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Saturday, 19 November 2005 02:55
News Dissections

Media Channel.org - Danny Schechter - "Not since Bob Woodward of The Washington Post refused to divulge the identity of Deep Throat has the capital been so riveted over one of Mr. Woodward's sources. This time, three decades after Watergate, the question is who first told Mr. Woodward about the C.I.A. officer at the heart of the leak case. On Thursday, more than a half-dozen more Bush administration officials sent word, directly or indirectly, that they had not been Mr. Woodward's source."

www.mediachannel.org

NEWS DISSECTOR
Danny Schechter

MediChannel.org
November 18, 2005


When News People Become News....


OOPS..Here we go again...Not sure if the blog is under attack again or there was just some technical foulup. Be patient. We will try to fix it.

IN THE BOWELS OF THE BEAST
REPORT FROM WSIS IN TUNISIA
FIRST REVIEW OF THE DEATH OF THE MEDIA

Last night I found myself in the bowels of the Time Life Building attending a New York reception for Harvards Nieman Fellows in journalism. I had been one years ago and went to reconnect. At first I didn?t think I could get into a building that is guarded as if it is in Iraq's green zone. Guards. Frequent ID checks, Xray of Packages, suspicious snarling security.....Maybe they thought I was there to steal a copy of PEOPLE or spy for Newsweek...

There was no list of those coming left at the reception desk and so the young woman checking IDs kept asking who invited me. Since there was no one individual named on the invite, I wasn't sure and we weren?t connecting too well. But then, I had a brainstorm and threw out a name that I was sure would unlock this magic kingdom: Norman Pearlstine, the publisher supremo of Time Magazine and the actual former Nieman who I recalled got us use of a room named after none other than our founder who art in heaven, Henry Luce.

"Try Norman Pearlstine" I said in my best name dopping mode.

He was in the phone directory, but it was after 6.

No Answer--no entry.

No go. She never heard of him.

www.timewarner.com by_business/time_inc/bio/pearlstine_norman.html

RESCUED

It was then that Merrill Brown, former head of MSNBC came into view and rescued me. He was to be part of a panel on how newspapers are coping with the Internet. (Short Answer: not very well). But the formal discussion paled in the face of the gossip about all the big media names now caught up in scandals including Judy Miller and Bob Woodward. It turns out that Pearlstein who forced Times' reporter Matt Cooper to turn over his notes to federal prosecutor Fitzgerald in the Plame affair was not even there. He had been summoned to Washington on what seemed like related business although no one knew what. Rumors flew.

Outside the window, midtown traffic ground to a halt. I thing they were bringing in the Xmas tree into Rockefeller Center. It was cold outside but heating up inside the glass paneled walls. The conversation had sizzle but little steak to chew on.

There was a bit of gloom in room in not only because the media world is going digital with unknown implications for the media bigs, but because mighty newspapers like the Times and the Post were now making news, not just reporting it. Most of the buzz was about Woodward.

DEEP ROTE

The NY Times reported today:

? Not since Bob Woodward of The Washington Post refused to divulge the identity of Deep Throat has the capital been so riveted over one of Mr. Woodward's sources. This time, three decades after Watergate, the question is who first told Mr. Woodward about the C.I.A. officer at the heart of the leak case.

?On Thursday, more than a half-dozen more Bush administration officials sent word, directly or indirectly, that they had not been Mr. Woodward's source.?

www.nytimes.com

SORRY

The Washington Post reports that Woodward has apologized?to The Washington Post.

? Bob Woodward apologized to The Washington Post yesterday for failing to reveal for more than two years that a senior Bush administration official had told him about CIA operative Valerie Plame, even as an investigation of who disclosed her identity mushroomed into a national scandal.?

www.washingtonpost.com

WHEN SOURCES DEFECT

Former Timesman Sidney Schanberg, a media hero of an earlier era who was loater purged by the paper writes about the environment in the beltway?

? ?To write his books, Woodward needs special access to major people in the White House and the key cabinet departments. He is presently working on what he says may be a multivolume treatment of Bush's second term. He had access to the president himself for his book on the first term. But with this scandal still unfolding, lots of government biggies have suddenly zipped their lips. This has complicated Woodward's work. Perhaps that explains, in part, his reluctance to mouth any full-blown criticism of Bush administration missteps.?

?Also, the indicted Libby has reportedly been a source for Woodward in the past. Critics in the press have suggested that Woodward is too close to some of his sources to provide readers with an undiluted picture of their activities.?

