Ken Silverstein’s Tell-All Piece on First Look Media: Where Journalism Goes to Die

The ultimate nightmare job?
Media • Views: 21,687

When Ken Silverstein was hired by the Greenwald/Omidyar project First Look Media, he thought it would be his dream job; complete freedom to cover the stories he wanted to cover.

But the dream turned into a nightmare almost immediately, with editorial incompetence, bureaucratic infighting, and an extreme libertarian/left ideological agenda that militated against telling the truth. The title of Silverstein’s article says it all: Where Journalism Goes to Die.

Probably the most damning part of this inside look at First Look is Silverstein’s description of what happened when their coverage of the popular podcast Serial ran afoul of the dogmatic attitudes of Jeremy Scahill and Glenn Greenwald:

Given the viral success of the show, our follow-up stories were a huge success—possibly the biggest thing The Intercept has ever published. They were, though, hugely controversial inside our organization. Why wouldn’t a huge editorial success be celebrated inside The Intercept? Because we were siding with The Man.

Now I believe the American justice system is badly flawed and often racist, but in this instance, I firmly believe, the system worked. I believe Adnan Syed murdered Hae Min Lee and was rightly prosecuted for it.

But I came to realize that the system working correctly—and the right people going to jail—isn’t a good narrative to tell at The Intercept.

Publishing the Serial stories was a huge headache: There were constant delays and frustrations getting them out, even after it became clear they were drawing huge traffic. Our internal critics believed that Natasha and I had taken the side of the prosecutors—and hence the state. That support was unacceptable at a publication that claimed it was entirely independent and would be relentlessly adversarial towards The Man. That held true even in this case, when The Man successfully prosecuted a killer and sent him to jail.

Some colleagues, like Jeremy Scahill, were upset by the first installment of Natasha’s interviews with Jay, the state’s flawed-but-convincing key witness, and our co-bylined two-part interview with the lead prosecutor, Kevin Urick, both of whom had refused to speak to Sarah Koenig for her Serial podcast. Jeremy even threatened to quit over the second installment, according to two of my colleagues who witnessed what they described as his “temper tantrum” in the New York office. He told them he couldn’t believe that we’d so uncritically accepted the state’s view of the murder—even though our stories were backed up by our own research, our unique reporting and our reading of court documents. One day at the office, frustrated, Natasha wrote “Team Adnan” on a sign on Jeremy’s office door.

Video: CBS Staffers and Former Correspondents Strongly Contradict O’Reilly’s “War Zone” Claims

O’Reilly’s stories continue to unravel
Media • Views: 19,769


There are now seven journalists on the record who were with Bill O’Reilly in Argentina in 1982, and they’re all contradicting his “war zone” stories: CBS Staffers Refute Bill O’Reilly’s ‘War Zone’ Story.

On his show “The O’Reilly Factor” in 2013, O’Reilly told a guest, “I was in a situation one time, in a war zone in Argentina, in the Falklands, where my photographer got run down and then hit his head and was bleeding from the ear on the concrete. And the army was chasing us. I had to make a decision. And I dragged him off, you know, but at the same time, I’m looking around and trying to do my job, but I figure I had to get this guy out of there because that was more important.”

Mother Jones challenged some of these claims. O’Reilly responded by accusing the magazine of trying to smear him to hurt Fox News, and said the report’s co-author, David Corn, is a liar and an “irresponsible guttersnipe.”

Eric Engberg, a CBS correspondent who was also in Buenos Aires at the time, defended Corn in a Facebook post on Friday and said, “It was not a war zone or even close. It was an ‘expense account zone.’”

Longtime NBC News correspondent George Lewis, who was also there at the time, agreed with Engberg, writing on Facebook, “Cushiest war I ever covered.”

Did O’Reilly’s photographer get “run down” and bloodied?

CNN has interviewed seven people who were there for CBS, and none of them recall anyone from the network being injured.

“If somebody got hurt, we all would have known,” Alvarez said.

Did Bill O’Reilly Fabricate a “Combat Situation” During the Falklands War?

It wasn’t a war zone - it was an “expense account zone”
Media • Views: 18,965

From Eric Jon Engberg’s Facebook post about this event; you should also read the comments at his post linked below because other media workers add their recollections.

I remember looking on a monitor at the long stand-up O’Reilly ordered his crew to shoot, which was never used on the air. He shot this description in the middle of a clearly angry, chanting crowd. As a reporter I wondered why he would think he needed video of himself standing in the middle of the crowd when his own crew and others had taken plenty of good crowd pictures that didn’t have O’Reilly standing in the middle of the frame blocking the action. You don’t shoot a long stand-up when you have plenty of good pictures of the event you are covering. What O’Reilly was doing was in the realm of local news. I didn’t know at the time that he had also violated the bureau chief’s order on use of lights, but I wondered why would any correspondent would imperil his colleagues by turning on lights during a riot.

