Archive for the 'Media Bias' Category

Should journalists decline interviews if questions are banned?

Friday, August 24th, 2012

Talking Points Memo reports that the Mitt Romney campaign told an Ohio TV station yesterday that it preferred not to answer questions about Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin.

“They were chatting and it came up and I believe [a Romney staffer’s] wording was that they prefer not to talk about it,” [WHIO-TV] assistant news director Tim Wolff told TPM. “But we didn’t care because we were going to talk about Ohio stuff.”

If I’m a journalist, and a campaign tells me it prefers not to talk about something, that’s immediately what I want to ask about.

But Wolff told me that the preference was expressed by a low-level logistical person in the Romney camp, and so it didn’t matter to the station, which wasn’t interested in the topic anyway.

I asked Wolff if his station would have conducted the interview, with some questions banned outright.

“We’ve never agreed to any kind of stipulations and never would,” he said. “So it wouldn’t be an issue for us.”

Dave Price, a reporter at WHO-TV in Iowa who also interviewed Romney yesterday, told Talking Points Memo that he also would not have agreed to the Romney interview, if he’d been told that Akin questions were banned.

I asked Wolff what he’d do if forced to reject an interview, due to unacceptable preconditions.

Would Wolff report that the interview invitation was declined?

“I’m not sure, just because I’ve never had it happen,” he said. “There are many variables in how it can happen. We may or may not report, depending on how big a deal it was, that we did not do the interview because of these circumstances.”

Normally, I’d think a reporter should tell us, if he or she doesn’t accept an interview because of banned questions or the like.

Transparency is key, and that’s why CBS4 did the right thing by going ahead with the Romney interview and reporting the ban on Akin/Abortion questions.

Rejecting the interview would have been an over-reaction, because, as CBS4 News director Tim Wieland tweeted, there’s a lot of other questions that can be asked–and you can still report that certain questions were banned, as CBS4 did.

But, at some point, and I’m not sure where it is, an interview gets so restricted that a reporter has to say no, and report what happened.

Or if a topic was so important at a particular moment, a reporter might decline an interview, just because one topic was banned.

So I think it just depends, but CBS4 made the right call yesterday.

 

 

A win for Rush, a loss for journalism

Monday, September 29th, 2008

In my Saturday column, I wrote that Kris Olinger, Director of AM Programming at Clear Channel here in Denver, decided not to add a left-leaning commentator during KOA’s morning newscast to balance Rush Limbaugh’s daily commentary.

This was disappointing because, in a previous email exchange, which I discussed in a previous column, Olinger seemed open to making her show more balanced journalistically. See my latest exchange with Olinger below.

From: Jason Salzman
Sent: Friday, August 08, 2008 10:45 AM
To: ‘Olinger, Kristine’
Subject: Rush Commentary
 
Hi Kris …•
 
Last Saturday, I wrote a column (Read it here, if you want.) about the one-minute commentary by Rush Limbaugh on Colorado’s Morning News.
 
I suggested you add a commentary by Jim Hightower every other day to balance Rush’s conservative views. (Listen to Hightower here.) This would be in keeping with the journalistic values of KOA’s news department. I’m not suggesting you balance your talk lineup on KOA, just the commentary during your news program. Some readers thought I was suggesting that you need to add Hightower to your talk lineup.
 
Readers of my column suggested that talkers from AM 760 be given a one minute spot, but I assume this isn’t practical, since they don’t have one-minute commentaries ready to go. I could look into this, if you think you’d possibly use any of them.
 
So I’m writing to ask if you’re willing to broadcast Hightower?
 
Again, I respect very much your willingness to consider him and other options to balance Rush.
 
