Category Archives: media news

Fox News’s power is overrated

I want to share this link with readers of this blog.

It comes from Jack Schafer, senior media writer for Politico. com and it offers an interesting analysis of the power that Fox News has — or doesn’t have — on the rest of the media and the voting public.

Schafer’s analysis is most interesting in that he relies heavily on the thoughts of a known political conservative — Bruce Bartlett — to make the case that Fox’s actual power overrated.

Bartlett has served as a key policy guy for Republican presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush and remains devoted to his political principles. He believes Fox is hindering his party’s effort to advance and to return to the White House. Fox News, he contends, is appealing to the narrowest wing of the GOP.

Schafer notes an element of Fox’s strategy that I found quite interesting: “One thing Bartlett gets absolutely right in his critique is how Fox seized on the repeal of government censorship of the airwaves (also known as the Fairness Doctrine and the equal-time rule) to create a news outlet that would cater to the country’s underserved conservative audience. You don’t have to be a Fox fan to credit the network with reintroducing ideological competition to the news business, which began to fade at the midpoint of the 20th century.”

I don’t watch Fox News routinely. Maybe I should. It leans away from where I lean; I suppose the older I get the more vulnerable I feel when my blood pressure elevates as the veins in my neck start throbbing. For that matter, I am having trouble watching MSNBC these days, but for a vastly different reason: MSNBC’s predictable liberal slant has become boring.

Schafer takes note of “reliably liberal” New York Times columnist Frank Rich’s assessment of Fox News: “The median age of a Fox viewer is 68, eight years older than the MSBNC and CNN median age, and its median age is rising. ‘Fox is in essence a retirement community,’ Rich writes, and a small one at that! ‘The million or so viewers who remain fiercely loyal to the network are not, for the most part, and as some liberals still imagine, naïve swing voters who stumble onto Fox News under the delusion it’s a bona fide news channel and then are brainwashed by Ailes’s talking points into becoming climate-change deniers,’ he writes.”

The bottom line is that Fox News isn’t the political juggernaut its viewers think it is.

This is a most interesting analysis. Take a look.


More ‘lies’ from O’Reilly

Bill O’Reilly is a serial liar, according to one of his former colleagues at Fox News Channel.

OK, that doesn’t surprise a lot of folks. What’s a bit surprising to me is that the allegation of lying comes from Eric Burns, who was a host of “Fox News Watch” for a decade until 2008, when the network let him go.

I’m not sure if Burns is spitting out some sour grapes here, but he did tell CNN’s Brian Stelter that O’Reilly long has been known to embellish his credentials, if not lie outright about what he reported on.

The clip attached to this link is about 8 minutes long. It’s a highly interesting critique on O’Reilly’s time at Fox and whether his bosses and colleagues at the network expect much from him. Burns said no, they don’t.

Why is this such a big deal? Well, maybe it’s not huge. But in the media world, O’Reilly has become cable the biggest star on cable “news,” although I use the term “news” guardedly where it involves O’Reilly or, for that matter, Fox News in general.

About the time Brian Williams got suspended by NBC for fibbing, er, lying, about being shot down in Iraq, O’Reilly came under criticism for his reporting from the Falklands War “front” in 1982 when, in reality, he never set foot on the island territory when British forces landed to take it back from Argentine forces.

Williams got suspended — and likely won’t get his news anchor job back — while O’Reilly’s ratings have soared, as Burns told Stelter on CNN’s “Reliable Sources.”

That seems to be the aim at Fox: ratings. Burns said the network is giving O’Reilly a pass because the more he comes under fire, the more his rating soar. Burns suggested to Stelter that’s a likely consequence of the audience that tunes in to Fox. He calls Fox News watchers “cultish.” Watch the clip and listen for yourself to what he says.

It’s interesting that in all the discussion, I didn’t hear a mention of what now-Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., has called O’Reilly over the years. Back when he was a mere political humorist, Franken would refer the Fox News host as “O’Lie-ly,” which enraged O’Reilly so much that to this day he refers to Franken by his former “Saturday Night Live” character, Stuart Smalley.

