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NY Times Reader Contest Update


A few hours ago I announced a contest to guess which occasion of biased news coverage prompted NY Times standards editor Allan M. Siegal to complain to both the executive editor and the publisher. I should have clarified that the position of standards editor was created in 2003 in response to the Jayson Blair fiasco, so it would have had to be more recent than Monica Lewinsky or Augusta National — two episodes suggested by readers.

In addition, the contest suffered a setback when I asked Allan Siegal about the occasion and he responded, “The matter was settled to my satisfaction, and I think it is appropriate to keep it internal.” So the contest may never have a winner, but the speculation goes on. Right now, MB reader Brady B. is in the lead with his entry:

One occasion? Last year.
Any other guesses?

Analysis of the Frank Rich Template


MB reader Bill R. decided to do a little further analysis on the Frank Rich Template. Using Lexis, he discovered that Rich averages a reference to Watergate, Vietnam or McCarthy every 1.5 articles. This average was consistent for both the previous year and since his return to the op-ed pages in April.

No analysis so far on the percentage of Rich’s columns that refer to conservative journalists as “attack dogs” without a hint of irony.


Hitchens vs. Stewart Reconsidered


Christopher Hitchens has a widely discussed piece in the Weekly Standard reminding us why we’re in Iraq, and wondering why the President is struggling to convince the nation that Casey Sheehan did indeed give his life for a noble cause. There was a lot of gleeful chatter around the left-wing blogosphere about Hitchens interview with Jon Stewart, in which Stewart appeared to have scored a few points against Hitchens. But after watching the interview and reading Hitchens’ piece, it’s clear that the piece anticipated the arguments that Stewart made. For instance, Stewart apparently beat Hitchens in the following exchange:

Stewart: [President Bush] refuses to answer questions from adults as though we were adults and falls back upon platitudes and phrases and talking points that does a disservice to the goals that he himself shares with the very people needs to convince.

Hitchens: You want me to believe you’re really secretly on the side of the Bush administration?

Stewart: I secretly need to believe he’s on my side. He’s too important and powerful a man not to be.

But here’s Hitchens in the WS piece (which was written before the Stewart interview):

So deep and bitter is the split within official Washington, most especially between the Defense Department and the CIA, that any claim made by the former has been undermined by leaks from the latter…

There’s no cure for that illusion, but the resulting bureaucratic chaos and unease has cornered the president into his current fallback upon platitude and hollowness. [emphasis added]

So Stewart’s “booyah” moment doesn’t look so glorious after all. I agree with Hitchens and David Frum and others that the President needs to do a better job of countering Sheehan’s “insurgency at home” (Frank Rich’s words, not mine). But that doesn’t mean that the case can’t be made. A lot of Bush’s critics in the media (like Stewart) immediately jump to that conclusion. Hitchens’ article demonstrates otherwise.

Just One Occasion?


NY Times public editor Byron Calame again punted on the many pressing issues that readers actually care about, and instead published a bland Q&A with standards editor Allan Siegal. Siegal was in charge of the Times team that investigated Jayson Blair and revealed the astonishing extent of his deceptions. (If you haven’t read Hard News, Seth Mnookin’s account of the Blair scandal and how it changed the Times, you should.)

This passage, however, raised an interesting question:

I’m supposed to be the recipient of any complaints and misgivings by the staff about how we’re doing and what we’re doing, the person who adjudicates differences of opinion about how we should go about reporting and editing stories.

By the charter that my job was given when it was set up, I have the guaranteed right to go not just to the executive editor with any misgivings I have, but directly to the publisher. On one occasion, when I thought that there was too much opinion seeping into the news pages, I went to both of them simultaneously. But that’s the only time I’ve felt it necessary to involve the publisher.

Just one occasion? Jeff Jarvis has the natural follow-up: Which occasion? This would be a perfect opportunity for Calame to utilize his “Web Journal,” if he hasn’t totally forgotten it exists. (via InterAdvocacy)

READER CONTEST: Which occasion do you think Siegal was talking about? While you’re sending in submissions, I’ll get on the phone with the Times and try to find out.

Ask And Rich Delivers


Last week I noted that Frank Rich had deviated from his template of comparing something about the Bush administration to Watergate, Vietnam or McCarthyism. Well, Rich was back in top form this Sunday, delivering on two out of three:

The Vietnamization of Bush’s Vacation

Another week in Iraq, another light at the end of the tunnel. On Monday President Bush saluted the Iraqis for “completing work on a democratic constitution” even as the process was breaking down yet again. But was anyone even listening to his latest premature celebration?… [snip]

IN the new pitch there are no mushroom clouds. Instead we get McCarthyesque rhetoric accusing critics of being soft on the war on terrorism, which the Iraq adventure has itself undermined. Before anyone dare say Vietnam, the president, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld drag in the historian David McCullough and liken 2005 in Iraq to 1776 in America – and, by implication, the original George W. to ours. Before you know it, Ahmad Chalabi will be rehabilitated as Ben Franklin.

