This morning I was amused when I heard a news pundit complain that President Trump failed to leave a trail of breadcrumbs that would explain his decision to fire Director Comey. Although the journalists agreed with the President’s action, they were really bent out of shape by the lack of anonymous government officials giving them an advance warning of the firing. It was unacceptable to them that they found out about the story at the same time as the rest of America. Without special knowledge to spice up the story, why will the average American listen to them? Maybe the real story is that President Trump is different than your typical politician. Oh wait, we already knew that!
Last week I was shocked to find that Google had banned the latest PragerU YouTube video as hate speech. As a regular listener to PragerU videos I was curious to see the video that went over the edge. From my experience hate speech is definitely not PragerU’s style. The video in question, Was Born To Hate Jews, is by a devout Muslim who describes his transformation of someone who hated Jews to gradual acceptance. Some Muslims might disagree with this man’s opinion but it was not hate speech. When did one Muslim’s decision to accept that Jews are okay and do not need to be wiped off the map become hate speech to Google?
That incident led me to question the subject of ‘fake news’. A Washington Post article, Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during election, experts say, had started off this mess. In one of the great faux pas of modern journalism the Washington Post said,
One of them was PropOrNot, a group that insists on public anonymity, which issued a report identifying more than 200 websites that, in its view, wittingly or unwittingly published or echoed Russian propaganda.
Okay, let see if I understand this correctly. The Washington Post is saying that ‘fake news’ during the recent elections came from Russian propaganda efforts. This is a considerably different story than the one portrayed by NPR in their story, We Tracked Down A Fake-News Creator In The Suburbs. Here’s What We Learned. The Washington Post went one step further and relied on a list from an anonymous source, PropOrNot. I hate to complain about the lack of journalistic standards but you have to ask the question. At what point did they get a little concerned that this organization might be a ‘fake news’ site just like the ones they were complaining about?
Is The PropOrNot List ‘Fake News’ Sites?
Someone had to do this and obviously the Washington Post was not up to the task. So I went over to the PropOrNot site and took a look at the list. The first thing I noticed was that the list was not ‘fake news’ sites by the NPR standard. The second thing I noticed was that I read several of the sites on a regular basis on the list. They are:
All of these sites express dissenting opinions. Many of the sites express libertarian opinions. From a cursory review of the list I can detect at least three themes, managed economies, Anti-War, and Truth in Government.
Managed Economy Theme
The first group, Stockman’s Contra Corner, oftwominds.com site, and zerohedge.com, are critical of our government’s attempt to manage the economy. Their writings have more in common with the old Keynes versus Hayek debate. The most famous person in this group is former Congressman, Mr. Stockman, who wrote a New York Times bestseller, The Great Deformation: The Corruption of Capitalism in America. Ironically these free market oriented writings are critical of Russia’s managed economy.
The second group, Lew Rockwell, antiwar.com, and the ronpaulinstitute.org, probably got included on the list due to their libertarian, anti-war dissents. Lew Rockwell and former Congressman Ron Paul are Mises Institute board members who are critical of the government’s efforts at regime change. Ironically both President-elect Trump, President Obama, and most of the Democratic party are critical of past regime change policies. It is a pretty big stretch to say that this group’s complaint about regime change “unwittingly echoed Russian propaganda”.
Truth In Government
Wikileaks and several other truth sites represent the truth in government group. Wikileaks is the only site who I might concede wittingly helped Russian propaganda. Although Russia may have been involved in getting the emails to wikileaks, the emails are not ‘fake news’. I went to the wikileaks.org site and confirmed that the DKIM signature said that the emails had not been altered. In the greatest irony of the fake news cycle, the Podesta and DNC emails were so damaging to the Democratic party election chances because they were true news stories.
How Much Do You Need To Write About Russia To Be Included On The PropOrNot List?
Maybe sites make the list because they write a lot about Russia. It is pretty obvious why pravda.ru and rt.com made the list but why did nakedcapitalism.com make the list? Its title implies that it devoted a lot more time discussing capitalism rather than Russia. Was this false advertising? Since the site displays a topic list with the number of posts pertaining to each subject, I downloaded the list and did some calculations. Russia was 47th on the list. The Russian posts amounted to only 0.47% of the 61,907 posts. They were just behind CEO compensation and well behind Europe(28th) and China(30th). Looking at these numbers it is difficult for me to see how this site got on the PropOrNot list. Maybe this is why the folks at nakedcapitalism are suing PropOrNot.
The downing of EgyptAir flight 804 is interesting but where are the investigative journalists? It has been four days since the incident and both ABC’s This Week With George Stephanopoulos and Fox News Sunday seem to be comfortable with two scenarios, a bomb planted by a terrorist and a catastrophic failure on the plane. Neither of these politically correct scenarios are good fits with the facts. An investigative reporter might ask what if the facts are pointing to a different scenario? If we allow ourselves to think outside of the box like an investigative reporter for a moment, we might want to investigate this possibility I read on the Bizzy blog Sunday morning, Muslim Pilot Of EgyptAir Flight 804 Converted The Plane Into A Portable Mosque And Said Farewell Before the Crash.