Whatever the case, the interview with Eric Burns is worth your time.

Well, at least was worth my time.

Clinton needs to do more of this: answer questions

Hillary Clinton has been keeping a low profile of late, steering clear of nosy reporters whose job is to inform the public about the men and women who seek to lead the powerful nation in the world.

But she relented — finally — to reporters’ curiosity about a number of issues that have dogged the presidential candidate of late.

She spent time answering questions, jousting on occasion.

There must be much more of this as Clinton’s campaign continues to develop.

Clinton’s Republican foes have chided her for her absence in front of reporters. They have needled her because she’s answered so few questions relating to private emails, her enormous speaking fees, her participation in the Clinton Foundation — all these matters that speak to a number of questions people have about the Democratic Party candidate.

It goes with the territory, which Clinton surely knows already.

She spent eight years as first lady, six years as a U.S. senator and four years as secretary of state. Every one of those posts requires accessibility for the media, which act as the agents for the public.

Alex Semindinger writes for RealClearPolitics: “The former secretary of state is a practiced communicator. Most of what she told the scrum of national media echoed what she’s said before. Nevertheless, her words ricocheted through social media and cable television in an instant, revisiting subjects she’s strained to bury.”

Clinton needs to toss the shovel aside and stop seeking to bury these issues. They’re out there and she needs to explain herself.


Welcome to the Twitter-verse, Mr. President

Barack Obama wanted, I guess, to show the world how hip he has become.

So he opened a Twitter account and tweeted a message out there.

What follows below is a small sample of the “welcome” responses received by the president of the United States of America, leader of the Free World and the most well-known and easily recognized individual on Planet Earth:

Were there other messages like that? Oh, more than likely.

Racism lives on. Probably forever.

I won’t even summarize what’s contained in the messages shown on the link. Just seeing the operative word — let alone hearing it — makes me shudder.

Yes, the president did get some actual welcome messages. Indeed, as soon as I finish this brief post, I’m likely to send one myself.

But as the link notes, the president and his family are handling this display of hate: “If this doesn’t tell you that Barack Obama has handled the unprecedented disrespect and outright hatred directed at him from right-wing racists with the utmost grace and dignity, I don’t know what will.”



Now it's Stephanopoulos on the block

What gives with media superstars who keep making serious professional “mistakes”?

Brian Williams fibs about being shot down during the Iraq War and he gets suspended by NBC News.

Bill O’Reilly fibs about “covering” the Falklands War while reporting from a safe distance … but he’s still on the job at Fox.

Now it’s George Stephanopoulos giving 75 grand to the Clinton Foundation and then failing to report it to his employers or to his ABC News viewers.

ABC calls it an honest mistake. It’s standing by the “Good Morning America” co-host and moderator of “This Week.”

It’s been known for 20 years that Stephanopoulos was an avid supporter of Bill and Hillary Clinton. He worked in the Clinton White House as a senior political adviser. Then he made the switch to broadcast journalism and by most accounts — yes, some conservatives haven’t been so charitable — he’s done a credible job.

Why did he give to the Clinton Foundation — with one of its principals, Hillary Clinton, running for president? He said he’s deeply interested in two issues the foundation supports: the fight against deforestation and HIV/AIDS.

OK, fine. Has he not heard of, say, Greenpeace and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation who fund efforts to fight those very causes? If he was interested more in the causes and less in the people who champion them, then he could have given to any number of reputable foundations to carry on those battles.

He didn’t. Now his reputation as a journalist has been called into serious — and legitimate — question.

Stephanopoulos isn’t the first political hired hand to make the transition to TV news. Diane Sawyer once wrote speeches for President Nixon and the late Tim Russert once was a key aide to New York Gov. Mario Cuomo. They made the switch. Others have gone into political commentary after working for partisan pols — or themselves been politicians — on both sides of the aisle.

