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Monday, September 21

Glenn Beck, the TIME magazine article about him, and what's really bad about the American news media

It's now clear that the Obama administration and their media toadies want to tamp down Glenn Beck's influence. They're making fools of themselves in the process, which only provides material for the next Glenn Beck TV show.

Case in point: this howler from TIME magazine's September 17 cover story, which asks, Is Glenn Beck bad for America?
Beck mines the timeless theme of the corrupt Them thwarting a virtuous Us. This flexible narrative often contains genuinely uncomfortable truths. [...] But he also spins yarns of less substance. He tells his viewers that Obama's volunteerism efforts are really an attempt to create a "civilian national-security force that is just as strong, just as powerful as the military."
So then Glenn aired a video clip of Barack Obama saying he wanted a civilian national-security force "that is just as strong, just as powerful as the military."

The funniest part is that although Glenn mentioned the TIME article he didn't point out it had wrongly attributed an Obama quote to him. Why should he bother? He knew that anyone who saw his show that day and read the article would spot the gaffe.

(The clip was part of a montage that Glenn titled, "Obama in his own words." We'll see more of the montage on today's show.)

Was it really a gaffe, or did the author, David Von Drehle, deliberately misrepresent? The Obama quote about the civilian national-security force is well known on the blogosphere, at least the portion which keeps a close eye on Obama, and to Fox News Channel viewers. I doubt that David, who's been in the reporting business a long time, would risk his reputation over a quote that's so easily traceable to its correct source. So I'd guess he honestly didn't know that the words he attributed to Glenn were actually Obama's.

How could a reporter who's been in the business a long time fall down so spectacularly on his fact checking? (And how could the TIME fact checker do the same?) It happens easily when your goal drifts from informing the public to pressing your point of view.

It's clear from the article that David Von Drehle is not terribly interested in talking about Glenn Beck; he provides just enough information about Beck to set up the point of his writing, which is that America's polarized politics have generated an industry -- an industry that's highly profitable to its standard bearers.

That's exactly how David, and TIME, got into hot water with the American Left.

Jamison Foser nearly had an aneurysm over the TIME article because it blurted out that Media Matters has a multi-million dollar budget and, horror of horrors, named Media Matters as an opposite to the right-wing pole of the industry, which David assumes Glenn Beck represents.

To give you some idea of the melee, Jamison's salvo, which he fired off from his perch at Media Matters, is titled, How Time magazine enables Glenn Beck's lies. According to the Washington Post's Joel Auerbach, Foser isn't the only lefty who's furious with TIME; he mentions that Greg Mitchell at the Huffington Post makes the same point as Jamison. "And no doubt you can find similar pieces all over blogworld."

No doubt.

As to how Joel got involved, David is a friend of his and a reporter he admires. So then it was war. Jamison counter-attacked in another piece he titled, WaPo reporter and "close friend" of Von Drehle defends Beck profile; attacks me

Then Joel counter-counter attacked -- again, from his perch at The Washington Post. Then Jamison sputtered in an update to his own counter-counter attack:
And in his response, Achenbach accuses me of "false equivalence." Which is really kind of cute, given that that's one of the basic problems with his friend David Von Drehle's profile of Beck. Von Drehle draws false equivalence between crowd size estimates of 70,000 and a million; draws false equivalence between paranoia on right and left; between Beck and Olbermann. If only Achenbach could recognize false equivalence when it comes from his "close friend," we could have avoided this whole discussion.
There's another way the melee might have been avoided; that's if TIME had stuck with the advertised subject of their cover article: Glenn Beck. But no, they wanted to make a point. So without Glenn's permission -- he refused to be interviewed for the article -- they manipulated the public's interest in him to convey an editorial opinion to a captive audience.

Then TIME editors, and editors of other news outlets who think the public lives to pay to hear their opinions, complain that their rags are having a hard time staying in business. Then Barack Obama offers them his shoulder to cry on:
(The Hill - September 20) The president said he is "happy to look at" bills before Congress that would give struggling news organizations tax breaks if they were to restructure as nonprofit businesses.

"I haven't seen detailed proposals yet, but I'll be happy to look at them," Obama told the editors of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Toledo Blade in an interview.

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) has introduced S. 673, the so-called "Newspaper Revitalization Act," that would give outlets tax deals if they were to restructure as 501(c)(3) corporations. That bill has so far attracted one cosponsor, Cardin's Maryland colleague Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D).

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs had played down the possibility of government assistance for news organizations, which have been hit by an economic downturn and dwindling ad revenue.

In early May, Gibbs said that while he hadn't asked the president specifically about bailout options for newspapers, "I don't know what, in all honesty, government can do about it."

Obama said that good journalism is "critical to the health of our democracy," but expressed concern toward growing tends in reporting -- especially on political blogs, from which a groundswell of support for his campaign emerged during the presidential election.

"I am concerned that if the direction of the news is all blogosphere, all opinions, with no serious fact-checking, no serious attempts to put stories in context, that what you will end up getting is people shouting at each other across the void but not a lot of mutual understanding," he said.
By gum our President nails what's wrong with the TIME piece on Glenn Beck! Oh but that's right I forgot -- TIME isn't a blog.

David Von Drehle's piece for TIME reflects the most striking aspect of what's bad about America's news media. He was so intent on getting his own points across that he made only the most superficial pass at learning about Glenn Beck's points. Yet instead of editing David's ruminations and sending him back into the field to scare up more data, TIME published his opinion piece as an in-depth news report.

The upshot is that TIME is way off the beam when they lump Glenn with conservatives and with any political party.

Yet he can't be characterized as an Independent in the Lou Dobbs mold. The Americans who've closely observed Glenn Beck already know this. The last ones to know what he represents, and to understand the implications, will be the MLM (money losing media) and the Obama administration.
Comments:
Lest I come to the defense of TIME magazine, but Beck has some blame for the screw-up that was that article. I'm about as right as they come, but as a PR guy myself, I can tell you that if Glenn Beck gets misquoted, misinterpreted, mis-characterized, mis-etc., which leads to being "misunderstood," then the fault is as much his as the poor journalism.

If a news subject doesn't participate in an interview, you basically let the band call their own tune. You let other speak for you and about you, and the article is written without any of your arguments articulated. TIME is NOT about to do it for him.

Worse yet, Beck can't really write to complain precisely BECAUSE he didn't take part (and you get a cover photo like the one TIME used.) And how many articles in TIME is he likely to get? After all, he's not Barry (and won't get another shot next month.)

This has always been a problem with conservatives (i.e. not understanding the news media) and many business clients I've seen over the years.
 
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