It has been a particularly embarrassing week for the press, and it’s only Saturday.
There’s no room for error, especially now that there’s a subgenre of “news” that has zero basis in fact, and is created from thin air for the sole purpose of generating cash.
But learning to be more careful and even-handed is apparently difficult for much of media, and this week was especially rough for newsrooms that are already struggling to regain credibility.
In no particular order, here are some of the most embarrassing media moments from this week:
The New York Times reported this week that former Texas Gov. Rick Perry agreed to be energy secretary without knowing the department oversees and maintains the country’s nuclear arsenal.
The story is written in such a way that Perry comes across as a bumbling bumpkin who’s in way over his head.
The problem with the report – well, there are many problems – the main problem with the story is that it hinges entirely on a bland quote from a GOP energy lobbyist. That source, Michael McKenna, has disavowed the story, and he says the Times took him out of context.
Other problems with the article include that McKenna was booted from the Trump transition team in early November, while Perry was nominated in mid-December.
Nevertheless, the paper’s editors say they stand by the story, “which accurately reflected what multiple, high-level sources told our reporters.”
This is a particularly interesting defense, considering there is nothing in the article to suggest the authors had more than one source.
In my story this week on the Times’ unsubstantiated hit on Perry, I included a link to USA Today’s Dec. 14 report on the former governor accepting the position at the Department of Energy. I included the link for one purpose: To provide citation for Perry’s acceptance remarks, which were published originally in a joint statement with the president-elect.
What I didn’t notice until later was that the linked USA Today report also included a bogus reference to the North Koreans.
The Dec. 14 article read, “The Twitter feed of the nuclear-armed dictatorship said, ‘Donald Trump minister of nuclear weapons Richard Perry known as governor of Texas province, famed for its production of tacos and bumpkins.'”
Unfortunately for USA Today, the North Korean government did no such thing. Like many others in media, the widely circulated newspaper fell for a parody Twitter account created and maintained by members of the libertarian-leaning website, Popehat.com. I removed the USA Today hyperlink from my article debunking the Times, and I updated with a link to a source that doesn’t include an embarrassing mistake. Read the rest of this entry »
Source: Media Research Center
With the growing dissatisfaction of the two-party system, more and more Americans are ditching their party identification and turning independent. A 2015 Gallup Governance survey found that 27 percent of the electorate can be characterized as libertarian—outnumbering conservatives (26 percent) and liberals (23 percent).
This makes them a highly coveted voting bloc, and one that Hillary Clinton needs to win over in order to prevent a Donald Trump presidency.
Reason editor-in-chief Nick Gillespie found delegates at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, PA to see if they could convince him why libertarians should vote for Clinton in November or if they’re better off with a third option.
Approximately 3 minutes. Read the rest of this entry »
The Democratic sit-in included one of the most embarrassing moments of my career.
WASHINGTON – Paul Singer writes: The House Democrats’ anti-gun sit-in last week included one of the more embarrassing moments of my journalism career.
The Democrats had grabbed the House floor for what amounted to an impromptu 25-hour filibuster to protest the unwillingness of Republican leadership to call a vote on gun control legislation.
“The Democrats were pumping up their energy. They congratulated each other and cheered. The partisans who had packed the public visitors’ gallery cheered with them — a no-no when the House is in session.”
This was a new and unusual tactic, and nobody had any idea how it was going to end. The House doesn’t have a filibuster, so it also doesn’t have a way to end one. That makes it newsworthy.
As the protest dragged on through the day Wednesday, the rows of stools in the press gallery — up above the House floor — usually nearly empty during House business, had become full. This had become a full-blown Event, and more than two dozen reporters sat in the gallery documenting it.
“The lawmakers then turned to the galleries and thanked the visitors for their support, and everybody cheered some more.”
At around 9 p.m., as they were girding for House Republicans to return and attempt to re-establish control of the floor, the Democrats were pumping up their energy. They congratulated each other and cheered.
“And then, my moment of shame. Someone on the floor called out thanks to the press, saying our reporting had spread the word and fueled their protest.”
The partisans who had packed the public visitors’ gallery cheered with them — a no-no when the House is in session. Visitors are supposed to sit quietly, but by this hour many of the rules of the House floor had long since been thrown out the window.