Bravo, Frank Rich. I’m still waiting for the column in which he manages to work in all three.


Hurricane Katrina


This looks like a total disaster. As usual, Drudge has all the weather reports and TVNewser is all over the TV coverage.

Of course, left-wing blogs are using the disaster to take shots at President Bush, because, you know, if he wanted he could change the course of the hurricane with his secret neo-con weather machine. Don’t you get it? New Orleans voted for Kerry!

UPDATE: Michelle Malkin has a great round-up of hurricane coverage from the blogs.

Re: Michael Yon and the AP


An MB Reader writes:

Re: Yon and the AP

See the Day by Day for today. Addresses both subjects. Heh!

Good call. By the way, Yon was on the Hugh Hewitt radio show yesterday to discuss his story “Gates of Fire,” which has been burning up the blogs since it went up Thursday. Radioblogger has the transcript. (via PostWatch)

“She Is Entirely a Creation of the Mainstream Press”


On “Special Report“, Fred Barnes just went off on the press and Cindy Sheehan (I’m paraphrasing slightly):

She is entirely a creation of the mainstream press. She has no moral authority. She has no political authority. Why are they doing it? It

Who Wants Immediate Withdrawal? They do!


What was Dan Froomkin talking about when he wrote this?

Bush yesterday repeated a misleading assertion that he first made Tuesday: That critics of the war in Iraq are also calling for an immediate withdrawal of troops from the broader Middle East.

“An immediate withdrawal of our troops in Iraq or the broader Middle East, as some have called for, would only embolden the terrorists and create a staging ground to launch more attacks against America and free nations,” Bush said.

Uh, I only see one misleading assertion in that passage, and it’s coming from Froomkin. As MB Reader Tom L. pointed out:

It took me five seconds to do a Google search using the terms “cindy sheehan” “troops” and “withdrawal”. Google found 154,000 entries for this search. One of the first items listed sent me to a Web site where Cindy Sheehan, the so-called leader of the antiwar movement, is prominently displayed on the home page. The name of that Web site is

Is it possible the author thinks that using terms like “broader Middle East” and “Middle East entirely” provide him wiggle room? I don’t. If Froomkin does then perhaps he could use the vast resources of the Washington Post to ask Cindy Sheehan which Middle Eastern countries she wants to keep troops in. There are at least a dozen other lies and half-truths in this piece, but time does not permit me to go into them in detail, but perhaps you could.

Actually friend, I normally avoid going into Froomkin in detail, because that daily chore would leave room for little else on the Media Blog. In the interests of my sanity, I will leave it to somebody else to start a FroomkinWatch blog. Any takers?

NY Times Reporter Responds to Body-Armor Column


Yesterday several commentators, including Brit Hume on “Special Report“, noted a column by Jack Kelly about a New York Times article by Michael Moss that reported that “the Pentagon is struggling to replace body armor that is failing to protect American troops from the most lethal attacks of insurgents.”

According to Kelly, the source that told the NY Times about the story, Col. Thomas Spoehr, accused Moss of filing a misleading report. According to Kelly:

There is little evidence insurgents in Iraq are using the special types of ammunition that can defeat the “Interceptor” [body armor worn by our troops]. But the Army wanted to be proactive, to defeat a potential threat before it emerged.

“We’re taking what we think is a prudent step to guard against a step (the insurgents) could take, but that’s a step that really hasn’t developed yet,” Spoehr said.

I e-mailed Moss, who is in Baghdad, to ask him about Kelly’s column — specifically, I asked Moss about his assertion that the current body armor was failing to protect the troops, given Kelly’s report that there is “little evidence” the insurgents have the armor-piercing ammunition. His response:

It’s just too hard to craft a meaningful answer within the confines of our decision on disclosure [regarding vulnerabilities in the original armor and the types of munitions that the original plates cannot repel]. Also, I’d be the wrong person to judge the size of the risk. In my view that belongs to the soldiers and marines in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere.
Moss also wrote:

What I can do is point to the notion floated in the article that while small companies may be the perfect innovators, via programs like the Small Business Innovation Research program that has been funding SAPI development since before Mogadishu in 1993, they may not be the best producers and that there may be an alternate system that would both reward them for innovation and satisfy the soldier’s need for more rapid production.
I think Moss feels that by agitating for his vision of more efficient production he can put pressure on the Pentagon to speed up production of better body armor for the troops

Krugman’s Korrections



Since Paul Krugman has so many able detractors here at National Review, I usually steer clear and focus on MoDo and Frank Rich and let my colleagues sort out his manifest errors and distortions. But today’s column had two corrections from previous columns — and one isn’t even a correction, it’s more of a mealy-mouthed restatement of the original error.

