Media

What CNN Could Have Done

Oops!
If you were watching cable news when the Supreme Court handed down its ruling, you were probably confused at first. Initially, both CNN and Fox News announced that the individual mandate had been struck down, only to come back a few minutes later and correct themselves, after their screaming chyrons and web site headlines had already gone up announcing the administration's defeat. Let's forget about Fox, since they're just a bunch of nincompoops anyway. The more interesting question concerns CNN. The most common explanation for this screwup is that they have come to value being first over being right, which is true enough. But I think it also suggests that they don't really understand their audience. And by trying to be just as fast as MSNBC or Fox, they lost an opportunity to differentiate themselves. My guess is that the people who work at CNN have in their heads an imagined audience made up of people like them, people who think it matters if a particular piece of news is delivered...

Romney Campaign Puts the Screws to The Washington Post

Today's Washington Post
Campaign professionals tend to believe that the most potent attacks use your opponent's own words against him, preferably if they're on video and can be replayed over and over. If you don't have that, it helps to have third-party validation of your attack from the most credible, non-partisan source you can find. Which is why it's so helpful when an established news organization reports something damaging about your opponent, which you can then talk about and put in your ads. If the third-party source is credible enough, you won't have to argue about whether the allegation is true, but merely about what it means and how much it matters. Which is why the Obama campaign was so pleased when The Washington Post reported that under Mitt Romney (and after he departed), Bain Capital invested in a number of companies that specialized in helping other companies outsource work to foreign countries. Not only was this new information that could be used to attack Romney, but it had the imprimatur...

Back To School

Should summer vacation be a carefree time when children run around freely in the streets or fields? Does Anne-Marie Slaughter in fact have it all ? Was The Atlantic just trying to get us all talking ? What did Anne-Marie Slaughter get right ? And what about that byline gender gap ? In her Bloggingheads.tv show, Sarah Posner presses me to articulate some of the social history that got us into this extremely complex work-life conflict. Tune in if you want to know what my actual face and voice are like. Bonus: the most astoundingly loud thunderclap I've ever heard.

The Atlantic Has A Sense of Humor

So The Atlantic is clearly getting the message that while Anne-Marie Slaughter's article about was an extremely important addition to the contemporary work-life discussion, everyone hates, hates, hates the title, the picture, and the general way they framed it. (Here's their own round-up of responses , which pretty fairly represents the responses that I've seen, including my own.) And they have a sense of humor about it, posting this picture today, above the caption, "Asking the question that’s on everybody’s mind." Meanwhile, Karen Kornbluh—who's done absolutely essential research and writing on the work-life issues—and who is now an Ambassador in Obama's administration—tweeted at me the link to her past Atlantic article on what's needed. I hope that Slaughter and Sandberg read this stat, before their high-level pow-wow on how to change the workforce to make it friendly for human beings. She leaves out the need for humane policies for all stages of life, allowing working Americans to...

Who Loves You, Baby?

That Anne-Marie Slaughter article sure kicked up a lot of discussion, didn’t it? I heard about it in advance and knew it would be big, but I had no idea how big. Below, a little roundup of some relevant discussion—and a reason to have hope that your work may not always crush the rest of your life. First, a personal report. Atlantic editor Scott Stossel tweeted in reply to the title of my piece here yesterday, "Why Does The Atlantic Hate Women?" His answer: We don't. He and I had a brief, if intellectually sophisticated (cough, cough) Twitter exchange. I reproduce it below, stripped of some of the twitty formatting, and with some serial tweets merged: Stossel: We don't! RT @theprospect: Why does @theatlantic hate women? http://ampro.me/LIBRcz New @ejgraff post EJG: Then why not run articles that accurately reflect women's lives? Stossel: But you concede in your piece that Slaughter hits agonizingly close to the bone. And she's for policies that you support. EJG: Slaughter's piece is...

Why Does The Atlantic Hate Women?

