White Noise: News and info from inside the media bubble

by the YES! staff

Tony Snow (1955-2008) RIP

Although we didn’t really believe much of what came out of his mouth while he was President Bush’s press secretary, we always had a soft spot in our ink-stained heart for Tony Snow, who succumbed last week to colon cancer. He came from print, for one, beginning right here in the Triad at the Greensboro Record before signing on as a speechwriter for Bush 41, and eventually becoming a columnist for Creators Syndicate and hitching up with Fox News. And we’ll say this: He was clearly the best press secretary Bush ever had – less prone to stress-related sweating than Ari Fleischer, a better secret-keeper than Scott McClellan and prettier than Dana Perino. He took the job in the midst of the Scooter Libby flap and kept the house of cards intact until his last press conference in September. He did his job, that’s for sure, and he leaves behind a body of commentary and interview as well as a wife and three children.

– BC

We really don’t brutalize students

Scott Shane and Michael R. Gordon’s extraordinary story in the Sunday New York Times about Iranian dissident Ahmad Batebi’s harrowing escape from torturers in his homeland illustrated the perverse power of the media. Batebi became a human-rights activist instantly when he stumbled into a student protest in Tehran in 1999. Another student got hit by a police bullet, Shane and Gordon report, and Batebi pulled off the young man’s shirt to stanch the blood flow, and then held the shirt aloft to warn other students against marching outside. A photograph of the image ended up on the cover of The Economist magazine. The Iranian authorities were not happy about the publicity. According to the Times article, so hell-bent were his jailers on forcing him to falsely state that the shirt was covered in paint or animal blood, Batebi said, that they “thrashed him with a metal cable, beat his testicles and kicked in his teeth. They held his face down in a pool of excrement. They tied his arms behind his back and hung him from the ceiling. At other times, strapping him to a chair, they kept him awake night after night, cutting him and rubbing salt into the wounds.”

– JG

Breach of contract

Durham lawyer Keith Hempstead re-upped his subscription to the Raleigh News & Observer just a few days before the paper announced layoffs and a related decrease in content and size on June 16. So Hempstead did what lawyers do: He sued. “I wanted to get the newspaper’s attention and the news industry’s attention,” Hempstead, a former reporter at the Fayetteville Observer, told the Raleigh paper. “I hate to see what companies that run newspapers are doing to the product. The idea that taking the most important product and reducing the amount of news and getting rid of staff to me seems pointless to how you should run a newspaper business.” John Drescher, executive editor of the News & Observer, answered by saying that his paper is still worth a good deal more than the 36 cents per issue Hempstead signed on for, and that perhaps Hempstead actually owes him money, “[W]hen he gets a lawyer, he can work with my lawyer and figure out how much he’s going to pay me for the excellent coverage he’s been getting recently,” Drescher said.

– BC