Saturday, August 20, 2005

No liberal bias at Raleigh's News & Observer?

Melanie Sill, executive editor for news at the Raleigh News & Observer insists there's no liberal bias in the paper's news columns. You have her word on that.

But look at how the N&O treated two recent news stories: one involved Rev. Jerry Falwell; and the other, Sen. Robert Byrd (Dem.-W.Va.)

Falwell sent a fundraising letter to supporters in which he urged them to vote on the basis of religion, telling them: "Vote Christian in 2008."

The Anti-Defamation League issued a press release calling Falwell's comments "divisive and unAmerican." It said he should retract them.

The N&O carried the story with photo on Aug. 12 on pg. 3A.

I'm glad the N&O decided to run that story. It's important people know what Falwell did.

And about Sen. Byrd?

In March of this year, in a prepared speech delivered on the Senate floor, Byrd compared Republicans to Hitler and Nazis for attempting to change Senate filibuster rules, something Byrd himself had tried to do when his party controlled the Senate.

The Anti-Defamation League issued a press release which contained this statement:

It is hideous, outrageous and offensive for Senator Byrd to suggest that the Republican Party's tactics could in any way resemble those of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party.

The Senator shows a profound lack of understanding as to who Hitler was and what he and his regime represented.

Senator Byrd must repudiate his remarks immediately and apologize to the American people for showing such disrespect for this country's democratic process.

I phoned the ADL, and asked a spokeswoman when was the last time the ADL had issued a statement saying a U.S. Senator should apologize for a speech made on the Senate floor.

The spokeswoman said she couldn't remember it ever happening in the 15 years she had worked at the ADL.

So how did the N&O report Byrd's speech? What did Editor Sill and her news staff decide to tell readers?

Nothing. That's right, nothing.

And Sill says there's no liberal bias at the N&O.

I'm shaking my head. How about you?

Friday, August 19, 2005

Air America's troubles multiply

Air America's financial and legal troubles continue to multiply. For more go to Michelle Malkin, Brian Maloney at Radio Equalizer and Captainsquarters.

It's interesting that no liberal or group of liberals has stepped forward and said something like:

"Let's do a fund-raiser. No problem raising 10 or 20 million. After taking care of Al Franken's salary, we pay back the government agencies. We make sure Air America is on solid financial footing. If there's anything leftover, we give it to the kids."

Thursday, August 18, 2005

If you go there, I think you'll smile

Over at Right in Raleigh, Scott Pierce has a post about what happened when Today Show host Matt Lauer asked a Captain in Baghdad if the morale of the troops there was really as high as the troops were saying.

I think that Captain's answer will make you smile, although it probably wasn't what Matt wanted to hear.

McClatchy editor made false claim

To the growing list of journalists who tell readers things that turn out to be false add Melanie Sill, executive editor for news at Raleigh’s News & Observer, a McClatchy paper.

When readers first complained about the N&O’s failure to report the Air America loan scandal, something the N&O finally did almost two weeks after other papers reported it, Sill told readers:

"We've checked our news services in recent days and do not find this story"

Readers immediately told Sill that newspapers, including the New York Post and New York Daily News, were reporting the story. Why couldn’t Sill find such reports and use them?

Sill then acknowledged she had known other newspapers were reporting the Air America story. But she claimed she still couldn’t publish at the time because nothing was “available to The N&O for publication.” Sill told readers in a blog comment thread:

"(I)n checking our many news services I did not find a story available to The N&O for publication."

Sill’s claim was promptly contradicted by editors of major newspapers.

“(R)egardless of any formal contract we (newspapers) have with one another, we can take stories from each other,” one editor explained. “We do it all the time. You can’t lift the whole story; and you’re supposed to give credit. But a few paragraphs? No problem. You can even take from a couple of different newspapers and blend.”

Another editor added:

“If she’s really telling you something different … you’re getting stiffed.”

Now there’s more evidence directly contradicting Sill. It comes from the N&O itself.

A LexisNexis search by a reader and posted at Sill’s blog reveals the N&O often uses other newspapers, including the NY Post and NY Daily News, as news sources.

The N&O used the Daily News as recently as Aug. 14, just one day before Sill made the “did not find a story available to The N&O” claim.