“But to be fair, when Republicans voted more than 50 times to repeal Obamacare, that was a “stunt,” too. And of course, they were sending fundraising appeals every time.”
The lawmakers then turned to the galleries and thanked the visitors for their support, and everybody cheered some more. That was another no-no — lawmakers are prohibited from acknowledging the galleries from the floor.
“Congress is legislating less and less, and much of what it does nowadays is a stunt.”
And then, my moment of shame. Someone on the floor called out thanks to the press, saying our reporting had spread the word and fueled their protest. The 100-or-so Members of Congress on the floor and the several hundred partisans in the gallery cheered for us.
My colleagues and I were mortified. Read the rest of this entry »
OH YES THEY DID: Journalists Who Peddled Mayweather Domestic Violence History Say They Had Credentials Revoked Before FightPosted: May 2, 2015
ESPN.com news services/ABC News reports: Two reporters said their credentials were revoked for Saturday night’s Floyd Mayweather–Manny Pacquiao fight, and a third reportedly had his taken away as well.
Rachel Nichols of CNN and Michelle Beadle of ESPN/HBO said via Twitter that they had been told their credentials were pulled. USA Today reporter Martin Rogers’ credential was reportedly pulled as well, according to SI.com.
Beadle was credentialed through HBO and not ESPN, both networks and Beadle said.
A spokesman for Mayweather denied the allegations from Beadle and Nichols.
A source with Showtime told Schaap that it had nothing to do with Beadle’s credential situation — only that it denied her permission to film inside MGM Grand arena. A Mayweather promotions source, meanwhile, said Nichols had a temporary credential, but CNN never confirmed she’d need a fight credential.
All three of the reporters have been at the forefront of reporting in Mayweather’s history of domestic violence. Nichols had a contentious interview with Mayweather on CNN last September. Rogers has written a number of stories chronicling Mayweather’s domestic violence issues, and Beadle has been outspoken about Mayweather.
Kelly Swanson, a media relations spokesperson for the Mayweather camp, denied that Nichols and Beadle has lost their credentials. Read the rest of this entry »
35-year-old Georgia mother has lost custody of her five children after being arrested for allegedly hosting a ‘naked Twister’ party for her teenage daughter and joining in the festivities
Michael Winter reports: A 35-year-old Georgia mother has lost custody of her five children after police say she hosted a sex party for her teenage daughter. Rachel Lehnardt is accused of joining the teens in sex, drugs and naked Twister.
A 35-year-old Georgia mother has lost custody of her five children after being arrested for allegedly hosting a party for her teenage daughter and joining in the festivities, which featured booze, pot, sex, a hot tub and naked Twister.
Rachel Lehnardt was charged with two counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor for the party at her home in Evans, an Augusta suburb. She was arrested Monday after her new Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor alerted the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office on Saturday following a meeting with Lehnardt, who is divorcing her husband, an Iraq war veteran.
The sponsor said Lehnardt told her she had lost custody of the children — ages 4, 6, 8, 10 and 16 — at an emergency hearing April 6 after her husband learned about the party. The sheriff’s report did not indicate when it occurred.
The children were with their father one night when the 16-year-old daughter texted her mother to ask if she and some friends could come over “to party,” according to the sponsor’s account.
“Come on, let’s party,” Lehnardt replied.
The teens drank alcohol and smoked marijuana, Lehnardt said she joined them playing naked Twister, her sponsor told investigators. She then had sex in the bathroom with an 18-year-old boy, and afterward used sex toys in front of the teens before everyone piled into her hot tub, where “the party continued.”
The sponsor said Lenhardt later recounted waking up at 3:30 a.m. to discover her daughter’s 16-year-old boyfriend having sex with her. She said her daughter “felt guilty,” explaining that if she could have accommodated his large penis “he wouldn’t have needed to rape her mother.” Read the rest of this entry »
“If a customer asks you what this is, try to engage in a discussion that we have problems in this country in regards to race. And we believe that we are better than this, and we believe our country is better than this.”
