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 ‘Wolf Blitzer’

Sarah suddenly ubiquitous; MSNBC falls for Palin hoax

Posted by James McPherson on November 13, 2008

Before the election, the press rarely got to speak with Sarah Palin. Now she seems to be on a campaign to have an “exclusive” interview with every talking head on television, while offering public addresses wherever possible. Perhaps the oddest note, so far: Palin decrying “extreme partisanship” just after telling Wolf Blitzer that she still had “concerns” about Barack Obama’s “affiliations” with a “domestic terrorist.”

Though I recognize that her rambling, folksy answers may be appealing to some parts of the base, for some of us the Palin road show is demonstrating why the campaign kept her under wraps. But even Republicans seem to be acknowledging that Palin should not be the leading voice of the GOP if their party is to recover from the devastation of a week ago Tuesday.

Still, Palin’s performance continues to be no worse than that of many in the media. Fox News is trumpeting an Associated Press story about MSNBC “retracting” a story stating that Palin didn’t know Africa was a continent. The story, bound to be highlighted on “The O’Reilly Factor” tonight, was a hoax designed to rely too quickly on “experts” with fancy titles, especially if the story supports already-held biases.

Naturally MSNBC is not highlighting the hoax story or its retraction (I couldn’t find any mention of it in an admittedly hurried search of the network’s Web site), and somehow II doubt that Keith Olbermann will make himself one of tonight’s “worst persons in the world.” The same hoax perpetrator has fooled the Los Angeles Times, the New Republic and Mother Jones.

Same day update: Here’s a New York Times story about the perpetrator of the hoax. The story points out that SourceWatch.org had identified the supposed source, “Martin Eisenstadt,” as a hoax months ago. Perhaps one of MSNBC’s interns can teach the news folks there how to do a Google search.

Posted in Journalism, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 36 Comments »

The force isn’t with CNN’s ‘holograms’

Posted by James McPherson on November 9, 2008

Obviously no news organization should fake the news. I also have serious reservations about “re-creations” sometimes used–especially, it seems, to dramatize the murders of attractive young women–to demonstrate what happened (or may have happened), typically with shadowy, shaky camera work and mood-inspiring music added.

Use of technology to report the weather is somewhat different. In that case, graphics on a green screen enhance the viewer’s ability to understand what’s going on. Election maps and various charts and graphs can do the same thing for a news organization’s ability to explain the news.

And while election night is a time when the networks like to bring out the toys, CNN went too far with its use of “holograms” (actually “tomograms”) that “chatted” with Wolf Blitzer (who sometimes doesn’t seem quite real, himself, but that’s a separate issue) and Anderson Cooper. As the Poynter Institute’s Amy Gahran notes, “This particular tool added absolutely nothing to the substance of the coverage–and thus, it became a mere stunt that trivialized CNN’s coverage.” (italics and bold type in original)

The problem is that Blitzer and Cooper were talking to blank space, rather than to actual images of correspondent Jessica Yellin and rapper Will.I.Am. Why not just use a traditional video screen? As for Yellin, who referenced Princess Leia (Will.I.Am also made a “Star Wars” reference), according to a CNN article, “Now, in hindsight, Yellin only wishes she could have come up with a better ‘Star Wars’ joke.”

You can see clips of the CNN experiment below, followed by a clip that explains some of the technology:

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