Jason


From: Olinger, Kristine
Sent: Saturday, September 06, 2008 3:56 PM
To: jason salzman
Subject: RE: Rush Commentary
 
Jason,
 
I’m sorry it’s taken awhile to get back to you.  We’ve been busy with conventions etc.  I’m familiar with Jim Hightower.  I don’t think he’s the right fit for the Denver market.  He certainly doesn’t have the following or name recognition of Rush or Paul Harvey and he would be an expensive addition.
Beyond that, I’m curious why you’re not demanding that we air a conservative viewpoint on AM760 Colorado’s Progressive Station or that NPR add more conservative content? 
Kris Olinger
  From: Jason Salzman
Sent: Sun 9/7/2008 4:00 PM
To: Olinger, Kristine
Subject: RE: Rush Commentary


Hi …•
 
My point is that Colorado’s Morning News is a newscast that reflects journalistic values of fairness, except there’s a daily conservative commentary in the middle of it that’s not balanced by a liberal commentary.  I’m not saying you need a liberal talker on KOA for three hours to balance Rush. I just think that, in keeping with the journalism that you present on Colorado’s Morning News, you should offer a commentator from the left as well as the right.
 
There’s no newscast on AM760. There’s no news show like CO Morning News.
 
Please see my column for a longer explanation here.
 
JASON
 
From: Olinger, Kristine
Sent: Sunday, September 07, 2008 9:20 PM
To: jason@effectcommunications.com
Subject: RE: Rush Commentary
 Hey Jason,
 
First things first.  AM760 does carry newscasts.  From 6a – 10a we carry a CBS cast followed by a local cast Monday – Friday.  We carry a CBS cast every hour the rest of the day.  We carry a significant amount of CBS long-form coverage on national events.  Do you listen to the station?  Have you ever listened to AM760? 
 
You neglected to respond to my question about NPR…specifically in morning drive.  I’d like a response.
Finally, in answer to your concerns about Colorado’s Morning News, I read your column the day it was printed.  My issue with you has always been your lack of knowledge and accuracy about radio, not your viewpoint. 
See AM760 correction above and your lack of response to the NPR question.
You seem to have some admiration for the 850KOA News Department but still can’t help yourself from taking shots.  Colorado’s Morning News is not an ALL NEWS radio product such as WCBS or KCBS.  It is more like a newspaper (horrors) or a TV morning show that covers a lot of ground.  It has been for as long as I can remember.  Yes, KOA leans right and male.  That’s the audience we serve.  We cover a lot of sports (horrors) because that’s what our audience wants.  What audience does the Rocky serve?  What audience does the Denver Post serve?  Do the newspapers include “fluff” as you call it?  That would include features on anything from rock concerts to gardening to home improvement to movies to silly feature stories about Paris Hilton to features about Health or Kids?  Does that content take away from the hard work both newspaper’s reporters do each day?  Come on.  Can our anchors do better.  Of course, we can all do better. Should they robatically deliver only the “news”  every morning for four hours?  I don’t think so.


Finally, Rush is as entertaining as he is political.  Like it or not, he has a huge following and we will continue to carry his commentary and show as we will continue to carry Mike Rosen’s “tease” during CMN and his show.


I still want an answer on NPR and I would like you to include AM760 and KHOW in this debate.  Clear Channel Denver is offering listenings great options with KOA, KHOW and AM760.  Aren’t we?


Love the debate (horrors).  I think it’s healthy.


Kris Olinger


From: Jason Salzman
Sent: Sunday, September 07, 2008 9:58 PM
To: ‘Olinger, Kristine’
Subject: RE: Rush Commentary


Hey, I like a debate, too. And I respect you for answering my questions. Thanks.
  Yes, I listen to AM760. It’s got a puny newscast, nothing like Colorado’s Morning News. It’s not comparable. No reporters. The CBS cast is completely different. I’m glad you’ve got CBS and the headlines during Marvin, but if you’re looking for breaking news and serious news reports and fair-minded interviews in the morning in Denver on the radio, your choice is really KOA or KCFR…-though KCFR is much more about the national news from NPR and much less from Denver.
 

