Those Poor Census Takers and TV Producers!

I’ve kept this story open in my browser for days, intending to do a blog post about it. Today is that day.

Can anyone tell me a good way to convey the challenge that homelessness presents to census takers, in the space of one headline? Maybe “Census Challenges Bring Homelessness Into Stark Relief?” Something like that? Not this:

This was right after I broke Howard Kurtz’s chops on Twitter for a similarly phrased observation:

The true measure of this tragedy RT @HowardKurtz: J.D. Salinger dies: Tough for TV since there are no sound bites of him being interviewed.

Brevity truly is the soul of wit, even unintentionally.

ACORN Worker From Pimp Video Reported Incident to Police?

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Someone tweeted the link to this AP story this morning (I don’t remember who), and wondered if Fox News would be reporting this.  The headline is “Police: ACORN worker in video reported couple.”

With a hed like that, I wouldn’t expect Fox News to report that story, but if they actually read the story, I’m thinking they would.  As a defense of ACORN, this story is a miserable failure.  Here’s the meat:

National City police said Monday that Juan Carlos Vera contacted his cousin, a police detective, to get advice on what to with information on possible human smuggling.

Police say he contacted law enforcement two days later. The detective consulted another police official who served on a federal human smuggling task force, who said he needed more details.

So, he didn’t actually “contact authorities” as much as he called up his cousin for advice.  And, he waited 2 days to do it.  Not exactly a slate-wiper.

No, the real defense of ACORN is that this story isn’t what the right is saying it is, and that its trajectory is a dangerous one for anyone the right doesn’t like.

ACORN isn’t perfect, that much is clear, and they’ve done a poor job of fending off this attack.  However, the willingness of the media, and the US Senate, to accept the findings of a partisan activist and his sponsor is truly frightening.  That willingness, according to a just-released study, extends back as far as the eye can see on the ACORN story.

Rachel Sklar posted a good summary of that report yesterday, which brings into stark relief that which most reasonable people who followed the 2008 campaign already know: coverage of the ACORN story has been uniformly unfair.  This report just gives us the numbers to prove it.

The shame of the current iteration of the ACORN smear is that the media, and the US Senate, have allowed ACORN’s enemies to be both prosecutor and judge, letting James O’Keefe and Andrew Breitbart decide which evidence can be seen, and how to interpret it.

Sure, O’Keefe’s tapes are damning, but he and Breitbart have refused to answer legitimate questions about O’Keefe’s “investigation.”  While ACORN has been defensive and evasive, O’Keefe and Breitbart have been given a pass for stonewalling, and even for apparent lying.  They went on record as saying that O’Keefe wasn’t turned away at any ACORN offices, a claim contradicted by police.  While Breitbart is happy to comment on self-serving aspects of this story, he refused to respond to questions raised about O’Keefe’s selective editing of transcripts, or O’Keefe’s funding.

The point is, O’Keefe’s reporting, as it has been presented, wouldn’t have gotten past any news editor in the country.  Breitbart is well aware of this.  He told me in a phone interview that his “strategy” of tightly controlling information about O’Keefe’s investigation, and rolling them out on a careful timetable, was specifically designed to force the mainstream media to cover this story.  In his view, he’s getting around some kind of bias.  In mine, he’s circumnavigating the editorial process, and doing it beautifully.

What’s more incredible is the contrast between the media’s response to O’Keefe’s tightly-controlled, factually light videos, and the work of Michael Moore, an activist filmmaker who is much more transparent about his methods.

Even more disturbing than that is the contrast between the Senate’s response to the decades-old health care crisis, versus the days-old ACORN crisis.

The problems at ACORN may, indeed, run deep, but we’ll probably never know, since they’ve been prematurely convicted in the public eye.  What we do know is that the Democrats in the Senate and the mainstream media have set a course for our country to be led around by the nose by the likes of James O’Keefe.  I guess the pimp costume really worked on them.