?His remarks about the Fitzgerald investigation convey the attitude of a sometime insider reluctant to offend?and that is hardly a definition of what a serious, independent reporter is supposed to be. It's a far piece from Watergate.?

From Romanesko to the CBS Public Eye

DISGUST ON THE INSIDE

I met a NY Times reporter disgusted with his paper for not axing Miller earlier and a LA Times reporter who called the dumping of Robert Scheer?s column was a ?disgrace/? I wouldn?t say morale is high especially because circulation and revenues continues to fall. Brown called on journalists to become ?product developers.? I am not even sure if that sounds good. I tried to talk about the promise of citizens journalism but it seemed to be that the older line newspaper guys found that threatening.

These are people who live in worlds of facts and certainty?and now they are not certain about anything. For years they have been writing about the mistakes of others and now they have to confront their own. None are show of what shoe will drop next.

Turn, Turn, Turn?the world of t he MSM is turning. And churning. That?s for sure but its not clear who will be sitting where?or still standing?when the music stops.

WHAT TO DO?

Ted Rall blames skepticism for many of these problems and offers some proposal of how big media can stop the leakage of public respect.

?Judith Miller, the mousy Bush Administration propaganda mouthpiece forced to retire from The New York Times last week, is hardly an anomaly. American journalism is contaminated by widespread institutional corruption. Yet coming on the heels of the same paper's humiliation by phony reporter Jayson Blair and Stephen Glass' reign of error at The New Republic, the Miller mess' further contribution to the media's ever-diminishing credibility--the Gallup poll finds that 49 percent of Americans consider the news mostly or completely unreliable--has prompted industry insiders to propose cures so toothless that they only expose the cluelessness of those proposing them.

 Miller, who cut-and-pasted the White House's Saddam-has-WMDs press releases into the Times to help build support for the invasion of Iraq, is being characterized as a rogue reporter by the same editors who encouraged and published her tripe.

?And the punditocracy is going along. She "should be promptly dismissed for crimes against journalism, and her own newspaper," Greg Mitchell wrote in the industry trade journal Editor & Publisher. "And Bill Keller, executive editor, who let her get away with it, owes readers, at the minimum, an apology." Slate.com media critic Jack Shafer, on the other hand, would settle for a mere "explanation." 

The sad fact is that Miller and Blair, rather than rare exceptions, reflect the endemic vices of elitism, unaccountability and star worship that afflict our journalistic institutions beginning with top management. It will take more than another pro forma mea culpa to rebuild their eroded credibility. Systemic changes are essential:?

www.informationclearinghouse.info

AS FOR SCHEER

The Nation reports: ?Robert Scheer's recent departurefrom the Los Angeles Times, which had been his "home" newspaper for the past thirteen years, has opened new opportunities. Beginning today, his weekly column will be published in the San Francisco Chronicle and distributed by Creators Syndicate. On The Nation.com, publication of his weekly column will shift from Tuesdays toWednesdays. On November 29, Scheer will launch his own online magazine, Truthdig.com.

He writes in the Nation:

?At a time when approximately 57 percent of Americanspolled believe that President Bush deceived them on thereasons for the war in Iraq, it does seem a bitredundant to deconstruct the President's recent
speeches on that subject. Yet, to fail to do so would
be to passively accept the Big Lie technique--which is
how we as a nation got into this horrible mess in the
first place?.

www.thenation.com

WHAT ABOUT LIDDY?

Meanwhile, one foreign policy expert, Stephen Zunes argues: ?Libby Indictment May Open Door to Broader Iraq War Deceptions?

?The details revealed thus far from the investigation that led to thefive-count indictment against I. Lewis ?Scooter? Libby seem to indicate that the efforts to expose the identity of undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson went far beyond the chief assistant to the assistant chief. Though no other White House officials were formally indicted, the investigation appears to implicate Vice President Richard Cheney and Karl Rove, President George W. Bush?s top political adviser, in the conspiracy. More importantly, the probe underscores the extent
of administration efforts to silence those who questioned its argument that Iraq constituted a serious threat to the national security of the United States.

?Even if no other White House officials ever have to face justice as a result of this investigation, it opens one of the best opportunities the American public may have to press the issue of howthe Bush administration led us into war. Spurred by the Libbyindictment, the Downing Street memo, and related British documents leaked earlier this year, some mainstream pundits and Democratic Partylawmakers are finally raising the possibility that the Bush administration was determined to go to war regardless of any strategicor legal justification and that White House officials deliberately exaggerated the threats posed by Saddam Hussein?s Iraq in order to gain congressional and popular support to invade that oil-rich country.?