Still, your question about KCFR’s local newscast is more relevant, but please point out how it’s biased. I don’t hear a conservative or liberal commentator on the show every day with no counterpoint. Colorado Matters, the local interview show on KCFR, is journalistically sound, but it occurs outside the newscast anyway.
 I like CMN. I’d personally like less sports and fluff, and I like less in the newspaper, too. But I still like CMN partly because there’s at least an effort to be fair and accurate. (I try to be fair and accurate, too; please point out all errors you spot in my column. I’d really appreciate this.)
 

You’ve got two conservative commentators “teasing” during CMN. Their “teases,” especially Rush’s, amount to a political message embedded in your newscast, which otherwise strives to be fair. This degrades your show. Why not add a liberal commentator, as you initially said you might do, if you found the right one. Why isn’t Hightower right?
 Yes, I know KOA leans right. That’s ok. But your newscast, which acts like it’s a journalistic enterprise, shouldn’t lean right. Do you disagree?
 

Does CMN lean right?
 Jason
 

Olinger never replied to my last email above, and she was too busy to talk to me on the phone the day before my column deadline last week.

I give her credit for engaging with me, but I still don’t understand why she won’t air Hightower…-if she wants Colorado’s Morning News to look more like a serious journalistic effort. I mean, why not, given that she understands the need for balance on her show?

The Post, the facts, and Schaffer

Thursday, June 12th, 2008

For my Rocky column Sat., I asked U.S. Senate candidate Bob Schaffer’s campaign Manager, Dick Wadhams, about Schaffer’s accusation that there were factual errors in The Denver Post’s stories showing that Schaffer defended abusive immigration policies in the Marianas Islands, using tactics promoted by corrupt lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

In addition to ripping off Native Americans, Abramoff made big money defending the Marianas Islands’ exploitative immigration policies, which may even have resulted in forced abortions. Abramoff spearheaded a successful lobbying campaign to block immigration reform in the Marianas. Abramoff specifically targeted the House Resources Committee, which had jurisdiction over the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas, and on which Schaffer was a member. Only last month, after decades of oppositin from Abramoff and Congressmen like Schaffer, did Congress finally pass immigration reform for the Marianas.

As reported in The Post, Schaffer visited Marianas, courtesy of an organization with ties to Abramoff, and defended its immigration policies in Washington DC. Overall, Schaffer’s lobbying tactics aligned with Abramoff’s.

An April 22 report by Colorado Media Matters pointed out that Schaffer, in an interview on KFKA-AM (1310), said The Post’s stories contained “egregious reporting errors” and many facts that were “untrue and complete prevarications.

Asked about these alleged errors, Wadhams couldn’t cite any facts that were wrong in The Post’s stories.

He said the stories were ”designed to give the reader the impression that Bob Schaffer was directly involved with Jack Abramoff.” This, he said was “untrue” and “false.”

I regret not giving The Post a chance in my column to respond to Wadhams’ statement. So I asked The Post’s political editor Curtis Hubbard what the purpose of the stories was.

Hubbard emailed me:

The Post’s reporting relied on documentary evidence showing clear parallels between Jack Abramoff’s lobbying efforts on behalf of the Northern Marianas Islands and its textile manufacturers and the actions of Congressman Bob Schaffer, among others.
 
The lobbying effort included arranging trips to the islands for members of Congress as a way to develop goodwill. Abramoff then pointed to those trips as the basis for being able to successfully stymie legislative attempts to reform labor practices there.
 
The strategy also called for discrediting Interior Department advocates for labor and immigration reform on the islands by Republicans on the House Resources Committee. Documents show numerous meetings between Abramoff (and his staff) and Resource Committee staffers prior to two key hearings – hearings in which Bob Schaffer played a major role and in which he largely worked to discredit the witnesses.
 
Schaffer has said he had no direct contact with Abramoff. If his campaign is claiming he unwittingly implemented Abramoff’s strategy (perhaps at the behest of Resource Committee staffers, the committee’s chairman, or other Republicans), he should make that clear.