To trigger the conversations, in the next week baristas will be encouraged to write the phrase “Race Together” on customers cups, which is intended to “facilitate a conversation between you and our customers,” according to Schultz.
“If a customer asks you what this is, try to engage in a discussion that we have problems in this country in regards to race. And we believe that we are better than this, and we believe our country is better than this,” Schultz said in a video shown to Starbucks employees, according to USA Today.
The campaign is being bolstered by an 8-page supplement that will be published Friday by the coffeemaker in USA Today. The supplement will include “conversation starters,” such as the statement “In the past year, I have been to the home of someone of a different race ___ times.”
The campaign is said to be inspired by the controversy emanating from the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner last year, both of them black men killed by white police officers. What the initiative hopes to accomplish in the long run is unclear, though the company will be offering more information during its annual meeting on Wednesday.
The new effort is only the latest of the company’s actions that appear designed to bolster the company’s reputation as a socially conscious corporation. Last year, the company created a new program that allows employees to take free online college classes at Arizona State University.
The coffee is $4.25, the lecture is free. #Starbucks
— David Burge (@iowahawkblog) March 17, 2015
— April (@ReignOfApril) March 17, 2015
This throwaway scene from Steve Martin’s 1987 romantic comedy classic “Roxanne” is one of the best examples of his comedic genius.
New York Times to Eliminate 100 Newsroom Jobs While Preserving Its Prized Role as Most Overstaffed, Overpaid, and IrrelevantPosted: October 1, 2014
The New York Times plans to eliminate about 100 newsroom jobs, as well as a smaller number of positions from its editorial and business operations, offering buyouts and resorting to layoffs if enough people do not leave voluntarily, the newspaper announced on Wednesday.
“They said they had decided to wind down NYT Opinion because it had not drawn a substantial audience.”
Arthur Sulzberger Jr., the newspaper’s publisher, and Mark Thompson, its chief executive, said that in addition to the job cuts, NYT Opinion, a mobile app dedicated to opinion content, was shutting down because it was not attracting enough subscribers.
“The Times has made cuts to its newsroom staff several times over the last six years. The paper eliminated 100 newsroom jobs in 2008, another 100 in 2009, and 30 more senior newsroom jobs at the beginning of last year.”
The reductions, they said, were intended to safeguard the newspaper’s long-term profitability.
“Despite those cuts, the newsroom staff has grown to about 1,330, approaching its largest size ever, according to the company, up from about 1,250 at the end of last year.”
“The job losses are necessary to control our costs and to allow us to continue to invest in the digital future of The New York Times, but we know that they will be painful both for the individuals affected and for their colleagues,” the announcement said. Read the rest of this entry »
Kirsten Powers on Iraqi Christian Nightmare: ‘Thanks to ISIS Persecution, Mosul is Without Christians for the First Time in 2,000 Years’Posted: July 30, 2014
Iraq’s Christians are begging the world for help. Is anybody listening?
For USA Today, Kirsten Powers writes: Since capturing the country’s second largest city of Mosul in early June, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has ordered Christians to convert to Islam, pay jizyataxes levied on non-Muslims, or die. The extremist Sunni group is also persecuting and murdering Turkmen and Shabaks, both Muslim religious minorities.
“This is a crime against humanity.”
Human rights lawyer Nina Shea described the horror in Mosul to me: “(ISIS) took the Christians’ houses, took the cars they were driving to leave. They took all their money. One old woman had her life savings of $40,000, and she said, ‘Can I please have 100 dollars?’, and they said no. They took wedding rings off fingers, chopping off fingers if they couldn’t get the ring off.”
“There is nothing to go back to even if ISIS left“
“We now have 5,000 destitute, homeless people with no future,” Shea said. “This is a crime against humanity.”
In a statement released Thursday, Microsoft says about 12,500 of the professional and factory positions will be cut as part of its $7.2 billion acquisition of Nokia’s handset business. Read the rest of this entry »
Prosecutors too often abuse unrestrained powers
For USA Today, Glenn Harlan Reynolds writes: Here’s how it’s supposed to work: Upon evidence that a crime has been committed — Professor Plum, found dead in the conservatory with a lead pipe on the floor next to him, say — the police commence an investigation. When they have probable cause to believe that someone is guilty, the case is taken to a prosecutor, who (in the federal system, and many states) puts it before a grand jury. If the grand jury agrees that there’s probable cause, it indicts. The case goes to trial, where a jury of 12 ordinary citizens hears the evidence. If they judge the accused guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, they convict. If they think the accused not guilty — or even simply believe that a conviction would be unjust — they acquit.
