Friday, July 30, 2004


Here we have another example of the media titans misrepresenting the content of media criticism in order to deflect it. From the letters section of romenesko:

From JIM MURPHY, executive producer, "CBS Evening News with Dan Rather": The entire staff of the "CBS Evening News with Dan Rather" was pretty miffed after reading Paul Krugman's column today that claimed not a SINGLE issues piece has aired on the big newscasts in the past two months. He must have missed the SIXTEEN different "issues" pieces we did over a four week period during that time, part of a series that will continue until the election. With the resources of the New York Times you would think that would be kind of difficult to miss. The Washington Post's media critic found the series so intriguing amid all the debate over campaign coverage he actually wrote an article about it. How can anyone take an editorialist's arguments seriously when he ignores some FACTS completely?

> GREG MITCHELL RESPONDS: For the life of me, I can't find in the Krugman column what Jim Murphy claims it says: that Krugman charges that "not a SINGLE issues piece has aired on the big newscasts in the past two months." The offending paragraph, disclosing Krugman's study of two months of transcripts, seems to be confined to ONE issue only -- Kerry's call to roll back taxes on the wealthy and re-direct that money "to cover most of the uninsured."

Mitchell is right, Krugman never claims that the media has produced no issues segments. Was Krugman unfair because he cherrypicked an issue? He would have been had he focused on only one network, but since he was covering the networks and cable news nets, it seems to be a fair criticism.

And, I read some of CBS's "issues" coverage - it's pretty vapid. A quick backgrounder with an undecided voter or someone not completely happy with either candidate, a one sentence summary of each candidate's proposal combined with one quote from them. Example, from 7/15:

OHN ROBERTS, anchor:

Jobs and the economy are much on the minds of voters this election year. So the Bush and Kerry plans to create good jobs for American workers are in the spotlight tonight, as Jim Axelrod continues our special Eye on America series, What Does It Mean To You?

IM AXELROD reporting:

This is not how Richard Sterner expected his life to turn out: dumping gravel and earning just about half of what he was making 10 years ago.

Mr. RICHARD STERNER (Laid-off Steel Worker): When I first started at Bethlehem Steel, the first thing that k--people would tell me, 'Don't worry, man. You're set for life.'

AXELROD: But those high union wages were one of the things that kept the steel industry from competing with less expensive foreign imports, and Bethlehem Steel was finally forced to shut down the furnaces, lock the gates and lay off thousands, including Sterner.

Your standard of living really changed when this place closed?

Mr. STERNER: You betcha.

It looks like the ruins from Rome or something.

AXELROD: And now, with so many industries moving their operations overseas, Sterner worries about future generations.

Mr. STERNER: Where are they going to work? All our young people in the United States right now, are they going to go to India to work? They can't work here. There's no jobs.

AXELROD: Richard Sterner is working; he's just not making much of a living. And what he's looking for is not only a candidate with a plan to create jobs, but the kind of jobs that can support a family, the kind of job he used to have.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: (From June 1) The economy is moving into high gear. The tax relief we passed is working.

AXELROD: President Bush's plan to create the kinds of jobs Sterner wants rests on continuing his tax cuts, which the president says will encourage business investment.

Senator JOHN KERRY (Democrat, Massachusetts; Presidential Candidate): (From April 9) When I am president, I promise you I am putting jobs first in America.

AXELROD: Senator Kerry's plan would end tax breaks for companies that move jobs overseas and use that money to cut the corporate rate for companies that create jobs at home. Sterner is on the fence, but leaning toward Kerry.

Mr. STERNER: If you want to give a company tax credits, give them a cr--a credit for starting more jobs here, building plants here, not in India.

AXELROD: But less than four months before the election, Sterner's choice is still not a done deal. He's willing to be convinced.

By either one of these guys?

Mr. STERNER: By either one of these guys.

AXELROD: The flames are out for good at Bethlehem Steel, but Richard Sterner's vote will go to the man with the plan to reignite the fire of American industry. In Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, I'm Jim Axelrod for Eye on America.
facing, next.

...Ignatius leads us to some more recent CBS coverage. Here there are two obvious things wrong. First, they didn't bother to mention that the person profiled was the president of the New York Young Republicans (which they eventually changed).

But, more importantly the information about taxes is completely contentless. We have this couple who expected to have to write a big check for their taxes after getting married due to that horrible "marriage penalty." But, we're not told how much money they make. The marriage penalty doesn't hit every couple - in fact, only about 42% of couples pre-Bush tax cuts had to pay more taxes than they would if they were single. In addition, about half of married couples got a marriage bonus -- paying less in taxes than they would have if they were single. Since we don't know how much money this couple makes, we have no way of knowing if they would have been affected by the marriage penalty. We sure do hear a lot about that "singles penalty," don't we? In addition, we're told that they got a $4000 refund, which tells us nothing about whether, overall, they paid more or less in taxes post marriage than they did pre-marriage due to the change in their marital status, or even if they paid more or less taxes overall. It could just be a withholding issue. We don't even know what kind of tax refunds they had gotten in the previous year. All we know is that after hearing about the "marriage penalty" they expected to write a big check in April and they didn't.

CBS--truly craptacular.