If the campaign is claiming that the close similarity between Schaffer’s actions and Abramoff’s plan is pure coincidence, they are free to do so. But it is our responsibility to report those congruencies and let the readers decide.

So The Post’s stories simply stated the facts, and left the reader to decide what to make of it all.When I told Wadhams, who has my respect for talking to me about this, that The Post’s stories didn’t state that there was a direct connection between Schaffer and Abramoff, Wadhams said:

 

Oh spare me. Jason, Jason. Don’t give me that. The intent of the stories was to try to give the reader the impression there was a direct connection. They were written that way. The editors wanted them written that way. They directed they were written that way. Give me a break. What are you talking about?

 

I told Wadhams that Schaffer had taken a more extreme position in his radio interview. Schaffer didn’t talk about the impression the stories created but about facts in the stories. Here’s our exchange on this:

 

Jason: [Schaffer] said there were many facts, actually, not just one, that were wrong, that are just untrue. These stories actually asked the question. They never said that there was a direct connection [between Schaffer and Abramoff].

Wadhams: Oh bullshit. Read the stories, Jason.
 
Jason: I’ll read those stories.
 

Wadhams: I’m sure you have and I’m sure you took great glee in those stories, because they did your bidding for you because you are against Schaffer and for Udall. But what’s your point now.
 

Jason: My point is, I don’t think the stories lied.
 

Wadhams: Don’t wrap yourself in objectivity here.
 

In my interview, for a brief moment, Wadhams sort of acknowledged that the stories did not contain factual errors. But he didn’t say that Schaffer misspoke or that Schaffer should clarify his position.  Here’s our exchange:

Jason: Well, there are these facts that you say that The Post got wrong?

Wadhams: No, I said that the stories were designed to give the reader the impression that Bob Schaffer was directly involved with Jack Abramoff. That’s patently untrue and false. That’s what I said. And that is absolutely what we said from the beginning. And we haven’t changed our reaction to those stories.

That’s not what Schaffer said in his radio interview. If I were in Wadhams’ shoes, I’d just admit that Schaffer got it wrong and that The Post’s facts were indeed correct. I’d ask Schaffer himself to explain what he really meant when he said The Post’s facts were wrong.

And I’d tell Schaffer to apologize publicly to The Post.

 

 

 

 

  

   

 

More on C-Span’s rightward tilt

Thursday, February 21st, 2008

In 2004, I studied C-Span’s “Washington Journal” and showed that it favored right-wing guests over progressive ones.

Now the Center for Economic and Policy Research has studied C-Span more broadly and showed that C-Span overwhelmingly favored conservative think tanks in its coverage last year.

C-Span shouldn’t be written off as a meaningless space holder on cable. It’s an important conduit of serious information. It shouldn’t favor right-wing ideas.

Independence Institute: Loved and Embedded by Denver Media

Saturday, September 29th, 2007

In my column on Saturday, I argued that the Independence Institute, the self-described “free-market think tank,”  projects a disproportionately loud voice in the Colorado media.

The Golden-based organization plays a unique role in state politics compared to other local policy shops. It dedicates a large share of its resources to issue advocacy, communications and media. 

And as its impressive media presence demonstrates, II is quite effective at getting its message out.  By way of regular features in the press, television and appearances in news articles, II enjoys a status of being a newsmaker and conservative source for reporters.

The question for journalists, editors and television producers, however, is how to handle such a behemoth with an aggressive media strategy and ideological bent?

Here’s some more information about the Institute’s media profile.

INDEPENDENCE INSTITUTE STAFF EMBEDDED IN COLORADO MEDIANo organization on the left or right of the political spectrum has so many of its staffers doing part time media gigs on the side:President Jon Caldara hosts his own talk show on KOA radio and KBDI Channel 12. In addition, he subs for Mike Rosen on KOA.

Jessica Peck Corry, policy analyst for II, is part of the current crop of Denver Post Colorado Voices columnists, and she’s the “Diary of a Mad Voter” blogger on the Post’s new PoliticsWest.com website.