From the LexisNexis search:

The News & Observer (Raleigh, North Carolina), August 14, 2005 Sunday, Final Edition, ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT; Pg. G6, New Stones song lashes out at Bush, Helen Kennedy, New York Daily News (Bold added)

The search revealed many other recent instances of the N&O’s use of the NY Post and NY News as news sources. (To view LN search results scroll to about the 65th comment on this post by Sill. If you’re new to this story, Sill’s post and the entire thread are worth reading.)

Another example is from a Feb 8, 2005 story (Business section, pg. D4). It includes this:

OshKosh B'Gosh, the children's clothing maker and retailer known for its denim overalls, saw its stock soar 20 percent Monday after a report that the company has put itself up for sale.

The Wisconsin-based company has hired investment bank Goldman Sachs to find a buyer, the New York Post reported (Bold added)

So the editor who insisted that “regardless of any formal contract we (newspapers) have with one another, we can take stories from each other” was telling the truth.

And the other editors who said essentially the same thing, they were telling the truth.

And the LexisNexis search results revealing the N&O’s frequent use of the Post and Daily News as news sources tells a truth, also.

And readers who told Sill she could use some of what papers like the Post and Daily News were reporting, they were telling the truth.

Then we have Melanie Sill, executive editor for news at Raleigh’s News & Observer, a McClatchy paper.

That's really sad, isn’t it?
Previous posts:

Editors dispute N&O editor's claim
From Editor Sill's blog
Air America: Raleigh's N&O sort of reports
An editor's "One standard for thee; another for me"
Thank you and a bit about the N&O editor
Contact info for McClatchy papers
Air America and N&O editor
Help an editor find the Air America story

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Look what the Raleigh News & Observer reported.

(A draft post was placed here by mistake and has been removed.

I hit the publish button when I meant to hit the draft button.

While the factual information in the draft was correct, it contained sentence fragments, notes to myself about material to be added, etc.

I'm sorry if I left you scratching your heads.

My mistake.


Editors dispute N&O editor's claim

What began as a few readers asking the Raleigh News & Observer executive editor for news Melanie Sill why the paper had published nothing about the loan scandal engulfing the liberal talk-radio network Air America has now grown bigger.

Editors of major newspapers are disputing a statement Sill made to readers explaining why the N&O told them nothing about the scandal for almost two weeks. The statement the editors are disputing is at least the third Sill has made concerning that aspect of the N&O’s not reporting the story.

Sill initially told N&O readers:

"We've checked our news services in recent days and do not find this story"

Sill’s statement came days after every other New York City daily except The Times had reported the story. The story had also been reported by newspapers nationwide, as well as by nationally syndicated columnists.

While some readers thanked Sill for her statement, most commenting at Sill’s blog and here have questioned why the N&O couldn’t publish when so many other newspapers and media organizations had. Many presented Sill with what might be called “chapter and verse” responses.

Faced with fact-based questions and commentary, Sill made another statement, this time telling readers there really was an Air America story:

"I found the same stories on Air America that you all mention a couple days ago in Internet searches and by using Factiva, a paid service we use for research"

Sill’s second statement led many readers to ask her why she hadn’t just published from those sources in the first place. They also wanted to know why Sill was only then acknowledging that she had known about the Air America story all along.

Days went by with no response from Sill. During that time many people urged her to respond.

Finally, last evening, Sill made a comment on her blog. I posted it at JinC here.

So what’s Sill’s latest explanation for not publishing on Air America for almost 2 weeks?

She says:

"(I)n checking our many news services I did not find a story available to The N&O for publication."

If we could only accept Sill’s third and latest statement as fact, I’d say, “Let’s forget the other two and move on.”

But Sill’s latest statement has been challenged by four editors of major dailies interviewed for this post. All were given the same background information you received here and were read her third statement.

All four editors said what Sill says in her third statement doesn’t fit with how American newspapers work.

“Look,” one editor said, “regardless of any formal contract we (newspapers) have with one another, we can take stories from each other. We do it all the time. You can’t lift the whole story; and you’re supposed to give credit. But a few paragraphs? No problem. You can even take from a couple of different newspapers and blend. If your editor wanted to publish that story, she could”

Another editor, who in all major respects agreed with the first editor, mentioned the term “précis.”

“It’s a journalistic expression, newsroom.” the editor said. “We all know what précis means. Basically, the lead paragraph. Maybe a little more. You get the basic meaning of the story. You tell someone to lift a précis from, and you name the paper.”

