July 18, 2011

“If you make the headline big enough . . .”

Filed under: Guest Comment — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 1:29 pm

In America, newspaper publishers have always been accorded high rank and special privileges in that democracy’s class-less society. The idea that publisher William Randolph Hearst arranged for the Spanish-American war to happen is widely believed inside and outside the journalism industry. When famed artist Fredrick Remington was sent to Cuba to cover the war, he sent a wire saying nothing was happening and he wanted to return back to the USA. Hearst responded: “Please remain. You furnish the pictures and I’ll furnish the war.”

Americans, who refuse to believe that Fox News coverage of the Bush election in 2000, the events of September 11, 2001, the run-up to the war in Afghanistan, the Invasion of Iraq, the need for the Patriot Act, and George W. Bush’s reelection in 2004 was anything other than fair and balanced, are quite willing to believe that Fox’s owner did not make any effort to dictate America’s political history or foreign policy.

Did William Randolph Hearst manipulate President McKinley into not opposing a Congressional move to start a new war? (Back then Congress not the President would start a new war.) If Presidents were manipulated in the past; can they still be “played” in the age of cable news that travels at the speed of light?

Did Rupert have anything to do with the British Prime Minister’s invitation to America to join them in using oil rich Libya for target practice? Rupert doesn’t just happen to have a few shares of BP stock does he?

The Hearst saga is echoed in the film thought by many critics to be the greatest movie ever made: “Citizen Kane.” In the Orson Wells classic film, a fictional newspaper publisher, Charles Foster Kane, is portrayed as a champion of the poor and down trodden who cleverly manipulates the United States into the war with Spain.

The New York Times’ lead story for their Sunday, July 17, 2011, print edition (written by Don Van Natta Jr.) asserts that (some) journalists working for the American citizen and renowned newspaper publisher (in Great Britain, the USA, and Australia), Rupert Murdoch, may have hacked some phones in their pursuit of the never ending fight for Truth, Justice, and the Murdoch way of life.

The New York Times story jumped to a full page inside Section One and was augmented by a sidebar story that elaborated the details of Murdoch’s personal full, complete, and (should the qualifier “apparently” be used?) contrite apology to one crime victim’s family on Friday.

The lunatic conspiracy drones have been galvanized into action this past week and are asking questions to raise new suspicions in all three countries. They hint that if the Murdoch employees in Great Britain committed some misconduct (they must be assumed to be innocent until proven guilty in a court of law) in Great Britain, then the “bad journalism” infection may have spread (unbeknownst to Murdoch himself and upper management in the two other countries) to the other news staffs in the USA and Australia.

Have you noticed that if you ask the grunts in corporate America about their assessment of upper management’s job performance, the folks in the trenches will be in unanimous agreement about the fact that the brass can’t differentiate manure from shoe polish but when it’s time for indictments to roll, they assume management “must have known” and the attitude suddenly changes to “Hang ‘em from the nearest tree!” Which is it? Only one can apply. Is it “the boss’ job” to know what’s happening or are they paid large salaries just for appearance sake?

If (subjunctive mood) some of Mr. Murdoch’s employees did stretch the limits of ethical conduct a tad during the Bush era, isn’t it obvious that in the three years of President Obama’s term in office, he has done absolutely nothing about investigating possible journalistic misconduct and therefore he must assume full and complete responsibility for any potential current offenses?

In contemporary American politics, the responsibility principle now applies to President Obama regarding war, torture, war crimes, taxes, recovery, economic stability, ecological issues and home foreclosures, so why wouldn’t it also apply to ultimate blame for the Murdoch scandal?

(Sixties cliché alert?) Journalists are a different breed of cat. Did the journalists reporting about how “carmageddon” failed to materialize seem disappointed?

Back in the early 80’s when the Olympic Games were scheduled to come to Los Angeles, there were similar dire predictions about gridlock. When the marathon of sports competitions began the slight increase in traffic congestion was barely noticeable.

Are some irrelevant news stories used to distract the voters from other more important news items which don’t fit the publisher’s hidden agenda?

