning. His latest effort is notable for several reasons:

  • He killed the anonymous quotations from Weymouth and Brauchli
  • With those anonymous quotes, he also killed any description of what the Pay2Play dinners were supposed to be
  • He let Weymouth spend 356 words claiming "everyone does it"
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Should newspapers be funded by the government?

Ezra Klein, Washington Post

Moral of the day: Selling access to government officials who are willing to contribute their time and power to the media's cause is a bad revenue model for newspapers. Another way of saying that is that newspapers should not be funded by indirect government subsidies. But the whole brouhaha confirms my long-held belief that newspapers should be funded by direct government subsidies.

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The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. -John Dewey