Television Archives

Shire Network News #156 has been released. We’re back and better than ever at our new website  The feature interview is covers anti-Jewish violence and intimidation on Canadian university campuses. Click here for the show notes, links, and ways to listen to the show; directly from the web site, by downloading the mp3 file, or by subscribing with your podcatcher of choice.

Below is the text of my commentary.

Hi, this is Doug Payton for the "back and better than ever" Shire Network News asking you to "Consider This!"

Muzzammil Hassan founded the network "Bridges TV".  According to their web site’s Mission page, Bridges TV…

…aims to foster a greater understanding among many cultures and diverse populations.Through our high-quality, informative, 24×7 programming in English; we seek to become a unifying force that can help people understand our diverse world through education and entertainment.

Given Muzzammil’s background, many of the shows on the network, and other statements from the network, this was mainly an attempt to improve the image of Muslims in the United States.  Irony of ironies, then, when he was arrested on February 12th for admitting to beheading his wife.

Let me ask you something; how much coverage of this have you seen in the news?  As of this SNN episode, it’s been over 3 weeks since the arrest and it’s been "vewy, vewy qwiet" out there.  Mark Steyn noticed that, while the mainstream media love a good hypocrite — just ask Ted Haggard or, for those old enough to remember, Jimmy Swaggart — they’ve been incredibly reluctant to expose the hypocrisy of "Mr. Moderate Muslim".   

Now why would that be?  Well, could it be that this is just another case of domestic violence, and that it doesn’t rise to the level of national news coverage?  After all, people are beheaded all the time in lover’s spats, right?  Oh, wait, no they’re not.  In fact, among even such things as honor killings — primarily done by Muslims — beheading is a very unusual way to die.  The jury’s still out on whether or not this was an actual honor killing, but beheading has become an almost exclusively Islamic radical MO of choice. 

So the idea that this is just another run-of-the-mill domestic violence case (although, in fact, none of them really are) doesn’t exactly pass muster.  It’s not just that Mr. Hassan founded a TV network dedicated to removing the stigmas stereotypically assigned to Muslims, and then proceeded to demonstrate one of those very stereotypes, but also that he basically signed it, "Love, Radical Islam" in bright, red letters when he used that calling card.

But the media?  The media leaves us with nothing but dry recitations of facts, and op-eds from other moderate Muslims who, while outraged at this "domestic violence", ignore the method of the madness.  Even non-Muslim feminists, who are rightly decrying the violence, don’t want to consider that angle, or in some cases excuse it.  Some think we just need to be understanding and raise awareness of other cultures. 

I think some awareness-raising needs to be done, too.  It’s just that the media don’t seem up to the task.  Ya’ think perhaps if Ted Haggard had beheaded someone that the ripples in the news pond would have been this small?  We know more about who Haggard and Swaggart had affairs with than we know about Hassan himself.  If you’ve not heard much, if anything, about this story, consider this.

How the Media Fared in the Campaign

Short answer:  Not very well, and it doesn’t appear they care.

Long answer:

The adulation given to Barack Obama was far more than can be accounted for by his historic run for the Presidency.  It got so bad before the election that Michael S. Malone, a tech journalist for ABC News, got to the point he was "deeply ashamed to be called a ‘journalist’".  Michael explained, back in late October:

For many years, spotting bias in reporting was a little parlor game of mine, watching TV news or reading a newspaper article and spotting how the reporter had inserted, often unconsciously, his or her own preconceptions.  But I always wrote it off as bad judgment, and lack of professionalism, rather than bad faith and conscious advocacy.  Sure, being a child of the ‘60s I saw a lot of subjective “New” Journalism, and did a fair amount of it myself, but that kind of writing, like columns and editorials, was supposed to be segregated from ‘real’ reporting, and at least in mainstream media, usually was.  The same was true for the emerging blogosphere, which by its very nature was opinionated and biased.

But my complacent faith in my peers first began to be shaken when some of the most admired journalists in the country were exposed as plagiarists, or worse, accused of making up stories from whole cloth.  I’d spent my entire professional career scrupulously pounding out endless dreary footnotes and double-checking sources to make sure that I never got accused of lying or stealing someone else’s work – not out any native honesty, but out of fear: I’d always been told to fake or steal a story was a firing offense . . .indeed, it meant being blackballed out of the profession.


But nothing, nothing I’ve seen has matched the media bias on display in the current Presidential campaign.  Republicans are justifiably foaming at the mouth over the sheer one-sidedness of the press coverage of the two candidates and their running mates.  But in the last few days, even Democrats, who have been gloating over the pass – no, make that shameless support – they’ve gotten from the press, are starting to get uncomfortable as they realize that no one wins in the long run when we don’t have a free and fair press.  I was one of the first people in the traditional media to call for the firing of Dan Rather – not because of his phony story, but because he refused to admit his mistake – but, bless him, even Gunga Dan thinks the media is one-sided in this election.