[Glenn Harlan Reynolds is the author of The New School: How the Information Age Will Save American Education from Itself, available at Amazon]
Here’s how things all-too-often work today: Law enforcement decides that a person is suspicious (or, possibly, just a political enemy). Upon investigation into every aspect of his/her life, they find possible violations of the law, often involving obscure, technical statutes that no one really knows. They then file a “kitchen-sink” indictment involving dozens, or even hundreds of charges, which the grand jury rubber stamps. The accused then must choose between a plea bargain, or the risk of a trial in which a jury might convict on one or two felony counts simply on a “where there’s smoke there must be fire” theory even if the evidence seems less than compelling.
This is why, in our current system, the vast majority of cases never go to trial, but end in plea bargains. And if being charged with a crime ultimately leads to a plea bargain, then it follows that the real action in the criminal justice system doesn’t happen at trial, as it does in most legal TV shows, but way before, at the time when prosecutors decide to bring charges. Because usually, once charges are brought, the defendant will wind up doing time for something.
The generation making their own soda and designing their own shoes is voting Independent.
A new report by the centrist Democratic think tank Third Way highlights the political complexity of a generation raised to believe they were utterly unique. When it comes to politics, they do it their way. Which could make the cohort that turned out en masse for President Obama unpredictable as voters.
Third Way focused on how Millennials’ experience as the first generation raised in an information-on-demand culture has shaped them. They are not “adaptors.” They have only known a world full of endless choices, not a life where you make do with what is available.
Third Way reported, “Living in an à la carte world with unlimited options, Millennials don’t feel they have to choose between two limited choices.” For their elders, it was Coke or Pepsi. But Millennials create their perfectly flavored soft drink with a Soda Stream. They design their own shoes on the Internet. They buy just the songs they like.
— Caroline May (@c_maydc) February 20, 2014
The Daily Caller‘s Caroline May writes: “The Museum paid more than $200k out of pocket as it was a matching grant,” she explained in an email. “With these simulators we offer free teen driving courses, international driving courses, older driver courses through the NCM Drivers’ Safety Academy.”
Frassinelli added that the simulators offer the capability for people to practice things that cannot be road tested, like dealing with a blow out tire and wheel drop off, as well as different weather conditions.
New HealthCare.gov data show just how broken it is
The health insurance signup numbers the White House released Wednesday afternoon were deeply disappointing, though not particularly surprising.
Everyone knows that the HealthCare.gov website has been performing abysmally, and the actual numbers confirmed what everyone could only guess at until now because the White House had withheld the data.
Overall, only about one-fifth of the people the White House expected to sign up for insurance in the first month actually did so: 106,185 against a forecast of 500,000. That’s just slightly less than a capacity crowd at Penn State’s Beaver Stadium. And of those who signed up, only 26,794 did so on the federally run exchanges in 36 states. The rest enrolled on state-run exchanges.
VINDICATED: Not So Extreme After All
Deroy Murdock writes: One year from today — and perhaps much sooner — Senators Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, and other Republican “extremists” will look like heroes. For trying to defund the (un)Affordable Care Act, Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid smeared them as “anarchists,” and both liberals and some weak-kneed Republicans have offered their own denunciations.
Bombshell: IRS Documents Reveal Agency Flagged Groups for ‘Anti-Obama Rhetoric,’ Big Three Networks Refuse to ReportPosted: September 28, 2013
ABC, CBS and NBC have so far refused to report the latest bombshell in the IRS scandal – a newly released list from the agency that showed it flagged political groups for “anti-Obama rhetoric.” On September 18 USA Today, in a front page story, reported the following: “Newly uncovered IRS documents show the agency flagged political groups based on the content of their literature, raising concerns specifically about ‘anti-Obama rhetoric,’ inflammatory language and ’emotional’ statements made by non-profits seeking tax-exempt status.”
