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Bloggers at the White House

So a bunch of liberal blogger types (Atrios, Yglesias, Aravosis, Oliver Willis, Thom Hartmann, Chris Hayes, Jonathan Singer etc.) met with Jared Bernstein (Biden’s chief economic adviser) at the White House the other day, and I have to say, with the exception of AmericaBlog’s John Aravosis, they sure do sound like a bunch of well-behaved student council members called to the principal’s office.

Being liberals, I suppose they went into “thoughtful listening” mode (apparently Bernstein berated them for not being more supportive of the stimulus bill! and blamed bloggers for not doing a better sales job to the public.

From the various accounts I’ve read, sounds like most of them went into defensive mode, listing examples of what they’d written to support the stimulus instead of pushing back on the silliness of handing bloggers responsiblity for White House communication failures.

Bernstein reportedly said a lot of blah blah blah about “political constraints.” (See earlier Lawrence Lessig “political realism” post.)

I wish I’d been there. Since I don’t have a niche in the political power structure and don’t want one, I would have been more than happy to share my opinion.

“Yes, Jared, you’re right. I attacked the stimulus package because it was a shitty, half-hearted stimulus package – and it wasn’t just me who thought so. Maybe you should be bitching to Paul Krugman and Joe Stiglitz, who have much bigger podiums than we do – and by the way, maybe there’s a reason why they have the Nobel prize in economics and you don’t.

“And don’t give me that weak crap about ‘political contraints.’ This is a leadership vacuum, and your people couldn’t lead a parade out of a paper bag.

“You made a strategic error. You could have gone over the head of the hacks in Congress and made the compelling case to the public for a bigger stimulus, but instead you decided to play bipartisan statesman. And what happened? The economy was a car with two flat tires and you put a freakin’ donut tire on one wheel. Now you want us to jump up and down, applauding the subpar performance of that lopsided car, making its way down the road.

“Do you have any idea of how many people are still out of work? It’s not my job to make the White House look good. It’s my job to look out for the interests of working people. I stick up for the White House when they do something right. This wasn’t right.”

I have no patience with niceties – not with so many people in such bad shape. It’s not about the White House, it’s about those desperate people.

And no, I wouldn’t care about being invited back. They’re not listening, anyway. It’s just PR kabuki.

The Corporate-Influenced Media

Great article in The Nation by Sebastian Jones. Send it to those people you know who still believe TV news is “fair and balanced”:

President Obama spent most of December 4 touring Allentown, Pennsylvania, meeting with local workers and discussing the economic crisis. A few hours later, the state’s former governor, Tom Ridge, was on MSNBC’s Hardball With Chris Matthews, offering up his own recovery plan. There were “modest things” the White House might try, like cutting taxes or opening up credit for small businesses, but the real answer was for the president to “take his green agenda and blow it out of the box.” The first step, Ridge explained, was to “create nuclear power plants.” Combined with some waste coal and natural gas extraction, you would have an “innovation setter” that would “create jobs, create exports.”

As Ridge counseled the administration to “put that package together,” he sure seemed like an objective commentator. But what viewers weren’t told was that since 2005, Ridge has pocketed $530,659 in executive compensation for serving on the board of Exelon, the nation’s largest nuclear power company. As of March 2009, he also held an estimated $248,299 in Exelon stock, according to SEC filings.

Moments earlier, retired general and “NBC Military Analyst” Barry McCaffrey told viewers that the war in Afghanistan would require an additional “three- to ten-year effort” and “a lot of money.” Unmentioned was the fact that DynCorp paid McCaffrey $182,309 in 2009 alone. The government had just granted DynCorp a five-year deal worth an estimated $5.9 billion to aid American forces in Afghanistan. The first year is locked in at $644 million, but the additional four options are subject to renewal, contingent on military needs and political realities.

In a single hour, two men with blatant, undisclosed conflicts of interest had appeared on MSNBC. The question is, was this an isolated oversight or business as usual? Evidence points to the latter. In 2003 The Nation exposed McCaffrey’s financial ties to military contractors he had promoted on-air on several cable networks; in 2008 David Barstow wrote a Pulitzer Prize-winning series for the New York Times about the Pentagon’s use of former military officers–many lobbying or consulting for military contractors–to get their talking points on television in exchange for access to decision-makers; and in 2009 bloggers uncovered how ex-Newsweek writer Richard Wolffe had guest-hosted Countdown With Keith Olbermann while working at a large PR firm specializing in “strategies for managing corporate reputation.”

These incidents represent only a fraction of the covert corporate influence peddling on cable news, a four-month investigation by The Nation has found. Since 2007 at least seventy-five registered lobbyists, public relations representatives and corporate officials–people paid by companies and trade groups to manage their public image and promote their financial and political interests–have appeared on MSNBC, Fox News, CNN, CNBC and Fox Business Network with no disclosure of the corporate interests that had paid them. Many have been regulars on more than one of the cable networks, turning in dozens–and in some cases hundreds–of appearances.

Heh

Local anchorman doing snow coverage: “We have to work to keep up with this, we’re running out of cliches.”

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