The absolute nadir (though I hate to commit to that, as we still have two weeks before the election) came with Joe the Plumber.  Middle America, even when they didn’t agree with Joe, looked on in horror as the press took apart the private life of an average person who had the temerity to ask a tough question of a Presidential candidate.  So much for the Standing Up for the Little Man, so much for Speaking Truth to Power, so much for Comforting the Afflicted and Afflicting the Comfortable, and all of those other catchphrases we journalists used to believe we lived by.

Read the whole thing(tm).  Malone is more certainly not against reporters digging for the dirt (he supported the "reportorial SWAT teams" sent to Alaska to see what they could find about Gov. Palin).  What he is aghast at, however, was how utterly unbalanced this hardball treatment was. 

Aside from the viciousness given mostly to Republicans and their supporters, the Pew Research Center found that McCain’s news coverage was incredibly lopsided.

Slightly fewer than a third of the stories about Obama were negative, whereas more than a third were positive and about the same number were neutral or mixed. More than half of the stories about McCain cast him in a negative light, whereas fewer than 2 in 10 were positive, according to Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism.

The study suggests that advancement in the polls does translate into more positive coverage, but with the polls so tight this season, bouncing around in the high 40s & low 50s for so long, that explanation doesn’t really fit.

The Washington Post ombudsman, Deborah Howell, also says that her paper tilted towards Obama and didn’t really cover the issues well.  The big question is, will this translate into better coverage?  With the media still in the tank for Democrats after decades of being that way, it doesn’t seem likely.

Just ask Chris Matthews:

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Yeah, well, you know what? I want to do everything I can to make this thing work, this new presidency work, and I think that —

JOE SCARBOROUGH: Is that your job? You just talked about being a journalist!

MATTHEWS: Yeah, it is my job. My job is to help this country.

The phrase "speaking the truth to power" is about to drop quickly out of fashion in national media circles.

What Would We Do Without Studies?

They spent money on this?

Sexual content on television is strongly associated with teen pregnancy, a new study from the RAND Corporation shows.

Researchers at the nonprofit organization found that adolescents with a high level of exposure to television shows with sexual content are twice as likely to get pregnant or impregnate someone as those who saw fewer programs of this kind over a period of three years. It is the first study to demonstrate this association, RAND said.

Next week, RAND comes out with their study that gravity leads to falling.

The suggested remedy is equally obvious.

A central message from the study is that there needs to be more dialogue about sex in the media, particularly among parents and their children, said Anita Chandra, the study’s lead author and a behavioral scientist at RAND.

Although the Hollywood culture is certainly a major contributor to the oversexualization of the media (and they could do their part, but won’t, and will whine publicly and loudly if you suggest they do), parents still need to be the gatekeeper.

As my kids would say, "Thank you, Captain Obvious!"

It’s Only A Scandal When It’s A Republican

Contrasting coverage of the Mark Foley scandal vs the Tim Mahoney one, NewsBusters notes that the media is seriously one-sided. 

Two years ago, ABC’s Brian Ross broke wide open the scandal of Republican Rep. Mark Foley sending sexual Internet messages to Congressional pages. Foley resigned quickly, but that didn’t dampen the story. We reported "On the ABC, CBS, and NBC morning and evening news programs, from the story’s emergence on Friday night, September 29, through Wednesday morning, October 11, the Big Three networks have aired 152 stories." On October 11’s Good Morning America, news anchor Christopher Cuomo spoke insistently: "Less than a month before the elections and the Mark Foley scandal just keeps growing." Reporter Jake Tapper added: "This is the scandal that will not go away."

But what about a scandal that will not be acknowledged? Even when a network breaks the story? On October 13, ABC reporter Brian Ross broke the news on his Blotter blog that Rep. Tim Mahoney, the Democrat who replaced Mark Foley in the House, who ran on returning morality to Congress, "agreed to a $121,000 payment to a former mistress who worked on his staff and was threatening to sue him." The FBI is now investigating. ABC has audio of him yelling at the mistress (with profanities) that she’s fired. Mahoney didn’t resign. He’s running for reelection.

Number of ABC stories on the morning and evening newscasts? Zero.

Number of CBS stories? Zero.

Number of NBC stories? Zero.

Yeah, that liberal media.

Open Questions About Debate Moderators

It’s just a debate moderator, the lefty blogosphere tells us.  She’s just asking questions.  What’s the big deal about her book?  Well, just a few questions.

  1. So then, the next Presidential debate can be moderated by John Stossel and the Democrats would be fine with that?
  2. If all the moderator does is ask questions, why wouldn’t Democrats even debate themselves on Fox News?