This can’t even be called a legitimate correction. This is more like a korrection. And if there was a way I could write the “k” backwards on this keyboard, I would.

A Tale of Two Recruitment Stories


Yesterday, Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker discussed recruitment with the press. Although the Army will probably fall short of its annual enlistment goal, re-enlistment — especially in combat units — is phenomenal. So what part of that story do you think the Washington Post chose to highlight?

Army Likely to Meet August’s, But Not Year’s, Recruiting Goal
Expanding Force in Coming Months Expected to Be Difficult

The Army is expected to meet or exceed its monthly recruiting goal for August but is likely to miss its annual goal for the fiscal year that ends next month amid one of the most difficult recruiting environments since it became an all-volunteer force, the Army’s chief of staff said yesterday.

We don’t hear about the re-enlistment rates until the seventh paragraph. This wouldn’t be such a bad story, but compare it to this one from, of all places, Agence France Press:

Army chief says re-enlistment strong, force not broken

WASHINGTON (AFP) – High re-enlistment rates in combat units that have served in Iraq shows the army is far from being a broken force despite a likely shortfall in recruiting, the army’s chief of staff said.

“I think we’re a heck of a long way away from the breaking the army. It is a lot more resilient than people believe,” General Peter Schoomaker told reporters here.

The high re-enlistment rates have been available since the Pentagon released the figures August 10th, but as this editorial in the Boston Herald points out, they’ve been completely ignored. They don’t fit into the MSM’s “we’re all going to hell in a handbasket” framework.

Michael Yon and the AP


I know I’m late linking to this, but read Michael Yon’s “Gates of Fire” as soon as you can.

Michael is providing the kind of raw, personal accounts that go so far beyond anything you’ll read in the mainstream press (with the possible exception of NY Times reporter Dexter Filkins’ Fallujah coverage). It’s especially interesting to note that on the same day Yon filed this dispatch, the AP released a FAQ about how it covers the Iraq war. This move by the AP is in response, you might recall, to concern from the editors of its member papers that the AP needed to do a better job of putting the daily violence into a more meaningful context.

It’s nice that the AP is making more of an effort to explain how it is covering the war, but the fact is that bloggers like Yon, milbloggers and other journalists like the late Steven Vincent are essential supplements to the mainstream media’s coverage of the conflict. These guys should be in the nation’s newspapers right alongside the latest AP wire story.

Gillespie is King of Journo Book Compilations


The DC Examiner yesterday printed a summer reading list for President Bush, to supplement his official summer reading list of John Barry’s “The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History,” Mark Kurlansky’s “Salt: A World History” and Edvard Radzinsky’s “Alexander II: The Last Great Tsar.” (I think the President is already slacking, although truthfully I too would rather be reading Elmore Leonard.)

Jonah Goldberg recommended a raft of books to get George W. back in touch with his inner small-government conservative, including Hayek

Air America Scandal: A Very Special Day


It’s a very special day at PostWatch. Chris informs us that today is the three-week anniversary of no coverage in the Washington Post of the Air America scandals.

Chris, what better way to celebrate than by reading the latest installment of Michelle Malkin’s and Brian Maloney’s investigation into the many shady deals and nefarious characters behind the beleaguered liberal talk radio network? This installment focuses on Sheldon Drobny, major weirdo and financier-in-chief of the liberal network.

It’s good to see that despite the absence of the scandals in major papers like the Post and the New York Times — which, despite Byron Calame’s handwringing on his rusty “Web Journal”, still hasn’t taken more than a glancing look at the story — bloggers continue to expose the rotten underpinnings of the left-wing attempt to take over the airwaves.

To me though, the biggest scandal is that given Air America’s abysmal ratings, this was a huge waste of money. Why a talk radio network? Why not “Hybrid Cars for the Homeless” or some other liberal cause? For that matter, why not just offer to buy out the federal government’s 15-percent share in the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which would come with a ready-made infrastructure of equipment and liberal broadcasters? You would simultaneously save the nation’s already-existing liberal radio network from meddling conservatives and get a liberal TV network on the side.

Sheehan: Bin Laden “Allegedly” Behind 9/11


You know, because we don’t really know for sure.