O’Reilly has said he was in a situation in Argentina where “my photographer got run down and hit his head and was bleeding from the ear on the concrete and the army was chasing us.” The only place where such an injury could have occurred was the relatively tame riot I have described above. Neither Doyle, who would have been immediately informed of injury to any CBS personnel, nor anyone else who was working the story remembers a cameraman being injured that night. No one who reported back to our hotel newsroom after the disturbance was injured; if a cameraman had been “bleeding from the ear” he would have immediately reported that to his superiors at the hotel. This part of O’Reilly’s Argentina story is not credible without further confirmation, and O’Reilly should identify the cameraman by name so he can be questioned about the alleged injury.

Much More:

Also See

Updates on Bill O’Reilly’s “War Zones” Scandal

Billo has a problem
Media • Views: 22,778

David Corn lists The Questions Bill O’Reilly Won’t Answer.

And Media Matters has put together a video of O’Reilly’s greatest hits, with transcripts of his long history of exaggerating his “combat zone” experiences: Bill O’Reilly’s “Combat Situation” Reporting, in His Own Words.


UPDATE at 2/20/15 6:20:19 pm by Charles Johnson

And O’Reilly is now tripling down, with assists from Bernie Goldberg and Geraldo Rivera.


Mother Jones Blows the Whistle on Bill O’Reilly’s Numerous “War Zone” Lies

So much worse than Brian Williams
Media • Views: 23,351



As David Corn and Daniel Schulman report, Bill O’Reilly Has His Own Brian Williams Problem — and it makes Williams look like a piker when it comes to lying about war zone experiences. Because nobody denies that Williams was actually there in Iraq, but O’Reilly apparently made up entire stories about being in combat zones that were completely untrue.

Just go read it; the lies are exhaustively documented. But I’ll go out on a limb and predict Fox News will do absolutely nothing about it.

UPDATE at 2/19/15 4:16:48 pm by Charles Johnson

Bill O’Reilly: Mother Jones Report ‘Garbage’

Bill O’Reilly says a new Mother Jones report alleging that the Fox News host made false claims about his Falklands War experience is “a piece of garbage” and that its principal author, David Corn, is “a liar.”

In a telephone interview with the On Media blog, O’Reilly called Corn a “despicable guttersnipe” who has been trying to take him down “for years.”

“It’s a hit piece,” O’Reilly said. “Everything I said about what I reported in South and Central America is true. Everything.”


“I was not on the Falkland Islands and I never said I was. I was in Buenos Aires… In Buenos Aires we were in a combat situation after the Argentines surrendered.”

As he writes in The No Spin Zone, O’Reilly was in Buenos Aires when thousands of Argentines took to the streets to protest the military junta for surrendering to the Brits. O’Reilly says that the Army shot into the crowd. (Corn and his colleague Daniel Schulman say this was not war action.)

“It was clear that I did not say I was in the Falkland Islands. I’ve done myriad interviews over the years and I never said that,” O’Reilly told On Media.

UPDATE at 2/19/15 4:53:55 pm by Charles Johnson

David Corn fires back:

“Yesterday I checked in with [Fox News spokesperson] Dana Klinghoffer, and said, ‘if I have questions about a personality is it best to direct them to you?’ She said yes. So this morning at 8:30 I sent them a detailed list of questions — a dozen or more questions — with all the individual quotes and citations that the piece reports. I asked them to explain O’Reilly’s comments and to explain contradictions between what he said and the public record. And, to make things easier for Fox News, I added links wherever possible,” Corn said.

“I presented all these quotes and assertions that he made at 8:30 a.m. Then I started calling at 9 a.m. to make sure my email had been received,” Corn continued. “I called Dana about four times today, left voicemails, and sent her two follow-up emails, asking that she get back to me by 3 p.m. That would give them most of the day to respond, which seemed fair and balanced to me.”

“When I had nothing from Dana, I sent [Fox News Executive Vice President] Bill Shine an email alerting him that I’d sent this email to Dana and even said that if they needed more time, I would try to accomodate them. I never heard back from Bill and I never heard back from Dana —- so at about 5:30, I published the piece.”

Corn said that O’Reilly’s refusal to comment ahead of publication demonstrated that he would rather hide behind name calling than address the allegations in his report.

“Rather than calling anyone a liar or a guttersnipe, he had ample opportunity to deal with the facts of this case. He elected not to, and instead engaged in name calling,” Corn said. “He chose not to address the issue, he chose to throw mud. And I would say that his right to impugn others ought to be diminished until he answers the basic questions about his statements.”