The editor added: “You say that (précis) to your editor. She should know what you mean. We all do.”

One editor, who was especially helpful as I sometimes repeated questions just to make sure I had answers right, ended our interview with this: “I’ve told you your editor can publish on what we have the same as we can publish. If she’s really telling you something different and saying what you’re saying, you’re getting stiffed.

What to do now?

I’m sending Sill this post, and will post in full here any response she makes

There will surely be some who will say that what I’ve reported from the four editors is not really how things work in journalism, and that Sill’s third statement is true. It would be nice if that turns out to be the case.

Thanks to the internet, each of us can search and identify sources which will help us answer the question of whether the N&O could have gone ahead and published as the four editors say it could have.

We can talk to others and then make our individual decisions. We’re all in free-choice land.

Please share your thoughts.

Tomorrow, I’ll be contacting people in journalism and elsewhere, and asking them for advice.

Thanks always for your help.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

From Editor Sill's blog

This afternoon I responded to a comment on a thread at N&O exec. editor for news Melanie Sill's blog.

That prompted Sill to respond. I then responded to her.

Below are the three comments.

As you'll see if you read on, I told Sill I hope we hear more from her. She needs to respond to important questions and comments some of you and others have addressed to her.

BTW - The thread, which now has more then 50 comments, is very interesting.

(My comment that lead to Sill's response.)

08/15/05 at 14:43

I read your comment with interest.

If you see this one, I hope you will respond to the following:

The Air America loan scandal involves the loss of significant community social service to about 20,000 poor children and elderly.

Two government investigative agencies are involved.

A nationally know public figure and best-selling author who has been widely discussed as a U. S. Senate candidate in '08 is involved.

This public figure, Al Franken, calls himself "a victim" of the loan scandal and his former employer "a crook."

The former employer can't be located.

The former employer was simultaneously an exec at Air America and the community agency when a series of loans totaling almost $900,000.00 were made by the community agency to Air America.

Air America is considered the liberal voice of talk-radio and has been supported in many ways by some of the country's best known liberals and MSM organizations.

In an unrelated matter, there was a dustup between Robert Novak and James Carville on CNN which led to Novak's walking off the set and subsequently being suspended by CNN.

The day following the Novak-Carville dustup, the N&O covered it with a pg. 2A, three-column story with photo.

For almost 2 weeks the N&O ran nothing on the Air America scandal.

During that time, the N&O exec. editor for news gave readers self-contradictory explanations as to why the N&O was not reporting on Air America.

There's more I could say but I'll end here.

Again, I hope you respond.

(Now Sill's comment)

Comment from: Melanie [Member] ·
08/15/05 at 15:14
John: I can see that you haven't understood my responses, so let me clarify again. My first post said accurately that I did not find the story in a search of our news service queues -- these were the stories available for our use at that time through our news services.

There is a difference between what one can find on the Internet and what is available to a newspaper for publication on a given day. My follow up post aimed to clarify. On Tuesday, the day of my first post, I could and did find the links mentioned by you and others on the Internet -- the NY Post and Sun stories and numerous commentaries. However, in checking our many news services I did not find a story available to The N&O for publication. On Friday, both AP and the NY Times moved stories, and we published the Times version on Saturday.

You're certainly welcome to criticize our decisions, but I hope this clears up any confusion you have about my first post and the followup. Perhaps I assumed too much knowledge about the difference between the Internet and national distribution of news content through news services. It's possible that I'll use a post later on to explain a little more about how news services work and how we make decisions at The N&O on what stories to pick up for our national and international news report.
(Now my reply to Sill's comment)

08/16/05 at 00:19

Thank you for your reply.

It deserves a thoughtful answer.

That will probably be sometime tomorrow. Sorry for the delay, but the hour is late.

Meanwhile, I'm going to post your reply at I’ll title it: From Editor Sill’s blog.

My posting your reply is a proper thing to do since I’ve criticized you here at your blog, at JinC, and in an e-mail for your failure to respond to the many important questions and comments readers sent you here, at JinC, in e-mails they sent you and copied to me, and, readers tell me, in e-mails and phone calls to you.

I’ll post first my comment that preceded yours; then, your comment; and finally, this initial response to your comment. For future reference, I’ll identify your response tonight by date: 8-15-05.

While your comment tonight is well short of what readers are due, I appreciate its civility.


