By making his wild allegations, Beck was asking listeners to ignore the fact that law enforcement officials had previously, and repeatedly, denied earlier right-wing media claims that the Saudi student had been taken into “custody,” or was in any way responsible for the blast.
Indeed, officials at Immigrations and Customs Enforcement and the Department of Homeland Security both soundly denied the story, explaining that there were two different Saudi nationals: one recovering in a Boston hospital who had witnessed and been injured in the explosions but was not a suspect, and another in ICE custody who was unrelated to the bombing investigation. Beck responded by calling for President Obama to be impeached for what he considered the sprawling government cover-up that now surrounded the student, Saudi Arabia and Al Qaeda.
So yeah, it was that kind of week for the right-wing media. It was a debacle.
In the same week that Pulitzer prizes were announced honoring the finest in American journalism, many in the far-right media worked to set news standards in mindless, awful behavior in the wake of the Boston attack.
Faced with covering the most important American terror news story in a decade, too many players opted to just make stuff up. Prompting witch hunts, they cast innocents as would-be killers and then couldn’t be bothered with apologies.
It was a memorable week in which the conservative media’s highest profile newspaper, Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post, seemed committed to getting as many stories wrong about the Boston attack as possible.
Chicago Tribune columnist Rex Huppke attracted a great deal of attention last April when, disgusted by the avalanche of misinformation being tossed around on the campaign trail, he wrote an obituary for Facts.
The piece rapidly became a graveyard smash and an Internet sensation. It was shared on social media nearly 89,000 times in a matter of days.
Since that time, we’ve been through a hotly contested presidential election. So what was the impact on poor old Facts? Any likelihood of a resurrection, or did the politicos simply drive a stake through his heart?
Sounds like Huppke is leaning toward the latter.
“It got really bizarre,” he says. “There was a level of dishonesty out there that was pretty striking.”
Huppke cites Republican challenger Mitt Romney’s widely debunked claim that Jeep was moving production jobs from the United States to China; Democratic House Speaker Harry Reid’s evidence-free assertion that Romney failed to pay taxes for a decade; and Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan’s error-laden convention speech as just a few of the many signs that Facts remains deeply buried. When Ryan said his iPod playlist “starts with AC/DC and ends with Zeppelin,” it was game over.
“It’s hard, because we’re bombarded with information, and if you have a life — you’re going to work, taking your kids to school, and finally you go home and fall asleep — it’s impossible to really keep on top of what’s happening and what’s right and wrong,” Huppke says.
“For as great as all the access to information is, it has created an enormous amount of noise,” he adds.
Huppke says the rise of blogs, which do not have the same checks and balances as traditional media, played a role in sealing Facts’ fate. “But when you got to Twitter — everyone and their uncle is a reporter.”
Twitter is similar to a game of telephone, Huppke says. “If you have 20 people on the line, and you whisper something to the person next to you, it’s totally different by the time it reaches the end of the line.” Except this time, not everyone’s laughing when the last person in line mistakes “banana” for “Romney’s proposing a $5 trillion tax cut.”
“Saying, ‘I [read] this thing in the [newspaper] that Obama did’ and ‘I heard on Twitter what Obama did’ is very different,” Huppke says. “I think Twitter is like another vehicle for letting us zip around Facts.”
Do people even miss Facts, or are they perfectly content hanging out with the survivors listed in Facts’ obit, his brothers, Rumor and Innuendo, and his sister, Emphatic Assertion?
The Nate Silver Election: The pollsters and the pundits got it right, and Dick Morris is still looking for a Romney landslide
Call it the Nate Silver election.
The New York Times’ acclaimed and assailed FiveThirtyEight blogger, who analyzes polls with his way-cool special algorithm, has been telling us for some time that President Barack Obama was going to win a second term.
This brought him all sorts of opprobrium from conservatives livid that he could be so blithely be predicting certain victory for the beleaguered incumbent when polls showed Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney were virtually tied in the popular vote.
But the critics were totally missing the point. Elections in this country are decided by the meshuganah electoral college. And those swing state polls were making it clear, although by the narrowest of margins, that Obama was going to once again be the One.
Silver, and much of the mainstream media, got it right. The polls were tight, but the analysis suggested correctly that Obama was going to win again. The much-maligned narrative wasn’t “skewed” — it was on target.
The obsessive focus on polls this time around was no doubt over the top. But given the tightness of the election, the intense passions surrounding it and insatiable thirst of so many to know who was going to win, I’m not sure it was a major war crime.
One of the major casualties of the digital revolution has been investigative reporting at legacy news outlets. But apparently the new owner of the Orange County Register didn’t get the memo.
The Santa Ana, California-based daily is adding four reporters to its watchdog roster.
“The new owners are investing in the paper,” says Chris Knap, the Register’s investigations editor. “Investigative reporting is one of the things they wanted to focus on.”
In July, 2100 Trust, a Boston investment company, acquired the paper from its longtime owner. Just two months later, the Register posted three job openings for three investigative reporters, one for legal and social issues, one for computer-assisted reporting and one for education. The paper will also be hiring a business investigator.
“Investigative reporting is one of the most important roles a newspaper plays in its community,” says Aaron Kushner, publisher of the Register and CEO of its parent company, Freedom Communications. “It was a very easy and straightforward decision to expand.”
Both writing and editing have their charms for Scott Kraft.
“There’s really nothing better in this business than to be a writer, being a correspondent, especially,” says Kraft, 57, who became deputy managing editor of the Los Angeles Times at the end of August. “Being an editor is very challenging as well, and I have influence over many more stories than as a writer.”
“The most fun an editor can have is to work with talented reporters and editors,” he adds. “There’s many talented people here. It’s so much fun to watch talented journalists do their thing.”
Growing up in Oklahoma and Kansas, Kraft always knew he wanted to be in journalism. When he was in elementary school, he started a newspaper in his Ardmore, Oklahoma, neighborhood.
“Being a journalist, you have this wonderful excuse to ask people anything, to nose around, find stuff out,” he says.
Kraft, who majored in journalism at Kansas State University, worked for the Associated Press for eight years before joining the L.A. Times in 1984.
Kraft was attracted to the paper because it was considered a writer’s paper and because it had a large roster of foreign correspondents. Kraft wanted to be one of the latter. “I’ve always been a correspondent at heart,” he says, “I was just enamored of foreign correspondents and their lifestyle. I thought it would be a wonderful way to discover the world.”
In true journalist fashion, Karen Gadbois, cofounder and staff writer at The Lens in New Orleans, listened to her gut. Her hunch that a murder victim had a criminal record led to a story, one that ultimately earned her the Society of Professional Journalists’ annual Ethics in Journalism Award.
Henry “Mike” Ainsworth was killed in January while trying to prevent a carjacking. Despite Ainsworth’s heroic efforts, Gadbois believed there was something missing from the story.
The New Orleans Police Department has a history of revealing crime victims’ criminal records, a practice widely criticized by many in the community. Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas has consistently released arrest records because he said he felt it showed the community that much of the violence in the city involves people with similar backgrounds. Yet in this case, the police did not mention a record.
And there was a difference in this case: while much of New Orleans’ crime is black on black, Ainsworth was white.
“I felt like this is curious that this victim’s criminal record hadn’t been given out,” Gadbois says.