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 ‘Rupert Murdoch’

Watergate’s Bernstein shaky on media history

Posted by James McPherson on July 17, 2011

  

The most recent issue of Newsweek has drawn attention mostly because of yet another overhyped article about Sarah Palin. In the article, Palin says that if she runs for the presidency, “I Can Win.”

Well, duh. One would think that every candidate who runs for president thinks she or he can win. What would you expect them to say, “Well, I expect to get my butt kicked, but I really dislike my family and so wanted to put them through the wringer”?

The question is why Newsweek feels obligated to keep doing cover stories on a failed vice-presidential candidate and half-term governor who hasn’t declared any intention of running for office again. Oh, yeah–it’s because those stories, about America’s political Lindsay Lohan, draw more readers than would more intellectual (and more useful) fare.

A prediction, for what it’s worth: I think Palin will follow the Hillary Clinton route and run for the Arizona Senate seat that Jon Kyl will vacate. No state outside of her (and my) birth state of Idaho is more suited for the inflammatory know-nothing rhetoric that a Palin candidacy is likely to bring, and she recently bought a house there. If she wins a Senate seat, she could then run for president in 2016 when a Republican probably will have a better chance of winning.

For me, the most interesting thing in this issue of Newsweek was a couple of quotes that demonstrated some historical ignorance–quote that came not from Sarah Palin, as might be expected, but from famous Watergate journalist Carl Bernstein and one of his sources.

In an article about the scandal swirling around media mogul Rupert Murdoch (a scandal that has now touched even Scotland  Yard), Bernstein writes, “[The New York Post’s] Page Six, emblematic in its carelessness about accuracy or truth or context–but oh-so-readable–became the model for the gossipization of an American Press previously resistent to even considering publishing its like.”

Really? Murdoch bought the Post in 1976, and one of the founders of the Page Six column was James Brady–who came to the Post from a supermarket tabloid, the National Star, which had been founded two years earlier to compete with the National Enquirer. The Enquirer, of course, had already been famous for that kind of sensationalism for decades.

OK, so maybe Bernstein meant the mainstream press, not supermarket tabloids. But if so, he’s still overlooking one of the most important (and infamous) periods in American media history, the Yellow Journalism period of Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst. The next time Bernstein is tempted to tune into a showing of “All the President’s Men,” perhaps a viewing of “Citizen Kane” would be in order, instead.

The Yellow Journalism period also is ignored with a quote from an anonymous source. Part of that quote is pulled for display type (the fault of a historically challenged editor rather than of Bernstein, though he should have known better than to use the original quote). The display type reads, “Murdoch invented a newsroom culture where you do whatever it takes to get the story.”

Reinvented it, perhaps, though I’d question even that. But we should not have famous journalists–perhaps especially those who have contributed  significantly to media history–carelessly reinventing other parts of that history.

 

Posted in History, Journalism, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

YaVaughnie Wilkins should get a life

Posted by James McPherson on January 24, 2010

Chances are you’ve never heard of YaVaughnie Wilkins. But two of Rupert Murdoch’s “news” organizations, Fox News and the New York Post,  hope you will–and that you’ll somehow blame Barack Obama for the fact that Wilkins carried on a long affair with Oracle tech conglomerate owner Charles E. Phillips. I’m not kidding.

Yeah, as the articles breathlessly exclaim, Phillips is an “Obama advisor.” But he’s just one of fifteen members on one board, and the board is just part of a long list of folks advising the president on economic affairs. Presumably the board does not advise Obama on marital affairs. And by the way, weren’t conservatives just recently complaining–and lying –about the supposed lack of Obama advisors with practical business experience?

Besides, especially in a week when John Edwards finally ‘fessed up, do they really need this kind of goofy stretch to try to make Dems look bad? And do they want really want us thinking about the kind of sleaze engaged in by “the mostly-conservative (in recent years) “brotherhood of the disappearing pants“?

Wilkins has spent perhaps a quarter-million dollars to for billboards in three cities (though at least one was killed after just a day, something Fox fails to note in its front-page story today) proclaiming her “love” for Phillips, with a link to a Web site that the Post proclaims is “a veritable shrine to Wilkins’ ex-love.” But I spent a few minutes (as much as I could stand) checking out the site, finding more pictures of Wilkins (including a collection of swimsuit shots, which I assume are to show us what Phillips is missing)  and an assortment of now-exposed but unidentified other people–including children–who presumably are friends or family members of one of the two ex-lovers.