Dave Kopel, research director at the Independence Institute, is an “On the Media”
columnist at the Rocky, as well as a regular guest on KBDI’s Colorado Inside Out.

Amy Oliver, operations director for II, has her own radio show on KFKA 1310, Greeley/Ft. Collins.

Undoubtedly, some left-leaning organizations wouldn’t want a media gig. They’d rather focus limited funds on lobbying and PR work that targets a narrow segment of the population. Being a host on KOA, for example, isn’t a wise use of time for the leaders of many nonprofit groups.

But surely at least some left-leaning organizations would jump at the chance to have one or more of the media platforms enjoyed by the Independence Institute.

KBDI President Wick Rowland told me he’d work with a group like the Bell Policy Center on a show, and the Bell spokeswoman Heather McGregor said her organization would produce some type of show if it had grant money.

“We’d like to be invited on Colorado Inside Out more often,” McGregor told me. “Wade [Buchanan] and Rich Jones have been on 4 or 5 times. There’s no cost to us.”

OP-EDS BY INDEPENDENCE INSTITUTE STAFF

Here’s a list of op-ed placements by Independence Institute staff.

Staff Name and Position                                                                    Op-eds
 

Pamela Benigno, Director, Education Policy Center                               0

Linda Gorman  , Director, Health Care Policy Center                            0

Dave Kopel, Research Director                                                          18       

Randal O’Toole, Director, Center for the Am. Dream                           0

Jessica Peck Corry, Policy Analyst, Property Rights Project                  6

Ben DeGrow, Policy Analyst, Education Policy Center                          0

Marya  DeGrow, Research Associate, Ed. Policy Center                      0

Penn Pfiffner, Director, Fiscal Policy Center                                          0

Amy Oliver, Operations Director                                                          1

Jon Caldara, President                                                                          0

It doesn’t look like II staff places more op-eds in the dailies than the staff from comparable organizations, if you don’t count Dave Kopel, who writes bimonthly for the Rocky. Jessica Peck Corry has the temporary “Colorado Voices” position at the Post, accounting for three of her op-eds.

It could be worth analyzing placements by II “fellows,” like Jay Ambrose, whose op-eds are distributed by his former employer, Scripps Howard. He had six op-eds in the Rocky this year, on a variety of subjects.

To be fair, you’d have to compare op-eds placed by II fellows with those published by advisors to comparable left-leaning organizations. The results of such a comparison might not be all that meaningful, since unpaid advisors presumably have their own agenda.

NEWS ARTICLES IN 2007 WITH QUOTES OR REFERENCES TO THE INDEPENDENCE INSTITUTE

Independence Institute is mentioned in staff-written news stories by the dailies more than any other comparable issue-advocacy group.

Group                                                              News               Post
Independence Institute                                    19                    19

Bell Policy Center                                          2                      8                     

ProgressNow and ProgressNowAction            5                      5

Colorado Fiscal Policy Institute                        4                      6

Focus on the Family                                       13                    15

Colorado Union of Taxpayers                          1                      1

Colorado Progressive   Coalition                      6                      7

Journalists turn to the Independence Institute for a wide variety of opinions, ranging from FasTracks to green subsidies.

In some cases, the II is in a “newsmaker” role when it’s quoted, but in most cases it’s not. By “newsmaker role” I mean II might be, for example, releasing a report or threatening a lawsuit. I did not assess whether the “news” that II was “making” was in fact newsworthy. But you can argue that in some cases the organization got more attention for its “news” than it deserved. For example, the II got repeated ink for threatening a lawsuit on the tax freeze, even though such a lawsuit hasn’t been filed.

CALDARA IS THE MOST-QUOTED POLICY ACTIVIST
 
Jon Caldara appears to be the dailies’ number-one favorite public policy activist. He was quoted in a total of 22 news articles this year in the dailies. As a newsmaker, he was quoted eight times.