The picture alone filled me with dread: a baby in a briefcase. (Do go look at Jessica Valenti’s hilarious compilation of images from this genre.) That sick feeling only increased when I got to the hideous ­headline: “ Why Women Still Can’t Have It All .” There they go again! Once again, The Atlantic has put on its spike heels to gleefully dance on feminism’s head, this time reviving the imagery of the “ mommy wars ” while trotting out an astounding successful woman to bemoan her failure. Veteran journalist Caryl Rivers has accurately diagnosed this as “ The Atlantic ’s Woman Problem .” Someone there doesn’t like us, except when we’re agonizingly single, or home with our babies, or killing off men’s careers. Someone there got stuck on some 1980s Time magazine misinterpretation of feminism as exhorting us all to be “career women” (does anyone really use that term?) in shoulder pads and sad little bowties, leaving our babies home alone, refrigerator open, to fend for themselves while we...

Journos Complain that Journos Aren't Taking 2012 Seriously

(Rex Features via AP Images)
The headline story at Politico is a look at the frustrations of journalists and other observers as they pertain to the 2012 presidential election. In short, they are frustrated with the “small scale” of the election, and the degree to which the campaigns are engaged in constant warfare over trivial concerns. Here’s Maggie Haberman and Alexander Burns: Dating to the beginning of the cycle, 2012 has unfolded so far as a grinding, joyless slog, falling short in every respect of the larger-than-life personalities and debates of the 2008 campaign. There have been small-ball presidential campaigns before, but veteran strategists and observers agree this race is reaching a record degree of triviality. Nothing previously can compare with a race being fought hour by hour in 140-character Twitter increments and blink-and-you-miss-it cable segments. Not to mention an endless flood of caustic television ads. […] At the same time, the media bemoans the small campaign but is enduring its own...

Why is William Saletan Apologizing for Slate's Mistake?

Two days ago, I wrote that Slate’s editors should be ashamed of having published Mark Regnerus’s propagandistic tripe about his “study” comparing how children fare under intact families versus how they fare when their biological parents have a rocky time because one discovers or accepts that he or she is lesbian or gay. I’m honored that William Saletan has taken my criticism seriously enough to reply, naming me along with the major LGBT groups that took aim. As you may recall, I wrote that Slate clearly knew it was publishing dangerous nonsense, because right before Regnerus’s article, they put the link to Saletan’s analysis tearing it apart. Nevertheless, here’s what Saletan writes about the responses: Wow. Regnerus’ paper certainly has flaws. But before we all go get our stones, pitchforks, and kerosene, may I suggest an alternative? Trust science. Don’t bury this study. Embrace it. The evidence Regnerus collected can help all of us rethink our ideas about sexuality and marriage. It...

Facts? We Don't Need No Stinking Facts.

The New York Times does Mitt Romney a favor.
People like me often complain about "he said/she said" reporting, which treats all claims by competing political actors as having equal validity, and doesn't bother to determine whether one side or the other might not be telling the truth. There are lots of reasons why that kind of reporting is harmful, but it's important to understand that it doesn't just keep people soaking in a lukewarm bath of ignorance, it can actively misinform them, leading them to believe things that are false. Today's New York Times has a textbook example of what happens when political reporters can do when they refuse to adjudicate a factual dispute between candidates. In the story , Michael Barbaro doesn't just allow Mitt Romney to deceive, he actively abets that deception in the way he constructs his narrative. Here's the key excerpt: In a speech here in Orlando, Mr. Romney seized on a statement that the president made on Monday about the Affordable Care Act. In an interview, a television reporter had...

What Hurts Children More: Having Lesbian and Gay Parents, or Junk Science About Their Parents?

When is a new study “research,” and when is it propaganda? That’s the question to ask when looking at Mark Regnerus’s “study,” released this past weekend, on children who had a parent who had an affair with someone of the same sex. Regnerus compares children who grew up in an intact household from birth to adulthood with children who started in a heterosexual marriage but who had a parent who crossed over to the gay side. And yet Regnerus is touting it as a study on the real-life experiences of children who grew up with lesbian or gay parents. Here’s what he says in Slate , of all places, which I usually respect: … [M]y colleagues and I randomly screened over 15,000 Americans aged 18-39 and asked them if their biological mother or father ever had a romantic relationship with a member of the same sex. I realize that one same-sex relationship does not a lesbian make, necessarily. But our research team was less concerned with the complicated politics of sexual identity than with same-sex...