More evidence is arising to show that the pilot of Flight 804 went suicide. He did some bizarre things. He converted the plane into a makeshift mosque, used the equipment to tell passengers the direction of Mecca. Had a last supper and said “farewell” as if ‘we who are about to die salute you’. He called his brother before take-off telling him to ‘pray for him’ as he was going for martyrdom. He had connections with one of the most radical preachers and terror supporters in Egypt.
We start off with testimony of Osama Abdel Basset, the captain in charge of the air hospitality in Egyptian Air says it all: “The Captain Mohammed Shakeer, the pilot of that fateful flight” had organized a “last supper” knowing he is “about to die” …
What if the crazy pilot on Germanwings Flight 9525 crash is the best explanation to means, motive, and opportunity?
Here is an interesting life hack for those of you with YouTube subscriptions. The YouTube app on my smartphone not only reminds me when a new video is available but it is a perfectly fine way to watch some videos. Obviously some types of videos will not work on a small screen but as an example here is today’s clip from Full Measure with Sharyl Attkisson. The clips are short and devoid of the visual details that would get lost on a small screen. I watched the Full Measure and the Prager University clip, What ISIS Wants, while eating my breakfast. 🙂
Mike Bowerbank said that the most invalid belief of American conservatives is that “FOX News is news and not ideologically-driven entertainment” because it is not registered as a “news agency”. Now that is an interesting statement! One of the things I noticed is when people complain about the Fox News journalism style, they rarely check to see if what they have written makes sense. Since I went down this path before in the post, The Changing Face Of Journalism, I decided to do a little fact checking on his statements and here is what I said.
Like Joe I was curious about the registered news agency statement. When I look up news agencies I find that Wikipedia lists only two new agencies in the United States,and . If we use the logic you used to condemn Fox News than you are condemning New York Times, Washington Post, and all of the major news networks, too.For those of you who are unfamiliar with the news agency concept, subscribers to the Associated Press can use stories written by the AP unchanged in their publications. Since 1999 UPI has largely left the news agency business. For business news you will find a lot of stories that originate at Dow Jones and Bloomberg. They are not news agencies either but I respect what they have to say.The point you made about exaggeration and failed predictions in 2012 is not unique to Fox News. The same statement can be made about some broadcaster or newspaper in every election. Are you trying to tell me that NBC, ABC, and CBS predicted every election correctly and never exaggerated? How many of these broadcasters correctly predicted the rise of the Tea Party?The biggest difference between Fox News and the other broadcasters is that Fox News listens to its viewers and gives them what they want. In business we used to say that the first rule of business is that the customer is always right. The second rule is that when in doubt re-read the first rule. So if you want to hear about the collapse of the Affordable Care Act exchanges, Benghazi, the IRS scandal, Ms. Clinton’s indictment for espionage, or government run amok then Fox News is your only source. The news editors at the other broadcasters have already decided that these are not news stories. They call it editorial discretion. I call it bad for business and their ratings show it.News has always been ideologically-driven entertainment because it sells newspapers or attracts viewers. Look up the history of. The idea that a story from the New York Times, Washington Post, or Fox News is thoroughly vetted is ridiculous. If they are reporting the news and not ancient history, they are going to make mistakes and the Internet is going to tell them quickly.Considering all of the evidence I have gathered the most invalid belief of conservatives is still up for debate.
It is odd that Ms. Fiorina has not qualified for the main stage at the next Republican debate so I decided to investigate. Here is what CNN said.
“CNN published the criteria for the CNN-Reagan Library debate on May 20,” the spokesperson said. “It will encompass polling data from three weeks prior to the first debate and five weeks following. Federal Election Commission guidelines make it clear that these criteria cannot be changed after they have been published. We believe that our approach is a fair and effective way to deal with the highest number of candidates we have ever encountered.”
