Media Matters Ignores Journalistic Responsibility

When it comes to ironic hyperbole, Media Matters tops the competition. In a dramatic diatribe of sorts, the self-described “progressive research and information center” published a blog post entitled, “FOXLEAKS: Fox boss ordered staff to cast doubt on climate science.” Media Matters’ Ben Dimiero writes, In the midst of global climate change talks last December, a top Fox News official sent an email questioning the “veracity of climate change data” and ordering the network’s journalists to “refrain from asserting that the planet has warmed (or cooled) in any given period without IMMEDIATELY pointing out that such theories are based upon data that critics have called into question.”

As “reported” by Media Matters, the memo was sent by managing editor Bill Sammon. Interestingly, Dimiero ignores a key phrase in the original message. Here is the untainted text of Sammon’s e-mail (which I will give Dimiero credit for including later on in his hit piece):

…we should refrain from asserting that the planet has warmed (or cooled) in any given period without IMMEDIATELY pointing out that such theories are based upon data that critics have called into question. It is not our place as journalists to assert such notions as facts, especially as this debate intensifies.

It seems as though Dimiero purposefully chose to ignore Sammon’s note about journalistic responsibility. Whether or not you believe in the power of manmade global warming, we should all be in agreement that journalists have a responsibility to report the full scope of societal issues of importance. There are enough individuals casting doubt on human-induced global warming to compel any objective network (or, more appropriately: any network that claims to tout objectivity) to balance coverage on this important issue.

Sammon was avoiding journalistic leading, as he was requiring his staff to balance the notion that the earth has definitively warmed or cooled with valid concern from the opposing side. There’s nothing wrong with journalists “casting doubt” on an issue when there are a plethora of scientists — and citizens, for that matter — doing the same.

If there is any inkling of uncertainty, who better to seek ultimate truth than the media? If anything, I give Sammon credit for attempting to differentiate Fox from networks that have failed to even consider the possibility of natural warming and cooling patterns. These same networks have failed the public by refusing to showcase opposing views.

To put Sammon’s e-mail into perspective, one must also remember the Climategate scandal and the related questions surrounding global warming data. While Media Matters dismisses critics’ concerns, coverage of the mass anger (regardless of whether the scandal itself was viable) was warranted.

This issue certainly deserves more scrutiny. In Europe, the tide in belief that global warming is manmade has already turned. In Feb. 2010, the BBC found that only 26 percent of Britons believe that “climate change is happening and is now established as largely manmade.” This proportion was down from 41 percent in a similar poll conducted in Nov. 2009.

As I wrote back in March,

In the 1970s, some climatologists actually proposed purposely melting portions of the ice caps in an effort to curb the effects of global cooling (others thought the effects of such an experiment would be too dangerous). Today, global warming enthusiasts claim that these same ice caps are melting on their own, an odd contradiction considering the warnings that were uttered just decades ago.

I am not trying to convince anyone that global warming (now deemed “climate change” to account for record cold spells in various parts of the nation) isn’t happening. Rather, I’m attempting to conclude that the jury is still out and that the media have a responsibility to report on all sides of the debate.

Media Matters is essentially outraged over an editor’s insistence that Fox News’ staff members fulfill their basic journalistic duties. If Dimiero and his coworkers truly believe that media does, indeed, “matter for America,” they’d be calling for a full-fledged look at climate change. Instead, they’re pedaling their typical rhetoric.

Media Matters’ Vapid Response to Air America’s Crash

Last week, Air America announced its official closure and intention to file Chapter 7.  For those who had been following news surrounding the weeping willow of talk radio, this was no surprise.  While making a thin-kid splash with pseudo-celebrities back in 2004, the liberal network had a rocky history, replete with scandal, two bankruptcies and acquisitions.

Last week, Big Journalism’s James Hudnall reminded readers that Air America’s problems are not new.  According to Hudnall, “After a scandal involving misappropriated funds from black school children it promptly filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy two years later. Franken, Rhodes and Garofalo abandoned ship.”  (Come to think of it, perhaps that last part wasn’t so bad after all).

While Air America’s demise is surely a sad day for the precious few  who enjoyed leftist radio programming, there’s no need for liberal lamentations.  The left still dominates Hollywood, the university system and mainstream media, where adherents can find ongoing solace and a sympathetic informational stream – a triangular dominance of sorts.

What is most interesting about Air America’s silence is the clamor coming from angry liberals, particularly those at the painstakingly partisan Media Matters for America.  As can be expected, Media Matters’ Jamison Foser issued a statement that attacks conservative critics entitled, “The Right might want to hold off on gloating over Air America’s demise.”