Because of those people, I won’t link to the site here. But they can now count themselves among the victims of Wilkins, Fox and the Post. As for Wilkins, someone stupid enough to be involved with a married man for more than eight years isn’t going to win much sympathy, I’d think.

Though I do wonder who is paying for those billboards. The newshounds at the Post and Fox didn’t bother to find out, of course.

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

25 Democrats & 30 Republicans who should ‘go away’

Posted by James McPherson on December 6, 2008

Blogger Ben Cohen apparently got such an overwhelming response (with lots of hate mail) to a column titled “10 Republicans Who Should Go Away,” he has now offered a Democratic version.

The Democrats: Joe Lieberman, Mark Penn, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, Chris Matthews, John Dingell, Robert Rubin, Steny Hoyer and Joe Lieberman (yes, Cohen hates Lieberman so much he put him on the list twice).

The Republicans: William Kristol, Sarah Palin, Michelle Malkin, Dick Morris, Dick Cheney, Mitt Romney, Alan Greenspan, Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity and George Bush.

I would have rearranged the lists and bit and made a few changes, but having used this blog to criticize everyone on Cohen’s GOP list and almost everyone on the Democratic list (though often just through association, with such terms as “gutless Democratic Congress” (here, here, here and here), I can’t disagree much with Cohen’s rankings.

I might have put Lieberman on both lists, and can easily expand the Republican list to 30. Besides Lieberman, my list (alphabetically) might include Glenn Beck, Jerome Corsi, Ann Coulter, Lou Dobbs, James Dobson, Matt Drudge, Newt Gingrich, Rudy Giuliani, Nancy Grace, Rush Limbaugh, Dennis Miller, Rupert Murdoch, Darragh Murphy, Colin Powell, Condoleeza Rice, Pat Robertson, Karl Rove, Michael Savage and George Will.

The Democratic side is a little tougher for me to expand, perhaps in part because of personal bias but mostly because Dems haven’t had much power for quite a while. Still, even after eliminating the second mention of Lieberman, I can boost it to 25 by adding Bill Clinton, James Carville, John Edwards, Geraldine Ferraro, Al Franken, Christopher Hitchens, Jesse Jackson, Joe Klein,  Scott McClellan, Keith Olbermann, Ed Rendell, Randi Rhodes, Ed Schultz, Al Sharpton, Jerry Springer and Jeremiah Wright.

Cohen explains his reasons for each of his 19 nominees, though I won’t bother–other than to say the folks I’ve listed are among those who in my view have offered the least during the past year or so compared to the amount of visibility they’ve received. Obviously not all of those listed are formally affilitiated with the parties I’ve placed them with–but they might as well be.

Of course your picks might be different and others might be considered, including “Joe the Plumber,” “Obama girl,” and various filmmakers, political hacks, bloggers, and TV talking heads. And thankfully, many of those listed above are likely to disappear from public view in the near future, and from memory soon after.

Posted in Journalism, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Rupert Murdoch a pinhead? O’Reilly’s sleazy boss doesn’t like his star

Posted by James McPherson on November 28, 2008

Bill O’Reilly, the self-appointed culture warrior and would-be savior of Christmas (as if either the holiday or Christians face any real threat in America)  obviously has his fans, the conservative versions of those who admire Keith Olbermann on the other side. But O’Reilly’s boss, media mogul Rupert Murdoch, apparently isn’t among those fans.

Politico’s Michael Calderone offers a sneak peak of a Michael Wolff biography of Murdoch (longtime producer of sleazy tabloid newspapers and new owner of the Wall Street Journal). The book apparently states that Murdoch, Fox News chief Roger Ailes (whom O’Reilly recently termed “a patriot“), and “everybody else at News Corps’ highest levels … absolutely despises” O’Reilly.

Here’s a battle in which we can hope both sides lose. After all, O’Reilly is well known as a bully and a liar, while Fox News is both the network at which people are most likely to complain about trash on television and the news network most likely to provide that trash. For example, today’s lead stories on the Fox Web site include a piece (with slideshow) about “Playboy’s sexiest celebrity covers” and one about Ashley Dupre’s supposed desire to go “from hooker to singer” (also linked to a slideshow including pics of the prostitute who helped bring down New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer).

I don’t think I’d rank either O’Reilly or Murdoch as a patriot. And to use another O’Reilly phrase: “Pinheads? You decide.”

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