Sunday, June 01, 2008

Just Example Of Big Media Journalism Making Itself Ever More Irrelevant

I can't even begin to summarize this crap... but, you know, in an anti-intellectual, toadying environment, Big Media's not going to work very hard to actually, you know, report accurately. And, more likely than not, the money lost by audience loss and erosion is less than what is at risk by failing to suck up to Our leaders. So there's your answer to crap like this....
What happens when someone lobs a missile at the credibility of NBC Nightly News? The program tries to ignore it.

Yesterday, White House counselor and longtime Republican hit man Ed Gillespie fired off a furious letter to NBC News president Steve Capus, alleging that the president's interview with chief NBC foreign correspondent Richard Engel about his speech before the Israeli Knesset was "deceptively edited."

Last night, NBC anchor Brian Williams reported the existence of the letter—but he gave no hint about the substance of the charges from the White House. He also offered no defense against them. Instead, he merely directed viewers to an unedited version of the interview on the Web, a suggestion that many members of Nightly's aging audience probably found completely unhelpful.

Williams' approach was unfortunate, and not just because it was so uninformative. The truth is, Engel's interview was appropriately (and refreshingly) tough, and the White House attack on him was completely unfounded. But anyone relying on Nightly News for their information would have no way of knowing that.

Engel said to the president, "You said that negotiating with Iran is pointless, and then you went further. You said that it was appeasement. Were you referring to Senator Barack Obama?" Here is the disputed paragraph from the president's response, with the parts NBC left out in italics:

"You know, my policies haven't changed, but evidently the political calendar has. People need to read the speech. You didn't get it exactly right, either. What I said was is that we need to take the words of people seriously. And when, you know, a leader of Iran says that they want to destroy Israel, you've got to take those words seriously. And if you don't take them seriously, then it hearkens back to a day when we didn't take other words seriously. It was fitting that I talked about not taking the words of Adolph Hitler seriously on the floor of the Knesset. But I also talked about the need to defend Israel, the need to not negotiate with the likes of al Qaeda, Hezbollah, and Hamas. And the need to make sure Iran doesn't get a nuclear weapon."

Abbreviated, to be sure, but I don't see any harm done to the truth by NBC's editing. Gillespie disagreed, partly because he believed that the full version of the quote "corrects the inaccurate premise of Engel's question by putting the 'appeasement' line in the proper context of taking the words of leaders seriously, not 'negotiating with Iran.'"

In other words, even though John McCain immediately inserted Barack Obama's name into the empty space in Bush's speech, the White House was now pretending that Obama had never been his target.

Last night, Keith Olbermann explained the problem with that assertion: "As to his promise that, quote, my policies haven't changed, but evidently the political calendar has, and its implicit denial that his appeasement comment at the Knesset was directed at Senator Obama, the president has yet to explain why, if he was not referring to Senator Obama, his White House aides were busy telling the media that his Knesset speech would raise eyebrows and make news, as there was certainly nothing else in it that was out of the ordinary." Other reporters agreed that White House aides had made it clear, off the record, that Obama was the president's target.

THE INTERVIEW IN QUESTION Engel chats with President Bush

Immediately after Gillespie's attack, NBC issued this statement: "Richard Engel's interview with President Bush has been available, unedited, in its entirety, for the past day, on our website. Our reporting accurately reflects the interview. Just as the White House does not participate in the editorial process at the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, or USA Today, NBC News, as part of a free press in a free society, makes its own editorial decisions."

And yesterday, in a letter responding to the White House, NBC News president Steve Capus said, "Let me assure you, there was no effort to be 'deceptive,' as you suggest. Furthermore, the notion this was 'deceitful editing to further a media-manufactured storyline' is a gross misrepresentation of the facts." But again, as of this afternoon, none of Nightly's viewers had heard that. Perhaps Williams will correct the record in tonight's broadcast.

Another complaint from Gillespie concerned NBC's characterization of Iraq as a civil war: "Please allow me to take this opportunity to ask if your network has reconsidered its position that Iraq is in the midst of a civil war, especially in light of the fact that the unity government in Baghdad recently rooted out illegal, extremist groups in Basra and reclaimed the port there for the people of Iraq, among other significant signs of progress."

That's a lovely insight into the way the non-reality-based White House continues to view the war, but NBC News president Capus refused to comment on that at all. "I think it wise to discuss those matters in a more appropriate forum," Capus wrote.

This was the second time in a month that Nightly News has come under attack, and Williams tried to ignore it. The first time was the New York Times story describing a huge Pentagon propaganda scandal, in which retired military officers alternated between spouting the Bush administration line on all of the major TV networks and collecting inside information for the military contractors who employed them so they could get more contracts connected to the war. The nightly newscasts of NBC, CBS, and ABC all ignored that attack, although, after some prodding, Williams eventually gave an unsatisfactory reply in his own blog.

Yesterday, Williams and a NBC News spokesman both refused to comment about any of this to Full Court Press, and Williams was apparently dodging other press inquiries as well.

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