The Meaninglessness of "Scoring Political Points"

Where the magic happens. (Flickr/Josh Berglund)
On Friday, President Obama gave a press conference, and in one of his answers to questions he said that "the private sector is doing fine." You may have heard about this. When I got my Washington Post on Saturday morning, I found that the editors of the capital's most important newspaper had judged this comment to be so momentous that it required not one but two separate articles devoted to it. This morning, determining that this subject required much, much more investigation, the paper had a column by Chris Cillizza explaning why this comment is so very important. Plenty of things Cillizza said are perfectly valid as far as they go, though it would have been better if he had mentioned that "gaffes" like this can't become important unless he and his colleagues decide that they're important. There are a couple of lines in his column that deserve particular notice, since they really hold the key to understanding the absurd focus on "gaffes" like this one: Then there is the reality that...

Sally Quinn Laments The End Of (Her) Power

In the Washington Post Magazine this weekend, Sally Quinn—wife of former legendary Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee, former religion columnist and social lioness—wrote a jaw-dropping piece about How Washington Has Changed For The Worse . As a friend said, "Every time you think this column can't get more deranged, there's another paragraph." Here's a summary: Crude people like the Kardashians and the Gingriches are getting attention, instead of my husband and me. That's appalling. We important people used to be in charge of getting things done here in Washington. But now people like me are pointless, because Washington is all about money. Important people won't even come to my dinner parties any more. Well, f*** 'em, I'll just have friends instead. The astonishing part is that she publishes it as if we ought to sympathize. Some excerpts: Money is power. The fundraiser has replaced the Washington dinner party. Washington has become a community of small groups of people, mostly staying...

Joe Scarborough and the Hostile Media Effect

The New York Times, showing blatant pro-Romney bias.
I have a soft spot for Joe Scarborough. Back when I was more of a partisan warrior I used to go on a lot of conservative radio and television shows, including "Scarborough Country," and he was without question the most fair-minded of the hosts I dealt with. There were even a couple of times when he admitted he had been wrong about something, which is pretty rare. But I'm going to have to object to some of his recent remarks, in particular because they offer a vivid demonstration of what communication scholars call the Hostile Media Effect. Here's the quick version of what happened: The New York Times published a story in their Home section about Mitt Romney's house in La Jolla (the one with the car elevator) and how the neighbors are reacting to having the Romneys in the neighborhood. There are some not-particularly-friendly comments from some of Mitt's Democratic neighbors, and some details that are complimentary (Mitt was recently seen touching up the paint on the fence, just like a...

Working the Refs Continues to Work

Egad.
For the last 40 years or so, conservatives have undertaken a carefully planned and sustained campaign to "work the refs," complaining constantly about "liberal media bias" in an attempt to bully reporters and obtain more favorable coverage for their side. That isn't to say they don't sincerely believe that the establishment media is biased against them—they do—but they also understand that the complaints, no matter how silly they are in a particular instance, keep pressure on reporters and have them constantly bending over backwards to show that they're not biased. And when it works really well, you get stories like this one from POLITICO honchos Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen. "To GOP, blatant bias in vetting," reads the headline. Apparently, Republicans are angry that Mitt Romney's life is being investigated by reporters, while Barack Obama, who has been president for almost four years and went through all this in 2008 , isn't getting precisely the same scrutiny in precisely the same...

The Big Easy's Hometown Paper

(Flickr/Earthhopper)
As of this fall, I'll be living in the largest American city without a daily paper. The Newhouse-owned New Orleans Times-Picayune 's announcement on Thursday that the print edition will be downsized to three days per week—Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays—was a surrender to the digital age even the staff didn't see coming, not to mention a bellwether moment for the newspaper biz nationwide. No doubt, we won't be the last. It did feel like a kick in the chops to be singled out, though. I mean, jeez: Katrina, the BP oil spill, Bountygate and now this. From Mother Nature to corporate America to the goddam NFL to corporate America coming back for seconds, do we really have to be everybody's plaything? We already know we're special, believe me. Don't need the rest of you piling on. Mind you, my wife and I are post-Katrina newbies who didn't move here until 2010. But it didn't take us long to start saying "we," because that's what New Orleans does to people. And after a lifetime of the...

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