Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Gibbs: Nobody at Fox Is a Journalist; It's Not a News Organization

White House officials once again advanced its contention that Fox News and its commentators are not journalists, rather a propaganda wing of the Republican Party. During the gaggle, an informal on-the-record but off-camera briefing between the White House press secretary and some members of the media, Robert Gibbs and ABC's Jake Tapper had this conversation:

Tapper: It’s escaped none of our notice that the White House has decided in the last few weeks to declare one of our sister organizations “not a news organization” and to tell the rest of us not to treat them like a news organization. Can you explain why it’s appropriate for the White House to decide that a news organization is not one –


Gibbs: Jake, we render, we render an opinion based on some of their coverage and the fairness that, the fairness of that coverage.

Tapper: But that’s a pretty sweeping declaration that they are “not a news organization.” How are they any different from, say –

Gibbs: ABC -

Tapper: ABC. MSNBC. Univision. I mean how are they any different?

Gibbs: You and I should watch sometime around 9 o’clock tonight. Or 5 o’clock this afternoon.

Tapper: I’m not talking about their opinion programming or issues you have with certain reports. I’m talking about saying thousands of individuals who work for a media organization, do not work for a “news organization” -- why is that appropriate for the White House to say?

Gibbs: That’s our opinion.

I wonder if Major Garrett, Fox's White House correspondent, was in the room.

Swamppolitics.com reported that Michael Clemente, senior vice president of news at FOX News, replied by saying: "Hundreds of journalists come to work each day at FOX News all deeply committed to their craft. It's disappointing that the White House would be so dismissive of their fine work and continue their vengeful war against a news organization."

Brett Baier of Fox reported on air today that Clemente said: "Surprisingly, the White House continues to declare war on a news organization instead of folk focusing on the critical issues that Americans are concerned about, like jobs, healthcare and two wars. The door remains open and we welcome a discussion about the facts behind the issues."

Ruth Marcus, who writes for the PostPartisan blog at the Washington Post, had this to say this morning:

Sure, it's legitimate -- and standard practice -- to dispense access and coveted interviews to favored reporters and news outlets. So is subtly doing the opposite: letting a reporter who's filed a tough story know that he or she is in the doghouse by leaking a scoop to a competitor. The Bush administration routinely briefed conservative columnists before a big presidential speech; the Obama White House tends to call in ideological sympathizers. This is the way the game is played.

Where the White House has gone way overboard is in its decision to treat Fox as an outright enemy and to go public with the assault. Imagine the outcry if the Bush administration had pulled a similar hissy fit with MSNBC. "Opinion journalism masquerading as news," White House communications director Anita Dunn declared of Fox. Certainly Fox tends to report its news with a conservative slant -- but has anyone at the White House clicked over to MSNBC recently?

That statement, in turn, brought a quick rebuttal from the left. Eric Boehlert of Media Matters writes:

In a way, Marcus is simply reinforcing the age-old Beltway truism: When Democrats criticize the press it's whiny and petty, but when Republicans do it, it's savvy and brash. (Just ask veterans of the Clinton administration.)

But more specifically, Marcus is commenting on a media landscape of which she is completely ignorant. For instance, she claims Fox News operates just like MSNBC did during the Bush years. MSNBC featured Bush bashers Rachel Maddow and Keith Olbermann, and today Fox News boasts Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity, so c'mon what's the big deal. I guess the big deal is I don't remember either Olbermann or Maddow comparing MSNBC employees to persecuted Jews during the Holocaust, which was the twisted comparison Beck recently made regarding the Fox News staff.

In other words, I don't recall Olbermann or Maddow going bat shit crazy on national television, scribbling away on a chalkboard as they fantasized about connecting George Bush to every conceivable strain of historical evil. And I don't remember either MSNBC host launching hateful and hollow witch hunts against semi-obscure administration officials, the way Hannity has latched onto the homophobic attacks against Kevin Jennings.

But guess what? The same elite pundits who are telling the White House is chill out over Fox News are the same elite pundits who for weeks have refused to acknowledge the hateful Jennings witch hunt. Which brings me back to my original question: Do journalists like Marcus even watch Fox News? Do they understand what its programming day now looks like? My guess is the answer is no, even though lots of them have taken it upon themselves to speak out as Fox News experts; to lecture the White House about how normal and mainstream the cable outlet is.

Josh Gerstein and Mike Allen of POLITICO write today that the White House effort is to get other journalists to think twice before following Fox’s stories in their own coverage.