Either blatant partisanship, real or perceived, is to be avoided at a debate, or it isn’t.  Either moderators with their own biases, plain or hidden, can be fair questioners, or they can’t.  Just pick an answer and stick with it, or don’t be surprised when Republicans ask for the same deal the Democrats ask for.

To mix a metaphor.

The Media Research Center has the details on how Katie Couric treated Joe Biden vs. Sarah Palin. 

Y’know, there’s nothing wrong with having a bias.  We all do.  But be up-front and honest about it, eh?

Liberals in Media: "Opinionators" vs. Anchors

The recent buzz around the conservative blogosphere (and a bit on the liberal side, too) is that Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews will no longer be anchoring MSNBC’s election coverage specials. 

I have never considered hosts of opinion shows — including Matthews and Olbermann, as well as O’Reily, Beck and Dobbs — as examples of bias at a network one way or the other.  The sum total of "opinionators" and their leanings at a network might be indicative (i.e. if they all lean one way or the other), but their specific pronouncements never seemed to me to be fair game for claiming bias.  Of course they’re biased; that’s their programs’ stock in trade.  They have an opinion, and it comes out in their "Talking Point Memo" or their interviews or whatever.  The bias is the purpose for the show.

On the other hand, bias when it comes to those in the more pure journalistic endeavors — news anchors and reporters — those folks have a higher standard to attain to.  Their stock in trade is their even-handedness and objectivity.  When they abdicate that responsibility, then I see it as fair game for scrutiny.

In this, MSNBC crossed way, way over the line putting Matthews and Olbermann in the anchor chairs for their convention coverage.  The idea that they thought they could get away with this and still insist they’re objective and balanced strained credibility to the breaking point.  All the networks had other opinion folks on to give their takes on the events of the day, and that’s fine, too.  But MSNBC put guys with their own opinion shows in the anchor chair during two events that are already very partisan.  This says a lot about the editorial leanings at the network.  At least they’re doing the right thing now, though why they thought this was ever a good idea is beyond me.  The liberal bias in the editorial room is probably mistaken for "mainstream".

Shire Network News #138

Shire Network News #138 has been released. The feature interview is with Anne Franklin, a spokesman for Clintons For McCain, Hillary Clinton supporters who are working overtime to defeat Barack Obama in November.  That’s right, independents and Democrats who are so alarmed at the prospect of an Obama presidency that they’re supporting Republican nominee John McCain.  Click here for the show notes, links, and ways to listen to the show; directly from the web site, by downloading the mp3 file, or by subscribing with your podcatcher of choice.

Below is the text of my commentary.

Hi, this is Doug Payton for Shire Network News, asking you to "Consider This!"

Barack Obama is going to Iraq.  Did you know that?  Why of course you did.  The networks are positively swooning over this.  Never mind that John McCain has taken 3 foreign trips in the past 4 months; this is news.  Obama is finally going on a trip, so you just know the media are going to send reporters to cover it.  But not just any reporters, no sir-ee.  The Big 3 US broadcast news organizations are sending their top-dog, big-time new anchors with him.  Never mind that when McCain hits the trail, sometimes he doesn’t get any reporters along, and sometimes CBS has to rearrange its sock drawer that day.

Say it with me kids; In.  The.  Tank.  And drowning.

When John McCain went to Iraq for a week in March, the biggest news from that was that he misspoke about Iran funding Al Qaeda.  CBS managed to squeeze out 31 words the whole week among 10 whole seconds of prime-time news coverage.  That must have hurt.  But now, with their anchors following his every breath, the evening news can open and close with a little Obama vignette, have time for a full-length news story on his visit, and still have a little time left over for…that, um, other guy, McFly something.  Just think of it; in the time it’ll take Katie Couric to introduce herself, CBS will have spent more time on the Obama visit than they did with that, um…other guy. 

But they’ll still look at you with a straight face and tell you that they are objective.  Time and Newsweek will give Obama 12 cover stories to McSomebody’s 5 and still insist that they are balanced. 

But the New York Times, in writing about this media extravaganza, had to grudgingly admit that things did look just a little slanted.

But the coverage also feeds into concerns in Mr. McCain’s campaign, and among Republicans in general, that the news media are imbalanced in their coverage of the candidates, just as aides to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton felt during the primary season.

So you see, it’s not that it’s true, it’s not so much that the numbers and statistics all point the same way.  It’s that this simply "feeds into concerns" about media bias.  Kind of a "nolo contendere" defense.  So yeah, its a grudging admission.  "We apologize if you feel if you have been wronged, but if you were wronged, we didn’t do it, and if we did do it, we didn’t mean it, and if we did mean it, well can you blame us?"