Bill O’Reilly Doesn’t Mention Stealing From Mediaite’s Tommy Christopher

My Mediaite colleague, Colby Hall, chronicles the current round of navel-gazing by Bill O’Reilly, Jon Stewart, Howard Kurtz, and Mediaite over at Mediaite.  He fails, however, to point out how this story is actually all about me.

The current kerfufflet has to do with O’Reilly’s accusation that Jon Stewart (whose network erroneously but jokingly accused me of stealing from him) took an O’Reilly quote out of context, and Mediaite’s correction of O’Reilly’s assertion.  Somewhere in the mix, O’Reilly gave a shout-out to Mediaite, but he didn’t bring up his prior connection with the site’s talent.

Months before this, and before I ever wrote my first Mediaite column, O’Reilly stole a story from me and aired it out of context.  (I like to think that, even then, I was “Mediaite’s Tommy Christopher,” but just didn’t know it.)

The content in question was this video that I shot of Helen Thomas, explaining her use of the term “so-called terrorists.”

O’Reilly played the clip on the Factor without crediting me, and butchered it to omit Helen’s answer to my followup question.  To be fair, O’Reilly also steals from conservatives.

Still, the takeaway for me is that, if I’m ever in a restroom with O’Reilly, I’m leaving at least a 3-stall buffer.

Washington Post Publisher’s Apology Doesn’t Wash

Update: This is a piece I wrote for Mediaite that got pushed out by other news.  The WaPo ombudsman is as unimpressed as I am by Weymouth’s explanation.

The hot, steaming mess that is the Washington Post Salon-gate scandal just keeps getting hotter and more messified.  Katharine Weymouth, the publisher who was to host the chummy, “non-confrontational” soirees with Post reporters and Obama administration officials, has issued an apology:

I want to apologize for a planned new venture that went off track and for any cause we may have given you to doubt our independence and integrity. A flier distributed last week suggested that we were selling access to power brokers in Washington through dinners that were to take place at my home. The flier was not approved by me or newsroom editors, and it did not accurately reflect what we had in mind. But let me be clear: The flier was not the only problem (emphasis mine). Our mistake was to suggest that we would hold and participate in an off-the-record dinner with journalists and power brokers paid for by a sponsor. We will not organize such events. As publisher it is my job to ensure that we adhere to standards that are consistent with our integrity as a news organization. Last week, I let you, and the organization, down.

That’s a pretty good start, but then, Weymouth goes on to explain that the way she had planned out the events would have been just ginchy.  So what happened?

When the flier promoting our first planned event to potential sponsors was released, it overstepped all these lines. Neither I nor anyone in our news department would have approved any event such as the flier described.

We have canceled the planned dinner. While I do believe there is a legitimate way to hold such events, to the extent that we hold events in the future, large or small, we will review the guidelines for them with The Post’s top editors and make sure those guidelines are strictly followed.

That sounds a lot, to me, like “Yeah, the problem was the fliers.”

The Post’s ombudsman, Andrew Alexander, doesn’t seem to be buying what Weymouth is selling:

Post spokeswoman Kris Coratti issued a statement describing the flier as a “draft.”

The “draft” is a single-page solicitation, printed in full color on glossy paper, which was distributed to potential underwriters for a gathering on health care. It reads: “Underwrite and participate in this intimate and exclusive Washington Post Salon, an off-the-record dinner and discussion at the home of CEO and Publisher Katharine Weymouth” on July 21.

Oh, it was a draft.  Kinda like those photocopied sheets they distribute in every office in America for the football pool, or something.  Just a sketchy, hastily prepared spitball-y deal, right?  Not so much.

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Alexander goes on to quote Charles Pelton, whose office produced the flier, taking a curiously high-handed attitude:

“There’s no intention to influence or peddle,” Pelton said this morning. “There’s no intention to have a Lincoln Bedroom situation,” referring to charges that President Clinton used invitations to stay at the White House as a way of luring political backing.

Do you really want to bring up bedroom hijinks here, Chuck?