None of them, though, gave large sums of money to overtly political foundations while working as journalists or pundits or commentators.

George Stephanopoulos has created a huge mess for himself — and for his colleagues.

Williams, O'Reilly: double standard?

The thought occurs to me on this rainy day on the Texas Tundra: Brian Williams is likely out of a job, while Bill O’Reilly is still going strong for doing essentially the same thing that got Williams into trouble.

How come?

Williams once was the much-admired anchor for NBC’s Nightly News broadcast. Then it came out that Williams fibbed about a story he had told over a decade that a helicopter he’d been riding in had been shot down during the Iraq War. His chopper wasn’t shot down, but he was riding in the same group of air ships that included the one hit by the rocket-propelled grenade. NBC investigated the matter and suspended Williams for six months — without pay. He has become the butt of jokes and the network is highly unlikely ever to return him to his former job.

O’Reilly, meanwhile, was revealed to have embellished his own record, talking about how he “covered” the Falklands War in 1982 while never setting foot in the war zone while Argentine troops were fighting British troops that had landed on the islands to take back Britain’s territorial possession. O’Reilly who “covered” the war for CBS News, has since become Fox News’s No. 1 commentator. He reported how he had been put in harm’s way in the Falklands. Except that he wasn’t ever exposed to hostile fire. It was revealed the potential harm came from rioters in Buenos Aires, from where O’Reilly was “covering” the war.

Fox stands by its man. O’Reilly called the reporting of his embellishment the work of “guttersnipes.”

One man gets kicked off the air. The other is still goin’ and blowin’.

O’Reilly often laments what he calls “double standards” in media reporting.

He’s right. There well might be a double standard at work here.


Rolling Stone gets sued … good!

I spent my professional life in journalism. I’m a fierce advocate for publications’ rights to print the truth and more often than not I have looked skeptically at individuals or institutions that have sued publications for libel or defamation.

Not this time.

A University of Virginia administrator has sued Rolling Stone magazine for $7.5 million, contending the magazine defamed her in a bogus story about a gang rape on the campus.

I hope Nicole Eramo wins.

She is UVa’s top administrator who deals with sexual assaults. The magazine portrayed her as someone more interested in protecting the school’s reputation than in protecting a woman named “Jackie,” who alleged she was raped by students at a frat house party. Well, the party never occurred, “Jackie” wasn’t raped, Rolling Stone retracted the story — and the reporter and her editors responsible for publishing the false account still have their jobs!

“I am filing this defamation lawsuit to set the record straight — and to hold the magazine and the author of the article accountable for their actions in a way they have refused to do themselves,” Eramo said in a statement.

The retraction gives this lawsuit some traction. Publications rarely retract a story, taking back what they published and in effect admitting that it was wrong. Rolling Stone admitted the story was phony, but still haven’t disciplined the principals involved in publishing it.

Nicole Eramo’s lawsuit needs to make a statement that the magazine did something grievously wrong in its so-called “reporting” of a crime that didn’t occur.


Texan of the Year? From Amarillo? Why not, indeed?

The Dallas Morning News makes a huge deal every year about selecting its Texan of the Year.

One of the paper’s editorial writers/bloggers, Rodger Jones, has pitched the idea that Shanna Peeples, the National Teacher of the Year, should be nominated for the paper’s acclaimed award.

I concur with what Jones is suggesting.

But I’m biased. Like a lot of folks in these parts, my path crossed Shanna’s years ago when we worked for the same newspaper here in Amarillo. She went on to pursue her calling as a teacher and, well, she’s succeeded beautifully.

As Jones writes in his blog: “Shanna can tailor instruction to the needs of her students, whether she is working with refugees who have suffered traumatic events in their lives, or AP students who crave challenging curriculum or at-risk students who are attending school in the evenings to recover lost credits,” Palo Duro Principal Sandy Whitlow said. “The bottom line is that her students know she truly cares about them, and she will invest every ounce of energy in helping them attain their goals.”