Los Angeles can survive fires, earthquakes, Olympic Game traffic, and world famous murder trials. With the ease that they handled the weekend closure of the 405, the folks in L. A. can take credit once more for shaking off a new challenge to their famous “laid back” attitude.

Speaking of diversions on GOP TV (AKA Fox News), will any of the jackasses who try to prove the existence of global warming be among this year’s inductees for the Mad Scientist Hall of Fame?

Why must the Murdoch scandal be called “Rupertgate” or “Murdochgate”? Why can’t rogue bloggers call it “Murdochgeddon”?

On page A-12 of the Wall Street Journal’s print edition the lead editorial asked: “Do our media brethren really want to regulate how journalists gather the news?” That a really smooth way to divert attention away from the real crimes of possible extortion and perhaps even some political blackmail. Nice dodge, guys!

Note for fact checkers who want to play along at home: The Hearst quote at the beginning of this column can be found in Bartlett’s Familiar Quotes (it is in the 125th Anniversary edition on page 702) and since they have one of the best fact checking teams in publishing; that’s enough proof for the World’s Laziest Journalist.

Do it yourself fact checkers are encouraged to view “Citizen Kane,” and read “Citizen Hearst,” by S. M. Swanberg, “The Making of Citizen Kane,” by Robert L. Carringer, and “Lapdogs” (How the Press rolled over for Bush) by Eric Boehlert.

While your at it, check out this quote about the run-up to the Spanish American War found on page 140 of the Bantam Books paperback edition of “Citizen Hearst:” “In Washington, publicity-seeking Senators and Representatives were constantly guilty of indignant statements about Spanish cruelty and oppression based wholly on New York newspaper reports which were highly biased or downright fictitious.”

The Columbia Journalism Review is conducting an informal survey this summer to determine the best film about journalism. We left a comment about our opinion of Network and we’ll leave it to Pulitzer Prize winning film Critic Roger Ebert to remind them of “Citizen Kane.”

If Fox News does ignore Murdochgate, then at some point won’t that glaring omission become an example of substantiating evidence?

If Fox News is ordered to ignore Murdochgate, where can folks with inquiring minds learn more about this breaking story?
Try these websites:

and read these articles:
The aforementioned New York Times lead story on Sunday

and take a loot at:

David Swanson puts it rather succinctly

If Freedom of the Press has become extinct and honest election results are not a source for concern, doesn’t the “lock the barn after the horse is gone” principle apply? Why bother with woulda/coulda/shoulda nonsense at this point?

However, if, on the other hand, Freedom of the Press and honest elections are not DOA but merely wounded, and if Mr. Murdoch has used illegal means to promote his meddling and diminish Americans freedoms, then, unless people don’t really care if scores of Americans died in combat to protect those liberties, perhaps they should (at the very least) send a letter to their representatives in Congress urging multiple investigations as a way of providing triage for the wounded freedoms.

It’s time to insert this column’s closing quote. In “Citizen Kane,” Publisher Charles Foster Kane (Orson Wells) says: “You’re right, I did lose a million dollars last year. I expect to lose a million dollars this year. I expect to lose a million dollars *next* year. You know, Mr. Thatcher, at the rate of a million dollars a year, I’ll have to close this place in… 60 years.”

Now the disk jockey will play Janis Joplin’s “Piece of My Heart,” “Down on Me,” and “Bye, Bye Baby.” (What? You think that Crosby Stills Nash & Young’s album “Déjà vu” would be better?) We have to go read up on Col. McCormick. Have a “Remember the Maine!” type week.

March 6, 2011

Citizen Huffington

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 12:09 pm

The Wrap is reporting that Arianna Huffington dared writers to go ahead with a planned strike because no one would notice. Does she honestly think that if they did the folks who just paid $315 million won’t notice that the backbone of the online publication has been removed?

The Huffington Post writers are on strike! People are starting to notice.

If the deal has been signed and witnessed, obviously Arianna can do the Liberace routine and cry (about the strike) all the way to the bank. If the deal hasn’t been finalized the folks shelling out the money might have cause to wonder if they should sign on the dotted line.