Well, "Yes we can!"  Consider that.

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The Other Side of the Scale

When you have a balance scale and you put weight on one side of it, it tilts until you have something on the other side to balance it. The Fairness Doctrine, that the Left would love to bring back, works on this same principle; opinions being presented should represent all opinions, never mind the ratings. In essence, this is yet another anti-market-forces argument for what would essentially be government-controlled media.

What this would really do for discussion on the public airwaves is a topic for another day. What I’m here to note is that the free market has already worked its magic. On the Internet, there are plenty of opinions to choose from from the entire spectrum. No need for a Fairness Doctrine there. But it’s in TV and radio where Democrats really want this doctrine to work. Never mind all the liberal bias that has been the monopoly for decades, when Rush Limbaugh (who just signed a $400 milllion contract) and Fox News are mentioned, Democrats suddenly discover media bias, though through polarized lenses, and rant on about anything to the right of Ted Kennedy.

But Limbaugh himself noted that, “I am balance”, meaning that with all the liberal bias out there on one side of that balance scale, he was on the other side, working to get the information out that the Left wasn’t. In total, both sides were finally getting aired. (And the people have apparently agreed in a big way.)

Which brings us to the latest glaring example of this free market balance in action. Fox News’ “Special Report with Brit Hume” reported on some extremely good war news last night.

BRIT HUME: Welcome to Washington. I’m Brit Hume. The White House is giving Congress a new indication of how far Iraq’s leaders have come in hitting performance standards established by the U.S. Chief White House correspondent Bret Baier has the story.

BRET BAIER: In a new nine-page progress report obtained by Fox, U.S. officials in Iraq assessed that 15 of the 18 original political, security and economic benchmarks set for the Iraqi government are satisfactory, while two are unsatisfactory, and one has a split result. The May 2008 report card has almost twice the number of satisfactory marks than the assessment one year ago when the top U.S. commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, and Ambassador Ryan Crocker were grilled by Congress over the ’07 report card that showed eight unsatisfactory marks, eight satisfactory marks, and two benchmarks that could not be determined.

Later in the show, there is a discussion segment with folks from the Left and the Right. During this, Hume made a bold prediction.

HUME: Let me ask you this question, Mara, before you get to that. Both of you [Mara Liasson and probably Mort Kondrake] suggest that the word of this progress is going to get through. I suspect that this broadcast tonight — and maybe some others on this channel — are the only ones who are going to make a headline out of this. This is not going to be a big story elsewhere.
LIASSON: I think, over time, if the violence goes down, over time-
HUME: The violence has gone down.
LIASSON: Yes, and if it continues to, that’s going to change people’s opinions.

(Emphasis mine.) The Media Research Center indeed found this to be true.

Indeed, neither the CBS Evening News nor NBC Nightly News mentioned Iraq while on ABC’s World News anchor Charles Gibson read a short update about “increasing dangers for U.S. troops in Afghanistan” since “in the month of June there were 28 American fatalities in Afghanistan, just one less than died in Iraq last month.” CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 was also silent Tuesday night about the benchmarks.

No mention of this improvement, and indeed no mention that the fact that “28 American fatalities in Afghanistan, just one less than died in Iraq last month” means that Iraq casualties are at historic lows for the war. In this, as in other things, Fox News is the balance the Left says is missing.

We don’t need a Fairness Doctrine. We need the free flow of information and opinions that the public can then sort out themselves. If the mainstream media won’t report thing that don’t fit their narrative, they are not living up to their own stated standards, and have only themselves to blame for the destruction of their market- and mind-share.

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"Serious" Journalism

Would a documentary about Bigfoot, the Bermuda Triangle, or Area 51 ever, ever get time on ABC’s Nightline? You wouldn’t think so. And yet, Bruce Burgess, who’s done all three, got his own segment on the nighttime news show.

Inconceivable? Well, when you find out the topic of his most recent movie, it all makes sense.

Over a three day stretch, ABC devoted almost 15 minutes of air-time to a documentary filmmaker who asserts in his movie “Bloodline” that the resurrection of Jesus Christ was a massive hoax perpetrated on humanity. Additionally, on Friday’s “Nightline,” reporter Elizabeth Vargas left out any mention of the bizarre interests of the film’s director, Bruce Burgess. He’s directed and written documentaries on Bigfoot, the Bermuda Triangle, Area 51 and a secretive look at a U.S. government’s supposed cover-up of the alien landings at Roswell.

Are you a conspiracy theorist concerned citizen looking for some face time on the mainstream media? You, too, can grab the coattails of major news organization and soak in some of their reputation for yourself. Simple; just trash Christianity. Trashing Islam may get you killed, but trashing Christianity will get you an audience.

Those coattails are looking pretty tattered.

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