Monday, June 28, 2004


I forgot where I heard it first, but this kind of stuff has been compared to "working the refs" . . . harass them on every little thing in the hopes that they will become tentative in making a call against you. Anyway, Kurtz in the NY Post via Slate:
When New York Times reporter Eric Lichtblau wrote a story last fall that the FBI didn't like, the bureau responded by trying to freeze him out.

FBI spokeswoman Cassandra Chandler sent top officials a memo disputing the story and assailing "the slanted and biased report[ing] style of Mr. Lichtblau. In the meantime, we encourage each of you to please avoid providing information to this reporter. He has consistently demonstrated that he lacks the ethics of a respected journalist."
During the same period, the Justice Department revoked Lichtblau's credentials -- a move that a spokesman calls coincidental.
"I was very surprised they took the action they did, both at the FBI and the Justice Department," says Lichtblau, whose credentials were restored after the Times protested. Earlier, he was abruptly disinvited from a Justice Department press briefing.
He reported in November, based on an FBI memo, that the bureau had collected extensive information on antiwar demonstrators. FBI officials were quoted as saying the effort was aimed at identifying extremists plotting violence.
. . . Lichtblau isn't the only Justice correspondent who's had prickly relations with the department. A number of news organizations signed a letter to the press office last year complaining about their lack of access to Attorney General John Ashcroft, among other things.
. . . Conservative activist Brent Bozell has long argued that the liberal media are distorting the news. Now, six months before the election, he's paying to get his message out.
Bozell's Media Research Center has raised $2.8 million for newspaper ads in 15 markets, billboards in 40 cities and a talk-radio blitz aimed at countering what he sees as a "liberal jihad" that is unfair to President Bush. The slogan (also on T-shirts and mugs) is not exactly subtle. A finger-pointing Uncle Sam declares: "Don't believe the liberal media!"
"This is a media that in the last year has gotten out of control," Bozell says. "They're so blatant in the way they slant the news. . . . It's as if people in newsrooms have just taken off the gloves, whether it's foreign policy, economic news or political news, there's a spin on everything that's said."
Steve Rendall of the liberal group Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting scoffs at the indictment, saying that "things are going badly for the White House in Iraq. Accurately reporting that isn't bias. As for the economy, positive indicators are reported every day. That many Americans still see a net loss of jobs, wages lagging behind inflation and rising health care costs, well, reflecting their views is basic journalism."
. . . A look at the Bozell group's Web site shows that what is depicted as bias often tends to reflect a conservative outlook: Complaints that some journalists were too hard on Ronald Reagan, too easy on Bill Clinton and too critical of Ken Starr. "For Clinton, Dan Rather Is Putty in His Hands," a typical headline says.
. . . The effort is not designed to help Bush or hurt John Kerry, Bozell says. "If Bush wins, the media will continue to try to make his life miserable. If Kerry wins, they'll still be promoting a left-wing agenda."
. . . For decades -- at least since Henry Kissinger did business as a "senior State Department official" on diplomatic trips -- reporters have been complaining about so-called background briefings. But since nobody wants to miss the juicy stuff -- or at least marginally flavorful tidbits unavailable in on-the-record sessions -- news organizations have reluctantly gone along for competitive reasons.
Now New York Times Public Editor Daniel Okrent, calling these encounters "an affront to journalistic integrity," is demanding a change. Yesterday he challenged the top editors of the Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today and the Associated Press to refuse to cover such briefings unless the officials agree to be identified. If no one played along, the theory goes, the practice would disappear.
Intriguing idea -- but don't hold your breath.

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