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Sunday, February 20

"Pundita!! The New York Times is going after Bush again! On the eve of his important meetings in Europe!"

"Pundita!! The New York Times is going after Bush again! On the eve of his important meetings in Europe! Have you seen the Times story up on Drudge about the Wead book!? Why doesn't the Times just move into the [UK] Guardian headquarters and free up all that office space in Manhattan?
[Signed] Sleepless in St. Louis again"

Dear SISLA:

From the few reviews now up on Barnes & Noble, which do not mention the tapes in question, it seems the part in Wead's book ("The Raising of a President") that deals with the Bush conversations Wead secretly taped is a small part of the writing.

But from the Times article up on Drudge, clearly the NYT was involved in the controversial part of the book for several weeks prior to the book's January publication. So, given the book's date of publication and the date of the Times article (today), it does seem at this moment that the Times waited until the day of Bush's trip to Europe to publicize the tapes.

According to the B&N website, the Wead offering is published by Atria Books, which is an imprint of Simon & Schuster. If this is indeed the same book the Times story mentions, then the plot thickens.

Simon & Schuster is owned by Viacom, which also owns CBS. That's the same CBS which had their knuckles rapped about the very unbalanced 60 Minutes II treatment of Bush's National Guard Service, to put it politely.

Viacom's problem is that several members of the public loudly charged that 60 Minutes was serving as a showcase for Simon & Schuster books. CBS hotly denied the charge. But since the uproar, 60 Minutes (and 60 Minutes II) are under very close scrutiny.

It might be that 60 Minutes slips in mention of the book, but as of this moment, the 60 Minutes schedule for tonight is not showing any such segment.

To boil it down, there was no way 60 Minutes could do a segment on the Wead book on this evening's broadcast without raising howls from the public. So it's possible that The New York Times was doing Viacom a favor, given that it would sticky if 60 Minutes did a tie-in segment with the Atria book.

Pundita sympathizes with your irritation, but the Times editorial board doesn't seem to think that the United States is at war. So they would not see the timing of their story about the Bush tapes as an attempt to distract Europe from the points that Bush wants to impress on Europe.

On the other hand, the Times probably has more readers in Europe than the US. If so, it would make sense for the Times to spring something on the President just as he's making what is a triumphal return to Europe.

In any case, within a couple days the Times story will be all over Europe. By the time the Guardian and other Bush-bashing Euro rags get finished interpreting the story, this will add fuel to European fears that Bush is a religious fanatic.

Andrew Wallenstein, who did a 12/06/04 piece for the Hollywood Reporter on the Viacom controversy ("Viacom taking more of '60 Minutes' time"), had sobering words about the broader implications.
In fairness, it's hard to blame "60 Minutes" for its story selections considering that it is part of a media conglomerate with many tentacles in an increasingly consolidated industry. From CNN to Fox News Channel to the Big Three networks, all of the major U.S. TV news outlets are now cogs of media and entertainment behemoths.
However, the type of consolidation that the CBS News/S&S partnerships represented is called 'vertical integration,' which is a way for parent corporations to integrate the marketing of products/services that are created by various companies within the conglomerate.

Vertical integration was not conceived to be a way of cooking up stories that are treated as hard news merely as a marketing ploy for a company product. That's exactly how Viacom used vertical integration, until they were caught with their hands in the cookie jar. With some understatement, the CBS News part in the ploy is not an example of ethical journalism.

The best defense is to get to know your friendly conglomerate and all its spinoffs, and keep a close watch on their exercises in vertical integration. Because if you think propaganda is the worst thing that can happen to the nightly news, you don't know how creative today's marketeers can be.

For the full Hollywood Reporter article, go to:
http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/thr/columns/tv_reporter_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1000731594


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