WHITE NOISE: News from Inside the Media Bubble
The endorsement that wasn’t
Quantifying the impact of election endorsements is a difficult proposition. NASCAR racing legend Junior Johnson has leant cultural cache to the Sen. Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, while Gov. Mike Easley delivered some political clout. Meanwhile, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson’s nod to Obama is thought to have significance because he held a cabinet-level position in the administration of Clinton’s husband. Whether voters follow these cues is anybody’s guess. Further down the ticket, endorsements more likely lend momentum to a campaign. So following Roy Carter’s photo-finish triumph over Diane Hamby in the primary contest for the Democratic nomination in congressional District 5, a press release went out listing seven endorsements, including one from YES! Weekly, that helped make the case that “Carter’s candidacy represents the first real opportunity in years to bring fair and compassionated leadership back to the 5th district. Considering that Rep. Virginia Foxx, the Republican incumbent, routed her last Democratic challenger by 14.4 percentage points, Carter will need it. The only problem was that YES! Weekly did not endorse in the District 5 race. We ran one story in our Dirt section about the Carter campaign. The newspaper received an apology from the Carter campaign on Sunday. “I have removed the endorsement listing from the press release so that no further publication of the document will mention the endorsement,” Campaign Manager Ryan Eller wrote. “The endorsement listing has not been printed anywhere in the district. When drafting the press release your publication’s name was inserted in error in place of another publication.”
Flirting with the N&R
The parent company of Little Rock’s Arkansas Democrat-Gazette expressed interest in Landmark Communication’s three largest papers last week, including the News & Record, which have been on the selling block for several months, according to Poynter.org. WEHCO Media owns the Democrat-Gazette as well as the Benton County Daily Record, Northwest Arkansas Times and the Chattanooga Times Free Press in Tennessee. Recently the company has been on a buying binge, snatching up three papers in Missouri and California. In addition to the News & Record, WEHCO is also eyeing Landmark’s flagship, The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk and The Roanoke Times. The company has not made a formal bid for any of the papers.
The Chinese media’s 9-11 moment
You might say that the Chinese media had its 9-11 moment when an earthquake devastated Sichuan province last week. The authoritarian communist nation is famous for suppressing information about disasters and compounding the suffering of its people by responding inadequately. The earthquake prompted an unprecedented reaction by the Chinese government, which immediately dispatched Prime Minister Wen Jinbao, accompanied by a battalion of reporters, to the disaster area. Images of heroic military response, an outpouring of compassion across the country, a sense of a nation standing tall against adversity – these have all been hallmarks of the earthquake, as mediated through China’s official news agencies. President Bush’s appearance amidst the wreckage of the World Trade Center comes to mind in this dispatch by Andrew Jacobs for The New York Times on May 14: “A hard hat on his head and a bullhorn in hand, [Jibao] ducked into the wreckage of a hospital where scores of people were buried and shouted: ‘Hang on a bit longer. The troops are rescuing you.'” Similar to the US media’s handling of 9-11, China’s experience raises questions about whether the avalanche of images of suffering and heroism overwhelm important questions about the government’s responsibility for the tragedy. In China’s case, bribes from builders seeking to save money on materials given to local officials in exchange for lax oversight appear to have added to the number of dead. Some Chinese media outlets have taken up the Fourth Estate’s watchdog role. A commentary in the China Daily noted, “We cannot afford not to raise uneasy questions about the structural quality of school buildings.”
Serving the public?
Washington Post media reporter Howard Kurtz published a story last week about executives at Fox News and NBC turning their most outspoken commentators against each other like pit bulls at an NFL compound. A spat between Fox’s Bill O’Reilly and MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann has escalated to include the captains of each company, particularly Jeffrey Immelt, the CEO of General Electric, which owns NBC and does business in Iran. O’Reilly has recently been accusing Immelt of colluding with a hostile government that kills American troops in Iraq. Olbermann, for his part, referred to Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes as chief advisor to Rudy Giuliani’s presidential campaign, an assertion for which there is no evidence. Olbermann also takes frequent potshots at O’Reilly on his shows. According to NBC CEO Jeffrey Zucker, the attacks on Immelt are a response to attacks on O’Reilly, which Ailes threatened to unleash in a phone call to Zucker last summer. Ailes denies using O’Reilly to pressure Zucker to call Olbermann off.