HOW THE WAR WAS SOLD

Viewers of my film WMD may remember comments by John Rendon the PR svengali who helped sell the war. Rendon is now featured in a Rolling Stone report by James Bamford that is a must read:

www.rollingstone.com

IN CONGRESS A RIGHT WINGER SAYS: PULL OUT

? WASHINGTON - An influential House Democrat who voted for the Iraq war called Thursday for the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq,another sign of growing unease in Congress about the conflict.

"It is time for a change in direction," said Rep. John Murtha (news, bio, voting record), D-Pa., one of Congress' most hawkish Democrats. "Our military is suffering, the future of our country is at risk. We cannot continue on the present course. It is evident that continued military action in Iraq is not in the best interests of the United States of America, the
Iraqi people or the Persian Gulf region."

?House Republicans assailed Murtha's position as one of abandonment and surrender, and accused Democrats of playing politics with the war. "They want us to retreat. They want us to wave the white flag of surrender to the terrorists of the world," Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., said in a statement.


www.fpif.org

THE KILLING FIELDS

CNN reports today that the security situation worsens.

? As debate rages in Washington over the U.S. military presence in Iraq, suicide bombings killed scores today in Baghdad and in the city of Khanaqin, near the Iranian border. Two car bombings in the Iraqi capital killed six, while 50 people were slain when two suicide bombers detonated themselves at a Shia mosque in Khanaqin. In the Baghdad explosions, a security camera captured footage of one of the vehicles -- a 16-passenger van -- exploding.


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The Unperfect Media Storm


I last saw former CNN correspondent Rebecca MacKinnon on a TV screen in Amsterdam. Now she is in Tunisia for the World Summit on the Information Society, and writes:

?Despite the odds, we managed to pull off our "Expression Under Repression" seminar here at the World Summit For Internet and Society. This was largely thanks to the strong spine of our sponsors, the Dutch NGO Hivos, who fended off a phalanx of plainclothes police who tried to shut us down. The goons finally backed off after the Dutch ambassador intervened and warned of a diplomatic incident.

?Before we began, uncertainty and rumor reigned about whether we?d be allowed to hold the event at all. On Wednesday, as I mentioned in a previous post, the Tunisian authorities told organizers that the seminar?s theme had nothing to do with the ?ICT for Development? theme of the conference, and was thus inappropriate. On the morning of the seminar a sign outside the room said it was canceled. It was not included in the official program, and a rumor heard from delegates who visited the UNDP pavillion claimed that people who showed up would get arrested. Our colleagues ues have posted some eyewitness accounts of the action here.

?Speakers included Malaysian blogger Jeff Ooi, Chinese blogger Isaac Mao, Iranian blogger Hossein Derakshan, and Zimbabwean internet activist Taurai Maduna. Ethan Zuckerman blogged about the circumstances under which we opened the seminar and my opening remarks.

cyber.law.harvard.edu

ROVE TRIED TO INFLUENCE PUBLIC TV

Neil Roland of Bloomberg News reports Karl Rove Discussed Programs, Hiring With Public TV Chief

? Presidential adviser Karl Rove and Kenneth Tomlinson, then chairman of the Corporation for PublicBroadcasting, discussed creating a "conservative'' talk show and adding it to the public television lineup, the corporation'stop investigator said.

?Kenneth Konz, inspector general of the nonprofit companythat oversees government funding of public TV, said in aninterview yesterday that Tomlinson and Rove exchanged e-mails ongetting "The Journal Editorial Report'' onto public TV.Tomlinson also wrote to Roveabout "shaking up'' the agency and
recruiting Republican staff, he said.

?In a report two days ago, Konz said Tomlinson broke federal laws and internal rules in part by hiring corporation PresidentPatricia Harrison, a former Republican National Committee co- chairwoman, based on her Republican ties?.?

ACTIVISTS DEMAND: DISCLOSE THE EMAILS

Activists full public disclosure of all evidence shared secretly with CPB Board

WASHINGTON -- Free Press, the Center for Digital Democracy and Common Cause sent a letter today to top officials of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, demanding the immediate release of all evidence uncovered during a recently completed Inspector General's investigation ? including e-mail correspondence between ex-CPB Chairman Kenneth Tomlinson and White House adviser Karl Rove?.?

GREENS TO MEDIA: COVER VOTING FRAUD

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Green Party leaders urged the
mainstream media to cover evidence, including areport from the non-partisan Government Accountability Office (GAO), which found that electronic voting machines can be manipulated without detection, along with other evidence of election fraud and obstruction.

