Saturday, February 19, 2005

Blogging on CNN and NYT

Danny Schecter does a blog called "News Dissector"... which is part of Media Channel.

Danny's blog is at

Danny Schecter blogs (2/17/05) on:

"Their Reuters Foundation roundtable brought together Aaron Brown of CNN, Daniel Okrent, the public editor of the New York Times and former TV exec Jill Geisler of the Poynter Institute to talk Tsunami with Jan Egelend... Everyone started off patting the media on the back for the unprecedented graphic reporting accorded the Tsunami......Everyone acknowledged that the coverage resulted in unprecedented levels of donations and galvanized a major relief effort. It roused the world's conscience and saved lives to some degree even though the biggest loss of lives happened immediately when the big waves struck sweeping people and whole towns away."

And that leaves one to wonder what the general public would/could do if they saw and understood what war was really like. That point was noted in an indirect way by this comment:

"Hegland complained that the saturation coverage of the Tsunami in Asia has to be contrasted with the lack of coverage of other serious humanitarian disasters like the bloodletting in Congo, or Uganda, or Malaria that rates no coverage and affects as many or more people."

and directly noted in this comment:

"Jeff Sachs went further ..... (he) contrasted the coverage of the dead bodies in South Asia to the lack of coverage of the dead bodies in Iraq, saying, "When the Lancet magazine reported that l00 000 Iraqi civilians had been killed it was not covered. The N Y Times put it on page A 8 and never pressed for a response from the Administration. It was disgraceful." No one disagreed, but no one picked up the theme."

Danny then goes on to report:

"Aaron Brown listened to all this but did not engage. He explained the problem not as a journalist out to inform but as a media personality committed to maximizing audience size. "I deal with a "harsh reality," he said defensively. "I know eating Brussels sprouts is good for you, but I have to offer a more balanced meal and throw in some chocolate." The point: he will lose the audience if he gets into too much depth or human suffering. " TV is a business was the ultimate excuse. He seemed to squirm around the points as if to say,what do you want me to do guys, I work in commercial television."

I think Brown insults both chocolate and Brussels sprouts. I love chocolate, and I eat it nearly every day. What CNN serves up is not "a balanced meal". It is mainly slop. CNN is to information as McDonalds is to nutrition (since we're on a food theme here). One can eat at McDonalds and not starve, but one will not have good health either. One can watch CNN and have some glimmer of what is going on (pay close attention!) in the world, but one will not be well-informed by any means. For example, Brown did cover the 100,00 Iraqi civilians reported killed. It took less than a minute, and he was the only CNN anchor who did that.

Danny goes on to blog:

I don't want to knock Brown. He was just voicing the market logic of commercial TV without perhaps realizing that it is precisely that logic that is driving so many viewers away from the tube. He recognizes that he is a prisoner of the dumbed down cable environment that companies like CNN created."

I emailed Brown lots and lots in 2003/2004. I told him I was trying to 'reform' him.... he answered once "trust me, this is not about reforming me".... all I could say was "trust me, IT IS". Brown also said that TV was the ultimate democracy, and that people are feel to change the channel. I changed the channel, and stopped paying for the expanded cable that included CNN.

Danny says:

"At least, he (Brown) showed up for the panel and does try to offer a mix of stories on his program, many better than so many others, however pretentious I might find him at times. The pity is that someone of his skill and there are many like him are only allowed to do far less than they are capable of because of the formats and the way that frame news."

He does it for the money. He does not care if the news being reported is undermining our democracy, nor does he care about the Iraqi civilians who were killed. Brown cheerleaded this war from the very beginning, and never let up. He never apologized for getting any of the stories wrong... and even told me at one time "lots of good people got the WMDs story wrong... even Clinton". Beyond the fact that seeing a man who cheats on his wife and then lies about it as a "good person", he clearly felt NO ONE should be held responsible for the lies that lead to this war. I can guarantee you this: Brown never even labeled them as LIES on any reporting he did. Nor did he ever comment on how the people who pulled this off have paid ABSOLUTELY NO PENALTY. Up onto October 2003, he still had Judith Miller on his show claiming the WMDs would be found.

