Category Archives: media

My invitation to the right-wing media

If I was a Republican and sat and watched the absolute destruction of my fantastical dreams of defeating President Obama and overtaking the Senate, I’d be pretty angry at the media that sold me the faulty stories.

Last night when it was clear the president would win, I couldn’t help but turn the TV to Fox News. I needed to know how they’d take the news that everything they’ve been reporting was wrong. I watched as Karl Rove attempted to prove on a piece of paper that his Ohio math was more factual than the calculations of a roomful of number crunchers. This moment of disbelief in the real-world facts epitomized the last four years of the Republican Party and its Republican media machine–an entire industry based on gut and emotion instead of facts and data.

While us on the left visited RealClearPolitics.com daily and saw consistent Obama leads in all the swing states, including Florida at the end, those on the right obsessed over the gut feelings of Rove, who predicted, based on his experience with George W. Bush, that Mitt Romney would win. And the GOP media also focused on the predictions of pundit Michael Barone, who proudly wrote that Romney would win, 315-223–almost the exact opposite of math god Nate Silver at 538, who predicted a 313-223, Obama victory. (By the way Silver nailed each state in his final electoral map.)

If I was a Fox News watcher this morning, I wouldn’t trust a word coming out of any of the newscasters’ mouths from here on until they make a fundamental change in how they conduct business.

Some facts Fox News might need to fix immediately in order to save some credibility:

  • America likes Obama. His approval rating has been around 50 percent leading up to the end of his first term. Bill Clinton, before he was re-elected, had an approval rating hovering in the 40s with a low-point at 37 percent.
  • Obama’s healthcare plan is not a “government takeover.” It’s a practical plan based on the private markets. Simple. Basic. Capitalistic.
  • Most Americans believe in science. Man-caused climate change is real, not a theory.
  • Most Americans don’t blame Obama for the economy. Most of the blame still falls on President George W. Bush. Don’t get me wrong. The president still has the bulk of economic responsibility to get the country growing faster, but he was handed a really difficult task. Oh yeah, Congress is a bit responsible too since they pass the damn laws.
  • On the economy, it’s not as weak as Fox and right-wing pundits claim. Could it be growing faster? Yes. But is it growing? Yes, unlike the economies in Europe. The United States is no longer in a recession and not really a risk of falling into another one. If Obama and Congress do NOTHING the next four years, economists expect 12 million jobs to be added.

Most importantly though, last night proved one thing that I’ve been thinking for a while: Fox and right wingers continue to use “Americans” and “American people” to refer to the electorate. Romney would have won the election if Fox News’s America — white, middle-class men — would have been the only ones to vote. But that isn’t America anymore–Obama won with the lowest percentage of the white vote in the history of this country.

America is different now. America is darker. America also includes working women. It also includes a majority of people who support gay rights. America is like Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York City, Chicago. It is not like Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.

Last night after the election was well over, I sent this tweet:

Republicans, the message is this: America has changed. We are minorities, women, gays, science believers. Adapt or be irrelevant.

The two-party system in this country is essential. Just like this country wouldn’t survive if we moved all the way to Ron Paul’s right, we wouldn’t survive if we moved all the way to MoveOn.org’s left. Ideological battles are necessary and helpful and keep the country on a healthy balance.

But the battles fought by the right-wing media the last four years was not a healthy one. It was a battle based on extreme ideology and an appeal to the basest of Republican thought. This must change.

Fox News employs the sensible Juan Williams. Maybe it’s time to give him a larger role. Maybe it’s time for them to say goodbye to their fear-mongers. Keep Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity and we’ll keep Rachel Maddow, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. They are healthy for political dialogue. But do away with your demagogues: Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee and Karl Rove.

Join us, right wing. Join the fact-based world. Join the Americans who re-elected Obama. We need you. Your viewers and readers need you.

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Why Did the LA Times Censor My Blog Comment – Twice?

At one point in my life, the Los Angeles Times was the “It” paper. While The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal (the journalism section, not its editorial pages) set the standard for American journalism, I convinced myself that the LA Times wasn’t too far behind.

I am convinced now.

The three major newspapers have learned how to use Web 2.0 — blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Flickr — to push journalism to another level.

Even Reuters, the venerable wire service, has set standards on how to use Web 2.0. That company’s rule regarding instantaneous news? Journalism is still journalism. There is no room for opinion, misinformation, or poor reporting.

The uptake? These publications treat blogs like they treat articles published in newspapers.

Which brings me to the Los Angeles Times, especially its Top of the Ticket blog penned primarily by Andrew Malcolm (although the Times lists Johanna Neuman as a contributor).

If you don’t know Malcolm, he’s the former press secretary for First Lady Laura Bush. He’s also a long-time reporter (hell, could be a very good reporter) and served on the Times’ editorial board. My guess is he started writing the Ticket blog sometime early in 2008 (his bio is dated November 1, 2008).

But since the campaign season that year, Malcolm has proved himself to be nothing short of a partisan hack on the levels of a Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck. He often resorts to nicknames for President Obama, his latest being “The Smoker.” Which would be fine, I guess, if the blog was labeled clearly as “Opinion” as The New York Times and The Washington Post do.

Instead “Top of the Ticket” is labeledPolitics, coast to coast, with the L.A. Times” and is listed clearly under the “Politics” section, not the “Opinion” section.

To make things even worse for the Times, the newspaper often reposts Malcolm’s blogs as actual stories. For example, “A little secret about Obama’s transparency” posted yesterday looks exactly like an article penned by a real reporter.

