Aug
01
2011

Soundbites

August 2011

Austerity Stops at the Top

Gannett will be laying off another 700 employees, about 2 percent of its workforce (Poynter.org, 6/21/11), after shedding 2,400 jobs last year. “The economic recovery is not happening as quickly or favorably as we had hoped and continues to impact our U.S. community media organizations,” Gannett U.S. Community Publishing division president Bob Dickey explained in a memo. That slow pace of recovery didn't stop Dickey from upping his total pay to $3.4 million in 2010, from $1.9 million in 2009. Nor did it prevent Gannett CEO Craig Dubow from doubling his 2009 salary, to $9.4 milllion (Poynter.org, 3/25/11). Dickey and Dubow were just two of the six Gannett executives with multi-million paydays in 2010. Despite a lackluster stock performance, the company rewarded the executives in part for their success in imposing layoffs, pay cuts and other austerity measures on their less well-compensated subordinates (Gannett Blog, 3/24/11).

Don't Tell Us We Heard It From You

A Washington Post story (6/3/11) headlined "A Reprieve for Higher-Ed Companies?" concerned a bill that would have increased oversight of federal student loans to for-profit colleges, which often do a poor job of preparing students for the workforce. The company that owns the Post, it turns out, has substantial investments in such schools--a fact the story disclosed in the 14th of 22 paragraphs: "Half a dozen leading firms in for-profit education--including the Washington Post Co. on behalf of its Kaplan education division--and the trade group Coalition for Educational Success spent a total of $4.3 million lobbying in 2010 and at least $2 million this year."

After mentioning that this "intense lobbying campaign" succeeded in watering down the bill, the story quotes one of the lobbyists involved: "'I wouldn’t say people are dancing in the streets,' said one lobbyist who asked for anonymity to protect relationships with clients and officials. 'But it is certainly an improvement over the proposed regulation.'" So the Post withheld the name of a lobbyist who was either working for the Post, or working alongside the Post's lobbyists--so that the Post won't find out he or she was talking to the Post.

Driven by Profits, Not Quality

"I mean, we are a profit-driven industry. And if you want the most eyeballs, you have to go with the thing that people are most talking about. But if you're trying to do a quality program, then maybe you have got to go with Iraq and Iran."

--Politico's Julie Mason (CNN, 6/19/11), explaining the amount of coverage the website devoted to the Anthony Weiner scandal

What's Too Painful to Remember

Discussing the Anthony Wiener scandal on his June 6 Fox News show (6/6/11), Sean Hannity agreed with his guest, WorldNetDaily's Joe Farah, that Democrats adhere to different, less honorable, standards when it comes to scandals. The difference? Democrats stay in office after their scandals come to light, while Republicans do the honorable thing and leave. As Hannity put it: "You know, you think back when Republican scandals come up, they all bail out. I can't think of one that ever stayed, can you?"

Hannity has a point: Except for Republican Sen. David Vitter, who is still in office despite his prostitution scandal, and Republican Sen. John Ensign, who stayed in office for nearly two years after having an extramarital affair and allegedly paying hush money to his lover's spouse, and Republican Sen. Larry Craig, who finished out his term after pleading guilty to committing lewd conduct in a public bathroom, and Republican South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, who completed his term after admitting to an extramarital affair, and Republican New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who informed his wife and family via press conference that he was seeking a divorce after literally parading his girlfriend through the streets--it's hard to think of many prominent Republicans who stayed in office following a sex-related scandal.

The Answer to Self-Censorship

"Sometimes self-censorship occurs because you're looking over your shoulder, and you think, well, if I do this story or that story, it will hurt public broadcasting. Public broadcasting has suffered often for my sins, reporting stories the officials don't want reported. And today, only...a very small percentage of funding for NPR and PBS comes from the government. But that accounts for a concentration of pressure and self-censorship. And only when we get a trust fund, only when the public figures out how to support us independently of a federal treasury, will we flourish as an independent medium."

--Bill Moyers (Democracy Now!, 6/8/11)

Eyewitness News

Pentagon reporter Martha Raddatz (ABC World News, 5/31/11) took issue with Afghan President Hamid Karzai's criticism of a U.S. bombing raid that killed 14 civilians, including 11 children:

I mean, they simply have to carry out air strikes over there. It's a very rapid response. It's real-time intelligence. It's certainly flawed at some points. But I've been on these missions. I've been on a combat mission in a fighter jet. I've seen all the very, very careful steps they take.... In fact, the mission I went on, some French soldiers were calling for them to bomb, and the pilot and the weapons officer said, "We can't bomb, we think there's a school, we think there might be people in there." So I think you will see a real fight over these restrictions, but the airstrikes and these night raids just simply have to continue if they're going to go after the enemy.

There you have it: Raddatz has been on a bombing raid, and the officers who were flying around declined to bomb a school with ABC News watching. Take that, Karzai.

The Trivial Fate of the Earth

The Washington Post's Philip Rucker and Peter Wallsten (6/9/11) began a news article about Republican candidate Mitt Romney's views on climate change with this: "It seemed like a straightforward question on a second-tier issue: Would Mitt Romney disavow the science behind global warming?" Thanks for letting us know, Washington Post, that catastrophic alteration of our planet's environment is a "second-tier issue."