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 ‘press’

Democrats panicky: read all about it (while you still can)

Posted by James McPherson on March 11, 2009

Apparently some Democrats want Barack Obama, in the words of a CNN headline, to “Hurry up and fix the economy.” Put another way, members of the party without guts are joining members of the party without ideas in begging the new president–now in office for more than a month and a half, after all–to undo all that they have done (or failed to do) through greed and  partisanship for the past decade. Perhaps they wanted him to reject the funding bill they just passed, rather than offering threats about future such bills?

And speaking of a part of the economy near and dear to me, my home state legislature is about to approve a tax cut for newspapers (which may not be enough to keep one of the two newspapers in our biggest city from shutting down next week). Even politicians who proclaim to hate the media recognize the importance of newspapers for getting out their messages, and for citizens to be able to govern themselves.

Citizens themselves don’t get that, though–as demonstrated by a Time article listing 10 more newspapers about to fail, and a Wired article saying that even a New York Times employee thinks newspapers don’t matter. He’s wrong, of course. But more and more newspapers are disappearing, and all of us suffer as a result. Face it; even Obama can’t save us from ourselves.

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Posted in History, Journalism, Politics, Written elsewhere | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Nixon tapes again reveal Bush-league president

Posted by James McPherson on December 5, 2008

A news batch of tapes recorded in the Richard Nixon White House were released this week, reaffirming that the president was, in the words of MSNBC’s John Rutherford, “ruthless, cynical and profane.” This was the 12th release of Nixon tapes, now totalling more than 2,200 hours. None of the releases have helped Nixon’s image.

Nixon may have been our most paranoid president, though despite leaving office in disgrace, he probably was a better chief executive than George W. Bush or Jimmy Carter. Perhaps we can no longer even consider Nixon to be the most criminal president of our lifetimes, despite the protests of Fox News’ Chris Wallace. On the other hand, with increased government secrecy, a relatively gutless Democratic Congress and no independent prosecutor–and thanks in large part to the circus that the Bill Clinton impeachment became–we’ll likely never know anything close to the full extent of the Bush administration’s crimes, even if the permitted crimes decrease under a new administration.

One thing is almost certain: At a time when some already are comparing Barack Obama to FDR (a comparison already beginning to change as the shine wears off of Obama’s newness and various messes fail to be resolved quickly enough), Nixon will be the standard by which Bush is compared. Many are already lumping the two together.

Having been a reporter and a professor, the lines I found most interesting from the latest Nixon tapes were these, said to Henry Kissinger in 1972: “The press is the enemy, the press is the enemy. The establishment is the enemy, the professors are the enemy, the professors are the enemy. Write that on a blackboard 100 times.”

I doubt that Bush would lump the press and professors in with “the establishment,” but he might agree with Nixon about professors and the press being enemies. Frankly, I hope so. Though if the news media had been more of an “enemy”–in other words, doing their job, regardless of GOP anti-press rhetoric–Bush might have been prevented from engaging in many of the actions that now have him so readily compared to the 37th president.

Posted in Education, History, Journalism, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Warku-go-’round: A 20-part history of Bush’s War

Posted by James McPherson on September 28, 2008

Here is the complete 20-part series chronicling the history of George W. Bush’s Iraq War, perhaps the most astoundingly stupid presidential event in American history.

—————

Axis of evil

For sake of definition

Can’t beat the devil

—————

God’s soldiers attack

Saudi pilots slam towers

Time to hit Iraq

—————

They ripped out our heart

We must avenge them all

Chickenhawks are thrilled

_______

 Three thousand were killed

Nine-eleven is the call

We win at Wal-Mart

———

Yes, we must attack

We can’t find bin Laden’s cave

So we’ll bomb Iraq

_______

Bray it long and loud

Bush’s war will protect us

From a mushroom cloud

_______

Why attack Saddam?

Weapons of mass destruction

None there? We’ll be damned

_______

Please world wish us well

And God bless America

Killing infidels

_______

Flags throughout the land

Jingoistic fervor reigns

Don a black armband

_______

Let’s not be out-Foxed

Lapel flags in great demand

How about those Sox?

_______

Don’t count on the press

To learn what’s fact or fiction

The real truth? Just guess

_______

Soldiers bravely toil

Thousands come home draped with flags

From their war for oil

_______

 God save George the King

Chinese car magnets for troops

Who don’t mean a thing

_______

War is hell, he said

As if he had ever been

Your kids go instead

_______

Shake bittersweet Rice

From a sheltered brittle Bush

Harvest has its price

_______

Watch for terrorists

Those who’d offer civil rights

Must be communists

_______

They’ve not hit again

Three-fourths as good as Clinton

Check back in oh-ten

_______

Now the country’s broke

Try to change the rationale

Use mirrors and smoke

_______

Go to war we can

If we must we must, they say

What about Iran?

_______

Politicians’ game

Spin the bottle or the truth

Ending up the same

_______

 

 

Posted in History, Journalism, Poetry, Politics, Written elsewhere | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments »

Palin, Pakistan & the press: ‘Cheez Whiz, people, don’t you know she doesn’t mean what she says?’

