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January 14, 2005

Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (An Unusual Wall Street Journal News Pages Edition)

William Bulkeley and James Bander, staff reporters of the Wall Street Journal, have done a bad bad thing. We outsource this one to the Moderate Voice:

The Moderate Voice: Dean Campaign Paid Two Bloggers -- Apples & Oranges: The Wall Street Journal reports the Howard Dean campaign paid two bloggers to hype their campaign -- but when you read this report it's clear that compared to the conservative commentator who took money from the Bush administration to hype its programs this is a case of apples and oranges. Why? Because the Journal report -- which truly seems framed to draw as close a parallel as possible to the Armstrong Williams scandal -- has a crucial fact further down in the story: the two bloggers DISCLOSED their consultant work. That is a NOT parallel to what Williams did.

But you don't know that from the lead of this story -- which seems as if it's published to give the tiny number of Williams apologists some debating points to defend Armstrong's getting $250,000 from the Bush administration and not revealing a thing about that until USA Today disclosed it.... Clearly, NOT the same kind of case -- and no one of either party should let Armstrong's few defenders allege it is...certainly not by pointing to this Journal piece.

Here's how the story begins:

Howard Dean's presidential campaign hired two Internet political "bloggers" as consultants so that they would say positive things about the former governor's campaign in their online journals, according to a former high-profile Dean aide.

Zephyr Teachout, the former head of Internet outreach for Mr. Dean's campaign, made the disclosure earlier this week in her own Web log, Zonkette. She said "to be very clear, they never committed to supporting Dean for the payment -- but it was very clearly, internally, our goal." The hiring of the consultants was noted in several publications at the time.

Six paragraphs down you get this:

The partisan Democratic political bloggers who were hired by the Dean campaign were Jerome Armstrong, who publishes the blog MyDD, and Markos Zuniga, who publishes DailyKos. DailyKos is the ninth most linked blog on the Internet, according to Technorati, a measurement service, and in October, at the height of the presidential campaign, it received as many as one million daily visits.

Then it gives you these paragraphs which undermine the lead (paragraphs 7, 8 and 9):

The two men, who jointly operated a small political consulting firm, said they didn't believe the Dean campaign had been trying to buy their influence. Both men noted that they had promoted Mr. Dean's campaign long before they were hired and continued to do so after their contract with the campaign ended.

Mr. Zuniga said they were paid $3,000 a month for four months and he noted that he had posted a disclosure near the top of his daily blog that he worked for the Dean campaign doing "technical consulting." Mr. Armstrong said he shut down his site when he went to work for the campaign, then resumed posting after his contract ended.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Dean said the two bloggers hired by the campaign did nothing unethical because both disclosed their connection to the Dean operation...

UPDATE: And add Chris Suellentrop of Slate to the list of unreliable journalists...

UPDATE: And Rogers Cadenhead has things to say about "...an inaccurate piece by Chris Suellentrop in Slate.... Zephyr Teachout's recklessly false claim..."

Posted by DeLong at January 14, 2005 12:15 PM


March 8, 2001

Triumph of (George) Will: When Media Might Makes Right

By Norman Solomon

A skeleton is rattling in George Will's closet. But it's difficult to hear above the steady applause from his elite boosters inside the media business.

Widely viewed as one of the nation's most influential journalists, Will churns out syndicated columns that appear in hundreds of daily papers. He also writes for Newsweek. And he's a regular on ABC's "This Week." He is definitely outspoken -- but don't expect him to speak out about the fact that Juanita Yvette Lozano now faces up to 15 years in prison....



Spin of the Day

Black's Hacks

Source: New York Times, December 22, 2003

Conservative columnist George Will doesn't think it's anybody's business that he's been paid $25,000 a year by scandal-plagued media magnate Conrad Black. Will is one of several mostly conservative pundits and politicians who got paid to sit on the advisory board of Black's company, Hollinger International. Others included William F. Buckley, Jr., Margaret Thatcher, ValEry Giscard d'Estaing, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Richard N. Perle and Dwayne O. Andreas. Buckley, who has pocketed an estimated $200,000 from Black over the years, recently defended him publicly while claiming that Black "has never donated a nickel to any of my enterprises."



Posted by: Mike at January 14, 2005 01:52 PM

Nicely stated. One additional difference: Dean paid with campaign money, whose donors recognize that the contributions may be put to some propagandizing purpose.

The Bush administration paid for propaganda with taxpayer money. Taxpayers tend to want their contributions to go to actual programs.

Posted by: Ereshkigal at January 14, 2005 02:09 PM

[Be polite]

Posted by: at January 14, 2005 02:25 PM

Atrios noted that Crossfire's Novak misrepresented this as well. Now how are these misrepresentations not as bad (or worse) than RatherGate?

Posted by: pgl at January 14, 2005 04:14 PM

So, if you start a blog, you're no longer allowed to have another life? Baloney.

I think the RWCM is concerned because they see that blogs are taking their readers, and the readers aren't coming back. Are they surprised since they're not even able to discern the truth from lies?

Posted by: Unstable Isotope at January 14, 2005 04:50 PM

Yes it’s not parallel because one used government money while the other used campaign contributions. On television I heard Armstrong say he did disclose the fact he was getting government money, but only once. Now DailyKos also claims disclosure, but if it did, I didn’t see it, and I read DailyKos many times during the campaign.

[I saw it.]

Then there was the DailyKos spirited defense of the forged Bush memos. Clearly they had no idea of what they were talking about as you can see from reading Appendix 4 of the CBS report.

Posted by: A. Zarkov at January 14, 2005 08:51 PM

A. Zarkhov must be the only person who visited DailyKos who didn't see Kos' disclaimer. And Armstrong saying, AFTER getting caught, that he disclosed he was getting taxpayer dollars, is pretty lame: Did Armstrong say when and how he disclosed it?