In this news article, which is what the URL suggests (even if “Top of the Ticket” is written at the top), includes zero original sources — a big no-no in journalism. Yes, it’s from a blog post, but if it’s reprinted as an actual article, it should contain sources. Heck, most columns contain at least one original source.

But my real problems with Malcolm hit a tipping point Saturday night, a day before the historic vote on healthcare reform, in a blog post titled, “Cast your own vote on Obama’s healthcare plan.” The primary problem comes from the poll questions posted below the blog, especially Nos. 2 and 4:

  • Obama’s healthcare plan is so good it should also apply to Obama, his family, all members of Congress and their families. (It does)
  • I wish those folks had spent all these months focusing on jobs and the economy instead. (They did)

The wording and loaded questions upset me so much, I wrote a long response and posted it. I kept waiting for it to appear after being moderated, but it didn’t. So I reposted it thinking I had made a mistake. Again, nothing.

I wondered what I had written that kept them from publishing my comment.

Here’s the full text of what I wrote (much of which is repeated above):

Recently, Reuters released standard practices for journalists using social media, which is what blogs are. The standards break down into one simple rule:
“Accuracy, freedom from bias and integrity are fundamental to the reputation of Reuters and your ability to do your job effectively. The advent of social media changes none of this and you should do nothing that would damage our reputation for impartiality and independence.”
If Andrew Malcolm worked for Reuters, he’d be fired for this piece of misinformation and obvious bias.
Malcolm is an embarrassment to the Los Angeles Times. His reporting is full of vindictiveness, poor reporting, and straight-out falsehoods.
Take for example poll questions 2 and 4:
“2) Obama’s healthcare plan is so good it should also apply to Obama, his family, all members of Congress and their families.”
– Unfortunately, it’s not a “healthcare plan.” It’s a reform of the current system. The only “plan” being created is the ability to buy into a pool of other independent people. “Reform” does not equal “plan.” Malcolm knows this is true, but he perpetuates the falsehood because it probably boosts his ego when he receives responses like this. No one’s insurance will change if they don’t want it to.
“4) I wish those folks had spent all these months focusing on jobs and the economy instead.”
– Was it my imagination or did President Obama just sign an $18 billion jobs bill? In addition, aren’t there physical signs throughout Los Angeles that say “This project is paid for by the Reinvestment Act of 2009”? Nevermind that unemployment has slowed, and it appears job growth should begin by the end of this year. Again, Malcolm knows this, but he perpetuates the lie that Obama hasn’t done anything about jobs because, hey, let me be funny.
The Los Angeles Times used to try to compete with the big newspapers — The New York Times and The Washington Post. But with one of the paper’s top political reporters, which is what a blogger is, demonstrating such terribly poor professionalism, it’s no wonder why no one mentions this newspaper when it talks about the best in the nation.
Shame on you, LA Times. And Andrew Malcolm, get over yourself.

I had a serious point, so I made it, albeit in an angry way. In fact, my post was tame compared to some of the others that were published.

Here are some of the comments from those who opposed the bill:

Guy Arnold wrote:

“Obama is a devout Muslim and with no doubt he is screwing up our country to it’s worst condition.”

Peggy wrote:

“Obama, progressives and looney tunes dems are done. AS IS THE LAME STREAM MEDIA. You guys should be ashamed of yourselves for helping to elect a Muslim Socialist radical like Obama. How can you look at yourselves in the mirror every day to shave, or what ever?”

Yolanda wrote:

“If the President thinks his healthcare if so good, He should ask millions of unborn children what they think of federally funded abortions”

And about 70 others like these (including one guy who wrote, “Is Obama a foreign agent? I don’t know.”)

But he also posted the comments of those who supported the bill (responding to many):

JWinters:

“lame poll. the LA times is turning into just another blog. Why don’t you use your resources and put together a poll of substance.”

(AM responds: This IS a blog. And it is not a poll. Thanks for voting.)

Rusty (a Republican, actually makes some of the same points as me):

Are you going to actually address any of the criticisms of people who posted in these comments, or are you just going to tell everyone “oh thanks for coming”?

Several people have questioned your ability to report on a political story without draping it in the sarcasm of your own political worldview. I was a Republican, and it is people like you that made me leave the party – that you didn’t seem to be able to think up better ideas, just hurl insults at whomever the party disagreed with.

If you are unable to objectively analyze or comment on a political story, then perhaps the LA Times could *try* to get someone in here who has that ability to – say someone who can determine whether or not the CBO analysis was correct, rather than post “Communisty” photos of Obama, and call Pelosi names (even if she deserves it).

You can join Fox and put your blog there. Or god forbid the racist tea-party. They’d probably like the photo you posted. Repeatedly.

(AM responds: This is a political blog. It is not a newspaper, hence to paper. No one is stopping you from not reading it. But glad you did.)

There are a few dozen of other posts by supporters of healthcare, many criticizing the poll, which is what the questions are despite what Malcolm may believe (unscientific, yes, but still a poll), and I didn’t see where my post crossed the line. Maybe it was quoting Reuters, or perhaps it was the “shame on you” line, which I admit now is a bit pompous. Hell, maybe it was too long (even though there were posts longer than mine).

Or maybe Malcolm couldn’t think of a snarky response to my post.

With comments like “This is a political blog. It is not a newspaper, hence to paper” it”s clear that Malcolm has little respect for new journalism and the power blogs and Web 2.0 has on current events.

And it’s also why he fails as a blogger and as a reporter. And this is also why the LA Times fails as a newspaper.

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