"Why won't the media cover the GAO report?", asked Gwen Wages, co-chair of the Green Party of the United States. "Just as major newspapers and broadcast media ignored indications that intelligence of Iraqi WMDs and collusion between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda had been cooked before the U.S. invaded Iraq, they're now ignoring the destruction of American democracy."

RADIO WARS

By Cindy Rodriguez of the Denver Post writes
?So long, Billy. You got dumped.?

?I'm talking about William James O'Reilly Jr., a.k.a. The Bully. On Monday, KHOW 630-AM pulled the plug on "The Radio Factor With Bill O'Reilly" because of poor ratings. His nemesis, Al Franken, had better ratings on Boulder's Air America affiliate, KKZN 760-AM - a station that has spotty reception in parts of the metro area.

COVERAGE OF PAKISTAN AND TSUNAMI

The monitors of Media Tenor report:

? There was a perceptible difference between the coverage on the tsunami that hit South-East Asia in December 2004 and the earthquake that hit Pakistan in October 2005. The tsunami received far more extensive coverage in all countries analyzed in both television and print media. The earthquake in Pakistan, India and Afghanistan did not cause as high a death toll as the Tsunami but left more than 3 million people homeless in freezing weather in comparison to 1.5 million displaced people in Tsunami affected areas of moderate temperature. Low media presence contributed to the fact that time help did not reach the thousands of people living in rugged, mountainous areas which could be accessed only by 70 available helicopters. By contrast 4000 helicopters were available to the areas affected by the Tsunami. Both disasters resulted in an out-pouring of global donations and fund drives.

?The magnitude of both disasters was different in terms of the death toll and economic devastation and this could be a factor as to why the Tsunami received far more coverage which in turn affected private donations. The Tsunami affected tourist areas which could also explain why there was more reporting and global solidarity. In either case, the volume of coverage was very low given the fact that hundreds of thousands of lives were lost. If this reporting trend continues, it will lead to lower international awareness and consequently an avoidably high death toll from lack of aid and relief efforts.

www.mediatenor.com

SPAMMING BLOGS?IT'S HAPPENING TO US

The Miami Herald reports:

Spammers now targeting bloggers Now that weblogs, or blogs for short, are a popular online pastime formillions of people, scammers are finding ways to exploit them asvehicles for junk advertisements. The internet has even coined a term, splog, a combination of spam and blog, for a phenomenon that follows inthe footsteps of rogue advertising such as spam e-mail, junk mail, junk faxes and adware.

?Spam shows up on blogs as fake comments posted by readers that actually have nothing to do with the subject at hand. Instead, they advertise and
attempt to get you to click on an unrelated website. For the most part, the ads are new pitches for old schemes, gambling, porn, and are posing enough of a customer nuisance that Internet giants such as Google and Yahoo are developing tools to clamp down on them.

Last month, Blogger, a free blog service, identified a 'spamalanche' that hit its system, and the company had to dismantle 13,000 spam-filled blogs created in the course of a single weekend. 'The readership of blogs has exploded in the last 18 months,' and with it the popularity of splogs, said Jason Goldman, product manager for Blogger, which is owned by Google. 'The challenge is one of balance: to make it difficult for people to post bad script but not make it hard for our users.

Source: www.miami.com - The Miami Herald (free registratrion required)


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Our Daily Dissector Forum


WHITE PHOSPHORUS

Thomas Strock writes

?The pentagon has now admitted that white phosphorus was used as a weapon in the battle of Fallujah. Not as a luminating device as they said before. This is simply a crime of war. In 1999 the Army published a handbook that stated "It's against the law of land warfare to employ white phosphorus against personnal targets." This is also against the rules of the chemical weapons convention. I as a American find it difficult to understand the acts that we as a country have now commited. It is time for this folly,
this crime, this war to end."

STUDENT LOANS

Grace writes:

?A few weeks ago I tried to refinance $50,000 in student loans, but was told I couldn't because I had already done it once a few years ago.

THERE IS NO COMPETITION FOR STUDENT LOANS.

?So now I am stuck with a high interest loan. I thought I was the only one upset about it until I saw Dick Morris's column on The Hill newspaper. (Yes, that Dick Morris! From Fox News).

Turns out some folks are trying to change that. Morris wrote a great column about it.

?He calls it "Special-interest legislation doesn't get much more obnoxiousthan the bill now making its way though Congress to clamp down onstudents and former students who want to refinance their loans at lower
interest rates.