Posted by James McPherson on September 28, 2008

Republicans are trying to keep Sarah Palin from speaking to the press, even as she makes the rounds of traditional campaign stops. As I noted in the comments section yesterday, with last night’s Tina Fey “Saturday Night Live” appearance, considering how tightly scripted and hidden away Palin as been, lately most of us will have seen more of Fey as Palin than we’ve seen of Palin as Palin.

Now GOP operatives apparently will need to simplify the instructions even further: “Sarah, don’t speak unless you’re on a stage, with a teleprompter, repeating things we’ve let you practice. Smile and nod and wave, but don’t speak. And for God’s sake, don’t ever answer a question. From anybody. Anywhere.” That might make Thursday’s debate a bit tricky.

Just one day after John McCain criticized Barack Obama for saying he would strike inside Pakistan to take out Osama bin Laden–a view, incidentally, that McCain himself and most other Americans likely would support, and which goes along with what has become Bush administration policy–Palin (on a Philly cheesesteak run) had a Temple University grad student ask her if American troops should go from Afghanistan into Pakistan. Her response: “If that’s what we have to do stop the terrorists from coming any further in, absolutely, we should.”

Though she said she had watched the previous night’s presidential debate, and praised the performance of McCain (whom she may believe once walked the earth with dinosaurs), she apparently missed one of her running mate’s strongest statements: “You don’t say that out loud.”

As a result, today the campaign was forced to retract one of the few things Palin actually has said out loud in public. With no apparent irony intended, McCain (talking this morning to George Stephanopoulos) said Palin was a campaign asset in large part because “She knows how to communicate directly with people.” That comment came almost directly on the heels of McCain weakly blaming her latest misstep on the existence of microphones at what was clearly supposed to be another beauty queen-style photo op:

“In all due respect, people going around and… sticking a microphone while conversations are being held, and then all of a sudden that’s—that’s a person’s position… This is a free country, but I don’t think most Americans think that that’s a definitve policy statement made by Governor Palin.”

Of course he’s right about that. Most Americans likely no longer believe that the McCain can offer a “definitive policy statement” about virtually anything. No wonder even many conservatives and their media supporters are jumping ship. One newspaper, endorsing its first Democrat since Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1936 (during the last Great Depression), noted accurately:

McCain, who has voted consistently for deregulation, started off two weeks ago declaring the U.S. economy fundamentally sound but ended the week sounding like a populist. Who is he really? …

While praiseworthy for putting the first woman on a major-party presidential ticket since Geraldine Ferraro in 1984, his selection of Palin as a running mate was appalling. The first-term governor is clearly not experienced enough to serve as vice president or president if required. Her lack of knowledge is being covered up by keeping her away from questioning reporters and doing interviews only with those considered friendly to her views.

At the risk of repeating myself, Thursday night’s debate could be tricky, and I’ll again offer my recommended debate strategy of yesterday for both candidates: Try to let your opponent talk. Don’t complain if s/he goes over the time limit; you’ll probably benefit more from it.

I wouldn’t be at all surprised if some “family crisis” forces Palin to postpone or cancel the debate, if not withdraw from the race altogether. Whether anyone would buy that, after McCain’s recent erratic behavior, remains to be seen. And by the way, isn’t it long past time to stop calling McCain a maverick, and to start calling him simply a compulsive gambler?

Posted in Journalism, Politics, Written elsewhere | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

In search of Sarah, and where Congress spends your money

Posted by James McPherson on September 23, 2008

John McCain and Sarah Palin finally went too far in trying to protect the GOP’s “pretty little lady” from the media today. Faced with a rare journalistic exhibition of backbone, the campaign was forced to back down before its nominees climbed back aboard what journalists are now calling “the no-talk express.”

As far as I can tell, McCain and Palin have done only one thing to counter recent indications that they will be as secretive as Dick Cheney and George Bush. And that one positive act–which applies more to a weakening Congress than to a power-hungry executive branch, anyway–actually served more to show how out of touch Palin is with the government she hopes to help lead.

Palin drew fire for suggesting that she would provide the same kind of oversight for federal spending as she had for spending in Alaska. The criticism came not because of the idea itself, but because she was unaware that such a program already exists–thanks to a law co-sponsored by Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama. Below you can see a video about the bill (which Palin’s buddy, Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens, and Democrat Robert Byrd tried to secretly block).

The Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006 provides a searchable U.S. government database, USAspending.gov (which I’ve also linked at right under both “Journalism Resources” and “Goverment Resources”). As the Poynter Institute’s Alan Abbey points out, “This resource is a goldmine for journos, particularly local media–especially in an election year–since the data are easily searchable by congressional district.” Abbey also notes: “USAspending.gov is an offshoot of the earlier (and still ongoing) online database FedSpending.org, which crunches the data even further. FedSpending, which was chreated by the watchdog group OMB Watch, also is updated to include partial data for FY 2008.