I'll respond to Sill here and at her blog late Tuesday afternoon.

Meanwhile, any information or suggestions or reactions you have will be most welcome.

I've said a number of times this past week that JinC readers and others have been informative and encouraging in matters relating to a major daily here in Carolina that can be a much better newspaper than it is now.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Where have all those people gone?

The Los Angeles Times is reporting:

Health officials are investigating whether there are any links in the cases of four California women — at least two in Los Angeles County — who have died since 2003 of massive infection after taking the so-called abortion pill, RU-486, and a follow-up drug.

The state and federal probe follows an announcement last month by the Food and Drug Administration, after the June death of a Sherman Oaks woman, warning doctors and patients of the potential for serious bacterial infection under certain circumstances.

Blogger Michelle Malkin asks where are "the usual crowd of pharmaceutical-bashers, who undoubtedly would have lobbied for any other drug with such health outcomes to be pulled." She notes "they have nothing to say about these deaths."

Come to think of it, where are the folks who are always ready to defend our right-to-privacy?

Have you heard anything from them since The New York Times' attempted to get into the Roberts children's sealed adoption records?

Can the pharmaceutical-bashers and the right-to-privacy folks all be on vacation?

I hope a Big Media figure like Maureen Dowd, David Gergen, or Ted Rall will tell us where the folks are and why they're so silent.

I mean, they can't all be on vacation in the Hamptons, can they?

Why the Revs. won't go to the circus.

Usually, the Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton are first in line for something like the Cindy Sheehan media circus.

So why are they staying home now?

I think because they know there's more than a whiff of anti-Semitism coming from the circus; they have their own anti-Semitic pasts; and they don't want the public reminded of that.

Rev. Jackson called Jews "hymies" and New York City "hymietown." Until recent years, Rev. Sharpton was as much a Jew-baiter as Klansman David Duke.

A decade ago, the Revs. might very well have sought front row seats at the Sheehan circus. They could have counted on the MSM to downplay or remain silent about the circus' anti-Semitic aspects and their own pasts.

But the Revs. know there are bloggers now who won't downplay or remain silent.

So don't look for Jackson or Sharpton under the big top in Crawford.

But you'll see them soon. Another media circus always comes along.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

When you care enough to fawn and gush

For almost 2 weeks neither The New York Times nor Raleigh's News & Observer published anything about a $900,000.00 loan scandal involving liberal talk-radio network Air America, even though both New York City's Department of Investigation and the state's Attorney General's office had launched investigations.

So are those newspapers just not much interested in Air America or what, you might ask?

Well, a little search and we find the NYT and N&O are VERY interested in Air America... sometimes.

Here are four NYT articles blogger Michelle Malkin found, along with Michelle's comments:

On March 21, 2004, the Times Magazine ran a 7,659-word cover story about Al Franken titled "Al Franken, Seriously So." The reporter, Russell Shorto, said that everyone he talked to "agreed that Al Franken has excellent prospects for success in talk radio." He also reports that "Franken's political views are more eclectic than you might imagine." Riiiiight.

March 31, 2004--the day of Air America's debut--the Times ran a 1,403 word puff piece on page E1. The reporter, Jaques Steinberg, said Air America host Jeaneane Garofalo is merely "poking fun" at Karl Rove when she accuses him of pursuing ''the elusive 18-25 Klan demo" as if accusing a high-ranking White House official of pandering to one of the most vile organizations in America is akin to telling a lighthearted knock knock joke.

April 1, 2004, media critic Alessandra Stanley followed up with a 752-word review of Franken's first day on the air.

On April 2, 2004, the front page of the metro section carried a 755-word article by reporter Clyde Haberman about the "debut of all-day Air America," which had occurred the previous day.

And I found many others including a 1472-word piece from June 15, 2005, "Comedian for Senator? Don't Laugh." It was about Al Franken's speech at a Democratic fund-raiser where he made "noises about running for the Senate (in Minnesota) in 2008" The Times writer loved Franken's noises.

What about the N&O? Lots. Check it's archives:

My favorite is a March 31, 2004 front page gusher entitled "New liberal network takes on conservative kings of radio." It was written by James Rosen of the N&O's Washington Bureau.

N&O Executive News Editor Melanie Sill told readers the N&O couldn't/wouldn't report on Air America's troubles until some other news organization did.