It’s a cliché to say that the Internets is a vast new frontier that is still trying to define itself and so a writers’ strike now will be historic no matter what the outcome.

There is no mention of the strike (that we can find) on the Huffington Post site. This brings to mind the strike at the Los Angeles Herald Examiner in the late Sixties.

The comic strip La Cucaracha, done by Lalo Alcaraz, has been parodying the Huffington Post strike by depicting events at the fictional “Riffington Post.”

At this point some folks may want to post a troll comment that says that if an online columnist reports on the Huffington Post strike, it is just a case of sour grapes because he never got an offer to join their posse.

As a rogue/rebel/loner columnist, who wants to buck the Internets trend and imitate the old newspaper concept of “three do journalism” as done by Walter Winschel and Herb Caen (it’s perfect for the new skim fast media), we could also sign up to go provide photo coverage of local high school games in the Berkeley area for some local news sites. We know we would do a good job because we’ve done that for various small daily newspapers and our efforts pleased the editors, but we were getting paid. Doing it again (for practice?) just doesn’t appeal to us. We’ve been to the Academy Awards and are not very much interested in seeing if we could get a media pass to do it again.

There are some things we would like to do and see and know that we could subsequently bang out an online column that would be of acceptable level quality.

We noticed that there has been some recent student protests in Berkeley last week. If we were there, we would hike up to the campus to see what’s happening, but since we are on location (reporting live from the Cow’s End Café in Venice CA, today) we’ll have to send folks to the local Berkeley news sites such as Berkeley Side and Berkeley Daily Planet.

If Aggregator Websites get the chance to cross post some demonstration arrests news from Berkeley, fine. If they don’t, “Sen loi G. I. (as the natives used to say in Saigon)”

Sure, it might be fun to win the Internets “Prom King” popularity poll and get some wider readership, but there is a certain freedom available to one of the few adherents to the three dot school of columning that appeal to this particular writer. If we get a plug from (for example) Mike Malloy on his radio show, or from Brad Friedman on his Bradblog site, that means we will see a higher number of hits listed for our efforts. It’s just a different number to us. If not, well, (as Ned Kelly once said), “Such is life.”

The folks who contribute (or should that be past tense “contributed”) to Arianna’ big online aggregate site, had to please the master, but it probably required a good amount of close proof reading, polishing, and html-ing. We can be much more loose and informal and jump from topic to topic. We don’t have a “beat” to report. We have the luxury of being able to pick items we think fit in the day’s effort, write it up, copy, post, and depart.

We extend sincere good wishes to the writers on strike and the union supporters in Wisconsin. (Is there a link to a place where we can send pizzas to the striking writers?)

We note that Keith Olbermann posted an item, on Fok News (his new blog) mentioning how much easier it was to deal with management when he had a union to back him up.

We can say we second the motion from personal experience. Do Republicans honestly believe that an individual employee could have fought unfair treatment by management at a large International News Service (that comes early in the alphabetical listings of such organizations) all alone? Do they really think an individual could get a company to say “Yes, that was unfair” and recant and relent with no one else on their side? Well, it a different ball game when the union shop steward says “when he backs down, let him save face” because if he doesn’t back down, they will strike just to protect you from unfairness regarding working on a holiday. (He did back down, they didn’t strike, and the day after my holiday, I waked in and handed in my resignation.)

Perhaps we will do a future column about how wonderful the world looks to self reliant Republicans who have completely lost touch with the reality.

What if all the striking writers from their own Aggregate website and make it a big success? Would some company offer to buy them for $315 million, and if they did would the writers reap the rewards of their labor? We hope they do because it might teach some greedheads to respect the workers.

Additonal links for more information about wrtiers’ strike

Walter Winchell has said: “Gossip is the art of saying nothing in a way that leave practically nothing unsaid.”

Now the disk jockey will play “Ally Oop,” “Take the money and run,” and the Peanuts theme music. We have to go get the information we will need to know for a visit to the Mullin Automotive Museum in Oxnard CA. Have a “do not cross the picket line” type week.

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