By the way, particularly interesting in light of the past week’s economic events, is a Sept. 9 OMB Watch story about the Bush Administration’s “last minute rush to dismantle public protections.” OMB Watch executive director Gary D. Bass writes, “Events show the administration is starting to kick things into high gear on regulations, trying to lock the next administration into a Bush legacy.”

Two weeks later, considering the ineptitude and accompanying costs of the Iraq War, disaster relief and economic meltdown, we know that the “Bush legacy” goal has been achieved. At least the next two presidential administrations will be dealing with trying to clean up the Bush/Cheney mess–at least three or four administrations, if the next one is headed by the increasingly comically press-paranoid McCain and Palin.

Note that Palin still has not had even one news conference and has submitted to only two television interviews–one with Fox’s Sean Hannity, who would have not have been able to pass my junior-level reporting class by asking the kind of inane, sycophantic, leading questions he offered. The “interview” demonstrated far more about Hannity’s opinions of Obama (though nothing we didn’t already know) than we learned about Palin. You can see some of it with the second video below.

Posted in History, Journalism, Politics, Video | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Warku #12

Posted by James McPherson on September 23, 2008

This is the 12th of a series related to Bush’s war, perhaps the most astoundingly stupid presidential event in American history. Also see Warku #1, #2, #3#4#5, #6#7, #8, #9, #10, and #11.

_________

Soldiers bravely toil

Thousands come home draped with flags

From their war for oil

_______

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

Warku #11

Posted by James McPherson on September 21, 2008

This is the 11th of a series related to Bush’s war, perhaps the most astoundingly stupid presidential event in American history. Also see Warku #1, #2, #3#4#5, #6#7, #8, #9. and #10.

_________

Don’t count on the press

To learn what’s fact or fiction

The real truth? Just guess

_______

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

GOP VP nominee not Palin’ by comparison to Biden

Posted by James McPherson on September 3, 2008

From “bullshit” to bull moose: In her speech earlier tonight, Sarah Palin showed that she can not only shoot down and field dress the meat, but she can also pitch that red meat to the Republican base. She has no apparent qualms about doing what good VP candidates are supposed to do, attack the other side. Joe Biden won’t be the only VP pit bull–with or without lipstick–in this campaign.

Palin gave a good speech, with the usual convention-sized helpings of exaggeration and mischaracterization sprinkled with lie or two (she should quit repeating her false-but-appealing “bridge to nowhere” story, or that’s where it the bridge may help take her campaign). Palin did well what she had to do, though now that she’s “out there” without days to prepare for each appearance things may get tougher. On the other hand, Jay Rosen offers this somewhat depressing quote in considering the apparent McCain-Palin strategy:

Strategy: Comes from Bush, the younger. When realities uncovered are directly in conflict with prior claims, consider the option of keeping the claims and breaking with reality. Done the right way, it’s a demonstration of strength. It dismays and weakens the press. And it can be great theatre.

Rosen discusses how the GOP might reignite the culture war (it’s best strategy in the past couple of presidential elections), and elements of that war could be seen tonight. There wasn’t much on abortion–after all, Palin’s warmup act was pro-abortion, pro-gay civil unions, pro-gun control Rudy “9/11” Giuliani (I would like to see Rudy try to wrestle a rifle from Palin). But there has been plenty in recent days from the GOP (and its Fox News mouthpieces) about “elites” (a funny term for a ticket with at least 10 houses between them) and about that old Republican favorite, “the liberal media.”

It also was interesting to hear Palin and other speakers during the evening talk about the need for “change” from Washington politics. They obviously hope that a fair number of Americans will forget that it’s their president–the one McCain votes with most of the time–who has occupied the White House for the past eight years, and that their party controlled Congress for almost that entire time (while holding enough seats to sustain George W. Bush’s vetoes for the last two years, after the electorate kicked many–but not quite enough–of them out of office).

McCain himself was a Senator for all of that time, though he hasn’t showed up for the past five months. Giuliani made fun of Obama for voting “present,” but it has been quite a while since McCain could even say that much.

One media problem the McCain camp is trying to head off, fresh on the heels of the Bristol Palin pregnancy: the latest National Enquirer story about an alleged Sarah Palin affair. This is the sort of story that many of us would consider to be unlikely and irrelevant trash–but the exact thing that many conservatives recently criticized the mainstream media for not following up after the Enquirer reported similar allegations about John Edwards.

Unfortunately, as long as the major media let bloggers and tabloids dictate news selection, the GOP will have a case against the press–but it’s not a case of bias, as Republicans now pretend, as much as it is a case of laziness and sensationalism. And the Democrats can made the same case.

A even more ludicrous complaint from the McCain folks is that criticism of Palin’s obvious lack of experience is somehow sexist. That’s just stupid, especially since the GOP has been citing Obama’s lack of experience for months. Using their own reasoning, one would be forced to assume their criticisms stem from racism.

Tomorrow night is McCain’s turn. Any bets on how many times his years as a POW will come up?

Thursday elitist note: Vanity Fair estimates that Cindy McCain’s outfit from the other night cost approximately $300,000. Most of those “small town Americans” that the Republicans keep talking about that didn’t pay that much for their houses. And most of them only have one house.

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