After reading the title, I was sure I would understand exactly why, from Foser’s perspective, conservatives should withhold celebratory commentary; I was sadly mistaken.  In the brief posting, Foser attempts to offer two reasons why conservatives shouldn’t make the case that there is no viable market for “liberal news” – and fails miserably. According to Foser,

You can either claim that ABC/CBS/CNN/MSNBC/NBC/NPR/NYT/WAPO/ETC are “liberal media,” or that there is no market for liberal media — but not both.  Please pick one.  Thanks!

The Washington Times has been losing money for two decades.  In the early days of Fox News, Rupert Murdoch paid cable companies $11 per subscriber to carry FNC (and Rudy Giuliani pressured Time Warner to carry the outlet in New York City.)  Point being: conservative media outlets have succeeded not only because of market forces, as conservatives would have you believe, but because right-wing billionaires like Murdoch and Rev. Moon have been willing to subsidize them.

The simplicity present in this analysis is astounding.  First and foremost, research backs up the notion that outlets like CBS News and the New York Times are biased, but even if there were no scholarship to corroborate this notion, Foser’s argument makes little sense.  Most conservatives aren’t claiming that liberal media outlets can’t succeed (though the left has had a tough time pushing unabashedly liberal outlets to the top); they’re making the case that liberal radio, absent public monies, cannot stand on its own.  Those are two very different ideals.  Air America never picked up the steam needed to forge its way to victorious ratings.  Last week, the L.A. Times said it best:

The New York-based Air America kicked off in March 2004, aiming to be the antithesis of Rush Limbaugh’s and Sean Hannity’s shows. In comparison to the staunch, multimillion followings of those commentators, Air America didn’t quite hit the mark or even come close. An insufficient number of people tuned in.

Additionally, Foser’s statement that The Washington Times has lost money for decades is a silly corroborative comment.  Tell me Mr. Foser, how many newspapers are posting record profits these days?  Also, it’s curious that Foser would rail against Murdoch’s support for FOX News, a network the media mogul, himself, founded.  I suppose use of his own monies to invest in FOX’s future was morally reprehensible in comparison to the $875,000 that was transferred to Air America from the Gloria Wise Boys & Girls Clubs – a publicly-funded, non-profit organization that served children and seniors – back in 2004.  After all, why filter the money to children in need when you can use it for political gain?

This loan arrangement was allegedly orchestrated by Evan Montvel-Cohen, Air America’s first chairman, while he was still the director of development for the Gloria Wise Boys and Girls Clubs.  Apparently, Foser sees a larger moral problem with using one’s own monies (otherwise known as entrepreneurship) for the betterment of one’s business activities than he does with alleged financial shenanigans.  Interestingly, Cohen was subsequently arrested on unrelated charges. The New York Post has more:

Evan Montvel-Cohen was picked up by border-patrol officers at Guam International Airport on an outstanding warrant from Hawaii. He had been indicted there last month for money laundering and the theft of more than $60,000 from a Honolulu landscaping firm, prosecutors said.

Of course, all of that failed to make its way into Foser’s drivel.  Apparently, Americans are to believe that left-wing billionaires like George Soros do not exist and therefore cannot fund massive liberal think tanks and other related bastions of leftist garble.  According to

…Soros and his Open Society Institute pour millions of dollars into the coffers of MoveOn, the Center for American Progress, and Democracy Alliance. In turn, these organizations funnel some of that money to Media Matters.

The notion that FOX News has become popular merely because billionaires are behind it is insane at best.  And just to be sure you caught the hypocrisy — did I mention that Media Matters is also alleged to have major investorsbacking its work as well?  Kettle or pot, Mr. Foser?

In recent times, Americans have come to trust FOX to break stories mainstream media simply refuse to touch; this carries over to special events, particularly those with partisanship at their core.  This is exactly why the Huffington Post reported on Massachusetts’ special election coverage constituting the network’s “…biggest night since Election Night 2008, averaging a staggering 6.161 million total viewers in primetime. For comparison, that’s almost double CNN (1.503 million total viewers), MSNBC (1.138 million total viewers), and HLN (668,000 total viewers) combined.”  People trusted FOX News to give adequate and fair information about Scott Brown more than they did the other networks.

The FOX News business model has worked.  Unfortunately, liberal talk radio has proven unsustainable – even in the New York City market.  Air America’s failure should serve as a lesson to the left, not another vapid opportunity to defend tattered pride.  If anything, FOX’s model has helped the left raise MSNBC’s insanely low ratings, as the network has added more leftist ideologues to its roster.  It will certainly be interesting to see where the left goes from here.