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.

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Posts Tagged ‘Arizona’

Open letter to ‘journalist’ Michael Webster

Posted by James McPherson on June 17, 2010

Mr. Webster:

I am writing because, particularly as a journalism professor, I am troubled by the inaccuracy of an article you wrote this week, an article that, combined with a similarly misleading Fox News story, got quite a bit of attention in the conservative blogosphere. During the past couple of days I have made it a point to go to a number of conservative websites that have quoted from or repeated your piece or the Fox report, but of course I cannot know them all–and naturally, some of them are unwilling to run comments that contradict their opinions, anyway.

You call yourself an “investigative journalist,” yet it seems you did little or no investigation when it came to a report that happened to correspond with your political bias. For your June 14 piece titled, “The U.S. Gov: giving parts of Arizona back to Mexico,” you quoted some odd “reliable informant known to us as ‘Duck Hunter,” yet apparently didn’t even bother to pick up a phone to check with park officials.

As a result, you and Fox (though since neither of you is particularly good about attribution I can’t tell if one of you picked it up from the other, or if “Duck Hunter” served as the initial source for both)–published misleading articles based on a U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service report that came out in October 2006. For context, you’ll remember that was when George W. Bush was president and when John McCain–the senior senator of Arizona, the state you’re writing about–opposed a fence on the Mexican border.

By the way, if you had bothered to risk a less dramatic story by sending an email or making a phone call, you might have found out the same thing that another generally conservative writer did, after he was embarrassed by the Fox News report. Quoting a park source:

“The news coverage is out of proportion and a great misunderstanding. The Fish & Wildlife Service is working to correct the situation. We were not consulted about the television or other coverage.

“The refuge is open as always.  Erroneous information came out on Fox News and this has led to expansion of misinformation in Web blogs.

“The southernmost half-mile of the refuge has been closed to the public and refuge staff since 2006 so that Border Patrol can be unimpeded in their patrols. It also helps ensure public safety to not be in that area right along the border, just in case. There is less immigrant traffic along the southern boundary of the refuge now as a result of the 12-foot fence.  There is some drug traffic in the mountains to the east of the refuge.  But we are seeing fewer impacts from immigrant traffic than before the fence.

“The closure involves 3500 acres, which is 0.02% of the refuge.  The remainder of the refuge’s 118,000 acres is open to the public . . . . Hiking, camping, bird-watching, hunting . . . as usual.   The refuge is definitely open and no additional closures have been instituted since 2006.    Likewise the Arivaca Lake and Ruby Road areas are open as always. … You’re welcome to visit!”

You can see that full report here.

I honestly do not know why your pieces are so widely repeated, but, judging by your vita, I know that you take pride in the attention your work receives. I hope you also take enough pride in your work to print the clarification that is clearly in order.

Sincerely,
James McPherson

Next day update: I sent the letter above via email to Webster yesterday before I posted it here. So far I haven’t heard back from him either via email or via my blog, nor has he apparently responded publicly elsewhere. But the moderator for one of the sites that carried his column reports the following today:

I have had some communication from Michael Webster regarding this article. His position is that he stands behind every word he has written.

The issue as to whether or not Fox news reported this or didn’t….is not relative to Mr. Webster’s writing, in our opinion.

The article is Mr. Websters view of this situation.

My response, on that same site:

I have no problem with his opinion, of course, just with his distortion of facts and his laziness or carelessness in not following up with other sources–egregious behavior for someone claiming to be an “investigative journalist.” In fact, apparently in part because of his behavior, the park now has the correct info prominently posted on the front page of its website.

Posted in Journalism, Legal issues, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Armed and delirious: Save 2nd Amendment, to heck with the 4th

Posted by James McPherson on April 21, 2010

To commemorate the 15th anniversary of the actions of white domestic terrorist Timothy McVeigh, gun rights activists held a couple of rallies to express their fanciful concerns about another supposed government conspiracy. To quote the CNN story:

“We’re in a war. The other side knows they are at war, because they started it,” said Larry Pratt, president of the Gun Owners of America. “They are coming for our freedom, for our money, for our kids, for our property. They are coming for everything because they are a bunch of socialists.”  

The protests come despite the fact, as I’ve noted previously, that  gun regulation has decreased since Obama took office, not increased. And with crowds much smaller than should be worthy of so much media attention, I find the protests interesting mostly because I’d bet that many of the same people who are now worried about some undefinable communist/socialist/facist/Muslim takeover of their civil rights were among the biggest supporters of the Patriot Act.

I’ll bet they also fully support the Arizona immigration bill under which “police would be required to question anyone they suspect of being undocumented.” Some of those same gun-toting irony-challenged folks will soon support similar legislation elsewhere–folks like “robincalif,” perhaps, who responds to a Fox News story with these words: “If your [sic] here ILLEGALLY then GET THE “F” OUT OF OUR COUNTRY PERIOD!! It’s time the American Citizens of the USA stop pandering and making excuses for criminals just because their [sic] of a deverse[sic] background. Justice should know NO color.” I assume, rockin’ Robin, that last line means you think that cops should be required to ask you for identification whenever they see you. (Of course John McCain supports the bill, but McCain has turned into such a hypocritical panderer that his opinion is essentially meaningless.)

The ancestors of many of those same people, no doubt, supported the illegal rounding up and mass deportation of a million Mexican Americans during previous economic hard times. After all, we have a great legacy of taking out our frustrations on people of color. And politicians of all stripes find the idea of “protecting America” from its farm, factory and construction workers to be a handy diversion.

By the way, I predict that the governor of Arizona will sign the immigration bill into law, and that a few years from now it will be overturned by the Supreme Court–which despite its recent conservative radicalism doesn’t have to pander (though it sometimes does) to populist paranoia. In addition to the millions of dollars Arizona will spend on legal fees to support its untenable position, it also will lose millions in lost tourist dollars.

Not that there will be anyone available to change the hotel sheets or wash the restaurant dishes, even if tourists do show up.

Posted in History, Politics, Written elsewhere | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »