Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Our Media

BarbinMD (DK): Glen Thrush Is One Of The Most Despised Writers In The Country

Politico writer Glenn Thrush is one of the most despised journalists in the country.

To be fair, I don't know that for a fact, but if it works for Glenn ...

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is one of the most despised political figures in the country.

Apparently this conclusion is based on a question from a poll that, oddly enough, doesn't address the despise-factor at all. But to his credit, Thrush does provide backup; insults from Michelle Malkin and Rush Limbaugh, so it must be true.

Phoenix Woman (FDL): Spin Versus Reality: Your GOP/Media Complex In Action

Remember the golden days of yesteryear, when the slightest downtick in Bill Clinton's approval ratings was gleefully trumpeted by the press as The Beginning of the End for him? Remember also how the media just never seemed to care that much about George W. Bush's approval ratings, except for when they seemed to be going upwards?

Just as approval ratings in the mid-60s were Bad News For Bill Clinton and approval ratings in the mid-30s were Proof That George W. Bush Was Political Ambrosia, the GOP/Media Complex, in reporting Barack Obama's poll numbers, is using the same rules it did for Bill Clinton: It's all bad, no matter what.

In fact, this rule is in effect for all Democrats who make it onto the GOP/Media Complex's radar. See, for example, this Politico piece by Glenn Thrush that discusses Nancy Pelosi's Horrible Terrible No Good Very Bad (though still better than her opposite number John Boehner's) Poll Numbers? Granted, Politico is known for being a favored means of repackaging Republican National Committee talking points as alleged "news", and in fact is funded and run by Republicans, but this is pretty awful even for them.

Thrush's piece somehow never mentions that 1) nationwide opinions of Congressional figures in general are never very high, and 2) Pelosi, unlike Boehner, has been the target of a far-reaching Republican-orchestrated smear campaign for several years, going back to at least 2004 -- a campaign that includes RNC ads implying that she should be shot. (And yes, the GOP/Media was negatively spinning her poll numbers back then, too. Oh, and did I mention that the press has been coddling Boehner for nearly as long?)

Why the media obsession with spinning Pelosi as "unpopular"? Among other things, the goal is to imply that she's a huge drag on Congressional Democrats' popularity, one that might cause them to lose control of the House in 2010! Except that the Democrats' hold on the House for next year looks to be rock-solid, per Congressional Quarterly:

While at least some net gain is a very plausible possibility for the Republicans, it would take a huge reversal of political fortune for the party to reclaim a House majority. Of the 335 contests that CQ Politics' election analysts rate as Safe for the incumbent party, 198 are currently Democratic (including that one vacant seat) and just 137 are Republican.

In addition, the Democrats are solidly favored in 31 of the 59 competitive contests for seats they currently hold, plus the Republican seat in Louisiana's 2nd District. So if the Democrats were to win only their Safe seats and those rated Democrat Favored, they would have a total of 230 -- well above the majority threshold of 218 seats.

Now why might the Republicans be having so much electoral trouble despite all the assistance the press has given them over the years? Well, one reason just might be their embrace of the lunatic far-right fringe (an embrace that is driving off the saner, more ethical members of the party, such as John Cole) and their deliberate stoking of said fringe's racism as part and parcel of using anti-tax rhetoric as a cover for promoting racism.

Case in point: In the 2008 presidential campaign, we had two candidates who weren't born on the US mainland, though most definitely on US soil: John McCain (Panama Canal Zone, 1936) and Barack Obama (Hawaii, 1961). But only one of those candidates has been the target of an ongoing, long-standing, bizarre and repeatedly-debunked smear promoted by major media figures like Lou Dobbs purporting to "show" that he's not really eligible for the presidency because of where he was born. That person just happens to be the black candidate, Barack Obama. (By the way: Isn't it ironic that the patriotism and citizenship of blacks is constantly questioned, yet that of the conservative white Southern or white Southern-influenced Neo-Confederates like Trent Lott, Bob Barr and Mitch McConnell almost never is? Even though blacks never turned traitor to the Union, much less as fervently as the Confederates did.)

Having stoked the flames of the "birther" nonsense, the Republicans shouldn't be surprised to find themselves getting burned by it, as Mike Castle was during a recent birther-hijacked appearance. Sow the crazy wind, reap the truly crazy whirlwind.

DarkSyde (DK): Get Your Own Facts Straight

Via Balloon Juice and Daily Kos earlier today, Connie Schultz is concerned about us uppity bloggers:

The so-called citizen journalism of most blogs is an affront to those of us who believe reporting and attribution must precede publication. Fact-checking is tedious; it often derails juicy rumor and deflates many a story.

Yes Connie, fact checking is tedious, attribution is hard, and getting it right beyond mere stenography, before hurriedly spraying it onto an edit screen, would take time, eh? And gosh, traditional media would never do any of those things.

Indulge me for a moment: My old friend Ed Brayton was on a conference call with Bart Stupak (D - Mi) last week. He asked if Stupak was a member of The Family, the once secretive fundamentalist organization now embroiled in, at last count anyway, something like three or four juicy sex scandals involving Bible thumping, 'family values' conservative politicians. Stupak was caught off guard and quickly distanced himself saying he 'just rents a room there' and didn't really belong to the so called Christian Mafia. So Ed called Jeff Sharlet, author of the definitive book on The Family, got a completely different take on Stupak's involvement, and reported both Stupak's claims and Sharlet's response at the Michigan Messenger. All well and good, except for one thing.

A tradmed reporter was also on the call. She hurriedly published Stupak's denials in the Detroit News online, did no research on their validity -- at least as far as her article demonstrates -- and published it without attributing Ed or linking him. Her report was, apparently, soon picked up by the Rachel Maddow show, which did have the presence of mind to feature Sharlet and, just as in Ed's article, Sharlet contradicted Stupak's claims. Again, because the reporter that scooped Ed didn't mention him or link his site, Ed (Who was extraordinarily gracious about the whole thing) probably missed out on national exposure on a highly rated, prime-time cables new program.

There's a lot of good, solid, gum shoe reporting done by beat journalists who never get half the credit they deserve. No question about it. And the point isn't so much that blogs can be better than traditional journalism. It's that blogs, at their best, are every bit as good and -- as amply shown in this case -- often better.

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