May 17, 2005

The Fall of the Weekly Mags, and Newsweek’s Double Standard

Filed under: Business Moves,Economy,MSM Biz/Other Bias — Tom @ 8:31 pm

UPDATE:
Note that Bizzyblog beat Ann Coulter with the points at the end of this piece by a full day. Ann, you should be blogging.
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Zheesh. You stay off the computer for 24 hours and all heck breaks loose. I didn’t hear of Newsweek’s false Quran-in-the-toilet story (followed by riots and people dying in them) until late yesterday morning after a late night of travel which included an unplanned tour (while lost) of the construction sites of Metro Philadelphia.

As many have pointed out, once again, the standards of the MSM are seen to be seriously (Wizbang), and now fatally (Cassandra), lacking.

But what’s oddly coincidental about all of this is what I did when I needed something to read on the plane trip Sunday night: I bought a Time Magazine, something I haven’t done for at least 5 years.

My impressions:
- Thin – no, very thin – about 40 pages of ads and 50 pages of content; probably 50% smaller than 20 years ago.
- Even thinner in terms of meaningful content. Women triumphing over midlife crisis is a COVER story?
- Biased almost to the point of parody. Just one example, on Laura Bush’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner monologue: “The comic tone came at a helpful moment for the Bush operation, which is off to one of the slowest second-term starts in memory.” This is hysterical–Let’s see, less than four months into Bush’s second term: Tort reform-Passed. Bankruptcy “Reform” (which it’s no secret I opposed)-Passed. Up-or-down votes on judges-Appear inevitable. Social Security-Too early to tell, but the sentiment for reform is strong. At the very least, not bad for 125 days. And does anyone remember anything accomplished in the first four months of 1997 (Clinton), 1985 (Reagan), or 1973 (Nixon)?
- How many million dollars are they losing every, single, month?
- How could The Washington Post Company sit around and watch this esteemed franchise crumble?
- Why does this magazine and others like it even exist any more?

When the weekly rags like Time (and Newsweek, and US News) are running on fumes, why does it surprise anyone that the reporting is ragged? These are desperate publications looking for anything that can get the attention of a public that is coming to learn that to be informed, the weeklies are the last place they should go. And all the better if getting the public’s attention simultaneously discredits the Bush Administration and our military.

Roger Simon notes Newsweek’s claim that it has no “institutional bias” against the right, the Bush Administration, or the military. I might be tempted to give them the benefit of the doubt and believe that if embarrassing stories occurred during a Democratic administration, Newsweek, and other publications of The Washington Post Company, would apply similar standards in deciding whether to release a story.

But history proves that belief to be wishful thinking.

Though I might have missed it, I haven’t seen anyone make the following point elsewhere in the blogosphere, and I think it’s very important.

Look at three stories where Michael Isikoff has been involved:

1. The Clinton affairs and Paula Jones

We’ll let legendary pundit Ambrose Evans-Pritchard handle this one (bold mine):

Allegations of drug use, sexual shenanigans and misuse of state resources were there for the plucking during Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign in 1992. Yet the (Washington) Post’s inquiries only skimmed the surface of the charges. Admittedly, it is hard to get people to talk about these things in Arkansas. But not that hard. The Post has subsequently refused to make amends. Instead, it has insisted on ever-higher standards of “proof” or, alternatively, down-played the importance of the accusations.

Take the case of Paula Jones, who accused Clinton of sexual harassment when he was Governor of Arkansas. In early 1994 the Washington Post was given exclusive access to Jones and to other witnesses who could corroborate parts of her story. The newspaper went through her background with a toothcomb. Weeks went by. The lead reporter, Mike Isikoff, found her claims to be credible and wanted to run the story. The editors refused. In the end there was a shouting match in the newsroom between Isikoff and the national editor, Fred Barbash. Isikoff was suspended for two weeks and later left the newspaper. The Post never ran the original story. I emphasise this point because the paper is now trying to claim that it was just waiting for the appropriate moment. The Post was overtaken by events. Paula and Steve Jones were so disgusted by the failure of the paper to publish that they decided to file a sexual harassment suit against the President, forcing the issue into the news pages.

2. Monica Lewinsky.

Do I need to remind you that Matt Drudge forced this Isikoff story out in the open after Newsweek spiked it? Here’s most of that fateful 1998 report from Drudge (bold mine):

At the last minute, at 6 p.m. on Saturday evening, NEWSWEEK magazine killed a story that was destined to shake official Washington to its foundation: A White House intern carried on a sexual affair with the President of the United States!

The DRUDGE REPORT has learned that reporter Michael Isikoff developed the story of his career, only to have it spiked by top NEWSWEEK suits hours before publication. A young woman, 23, sexually involved with the love of her life, the President of the United States, since she was a 21-year-old intern at the White House. She was a frequent visitor to a small study just off the Oval Office where she claims to have indulged the president’s sexual preference. Reports of the relationship spread in White House quarters and she was moved to a job at the Pentagon, where she worked until last month.

The young intern wrote long love letters to President Clinton, which she delivered through a delivery service. She was a frequent visitor at the White House after midnight, where she checked in the WAVE logs as visiting a secretary named Betty Curry, 57.

The DRUDGE REPORT has learned that tapes of intimate phone conversations exist.

The relationship between the president and the young woman become strained when the president believed that the young woman was bragging about the affair to others.

NEWSWEEK and Isikoff were planning to name the woman. Word of the story’s impeding release caused blind chaos in media circles; TIME magazine spent Saturday scrambling for its own version of the story, the DRUDGE REPORT has learned. The NEW YORK POST on Sunday was set to front the young intern’s affair, but was forced to fall back on the dated ABC NEWS Kathleen Willey break.

3. Gitmo and Crappergate.

Newsweek published the item based on information from ONE UNNAMED SOURCE.

* * * * * * * * *

Recapping:
1. Paula Jones, multiple-sourced. Story would hurt sitting Democrat president. Spiked.
2. Monica Lewinsky, multiple-sourced. Story would hurt sitting Democrat president. Spiked.
3. Crappergate, singly and anonymously sourced. Story would hurt sitting Republican president. Ran with story.

But Newsweek and the Washington Post have “no institutional bias.” (/sarcasm)