Tuesday, I wrote, “Meanwhile, darlings of the left like, well, to take a recent example, Cindy Sheehan, can say things like ’We might not even have been attacked by Osama Bin Laden’ and it goes totally unreported in the mainstream press.” I got an e-mail that said:

I wish you wouldn’t harp on this quote. You yourself pointed out in the linked post that she said “we might not have been attacked by OBL if,” followed by applause that cut her sentence short. It sounds like she was going to say something along the lines of “we wouldn’t have been attacked if we gave more foreign aid,” or “if we backed the Palestinians,” or whatever you want to fill in the blank with. But when you cut off the sentence at “bin Laden,” then it sounds like she’s implying someone else was behind 9/11, which I don’t think you can justify with the “if” included. There is plenty of slanted media coverage of Cindy Sheehan to write about; creating additional controversy only diminishes the rest of the message.
I replied:

I agree that the

Cole Flunks


Juan Cole has responded to Lisa Ramaci-Vincent, wife of slain journalist Steven Vincent (summary here). Rather than just apologizing for jumping to conclusions about Vincent’s character based on one thinly-sourced news report, Cole tries to defend his ignorance and arrogance. Mark A. R. Kleiman flunks the prof’s response.

A Story Blown, A Newspaper Exposed


I’m getting tons of e-mail about this story, in which two LA Times reporters who apparently have nothing better to do stuck the Plame affair in the microwave and nuked it for about 5,000 words. Chris H. writes:

Yahoo news and the LA Times are taking advantage of this slow news day to remind us of the Plame affair just in case we forgot. Is there any other reason to publish this total rehash of everything we already know? And the title is “A CIA Cover Blown, a White House Exposed.” The White House was exposed? Was it?
Of course not. Rather, the media were exposed for granting political operatives unconditional anonymity to snipe at each other at the expense of the public both claim to represent. But it’s not about that, oh no, it’s about how Karl Rove and Bob Novak conspired to endanger National Security and drive down Joseph Wilson’s speaking fees.

Scott A. writes:

The story offers zero new information, and contributes plenty of wrong information in its “historical” rundown of the “facts” surrounding the issue.
Of course. The reason for running this story, as if it weren’t obvious already, is illuminated by passages like these:

What motivated President Bush’s political strategist, Karl Rove; Vice President Cheney’s top aide, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby; and others to counter Wilson so aggressively? How did their roles remain secret until after the president was reelected? Have they fully cooperated with the investigation?

The answers remain elusive.

No, they don’t. Wilson was lying. Rove and Libby and others did their jobs, which is to tell the White House’s side of the story. I wish they hadn’t done so anonymously, but then again Joseph Wilson was spreading his lies anonymously too, before his ego got the better of him and he pompously told his tale of yellowcake and sweet mint tea on the op-ed pages of the NY Times. How did their roles remain secret? Ask Judith Miller. Have they fully co-operated with the investigation? Rove has testified three times. Miller has testified zero times. How are these answers, which have been obvious for months, eluding these reporters?

The answer is that these reporters aren’t interested in the answers. They are interested in getting this story back into the news. The hard fact is that few people cared about this story when it was all over the news in July, and even fewer care about it now. In fact, I’m mad that I just spent 15 minutes writing about it, when I could’ve been watching The Situation Room. I’M MISSING THE SITUATION ROOM!

Sigh of the Times


Not a good day on 43rd Street. Here’s a round-up of New York Times-related screw-ups noted around the blogosphere today:

Jacob Sullum at Hit and Run notes that the Times owes John Roberts a correction for misstating his position on abortion protesters — again. The Times reported that in the case made famous by a false ad that NARAL later yanked, Roberts was “defending the right of abortion opponents to protest outside clinics.” Sullum notes:

There’s nothing wrong with defending the First Amendment rights of abortion protesters, but in this case they went beyond protest to trespassing and physical obstruction, which were plainly prohibited by state law. Anyone who remembers the abortion clinic blockades of that period could easily get the impression from the Times that Roberts defended these illegal tactics, which was NARAL’s implication in its now-withdrawn anti-Roberts ad (which also mendaciously linked Roberts to clinic bombings). In fact, the administration’s argument was simply that the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871 did not authorize a federal injunction against the protesters.
Clay Waters at Newsbusters catches Bob Herbert plagiarizing himself:

If any more proof was needed that former NBC reporter and now NYT columnist Bob Herbert was a reliable liberal, Herbert’s Thursday’s column shows he firmly believes in recycling.

In “Truth-Telling on Race? Not in Bush’s Fantasyland,” Herbert recycles a column he wrote back on May 20, 1999. Of the 16 paragraphs of Herbert’s “new” column, the middle part (nine graphs) are lifted almost verbatim from 1999.

Finally, Michelle Malkin links to this column by Jack Kelly about how the Times spun a positive story about improvements in body armor into a negative story implying the Pentagon had failed to provide the troops with adequate protection:

The interceptor ensemble [the body armor worn by our troops]

“The Dan Rather of Financial Journalism”


That’s the always-quotable Dan Griswold, director of the Center for Trade Policy Studies at the Cato Institute, as quoted in the Free Market Project’s special report on CNN’s Lou Dobbs:

Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, 94 percent of the show


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