Paris City Council Votes to Sue Fox News Over False “No-Go Zones” Reports

The other shoe drops
Media • Views: 19,982

Last month, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo announced on CNN that she planned to sue Fox News for defaming the city of Paris with their false claims about Muslim-controlled “no-go zones.” (And I should add that conservatives all over the media are still repeating these false claims.)

Today in Paris, the City Council voted to go ahead with the lawsuit, which promises to provide much amusement to us connoisseurs of inadvertent right wing humor.

Lawyers for Fox News say they’ll fight the suit, of course, because fear-mongering lies are protected free speech in the US.

A law firm representing Fox News said the broadcaster would fight any lawsuit brought in Paris.

“The decision by the City of Paris to bring legal proceedings against a United States news organization is antithetical to free speech,” according to a statement provided by Fox News from lawyer Dori Ann Hanswirth of the Hogan Lovells law firm. “Fox News will invoke every protection afforded it under all applicable laws.”

Canada’s Fox News Equivalent Is Going Out of Business

Buh bye, Sun News
Media • Views: 28,145

Right wing propaganda is apparently not very popular in Canada. Sun News Network, the Canadian equivalent of the US’s Fox News, is shutting down tomorrow.

Sun News Network will go dark on Friday following a fruitless search for a buyer.

With mounting financial losses, there was no alternative to closing the network, The Huffington Post Canada has learned. Sun Media Corp. spent months actively seeking a potential buyer but found no party capable of taking over the channel.

An official announcement will be made Friday morning when it will already be off air.

The company said the outcome is not its desired goal and that it tried everything it could in the past four years to create an audience base large enough to turn a profit, but the obstacles it faced were insurmountable. The company will lay off an estimated 200 employees, but the exact number has yet to be confirmed at this time.

The Other Shoe Drops: Brian Williams Suspended for 6 Months

Media • Views: 22,227

Wasn’t too hard to see this one coming; as Jon Stewart pointed out last night, practically the entire media establishment was baying for blood: Brian Williams Suspended for 6 Months Without Pay.

Brian Williams Announces Hiatus From NBC Nightly News for “Several Days”

Saw this coming
Media • Views: 25,695

Here’s the statement from Brian Williams at NBC:

In the midst of a career spent covering and consuming news, it has become painfully apparent to me that I am presently too much a part of the news, due to my actions.

As Managing Editor of NBC Nightly News, I have decided to take myself off of my daily broadcast for the next several days, and Lester Holt has kindly agreed to sit in for me to allow us to adequately deal with this issue. Upon my return, I will continue my career-long effort to be worthy of the trust of those who place their trust in us.

Associated Press Confirms Flooding and Floating Bodies Near Brian Williams’ Hotel During Katrina

The Ginger Avenger’s big scoop blows up
Media • Views: 35,020

Following up on our previous post about the now almost certainly false claim launched by wingnut stalker Chuck C. Johnson that NBC anchor Brian Williams was “lying” about seeing a dead body floating in a flooded street from his hotel room in New Orleans, the Associated Press has now confirmed that:

  1. Brian Williams was staying at the Ritz Carlton Hotel.
  2. The Ritz Carlton did experience severe flooding.
  3. There were definitely dead bodies floating in the streets in this area.

Here’s the AP report: NBC Launches Internal Probe on Brian Williams’ Iraq Claims. (h/t: @ProgressGA.)

Questions also were raised about statements Williams made on coverage of Hurricane Katrina, which was one of his proudest moments at NBC. In a 2006 interview with former Disney CEO Michael Eisner, Williams twice referenced seeing a body float down a street in New Orleans.

“When you look out of your hotel room window in the French Quarter and watch a man float by face down, when you see bodies that you last saw in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, and swore to yourself that you would never see in your country,” Williams said.


The remarks drew suspicion because during Katrina there was relatively little flooding in New Orleans’ French Quarter.

Williams was staying at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in New Orleans, according to an NBC source who was not authorized to speak on personnel matters and requested anonymity.

Police Capt. James Scott, who was a commander in the downtown area, said he saw a body floating along the edge of the French Quarter on a street about four blocks from the Ritz-Carlton, which was surrounded by up to 3 feet of water.

Alex Brandon, a Washington-based photographer for The Associated Press, said there was enough water to launch a flat-bottomed boat from in front of the Ritz. He said he photographed a dead body floating on another street a few blocks from the Ritz.

If Brian Williams lied about his helicopter being shot down in Iraq, that’s still a serious problem for him. But the news outlets that fell for Chuck C. Johnson’s bogus story claiming he was also lying about seeing a floating body from his hotel room were clearly taken in by a right wing con man.

We can only hope that more of the media have learned their lesson now about treating this guy as a credible source.

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 Frank says:

I'm not black, but there's a whole lot of times I wish I could say I'm not white.