The one positive, as I have noted, is that the Washington Post’s own Howard Kurtz did a good job in reporting on his own paper’s scandal.  Still, although it’s pretty clear to me that Kurtz got all he could out of Weymouth, some may question whether he really held his boss’s boss’s feet to the fire.

It also has the side-effect of undercutting Post reporters’ ability to point out other journalists’ potential conflicts of interests.  For example, when this story broke, I was immediately put in mind of Dana Milbank’s lecture of HuffPo’s Nico Pitney on Kurtz’s own “Reliable Sources.”  That splinter in Pitney’s eye is looking positively microscopic, now.

Kurtz, ironically enough, raised questions about such conflicts in reporting on the launch of this site.  In responding to criticism about his consulting business, Mediaite founder Dan Abrams was blunt:

Says Abrams: “It does seem I’m being held to a higher standard than anyone else in the history of the consulting world. That’s okay. . . . What some of the purists say is that if you’re engaged in journalism at all, you should not be able to work with business, ever.”

By that standard of purity, it would be tough to argue for the continued existence of the Post, at least under the stewardship of Katharine Weymouth.

Mediaite Launch: What the Effing EFF, Gawker?

mediaite

My apologies to my loyal readers and friends who were caught by surprise by the news that I’m now a columnist for Mediaite, which launched yesterday.  I never got the go-ahead to announce, as my new chief Rachel Sklar was super-busy, so I had to wait until I was published there.

Speaking of the Mediaite launch, Gawker did a nice little write-up on it:

Gawker: Well, it probably just seems as though you’ve been talking about it for months, so forgive me.

Now, there’s been plenty of criticism launched in the direction of your boss, Dan Abrams, for what many, Gawker included, see as a conflict of interest in having a media advisory firm attached to a media website. Obviously, you feel differently. How have Gawker and other critics of Abrams Research/Mediaite been wrong about this?

The implication, of course, is that Mediaite’s journalists would sit by and let Abrams kill stories he didn’t like because he runs a consulting firm.  I couldn’t get ahold of Abrams (here’s what he said about it at Mediaite), but I was lucky enough to get ahold of one of Mediaite’s columnists. Continue reading

“Washington Post For Sale” Bombshell Good News/Bad News

What a disappointing day for journalism.  Not minutes after I revisited the dark Playboy saga, I got an email from Lee Stranahan with his video parody of a story I hadn’t even heard yet:

Apparently, WaPo’s publisher hatched a half-baked scheme to pimp the paper’s staff, and the Obama Administration, for huge wads of cash: Continue reading

Dana Milbank vs Nico Pitney=Old Media Trying to Stuff New Media in Locker

Update: Here’s Nico’s take, including the fact that Milbank called him a dick off-mic.  Also underscoring my earlier point, in Nico’s article, Politics Daily’s Lynn Sweet brags about being the only journalist besides Milbank to ask about Obama’s swimsuit.

Sure, it is delicious to watch, like trains full of fireworks colliding, but this is the culmination of a growing blood feud between Old Media and New Media.  Here’s the clip, from Reliable Sources:

Let me start by saying that neither of them did themselves a favor with their tit-for-tat deconstruction of the other’s “record,” but Milbank seemed especially childish with his Rain-Man-esque “dossier” on Pitney.  Nico would have been wiser to point out that his and the White House’s only “crime” was in trying to give voice to the voiceless.

I’ve already said my piece on the “collusion” charge, and although Milbank highlights something I didn’t know about the timeline of the social media solicitation and the White House’s contact with Pitney, it doesn’t change the larger point.  The question was not staged, the President didn’t know what it would be, and Pitney/HuffPo was selected because they have been outclassing old media with their coverage of the Iranian unrest.  Because they’ve had their ear to the ground, they were the natural choice to get a question from an Iranian on that ground.  It was a reward for responsive journalism.

Despite what Milbank and Amanda Carpenter want to make out of it, this is a win for New Media, not for partisan blogging.  It’s also the latest in a string of Old Media attempts to push New Media down the stairs, “All About Eve”-style.

Continue reading