James McPherson's Media & Politics Blog

Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist


  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association and a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media.

  • Archives

  • March 2011
    S M T W T F S
     12345
    6789101112
    13141516171819
    20212223242526
    2728293031  
  • Categories

  • Subscribe

Archive for March, 2011

Corsi & WND find new ways to fleece flock

Posted by James McPherson on March 29, 2011

Jerome Corsi and WorldNetDaily publisher Joseph Farah obviously make a perfect ethical match. Both use wacky conspiracy theories to make a living off of the gullible.

Their latest effort will probably further demonstrate the old adage about the 60-second birthrate of suckers, though it’s tough to believe that either Corsi or Farah–let alone the two in tandam–has much credibility left.

But Corsi, who actually sued his former publisher for distorting the New York Times bestseller list to pimp his previous book is now working with the “Christian” publisher in an effort to raise money from “readers” to do exactly the same thing.

The most telling lines of the WND piece (which actually promotes commercials for the book rather than the book itself): “WND needs to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to air these commercials on television networks and stations throughout the country. …  Farah also urges everyone concerned about the cover-up to make a donation in any amount – from $5 to $5,000. (Bigger donations can be accepted by special arrangement by emailing Farah personally jfarah@wnd.com.)”

It is interesting that conservative writers who bash the New York Times in their books then apparently think readers should trust the Times’ bestseller list above all others when they’re marketing those books. 

We’re left to wonder when Donald Trump will produce a book published by WND–assuming he’s not already in negotiations to buy the whole operation.

Posted in History, Journalism, Politics, Religion, Written elsewhere | Tagged: , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Anchors away–not aweigh–at CBS

Posted by James McPherson on March 27, 2011

Katie Couric’s time looks to be about up at CBS, with Scott Pelley–a better journalist but less of a celebrity and much cheaper–being a possible frontrunner as her replacement.

Like it matters. Quick: Name the anchors of all three traditional nightly newscasts. Now name the three craziest people on cable “news.” Chances are you had a much easier time composing the second list, even though considerable more people actually watch network newscasts than cable news, at least for now.

That may not continue, if network news–which can’t match the train-wreck entertainment value of cable news and shouldn’t even try–doesn’t figure out the seemingly obvious, that cutting back on news content actually makes news programming less relevant. Al Jazeera has figured that out, and many of those who actually care about what’s going on in the world now rely more on Al Jazeera than on the networks.

David Letterman apparently will be sad to see Couric step down, though he revealed an old-fashioned rose-colored view of American television news when he stated:

Let me tell you something, once you take the anchor chair – that’s what you do. . . . It’s not like it’s a temp gig. Look at Walter Cronkite. Look at Tom Brokaw. Look at Brian Williams. Look at Peter Jennings. Look at all these people. They get in it, they saddle up and they ride into the sunset.

Notice the biggest name that is missing–the longtime anchor of the same network that now employs  both Couric and Letterman. Dan Rather now anchors a pretty good news show buried on a network that features such illuminating programming as Mixed Martial Arts, “Drinking Made Easy” and “Girls Gone Wild.”

Williams is probably the best anchor now working–despite his occasional (and admittedly funny) forays into the likes of “Saturday Night Live“–but having started as anchor in 1996 he’s also the only one of the three who can be considered an anchor “old timer.”

Others that Letterman–and pretty much everyone else–apparently have forgotten include the brief 2006 ABC co-anchor experiment with Elizabeth Vargas and Bob Woodruff, Charles Gibson’s three-plus years after that, and Diane Sawyer, who replaced Gibson just 15 months ago.

Bob Schieffer kept Rather’s old CBS seat warm until Couric left NBC’s blockbuster morning program, “The Today Show.” Considering that Couric apparently is now considering hosting a daytime show, perhaps she  should have kept her NBC gig. And drawing her away didn’t help CBS in the evening or hurt NBC in the morning.

The most noteworthy thing about Couric’s tenure with CBS–other than possibly the interview that best demonstrated how unqualified Sarah Palin was for national office–is that she was the first woman solo anchor for one of the “big three” nightly newscasts.

The fact that Couric broke that particular gender barrier a 22 years after Geraldine Ferraro became the first female U.S. vice presidential nominee for a major party is a shameful reflection on the news business. The fact that Couric, like Sarah Palin, was more noteworthy for her celebrity than her competence, reflects poorly on all of us.

And the fact that Couric, like Ferraro and Palin, was chosen as a desperate act  to try to reverse a losing campaign, is unfortunate. Women–and all of us–deserve better treatment.

Personal note: This is the 400th post on this blog. Thanks to all of you who have read any of it, and especially to those who have offered comments.

Posted in History, Journalism, Women | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Jokers wild: Palin may fold as Trump & Bachmann deal themselves in

Posted by James McPherson on March 25, 2011

I’ve probably bragged too often about recommending Sarah Palin as John McCain’s running mate months before she was selected, and maybe I write too often about Palin. (In my defense–who doesn’t?)

But this seems like an appropriate time to point out that I wrote the following in January 2010, more than 14 months ago:

People keep talking about Palin as a possible 2012 Presidential candidate, but, as much as I wish that to be true, I (and others) have serious doubts. My prediction? Palin will end up as a contestant on a bad reality show … long before she ever lives in the White House.

Since then, of  course, Palin has been on a bad reality show, though her daughter was the only one who competed on one. But the chances of Palin winning the GOP nomination continue to decrease (the odds of her winning the presidency, of course, ranks slightly lower than the chance of Tina Fey becoming Barack Obama’s next secretary of state).

Fortunately for those of us who were afraid the GOP might simply produce another slate of boring candidates, Donald Trump (speaking of bad reality shows) and Michele Bachmann may ride to the rescue.

Tea Party-favorite Bachmann’s has demonstrated an appalling knowledge of U.S. history and geography (I wonder if she can see Boston Harbor from her house). And the egomaniac thrice-married Trump (like Newt and Rudy–ah, the GOP, where “family values” means “more families to value”) is scrambling to appeal to birthers and to overcome apparent previous conservative shortcomings related to gun control and abortion. He may even spend a ton of his own money doing so.

We may have some fun during Obama’s roll to re-election, after all–even if Palin doesn’t enjoy the show.

Posted in History, Politics, Written elsewhere | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »