T Nation

ABC Halpern Memo

Anyone else heard of this?

http://www.drudgereport.com/mh.htm

Apparently Mark Halpern, Political Director of ABC News, authored an internal memo that said ABC should not treat Kerry and Bush equally w/r/t their various misstatements and half truths.

If you follow the link above, there’s another link to the memo – which is pretty much unreadable. However, given that there haven’t been any denials I’ve seen from ABC, it doesn’t seem that they are disputing it.

Here’s the main problematic excerpt:

"It goes without saying that the stakes are getting very high for the country and the campaigns - and our responsibilities become quite grave

I do not want to set off (sp?) and endless colloquy that none of us have time for today - nor do I want to stifle one. Please respond if you feel you can advance the discussion.

The New York Times (Nagourney/Stevenson) and Howard Fineman on the web both make the same point today: the current Bush attacks on Kerry involve distortions and taking things out of context in a way that goes beyond what Kerry has done.

Kerry distorts, takes out of context, and mistakes all the time, but these are not central to his efforts to win.

We have a responsibility to hold both sides accountable to the public interest, [bold] but that doesn’t mean we reflexively and artificially hold both sides “equally” accountable when the facts don’t warrant that. [/bold]

I’m sure many of you have this week felt the stepped up Bush efforts to complain about our coverage. This is all part of their efforts to get away with as much as possible with the stepped up, renewed efforts to win the election by destroying Senator Kerry at least partly through distortions.

It’s up to Kerry to defend himself, of course. But as one of the few news organizations with the skill and strength to help voters evaluate what the candidates are saying to serve the public interest. Now is the time for all of us to step up and do that right." [Emphasis mine]

This is politics – one expects both candidates to spin their facts and press their claims. Both sides are indeed distorting positions and making too-easy generalizations. However, if the news organizations are going to maintain their facade of impartiality, this sort of thing is unconscionable.

If they want to admit their bias, it’s fine – but once again, another example of how the media treats their customers as morons who don’t have the intellect to see that the media is spinning hard as well.

Of course, I guess it’s really not news that the media favors Kerry – a little refresher:

http://www.mediaresearch.org/cyberalerts/2004/cyb20040712.asp#1

Recognition of the obvious. The media ?wants Kerry to win? and so ?they?re going to portray Kerry and Edwards as being young and dynamic and optimistic? and ?there?s going to be this glow about? them, Evan Thomas, the Assistant Managing Editor of Newsweek, admitted on Inside Washington over the weekend. He should know. His magazine this week sports a smiling Kerry and Edwards on its cover with the yearning headline, ?The Sunshine Boys?? Inside, an article carrying Thomas? byline contrasted how ?Dick Cheney projects the bleakness of a Wyoming winter, while John Edwards always appears to be strolling in the Carolina sunshine.? The cover story touted how Kerry and Edwards ?became a buddy-buddy act, hugging and whispering like Starsky and Hutch after consuming the evidence.?

 Newsweek?s competitor, Time, also gushed about the Democratic ticket, dubbing them, in the headline over their story, ?The Gleam Team.?

 Washington Post media reporter Howard Kurtz also realized the media?s championing of the Democratic ticket and made it a focus of his Sunday Reliable Sources show on CNN. The on screen topic cues: ?Edwards Lovefest?? and ?Media?s Dream Team.?

 Kurtz?s Washington Post on Sunday well illustrated the media?s infatuation with Kerry and Edwards. ?Kerry Vows to Restore 'Truth' to Presidency,? announced a July 11 front page headline. Inside, on page A-8, a headline declared: ?Kerry, Edwards Revel in Brotherhood of Campaign.? The subhead: ?Energy, Enthusiasm Infectious as Democrats Take Message to Battleground States.?

 For the front page story by Jim VandeHei and Dan Balz: www.washingtonpost.com

 For the inside article by the same two reporters, but with their names flipped: www.washingtonpost.com

 On Inside Washington, a weekend discussion show taped at and run by the Gannett-owned CBS affiliate in Washington, DC, WUSA-TV, and carried by many PBS stations across the country, Thomas pointed out the boost to the Kerry/Edwards ticket provided by the press corps:
 ?There?s one other base here: the media. Let?s talk a little media bias here. [bold] The media, I think, wants Kerry to win. And I think they?re going to portray Kerry and Edwards -- I?m talking about the establishment media, not Fox, but -- they?re going to portray Kerry and Edwards as being young and dynamic and optimistic and all, there?s going to be this glow about them that some, is going to be worth, collectively, the two of them, that?s going to be worth maybe 15 points.?[/bold]

 The week?s Newsweek, dated July 19, certainly backs up Thomas? contention. Over a smiling picture on the cover of Kerry and Edwards, Newsweek ever hopefully asks: ?The Sunshine Boys?? To see the cover: www.msnbc.msn.com

 Inside, at least in the Web-posted version, the headline reads: ?Warming Up Kerry.? The subhead: ?Blue skies: Their energy was infectious, but their numbers barely moved. Can Kerry-Edwards convert smiles into votes against Team Bush? Game on.? Howard Fineman and Richard Wolffe asserted at one point:
 ?Indeed, Edwards's ingratiating incandescence has already brightened Kerry. The two became a buddy-buddy act, hugging and whispering like Starsky and Hutch after consuming the evidence.?

 Whatever that means.

 For the article in full: www.msnbc.msn.com

 ?The Boyish Wonder? is the headline over a story on which Thomas shared a byline with Susannah Meadows and Arian Campo-Flores. The subhead: ?Happy warrior: He was no superstar. But John Edwards's determination and ability to read the defense took him to the top.? The trio began the laudatory piece:
 ?In politics, self-made men seem to fall into two categories: sunny and dark. Both Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon began as farm boys, but while Ike radiated corn-fed smiles, Nixon seemed to be constantly brooding over some slight. In the 2004 election, Dick Cheney projects the bleakness of a Wyoming winter, while John Edwards always appears to be strolling in the Carolina sunshine...?

 For the second Newsweek story in full: www.msnbc.msn.com 

The major media wants Bush to win. Bush supports big media consolidation, which will result in more mergers and more multi-million dollar deals.

A good website that covers how the media spins hard for the benefit of the right wing (including sources you claim are “liberal” like CBS and the New York Times):
http://mediamatters.org/

Lumpy:

How would you explain the Halpern memo and the Evan Thomas contention that the media is for Kerry?

The media wants a good story, and they’re lazy – but they’re generally biased by their individual democrat/liberal politics.

Washington Times Editorial
Tuesday, October 12, 2004

ABC’s memo problem

Three weeks before the election, ABC News Political Director Mark Halperin apparently doesn’t think the campaign season is going too well. He thinks ABC News must help the electorate by sorting out the relevant facts from the spin; holding the liars accountable; and openly campaign for the election of John Kerry ? stuff like that. Mr. Halperin issued these instructions to ABC News employees last week in a memo, which was subsequently leaked to Internet news-guru Matt Drudge just before Friday night’s second presidential debate. ABC News’ Charles Gibson, coincidentally, moderated the debate.

The memo states in glaring, if improper, language just why the campaign isn’t going as swimmingly for Mr. Kerry as Mr. Halperin would like: “[T]he current Bush attacks on Kerry involve distortions and taking things out of context in a way that goes beyond what Kerry has done.” Ergo, writes Mr. Halperin, ABC News has “a responsibility to hold both sides accountable to the public interest, but that doesn’t mean we reflexively and artificially hold both sides ‘equally’ accountable when the facts don’t warrant that … It’s up to Kerry to defend himself, of course. But as one of the few news organizations with the skill and strength to help voters evaluate what the candidates are saying to serve the public interest [sic]. Now is the time for all of us to step up and do that right” (quotes in original).
The obvious point of course is that Mr. Halperin’s memo adds further proof ? this time, neatly typed out in black and white ? to the growing mound of evidence that the mainstream media leans liberal. A Pew Research Center and Project on Excellence in Journalism released a report over the summer that found 34 percent of national journalists identified themselves as liberal, while just seven percent said they were conservative. An August New York Times article conducted an “unscientific” survey that found that by a 12 to one margin, Washington journalists favor Mr. Kerry in the upcoming election. But entrenched liberalism isn’t really the problem here; shameless arrogance is.
The Pew survey contrasted its findings with the breakdown of the American public, 20 percent of which identifies itself as liberal, 33 percent as conservative. No wonder Mr. Halperin thinks ABC News, with all its “skill and strength,” should “help voters evaluate what the candidates are saying”: The poor dolts are too conservative for their own good. In the wake of the Dan Rather uproar, one would think that executives like Mr. Halperin would be a bit more guarded in revealing their bias, especially three weeks before the election and right before his own Mr. Gibson was about to host a presidential debate. But when someone like Mr. Halperin doesn’t think he has a bias, it’s particularly difficult to guard against it.