Not only have ABC, CBS and NBC not reported this story they’ve flat out stopped covering the IRS scandal on their evening and morning shows. It’s been 85 days since ABC last touched the story on June 26. NBC hasn’t done a report for 84 days and CBS last mentioned the IRS scandal 56 days ago on July 24. Read the rest of this entry »
Mis-tweet o’ the morning >> @TheOval Obama calls Kerry a liar usat.ly/1a9c9XR—
Teri Christoph (@TeriChristoph) September 05, 2013
Great catch via Twitchy
First-rate by Ace. (you won’t want to miss the part about the ‘milking bell’)
Ann Althouse writes of Flaubert‘s La Dictionairre d’Idees Reçues, or “Dictionary of Received Ideas.” A comical, cynical spoof of the Thoughtless Thoughts people are infected with.
It’s these automatic thoughts that cling to the brain like parasites that destroy thinking and reason. Rather like, and I don’t think could possibly be a cliché, alien Body Thetans of idiocy that are interfering with the lucid functioning of our own spirit Thetan.
Amusing Ourselves to Death briefly noted the long, long history of Thoughtless Thoughts. In pre-literate cultures, when all knowledge was stored in human memory and recalled by verbal trope, it was useful to have cute and memorable aphorisms, appellations and other received wisdom in the form of canned cliché. Thus all dawns reflexively had rosy fingers, and were you to dig into the ground, you’d find some money rooting all evils.
Although we’ve long since gained the capacity to write and read, we’ve kept many of the Automatic Associations we’ve been taught.
According to a breaking report from the UK Guardian, Barack Obama’s National Security Agency has been collecting phone records of millions of domestic customers of Verizon under a court order obtained in April. The order requires Verizon to turn over phone records on an “ongoing, daily basis” to the NSA, both within the US and between the US and international sources.
Update: The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which has long accused the government of this type of surveillance, says this action is being undertaken under a section of the Patriot Act, but is a clear overstep of the law’s requirement that it be targeted at individuals under some sort of suspicion in specific investigations:
“This confirms what we had long suspected,” says Cindy Cohn, an attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a civil liberties organization that has long accused the government of operating a secret dragnet surveillance program. “We’ve been suing over this since 2006.”
The order is based on Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which allows law enforcement to obtain a wide variety of “business records,” including calling records. EFF has long criticized Section 215, which sets a threshold for obtaining records much lower than the “probable cause” standard required to get a search warrant.
But Cohn argues that the kind of dragnet surveillance suggested by the Verizon order exceeds even the authority granted by the Patriot Act. “Section 215 is written as if they’re going after individual people based on individual investigations,” she says. In contrast, the order leaked to the Guardian affects “millions and millions of innocent people. There’s no way all of our calling records are relevant to a terrorism investigation.”
“I don’t think Congress thought it was authorizing dragnet surveillance” when it passed the Patriot Act, Cohn says. “I don’t think Americans think that’s OK. I would be shocked if the majority of congressmen thought it’s okay.”
Update: Obligatory flashback with soaring, beautifully worded hypocrisy.
Update: The other obligatory flashback to USA Today‘s reporting on what was presumably the same program, under the Bush administration, in 2006. This is separate from the warrantless wiretapping story, which got much more press. Greenwald’s court order is the first documentation of the practice continuing under Obama, despite the fact he was elected on promises to do pretty much the opposite:
The National Security Agency has been secretly collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans, using data provided by AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth, people with direct knowledge of the arrangement told USA TODAY.
The NSA program reaches into homes and businesses across the nation by amassing information about the calls of ordinary Americans — most of whom aren’t suspected of any crime. This program does not involve the NSA listening to or recording conversations. But the spy agency is using the data to analyze calling patterns in an effort to detect terrorist activity, sources said in separate interviews.
“It’s the largest database ever assembled in the world,” said one person, who, like the others who agreed to talk about the NSA’s activities, declined to be identified by name or affiliation. The agency’s goal is “to create a database of every call ever made” within the nation’s borders, this person added.
For the customers of these companies, it means that the government has detailed records of calls they made — across town or across the country — to family members, co-workers, business contacts and others.