And he continues to show little regard about the state and circumstances of Iraqi civilians... unless they happen to be 35 elderly Jewish people who were resettled in Israel. Touching story, that, and it made me think of how Brown takes his little, tiny penlight of truth and illustrates some small truth that other journalists don't mention. While he was illustrating how these elderly folks were rescued, he totally and purposefully ignores all the slaughter, chaos, pain, death, torture, and fear of the vast, vast majority of the rest of the Iraqi population... which number about 24-25 million. Yes, he got the story of the 35 elderly people right... and ignored the 24,999,965 other people in that country.

Danny again:

"We said hello as he left (He was still smarting over emails readers sent to CNN demanding better election coverage) but unfortunately he left to go back to word before I got to unwind from the floor."

And I rather wished we had kept the pressure on.... it might have done some good. Besides, I was having fun.

"He (Brown) himself was bitching about all the Robert Black stories he is doing. And he will go on doing them. I am sure his candor was constrained, He knows what can happen if he mouths off too much at panels like these. He worked for Eason Jordan too."

And, always, always, in America .... it is someone else's fault... and NO ONE, NO ONE IS TO BLAME. When are we ever going to get some people who actually take responsibility for what they say and do???? In light of the fact that they started a war and occupation against a country that had not threatened or attacked anyone for over 12 years... where exactly are we headed?? Can we afford to have a population that knows all about Laci, OJ, Jackson, Blake, etc etc... yet doesn't know what is going on in entire CONTINENTS of this world? and ignorant of what the US government is doing with our money on foreign shores?

Danny again:

"Just one last point, when asked what people should do to get better coverage, the impressive Daniel Okrent of the Times put it in one word: "AGITATE," And then this agust ombudsman of the newspaper of record added two more "MAKE NOISE." He said that's the only things that works. And he should know."

Oh, now, this is funny. You see, I have emailed Okrent also... let me give you an idea of what he said when I told him what I thought about the NYT's reporting on Bremer shutting down Sadr's newspaper (which was an example of more stenography): "The tone of your message indicates that you despise journalism, and prefer people to represent your views and yours alone. I'm almost embarrassed that my May 30 column condemning The Times for its WMD reporting embraces your position on that subject."

I would hardly call the NYT's mea culpa on the WMDs stories to be "self-condemning". I would say it was a mild self-rebuke, one that did not mention Judith Miller or many others by name, and left out many things. Funny he should accuse me of wanting "my views and mine alone" presented when the NYT did almost no coverage of the anti-war voices or reports that the WMDs claim was bogus prior to the start of the war (that would be what my views were.... hear any calls for immediate withdrawal from Iraq? no, they are not representing my views.) However, what I want from them is not a representation of my views, but a presentation of what is actually, truthfully, happening. Then I can test my views against what information is coming in, and determine if the viewpoint I am proposing is accurate or not. I want my fellow citizens to be somewhat informed.

But then, the NYT did at least sorta apologize for missing the WMD story. Not true for CNN.

Danny Schecter goes on to request that we join Media for Democracy to ask CNN and the Pentagon to investigate the charges (opinions?) of Eason's remarks. Funny to think that we should be in a position to ask the "news" media to start reporting stuff.... And as the remark by Okrent above shows, they don't much like it when you point out to them how they are not doing their jobs. And now we are supposed to agitate and petition for protection of the press? Personally, I'm hoping to have a "Judith Miller goes to jail for the wrong reasons" party soon. Yes, I'm angry.

Thank you, Danny, for what you do. I think you are way too easy on them, maybe because you have an insider viewpoint. I started watching CNN (again) and reading the NYT (again) on a regular basis, along with other establishment media, soon after 9/11. I thought I was missing something. Well, I sure was. I was missing how our population is being served nonsense, day in and day out, and misled about what our government was actually doing. I reached all of my own conclusions long before I heard of people like you, Danny, or Amy Goodman, or FAIR, or Media Matters, FreePress, or Common Cause or anybody else who shares my opinions and viewpoints.

I still think.

I still read.

I could figure out that there were no nuclear WMDs even close to being made in Iraq back in 2002. They could have figured it out too. (Actually, I think they did!) But what really got me going was the ignoring of the pain and death of the Iraqi people from the immoral, evil actions of the US government and the Bush administration.

And, they are still failing to report on this! I'm willing to bet that I know more about it than they do! Note my comments on a NYT article this week on my prior blog post.

So, we're supposed to go to bat and stick up for the rights of the press, when they aren't even doing their jobs? I don't think so.

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