Assuming that the polling was occurring at regular intervals then 3/8 of the polls used in the average would be from before the first debate and 5/8 of the polls from after the debate. That sounds like a reasonable way to get a good sample of public sentiment. The problem for CNN as Ms. Flores pointed out in an article on medium.com is that CNN has 11 polls that meet their criteria and 9 are from before the debate and 2 from after the debate. Since CNN made the rules, it is a CNN integrity problem. So if you believe that news organizations like CNN should strive to be reasonable and balanced in presidential debates, CNN owns this problem if they do not get about 15 more polls in the next two weeks. This reminds me of the unforced error CNN’s Candy Crowley made by giving her opinion concerning “acts of terror”. Journalism and CNN took a big hit that night. It is a sign of insanity to keep making the same mistake and expect different results. I guess Fox News is the only fair and balanced news organization out there! 😉
In her post, Broadcast news — time is up? NBC has a chance to experiment (get out of 1950!), Greta thinks that NBC should experiment with different formats for the next six months. Since I advocated the same strategy yesterday, Greta and I agree on that part of the NBC strategy. Where we differ is that she thinks that Rachel Maddow would be a better choice because she could stir things and provoke a debate. This sounds like she is trying to turn the Nightly News into the O’Reilly Factor. If NBC is trying to adopt some of the successful parts of Fox News into their show, they should select someone more like Brett Baier. Most of the NBC guys and Savannah Guthrie meet this requirement so my first choice is Savannah. She changes things a little by breaking the male news anchor mold but is not as dramatic a change as Rachel. Hopefully Ms. Guthrie recognizes that she not only has to be different than Brian Williams but all the other news anchors, too. If the ratings do not work out then Rachel and the other guys deserve a tryout, too. Here is what Greta said:
So….my suggestion for a troubled news organization (yes, NBC) and I know this will rattle the old timers who have a fixated view about what journalism is..do something bold for 6 months and experiment. Put one of your strong and determined debaters on to host the nightly broadcast news, the new format, the 2015 one.
And while you are at it, how about a woman? My suggestion: Rachel Maddow. Whether you agree with her or not, she will stir things up and provoke a debate. She is also the right price — she is already on the payroll!
If I had 30 seconds with the NBC CEO I would recommend they replace Brian Williams with Savannah Guthrie-Feldman. Drudge Report says Ms. Guthie “has emerged as the top replacement option at NBC ‘NIGHTLY’ NEWS”. Like Megyn Kelly and Greta Van Susteren on Fox News she is an attorney who has 20 years of journalism experience, is a former White House correspondent, and most recently was named co-anchor of the Today Show. Although there are plenty of qualified, male candidates for the job I would not be surprised if NBC decides to borrow a page from Fox News’s playbook to restore viewer’s trust. As I said in a previous post the ratings success of Ms. Kelly and Ms. Van Susteren tells me that America is pretty comfortable with female journalists discussing the major issues of the day. This is the time for NBC to take a chance and go big. They should not only replace Brian with Ms. Guthrie but tweak the Nightly News format to beat Fox News at their own game. If you believe Mr. Groseclose’s analysis that mainstream media like NBC is to the left of America then this would be a great time for NBC Nightly News to try moving a little to the right on the political spectrum and see if they can get a few people back to their shows. What have you got to lose! If the ratings do not work out you can always blame it on Brian Williams and quietly go back to the guys.
At the end of last year I was reading a post over on Fabius Maximus, Fox News gives us what we want: journalism for a New America, when I realized that the article attempted to make the argument that Fox’s success could be attributed to “pretty women in tight outfits with short skirts and high heels on tall stools chatting about the news” (Ed. corrected) on Fox and Friends and Red Eye. Don’t get me wrong. The women are pretty but the last time I looked at the Fox and Friends ratings, they were in fierce battle for the 6 am slot with Nickelodeon and Red Eye was in a fierce battle with station test patterns in the 3 am slot. Are you really trying to make the argument that the success of Fox News rested on these two shows and not the prime time shows? Okay, the article was never intended to be anything other than a rant but it did get me thinking. Why do some news channels thrive and prosper and others just suck?
Obviously if you want to graduate from MBA school than you should first look at who is dominating the prime time line up. These are the folks who are paying the bills. At 6 pm you have Special Report with Bret Baier, at 7 pm you have On The Record with Greta Van Sustern, at 8 pm you have The O’Reilly Factor, and at 9 pm you have The Kelly File. These four shows constitute the heart and soul of Fox News and all of these shows are winning the ratings war in their time slot. From this lineup we can say three things about Fox News, they are not afraid to put strong women in prime time, they respect these women enough to let them pursue stories they thought were important, and the viewers respect the judgment of these women. When you are number one in your time slot that tells me that America is pretty comfortable with female Fox News journalists discussing the major issues of the day. The more I looked at the female journalists in Fox News, the more amused I got. On several occasions I saw both the host and the experts were women and they were talking about defense issues. I could not find a subject that was off limits for women. This trend is not just at Fox News. One of my wife’s favorite morning shows is Opening Bell with Maria Bartiromo although she also watches Bloomberg’s In The Loop With Betty Liu. Her favorite investment show is Consuelo Mack’s Wealthtrack on PBS. At least in my household I think I can see why Fox News is thriving and the others suck. They hire good female journalists and get out of the way! That goes a long way to explaining why Maria Bartiromo and Sharyl Attkisson joined Fox News and Fox Business. It is less about politics than management style. Good stories still rule journalism and the ratings! So far the female journalists have not abused the opportunity Dan Rather and Brian Williams served up on a platter.
Speaking of Ms. Attkisson here is a nice lecture she gave at Hillsdale College recently. I get the distinct impression that she is one of those pure journalist who went to Fox News because she really wanted the freedom to pursue the best stories of the day. Maybe this is a lesson the other networks might start paying attention to before the lights go out.