"We're doing what we think is important to make sure news is covered as fairly as possible," a White House official told POLITICO, noting how the recent ACORN scandal story started because Fox covered it “breathlessly for weeks on end.”

“And then you had a couple days of breast-beating from The Washington Post and The New York Times about whether or not they were fast enough on the ACORN story,” the official said. “And it's like: Wait a second, guys. Let's make sure that we keep perspective on what are the most important stories, and what's being driven by a network that has a perspective. Being able to make that point has been important.”

That raises a red flag to me. Are journalists supposed to take the White House's lead as to which stories they should cover? Aren't the Post and Times capable of deciding for themselves what stories need to be chased and what is nonsense? This is a judgment call made by assigning editors every day. For instance, the birther stories are rightfully ignored by most journalists because they are blatantly absurd. Sometimes it seems, only Chris Matthews is keeping that one alive. But the ACORN story, even though being instigated by a conservative filmmaker, was news because of the videotapes that could not be ignored.

It's up to journalists to decide what they should cover, and at no point should they take their lead from the White House, whether it is occupied by a Republican or a Democrat. And if White House officials think its their role to determine for the national media what the important stories of the day are, then we are all in a lot of trouble.

And finally, for those who are interested in signing petitions. MoveOn.org has started one urging Democrat members of Congress to stay off the network as long as the president avoids appearing on it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The charity 'Raising Malawi' (PR firm) founded by Madonna AND TWO OTHERS over three years ago held fund raisers for over two years before finally getting registered as a non-profit. In other words, Madonna and the others were free to squander the lion's share of that funding any way they saw fit for those first two years. She also pleaded with her fans worldwide for donations along the way. In the meantime, she toured the world to promote her latest CD and raked in another $280,000,000 gross in just over 12 months. To date, the basic financial info for 'Rasing Malawi' still hasn't been posted on the website or anywhere else. The 'progress' page only tells of the collective works by over 20 seperate charities. Each of which have their own sources of funding and may have recieved some sort of promotion or support from 'Raising Malawi' in order to be considered 'partners'. But no indication is made how much of their funding came from 'Raising Malawi' or how much of their progress if any could be directly attributed to 'Raising Malawi'. The fans/donors have no clue how many millions of dollars were raised in that first two years, no clue how much Madonna herself chipped in, and no clue how the money was spent before they finally registered as a non-profit. No clue what fraction of funding or works listed on that 'progress' page could be directly attributed to 'Raising Malawi'. Nothing to go on but the vague word of Madonna. The vague and very misleading word of Madonna. For example: She states in her latest promotional video that she will match any contributions made to her charity (PR firm) "dollar for dollar". However, there is a disclaimer posted on the website for 'Raising Malawi' that Madonna's total contribution will not exceed $100,000. Thats not per donation. Thats a maximum of $100,000 TOTAL. Less than a single days pay for Madonna. Also much less then she will surely rake in by promoting her own CDs, DVDs, and 'for profit' merchandise through this massive worldwide publicity stunt. So I called the office of 'Raising Malawi' in an attempt to verify some sort of efficient financial operation (310) 867-2881 or (888) 72-DONOR). These details are ALWAYS made available by legitimate charities to their potential donors. But not in this case. I got nothing but recorded messages and hangups. So I did some research on my own. 'Rasing Malawi' still hasn't been given any kind of rating by ANY independent charity watchdog like Charitywatch.org. The vast overwhelming majority of 'celebrity' foundations never are. In general, they are inneficient and riddled with corruption. Like the promotion of CDs, world tours, commercial websites, entire lines of jewelry (not just the single piece from which proceeds are donated), and high end fashion retail flagship stores. Celebrity foundations are also notorious for squandering much of their funding on private jet rides and super high end accomodations for their managers, PR crews, and celebrity figure heads. Its legal even for a nonprofit but not noble or efficient by any stretch of the imagination. In general, 'celebrity' foundations are a twisted inefficient mutant of charity, self-promotion, exotic travel, and PR crap. Still, they compete for funding with more efficient legitimate charities who do more work with less money. The celebrity figure heads often disregard the primary donors, co-founders, and managers, take personal credit for any collective work done, and seek maximum publicity shortly before or after the release of their own commercial projects. Its a sham. So if its not rated, then don't support it. Instead, support a top rated charity like any of those given high ratings at Charitywatch.org.