How can you not consider this dedicated and talented public school teacher to be Texan of the Year?

Fox News owns up to mistake … well done

Regular readers of this blog know that I am not a fan of the Fox News Channel, the network that proclaims itself to be “fair and balanced … and unafraid.”

I’ve determined that a news organization that must declare it is “fair and balanced” usually is neither.

But the other day, Fox News anchor Shepard Smith did something quite commendable.

He manned up and said the network erred in a report from Baltimore about an alleged shooting of a man by police.

The field reporter said he saw an officer shoot a man. The police department issued a statement that said the incident didn’t happen. The field reporter, Mike Tobin, thought he saw what he reported.

In the words of former Texas Gov. Rick Perry: Oops.

Smith then went on the air to say the network messed up. It gave incorrect information and broadcast it to its audience.

There’s been some chatter out there about the incident and whether Fox is prone to reporting such errors regularly. I don’t know the answer to that.

One can quibble with how a network — be it Fox, CNN, MSNBC or any of the broadcast networks — spin their coverage, depending on your point of view and your own bias.

But when a network misreports something that it says actually happened, then takes it back, well, that’s part of taking responsibility.

We’re all human. And humans make mistakes.

Fox News’s correspondent made one. The network apologized for it.

I accept the apology.


Growing old is turning out OK … so far

This is the latest in an occasional series of blog posts commenting on impending retirement.

The older I get the more I learn about myself.

One of things I am learning is how adaptable I have become. Actually, I’ve know about the adaptability for some time. My family and I moved from Oregon — where I grew up and spent most of my first 34 years on Earth — to Texas. I adapted just fine.

My journalism career brought tremendous change over the course of 37 years. In August 2012, when I started sensing my days were numbered at the Amarillo Globe-News, where I worked for more than 17 years, I fell back on my last line of defense in an effort to keep my job in the face of a reorganization scheme. I told my employer: “You’re asking me to make changes in the way I do things. Well, my craft today bears next to zero resemblance to what it was when I began, so the changes you’re asking me to make amount to a tiny fraction of the change I’ve already gone through.”

That pitch didn’t work. They assigned my duties to someone else and I walked away.

Adaptability: That’s my middle name, yes?

Well, I have found a whole new world of new things to which I can adapt.

I’m still writing. This blog is one outlet. I also am writing for Panhandle PBS — the Amarillo College-based public TV station formerly known as KACV-TV. I blog about public affairs programming: PBS documentaries, news specials, Panhandle PBS’s “Live Here” public affairs program. It’s a blast, man. I’ve taken on another writing assignment, for KFDA-NewsChannel 10. I write for the station’s website — — and they use those news stories as the basis for weekly on-air broadcasts. That, too, is big-time hoot.

Now I’m taking on another task. Let’s call it “managing editor in absentia” for the Quay County Sun in Tucumcari, N.M. I’ve been asked to assist in producing the paper each week — from my home, using my laptop, cell phone and e-mail communication with a reporter who’ll produce the text. I’ve implored my friend, David Stevens — who works as executive editor  for the parent company that also publishes daily papers in Clovis and Portales, N.M. — to please keep looking aggressively for a permanent managing editor. He assures me he will.

But you see, what I’ve discovered is that there really is a market out there for old guys with (lots of) gray in their hair.

I still am looking forward to retirement, although it’s looking less likely that I’m a candidate for The Pasture any time soon.

My wife and I still have plans — eventually — to relocate closer to our granddaughter and her parents, who live just a bit north of Dallas. I hope to take much of my work with me, if it’s possible. The Internet Age has made that kind of transition available, even to old guys like me.

They have that saying about hindsight’s perfect vision. Our foresight remains quite fuzzy.

Neither my wife nor I ever could have imagined this stage of our life together turning out this way.

Hey, everyone needs some surprises in life.

Adaptability makes it easier to cope with them when they show up.