Novak, O'Reilly, and the WSJ have well-earned reputations for being self-serving hacks. Zephyr Teachout now has a rep for vindictive back-stabbery. I'll be interested to see how the print news media treat this kerfkuffle.

Posted by: Palladin at January 14, 2005 09:46 PM

"There You Go Again."
--Ronald Reagan


March 8, 2001

Triumph of (George) Will: When Media Might Makes Right

By Norman Solomon

"...[In the days prior to the televised debate] top operatives in Ronald Reagan's presidential campaign pored through Jimmy Carter's lengthy briefing book swiped from the White House. Back then, behind the scenes, Will was part of the effort to make the most of the illegally obtained papers.

Will looked at the Carter briefing materials and then helped coach Reagan for a crucial debate with Carter. Promptly after the debate, Will went on "Nightline" to praise Reagan for a "thoroughbred performance." Viewers had no way to know of Will's involvement in prepping Reagan for the debate.

For years, Will was able to cover up the deception. But in mid-1983, the "Debategate" story finally broke, and he took some flak...

...The controversy blew over. And in retrospect, Will's prominence in Debategate probably helped rather than hurt his career. The incident certified that he was a power player at the highest reaches of presidential politics.

Nearly three years after his stealth role in the Carter-Reagan debates came to light, a front-page Los Angeles Times profile called Will "the pre-eminent American political commentator." When the story briefly touched on Debategate and quoted Will, the tone was far from apologetic: "I simply reject the idea that I misled anyone. It wasn't a state secret who I was for."

But George Will knew that those Carter briefing papers were stolen. He made use of them. And he kept mum for as long as he could.

On the day after Lozano's indictment, I requested a statement from Will about the criminal charges against her -- or about his own role in the Carter briefing-book caper. At the end of the day, the office of his syndicate, the Washington Post Writers Group, informed me of Will's response: No comment.



January 2, 2004

George Will's Ethics: None of Our Business?

by Norman Solomon

We can argue about George Will's political views. But there's no need to debate his professional ethics.

Late December brought to light a pair of self-inflicted wounds to the famous columnist's ethical pretensions. He broke an elementary rule of journalism -- and then, when the New York Times called him on it, proclaimed the transgression to be no one's business but his own.

It turns out that George Will was among a number of prominent individuals to receive $25,000 per day of conversation on a board of advisers for Hollinger International, a newspaper firm controlled by magnate Conrad Black. Although Will has often scorned the convenient forgetfulness of others, the Times reported that "Mr. Will could not recall how many meetings he attended." But an aide confirmed the annual $25,000 fee.

Even for a wealthy commentator, that's a hefty paycheck for one day of talk. But it didn't stop Will from lavishing praise on Black in print -- without a word about their financial tie.

In early March, Will wrote a syndicated piece that blasted critics of President Bush's plans to launch an all-out war on Iraq. Several paragraphs of the column featured quotations from a speech by Black. The laudatory treatment began high in the column as Will referred to some criticisms of Bush policies and then wrote: "Into this welter of foolishness has waded Conrad Black."

The column did not contain the slightest hint that this wonderful foe of "foolishness" had provided checks to fatten the columnist's assets at $25,000 a pop...

...But Will claimed in a December interview that nothing was amiss. "Asked in the interview if he should have told his readers of the payments he had received from Hollinger," a New York Times article reported on Dec. 22, "Mr. Will said he saw no reason to do so."

The Times quoted Will as saying: "My business is my business. Got it?"

Yeah. We get it, George...

...During the past three decades, Will -- who chose to become a syndicated Washington Post columnist in the early 1970s rather than continue as a speech writer for Sen. Jesse Helms -- has been fond of commenting on the moral failures of black people while depicting programs for equity as ripoff artistry...



Posted by: Mike at January 14, 2005 11:48 PM

Will is a pundit not a journalist; he gives opinions and analysis not facts. Nevertheless his behavior certainly compromised his integrity. We don’t know if he believes what he says, or says what his benefactor pays him to say. It’s a kind of intellectual payola. How about taking a position because you think you will get a job in government if your candidate gets elected? Of course without an explicit quid pro quo, it’s not quite the same, but it comes close.

[Let me point out, as someone who hopes to be a senior administration official in some future Democratic government, that I am *in* *print* in the _Wall Street Journal_ saying that Kerry's demagoguery on outsourcing will come back to "bite him in the butt."]

Posted by: A. Zarkov at January 15, 2005 09:24 AM

“[Let me point out, as someone who hopes to be a senior administration official in some future Democratic government, that I am *in* *print* in the _Wall Street Journal_ saying that Kerry's demagoguery on outsourcing will come back to "bite him in the butt."]”
A future Democratic government is very likely a Hillary government, not a Kerry government. Unless the Republicans are willing to run Giuliani against Hillary, they are almost certain to lose, but I doubt their ideologues will permit that. I think they are in denial about the strength of a Hillary candidacy.

Posted by: A. Zarkov at January 15, 2005 04:41 PM

A. Zarkov wrote, "A future Democratic government is very likely a Hillary government, not a Kerry government. Unless the Republicans are willing to run Giuliani against Hillary, they are almost certain to lose, but I doubt their ideologues will permit that. I think they are in denial about the strength of a Hillary candidacy."

Whatever makes you think Hillary would make a strong candidate?

The hatred of the Right for Clinton is nothing compared to their hatred of Hillary. She's the absolute antichrist as far as they're concerned. The negative campaigning that went on against Kerry would be nothing compared to that which would afflict Hillary. (Not that she's my first choice or anything.)

Not that I think Kerry will be the Democratic nominee ever again.

Posted by: liberal at January 16, 2005 11:23 AM