The student-loan rip-off is a test of GOP rhetoric

www.hillnews.com

Wendi Meremark likes to write late at night but this morning I can?t share all of her thoughts because I am full up. I will extract this nice ending:

? The death of media IS the struggle for democracy, and your book, Danny, is Common Sense. Just as Bill Clinton said: "Democracy is what comes out the end of the internet."

See below.

VIDEOS OF THE DAY
www.globalresearch.ca

And if you liked the Terminator, you will love this:
www.ifilm.com

AUDIO OF THE DAY

Mother of Slain U.S. Soldier Describes Her Grief and
Opposition to Iraq War

Interview with Dolores Kesterson, mother of Army chief warrant officer Erik Kesterson killed in Iraq Nov. 15, 2003,conducted by Scott Harris

Real Audio:
www.btlonline.org

FIRST REVIEW

I mentioned yesterday that my new book THE DEATH OF MEDIA. The first media mention of it is in Inside Higher Ed.com by Scott McLemee.

It reads in part:

? Schechter, one of the first producers for CNN and a winner of two Emmys for his work on the ABC program ?20/20,? has been a Neiman Fellow in Journalism at Harvard University. He is also the author of a book called The More You Watch, the Less You Know (1999), which I haven?t read ? though reportedly it did upset Bill O?Reilly, which seems like recommendation enough.
?Schechter, then, is someone who brings tacit knowledge aplenty to the work of commenting on the state of the media. Last year, in his documentary WMD: Weapons of Mass Deception, he did more than reconstruct how the print and electronic media alike fell into line with the administration?s justifications for war. In that, he drew in part on a piece of scholarly research that certainly does deserve the closest and most shame-faced attention by the entire journalistic profession, the study Media Coverage of Weapons of Mass Destruction, by Susan D. Moeller, an associate professor of journalism at the University of Maryland at College Park. (The full text is available here.)
But Schechter went a step further ? zeroing in on moments when reporters and editors worried aloud that changes in the mass media were eroding the difference between practicing journalism and providing coverage. That distinction is not a very subtle one, but it?s largely missing from the conceptual universe of, say, cultural studies.
?Providing coverage? is rather like what Woody Allen said about life: Most of it is just showing up. The cameras record what is happening, or the reporter takes down what was said ? and presto, an event is ?covered.? The quantity of tacit knowledge so mobilized is not large.
By contrast, any effort to ?practice journalism? involves (among other things) asking questions, following hunches, noticing the anomalous, and persisting until someone accidentally says something meaningful. There is more to it than providing stenography to power. It involves certain cognitive skills ? plus a sense of professional responsibility.
In his manifesto, Schechter runs through the familiar and depressing statistics showing a decline of public confidence in the mainstream media, increasing percentages of ?infotainment? to hard news, and steady downsizing of reporting staff at news organizations.
One public-opinion poll conducted for the Pew Center found that ?as 70 percent of the people asked expressed dissatisfaction with the news media.? And the same figure emerged from a survey of people working in the news media: about 70 percent, as Schechter puts it, ?feel the same way as their customers.? He quotes Hunter S. Thompson?s evocative characterization of the television industry as ?a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There?s also a negative side.?
To all of this, Schechter offers the alternative of ... uh, Wikipedia?
Well, ?citizen journalism? anyway ? through which ?the ideas, observations, and energy of ordinary people? will serve as ?not only a way of democratizing the media but also enlivening it.? He points to ?the meteoric growth of the blogosphere and the emergence of thousands of video activists,? plus the contribution of scholars to ?first rate publishing projects,? including ?a new online, non-commercial encyclopedia that taps the expertise of researchers and writers worldwide.?
Well, it?s probably not fair to judge the possibilities for citizen journalism by the actual state of public-access cable TV ? or any given Wikipedia entry written by a follower of Lyndon LaRouche. (Besides, are either all that much worse than MSNBC?) But something is missing from Schechter?s optimistic scenario, in any case.
It is now much easier to publish and broadcast than ever before. In other words, the power to cover and event or a topic has increased. But the skills necessary to foster meaningful discussion are not programmed into the software. They have to be cultivated.
That?s where people from academe come in. The most substantial interventions in shaping mass media probably won?t come from conference papers and journal articles, but in the classroom ? by giving the future citizen journalist access, not just to technology, but to cognitive tools...?

www.insidehighered.com

Well I think he simplifies my argument a bit but at least he tackles it with intelligence. To check THE DEATH OF THE MEDIA out for yourself, visit:

www.newsdissector.org

Another week will soon bid us adieu. Thanks for being here. Your comments to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Support for our work via check to The Global Center for Mediachannel.org 575 8th Avenue, #2200, NY NY 10018


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