Jun 1 2012


Straight From the Horse’s Mouth

Under the headline “Budget Plan’s Defeat Shows Hurdles to Compromise,” New York Times reporter Jonathan Weisman (4/3/12) bemoaned the failure of a fiscal measure modeled on the media-beloved Bowles-Simpson plan (Extra!, 1/11), in which former Sen. Alan Simpson (R.-Wyo.) and Clinton chief of staff Erskine Bowles proposed Social Security cuts, tax cuts for the wealthy and an arbitrary cap on government spending.

Weisman assured readers that Bowles-Simpson “is regarded by the Washington cognoscenti as the compromise both sides will have to eventually accept before the end of the year.” He backed that up with a quote from one of those “cognoscenti”: “When the two parties get serious about compromise,” the expert said, they’ll see that “there just aren’t that many other viable options.”

The name of this informed observer who vouched for the wisdom of the Bowles-Simpson approach? Why, Erskine Bowles, naturally.

News From Nottingham

In a column dedicated to selling readers on the wisdom of centrism, former New York Times editor Bill Keller (4/16/12) argued that Obama has veered too far from the middle with his endorsement of the Buffett Rule: “He sounds more as if he’s trying out for the role of Robin Hood.” You remember Robin Hood—the guy who stole from the rich at the same rate that he stole from the poor?

Fox’s Many Friends

Fox & Friends host Steve Doocy (4/19/12) asked Mitt Romney how he felt about Barack Obama taunting him in a speech with the line, “Unlike some people, I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth.” Only Doocy wasn’t really quoting: The first three words were the Fox host’s own interpolation, added on to a line Obama has used routinely since 2009 (Mathbabe, 4/21/12).

It turns out a number of news outlets get their news about the president filtered through Fox News—not just Fox corporate sibling the New York Post (4/20/12), which called Obama’s imaginary remarks “repugnant” as well as “snotty and woefully ignorant of the American spirit,” but also the Washington Post (4/19/12), which quoted Doocy-as-Obama in a report on “Obama’s ‘Silver Spoon’ Swipe.”

The New York Times (4/19/12) reported the actual quote, but set it up by saying Obama was “questioning whether a rich candidate like Mr. Romney can understand people’s challenges.” And ABC’s This Week (4/22/12) used it to illustrate host George Stephanopoulos’ contention that the general election is “getting down and dirty early.” If this bungled brouhaha is any indication, it’s getting sloppy early, too.

Shocking Revelations From NYT’s Mole at Fox

In a New York Times story (4/19/12) about Bill O’Reilly renewing his Fox News contract, reporter Brian Stelter revealed some inside information from an unnamed source. “A colleague of Mr. [Bill] O’Reilly’s, speaking on the condition of anonymity because Fox had not given permission to speak on the record, said he seemed as engaged as ever, despite having had the job for 16 years. ‘He always brings his A game,’ the colleague said. ‘Every single day.’”

It might surprise regular Times readers to learn that the paper has a rule against anonymous sources. According to the policy: “The use of unidentified sources is reserved for situations in which the newspaper could not otherwise print information it considers reliable and newsworthy.” You know, like secret information about which game Bill O’Reilly brings and how often he brings it.

Apple Can’t Afford Not to Rip Off Readers

The Justice Department alleges that Apple’s collusion with book publishers to fix ebook prices has cost readers $100 million (Christian Science Monitor, 4/11/12). So why did so many news reports on the anti-trust suit suggest that the Apple/publisher alliance is actually good for consumers?

CNN’s Doug Gross (4/11/12) explained:

The argument goes like this:

By selling most new ebooks for $9.99, Amazon is setting a price that’s too low for other competitors to match in a price war. If that eventually drives the competition away, Amazon (which is already projected to account for more than half of all U.S. book sales by the end of this year) would be essentially unchecked and able to set whatever prices it wants.

Bear in mind that Apple, Amazon’s chief competitor in the ebook market, is literally the richest company in the world (ABCNews.com, 1/25/12). If Steve Jobs wanted to sell ebooks for $14.99, it’s not because he couldn’t afford to sell them for $9.99. Actually, he expressed his pricing philosophy very clearly (TheVerge.com, 4/11/12): “Yes, the customer pays a little more, but that’s what you want anyway.” (“A little more,” in this case, means 50 percent more.)

A Game That Needs Changing

In the first episode (4/11/12) of a four-part series called America Revealed, PBS reported that the agriculture industry “needed a game changer” in the fight against pests—and found it in genetically modified corn. Remarkably enough, the sponsor of the program, Dow Chemical, just happens to be lobbying right now for approval of its own brand of genetically modified corn (FAIR Action Alert, 4/23/12).