Apr 1 2011


Not Too Far Right—or Hef

Larry King replacement Piers Morgan was interviewed about his new job by Broadcasting & Cable (2/28/11):

B&C: What kind of feedback have you gotten from CNN?

Morgan: They’re thrilled. They just tell me not to forget it’s an intelligent audience. And to remain independent. And being independent right now is a really good thing. Being too far right or left right now is a bit dangerous, given what’s going on in the Middle East. What Americans need is facts.

The night before this interview was published, Morgan (2/27/11) had on as his guest Hugh Hefner and his soon-to-be third wife. Which no doubt was a safely intelligent, independent, factual choice—given what’s going on in the Middle East.

Error-Prone Reporter Lectures AJE on Accuracy

In a piece on why you can’t watch Al Jazeera English on your television, New York Times TV reporter Alessandra Stanley (2/2/11) warned that on the channel, “zeal sometimes outstrips the thirst for accuracy. The channel reported on Tuesday that 2 million protesters defied a curfew to gather in Tahrir Square; most Western news organizations put the number in the hundreds of thousands.”

Seriously—the New York Times is going to lecture other media outlets on the proper way to report on crowd sizes, given its record of lowballing peace demonstrations (FAIR Action Alert, 10/28/02)? And the person to do this is Alessandra Stanley, a reporter whose record of inaccuracy led Gawker (3/5/08) to wonder, “How Many Corrections Does It Take to Get Fired at the Times?”

In Defense of the Lobbyist/Diplomat

When the White House sent Frank Wisner, a veteran diplomat who now works for the lobbying group Patton Boggs, to negotiate with Hosni Mubarak, journalist Robert Fisk (Independent, 2/7/11) wrote about the conflicts this posed, noting Patton Boggs’ extensive work for the Egyptian government and corporations. “The vast network of companies with family connections to Mubarak’s regime is, of course, one of the targets of the pro-democracy demonstrators in Egypt,” Fisk wrote.

New York Times reporter Sheryl Gay Stolberg (NYTimes.com, 2/7/11) leaped to Wisner’s defense, quoting a Patton Boggs official who said the group did work for corporate clients in Egypt, but hadn’t worked for the government since the mid-1990s, “except for briefly last year.”

So it’s wrong to say that Wisner’s firm worked for the Egyptian government and corporations, because it works for Egyptian corporations but hasn’t worked for the Egyptian government in the past several months. Nothing to see here, folks.

Island of Irony

Reporting on the case of Alan Gross, a U.S. contractor held by Cuba on suspicion of espionage since late 2009, the Associated Press (2/5/11) quoted Gloria Berbena, the spokesperson for the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, saying that Gross’ “imprisonment without charges for more than a year is contrary to all international human-rights obligations.” If you can’t understand how the AP managed to avoid mentioning that elsewhere on the island of Cuba, the U.S. government has imprisoned hundreds of people without charges for years, well, you’re not cut out to be a corporate media reporter.

Dictator = Democrat in Haiti

Under the headline “U.S. Meekly Allows Despots to Return to Haiti,” USA Today columnist DeWayne Wickham (2/8/11) wrote a piece that treated former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier, who was arrested after he came back to Haiti, and twice-elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, whose return from exile was then blocked, as birds of a feather, “old troublemakers” who portend “a return to the bloody factionalism that punctuated their time at the helm of Haiti’s government.”

The Duvalier = Aristide equation could be seen elsewhere: A New York Times report (2/9/11) warned that “experts inside and outside Haiti fear that the presence of the two former leaders could further destabilize the country.” A short Los Angeles Times piece (2/9/11) reported that “the return of the two former leaders comes at an unsteady moment for the country.”

These outlets might have pointed out that the Duvalier dynasty was responsible for murdering tens of thousands of Haitians (Human Rights Watch, 1/17/11), whereas both of Aristide’s terms were marked by relatively low levels of political violence that soared after his removal from office (Extra!, 11-12/94, 7-8/06). One would hope reporters could point out the difference between a blood-soaked dictator and a popularly elected president.

Not Taking Sides, Except Financially

The NFL Players Association made an ad, intended to air during the Super Bowl, to rouse public opposition to an expected lockout by the owners, but CBS refused to air it. A spokesperson told the AP (1/31/11) that didn’t reflect bias, because the network wouldn’t air an ad “from the owners’ side” either. Of course, CBS is one of the networks that pay “the owners’ side” some $4 billion a year for TV rights, but the players’ union noted that that relationship means even more than you might think.

A rep told the Washington Post (2/1/11) that, by guaranteeing to pay the league even if no games are played, the TV deals amount to a kind of “lockout insurance” that would let the NFL conduct a stoppage without grave financial consequences—which not only takes sides in the labor dispute, it gives the networks a strong reason to hope the players give in quickly to the owners’ pressure.

Pot Calls Kettle a Racial Slur

National Football League owner Dan Snyder is suing City Paper, D.C.’s alternative weekly, for publishing a photo of him that included scribbled-on devil horns. The suit describes the scribbling as “the type of imagery used historically, including in Nazi Germany, to dehumanize and vilify the Jewish people” (Indian Country Today, 2/1/11). Snyder calls his team the “Washington Redskins,” and has been a vehement defender of his right to use a racial slur to market his franchise.