Even if you deduct the instances when Caldara was quoted as a newsmaker, he was still quoted twice as much as any comparable activist, except James Dobson of Focus on the Family, who’s not really comparable to Caldara. I did not count a guy like Mason Tvert, of Safer, who’s a newsmaker on a very narrow issue.

Name                                                              News               Post    
Jon Caldara                                                      13                    9

John Andrews                                                   7                    0

Michael Huttner, ProgressNow                         1                    4

Rich Jones, Bell                                                1                      2

Wade Buchanan, Bell                                       0                      2

Kathy White, CO Fiscal Policy Inst.                 2                     1

Carol Hedges, CO Fiscal Policy Inst.               0                      2

James Dobson, Focus on the Family                 4                      5

Bill Vandenberg, CO Progressive Coalition      2                      4

Most of the Independence Institute’s views align with the fiscally conservative branch of the Republican Party. The center describes itself as “free market.” A smaller number of its views are left-leaning.

There may be fewer conservative public policy organizations, but there certainly are conservatives willing to talk to reporters any time of day or night.

Independence Institute doesn’t have a monopoly on articulate and conservative policy mavens.

FALSEHOODS BY INDEPENDENCE INSTITUTE STAFF IN THE MEDIA
 
In their media appearances, Caldara and other Independence Institute staff mix up their facts, as documented by Colorado Media Matters. Click here to see a summary of this.

INDEPENDENT INSTITUTE IS NOT IDENTIFIED AS CONSERVATIVE/LIBERTARIAN OR FREE MARKET

When reporters mention the Independence Institute, they should identify it as “conservative,” “conservative-libertarian,” “free-market,” or something like that, so readers understand the dominant ideology of the outfit.

Sometimes the Independence Institute is properly described; other times it isn’t.

Liberal groups, like ProgressNow, seem to be labeled “liberal” or “progressive” more frequently, but I did not evaluate this methodically.

INDEPENDENCE INSTITUTE IS OFTEN QUOTED UNCRITICALLY

Colorado Media Matters has documented that reporters will not only quote Caldara, but do so uncritically. In its May report, CMM noted that Caldara was quoted by local media as comparing Gov. Bill Ritter’s mill levy freeze to “fiscal date rape.” But Caldara was not asked to explain this statement or prove its veracity. Caldara’s point was that the Colorado Legislature did not ask voters to sign off on the tax freeze, prior to approving it. But, in fact, local districts where the freeze will be applied had already approved it. And furthermore, the freeze isn’t a tax increase. Journalists reported Caldara’s sound bite, but did not point out that local districts already approved the tax change.

 

Fox identifies Foley as Dem

Thursday, October 19th, 2006

Fair and wrong. As documented by Media Matters for America, Fox News’ O’Reilly Factor and the Associated Press last week actually identified Republican Mark Foley as a Democrat.

In case you’ve been on a news fast, he’s the one who resigned after his lurid email messages to congressional pages were exposed.

Fox prides itself on fair and accurate reporting, so I can’t see the Fox producers saying, yes, let’s just label him a Democrat on the TV screen and see if anyone notices. Can you?

Caplis Vs. Reuters

Tuesday, July 25th, 2006

The Israelis are bombing Lebanon July 14 and Reuters, the world’s largest news agency with 2,300 editorial staff in 130 countries, reports that the Vatican “deplores” the attack on a “free and sovereign nation.”     

On his afternoon KHOW talk radio show, Dan Caplis announces that Reauters is known to be biased, so we should be skeptical of its news report about the Vatican.

What bias, I’m wondering? Anti-Catholic?

Caplis usually seems more careful than his fellow talk-radio conservatives about throwing around accusations of media bias. I called him for a comment, but he did not respond.

Most likely, Caplis thinks Reuters has a liberal bias but I doubt he can produce a study backing this up. He might point to a story or two that shows a liberal bias, but this does not support a sweeping accusation of bias, which is an insult to the journalists who work for Reuters. Such accusations hurt journalism and poison public debate because they make people tune out.