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Erik Wemple
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Posted at 10:45 AM ET, 08/22/2012

Obama White House manipulating local reporters? Mediology Aug. 22

FROM THE RIGHT

*Matthew Sheffield of NewsBusters casts a disapproving glance on the alleged practice of the White House telling reporters “what topics to ask about.” Here’s the allegation:

Instead of being asked to account for ridiculous statements from his campaign staff and the outrageous claims of Harry Reid, President Obama is using hand-picked local journalists and requiring them to ask about the budget deal he signed with Republicans a year ago which requires automatic budget cuts called sequestration in the event no official budget is signed. Many of these cuts will be to the military, something that the Obama White House is keen on letting swing state voters know about.

Dial back a few months, and you’ll find another example resembling this practice. The Obama White House was ready to announce a new position on gay marriage. It called ABC News and asked them to send Robin Roberts on down. OK! came the answer. Most of journalism was just fine with the setup, to my own disappointment.

Now this. Thing is, turning to local reporters with a wink-wink deal that they ask a particular question is sound politics. We’ll see it for decades and decades to come. It’s hard to argue that local reporters shouldn’t get a turn with the president, even though they don’t live the issues day in and day out the way the White House press corps does. The trouble comes when the outreach to local reporters and Entertainment Tonights comes at the same time that the president is stingy with full-blown news conferences.

But let’s not forget that this approach has backfired on the Obama White House. Think back to the Larry Conners incident — a St. Louis TV talent by that name ambushed the president in a sit-down session back in April.

*And NB is fuming that “Days of Our Lives” will add a gay-bullying plotline to its repertoire this coming season. Read the six paragraphs in the post of NB’s Lauren Taylor on this topic: How an actor on “Days” “shills for the gay lifestyle” and how two new shows on NBC and CBS ”attempt to normalize gay families.” Somehow you get the sense that NB doesn’t want gays on television.

*Big Journalism is touting ABC News’s Jake Tapper’s assertion that the media in 2008 “helped tip the scales” in favor of Barack Obama. “It wasn’t always the fairest coverage and I hope it doesn’t happen again,” he says.

FROM THE LEFT

*Media Matters for America’s John Whitehouse deplores the Niall Ferguson debacle at Newsweek. Ferguson’s fact-challenged cover story hit-piece on President Obama, as it turns out, wasn’t fact-checked by Newsweek because Newsweek has no fact-checking department.

Whitehouse deplores the situation:

Meanwhile, Newsweek’s avoidance of fact-checking is just one example of a larger erosion of journalism, led by shrinking newsrooms, layoffs, and more. The erosion of the structures of journalism in turn fuels a growing lack of credibility for the media in general, and offers an opportunity for the conservative echo chamber to fill the gap.

This interpretation paints a too-bleak picture of contemporary journalism. True that legacy outlets like Newsweek lose a step when they fail to scrub their goods, yet the volume of fact-checking activity taking place every day in American journalism these days is impressive. Bill Adair, the top guy at PolitiFact, has this to say on the matter: “An opinion piece with questionable factual claims certainly isn’t a new phenomenon. What’s new is that everyone — not just subscribers of the print edition — can now see it instantly and have a substantive discussion about whether it’s accurate. And thanks to independent fact-checkers, we can assess what’s true in the article — and what’s not.”

*MMfA also bombs Richard Miniter for what it alleges is a gross inaccuracy in his book, “Leading from Behind.”

As Miniter puts it on page 117, rather than acting decisively “it took the president almost two years to make a decision to act” after intelligence agencies identified “bin Laden’s hideout in the first few months of the Obama administration.” There is, however, a fatal flaw in Miniter’s allegation: he’s off by a full year.

*Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting is jumping in on the Niall Ferguson story:

Once you understand that this is the level of dishonesty, there’s not much more that needs be said. But the piece is actually full of similarly muddled arguments. Such as:
“Certainly, the stock market is well up (by 74 percent) relative to the close on Inauguration Day 2009. But the total number of private-sector jobs is still 4.3 million below the January 2008 peak.”
That would be an even more convincing case against Obama if you could argue he was president during 2008.


By  |  10:45 AM ET, 08/22/2012

Tags:  newsbusters, breitbart.com, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, media matters for america, robin roberts, abc news, larry conners, president obama, matthew sheffield

 
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